Leg 17 Craobh to Craighouse
20 July 2017 | Craighouse
Thanks for all your wonderful and funny comments. Sorry we can't reply to them all individually but they are really lovely to read so keep them coming! For the film Stu, Ray feels he is more of a Ray Winston leading man, a bit rough and rugged rather than smart and sophisticated like George Cloney, but there will be time to decide!
I'm a bit behind with the blog again mostly due to a combination of a lack of wifi access, I'm enjoying myself too much and we are filling our days so full that I keep running out of time.
But on Monday, woke up to a lovely sunny day at Craobh and would have been lovely to stay another night but we really needed to crack on.
The weather forecast was for a good wind but threatened 1.9 metre waves in the Sound of Jura. Having spoken to two locals, one who said "No, the waves don't get that big in the infamous Sound of Jura", and the other who said, "Oh yeh, it could be really bad at the south end", we decided it was a lovely day and we would go for it!
At 11am the tides were right to sweep us southwards towards and through the Sound, so we left in the sunshine and apart from one area called the infamous Corryveckan (the gap between the island above Jura and Jura itself where whirlpools exist due to strong tidal streams) where we were exposed to some westerly gusts up to 23knt, the sea was relatively slight.
The strange thing was that during this journey our compass began to give very strange readings, up to 20 degrees out, and the autohelm, which allows you to set the boat to steer a course (a bit like hands free driving) and which is not physically linked to the compass, also started to do weird things. We realised quickly that we could not trust it as it would suddenly, without warning, start steering us towards the shore for no apparent reason. We later realised that the compass may have been effected by the new switch Ray had fitted for the automatic bilge pump so we had to move that, and we hope the autohelm had got a bit damp or just had enough, well we all have our limits!!
So we hugged the east coast of Jura all the way down until we reached the Small Isles, a group of small islands through which we navigated to a bay call Craighouse. It was the most spectcular location. The sea was like glass, it was completely sheltered from what little wind there was, it felt like it was about thirty degrees and on the shore line was the Jura distillery.... how perfect! We picked up one of sixteen visitors mooring buoys and the water was so clear we could see the whole of the chain right from the mooring buoy to the sea bed. With the mountains as a backdrop and small islands all around, we felt like we could have been on a desert island.
It would have been lovely to spend the evening relaxing on the back of the boat with a bottle of wine but no, Ray suggested we blow up the tender and row ashore for a drink in the pub and to get a mobile or internet signal to call home. So we dragged our well packed tender out onto the deck (like trying to lift a dead body) and started to work out how we could pumped it up on top of Talora. Having never used it before, unrolling it we realised how huge it was and what a logistical nightmare it was to maneovour it into a position where it was possible to pump it up with a foot bump and launch it into the water. After a lot of straining and laughing at ourselves for providing at least an hours entertainment to the other people relaxing on the back of their boats ... we managed it and were able to row ashore. Only to find out that there was no wifi or mobile signal on the island so Ray had to use a pay phone. Who even has pay phones these days!
After a drink in the pub, we got eaten alive by the midges whilst rowing back to Talora then had to work out how to reverse the process to recover the tender and pack it away without giving ourselves a hernia. Note to remember to tow the tender on the south coast... we can't go through that too many times.
All in all, a thoroughly enjoyable day!
Photo is us rowing away from Talora to go ashore at Craighouse.
Leg 16 Easdale to Craobh Marina
16 July 2017 | Craobh
Considering where we spent the night and the weather conditions we both slept relatively well but, this morning, lying in bed I could hear the wind and feel the waves and really did not want to have to get up to face what the day might throw at us. I wanted the day to be over and for us to be safely tied to a pontoon in Craobh without having to deal with how we would get there. I didn't want to look out the windows and see those big waves. So it took me a while to surface. When I did look out, although the waves were not as big as yesterday, they were still big but the sun was shining and the rain had stopped.
We had decided to take the short cut through Cuan Sound but first had to head out to sea and face the waves. There were lots of other boats out, obviously mad Scotsman out for their Sunday morning sail. We slipped our mooring line and said our thank you's to Easdale for keeping us safe, and headed for the waves. Ray handled Talora brilliantly and although I was worried, he made me feel that we would be OK. Within 20 minutes we had reached the entrance to Cuan Sound and circled until slack water, which we had calculated would be at 10.15am and in we went. The pilot books warned of cross currents, racing tides and eddies which would catch even the most experienced yachtsman out, but we flew through like a dream, getting some shelter from the wind. On the other side, we picked up the ebb tide to carry us south to Craobh and had feared wind against tide making the sea conditions rough but the height of the mountains around us sheltered us from the wind and the journey was very pleasant. By 11am we reached the entrance to Craobh Marina in the sunshine, very pleased with ourselves that we had escaped another night at Easdale and navigated our way through Cuan Sound. Craobh was very welcoming with lovely facilities. Having been on Talora since the previous morning, we felt the need to get off and get some exercise so we walked the 2.5 miles over the hill to the other side of the peninsula to Ardfern, which had another Marina we had considered visiting. It was nice but we had definitely picked the right Marina.
We have just enjoyed a meal in the Marina pub "Lord of the Isles" and are on the boat with the heater on trying to dry out all our damp clothes from the last couple of days.
We certainly feel that this adventure is testing us to our limits and although it feels sometimes overwhelming at the time, we are seeing some amazing sights and creating some amazing memories together, the three of us, me, Ray and Talora.
Apologies if the blog is a little long winded some days, but there is so much to share and it helps me to remember it all by telling you. Photo is us on our way back from Ardfern. You can just see Craobh Marina over Rays left shoulder. The Cuan Sound brought us towards the Marina through the islands right at the top middle of the picture.
Leg 15 Oban to Easdale Sound ( but it should have been Craobh!)
16 July 2017 | Easdale Sound
Saturday 15th July, got up and checked the weather again. The Engineer had traced yesterday's problem to the alternator filled with powder from the fire extinguisher when we had to use it in Amble. With a new alternator fitted, there was nothing stopping us. It was raining but that had been forecast, as had high winds (33 mph) between 1-4pm. Our journey would only be a short one, 20 miles which we can do in 4 hours. So, desperate to move on from Oban and make some progress, we set off at 8am in the rain thinking we would be safe and sound in Craobh (pronounced "Croove") in good time to avoid the winds.... how wrong were we! We were heading south through the Sound of Kerrara, Mr Happy (Ray) announced that his fladden suit was leaking and his hankie was wet... oh joy. The visibility became very poor, a sailing boat in front of us kept disappearing in and out of the mist and we could not see the islands we should have been nagivating between. We passed a couple of small anchorages with boats in and were sailing quite close to the shore. By 10am, we were in the thick of it. The wind had significantly increased and the waves were huge. Because we were close to the shore, we could see the waves breaking on the rocks really close to us. We passed a small island called Easdale which we knew from the chart would offer our last opportunity to find shelter. We knew from the forecast that the wind was only going to get worse so after a quick "What should we do" discussion, we decided to make our way between the island and the mainland to see if we could anchor for a while, possibly for the night. Thankfully and to our great relief, as we entered the narrow channel between the mainland & the island we could see a number of mooring buoys. We attached Talora to a buoy and went down below to gather our thoughts and check where we were. We were about half way to Craobh. It looked like we had picked a good spot. Although we couldn't reach them, there were houses on both the island and the mainland and a small rib was making frequent trips ferrying people back and forth. The mooring buoy was holding well so we settled down and checked the forecast and quickly realised that we were likely to be spending the night here. Although sheltered from the big waves, the wind was still strong and we were constantly spinning round on the mooring, one minute facing one direction then the other. As the tide changed, it ran fast though the channel so the turbulence increased. We were in for a rough night! Listening watch on Channel 16, we heard a single handed sailor transmit a Pan Pan (a non life threatening alert) to the Coastguard. His engine had given up in the high winds just around the corner from our position and he was drifting. Luckily for him, a motor boat heard his call and circled him to make sure he didn't drift onto the rocks while they waited for the Oban lifeboat to arrive. We were joined by a couple of other boats also seeking shelter; that was comforting. But we also watched other boats battling their way through the waves; they must have been mad! To say that we felt vulnerable would be an understatement. All sorts of things go through your mind: "What if we get stuck here for days?", "What if we use all the power and can't start the engine?", "What if the mooring line doesn't hold us?". We spent our time planning our route out, hopefully for the next day. The chart showed a short cut to Craobh Marina through a narrow channel, less than 0.1 of a mile wide known as Cuan Sounds, only to be attempted when the tide is in your favour and preferable at slack water. This would cut 5 miles off our journey which, if the weather was still poor, would really help. We decided to review the situation in the morning. Ray checked the mooring line once more before bed then we tried to settle down for the night. I managed to hold on to my stomach but the constant boat movement made me feel queazy.
The weather in Scotland in so unpredictable. You almost get two weather days in one. What would tomorrow bring?
Frustrated from Oban!!
14 July 2017 | Oban
Having returned to Oban Marina on Sunday afternoon to have a couple of jobs done, the parts we were waiting for did not arrive until yesterday (Thursday). The others pushed on on Tuesday. Although the parts were ordered last Friday, the courier, for some unknown reason, delivered them to a Royal Mail sorting office in Glasgow and there they sat! When they arrived yesterday the Marina staff were excellent and got on with fitting a new automatic bilge pump, to counteract the problem we had in Amble, and fitted a new transducer at the top of the mast so we now have a wind speed reading (which stopped working in the big winds off Lowestoft at the beginning of the trip but this is the first place we have been where they were able to fix it). We phoned Ardfern, our next port of call, to book our berth for Friday night, in readiness for our departure.
To fit the bilge pump we had to turn Talora round to get here stern in to the pontoon so we started her up and maneovoured her around. When we went to stop the engine, a warning light sounded and continued to sound even without the key in the ignition and the engine is now refusing to start! It just seems like one thing after another. Last night, Ray asked me whether I thought someone was trying to tell us something, trying to stop us from continuing for some reason. He was threatening to sell Talora when we get home. I think the stress of one problem after another and that feeling of not knowing what the next problem will be or when it will strike, is understandably getting to him. After thinking about it, my reply was that someone was probably taking care of us by making these things happen in places where help is at hand rather than in the middle of nowhere. So, the engineer is on board at the moment trying to find the fault. We don't know how long we will be here but I do know that, having caught up some of the time we lost in Amble, we are getting more and more behind schedule! The weather has been awful. We had one day of lovely hot weather on Wednesday I think, and went into Oban and bought ourselves the biggest ice cream we could buy to cheer ourselves up, I got my hair cut and bought a pair of sandals, retail therapy on a small scale! But we have had rain every day, drizzle and torrential. Will let you know as soon as we know whether we are here for the weekend or can push on. Photo is Ray enjoying lunch on the boat on Wednesday, before the rain came!
The Motley Crew together once more.
11 July 2017 | Oban
Last night, Monday 10th July, we were all together for the first time since Amble 4 weeks ago. Having found a Wetherspoons in Oban we had a lovely meal together. This morning, Jim and Richard have headed off to the Crinan Canal leaving us at Oban to finish out jobs!
Photo from left to right is Richard and his wife Norma, me, Jim, Bob, Mike, Ray and Keith.
Ray, the hero!
10 July 2017 | Oban
Today we have had a relaxing day on the Marina. Some of the parts we need for the minor repairs arrived today and the rest should come tomorrow. Their arrival has been hampered by the fact we are on an island!
So, another day of chores. The engineer changed the oil & filter in Talora as we have had to use it more than we had expected, then Ray offered to have a look at Richards hull after Baltic Cloud had an altercation with a rock a couple of days ago and to make a concerned Richard be more at ease. Those of you who know Ray well will know that he loves any opportunity to get into the sea to help so, with his wet suit on, his face mask at hand and his inhaler on standby, we tied a rope to him and he descended into the cold but clear water. The rudder, shaft & propellor were all okay & other than a couple of small chunks out of his very substantial keel, Richards hull is fine and Ray has done his good deed for the day. As a thank you, Richard has offered to treat us for a meal in Oban tonight so we are heading over on the 7pm ferry to met them in the local Wetherspoons.
With the early sun disappearing by lunchtime, its been really cold here today but I understand most of you are getting thunderstorms.
Tomorrow we will start to plan our passage south, hopefully to warmer weather. We plan to be in Ireland by the beginning of next week. Photo is Ray telling Richard what he found under his boat.
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