If cleanliness is next to godliness, then Ruffian, Fiona, Iain and even Larry have been elevated to a position of exaltation due to our activities. We have also had the most eye opening time with Chris Helm who has shown us hospitality without bounds and agricultural insight a plenty.
The sail from Kilchatton Bay to Kames Bay at Port Bannatyne was the similar to many of the other sails we've had over the past couple of weeks, as in upwind. We are finally understanding how to get Ruffian to go upwind now, as we've come to the conclusion that she isn't a race boat and the sail's are not blades that create masses of lift and big acceleration in the slot (that's enough of technical sailing talk). This is really one of the beauties of being able to do what we are, that we are able to learn so much about the boat, the sea and each other.
Once in Port Bannatyne we were able to hitch up with Chris Helm. We cannot think Chris enough for his hospitality. It was abound from the moment that we tied up; as we tied up on his mooring; just across the water from his local; in front of his house; which is equipped with all the amenities that you have in a house and all the above he let us use without limit. Thank you so much Chris. With the open access to a washing machine and a bathroom, all inhabitants on Ruffian are so clean we squeak and all our clothes are washed and dried as we changed Chris's house from a home into a Chinese laundry.
Chris works on the island with disadvantaged young people, helping them back into work through the medium of farming. The medium of farming not only gives them a new skill that is required on the island but enhances all the soft skills such as giving structure to their time, self-confidence and achievement in harvesting a crop. We were lucky enough to be able to have a tour of the farm, which although being only 6 acres, has a massive array of produce, from herbs and spices to soft fruit and root vegetables. This is then sold into the local community meaning that the efforts of the farm are self-financing. We learnt all about crop rotation, companion planting, wildlife corridors, soil conditioning, edible weeds, the list just goes on and on. It goes to show that small scale farming can be both environmentally friendly and also financially viable. Well done Chris, you should be an inspiration to us all. If anyone is interested further then please visit www.buteproduce.org.uk.
As a bit of a confession we are now having a bit of a provisioning nightmare on Ruffian. Foolishly when we slipped lines all the way back in March we provisioned the boat fully from a local supermarket but we didn't think about the long term availability of homemade marmalade supplies. We have now opened the last jar of homemade orange marmalade. We happily munched our way through all of Pamela's excellent produce and have now opened the jar that was given to us by Isobel's mother, which is also proving to be of outstanding quality. We are very much in a quandary as to what to do to replenish our supplies. We do not have the equipment (or the skill) to make any ourselves and if marmalade is posted to Ruffian, On the Sea, UK, we don't think it will find it's way to us. Any suggestions as to how to resolve this serious situation would be gratefully received.
On Friday night Ruffian proved to be an excellent social venue as, for the first time since we left, we have now entertained on board. Ruffian provided the starter, main and cheese board whilst Chris provided homemade bread and some of the crunchy green produce from his farm. Usually after you host friends at your home the end of the evening is when things start to wind down. This is not the case when you entertain 'offshore'. After dinner Chris was duly 'run home', in the dark, on trusty 'Thug' and deposited on the beach. Thug was then re-launched into the surf and most notably into the fields of invisible seaweed that were waiting to ensnare the outboard prop in the dark. The sacrificial cotter pin that drives the prop then snapped, as designed, and Iain was faced with a 100 yard upwind row. He finally made it home, cold and soaked but safe to the relief of Fiona.
Over the next few days we'll be making our way around the top of Bute and then into Loch Fyne, probably heading towards Port Tarbet. It looks like we've got some significant weather on the way and we want to be safely tied up in harbour before it arrives. For those of you who now how to read GRIB files I've included a screenshot below of the latest GRIB, for those of you who don't, blue=rain=bad, red/pink/orange arrows=LOTS of wind=bad.
Yep. Fiona thinks its still cold.
More upwind work.
Yep. Iain Thinks it still cold.
Ruffian moored on Chris's boey.
Picturesque Kames Bay.
Chris with some fine produce.
If you want more info this is where to go.
Iain Bag making.
In the 'local'. You can just make out our home through the window.
Yet another sunset.
Thats a scary GRIB.
If there is wildlife everywhere in the Scottish Isles as we have found on the Isle of Bute then its remarkable how there is anything green left. We've had seals, mad march hares, deer, birds of prey and even some locals within eyesight. The time on Bute so far has been one of Scottish cruising at it's best with no sailing, heaps of sun, amazing scenery and sandy beaches.
After the delivery like feeling that all on board Ruffian had, it was nice to spend some time not thinking about passage planning or the next landfall and to simply enjoy the location that we were lucky enough to be in. This place happened to be Kilchattan Bay at the south end of Bute. There is walking a plenty at this end of the island and we were both keen to explore. So out we went walking boots in hand, well, on foot, and followed the coastline that we had viewed form the seaward side yesterday. The heat on land was remarkable and as we came to the next bay a seal decided that we shouldn't have sole use of the beach. Slowly he made is way in popping his head up with trepidation every 10 yards with us sitting in the black sand lapping up the sunshine in awe of this amazing country.
When we left the south coast we promised each other white sandy beaches, sunshine and crystal clear water. Killchattan Bay delivered all three. It was all too much for Iain during a romantic afternoon walk and he felt he had to cool off and go paddling. Cool off he did. The water here, although in the Gulf stream, is freezing with a capital FRRRRR. There is an adage in Scotland that if you don't like the weather then you should wait for 5 minutes. This was the case for the stroll home. Things turned from bright sunshine and still seas to lashing rain and 25 knots of breeze. Not a problem for our intrepid couple. At the end of the beach, by the ship, is a pub. Ahhh slice you may think. Oh no, very shut, too early in the season.
The rest of the week could prove to be highly social for us as we are hoping to hitch up with Chris Helm who lives in Bute and Nico and Glen who are 'over this way' dropping Will off at school in Melrose. We don't know how we will cope with such a crammed social diary or indeed the social interaction. Wish us luck.
The sun shines and the sea glistens.
Fiona absorbing the rays.
Our happy family.
Ruffian in the bay.
Paddling in nice warm water. NOT.
Yet another sunset.
We really have passed a watershed now on the fair ship Ruffian. When we left the Solent all those weeks ago we were on a bit of a mission to get to the fabled lands of the Scottish Isles. We are now here and things finally feel like we are cruising and not on some extended delivery. The scenery is breath taking and the winds from Troon to Bute have been fair and the sun has shone. Long may this and day sailing last. It certainly makes a change both starting and finishing sailing in daylight as this is the first time since we left Falmouth over 2 weeks ago that we've achieved it. We think it can now be officially said that we are 'cruising' and not going through the chore of passage making.
Although Troon proved to be an ideal destination for the sail from Ireland it was not ideal in many other ways. Looking at the Troon town website the highlights included, the high street, the marina and a statue. Not much to do or see for the pleasure seeker and so it was with a happy heart that after doing some chores this morning, which included Iain's final commitment to PTC, we started a simple day sail to Bute.
There must be heaps of gold in the hills of Scotland and also an abundance of Leprechaun's as rainbows were a plenty and rain has been absent whilst at sea on Ruffian. We had Arran to the West, Bute to the north, Ailsa Craig to the south and the mainland to the east. Everywhere we looked there was something to see; it was as if the blanket that had been covering all to see when we sailed into Scotland, a mere few days ago, had been lifted.
Industry is clearing thriving in Scotland as on the sail today, fishing boats were getting ready to land their catches and on land, farms were on every hillside. These farms were not of the arable or livestock variety, but of the wind type. We cannot decide if these pieces of engineering give a majestic beauty to the hillsides or are a blight on the eye. Only time will tell.
All it all, this has been worth the wait and the sail here to see and feel everything we have today.
The delights of Troon.
Finally sailing to the 'Isles' with Arran in the background."
The scenary has it's blanket lifted.
Finally sailing to the 'Isles' with Arran in the background
You know that you think you have a bad day in front of you when the first words that are uttered at 4.30 am are 'You know we don't have to do this. We are supposed to be having fun.' What we potentially faced was a 100 mile beat in northerly winds from Dublin to the bay off Glasgow. If you haven't sailed before then this is like the prospect of having cold salty water chucked at you intermittently for 36 hours, whilst being sleep deprived and having to navigate the M1 whilst blindfolded. Not fun, not easy and certainly not appealing. You can therefore see why the first words were uttered thus.
We had lots of options as to where to go but our ultimate aim was for either Campbeltown or Troon in the western Scottish Isles. Before we could make these destinations we had to negotiate the busy shipping lanes off Belfast and the rip tides just north of Belfast. With this in mind we had lots of options for destinations ranging from a scary potential entrance in Ardglass to spending the night at an exposed anchorage in Stranford Lough.
As we left Dun Laoghaire our spirits were brightened as there was more breeze than forecast and this was more on the beam. To add to the mix the sun shone and all was happy on Ruffian. This however was not to last. Soon the sea state worsened, the breeze increased and dusk came.
Before dusk however we were treated to our first sighting of Ireland's coastline. Bizarrely we have sailed the length of Ireland and it's always been shrouded in mist. The mountains, yes there are mountains in Ireland, climbed majestically from the sea as their cloak was lifted. We really hope that we have the time and opportunity to visit them on our return journey.
As night fell so came the ships and the fair tide. Fair tide when going upwind is a double edged sword. You want fair tide because it pushes you in the right direction, this however gives rise to horrible steep short waves as the water and wind are moving is opposing directions. On one of these waves the boat got a huge amount of green water over the decks and cockpit. We then realised that this wave must have coincided with a tankers bilges as the whole boat was then like an icerink, covered in some sort of slime. It's difficult enough to move about when going upwind in 20 knots of wind, let alone when your feet don't stay where you put them.
As dawn came we were greeted with our first glimpse of wee bonnie Scotland a long way in the distance and sleep deprivation was now taking its toll on Fiona. She described her eye's as having lead weights on the outside closing them and hessian carpets on the inside making sleep impossible. When we turned the corner at Genoch Rocks sleep finally came to Fiona and Iain was rewarded with a downwind sail in 25 knots of breeze, with nobody around to tell him off.
Come the afternoon of the second day at sea we found ourselves happily in the shelter of Troon Harbour and we could very much tell we were in Scotland. The smell of fried food erupted around the harbour. They do seem to fry everything here from pizza's to pies to mars bars and even fish.
The boat is now slowly drying including our goose down duvet that somehow got soaked and we are very pleased having made it to another country safe and well.
Fiona giving a wind commetry (sorry about the sound can be found here.
Our track from Ireland to Scotland can be found here.
More glamour sailing. Would it last?
Glamour glamour glamour.
although wavey and upwind.
Fast but cold. Check the sea temperature.
The isle of Ailsa Craig in the background. The sun didn't make an appearance.