Thursday, June 13, 2024

2024 June 13th Days 76 and 77, Around Cape Wrath to Loch Clash.

Draft. Slide show to follow.

I left at 05:15 to carry the tide to and hopefully beyond the Cape. If was frustrating and quite tiring sailing with the wind changing frequently then turning to the west towards the end despite a forecast of easterlies. 

I had the Cruising Chute up 3 times and flew if from the pole, as
the wind changed each time before giving up on it a couple of miles
from the Cape.

Cape Wrath, Duslic Rock left. Don't go there.
Cape Wrath Lighthouse
Cape Wrath in benign conditions.
After rounding the wind dropped and I found myself in a back eddy pushing me east and the engine had to go on to get out of it. I lost count of how many times the engine went on and off before I reached Loch Clash, a slight disappointment as I could have made it around Pointof Stoer if the wind had been as forecast, but it is a good anchorage I have not been to before and I was at anchor before two for a relaxing afternoon.
Heading towards Loch Clash which is hidden behind the Island
right of centre.
The Sadler yacht and it’s 2 crew arrived that evening, I suspect
if they can sort out their engine problem we may well meet again.

Loch Clash anchorage.
Loch Clash is quite a nice anchorage although over looked by several houses and an area people use to park their camper vans. The down side is that it is exposed to the south west and quite a lot of Kelp, when I arrived the wind was NW and the anchor was secure against going hard astern with the engine. 

Later the wind swung to the SE and I dragged, bringing up the anchor there was a lot of mature heavy Kelp on it with stems over an inch thick, I may have been anchored by it or the swinging wind may have unscrewed the anchor and on dragging picked up the Kelp. I suspect the former.
Anchor pro track: Initial position at the top with
dragging top left as the wind changed then increased.
Overnight plots below.
I re-anchored and had a piece full night in a brisk wind, in the morning a larger yacht to my south that probably anchored just before me, was quite some distance behind her former position in deep water, presumably also having dragged.

33 miles in 8.5 hours.

Friday is uncertain, forecast strong easterly winds are not a particular problems but they may turn south or south easterly head winds which could be getting any distance.

Update Friday:

I woke at 04:00 and checked the domestic forecasts (that are updated frequently for the next few days) and the midnight inshore forecast and decided to go back to sleep, it is unlikely that I would get much past the Point of Stoer and, with the exception of the fishing port of Lochinver, the anchorages are rather restricted, either by wind direction or swinging room - an anchorage 100 yards wide is rather tight when the wind is forecast to swing most of the way around the clock. 
Another reason to stay put, it arrived a bit late but is
Forecast to last until early Saturday or a bit beyond.
Hopefully the forecast for tomorrow is correct showing northerly winds that should allow me to get the 45 miles to Loch Ewe or perhaps a little further before the wind increases overnight on Saturday when I will need a secure anchorage in a Northerly.

Wednesday, June 12, 2024

2024 June 11th Day 74, a tough trip to Loch Eriboll.


I was away a bit early, a little before seven but, not unexpectedly, when I could see down Hoy Mouth it was white from side to side with breaking waves so I held off until 08:00, the planned time to enter. 30 minutes before the tide turned foul but when the Rost (over falls) have largely subsided.

The Pilot gives general instructions for going west at this stage of the tide, the text suggests following the north shore to avoid the worst of the Rost, this would be essentially obligatory if heading north to Kirkwall and optional if heading west. Elsewhere it is noted that the west going tide is strongest to the north, great to help you through quickly but likely to make for rougher water especially with a strong wind.

The chart shows a fairly large area on the south side that is normally out of the Rost and when I got there is looked reasonably smooth so I opted for the southerly route that, judging by the way a 40 foot boat was pitching on the northern route, regularly showing her keel as she pitched, gave me a slightly smoother ride.

A 40 foot yacht on the northern route.
Entering Hoy Mouth 10 - 15 minutes before slack water.
Best viewed full screen.
The “Old Man of Hoy” as I left Hoy Mouth at
slack water.
It was quite rough as I left Hoy Mouth with the wind at F5 that quickly increased to F6; about 2 hours out things took a turn for the worse, which I did not expect as when I have previously been in these waters the sea was more confused close to the islands, this time a rough sea was coming from the north and leftover waves / swell was coming from the W - NW, when a “set” from one direction arrived at the same time as one from the other the sea became very bad. At this point the autopilot could not really cope and after getting knocked well over and at the same time getting quite a lot of water into the cockpit over the weather dodger I steered manually for over an hour before things improved.

There was a repeat of this at about 12:30 when the tide, previously on the starboard bow swung to be dead on the bow and I had to hand steer again, fortunately that lasted less than 2 hours although I was expecting it to last longer, until the tide changed. Even with the manual steering, after working so hard the autohelm gave the batteries a real bashing but most charge was restored motoring down Loch Eriboll.

The wind decreased to F5 at about 14:00 and the rest of the trip was uncomfortable but not bad except rounding Whiten Head entering Loch Eriboll. Once out of Hoy Mouth the rest of the trip until just before the loch was made reaching under the reefed headsail.

The run down the first mile or two of Loch Eriboll was a little rolly at times as big sets came down but the anchorage at Ard Neackie is fine as the wind first backed to the west and will be when the wind turns east.
This old Sadler was also stuck in Stromness after a trip to
Norway was abandoned, it was berthed next to me for several days.
They arrived a couple of hours after me after battling the adverse
tide through Hoy Sound in the late morning and then making
good time with better tides and two of them to helm manually.
08:00 and already a couple of site seers, coming to
a lot more are likely during the day.
What they are stopping to look at, lime kilns centre left.
Today, Wednesday, I am staying at Eriboll as the wind is in the west, seas are likely to still be high - not something you want off Cape Wrath - and on Thursday the wind should be easterly, and with the tide an hour later it should be relatively straight forward to get round the Cape and a reasonable distance down the west coast.

If the ECMWF forecast model is right I’ll then have a at least a week of fair winds to move south, the UK model is not quite as positive but still good. Fingers crossed!
Tracks to and from Stromness.

57 miles in 13 and a half hours, all spent at or near the helm.

More pics to follow.

Monday, June 10, 2024

2024 June 10th Day 73, going west about tomorrow and it is going to be hard going.

I have checked 6 different weather models, all agree that the east coast will have wind with east in them from Thursday for quite a while.

The UK model for Sunday.
A strong easterly on Thursday or Friday would keep me at Wick or Peterhead for a day or three, anchorages would likely be closed to me until at least Thursday next week and I would have to do long overnight legs, sometimes with headwinds with expensive stays in marinas in between.

So it’s west about.

That presents more problems; strong winds from uncertain directions and rough seas. The inshore forecast from 07:00 Tuesday is:

Cape Wrath to Rattray Head including Orkney - Strong wind warning

Northwest 4 to 6. Moderate or rough becoming slight or moderate. Showers. Good, occasionally moderate.

Update: the 12:00 forecast is somewhat better for Tuesday afternoon:

Northwesterly 4 or 5, occasionally 6 at first in east. Slight or moderate, occasionally rough at first in north and east. Showers. Good.

Doable to get to Loch Eriboll but very uncomfortable. As of yesterday that meant leaving Wednesday, but now we see:

UK Met Office for Wednesday.
All of the other models show even more west in the wind, and it’s over 40 miles from Hoy Mouth, much of it could be a beat. But this is OK for rounding Cape Wrath.

Thursday & Friday complicate matters further , models differ but there could be strong easterlies.

UKMet Office model for Thursday.

UK model for Friday. One full barb on the
arrow equals 10 knots.Gusts will be higher.

So, unless things change on this evening’s forecast I’ll need to bight the bullet and head for Eriboll tomorrow, nip round Cape Wrath on Wednesday or Thursday, then scoot down the west coast in the shelter of the mainland and/or hole up somewhere until the weather improves.

Sunday, June 9, 2024

2024 June 9th Day72, moved to the anchorage at Bay or Ireland.

Finally out of the marina but only about a mile and a half east as the crow flies, but anchoring is free. I thought I might have to stay longer as with the strong wind i probably would not have cleared a large boat behind me but it briefly dropped off to c12 knots and I got out before it increased to 30 as I made my way to Bay of Ireland, wind now F4-5 gusting 6 but is forecast to be a bit stronger at times. And rain all day tomorrow . 

The probability is that I will head west so I stayed close to Hoy Mouth, if that changes I may move south but could leave from here.


Approaching the anchorage at 3 knots. Stromness 
Visible at the start.

Hopefully away Tuesday or more likely Wednesday. Video of going into the anchorage at < 3 knots, Stromness in view at the start.

Click here for plans for Tuesday.

Thursday, June 6, 2024

2024 6th June Day 69, Still at Stromness and the weather prospects get even worse.

 Winds are still gusting over 30 knots and likely to get worse.

UK Met Office prediction for Saturday.
The current plan to save marina fees is to move to an anchorage on Sunday when gusts should not be much over 30 knots. I should be able to move south Tuesday or Wednesday although I may be pushing the recommended max wind strength for crossing the Pentland Firth given it will only be 3 or 4 days after spring tides, but I’ll be able to go at slack water and get through quickly with a following wind and past Duncansby Head before the tide turns against the wind.
Excel spread sheet calculating time check points to cross to
S to the mainland or west via Hoy Sound. Point of Ness is
just outside Stromness. Nos Head is between the anchorage
in Sinclair's Bay and Wick. See below for other points.
South bound I could start from Hunda Sound or an anchorage
off South Walls.

West via Hoy Sound is probably only a 30% chance as going home west about is 150 - 200 miles longer but there are lots of advantages:
  • shorter legs, so less need of rest days.
  • anchorages in easterly winds
  • Anchorages more likely to be available when sheltering from strong winds.
  • better scenery
  • some forecast models show I could make a lot of progress in the first few days compared to the east coast, seas are likely to be higher but less dangerous than the Pentland Firth and the next 10 miles or so.
  • And finally, statistically going east along the south coast is easier the going west from Dover.
But it could take a long time if the weather does not cooperate.

Having written that list, perhaps the chance is more like 50:50 depending on the weather forecast.

If going down the east coast I will probably then head straight to Peterhead arriving next day, to make the best of the weather window before the wind turns to the SE then E, just what I don’t want heading down the east coast, apart from the head wind it closes off the anchorages so I may again get stuck in expensive marinas, at least Stromness is relatively cheap.
ECMWF Forcast for Thursday evening.
This is turning into a very expensive and tedious cruise, To date I have been weather bound for 35 days from 76. Hopefully late summer will be better. In the meantime I am getting more adventurous on the cookery front.

Spag Bol, mince often has a long shelf life so it is useful when away from supplies for a week, but doing it properly uses a lot of gas so I just cook for 25 minutes after browning etc. Also you can’t really make just one portion so one goes into the electric cool box.
Quick Spag Bol. Scratch made with some leftover
red pepper, tinned baby carrots, onion, fresh mince,
fresh tomatoes, red wine etc.
Beef bourguignon, although strictly speaking this is Beef “COOP Chilean Red Blend”. Very tasty even so.
Scratch made, this one with all fresh ingredients.

Saturday, June 1, 2024

2024 June 1st Day 64, Weather bound in Stromness, trip to Shetland abandoned.

Update Saturday:

Looking at the various forecasts, short and medium term, and given all the time I have already lost on this cruise, 23 days weather bound plus the false start due to the failed windlass,  I am giving up on Shetland as to go on would mean getting back so late in the year I would not be able to go out again.

Also I have just finished a second CampingGaz cylinder and only have one left having been unable to get a replacement as any of my recent stops; they are no longer available here (they were on previous visits) or, according to the UK distributers web site, in Shetland, it should last a month but I don’t want to be eating cold food! 

So I am going to stay at Stromness or a local anchorage, until the weather lets me head south - that could be a while, all forecasts say windy for a week after that who knows? The BBC and the GFS then say SE winds for at least a week 🤬🤬🤬 thereafter which is very bad news for getting back to the Solent down the east coast with head winds and most of the anchorages likely to be untenable - I had that T shirt in 2020 and in 2021. Hopefully the other forecasts are nearer the mark but none are that good, there is even a chance I’ll have to come back down the west coast.

I might be able to move to a sheltered anchorage on Thursday when the current forecast shows gust reducing from Gale force to less than 30 knots and steady winds at F4-5 but we shall see. I may be able to leave Orkney next weekend but with Spring tides that will require favourable winds and definitely not easterlies unless I opt to go home west about.

Now off to get some diesel for the heater, it is rather chilly.

Update Tuesday: despite what the uk distributors web site said, extensive Googling tracked down 3 potential suppliers in Kirkwall via a camping website, the first was out of date but the second had 2 cylinders available so I hopped onto a bus and got one of them; one less thing to worry about but the weather looks to be bad through the weekend but hopefully not too bad to find somewhere to anchor later in the week and perhaps to get back to the mainland early next week.

Click here for the Thursday update and plans.