Oh boy, what a rolly night! Yet we both slept very well. The wind was veering towards the north east, which in Armadale is the worst direction for fetch and roll, as the moorings are not sheltered in any way from the Sound of Sleat. Getting into the dinghy with the dog was very tricky, as the swell bounced it all over the place, and the dog would not jump in until I was in it first, holding it as best I could to the toerail. I rowed in round the pier wall into the calm of the pontoon, and walked the dog up past the youth hostel. Visibility wasn't wonderful, I noticed, and rain would not be far away. The wind was going to be favourable for our passage south, but we couldn't make a start on it until Mark arrived with the gas bottle, and replenshings for our water and diesel on board. We love coming here, as Mark simply tows a long freshwater hose out to the boat on the mooring, and pumps diesel into the tank from his small tender.
When he arrived after nine thirty, by which time the Manx yacht on the next mooring had decided enough rolly polly was enough and left, the news on the gas bottle was bad - the shop didn't have any. So we stowed the empty one again, and took on water and diesel only. Then we dodged the pushmepullyou ferry Loch Coruisk as it arrived in Armadale, and headed out into the sound, pulled out the genoa, turned off the engine, and sailed south. The weather closed in behind us and visibility was not good in that direction. But amazingly, as we reached the Point of Sleat and headed down towards Eigg, we looked to the right and we could see Barra and South Uist clearly on the horizon, over thirty miles away! Soon after that we spotted a minke whale swimming past us, blowing as it went.
Slowly Eigg slipped past on the starboard bow, and then Muck, then Ardnamurchan on the port bow, then mist set in all around us, and we steered by the compass and the chartplotter, to close in on Coll. The distance from the cairns of Coll at the north to the entrance to Loch Eatharna, and Arinagour where we planned to moor or anchor for the night, seemed never-ending, although the log showed that we were covering the distance at the usual rate of around 5.5 knots, but visibility was so poor that it felt as though we were going nowhere.
Finally through the mist we thought we saw the green buoy that marks the entrance, and homed in on that. Then it disappeared again! The second time we found it we locked on to it properly, and were soon motoring up the loch, and boggling at the number of yachts, fifteen in all, which had the same thought as us, to spend the night in this anchorage sheltered from the north easterly wind. As there are only six moorings, most boats were anchored, so after one false start we put down the new Rocna anchor clear of the fairway, and settled in for the evening.
Ju took Tessie ashore, and we had a quiet afternoon reading, then I started to prepare the evening meal, which was pasta with a chorizo sauce. As I was doing that, Ju decided to do a spot of fishing, as she had noticed movement in the water which suggested that fish were about. She had hardly put the mackerel feathers in the water when she hauled them back out again, with four fish attached. I helped her put them in the bucket and remove the hooks - one was actually hooked through its back, not its mouth! Then she cast again and brought up another four, of which one dropped back into the water. So there we were, seven mackerel in five minutes, two casts! One of the fish was the largest mackerel either of us has ever caught!
We had dinner, then Ju walked Tessie ashore again, then we took out the smoker, set it up and put the mackerel fillets into it. Half an hour later the meths burners finally went out, and the fish were beautifully hot-smoked. We left them to cool, then put them away in two lock 'n' lock boxes, to do lunch for two days. Another Rival, a 36, was anchored next to us, and we all settled down to a calm night, with the wind lessening dramatically, but veering to the south east - just the wrong direction for that harbour, as the fetch reaches all the way to the Treshnish Isles, but we got away with it in 2 to 3 knot breezes all night.
A lovely morning, so we set off after breakfast to go to the small island of Gometra, on the west coast of Mull, passing the Treshnish Isles on the way. At lunchtime I hove the boat to, sitting where I could lean against the tiller to keep it steady, and we had smoked mackerel and bread and butter. It was absolutely delicious! We carried on, beating towards Lunga, the largest island in the group, then motored for fifty minutes or so to pass through the gap between it and the Dutchman's Cap, and then motorsailed towards Gometra as the wind died away. It was a beautiful sunny day, and the sea was flat calm. We were the first boat into the anchorage at the south of Gometra, and we savoured the isolation and beauty of the place for all of half an hour before the first of five other boats arrived and anchored round the small bay. But everyone was in the spell of the place as much as we were, and it remained quiet, one of the most peaceful anchorages of our trip.
Another lovely morning, with little or no wind. So we upped the anchor and motored south towards the Sound of Iona. This was the first time we had gone through the Sound, so we had spent some considerable time looking at pilot books, plotting waypoints and entering them onto the GPS, and we felt ready to negotiate this tricky stretch of water, which has some very shallow patches in it. All went well until I spotted that one of the waypoints was not looking right, and Ju scuttled down below to double check coordinates. I had entered it wringly into the GPS apparently. So she fixed that, and we continued our journey, with my eye rarely leaving the depth meter, as it read alarmingly low numbers. Another waypoint was wrong, which didn't help. We motored past the entrance to Bull Hole and spotted Jane-O's cottage, and then towards Foinnphort where a multitude of tourists and tourist buses and cars were milling about waiting for the Iona ferry, and I looked behind us at one of the other boats from Gometra anchorage. It was apparently ignoring all the shallow patches and barrelling down the sound under full sail, right down the middle!
When we were clear of buoys and rocks, we hoisted sail also and followed our planned track to pass clear of the Torran Rocks. The wind gradually went directly behind us, so I had the dilemma of whether or not to use the cruising chute. Instead I opted to rig a preventer on the main, and pole out the genoa, which we reefed slightly as our pole is a bit small. We pootled along nicely in this fashion for some while, passing one of the two new cardinal buoys. Another amazing smoked mackerel lunch followed, then I noticed a yacht motoring towards us at approximately 45 degrees on a collision course. I watched, fascinated, as it got nearer and nearer. With a preventer rigged and a poled-out genoa, my options were limited, but I was definitely under sail! He was motoring! Didn't he have a copy of the colregs aboard? Hadn't he read them? He came on and on, and I could see that he was in the cockpit, and could see us plainly, but still no alteration of course. When he was within fifty metres of hitting us, I pulled the tiller towards me and went parallel to him for a little, and he carried straight on across our bows, missing us by about twenty metres. Ju waved at them, but I couldn't even bring myself to look at them as they went by. I won't name the boat here, but they know who they are!
We were heading for a small anchorage called Ardalanish, which Sam had told us about during our weekend on the gaff-rigged pilot cutter Ezra. We hadn't thought there were any good anchorages on the Ross of Mull, but this one looked good. We found our way in, but not before the only shower in miles hit us spectacularly so fast we didn't have time to put on our oilies. From bright sunshine to soaked to the skin in two minutes! Wow! The sea looked pockmarked! We dropped the Rocna right in the middle of the small anchorage, and tried to guess how many other boats would join us. Ju took Tessie ashore in the afternoon, quite a difficult landing as it is all rocks, and took her boots and socks off to get on to the rocks. I looked over a little later and she was haning a brief dip in the water. Very nice!
As time went by another five boats arrived. One, from France, anchored so close to us I was moved to go up the deck and ask if they didn't think they were a bit close. A chance to practise my French, I thought. They were fine about it, asked me how much chain we had out, and said they had the same, and we should all be fine but they would keep an eye on it, as the wind was forecast to go round to the east during the night.
Later one of the six men aboard brought us over a bottle of claret, as a gift, to apologise for causing us concern. And while Ju was ashore with Tessie they did move their anchor forward about twent metres, so we were OK after all.
A quiet night, and I woke up to realise Ju wasn't there. She appeared in the doorway and informed me that she coudln't put her weight on her right foot, her foot was painful, and she had been up since four unable to sleep because of the pain. There was nothing to see really except a couple of scratches on the side of the foot, no swelling, no inflammation. I got up and boiled a kettle, and got her to put her foot in a warm bath. It seemed to help a little. But not much.
I took the decision to head home, as I felt that the injury required medical attention, and the Ross of Mull is pretty remote from any possible source of help in that direction. So I took Tessie ashore, then streamed the dinghy, and we set off under engine. I had reckoned that if we could make Fladda by 12 or 12.30 we could get through the Dorus.
The wind was easterly and not very strong, but we did 5.5 through the water, and the tide along the Ross of Mull gave us a boost so we did 6.1 over the ground, and so there was no problem. Ju went below and slept a little, and when she came up we were nearly past Belnahua.
I left her on the helm as we went down the Sound of Luing at 11 knots, and I made some lunch. So that was how our holiday trip ended, with Ju having another foot bath once we were safely on our home mooring, and then with me driving her to A&E in Lochgilphead, from where she emerged on crutches with her foot bound up in bandages, and an instruction to come back in the morning for an X-ray. We stopped for fish and chips on the way home. End of the holiday!
Tuesday 10 July
An early start and a great sail down to Castlebay. The AIS engine told us the LochAlainn was plying between Eriskay and Barra, and that a great white liner going north ten miles away was the Grand Princess, bound for Kirkwall, with a collision potential of zero. So that was all right then!
We sailed happily as far as the racon buoy at the entrance to Castlebay approach, but then we had to motor straight into the wind, so we rolled away the genoa and centred the main, and Little Else bobbed up and down in the effort to cover the four miles to the mooring. We kept up speed and dropped the main at 5 knots, with Ju holding the boat steady into the wind at 18 knots.
Once into Castlebay proper we surveyed the moorings, prepared for the worst, ie that all 12 were occupied. Absolutely not, there were only two boats already there. We had a choice, so we picked the closest to the landing stage. The pickups on these moorings are dire, they are incredibly short, so that any yacht has to quickly find a piece of rope to extend it on to the foredeck. We have got wise to this now and keep a roll of rope permanently at the mast. So we moored and had lunch, and went ashore to use the internet at the school library. No such luck, each of the five computers was occupied, and I had to book time in the evening session instead. The swimming pool was also closed for maintenance until further notice, and the shower at the Calmac pier was out of order. So Ju just went to the coop and got some essential supplies, and we went back out to the boat. We noticed that sea kayaking tuition has taken off here in a big way as groups of people were constantly getting into or out of kayaks on the slip, usually between us and our dinghy! Ah well, live and let live!
On our way back out to the boat we spotted Nova again, and waved at David and Ann. They came over later and invited us for a dram after dinner.
I went to the school again at 6 and discovered that Barra now belongs to Orange, and Vodaphone is out of the picture. How mad is that? What happened to the reciprocal agreement between mobile companies that when a mast is installed all networks will be catered for? Not here, I can assure you.
So after checking my email and leaving a short message on my sailblog I went back to the boat, had an amazing greek dinner of lamb kebabs with tomato sauce and pitta bread and greek salad, prepared by Ju, and then we went for drinks to Nova. We were all similarly undecided about whether to sail the following day, as the first low in recorded history to travel in a south-westerly direction across the country was making mincemeat of everybody's travel plans. We left after ten, and fell into bed.
Wednesday 11 July
We stayed put. In the afternoon we went for a long walk round the coast with Tessie, and rounded it off with a pint in the big hotel overlooking the town. The weather wasn't wonderful, but it kept dry. I pottered around the deck a bit before dinner, checking out the shackles on the mast and the boom. Just as well I did as the spring-locked quick-release shackle holding the top of the kicking strap had lost its ring, and would have fallen apart at the first adjustment. Also the piece of hose protecting the shackle holding the bottom half of the kicking strap needed trimming. All these little jobs just keep coming along when you're on a boat!
After another delightful meal I opted for an early bed, as we thought the wind would be OK in the morning for sailing north. We would get up at 6.30am, we decided, and go for it. So off we go.
Thursday 12 July
A route logged into the GPS which could help us to get to most anchorages between Castlebay and Lochmaddy, and we were ready for the off. I took Tessie for her constitutional, and we were out of there first of eight. The forecast is SE backing SW, so we motorsailed out to the racon buoy, then hung a left and sailed on a starboard tack quite slowly with a small swell. I caught some mackerel, so it will be fresh fish for dinner tonight. Then the weather closed in, absolutely no visibility, so we stuck with the waypoint route and the Raymarine chartplotter, with the AIS engine telling us to relax, no big ships around. In the light of this poor visibility, we opted to spend tonight in Lochboisdale, and saw the most enormous basking shark on the way in. The moorings were all but empty, and we picked one up with no problem. We are wondering however how well-maintained they might be?
Friday 13 July
A nice breeze blowing in the morning, but the forecast was saying dire things about force 5-7 later, and worse for tomorrow, so it was decision time. Did we rsk going off round the north of Skye and anchoring at Duntulm, where this force 7 might kick in, or did we just light out of Lochboisdale at the earliest possible moment and head for Canna, the usual staging post for Minch crossings.
The weather forecast decided us to make for Canna, so we did. We were not able to see very far, but we listened to the radio for large ships checking in and out of the various reporting points in the Minch, Alpha to Foxtrot, and spent the morning trying to work out where each of these were, and if we were near any of them! The AIS saw no ships except the Lord of the Isles that came lickety-split out of Lochboisdale after us. Actually we had had to dance on the spot for a couple of minutes before leaving the moorings, as the ferry arrived in the naroow approach a full twenty minutes before she was supposed to.
The wind was south-easterly, and it kept us going at an average of 3-4 knots. We couldn't see Canna until we were about ten miles from it, by which time a large vessel appeared on the horizon, then travelled rapidly south to cross our path safely miles ahead of us. Ju spotted basking sharks as we approached Canna, and I got the vidoe camera out and captured some of them. One almost head-butted the boat, but turned at the last moment.
A yacht had been crossing the Minch to the north of us, possibly from Loch Skipport or even Lochmaddy, and he managed to beat us to Canna anchorage. He was flying a burgee of the cross of St George, and flew the white ensign off the stern. Interesting!
We got into Canna and found only three other boats there. We dropped the Rocna between the two churches, and suddenly it was a beautiful afternoon and evening, with warm sunshine and blue sky. I got the hammock out and slung it bewteen the mast and the forestay, and retired with a book. Ju plied me with tea and a cushion for my head, and life was good!
Later, after dinner, there was a knock on the hull and three sea-kayakers were there who wanted to know the forecast. It was about to be read out, so we asked them to raft up beside the cockpit, and I turned the radio volume up a bit, just as I handed Ju a refill of her red wine glass. Tessie realised there were strangers about and shot up through the companionway, and sent Ju's wine flying. Amazing how fast red wine soaks into GRP! Ju's reaction was colourful to say the least, and for a moment Tessie's character was torn to shreds.
All part of la vie de bateau! We turned in quite early, determined to sail to Inverie the next day, as the force 5-7 later of the earlier forecast had now dribbled away into variable 2 or 3.. Hrmmph!
Saturday 14 July
A lovely day, sunny to start with and pretty pleasant despite winds in the 18-22 knot range. We sailed on a number of very long gybes north of Rum, parallel with the Sleat peninsula, then north up the sound of Sleat towards Loch Nevis. We sailed for most of the way, only putting the engine on for the last 50 minutes or so while we sorted out a mooring in front of the Old Forge. The wind was still blowing quite strongly on to the lee shore, so the mooring and the yachts attached to them were going up and down somewhat for a while. With difficulty we got the dinghy over the side and the dog into it, and Ju took Tessie for a stroll ashore.
We radioed the Old Forge to book a table for two, and were given 7.15 as our time. So we went ashore at about 6.30, struggling a bit with the strong wind and the swell. But we got into the Old Forge and had a good enough meal. Not a wonderful meal - the fish pie was uninspiring and rather dried-out, and the service was slow and almost grudging. We had decided to stick to beer rather than drink wine with our meal, and when I asked the waitress to bring us two more pints, she informed me that the waitresses could only serve wine, they were too busy to serve beer, so clients had to sort out the beer for themselves from the bar. She told me this just as the main course arrived, so I spent five minutes at the bar waiting to be served while my food cooled down. Not good, not the great food and great service I remembered from previous memorable meals there. Pity!
We got back to the boat and were settling down for the evening when a lot of fireworks were set off on the shore. We had spotted a tricolore fluttering outside the post office, and reckoned that this was some expatriate French visitors celebrating Bastille Day. I took some photographs.
Sunday 15 July
St Swithins Day, apparently, and if the weather today is any guide we are in for a good spell. Light winds, warm sunshine and a blue sky with little fluffy clouds. We lounged about all morning, sitting in the cockpit drinking coffee and reading, after a bacon grill and egg breakfast. We decided as the other boats round us one by one dropped their moorings and left, that we would motor over to Armadale in the afternoon and pick up water, diesel and a gas cylinder. I was in t-shirt and shorts all day, including during the crossing. It was like sailing in the Med, just for a day. Wonderful!! Mark from Isle of Skye Yachts welcomed us, obviously remembering us from previous years. He will stop by in the morning with the gas cylinder and diesel, meantime we are just slobbing about, and I am catching up with the things I need a mobile signal for, like this log!
Just a quick post to update readers on our travels from Loch Harport on Skye to Eriskay then Castlebay on Barra. Full posting will follow, suffice it to say we fixed the engine problem and have had no more trouble from that.
Castlebay has no mobile phone signal, unless you have an Orange phone, and no swimming pool - closed for maintenance. Even the shower at the Calmac terminal is out of order. The gaelic festival is next week, and it's raining. Apart from that things are just fine!
I find that using the mobile phone as a modem to upload to sailblogs takes forever at 9600kps, so check out the main log at www.littleelseslog.co.uk
No image for the same reason.