On Saturday 11th June we decided to head north, after a pleasant few days in Gairloch. A fellow-Rival 32 rafted up to us, and we had two very nice evenings in the company of her crew. The harbour was very busy with fishing boats and sealife cruises of one sort or another, including a glass-bottomed boat which we didn't see going out at all. We had a couple of walks ashore, one to a lovely waterfall at the head of the Flowerdale Glen.
Both rivals headed out early on Saturday, our friends across the Minch to Stornoway, and us northwards to Lochinver. There wasn't enough wind to sail for most of the journey, so we motorsailed in bright sunshine, and managed to pass another two Ardfern boats on their way south without recognising them. And that was despite a frequent exchange of texts on the mobile phones!
Turning into Enard Bay we were finally on enough wind to sail, so we enjoyed a whole 35 minutes of sailing in 6 hours, then approached Lochinver, curious to see again the place we last visited in 2005. The large fishing pier was strangely empty as we arrived, only later in the evenng did we see any fishing boats come in to discharge their catch into huge container lorries from Spain, France and the UK.
The pontoons have grown since last time, so we moved on to a finger, starboard-side-to. Luxury! We could step off the boat dry-shod, without launching the dinghy! There were a few occupied boats there when we arrived, but within two days they had either left or vacated their boat for a time. So by Monday we are the only boat with people on it on the pontoon. There is water, but no shore power, alas. On Saturday evening we celebrated equalling our furthest-north ever sail by going to the local restaurant for a really fine dinner.
After two lovely days, Monday is a shocker, wall-to-wall rain, although the winds are light. Conditions should be favourable in a few days for a possible foray to Kinlochbervie, but we'll see how it goes. More blog anon. Please feel free to comment.
PS Happy Birthday to grandson Eddie, 11 on Saturday!
We stayed four nights in Portree, waiting for the opportunity to go somewhere else. We spent the first night on one of the local harbour association moorings, which are set incredibly close together. We had a yacht very close to us that first night, but it did not touch us, and left in the morning. The next night we had another yacht on the other side of us, and the wind went light. Suddenly we heard the sound of a mooring buoy, not ours, knocking on the hull towards the rear of the boat. Ju suggested that we drop back on to that buoy, as then we would be at a safe distance from the neighbouring yacht, by now unattended. So without using the engine, we simply picked up one buoy and dropped the other, and within a few minutes the one we were on became a dot in the distance! Puzzling!
Anyway Ju suggested that as strong northerlies were again forecast we would do well to move to the former HIE moorings over in the north-east corner of the harbour, so we moved there for the third and fourth nights. While in Portree we needed a new Camping Gaz cylinder, for which we had to walk miles out the Dunvegan Road to a unit in an industrial estate. Good exercise, for two pairs of legs that don't get that much use on the boat! On the third evening a dinghy approached us, and it proved to be Fiona, an old pal from the Craignish Boat Club and the RHYC, she was on board the only other yacht to arrive that day! We had a good blether about possible destinations, the weather, the usual stuff yachties talk about!
On Wednesday morning the sun was shining, steam was rising from the dodgers as it had rained heavily in the night. The weather forecast had had a threatening gale force 8 in Hebrides for two days, but there was virtually no wind in Portree harbour, and we could see the Cuillins in perfect detail, uncovered by cloud for once!
So we decided to go north, and set course for Gairloch. This was a spectacular journey almost entirely in sunshine, past the high rocky cliffs of Skye, that hide a sea eagles' nest, and with the long island of Raasay on the left. We passed the smaller island of Rona and altered course towards Gairloch, noting all the time that there were severe rain squalls in Loch Torridon and further south. We motorsailed all the way, as the wind stayed light, around 6 or 7 knots, dropped the main on entering the loch in case a sudden squall hit us, and headed over to Flowerdale Bay, where there is a pontoon and small harbour. Ju phoned the harbourmaster who said there was a space behind another yacht, port-side-to. So we crept into the small harbour, did a handbrake turn and slotted nicely into the space between the yacht and a fishing boat. Sorted! (See photo)Soon we had shore power going, and were off along to the boat club for a shower. Luxury! We made it back to the boat before fairly heavy rain set in, and debated whether we should have dinner in the pub, or just eat on board.
This is our first visit here, so there was a Talisker moment when we arrived!
We stayed four days in Mallaig, and the weather improved on Monday. We had some sunshine, and began to feel a bit warmer on board. We stocked up with supplies at the coop and a fish merchant, and headed back to the boat to prepare for a sail on Tuesday.
Tuesday dawned and the forecast was for gale 8 later, ie after 6pm, so we decided to go for it as our proposed journey to either Totaig anchorage in Loch Duich or Plockton harbour would not take all that long, we should be well tucked up before it got dusty! We left Mallaig just before the 10.15 departure of the Loch Nevis, off to the Small Isles as usual. Once out of the harbour we raised sail, switched off the engine, and headed northwards at about 3 knots with a gentle south westerly rarely exceeding 8 knots. We planned this, as the tide at Kylerea narrows was scheduled to turn in our favour from 1pm. Going through against the tide would not be possible, as our engine wouldn't have been strong enough to fight the very strong tidal flow. So we pootled north, keeping a careful eye on the sky, as the sunshine we were basking inb was threatened by grey clouds which were massing over the Sleat peninsula. We could see one yacht ahead of us, and another appeared in our wake. Past Isle Oronsay our luck with the rain ran out, and we donned oilies and weathered our way through the squally conditions. We rolled away the genoa and put on the engine a couple of miles from Kylerea, and swooshed through at over 9 knots, observing the strange sight of lots of Atlantic grey seals in the waters round us. It must have been a good spot for them to catch fish, or perhaps they were just enjoying the fast-moving water!
Out into the loch beyond, and our decision was to go to Plockton. It was barely 2.30 and the sun was shining again, although the wind had freshened, and as we approached Kyleakin and the Skye Bridge it was gusting up to 20 plus knots. Out through the bridge - always a buzz, going under there - we were able to turn north and sail again. As we turned into Loch Carron both sails were too much so we rolled away the genoa and had a very pleasant sail in sunshine towards Plockton. By the time we were lining up to pick up a mooring the wind was freshening in earnest, and our pickup, although a first-time catch, was anything but elegant. But we were safely on a mooring loaded to 15 tons - we weigh half that, so we settled in, had dinner, and waited for the coming gale to arrive.
We observed another yacht, not so lucky, foul its prop on the mooring pickup line it was trying to capture. It dangled by its stern into the increasing wind for some time, eventually managing to free itself sufficiently to lie normally to wind. It is a nightmare all yachties dread, the rope round the prop, as it immobilises the boat's engine. Mostly it takes a diver going down with a knife to cut it free again.
Tuesday night was very noisy, with the wind howling in the rigging and the boat yawing and shearing on the mooring. But we knew we were safe enough.
Wednesday was an incredibly windy, wet day, blowing force 7 gusting 8 all day. Only two yachts arrived during the whole day, and nobody left.
Thursday was nice enough to get the dinghy overboard at last, and we went into Plockton and bought some groceries. Friends from our yacht club invited us over for drinks in the evening, and then to dinner, so we had a very pleasant evening with them.
Friday 3rd June was finally a warm sunny day. Off with the thermals, on with the t-shirts and sunglasses. At last!
On the 4th we set sail again, this time in really nice weather, and headed for Portree. The wind freshened as we rounded the south end of Raasay, and we had an exciting ride up to Portree harbour, where we settled in for the night. On the way into the harbour Ju spotted a Sea Eagle! Yessss!