Spoiler: Unfortunately the weather defeated me, I made it to South Uist in the outer Hebrides before running for shelter behind the Isle of Skye as the first of several gales approached, three weeks later there was no sign of a window opening either on the models or after talking to a forecaster so I headed for home to leave time for a late summer cruise around the Celtic Sea.
As ever there was a number of minor jobs to do on the boat in addition to a good clean, routine maintenance and the more major jobs already on the Blog that were finished a while ago and I also ticked off a good number of things that have been on my list for a while. Now the boat is ready to go in the water and the plan is to launch on the 9th March and to go onto the RAFYC pontoon for a couple of days to fit the running rigging and load heavy and awkward sized items before moving to the mooring.
Then it will be down to the weather and tides, if the former cooperates I plan to be away on the neap tides the weekend before Easter hopefully taking advantage of easterly winds that frequently blow during April and which caused me a lot of grief last year when going the other way. That start date would enable me to break the trip west at Portland leaving there via the inshore route at dawn, it also gives plenty of time to get to Newlyn for a rounding of Lands End with favourable tides.
The main objective for this cruise is to visit St Kilda and the Outer Hebrides that the weather and time pressures stymied last year.
This year I have had very little planning to do as a combination of the plans for 2021, 2022 and a plan to go round Ireland after the 2021 Jester Baltimore (that didn't happen) covers most of any likely trip. Updating all of my paper charts (14 "small craft" folios plus over 30 individual charts) was a different matter and took several days.
The one piece of planning that is worth doing is working out the best date to leave, weather permitting, so as to be able to be able to use the Portland inshore route and to get round Land's End.
Edit: The original post on choosing a start date has been removed as it has been superseded by my page Passage Planning - The Solent to Land's End, click here to read.
Six weeks out several of the long range forecasts are suggesting northerly or easterly winds for the period (fairly common in April) possibly very light as the Azores high extends northwards, if that pans out going northwards could be a problem so a visit to the Isles of Scilly to wait for a favourable wind could be an attractive option.
Three and a half weeks out and all but one of the forecasts show light or very light winds, the outlier shows F7 for a few days but I am ignoring that for the moment and have booked a berth at the RAFYC to make loading up easier (especially the dinghy and outboard) and to avoid using the water taxi / club launch to get on and off when I take the car home.
18th March and all change! easterly winds are forecast from now to the end of March and into early April so I am taking advantage and am now planning to leave late on Friday the 18th or v early on the 19th. I might need the newly installed heater, but it should be dry and sunny.
Having chatted to a forecaster at Weatherweb there is then a reasonable chance of winds from the W or SW in early or mid April which would take me up the Irish sea on the Irish side but if the easterlies persist or I make a quick passage to Newlyn I can use the easterlies to go up the Welsh coat before crossing over to take my preferred route across the North Channel leaving from Norther Ireland.