Well on Friday (our last day in Kyle of Lochalsh before heading south) we were besieged by 13 boats all rafted up on a pontoon big enough for 5 boats....... Amongst the newcomers were the drunken gang from Northern Ireland that we had last seen in Portpatrick, they all made for the showers and then broke out every available bottle of alcohol that they could muster and proceeded to work through them! This was fine until a rather enthusiastic Navy Minesweeper decided to blast past our little pontoon at approx 15 knots, the resulting wake created the sort of chaos that leads to drunken Irish people losing fingers....... All 13 yachts proceeded to pitch and toss on the wake, people were desperately attempting to fender the boats from damage (whilst risking getting hurt themselves) A chaotic 5 minutes which after a prompt complaint to the coatguard had the captain of the minesweeper apologising to all involved.
On Saturday I felt a little better but still really weak so we decided to take a bus trip to Portree on the north east of Skye, a busy fishing village with lots of trip boats on the go (see the otters, seals, basking sharks and the resident sea eagle which has 2 chicks and has been almost trained by the trip boats to collect the food they throw and hence delight the tourists)
Now having no access to shore power means that you need to use the engine to re-charge the batteries; when you are galed off or in one place you need to start the engine specifically to keep the lights on and the beer cold.
On Saturday evening we had gone through this very ritual only to find a hideous, acrid burning smell fill the boat, the system was taking 50amps of charge (full whack for our alternator) and as Scotty from Star Trek would say....... "she canni take any more captain" The split charge diode (ask Stu) was getting rather warm, in fact it had melted a few wires and was acting as a very effective radiator in our heads (loo)............. We turned everything off and Stu had to effectively remove this item from the circuit to allow the charging to happen a different way (via the large "1/2/both" battery switch)
Now our good friends Dave and Sarah (the intrepid Smiths) who have been following our little blog, despite the fact that it is but a puppy in comparison to theirs (thanks guys for the support) will be able to smile and nod at this being our first real repair on route . Didn't we do well!
The last bit of excitement provide by Kyle was two rather noisy seals growling, barking and chasing each other from the water onto the reef just behind our boat..... they were at it for hours the noisy blighters!
The Sunday morning brought yet another gale warning, we would need to move and seek shelter so we started our journey south and headed for a remote little anchorage on the east side of Skye called IsleOrnsay........... We motored down in company with Billy and Cath (Sahona) they had sailed the med extensively and were now just re-discovering the joys (and bad weather) that sailing their home waters could bring......... Real characters, Bill had been something fairly high up on the technical side in IBM and we shared a good half hour reminiscing about how data processing departments were back in the late 70's (punch card machines, sorters, verifiers etc......... this is probably before most peoples' time) We dropped our hook, successfully first time. That evening we went ashore when the wind dropped and sought out a pint for Stu (essential sailing fuel) it also appeared that we had just missed the free malt whisky tasting that had ended at 5pm (long faces from a certain camp) I was still being a boring tee total at that point and was in search of something a little more elusive (a mobile signal or wifi) I had promised Helen (my boss) that I would look at an urgent E mail and attachment and so had to try and retrieve it. It is fair to say that we walked the 5 houses and 2 pubs that consisted of the village unsuccessfully when a local pointed me to the end of the fish pier where he insisted that I would be able to get a wifi signal............. In the pouring rain, with the work PC in a plastic bag I stood at the end of the fish pier, resting the PC on some lobster creels for height.......... 5 minutes later I had retrieved the offending E mail Success!
Normal catering services were resumed on board on Sunday evening, I had recovered enough of an appetite to cook and so venison pie was created and served to a hungry Stu who was fed up of living on easy to cook stuff from the co-op (in which we now have shares) and lusting after the breakfast baps from the Stafford canteen.
We heard a mayday in progress (just off Ardamurchan point and about 20 miles from us in the gale) a Scalloper has overturned with the loss of 3 out of 4 of it's crew...... very sad and sobering.
We listened intently to the forecast on Monday evening and decided that Tuesday would be our best bet to move and round Ardamurchan point which we did at a speeed of 7.3 knots with a reefed mainsail and several turns in the Genoa........... we were going like a train and made Tobermory in time to fill up with diesel, water and grab fish and chip in the pub and enjoy a hot shower.
We feel a little constrained by the weather at the moment, having to head south, dodging the million deep lows that seen destined for Scottish waters......... Wednesday Oban to finish this work I have to do, resolve the underwear crisis that will have us both commando by Friday and prepare for an early start to Jura to catch the tide.
Well apologies everyone for the lack of blogging but it has been an interesting week all in all. I reported to all that I was unwell in earlier blogs (but tried hard not to bore you with the detail....... Which was certainly boring us both and putting a dampener on the whole holiday)
Over the last week needing access to doctors and chemists had dictated our schedule a little too much and last Friday our move from Armadale had the same considerations as we would be able to step onto a pontoon and access the local doctor. Also there was always Broadford hospital on Skye 10 miles away. To be honest, despite antibiotics I had continued to get worse and we were at a loss to know what to do (I was by now not eating, enduring 4 attacks of Rigors a day from a severely high temperature and just lying around sleeping) I knew I needed some help and so we headed in search of it at Kyle.
Fortunately, it was a short, safe, extremely scenic and totally uneventful journey to Kyle and I personally was very glad to see the pontoon in the distance (in the background the Skye bridge) We tied up and I began to relax a little. Unfortunately my newly found comfort blanket was to snatched early on Saturday morning when the Harbour Master informed us that we would have to move as there was a gale coming through on Saturday evening and the wind direction would make us exposed and it would not be safe, he directed us to Plockton which was only about 8 miles away and where we would be safe from the gale. We had intended to visit Plockton anyway as we have heard about it from almost everyone we have bumped in so far.
On the wildlife front, we can report a sighting of two young otters playing just by the boats on Friday evening. Apparently otters can become quite brazen and have even been known to take possession of people's boats in Tobermory! Also, we saw several seals en route between Kyle and Plockton .
Plockton is a well sheltered anchorage on the mainland and every bit as beautiful as we had been told. It even has a small castle on the shore, a number of islands within the anchorage and of course good pubs and restaurants. We had a slow potter about but I was neither interested in sightseeing nor eating and so we retired to the boat and weathered the gale that indeed passed through that night together with my rigors attacks which were getting worse (longer, hotter etc)
On Monday we called the doctor in Kyle, made an urgent appointment and headed back. The doctor told me that first antibiotics had reacted badly (oh yes forgot to mention I was now covered in prickly heat type nettle rash after suffering an allergic reaction but feeling so poorly had refused to stop taking them). The infection had now progressed to my kidneys and I was going to have to brace myself for the biggest horse pills ever and at least 3 more days in bed to avoid hospital. We were banned from leaving (Dr Fiddes was one small package of a lady doctor not to be disobeyed) and I had to return every day to be checked. Tuesday was judgement day and a couple of really bad sessions had me give in. Within an hour the hospital admission had been arranged together with the necessary taxi and I was admitted to the Dr MacKinnon memorial hospital in Broadford on Skye. Here they promptly hooked me up to IV antibiotics (which from then on were known as the "good stuff"!) and pain killers to manage the high temperatures (which almost created a problem in themselves..........it was so high that the pre printed sheets didn't go any higher than 40 degrees and mine twice managed to touch 39.7.
Our experience of the doctors and now the hospital here has been a wholly positive one; for small 1 doctor practices and a hospital with only 23 beds they were brilliant, professional, friendly and managed to identify the bug, hit it with the right drugs and get me out of there in 3 days - Well Done! So although waking up on my birthday in hospital was never part of the plan, being allowed out by Dr Murray and the gang was the best present ever! Unfortunately, I couldn't tell Stu the good news before he boarded the bus to Broadford because he'd managed to drop his mobile in to the clear, deep, salty water of Loch Alsh on Wednesday evening!
So now we are still in Kyle and I am still just resting but now I know that in a few days I should feel much better and able to move on. Now that time is running out, our next move will be south, towards, home, friends, family and work.
Normal sailing content will be resumed for the next blog as soon as convalescence period is over!
Yesterday we decided that with few fresh provisions aboard that we would make a run for civilisation.......... The forecast was again for force 4-5 but after the force 7 that we had experienced we decided to reef down (for non boaties this is to make the sails smaller so as not to tip over or create brown stains in your trousers)
I can only describe the next 10 hours as bloody hard work! We beat to windward in a lumpy sea and a good force 6 (gusting 7)..... we got wet, salty, tired and fed up and were very glad to see Loch Nevis ( sheltered loch surrounded by large mountains) now whilst this was not quite the civilisation we had hoped for it was a safe harbour and had moved us a long way north towards our next stop (Skye) and we slept well!
The North shore of Loch Nevis is in fact a small peninsula on the mainland (called Knoydart) that is home to approximately 70 people and access is via the ferry that runs from Mallaig or on foot (it takes 3 days hard hiking and sleeping in provided crofters cottages to get you here (unless you've got a boat of course) Again a lively gastro pub (full of walkers and yachties), a tea room (who provided a fabulous breakfast, the pub menu was so good we almost stopped a second night..... but we didn't. Instead we thought we would push on if conditions allowed; when we had left the loch and entered the Sound of Sleat it was obvious that the conditions had not improved much so to avoid a repeat of yesterday we set a course for a small village called Armadale (Skye at last) and enjoyed a Caledonion MacBrayne ferry ride to Mallaig. News from home says that the forecast is likely to get bad again by Sunday so we are busy contingency planning (with a glass of wine in hand of course!)
The next day dawned (Stu's birthday) and after the cards & presents were opened and meddled for a suitable length of time we jointly decided that we would like to move on, in search of a more reasonably priced shower and so Stu (using birthday privileges) chose to head for the Island of Coll (population of 200) but with a brilliant anchorage and hotel serving seafood for the birthday banquet that was promised with birthday monies received from Stu's Mum and Dad.
The forecast was yet again for force 5 winds ......... and as per the previous 3 days they did not materialise, well not until we had just dropped our anchor at Coll anyway.... Then it blew up and up to a force 5, then 6, then starting gusting a 7. Now our anchor was in good and fast (not like New Quay) and so we were smiling smugly to ourselves when what can only be 3 "numpties" turned up in a boat they had chartered and manoeuvred directly in front of us intent on dropping their anchor right where ours was and they would have been far too close for comfort...... Eventually I gave into the urge to yell across to the skipper.... Who just retorted "where is your tripping line then?" although he did move a little so we, together with our anchor were safe (Being all dressed up and ready to go out we really were not in the mood to have to untangle to anchors and re set ours before dinner)- For non boaties a trip line is where you tie a float to your anchor to mark the spot where you dropped it and to make it easier to retrieve it in rocky anchorages. (apparently required by the charter company who was probably fed up of having to retrieve anchors lost by numpties). The chart and pilot books clearly show that the anchorage at Coll has a clean sandy sea bed so a tripping line is unnecessary. They promptly went ashore, leaving only a small amount of anchor chain out - now given that you need to lay out 4 x the depth of water in normal conditions and more in strong winds this was likely to cause a problem..........and it did. Their anchor began to drag and their shiny, new charter boat started to move through the ranks of other anchored boats on it's way out to sea, it was well clear of our boat when we did battle with the tender, making our way ashore which is always fun when it's windy as you tend to get wet and arrive at the pub a little worse for wear. We didn't get too wet but managed to snap the seat of the tender in half (yet another job for Stu to get round to when he get's a minute) Now walking into the pub who did we see? Numpties of course - we had great pleasure in informing them that their trip line was proving quite effective as we could now very clearly see their anchor disappearing through the anchorage in the direction of the sea, following their boat ...........they made a rather hasty exit leaving half drunk pints.
The dinner was fabulous and we would recommend Coll and the Coll Hotel to everyone for a weekend of walking, good food and good company and stunning scenery. Stu had a massive plate full of freshly caught langoustines and I feasted on scallops and pancetta. Mmmmmmm. Thank you Phil and Barbara
Position 56 37.214N 006 04.007W
Sorry folks for the lack of blogs over the last few days............. For good reason - Not been on top form getting over this nasty infection (the drugs help though!) we also were storm bound for a couple of days on an island with 200 inhabitants for 2 days (no phone or internet connection)
Anyway we will try to catch up with the last few days of activity.... Firstly a big thanks to all of those leaving comments on the blog - it is great to know who is keeping tabs on us and tittering along with the trials and tribulations. On the day we departed from Oban we met the lively crew of Blue Moon from Northern Ireland, well the female contingent anyway (Sarah and Evelyn) Blue Moon is a large blue motor yacht that they have fitted out from scratch and is was based in Northern Ireland but was destined for the North Sea, via the Caledonian canal and Loch Ness. They are also keeping a blog and so we will keep tracks on each other's progress over the next few weeks and will call in on some recommended Northern Irish hot spots on the way back home.
We set sail on Sunday 5th for Tobermory and had a perfect sail only turning the key of the engine to negotiate our safe arrival onto the new visitors pontoon.............. Tobermory is a colourful, picture postcard little village which looks just the same as on TV, however they are definitely attempting to cash in on the Balamory connection with our mooring costing us £20 for the night and to our disgust they charged a whopping £0.20 to use the loo and then £2.00 for a shower, daylight robbery (At least Dick Turpin had the decency to wear a mask!) Needless to say that we voted with our feet and passed on the shower (haven't had a strip wash since I was a small child)
Thursday started with blistering sunshine, then heavy thundery showers and then sunshine again - a strange weather pattern that was set to continue for the rest of the day.
Ardfern had proved a brilliant stop, with a good pub that provided the grub for the evening, a helpful crew in the workshop that fixed our autohelm bracket (I had snapped it some days earlier by throwing a line back from the foredeck...... whoops! And stunning views.......... But off we set for Oban, the first challenge being to negotiate a stretch of water called "Dorus Mor" the tide runs strongly here between the headland and an adjacent island (8kts at springs - for non boaties that is when the moon is either full or new) as we were on neaps (half moon tides are less powerful) we took a rather casual approach to this stretch of water (passing through with the tide under us but not at slack - which is usually recommended)
The whirlpools were visible on the surface of the water and the boat was immediately propelled through the gap at 10kts (that consisted of 5.5kts of boat speed plus tide) and at the same time we were swung first left of our course and then right (steering a straight line - essential to miss the rocks was a little difficult) these fun and games continued as we cleared the gap the tide was sucking us towards the golf of Corryvreckan (all boaties will know that this is not a good thing.... If Dorus Mor had been fun then Corryvreckan on full tilt would be scary!) It took us 30 minutes to get clear of all of the weird tidal pulls and immediately that bit of excitement was over the fog came down....... Proper Scotch mist! Thursday's blog photo is of a yacht passing us at close proximity (the only thing we could see was the tip of his mast)
The next bit of excitement that day was when several planes flew over us really low, a couple of fighters and a bomber of some sort........... unfortunately by the time we arrived at Oban we learned that a fighter jet (Tornedo) has come down about 20 miles from us and these plane were not for our entertainment but to attempt to locate the wreckage ( I feel guilty about trying to get a stunning close up photo now)
The strange weather on Thursday continued to be just that - strange and the sun came out as we arrived at Oban Marina (which is not actually in Oban but on Kerrera a small island approximately 1 mile away) in blistering sunshine and temperatures of almost 30 degrees............ Hope the weather is as weird at home.
Today's wildlife report (for the spot's many fans) has to add the frequent spotting of many large and colourful jellyfish which we have learned are Lion's Mane Jellyfish and can grow up to 8 foot in diameter ........ They do sting but more importantly they provide essential food for large Leatherback turtles which are sometimes spotted in these water, we live in hope of a sighting.
Sunday we set sail for Tobermory which not only has a Womble named after it (for the now grown ups) it is also the setting for Balamory for those parents who feel the need to accompany the under tens in front of the TV.