Why we don't like Scottish seaweed
17 August 2010 | Puilladobhrain to Loch Craignish to Ardfern; 22nm travelled
Nichola / heavy rain
So yesterday, we were settled down all cosy and warm inside from the heavy rain that started just after we'd arrived at the anchorage by Goat Island in Loch Craignish. We had showers, ate a warming chilli and listened to some music.
Maybe it was a sign of things to come but Colin asked me to program a route from the anchorage to Ardfern Marina, our nearest refuge, something we hadn't done for a while. We also put the boat to bed more thoroughly in the evening than we usually did.
Anyways, off we went to bed, turning on the VHF to see if we'd get a weather forecast as the NAVTEX had gone loopy again and had deleted all its received messages. At 11:15pm on came Clyde Coastguard with a forecast for S F3/4 going N F4/5 later. It sounded good, time for sleep.
At 11:30pm Colin decided to get up for 1 last check. At that moment the anchor alarm sounded. The wind had picked up and when we checked was blowing S F5 touching on F6. Emerald had dragged back maybe 20m towards the shore but it seemed like we had stopped again. This gave us time to get ourselves sorted: start the engine, throw on waterproofs, grab torches and check what was what.
Standing on the back deck in the rain waving the torch on the rocks made them look awfully close. We still had 5 meters of water below us but the rocks seemed to jut straight up so that wasn't much reassurance.
First thing was to attempt to reset the anchor. We motored east to where there was clear water, and dropped the hook in about 10m. But it didn't set. Perhaps we were rushing or perhaps it was the heaps of weed on the anchor that we discovered the next day that was making it ineffective (see pic).
The wind was pushing us sideways and in the pitch black we could see nothing, not even a dim glow around the surrounding islands.
Let's go to Ardfern! Colin calls from the bow. I quickly went below, tappity tapped on the GPS to call up the route and we were ready. Colin raised the anchor again, while I tried to keep us pointing east against the wind pushing us west. The anchor was up and I motored off to clearer water. Colin yells back 'did you see those rocks to starboard?'. Nope I reply. I couldn't see anything with the rain and dark and I was glad I couldn't see how close we'd got. Full power to port!
Our biggest danger now was from the fish farms which ran along the east side of the loch and an occasional pot buoy. The fish farms had flashing yellow lights every so often to help us out but the only way to spot the buoys was for Colin to stand in the rain at the bow scanning a torch around and yelling port or starboard to avoid one.
Concentrating on keeping as close as possible to the GPS bearings and making sure we had plenty of water below us helped keep the bad thoughts at bay. I kept the speed to 3kts to give us time to react. It all seemed a bit surreal, like a very bad dream that I couldn't wake up from.
Finally at the top of the islands and we saw a welcome white streetlight glow from Ardfern in the distance. Whilst in open water, Colin prepared fenders and lines. We then followed a dogleg track passing the red and green lights marking the marina entrance.
We were so close to safety yet the final challenge to find a berth got a bit fraught. In the harbour there seemed to be mooring buoys blocking our way to the visitor pontoon. We decided to turn back and go alongside the breakwater which also had a pontoon with boats on it. Turning in the dark amongst yachts and mooring buoys was the last challenge but finally we were safely tied up alongside.
1:30am we collapsed in bed wondering did all that just really happen? We were unlucky that we dragged but lucky that we had the time to get sorted and get away. If the anchor hadn't dug in again we'd have been aground before we would have had time to even get on deck. Not worth thinking about!
Today, as if to make it all seem like a faraway dream the sun came out and we had warm weather and blue skies. We took a walk ashore and picked a sprig of lucky heather which is now tied to the bows above the anchors.