Sunday, July 26, 2020

Stage 12, Loch Tarbert - Tobermory.

I had hoped to head north to Mull then to Tobermory west-about via Iona at the western end of the island and Staffa (Fingle’s Cave) but strong southerly winds would make most of the anchorages untenable and part of the trip potentially dangerous so plan “B” was to make for Tobermory going east of Mull, through the sound. Update: I made Iona and Staff during my 2021 anti clockwise round GB trip.

My pre-planned alternate was to go via Lock Spelve on the south-eastern side of Mull which is a safe anchorage but very isolated and with a spell of bad weather forecast I decided, if possible, to get into the Sound of Mull on the first day where there are some good anchorages a couple of which have shops etc. within dinghy reach.

The trip fell into three parts, a boring and initially cool trip motoring north past Colonsay towards the south side of Mull avoiding the “Great Race” to the east that stretches several miles west of Corryvrecken, as I drew close some wind filled in and it was a pleasant sail along the coast past Loch Spelve to Lock Dun by which time I was making 5 – 6 knots running using the cruising chute flown from the pole as a spinnaker.

Achilles 9 metre "Sancerre" Firth of Lorn
Lady's Rock light, Firth of Lorn with the entrance to
the Sound of Mull to the left.

Then things started to get a bit “interesting”, fighting a 2 - 3 knot tide and on the edge of over-falls between Lithmore Island and Mull the wind started to increase and within 2 miles I had gone from running  with the spinnaker to broad reaching with two reefs in the mainsail  and two in the headsail and still making 5 – 6 knots in 20 – 25 knots of wind.

Achilles 9 metre "Sancerre" Sound of Mull
Passing Glas Eileanan (Grey Isles) using the narrow 
southern channel into the Sound during one of the lulls in the wind.

In the Sound the wind was very variable, coming down from the mountains on Mull, one minute it would be 20 knots the next 5 to 10, but I made good time and was approaching the entrance to Tobermory about 5:30 to find a drama unfolding for a yachtsman. 

Achilles 9 metre "Sancerre" Sound of Mull
A bit breezy approaching Tobermory

I had heard one side of a conversation with the coastguard and a lifeboat but the high hills had prevented me hearing the other half or seeing the lifeboat on AIS (Automatic Identification System) until I was quite close. A yacht had run aground on the lea shore just south of Tobermory and was being pulled off, with some difficulty by the life boat. At least they had a rising tide which helped.

The Tobermory "Severn Class" lifeboat preparing to tow
off a grounded yacht, their inflatable “Y boat” with 2 crew is alongside.

I went into Tobermory Bay, ahead of the lifeboat and the rescued yacht that was able to move under its own power.

Achilles 9 metre "Sancerre" Tobermory

Intending to anchor in the sheltered west side of the southern section of the bay I found mooring buoys had been placed there and in the only space with less than 20 metres of water the bottom was steep to and weed covered and I could not get the anchor to set. The east section had 20 knots of wind blowing through it and a very small space between the shore and a wreck of uncertain position so I gave up and went to the northern part of the bay and picked up a (chargeable) visitors buoy as the anchoring area in that section was temporarily suspended. 

Achilles 9 metre "Sancerre" Tobermory

At least the showers etc. were available and I was close enough in to row the dinghy in saving fitting the outboard motor. 

Achilles 9 metre "Sancerre" Tobermory

A lazy weekend followed, waiting for strong winds to abate, except for an hour and a half on Sunday spent tying to get weed off the bottom of the boat, accumulated mainly in just 3 weeks on the Hamble despite premium anti-fouling. 

Achilles 9 metre "Sancerre" Tobermory

Monday does not look promising at the moment, but there may be a short window to move further north, but Ardnamurchan point has a reputation for rough seas and much of the route is exposed to the Atlantic weather and waves so caution is needed.

Achilles 9 metre "Sancerre" Tobermory
A pretty Harrison Butler (Z4) at Tobermory.

And a not so welcome albeit colourful visitor.

57 nautical miles in about 12 hours.

Slide show all of my pictures from Loch Talbert to Tobermory. Page through by clicking the arrows or click in the centre of the pic to view from Flickr in a new window or full screen:

2020 Loch Talbert - Tobermory

Tobermory - Broadford

Stage 11, Port Ellen – Loch Tarbert.

Achilles 9 metre "Sancerre" off Islay
Ardbeg Distillery emerging from the mist an hour or so out 
from Port Ellen.

I left Port Ellen at 07:30 on Thursday the 23rd in very murky conditions, fortunately, a light wind sprang up shortly after leaving giving some clearance of the muck allowing the radar to go off and with time in hand for the tide up the Sound of Islay it allowed me to sail on to McAuthers Point by which time the wind was about 13 knots and I ended up arriving rather early making slow progress into the entrance until the tide turned. 

Achilles 9 metre "Sancerre" Sound of Islay
McAuthers Point.

With a strong tide, a head wind, and a channel between ¼ and ½ a mile wide I motored for an hour to clear the narrows and was through in just over an hour and a half covering 10 miles. With plenty of time in hand I sailed on to anchor in Glenbatrick Bay, Loch Tarbert on the north coast of Jura. 

Achilles 9 metre "Sancerre" Glenbatric Bay
Glenbatric bay as the sun starts to break through. One of the
numerous raised beaches just visible on the extreme left, most
are on the northern shore and unfortunately too far away to photograph,

Achilles 9 metre "Sancerre" Glenbatric BayT
The same view of Glenbatric bay next morning.

An hour after I arrived the sun finally started to break through for a pleasant evening.

Achilles 9 metre "Sancerre" Glenbatric Bay

The planned route (blue) and actual track (red)
The little green mark bottom right is an AIS
transmission marker from the ferry "Hebridean
Islands" displayed on the PC (which is linked to the
boats instruments etc.) when I took the
screenshot when at anchor later in the day.

Achilles 9 metre "Sancerre" Glenbatric Bay
Gannets diving in Loch Tarbert

Slide show all of my pictures from Port Ellen to Loch Tarbert. Page through by clicking the arrows or click in the centre of the pic to view from Flickr in a new window or full screen:

2020 Port Ellen - Loch Talbert

Loch Tarbert - Tobermory

Saturday, July 25, 2020

Stage 9 & 10, Ardglass - Browns Bay - Port Ellen

A nice but tiring sail (much of the way) to Browns Bay in variable but generally brisk winds and close hauled or close to it most of the way. It was rather weird trying to identify what is left of RAF Bishops Court where I was stationed with the RAF in 1971/2 – not much is left, least of all the large radar head on Killard Point.

The wind got up close to Browns Bay and the shelter was marginal but with a wind change due shortly I decided not to spend the extra time going into Larne. 

46 nautical miles in 10 hours.

Achilles 9 metre "Sancerre" in Browns Bay NI
A tight and initially quite bumpy anchorage.

The trip to Port Ellen was a disappointment, a nice reasonably warm, sunny day but a light cold wind and I motored most of the way and was lucky to have secured to the pontoon and had power connected five minutes before rain arrived.

Achilles 9 metre "Sancerre" crossing the North Channel
The Maidens, North of Larne

Achilles 9 metre "Sancerre" crossing the North Channel
The Mull of Kintyre with more yachts at sea than I have 
seen at one time since leaving St Mawes.

Achilles 9 metre "Sancerre" Port Ellen, Islay
Port Ellen, Islay when the weather improved the day after I 
arrived. Unfortunately all of the distilleries were closed 
to visitors.

Achilles 9 metre "Sancerre" Port Ellen, Islay
Port Ellen marina had places to spare, unlike those on the
south coast where I understand that bookable berths are all
taken until the end of August, and the Scilly Islands are also
very busy,

50 nautical miles in 10 hours.

Slide show all of my pictures from Ardglass to Port Ellen. Page through by clicking the arrows or click in the centre of the pic to view from Flickr in a new window or full screen:

2020 Ardglass - Port Ellen

Port Ellen – Loch Tarbert

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

If you like deserted anchorages and quite marinas, then now is the time to go sailing!

 From passing the Lizard on the 12th to arriving here in Port Ellen, Islay today (the 21st) I have only seen (by eye or AIS) about 20 sailing yachts at sea, at anchor or arriving at a marina - and half a dozen of those were today going past the Mull of Kintyre. I have only been at anchor once, at St Ives, with other boats in the anchorage and there was plenty of room at my two visits to marinas, Ardglass and here at Port Ellen.

Sunday, July 19, 2020

Stages 7 & 8, Dublin – Dundalk Bay – Ardglass.

Another generally dull overcast day with a few light showers but with a decent wind. I left at six o’clock to get the benefit of some northerly flowing tide across Dublin Bay, progress was good and I was reaching at a decent speed for most of the day. 

Achilles 9 metre "Sancerre" of Dalkney Island, Dublin
Dalkney Island just east of Sorrento point guarding the southern
approach to Dublin bay with its castle and Martello tower.

Achilles 9 metre "Sancerre" of Muglins, Dublin
Muglins, Dublin Bay

Achilles 9 metre "Sancerre" of Lamby Island, Dublin
Lamby Island, north of Dublin.

The wind piped up to 15 knots plus as I approached Dundalk Bay and I started to get a bad feeling about my chosen anchorage on the south side which would give most shelter from the south westerly wind. 

I’m not quite certain why I decided not to anchor there, in theory it looked good with a sandy bottom and good shelter but it is very shallow, as is much of the bay, and the echo sounder was not quite agreeing with the charted depths (the cart is marked "Owing to the age and quality of the source information, some detail on this [area] may not be positioned accurately") so having manoeuvred round a couple of charted shallow areas (c 1m) I started to get cold feet. Also the wind was forecast to veer to the west or north west (again) which could put me on a lea shore sometime during the night. 

Update: I would have been a bit more comfortable if I then had the Admiralty Leisure Folio for the area (SC5621), sheet 3 has Dundalk Bay with much more detail than the Imray chart or the plotter.

The question was, what to do instead? Ardglass was 5 hours away and has a narrow entrance to the marina so I discounted that, which left the choice of the exposed northern part of Dundalk Bay or going into Carlingford. 

I set a course for somewhere in between and consulted the Pilot and chart, I could easily get into Carlingford and there are a few places to anchor but I could have difficulty getting out against the tide early next morning so I went to have a look at the north western side of Dundalk bay, tracking along the shore as far west as it seemed sensible to go in the very extensive shoal water. 

I was right on low water so calculation was easy and I knew depths would only improve with time and if I did hit an uncharted mound I would float off, just in case I went slowly under engine and turned when I reached four metres, giving me a couple of metres and a bit in hand. 

Dundalk Bay is about 7.5 nautical miles wide (roughly north to south)
and about the same east to west at high tide.

The wind was now blowing 20 knots but as I moved south and the fetch reduced, things got a little calmer and I eventually dropped the hook just short of the narrow drying channel into Dundalk in 3.6m. With 30 metres of chain out the boat was certainly quite lively, occasionally pitching quite badly but not rolling. I left the chart plotters anchor alarm on for a while but having got a good transit turned that off after an hour or so. 

I turned in with the wind still quite strong and gusting past 20 knots but knowing that the anchor was holding, I had a mile of water behind me and if something went wrong when the wind veered I would then have miles of sea room to leaward.

I woke in the morning to a F3 westerly and relative calm, wanting to get to Ardglass before the shops shut I was away by 6:30, although that was not without incident – the anchor (a 10Kg Delta) had, under the rigors of holding the boat the previous evening, buried itself so deeply that the windlass would not shift it. 

With the chain vertical I engaged the chain stopper and pulled in a link or three whenever the opportunity occurred and eventually the boats motion freed the anchor before I had to resort to the engine or wait for the tide to rise significantly. Worrying at the time because although I thought I knew what had happened  I might have fouled something but reassuring that the anchor is worth its “high holding power” rating.

Sailing was pleasant until approaching Dundrum bay when the wind dropped so I bit the bullet and motored the last 12 miles or so. Arriving at Ardglass, which I had last seen in 1972 when I was stationed nearby with the RAF, at 12:40. It was then nice to meet up with Liam, a 30 year Achilles 24 owner for a quick chat late in the afternoon.

Sunday was spent revictualing the boat, laundry, filling up with diesel (by porterage) as the next convenient opportunity on the planned route would likely be Tobermory, and getting the blog up-to-date.  The plan is to move on to a suitable bay north of here before crossing the North channel and making for Islay.

One of 2 seals in Ardglass harbour hoping for a free lunch, the 
anglers sometime oblige.

Dublin to Ardglass – 78 miles and 16 hours.  

Slide show all of my pictures from Sorrento Bay to Ardglass. Page through by clicking the arrows or click in the centre of the pic to view from Flickr in a new window or full screen:

2020 Sorrento Bay - Ardglass

Ardglass - Browns Bay - Port Ellen

Stages 5 & 6, Rosslare - Roney Head - Dublin.

After a tough day and a half from St Ives but a good nights sleep I decided against the planned rest day in favour of a relatively short leg on Wednesday, after a lie-in waiting for the tide I left at 11:40 towards Arklow in good weather reaching in 8 – 11 knots of wind. It would have been a late finish to go all the way so I anchored behind Roney Head at 17:30.

At 07:00 next morning I was off again in overcast but generally dry weather anchoring in Sorrento Bay Dublin at 17:15.

71 miles over the two days with just over 16 hours on the move with some interesting navigation inside the offshore banks that run all of the way from Rosslare to Dublin.

Achilles 9 metre "Sancerre" off Wicklow Head
Approaching Wicklow Head.

Achilles 9 metre "Sancerre" off Wicklow Head
Wicklow Head

Achilles 9 metre "Sancerre" in Sorrento Bay
Sorrento Bay Dublin is a popular bathing spot.

Unfortunately there are often idiots about, in this case 
on jet skis and driving power boats very close to the swimmers
and me - costing a glass of wine spilled on the cockpit floor 😒

Slide show all of my pictures from Rosslare to Sorrento Bay. Page through by clicking the arrows or click in the centre of the pic to view from Flickr in a new window or full screen:

2020 Rosslare - Sorrento Bay

Dublin – Dundalk Bay – Ardglass

Saturday, July 18, 2020

Stage 4, To Ireland

I was up bright and early and was away by 05:15 in light winds, a couple of hours later I was past the “Wave Hub” experimental site and sailing with the Cruising Chute in 11 knots of south westerly wind. That did not last for long and by 09:40 the wind was up to 12 knots gusting 16 and one of those gusts causing a broach during which the flogging chute threw off the snap shackle, something that would be repeated a few days later so it looks as if I will have to remake the spinnaker sheets with better snap shackles.

My actual track (red) from St Ives to Ireland. The solid
blue line is the direct rhumb line and the dotted blue line
the planned track allowing for the tide sailing at 4.5 knots
The 08:00 download of four different weather maps from PredictWind showed the wind veering to NW or NWByN in the evening but with different timings, other forecasts suggested the wind might become northerly. I took a gamble and beam reached well above the rhumb line (adjusted for tide) making 0.5 – 1.0 knots more speed than I would have done on the wider reach, this would allow me to have a good go at getting to Rosslare rather than Fishguard as planned which should then give an easier route north sailing in calmer waters in offshore winds than sticking to the English side and its lea shores. But if the wind did go northerly I should be in a good position to revert to Fishguard as the next stop.

I had hoped to go through the Menai Straights on this trip but the tides were not going to be right so that will have to wait for another year. 

By mid-afternoon it was blowing 17 -20 knots, 244 degrees and by 20:00 it was round to 329 degrees and I was well over 20 miles west of the rhumb line. As the wind veered, I came closer to the wind and was close hauled coming into the Irish course but managed to make Cansore Point without tacking and anchored in St Margaret’s bay, two and a half miles south of Rosslare which offers better protection from a NW wind than anchorages closer and with an easier route out to the north.

The downside of this route was the Covid lock down and quarantine requirements in the Republic that meant that the first place I would be able to go ashore would be the northern shore of Carlingford Loch. 

Gannets diving as I closed in on Ireland, the fish were having
a bad time as a very large pod of dolphins were also feeding.
134 NM in just under 31 hours.

Rosslare - Roney Head - Dublin.

Stage 3, St Mawes to St Ives

Well, as often happens plans change. A lovely day on Sunday but little wind early and as things turned out little all day despite a forecast of "variable [force] 3 or less, occasionally [force] 4". I decided I might as well leave early and risk the tides at the Lizard, at least we were close to neaps and in the back of mind was the possibility of a stop for lunch in one of the little bays along the Lizard peninsular.

Achilles 9 metre "Sancerre" off Pendennis
Passing Pendennis Point on the west side of the Fal.

Achilles 9 metre "Sancerre" off St Anthony Head
And St Anthony Head on the east side.
After clearing St Anthony Head what little wind there was disappeared so I motored on, and on. Getting close to the Lizard and past the half dozen ships anchored there “for orders” I got to thinking and did some calculations, they showed that if I motored on across Mounts Bay I would arrive at the Runnel stone, south east of Lands End at about 17:00 almost the perfect time to get around Land’s end and that would enable me to get to St Ives, a good setting off point for the north and it would enable me to get quite a long way north before the forecast south westerly wind went to northwest or even north. So I pressed on.

Achilles 9 metre "Sancerre" off Lands End

Achilles 9 metre "Sancerre" off Lands End

The Long Ships light with Lands end behind
The Long Ships light with Land's End behind.

 By cutting a few corners in the calm conditions I arrived for the rounding a bit earlier than ideal, slack water almost to Cape Cornwall rather than a helping tide, the rounding often quite challenging was straightforward and I final got to sail for a while with the big symmetrical spinnaker. I arrived off St Ives at 20:00, 60 miles on the clock.

Achilles 9 metre "Sancerre" off St Ives
St Ives
Slide show all of my pictures from St Mawes to St Ives. Page through by clicking the arrows or click in the centre of the pic to view from Flickr in a new window or full screen: