Contrast. That's the control on your TV that makes the very so made up presenters look like something out of a 1970's sit com if you turn it up too much, alternatively it's the difference between Loch Aline, where we started, Tobermory, where we stopped and Loch Na Droma Budha, or more easily remembered, Loch Drambuie, where we finished proceedings and stopped for a couple of days.
In our time in Loch Aline we managed to see all of 2 people, the chef in the White House Restaurant, and the shopkeeper. Heaving it was not, idyllic and ideal for our needs it was. This was an unreal contrast to what we found in Tobermory, of Balamory (kiddies TV program apparently) fame. Tobermory had its annual music festival on and had 1000's of people on every street and in every pub. The music sounded great but unfortunately the festival seems to have been renamed by the locals to 'Lets get bladdered on the street and shout and fight with people." Surprisingly we decided not to join in with the shouting and fighting and made haste around the corner to Loch Drambuie.
In Loch Drambuie we found a huge anchorage with only one other boat in, high hills to every side and an entrance that happened to line up with the setting sun. The company of the yacht was a nice addition, not because of the socialising, but because they had unsecured mobile wireless internet that we unwittingly managed to 'use' to download weather and surf the web on. The hills provided good walking and the setting sun every evening gave a nice backdrop for the sundowners that we have been craving for the past 2 months and 1000 miles at sea.
It's not all sun sun sun up here in Scotland. We have now actually seen a whole day of rain since we arrived, ½ a day in Puilladobhrain, and now ½ a day in Loch Drambuie. Instead of our usual activities of hill walking and dinghy safaris, which would come later, we opted for a duvet morning which has been marineified (if there is such a word), to a musto middle layer snug day. We have heard that it is so wet 'down south' that people are going brown not through the sun but because they are going rusty (thanks Chris/Dad), we know how you feel with our ½ day. Once the rain passed we were greeted with empty blue skies and views from ahigh all the way over to Coll and Tiree in the west and Skye in the north.
We have tentative plans, assuming that the weather is good, to walk down memory lane for Fiona by visiting her old holiday home 30 miles around the peninsula at Ard Nan Buth. The only issue with getting a detailed weather forecast, is that we'll be spending the evening walking for an hour to the top of the nearest hill where we should be able to have some phone reception to download it. This isn't too much of a chore however as the sun is still shining and we should find another amazing sunset over the Scottish Isles. Now where's that bottle of wine to take with us?
A supersonically soft sail from Loch Aline to Tobermory.
Tobermory. Pretty from afar.
Can you spot ruffian down there somewhere.
Images of Barbuda.
Larry decides it just too hot and sunny up here and thinks it's a good idea to go for a swim.
Iain then has to carry the damp llama home. BAD larry.
The office furniture is somewhat lacking but the view is amazing.
Ruffian quietly falling asleep.
The letter 'e' is the fifth in the alphabet and is considered by many as one of the most important letters in the English Language. It is particularly important as it can make an enormous difference to certain words, add the letter 'e' to, slim, which is good, and you get slime which is better, add it to wins, which is good and you get wines, which is better. In our case if you add it to haven, which is good and which Loch Aline was initially, you get, heaven, which is better and which Lock Aline turned out to be.
After 36 hours swinging on our trusty hook, in 25 knots of wind, we were feeling somewhat boatlocked and it was a relief, when we got to shore, to be able to walk more than 10 meters around the boat and go off to find the local populace. Once we arrived at the village the locals couldn't have been more helpful. The chaps on the ferry not only agreed to take our waste oil, they positively wanted it; the chef in the local restaurant wasn't happy with us only having a coffee, but felt that it was imperative that we sample some of his chocolate torte followed by squat lobsters for afters. The torte and lobster was so amazing that we decided that we'd push the boat and visit them for an early supper the next day.
The next day, knowing that we had a big early supper awaiting us at 4 pm we felt it was important to walk off the calories before they got to us. This did however require rather a large amount of planning, we had to take posh clothes (read shorts for Iain) for dining in, our washing as the local store could launder them, the engine oil as the ferry would dispose of it and our oilies and boots as it was now windy again. A real mean feat in our little tender. So off we went for a walk, over the hills to a landlocked loch. What we found was a loch with a white sandy beach. Truly breathtaking and a real surprise as this 'beach' was not mentioned anywhere. As Iain has been searching for a sandy beach, this was the only excuse he needed to head into the surf.
The seasons are starting to pass and we seem to be coming wholeheartedly into summer now. Not only have we spied swallows and butterflies but we have seem more animated signs. Rams have been fighting in the fields and we were lucky enough yesterday to see a heard a deer with a magnificent stag at it's head.
After a route march back to the village we finally arrived at the Whitehouse Restaurant. This is apparently one of Hugh Fernly Whittingstalls favourite places to eat and we can understand why. The Sea Witch that Fiona chose and the Seafood Stew that Iain opted for were simply to die for. The only way that their flavours could have been surpassed would have been if we'd caught the fish ourselves and we all know how proficient we are on Ruffian at that. Not. We're not saying that eating on Ruffian has not been good, but this was the most amazing food we have had in a very very long time and all without planning in advance. We ended up chatting to the Chef quite extensively and we found out that we are the only people to have ever eaten there whilst their washing was done next door and needed an intercourse interlude to put it in the washing in the drier.
On a side note, we have become big fans of boiled eggs and soldiers on Ruffian and after following Delia's detailed instructions, have got their cooking down to a tee. Now the cooking and eating is all very easy, it's the egg shell disposal where we need your thoughts. Everyday Iain feels the need to crush the shells to a pulp whilst reciting "Die witch.Die." He has explained to Fiona that this is so that witches do not move in as eggs shells make perfect witches houses. This Fiona feels is rather bizarre behaviour (but pretty normal for Iain) and would like confirmation that either iain is as mad as a box of badgers or that he is saving her from living on a boat infested by little witches living in egg shells. Thoughts anyone?
As usual for Ruffian in Scotland the sun shines and there is little rain so the adventure continues in the days to follow.
It's amazing what you find whilst walking and amazing that we'd trust things like this.
All loaded ready for a nice supper with laundry and oil.
Just before the beach and the loch.
The sandy beach on a loch!!!!!_
Wow. Simply amazing food.
Isobel. This is for you. Kelpie does come in bottles.
Larry didn't realise that Llama would be on the menu in a seafood restaurant.
Ruffian, at anchor, in the sun, in Scotland.
Sailing in tidal waters with unsettled weather is all about planning. Planning when to leave, planning when to arrive, planning which way to go, planning how to make best use of the weather and planning to change the plan if the plan needs changing. If you get all of the above right then you are most of the way to becoming a great sailor. Edward Gibbon once said "The winds and waves are always on the side of the ablest navigators." We've had great tides and winds from Puilladobhrain to Oban and Oban to Loch Aline, with fair settled weather whilst at anchor and shocking hail whilst in port. All together we are pretty happy with ourselves and Ruffian.
We had settled into life in Puilladobhrain quite happily and had the place to ourselves for a while which was a real treat. The only problem with Puilladobhrain however is that there is no mobile or internet access anywhere apart from the top of a hill. This is where we decamped to, to perform our morning's business. The view beat the socks off any panorama you would see in any of the worlds capital cities and the air was cleaner and the locals happier.
The following day we had ambitious plans. We hoped to get to Oban for nine, get all our chores done by eleven and be in Dunstaffnage by four. This would then enable us to have an afternoon ashore before making for Lock Aline on Wednesday before some shocking weather was due to hit. The plan was a step too far and our chores took ten hours rather than the allotted two to complete. On the list of chores was to stock up the boat with food and refill with water. Iain 'toddled" off to Tesco's with a spring in his step whilst Fiona went to get her hair cut.
The trolley became fuller and fuller as the bargain nosh flew off the shelves and Iain was on a high thinking about the nights at Anchor in deserted bays and having a glass of wine after a scrummy dinner. What he hadn't bargained for was just how heavy £125 of shopping is when you need to walk a mile home with it and then dingy it out to the boat. A full rucksack on his back, one on his front, both of which had two bags on each side and three bags in each hand gave Iain a full workout for the short 'stroll' home. Shopping never seemed so difficult when we had a car and a big kitchen to fit things in and all this whilst Fiona was being wined in the luxurious surroundings of the local hair design emporium.
The other big chore was flushing our water tanks. At home you turn on the tap and out comes clear, fresh, odourless, tasty water. The same should happen on a boat but unfortunately we had the misfortune to fill our tanks with tainted water at Crinan and have been having the unpleasant task of drinking it until we had opportunity to refill and Oban gave that opportunity. We are pleased to now report that all those on Ruffian are fully rehydrated with 300 litres of Scotland's finest spring water.
With all the above taking longer than expected the plan needed changing and so we never made it to our stopping point en route to Loch Aline of Dunstaffnage. This meant one thing, an early morning, infact a very, very early morning. A morning so early it was still technically night, which if you know Scotland at this time of year, only happens for about four hours. So up we got a 3.45 to make two critical tidal gates and WOW what a ride they gave us. Downwind, downtide sailing in 20 knots of breeze and we arrived at our destination elated and most importantly in front of the bad weather. The bad weather promptly filled in and we're happily sat at anchor keeping busy whilst the wind screams through the rigging and the clouds hurtle over the top of the hills before depositing their contents on Mull behind us.
Something which we have both not been looking forward to is having to service our trusty engine. When Iain had a car he didn't even fill the washer fluid never mind anything more mechanical and Fiona took her diesel engine course and was very happy with the certificate she received, but not the knowledge. Out came the manual and our notes, we removed the old oil, filled it with new, replaced or cleaned all the filters and all the other necessary work after 100 hours of service the engine had given us. So it was now time to put our knowledge and work to the test. Time to start the engine. After a couple of splatters and coughs she fired into life and purred like a happy pussy cat with her new oil and filters.
With the rest of the country having experienced gales in the past couple of weeks it would seem that the West Coast of Scotland has been feeling a bit left out and wants to join in with the fun. It therefore looks that we are going be loch bound in our haven of Loch Aline for a couple of days and may even be boat bound with no shore side fun.
We have the office with the greatest of views.
Ruffian again from ahigh in Puilladobhrain.
And a moonrise....
The first dingy load. Just how much shopping can you fit in a little boat.
Working out where to go and most importantly when from Oban.
Sailing at dawn in the 'summer'. Quite a feat in Scotland.
I think the instruments are over reading a touch. 169kts of boatspeed!!!!!
Fiona finally finds the RYA diesel course useful after only 12 years.
Team effort. Iain cleans the sea water filter of Jellyfish.
Variety is the spice of life. Variety in every form, from that of the weather, which changes every 30 seconds up here, to the sensations you have, be they the sun on you face or the stress and fear of running your home onto the rocks in tight narrow passages. Variety has certainly occurred over the past couple days.
Fearnach Bay sounds like a pretty foreboding place, it sounds like it's just come out of some 1970's horror movie where everybody gets brutally murdered. The Fearnach Bay that we found didn't live up to this reputation at all. It did however give good opportunity from some new experiences.
We had to provision and being that the only form of transport we have are our legs, we donned walking boots to go over the hill to the local village where a convenience store with supplies awaited. After emptying the convenience store of all its goods, well 2 loafs of bread, milk, veg and a few sundries, we started the walk home and this is where the new experience came in. As we were trudging our way home, backpacks full, Iain stuck his thumb out at a car to try his luck hitch hiking. Hey presto, it stopped, and inside was not a psychopath, as Fearnoch Bay would suggest, but a lovely lady who was originally from Southampton and she gave us a lift all the way to the boat. That was a new experience for Fiona.
The hills then awaited a proper walk and up and up and up we went and steeper and steeper and steeper the incline became until it was nearly vertical. Fiona had stopped a while to let Iain take in the view from the top. What Iain found was an amazing view and a perfect base jumping location. Larry the extreme sports aficionado that he is took the plunge and flew down the hill to greet Fiona some 200 feet below. That was the second new experience for both Fiona and Larry.
Our time to move onto pastures new came and we had what we thought was one of the most navigationally challenging parts of our trip in front of us. Around the top of Torsa and Luing in a narrow passage called Cuan Sound. What makes this difficult is that there are so many rocks up here none of them a marked, the channel is strewn with them and only about 100 feet wide, the tide runs at up to 7 knots and the passage goes along the lines of big right hand turn, big left, big right, small left, small right, big left. All this you need to do at the right time and having to anticipate where the whirlpools are going to push your home. As Iain was navigating Ruffian through with Fiona driving we came to the realisation that Ruffian doesn't spin on the spot like a dinghy or a race boat. We are pleased to announce that Ruffian made it through happily in the expert hands of Fiona. Stress over and it was all then plain sailing, in the lashing rain, to one of the best and most unpronounceable anchorages in Scotland, Puilladobhrain.
The sail to Puilladobhrain has again marked anther line in the sand for Ruffian. For the first time she is technically in the Atlantic. We've so far sailed in the English Channel, the Irish Sea, the Celtic Sea, the Firth of Clyde, and we are now in an Ocean. We've also been sailing in heaps of sounds, ie Siel Sound, Sound of Insh, Cuan Sound. Iain thinks that they need to name things after sounds up here as it so peaceful and unbelievably quiet.
Whilst getting Ruffian to Scotland we had a bit of a biscuit glut. At every opportunity we overdosed on the lovely bits of sugar and fat, well it was cold afterall. Since then Iain has been declaring nearly every day that he is having a biscuit and chocolate free day. Last night however Iain got into trouble. Fiona found a Lemon Drizzle Cake mix that had been secreted on the boat secretly in Troon, so although all days next week are going to be a biscuit and chocolate free days, we could enjoy fresh baked cake day onboard Ruffian whilst continuing our way into unexplored waters.
Walking to the convenience store. It beats the drive to Tesco's.
Iain at 'The Summit".
Larry tries base jumping.
Ruffian from a high.
On the way down.
The stress of Cuan Sound. Left, right, left, right. Well done us.
Drying everything out after our first soaking on the trip.
The Bridge over the Atlantic at Puilladobhrain
Yet another sunset on Ruffian.