Adventures of Eowyn of Hamble

Log of Eowyn's sailing adventures. Plan for 2021 is sail around Great Britain, if COVID allows enough ports to open!

27 July 2021 | Portnahaven, Islay
26 July 2021 | Ardbeg
25 July 2021 | Craighouse, Jura
23 July 2021 | Ardfern
22 July 2021 | Craighouse, Jura
21 July 2021 | Inner Loch Tarbert
20 July 2021 | Goats’ Island Loch Craignish
17 July 2021 | Croabh Haven
16 July 2021 | Kilmelfort Haven
15 July 2021 | Loch Spelve
14 July 2021 | Salen, Loch Sunart
13 July 2021 | Tobermory
12 July 2021 | Loch Aline
11 July 2021 | Oban
09 July 2021 | Loch Drumbuie (Loch na Droma Buidhe)
08 July 2021 | Isle Ornsay Harbour
06 July 2021 | Plockton, Loch Carron
05 July 2021 | Portree, Skye
04 July 2021 | Acairseid Mhor, Rona
03 July 2021 | Shieldaig Loch Torridon

Rhinns of Islay

27 July 2021 | Portnahaven, Islay
Martin Crick | NW 8-12kts; overcast, showers later
Despite the unpromising news on the Ardbeg website, I'd come this far so went ashore this morning at 10am. The cafe caravan was open, but I could only get a coffee and brownie - not the gourmet breakfast I'd been looking forward to! No chance of a tour or tasting, but the shop was open.

Somewhat poorer I headed back aboard. When the tide was ready, I dropped the mooring and headed back out to sea. initially I'd feared yet another calm day, but in fact I had a fairly steady NW 10-12kts. It got diverted and weakened a bit by the Mull of Oa, the headland on the SW corner of Islay, but not too much. Once round the headland and clear of its tidal over falls, I found that close hauled I could almost make my course for the island of Orsay, just off the Rhinns of Islay. With 1-2kts of tide with me, I made great progress over the smooth sea - a wonderful sail.

Approaching the narrow inlet, I dropped the sails and nearly got seriously caught out. The tide had a strong westerly sweep across the entrance, and I had to put the engine on full bore to get back into the entrance rather than be swept westward onto the An Coire rock. This is warned about in the pilot book, but the suddenness and strength of the tidal effect caught me off guard. Fortunately the engine behaved and was strong enough to correct things.

Once inside, the sea was smooth and the anchorage reasonably protected, though the tide runs through fiercely. I had to motor forward through the water at about 1kt in order to move backward over the land slowly to set the anchor!

It's proving a bit of a rolly anchorage - certainly not somewhere to stay for a long time - and it's now raining and turning rather cold. So a pressure cooker stew for supper, an early night, and back to Port Ellen tomorrow morning.

Log of this passage

First port on the whisky isle!

26 July 2021 | Ardbeg
Martin Crick | SW v NW 0-10kts; overcast
I resisted the (quite strong) temptation to go ashore in Craighouse for another full Scottish Breakfast at the cafe there. My plan was to follow Dave’s recommendation and head for Ardbeg, where the cafe served malt whisky…

So at 10:30 up came the anchor and I was off. I experimented with hoisting the main before raising the anchor - shan’t do that again unless I have to. Although the sheet was slack, it kept partly filling and made getting the anchor up and removing the weed from it more tricky.

Once out of the anchorage, there was just enough wind to sail, so out came the headsail and off went the engine. As I came round the headland the wind changed by 180 degrees, being funnelled down the Sound of Islay. First it freshened, then died away to nothing so engine back on. I motored the last couple of miles, and then headed in towards the coast. I rounded several rocks rather close and arrived at the Ardbeg visitor mooring buoys. They didn’t have pick up buoys - small buoys on the end of mooring lines - so it was more of a hassle than usual to get moored up but it was soon done.

I then did what I should have done before leaving Craighouse, and pulled up the Ardbeg website. Several disappointments. Firstly, closed on Monday. Secondly, cafe closed - permanently. Temporary replacement is a caravan in the courtyard during COVID; eventual replacement will be a bistro style restaurant. Thirdly, all tours and tastings are fully booked until August at the earliest - some didn’t offer dates til October. As my Army brother would say, Prior Planning and Preparation Prevents P**s Poor Performance.

I spent the afternoon on the mooring reading, and planned to go ashore and visit the shop on Tuesday morning.

Log of this passage

Back to Jura

25 July 2021 | Craighouse, Jura
Martin Crick | SE 0 - 10kts; fair
After my excursion ashore in Ardfern, I made a slow start this morning. No valid excuse, just feeling lazy! That meant I missed most of the favourable tide today. There was also forecast to be no wind. I therefore planned a fairly short passage to Lussa, a bay a short way down the east coast of Jura.

When I got out of Loch Craignish, however, I found I had a good breeze - on the nose, but fun sailing none the less. And although the tide was against me, I was making good headway. If you look at my track (see link at bottom of the post) you'll see that the tacks curve - this reflects both shifting wind and increasing and decreasing tide. Eventually, however, the tide strengthen and the wind weakened and I was making little to no progress south. I therefore headed into a nearby bay - Lagg - and anchored for a couple of hours to wait for the tide to turn.

The bay turned out to be beautiful - see photo above - and I could have stayed, except that it was quite open if the wind I'd had earlier returned. So a bit later on, up anchor and motor for a while further down the coast and back into Craighouse. I came in by a different route - rejecting calls from both my friend Dave and my father within a minute as I was just at the shallowest point when they called! I anchored close to where I was on Friday - so close that my anchor alarm software got confused and sounded the dragging alarm as I set the anchor, before I'd re-enabled the alarm. Not sure how it did that, but it was a bit disconcerting!

I returned the calls to Dave and my parents, and am now updating this while waiting for supper to cook.

Log of this passage (part 1)
Log of this passage (part 2)

Local friend!

23 July 2021 | Ardfern
Martin Crick | Calm; fair
Those of you that follow me on FaceBook will have seen a post from my friend Hazel, saying that I was in her neck of the woods. After some messaging back and forth, I was off to Ardfern - about 25nm back, and very close to the previous anchorage at Goats’ Island on Loch Craignish. She arranged a free mooring for me including a running dinghy mooring (which lets you keep the dinghy afloat as the tide goes in and out). Excellent!

But first, I had to go ashore. First was a full Scottish breakfast at the cafe - excellent - and then on to visit the Jura Distillery “visitor centre” - which is just a fancy name for their shop. It was manned by an Aussie from Sydney (!) but he was friendly and well informed. Tours and sampling are suspended due to Covid, but I departed somewhat poorer!

The sea was mirror calm: I could see the Paps of Jura reflected in it (see photo above) so motored straight to Ardfern. I found the mooring easily, thanks to the very clear directions, and went ashore. Hazel arrived just as I’d finished mooring the dinghy - excellent timing.

We had a very pleasant evening, her son was good company as well, and I spent the night on the sofa bed as we’d both had too much wine - her to drive me back to the dinghy, and me to go afloat in it! As a former live aboard sailor, she’d known to offer me a shower ashore - bliss! And so back aboard the following afternoon, for a second night on the borrowed mooring.

Log of this passage

Pride comes before a fall

22 July 2021 | Craighouse, Jura
Martin Crick | Calm; fair
Having been smug about how well the passage through Corryvrechan had gone, and the excursion to Top Loch Tarbert, I was due for some humbling. So the next day I planned to go through the Sound of Islay back to the east coast of Jura, and moor in Craighouse to visit the Jura distillery.

I’m still not quite sure what I did wrong, but I got into the Sound of Islay just as the tide began to flow against me, instead of an hour before. So what should have been a fairly quick and easy motor turned into a long slog, against a tide that at its worst was 4.5kts against me. Good job I have a reliable engine and plenty of fuel! Once in, there’s nowhere to anchor and wait as both Islay and Jura have pretty sheer sides. The few shallow bays are littered with rocks - or local fishing boat moorings. So I gritted my teeth, and took it on the chin.

Arriving into Craighouse rather later than planned, I was very surprised to find no visitor mooring buoys. Not none free, just none. Apparently they’ve not been laid this year. So boat hook and rope away, anchor pin out, and splash. The water was so clear I could easily see the anchor on the bottom. Then once I’d reversed hard, all I could see was the hoop over its top - set beautifully.

Once all was sorted and I got ashore, the visitor centre at the distillery was closed. No matter, I’ll have a drink at the pub and see about having supper there. Nice drink, but fully booked. Oh well. Off for a walk, and then back aboard.

Log of this passage

Through Corryvrechan to Loch Tarbert (Jura)

21 July 2021 | Inner Loch Tarbert
Martin Crick | Calm; fair
I had a very peaceful night at anchor by Goat Island in Loch Craignish. Moderately early the next morning I got underway heading for Corryvrechan. That’s a name that can strike fear into many yachtsmen.

The Gulf of Corrvrechan is the passage between Jura to the south and Scarba to the north. About half a mile wide and almost two miles long, it’s mostly very deep. But there’s a large shelf of rock with a sheer side to the east. When the very strong tide hits this underwater obstruction, whirlpools and overfalls result. So any prudent mariner goes through in calm weather, at or near slack water.

Being the prudent soul that I am, I got there at just the right moment to get the beginning of the favourable tide. Just as I was wondering what all the fuss was about, I found the boat being swirled off course and back again. Even at near slack water, the whirlpools were impressive in their effect. The calm weather meant I could easily see them on the surface. Fascinating!

As I exited on the western side, I was surprised to find a yacht heading the other way into the passage - against the increasing tide. Although a rather bigger yacht, I thought that was a bit bold! However, they must have known what they were about, since when I checked on AIS later they were making 6 knots over the ground - they must have known of a favourable reverse eddy to help them.

I continued motoring down the west coast of Jura and thus into Loch Tarbert. Note that there are three Loch Tarberts: East and West Loch Tarbert almost meet across the peninsula of Kintyre, and then there’s Loch Tarbert on Jura. This last is the one I was going to. In turn, Loch Tarbert Jura divides into three: outer, inner and top.

In Outer Loch Tarbert, I foudn several anchored boats, including a three masted square rigger Tenacious. She’s a sail training vessel - find out more here. Quite an impressive site to see! Moving past them, I navigated through the very narrow passage Cumhann Mor into Inner Loch Tarbert. Here I anchored for a while, waiting for nearly high water. I then headed up to Cumhann Beag - the VERY tricky passage up to the Top Loch Tarbert.

Cumhann Beag is about the width of a narrow canal, but with several sharp twists and turns, and many isolated rocks. The passage is only really possible with the aid of the detailed amateur survey provided by Antares Charts. Even with this on the plotter, it was tricky! Once at the Top Loch, there’s not much to see or do. The whole top loch dries out, except for a small pool that’s too deep to anchor in, and which is almost full of moorings for local small day fishing boats. So after a quick circuit of the “Hole”, it was back out the way way I came, before the tide trapped me there and the fearsome 8kt ebb tide started.

Back out on the inner loch and my original spot was now occupied by two other boats - how dare they?! But plenty of room to anchor well away from them for a peaceful night.

The picture shows the approach to Corryvrechan. Be sure to check out my photo album (link below right) for others of this spectacular location.

Log of the first passage
Log of the excursion to Top Loch
Vessel Name: Eowyn of Hamble
Vessel Make/Model: Hallberg-Rassy 36 Mk1 1993
Hailing Port: Hamble
Crew: Martin Crick
Eowyn of Hamble's Photos - Main
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