10 September 2018 | Glasson Basin Marina, Glasson Dock
Photo of Glasson Dock to follow- when it stops raining!
After three enjoyable days in Belfast, we decided to make a dash for our home port at Glasson Dock, as there was a short break in the weather before it was forecast to turn really nasty for a few days. We left the marina at 04.00 to catch the tide through Donaghadee Sound.
We had a reasonable passage to the Calf of Man, but arrived a bit too late and had two hours of adverse tide before we pulled into Port St Mary at 15.00 and ‘borrowed’ a mooring buoy. We couldn’t get a reply from the harbour master either by phone or on the VHF. After a siesta and a good passage meal of cornbeef hash, we set off again at 23.00. This dreadful time was necessary as the lock gate at Glasson only opens for 45 minutes each day, at high tide.
The good old shipping forecast was for winds of F5/6 occasionally F7. What we actually had was a steady F7 with gusts of 35-40 knots, but at least it was always behind the beam. The Irish Sea is not a pleasant place on a black night in these conditions.
We flew, even with only a small triangle of headsail out, and arrived off the Lune estuary over an hour too early. The sailing directions are strict- not to head up past Lune No 1 buoy until HW -1hr 15 minutes. So we hove too in sight of the gas well heads and wind farm, and had breakfast.
The journey up the Lune was easy at at Springs high tide. We seem to make a habit of going through locks on a Sunday and being the centre of attention, but we were not in the mood to chat! After an early meal we slept for 12 hours.
So now it’s a few days of hard slog getting a huge amount of stuff off Yarona before she goes into the shed for the winter to be made beautiful again. It’s been a great eight years since we left Glasson on our big adventure, but it’s good to be back. This is my last post for a few months, but I’ll post an update in the Spring.
Fair Winds for Fair Head
03 September 2018 | Belfast City
Sunny but chilly
Another late start to catch the tide around the headland, and we then had a superb downwind sail south to Belfast Lough. Soon after taking this shot, the main sail was put away and we set the Big Blue Sail, and blasted along at 8 knots in 15 knots of wind for the next five hours. Definitely our best sail this year, and one we'll remember.
We passed Bangor Marina, dropped sail, and motored on up the buoyed channel into the heart of Belfast City. It was rather unnerving to have a Superfast Stena Line ferry coming up behind us at 18 knots, but Belfast Harbour Control told us to maintain our speed and we just made it passed her berth before she turned in. We are now alongside on one of a couple of visitors' pontoons in an old coal basin in the regenerated Titanic Quarter. The weather looks to be unsettled for the next few days, but there's plenty here to keep us amused.
Enjoying the Antrim Coast
02 September 2018 | Ballycastle, N.I.
We are tied up in a lovely little marina, consisting of a few pontoons within the ancient and sheltered harbour of Ballycastle. The tide rips around Ratlin Island opposite have a fearsome reputation, but by delaying our departure from Islay until 11am yesterday we arrived when it was all calm and quiet- the sort of anticlimax we like! The friendly harbour master met us and gave us a prime berth near the entrance. We are within smelling distance of the quayside chippy, so enjoyed an easy and excellent dinner on board last night.
Today we explored the coast west of here by a combination of walking and bus. The coast is magnificent, and we included the famous Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge across to a small island. It seems to be on the agenda of every coach tour in N.I and was far too busy, but quite enjoyable. As is usually the case, ten minutes from the car park in the other direction we had the cliff walk to ourselves. By three o'clock we were on a bus heading to Bushmills, keen to find out the difference between Irish whiskey and a good Scottish Malt. The tour felt like the Disney version after Bowmore, but our £7 tickets included two good drams at the end. Both fine, but we prefer our smokey peaty Islay malt.
Three miles, three Distilleries
31 August 2018 | Port Ellen, Islay
We loved Islay on our last visit, and this time was even better. The pontoons at Port Ellen are run by a not-for-profit harbour association. Eight years ago there was a rickety pontoon, an honesty box, and you could pay for a shower in the local b&b. Now there is a smart pontoon with water and electric at every berth, and superb facilities in the renovated old bank, opened this year- showers, laundry, a meeting area and a very friendly manager, rightfully proud of what they have achieved. All for £20 a night.
And how could we resist a wander along the new cycle way/footpath from Port Ellen to the distillery at Ardberg, calling at Laphroig and Lagavulin on the way? The path runs parallel to the road so isn't exactly challenging, but the views over the Sound are wonderful. There was even a bus to bring us back.
Yesterday morning we took the bus in the opposite direction to Bowmore, and had our best-ever tour and tasting. We shuffled through the warm barley, slowly fermenting on the malting floors. Bowmore still does everything the traditional way, including cutting the local turf and bringing the water down a two hundred year old six mile rill. We've treated ourselves to a bottle of 18yr old.
A jolly afternoon on Jura
29 August 2018 | Craighouse, Jura
Bright and Breezy
After two nights on a mooring off Oban, we had an early start this morning to catch the tide through the Sound of Jura. We underestimated quite what this meant at Springs. For two hours we had 5 knots of current with us, which with 15-20 knots of wind on the beam gave us a speed over ground of 12 knots! We have never been as fast on Yarona, and with the whirlpools and chop as we passed the Gulf of Corryvekin it was quite unnerving. The autohelm couldn't cope so Barrie hand-helmed and I provided the coffee and adjusted the sails. It was the best sail we've had for weeks.
We made the forty miles to Craighouse in record time, picked up yet another visitors' mooring, and by 2pm were ashore at the distillery. The standard tour was full, but that gave us time for an excellent pint and sandwich in the hotel before we took the last two places on the full tasting tour an hour later. The photo shows Barrie trying to decide if any malt is worth £130.
Jura appears to have the essentials for a good holiday. In addition to the hotel and distillery, there's a shop, a cafe, mountains (the Paps), 2,000 deer and just 200 permanent residents. But tomorrow we need to move on as the forecast for Friday is for strong winds from the south.
Back in Tobermory
27 August 2018
Cold and Damp
It's eight years since we were last here and not a lot has changed, which isn't a bad thing. There are more pontoons, more visitors moorings, better Wi-Fi, and the Co-Op is much improved. Other than that it's the same Main Street of brightly coloured houses, gift shops and pubs. On arrival we bought fish and chips from the famous fish van, and enjoyed them sat on the sea wall by the tiny pink sand beach.
Last night we had five of us on board for dinner, a mini Hallberg Rassy rally. Brian and Alison off Indigo, and Andrew off an HR29, both on moorings nearby. The afternoon was too wet and windy to fancy a run ashore in the dinghy for supplies, so it was a store cupboard special of sausage pasta bake followed by pineapple almond crumble. It went down well on a wet and miserable evening. One day we'll come back when it isn't raining and explore the rest of Mull.
24 August 2018
I know it's the constant complaint of sailors, but this year we really do seem to have had either too much wind on the nose, or not enough from behind. Today was no exception, and we motored into a choppy sea down Loch Linnie. The scenery was dramatic, and the rain held off.
We knew we had a good meal to look forward to. The Kingairloch Estate surrounds a small side loch on the northern shore of Loch Linne, and they have installed six visitors' moorings to encourage guests to the Boathouse Bistro. The meal was excellent, local langoustines and venison, with veggies grown in the estate's walled garden. To end the evening, a large stag came down from the mountain to the shore.
The history of the remote estate is fascinating. Mrs Strutt, the best shot in Scotland, sold the estate to the owners of the nearby granite Super Quarry before her death. They have spent the last 20 years renovating the cottages for self catering lets to ensure the Estate’s survival and recently opened the bistro. It looks a perfect destination for anyone wanting a break away from it all.
We’ve (just) survived Neptune’s Staircase!
22 August 2018 | Corpach
The original plan was to have two nights above the locks, but when I checked the tide times it made more sense to head down this afternoon. We have the Corran Narrows to get through, and if we time it wrong we could be standing still under full motor. So after a chat with the lock keeper we decided to head down the flight of seven locks this afternoon. We had got a bit blasé about locks, but a gusty F4 on the beam meant we gave all the spectators an interesting time! It took almost two hours.
The lock keepers were really friendly and helpful, and we are now in the lower basin planning to head through the Sealock in the morning.
This morning we walked the three miles into Fort William. It should be a pleasant town, but despite its position on the loch side and glorious views of Ben Nevis, it was all a bit grotty.
20 August 2018
We had a very easy and calm motor along Loch Ness- 20 miles and 3 hours. An 08.30 start meant that we only shared it with two yachts and four large tripper boats. All changed at Fort Augustus, where we had to wait two hours on the pontoon in the photo for a lock gate to be repaired, and gave time for three hire cruisers to catch us up- so no more luxury of a flight of locks to ourselves!
The village was very busy. We appeared to be the main tourist attraction. Barrie handled the lines ashore, and had a chat with several visitors as he waited for the water to rise- From the USA, New Zealand and the Czech Republic. The Scottish Toursist Board is doing a good job.
We carried on to the next lock, where we are the only boat berthed overnight. It's beautiful and incredibly peaceful. We have been very lucky with the weather.
An Easy Day
19 August 2018 | Dochgarrock, Caledonian Canal
We've decided not to rush going through the canal, as now we've paid our transit fee all the overnight mooring pontoons are included. Muirtown locks are a flight of four, just beyond Seaport Marina. We were a bit concerned how we would cope just two up, but the lockeeper helped with the lines and it proved to be relatively easy. The Caledonian Canal is quite a bit wider and deeper than the Gota, and we were the only boat in the lock.
We stopped for the night just before the next lock, where we came across some canoeists traversing the Great Glen in far less comfort than us.
The next (and last) Canal
16 August 2018
We had a very benign crossing; a gentle north easterly all the way. The North Sea is a very busy place and we passed close to six oil rigs and gas platforms, all very well lit. We felt fine on approaching Scotland and the timing was good so we decided to bypass Peterhead and carry on into the Moray Firth. Our destination was Buckie; a fishing harbour and one of the few on route with full tidal access. We were at Springs (no moon on the crossing), and most of the harbours had less than the two metres we needed for a safe entry (and exit) around low tide. Our almanac said 'yachts made welcome' and this proved to be true. We called in before entry and were directed to tie up alongside the pilot boat, where the harbourmaster was waiting to meet us and take our lines. We didn't have to worry about long lines ashore and the 4m tide, but we did have a barnacle-encrusted rusty vertical ladder to climb up- a pint and a curry were the incentive! We were very low on deisel so he ran Barrie to the garage in the morning to fill our two jerrycans.
We then left to continue west to Inverness. We knew to expect a headwind- it should have been about 12 knots but soon built to 20 knots, gusting 25. Not good! The sealock into the Caledonian Canal closed at 17.00 and by mid-afternoon it was clear we were not going to make it. Instead we headed for Inverness marina. Barrie began to arrange lines and fenders for our arrival, and noticed we were trailing a tatty nylon line astern - this would not have helped our boat speed as it was wrapped around the prop. So this morning he donned wetsuit, jumped in and hacked it off. The water was a lot colder than in Scandinavia.
We rang the lock keeper to confirm the first lock-in would be at 13.30, once there was enough rise of tide. It was only a mile to go, but what a challenging mile! We had a tight exit from our finger berth, and just as Barrie released our last mooring line the Dolphin tripper boat appeared at the entrance to the marina- I was on the helm and it was full throttle to get us out! We then faced the worst tidal rip we have ever seen, and a F5 crosswind entering the lock. But all went well, thanks to our Gota Canal experience, and we are now in Sealock Marina. We are having at least two nights here, and plan to be tourists in Inverness tomorrow. Phew!
Ready to Cross
11 August 2018 | Ramsland, Lindesnes Peninsula
We hibernated most of yesterday, and were extremely glad to be in probably the most sheltered harbour on Norway’s south coast. The ferries to Denmark were all cancelled. By 5pm the storm had passed and we walked into town under a clear blue sky for a final shop. This morning we set off for Mandal, the next town along the coast, but made good progress and decided to keep going towards Lindesnes, the most southerly headland in Norway. We are tied up just two miles from the tip, at the head of a deep bay. This is an excellent pontoon by an old fish processing station, now a museum. It closed for the season last Sunday! There is an honesty box requesting NEK100, just under £10- well worth it for such a quiet and sheltered spot. We arrived at 3pm and had two hours of frantic activity. I’ve prepped two meals for passage, and Barrie got Yarona ocean ready- bikes away, windvane steering operational, preventers ready to go. We’ve had a delicious dinner of mackerel, a gift from a local fisherman.
So tomorrow we set sail for Scotland. The forecast is good- some calms, mostly easterlies. We might go to Peterhead, or carry on to Buckie, depending on timing and how we’re feeling after 300 miles.
Killing time in Kristiansand
09 August 2018 | Kristiansand
Sunny and Breezy
We had intended to spend a day or two here, but the forecast of gale force winds from early tomorrow morning persuaded us to stay. We’ve spent two nights on the summer guest pontoon, and this morning moved into the inner harbour for better shelter- max length allowed is 45ft, so we just squeezed in.
Kristiansand is the fifth largest town in Norway, which ain't saying much! But it's very pleasant. Norway's oil bonanza appears to be well spent- we are within a short walk of an Olympic size swimming pool, a new library, and a large modern art gallery. Yesterday we had a delightful walk through hilly woods around the peninsular, past several WW2 German gun batteries.
With simple pizzas at £20 and a beer costing £10, there's no temptation to eat out. The excellent fish market however is good value and yesterday we ate well on board, with crab for lunch and monkfish for dinner, accompanied by one of our few remaining bottles of white wine.
Our neighbours in the harbour are French, Dutch and German. The sailing season appears to be over for the locals. The trees are turning, and the kids are back at school.
06 August 2018 | Near Lillisand
Today we actually had to tog up with waterproofs whilst underway, and dry clothes off in the engine room on arrival. Good practice for Scotland! It’s been another motoring day, winding our way between the skerries.
We’ve chosen an anchorage tucked into an island half way to Kristiansand, and the rain stopped soon after we arrived, just in time for lunch. Anchoring was quite a challenge as the depths are over 20 metres to quite close to shore. We nudged in until the depth sounder read 10m and let out 50m of chain, and are happy with where we settled. It’s a very sheltered and beautiful spot, with noisy sheep on the shore.
05 August 2018
We’re treating ourselves and Yarona to a couple of nights in a marina. This is Arendal, one of the largest towns on this stretch of coast. It’s pleasant enough, with a long history of shipbuilding. The white building in the picture is the tallest wooden building in Norway, built for a wealthy merchant in 1815. Moving on to the present, there’s a huge oil platform round the corner, towed in for maintenance. The holiday trade here doesn’t appear to be based on weekend breaks, as nearly everything is closed today, and even the ferries to the islands don’t run!
Norway has really strict Sunday shopping laws. Only small stores can open, so some supermarkets get round this by just opening a corner of the store for basics- very odd, but useful for us today. Just milk, eggs, bread- ship’s stores should last us to Peterhead!
Welcome to Norway!
04 August 2018 | Lyngor
Sunny and Windy
A forecast of a slight break in wind strength, backing to SW, helped us decide to head across to Norway, and we left on Thursday at 3pm after a good lunch. We thought if we headed NW rather than directly across we might be able to sail, but the wind remained stubbornly due W, so we motorsailed at 20 degrees off the wind for the whole 90 mile passage- not comfortable, but manageable. We passed on dinner! It's a myth that Hallberg Rassys don't slam to windward.
We are now hopping down the coast, aiming for about 20 miles a day. There's no rush, as there is no sign of a favourable wind for the passage across the North Sea. We have dozens of anchorages to choose from. This coast is delightful, with good depths and wider passages between the islands, and much less busy than Sweden.
It’s just too busy!
01 August 2018
We're itching to get across to Norway, but it looks as if it could be a few days before we have a favourable wind. So we’re hopping up the west coast of Sweden, which at least means that when we do cross it will be at a narrower part of the Skagerrak, giving us a 60 mile passage.
This is the famous Bohuslän Coast, and I'm sure it's absolutely delightful out of season. But at present it seems as if every family in Gothenburg has a yacht or a fast motorboat, and they're all out on the water. Twenty miles following the leads through the islands and dodging yachts today felt like forty in open water. But we are in yet another delightful sheltered anchorage for the night, and tomorrow's planned hop is a mere twelve miles. There’s loads of food on board, so we’ve not felt any desire to go into the busy towns and packed marinas that we’ve viewed through the binoculars. We're very close to Orust, home of Hallberg Rassy and where Yarona was built.
A bridge too far
30 July 2018 | Björkö
Yesterday we were in the first lock operation of the day, and all went well with no drama until mid afternoon, when we reached the busy Gota Alv Bridge just before the city. We then heard a conversation in English between a German sailor and bridge control: 'the bridge will not open because of the heat; we may be able to open it after tomorrow's rush hour'. I called up on VHF to say we too had a mast over 19m, and was told to call for an update at 09.00.
Nowhere on that industrial stretch of river bank looked very inviting, but we tied up on a newly renovated wharfe next to some marine service units and had a quiet night on board. It was not the sort of neighbourhood you would want to explore. This morning I called up at 08.50 to be told the bridge would be opening at 09.00! We've never untied the mooring lines as fast, and made it through behind the German yacht. The crane in the photo is building the new bridge! Just beyond the bridge was a tempting berth outside the Opera House where another Hallberg Rassy was tied up despite the 'no mooring' signs. We felt we were owed a favour by the City, so we moored up behind them and hit the town. Being a Monday, the galleries and museums were closed, so we had no guilt in just drinking coffee and visiting yet more interior design shops.
We were back on board in time to make it out to the archipelago. The way through the islands was easy- just follow my leader. It's been very busy during daylight hours, but we have a calm anchorage all to ourselves now the sun has set.
It’s not exactly Panama
28 July 2018
The Trollhätte Canal is a different proposition to the Gota. Only about 10k of its 80k length is actually a canal, the rest is the wide Gota Alm river. Further, commercial ships use the canal, about ten a day like this monster, carrying timber. It’s known as a Vollernmax, designed To just fit in the locks. The canal sections bypass rapids in the river. We are tied up for the night near Trollhätten in a small basin just above the staircase of four locks, deep enough to swallow yacht masts. Parallel to the modern locks are two other flights, built in 1800 and 1860, so it’s been an interesting area to explore. In the spirit of the Romantic poets, the landscape is truly sublime.
We haven’t decided yet whether to stop in Gothenburg tomorrow or continue out to the islands. The marina in the city is small and likely to be packed despite costing about £70 a night, which is a bit of a disincentive! We may have to wait for several bridge openings so the timing is hard to predict.
Goodbye Gota Canal
23 July 2018 | Sjötorp
....and goodbye Jane and Jimmie. Our hardworking crew left yesterday, leaving us to go downhill on our own. Fortunately this has proven to be much easier than going up. We managed 16 locks today without any drama. We are now in the small marina in the unpronounceable Sjötorp, with just three locks to go tomorrow to drop down to Lake Vänern, the largest in Europe. Hopefully we will be able to sail, although yet again the forecast wind isn't favourable. We plan to take two or three days to get across, anchoring at islands on the way. And then it's the commercial Trollhätten canal to Goternberg and the sea.
The Swedes on the motorboat behind us are having a lively evening with much laughter- not something we've heard much of the past few weeks. They aren't the most joyous nation we've met in the years we've been sailing around.
After a cloudy day yesterday, today has been sunny and hot hot hot. It's not only Britain that's enjoying a record-breaking summer. The canal has been a fascinating experience, quite unique, especially with a 20m mast, and the scenery has been lovely.