Thursday, May 26, 2022

2022 St Kilda Day 62 Armadale Bay to Tobermory

Another early start at 05:00 to take advantage of the tide and hopefully get past Ardnamurchan Point before it turned foul, as it happened there was no wind so under engine that was not a problem and I got all the way on one tide. 

The highlight of the trip was wildlife, 2 or 3 Sea Otters, some Dolphins and a huge flock of Guillemots, otherwise it was cool trip for much of the way with some spectacular cloud formations. I was lucky to miss several intense showers to arrive warm, dry and in time for a much needed shower before lunch ashore.

The first time I have got a photo of a Sea Otter, unfortunately
I had the standard lens on the camera rather than the telephoto
but at least I got it.
Part of a large flock of Guillemots off Ardnamurchan Point.

2022 St Kilda Day 62 Armdale Bay to Tobermory 

Thirty four miles in five and three-quarter hours.

Click her for the next leg.

2022 St Kilda Day 61 Plockton to Armadale Bay.

At last a window long enough to get somewhere meaningful, I needed to be at the north end of the Kyle Rhea with a favourable tide, there is no point in trying to battle a tide that runs faster than the boat will go even at Neaps, and it easies to go through just after the tide turns rather than go through the big eddies and over-falls that are at their strongest during the mid hours of the tide. The optimal time was 14:00 and it would take 2 - 4 hours to get there, rather than hang around all morning and then have an adverse tide through the narrows under Skye Bridge, I decided to leave early and explore the eastern end of Loch Elsh and the lower end of Loch Duich where there is a well know beauty spot and En Donnan Castle.

I did however wait for the rain to stop and was away at 07:15.

About to leave the Plockton anchorage.
There was little or no wind so I motored for three quarters of an hour going slowly at a little over 3 knots as the batteries were quite low (thanks to the failed wind generator) and the alternator was already stressing it's belt continuously generating over 50 amps.

A variable and gusty wind set in, I would probably be on a run through Loch Alsh and I was in no hurry so I didn't bother with the mainsail, just as well as I was winding the headsail in and out for much of the trip. Unfortunately, the rain came back and by the time I got to Skye Bridge I was wet and cold, the new waterproofs were relegated later in the day in favour of an old set.
The rain eased as I got to Sky Bridge, my third time under the
bridge and this could have been taken on any of them, it
would be nice to see it in the sun.
I got to the entrance to the Kyle Rhea at 10:30 but being wet and cold and with rain starting again I decided to forego my site seeing trip and anchor, change clothes, warm up and have lunch. The diesel heater really was a good idea, by lunch time I was nice and warm and the weather had changed for the better.

I weighed anchor at 13:15 and shortly after found the tide had turned a bit early so I headed through and had a trouble free passage although I did go a bit wide to keep clear of a fish farm service ship coming along behind.
The entrance to Kyle Rhea as the weather cleared, I had anchored
 just off the right of the picture behind some rocks marked by the pillar.

It was nice to see an otter fishing, last year I saw none but the year before I saw three families. Perhaps it is not surprising they are seen here, even with the strong tide, as Gavin Maxwell was at the Sandaig Islands about 4 miles further down the Sound of Sleat where his book "Ring of Bright Water" is set. 

With a fair tide I made good time so rather than stopping overnight at Ornsay I went a bit further to Armadale bay. As things turned out, with very light winds, I had a good quite night but I would probably not stop there again as the anchorage is deep with lots of weed.
Looking south from the Armadale anchorage.
Plockton to Armadale.

2022 St Kilda Day 61 Plockton to Armadale Bay

27 miles in 10 hours.

Sunday, May 22, 2022

Finally!

Day 17 weather bound in Plockton, I had hoped to leave today but its going to rain for the rest of the day and it is forecast to be SW F4 - F6 this afternoon, that would be bad news in the Sound of Sleat which gets very rough with wind against tide in a south-westerly. Also there is more bad weather coming in on Wednesday and Thursday.

So, I am going to leave tomorrow (Monday), the weather will not be brilliant but reasonable in the afternoon, I can't get through the Kyle Rhea (the narrow channel between Skye and the mainland) until the tide changes c 14:00 (it runs at 8 knots with over-falls, eddies etc.) so will get through then anchor at Ornsay, Loch Na Dal or on the south side for the night. 

The weather on Tuesday will hopefully be better and possibly with a NW wind to get me to Tobermory where hopefully there will be a buoy or space on a pontoon available. Then, assuming their new washing machines have arrived and installed, I'll clear a big back log of washing, have several showers and restock with food and water for the trip south.

The models suggest some reasonable weather the week after next, I think I deserve some!

Click here for my move out of Plockton.

Monday, May 16, 2022

Decision made.

The forecast is not good, fresh to very strong winds and 4 - 5 metres waves later in the week around St Kilda also I have spoken to a couple of locals, one a pro boatman, both of who know St Kilda,  and the chances of the anchorage being tenable any time soon is minimal so I’ll be heading S when the wind permits, F7 on the nose was on last nights forecast for tomorrow, now somewhat lower but still on the nose. At the moment it looks like I’ll sneak past Skye Friday or Saturday then dash down the Sound of Sleat (which can get very rough in westerly winds) for Tobermory and possibly fair winds for a while except for a blast sometime next week.

Click here for Sundays update.

Friday, May 13, 2022

Weather doom and gloom, and not just for me.

Well, after bugging out of S Uist last week I have been hiding behind Skye for 8 days, I have had a couple of very nice days with no wind, a couple wet with iffy winds when I went shopping by boat (shopping in Plockton is almost non-existent) and four days of strong winds and rain, on two of those days I have seen more than 45 knots and I only have the anemometer on occasionally and not overnight. Today it is still blowing old boots (F5-7 forecast) and I just measured a 30 knot (F7 almost F8) gust. 

The weather should improve over the weekend, hopefully this afternoon so I can eat ashore this evening, but strong winds and rain will be here again next week, although the models disagree on when.

I have been checking out multiple forecasts from operational models and some from "ensemble" medium range models, all show poor weather and some strong winds through next week but I saw a possible improvement from the 20th or 21st but the models available to me are not good at that range so I just spoke to a forecaster at weatherweb.net who do a lot of work on medium range forecasts.

They confirm that there should be better weather from around the 21st but that might not be long enough to let me get to St Kilda (the sea will need several days to calm down), it could also get messed up in the north if the expected high pressure that should give good weather in the south, does not get far enough north, a distinct possibility especially 50 miles west of the Outer Hebrides. Worse the analogue models (these compare current and recent weather with previous years to see what happened then) and others are suggesting weather in June and possibly July is likely to be very changeable and generally not good.

The conclusion is that I will sit it out for another week hopefully with some day sailing, in any case dodging the weather I could probably only get as far as Tobermory in a week if I gave up now,  and review towards the end of next week. If a good enough window does not show to be opening I'll use the somewhat better weather to head for home as and when the weather permits, otherwise I'll not be home early enough to go for an autumn  cruise. For the same reason, if I get to St Kilda I will almost certainly head south rather than try for Shetland.

Click for the next post.

Monday, May 9, 2022

2022 St Kilda, Weather bound at Plockton.

Arriving in rain at Plockton on Thursday the forecast was for a possibly blustery, overcast day on Friday with some showers, a nice day on Saturday and a gale arriving on Sunday with intermittent bad weather for up to a week so rather than anchor I took the option of a reduced mooring charge for 7 days (7 for the price of 5) making the charge more reasonable than most, especially as it included use of the dinghy pontoon which otherwise costs £5 more than I have seen anywhere else and in most places it’s free. The plan was to take the odd night away and / or do some day sailing as the weather permitted,

On Friday I took the opportunity of going up to Lochcarron village in the upper loch where, as I found last year, there is an excellent award winning family run shop with the best supplies I have come across in a smallish village, the tiny shop in Plockton, linked to a Tea shop / café, has very little although it does have a small off-licence.

After a lot of rain waterfalls all-round the area looked impressive
but generally out of photographic range from a moving boat in
poor light. This small one about halfway along upper Loch Carron.
Turning onto the transit to pass through the reef off of Lochcarron,
possibly a central glacial moraine. The wind had come by this
stage and having motored to here - about 6 miles, I was able
to sail much of the way back to Plockton for diner on board.
Tracks in and out through the reef. on my second visit this trip.

This years favourite "made dish" (although my chicken
curry is close and easier to make) - Corned Beef
Hash with lots of Garlic and herbs. I have not been
 able to get the spicy meatballs I was using for last
years favourite but this only needs fresh unions
and preferably potatoes and I think it is nicer.
I had thought to anchor off for the night and perhaps eat at the hotel but the brisk south-westerly wind would have made it rather uncomfortable,so I returned to Plockton. The miserable weather meant dreary photos, there are better ones on the post about my visit last year (opens in a new window).

By Friday night the forecast had changed a little with the really bad weather coming in a bit later, probably late Sunday, in the event the strongest winds arrived on Tuesday and there was little or no wind for much of the weekend and contrary to the forecast Sunday, like Saturday, was nice and sunny. On Saturday I managed to get a table at the Plockton Inn for an excellent albeit expensive meal, but I did have King Scallops for the main course, and on Sunday I had fish and chips from the tiny chip shop - good fish, very average chips. 

Slide show of Plockton pictures:

2022 St Kilda Plockton

Lochcarron entrance slide show:

2022 St Kilda, Lochcarron

The forecast as of Monday morning shows rain or showers every day through Friday and winds gusting to 30 knots or more every day with the possible exception of Wednesday when they may only reach 25! Experience says this will change if not in strength at least in timing but it looks like I will be stuck here for the rest of the week. The good news is that the wind here is not much more than half that being reported just a few miles away at Portrea.

Click here for weather doom and gloom.

Saturday, May 7, 2022

2022 St Kilda Days 42 & 43 Skipport to Braes Beach (Skye) and Plockton.

The weather forecast looked no better, the GFS model was a little better but the UKMO, ECMWF and others were moving closer to the GFS, also the GFS & ECMWF looking 10 days out showed no windows for St Kilda and gales, perhaps severe gales, early next week and I would want to be somewhere very secure for that. 

A gust map for Monday showing steady winds of gale force (34knts)
with gusts of 49 knots in The Minch and more further west.
The main options were Stornoway or the mainland, I opted for the mainland as it might allow some local sailing in the shelter of Skye and it is closer to the Sound of Harris, one of the two ways through the Outer Hebrides, for an attempt on St Kilda.

Getting there could take a day or two, the problem was the tide, there are strong currents around the Northern tip of Skye that leads to over-falls there and for several miles down the east coast when the wind is against tide. The tide was due to turn at there at about 12:00, that would mean a very early start, but with no moon starting before twilight would make getting out of the anchorage totally dependant on GPS and even with two independent sources (the plotter and an iPad with Antares charts - my PC which is a third independent service is in the cabin so not practical for getting out of an anchorage with the exit only a few boat lengths wide). 

The Almanac showed for the area:

  • 03:34  Start of Nautical Twilight azimuth 032°
  • 04:44  Start of Civil Twilight azimuth 047°

So I decide to leave at 04:00, it would still be quite dark but even with a likely overcast I should be able to see the land. That start time meant that I needed to make 4.5 knots through the water all of the way past Skye and accept 30 - 60 minutes of adverse tide down the east coast. If I could not do that without using the engine I would divert into one of the lochs on the west or northern Skye coast, either to stay the night or  more likely, to wait for the start of the next favourable tide starting around 18:30 then anchor just around the corner at Staffin Bay which should be well sheltered from a south westerly.

At about 03:40 I could clearly see the land around the anchorage and the exit, but as I weighed anchor at 03:50 it started to rain, wiping my specs frequently I could just make out the headlands as I went out, but only just.

Guy Cotten trousers
Once clear of the loch the wind was blowing F3 from the port quarter, with the promise of more to come (the forecast was F3 - F5 with some models from the previous evening showing a tad more in the gusts) so not for the first time I did not bother with the mainsail sailing under just the Genoa. The north going tide kicked in after a couple of hours and I made excellent time to Skye due to the F5 wind I had most of the way with only brief spells above and below. The downside was frequent showers and some longer periods of rain that got me very wet. 

A rant post on leaking waterproofs may well follow here or on Facebook, especially regarding the trousers which were new for this trip and not cheap.

Update Sept: When in Newlyn later in the trip I got some French made trousers as used by commercial fisherman, they were cheaper than "yachty" ones and although it is easier to sweat up in them and movement is not as easy I have yet to get wet from sitting on a wet seat! And they are tough, repairable, easy to get on and have a working fly.

Passing through the 3/4 mile wide passage between Eilean
Trodday and Skye and some nice calm water.
I made the tidal gate with about an hour to spare under sail alone except that I used the engine for almost an hour rounding the top of Skye as I was on a dead run with a very fluky wind and in a confused, but not particularly rough sea. 
The trip down the Sound of Rassay was routine but, like the trip across the Little Minch I was forever reefing and un-reefing the headsail. The wind gave out just north of Portree so on went the engine for the last three or four miles to the narrows.

Plockton was too far to contemplate and I would arrive after dark. With strong SW winds forecast overnight I decided against Portree which can be exposed in those winds so motored on for 5 miles to the Rassay Narrows. Last year I anchored off Churchton Bay on the east side but that would be untenable with the SW wind so I went to a good anchorage on the other side off of Braes Beach and had a good nights sleep, not that difficult after a hard days sailing and a fitful short sleep the previous night.

65 miles in 13 hours.

The trip to Plockton followed the same pattern as last year, again under headsail only but with more wind and rain getting me wet again. 
Rather gusty conditions as I approached Plockton as this
boat left, a rather shaky pic due to the weather and blurred with
rain on the camera lens.
I arrived at 12:00 and by mid-afternoon the wind had moderated enough to row ashore for some shopping (I did not want to make the effort of putting the outboard on the dinghy then having to put it on board again if I was to sail next day or if the wind increased).  The very small shop there, attached to a cafe, has a very limited stock but I did get some critical stores, mainly wine and fruit. I again got caught in a shower without my wet waterproofs and decided to stay on board for the evening rather than go ashore and get wet a third time in one day. The heater is working overtime drying me and my cloths out.

18 miles in 4 hours.

2022 St Kilda Days 42 & 43 Skipport to Braes Beach (Skye) and Plockton.

Thursday, May 5, 2022

Rigging Lazyjacks.

I was asked for details of how I rigged mine by someone who had a brief look, so as I was going to write it up I thought I might as well make it a blog post whilst storm bound at Plockton (to be covered in the next post).

Some "stack-packs" and "Lazyjack" kits I have seen have all of the bits you need except for an easy way to drop the lines to stow along the boom which in my view you need to be able to do easily, there are at least two reasons to want to be able to do this and re-rig them quickly.  

First, if they are left rigged the leeward ones will rub against the mainsail potentially damaging the stitching or cloth and leaving dirty marks, modern soft platted line has reduced the risk but does not completely eliminated it and it can become an issue over time especially if the sail gets a lot of use. 

Another reason why you may want to raise the
main on a run, turning through 140 -180 degree
would be a pain. My "lazyjack" adjusters can
be seen tied out to the shrouds (using line B),
done to stop the line from flogging against the
mast the previous night,
The second issue is the main reason I drop mine, that is raising the mainsail when not pointing directly into wind or close to it when there is a tendency, especially if the sail is not fully battened, for the battens to get caught up in the "Lazyjack" lines. If you can drop the leeward "Lazyjack" you can raise the sail on a broad reach and even on a run if the boat does not have extravagantly swept back spreaders. 

This is very useful if it is not convenient to luff when hoisting and when raising the mainsail at sea, after riding under storm jib or far more often after broad reaching or running under just the jib. On an A9m the 15 sq m stops the 30 sq m Genoa from drawing on a very broad reach or run so if for whatever reason you don't want to set the spinnaker, or boom out the headsail on a run, using the headsail alone works well over a wide wind range, on my current cruise (2022) I sailed much of the way along the S English coast, the eastern Irish coast and 65 miles from S Uist back to the mainland like this in strong winds and made good time, from S. Uist that I did yesterday I averaged 5 knots over the ground in conditions varying from F2 - F6, mainly F5.

Here is how I have done it. When stowed you need a fixing at or near the gooseneck,  I use the redundant slab reefing horns, active horns could be used but you would have to raise the "Lazyjacks" before putting a reef in, something that would normally be done to hold the bunt of the sail but another thing to do if you have to reef in a hurry. Without reefing horns a hook or carabiner would be needed on each side of the boom, that would probably have to be big enough to hold all (3?) lines.

Referring to the diagram.

A. Is the line coming down the mast as you would already have if the line is not terminated high up to save the addition pair of lines outside the mast, if they are so terminated, a block will be required on the mast and a new line.

D. Attached at this point is a thimble, a loop in the line would work but would probably get chaffed quite quickly.

B. Is another length of line which is a little less than the amount of line required to extend the "Lazyjacks" to the stowed position, a dummy fit will be needed to establish this.

E. Is some form of hook or carabiner that will hook on the thimble (D) to shorten the line.

F. Is some strong shock cord (I use two thick pieces in parallel) to keep tension on the lines in either position.

C. Is an optional piece of line to limit the extension of the shock cord, this may be required if the Vang is not ridged, so that the boom will not drop to the deck if the topping lift is let off.

To rig the "Lazyjacks" pull the line "A" /  "B" down and clip "E" onto the thimble "D".

To stow the "Lazyjack" unclip "E" from "D" pull the (3) "lazyjack" lines down and put them under the reefing horns or into the hook / clip. The shock cord will hold them there.


2022 St Kilda Days 39 & 41 Canna to LochBoisdale and Skipport.

The trip over to Loch Boisdale was not eventful and largely under engine due to lack of wind, there are limited pictures as there was little to see. 29 miles in four and a half hours.

The weather was looking very iffy so there was no rush to move on so I stayed over to get the washing done (the laundry at Tobermory was closed awaiting new machines) and to have a good fish and chip lunch in the local hotel with Bill Fraser, another single-hander who came in with his old one tonner "Ceil III" on route to pick up some crew.

Loch Boisdale from the Hotel, the almost new marina is on the right.
 The interior of Ceil III, much, much tidier than
when we had dinner on board. I provided French
made tins of beef bourguignon (very good), Bill
provided LOTS of wine 😀.
Pic stolen from Bills Facebook feed.
I left about 09:30 (with no hang over) towards the north, having to wait outside of the marina for the daily ferry to depart down the narrow channel, intending to go to Loch Maddy via Skipport but already considering bugging out to the mainland for a few days as I had been warned of  limited shopping in Loch Maddy and weather forecasts indicating poor weather ahead for a considerable period.
Heading north towards Loch Skipport.
The entry to the Caolas Mor anchorage is rather narrow!

In I go. The channel is rather narrower than it seems due to 
shallow water on the right and shallow spots further in.
The well protected anchorage is connected to the rather less
protected one to the east.
Looking inland
2022 St Kilda Days 39 & 41 Canna to LochBoisdale and Skipport.

16 miles in five and a half hours.

Sunday, May 1, 2022

2022 St Kilda Days 36 - 38 Tobermory to Sanna Bay and Canna.

I left with a fair wind and was sailing before I got out of the harbour then shortly after had the cruising chute up and almost before I had got back to the cockpit the wind dropped to next to nothing and from the opposite direction so I had to gybe then drop the cruising chute as the wind backed and I was beating out towards Ardnamurchan Point. With the slow going and variable wind I went to Sanna Bay just past the point, which unlike most of the anchorages in the closer Small Islands has reasonable protection from the most likely wind directions.


Finding your way in there is stress free with the Antares charts and GPS but would be less so without as there is an extensive underwater reef extending a long way across the bay.

A very nice anchorage with small sandy beaches but I was not tempted to go for a swim!


15 miles over the ground, more than the optimal track due to the need to beat, in 5 hours with only 40 minutes on the engine getting off of the buoy and entering the anchorage.

Sanna Bay to Canna

There was even less wind on this leg and despite using the engine for a while south of the island of Rum and from Rum to Canna and into the anchorage it took me just under 7 hours to cover the 15 miles, even with a generally favourable tide. But the sun was out and with little wind it was pleasantly warm, almost hot on occasion.

Not a lot of wind as I approach Rum, any waves and the chute
would have collapsed.
The Sailing Directions, the Antares chart (I suspect the main source of the information) and the Islands web site warned of extensive weed in the anchorage and the need to ensure the anchor was well dug in. With winds forecast to be F5 – 7 becoming cyclonic, just the thing to unscrew your anchor or for an anchor lodged in strong kelp to come free I decided not to risk it and picked up one of the moorings, surprisingly they were 50% more expensive than mentioned in sources and only £2 less than Tobermory with all of its facilities.

Looking from the Canna anchorage towards Rum
I had looked forward to a meal ashore at the tiny restaurant which is strongly recommended but as they had had no bookings by mid afternoon had decided not to open, naturally I turned up then two other boats and at least 3 people on one of those wanted to eat. 

The lady said they would definitely be open on Saturday but as I write on Saturday afternoon it is raining and blowing F5-6 and was blowing F7 (30 knots) when I last checked an hour or so ago, so it is unlikely I’ll be going ashore, the inflatable dinghy is in the water but rowing is out of the question and getting the outboard on problematic with the boats motion and not worth the effort.

If the models are correct (there is no cell phone service on O2 or Vodafone and the public wi-fi from the ferry terminal drops after a couple of minutes then locks you out for an extended period so I don’t have the official inshore water forecast, just what I can download via satellite twice a day which does at least include the shipping forecast) I may be able to leave tomorrow in light-ish winds but the sea can be disproportionately rough in the Sea of the Hebrides, so I will want the wind to drop quickly this evening. 

The models are not consistent but more strong-ish winds are likely at the end of the week and brisk winds on occasion mid week from various directions so if I leave I will hedge my bets and head for LochBoisdale on South Uist 30 miles away which has good all round protection from the wind and I can decide on my next move from there when hopefully the models will be more in agreement.

If the seas are too rough I should find out within an hour and might return here for another night rather than suffer discomfort for much of the day – I was rather surprised when a 34 foot sailing boat left this morning, with 3 crew in a well found boat they should be safe enough, but it will likely be very uncomfortable out there even if heading northerly or up the Sound of Sleat. They later turned up at LochBoisdale and confirmed they had been very uncomfortable.

2022 St Kilda Days 36 - 38 Tobermory to Sanna Bay and Canna.

15 miles in a little under 7 hours.

Click here for the next couple of legs.

2022 St Kilda Days 34 – 35 Tinker's Hole to Tobermory

Light and variable winds were forecast for several days and that proved to be the case, I left Tinker’s Hole just after 7, in theory the tide would be against but probably only for a couple of hours then it would be fair through to the Sound of Mull. As it turned out there was little or no adverse tide through the Steamer Chanel or through the sound which was not that surprising as the sailing directions warned that the timing of tides through the sound are somewhat unpredictable.

The Steamer Channel is at its narrowest as it joins the Sound and where is a nasty rock, just awash to avoid as you turn into it, but once in the sound it is straight forward for much of its length given a good rise in tide and at Neaps, the tricky bit was easier this year as I just followed last years track still in the chart plotter although with more water it wasn’t strictly necessary to be as precise.

Having motored for an hour I was sailing as I left the sound reaching in the south easterly wind but not soon after the wind backed and I had to put in a tack to clear Staffa, with the sun in the east Fingal’s Cave did not show up as well as last year. Once past the wind dropped before reappearing from the west for a time before veering so that I struggled to get round the headland whilst still carrying the cruising chute. As I turned into the Sound of Mull the wind disappeared completely and with no sign of it returning the last few miles were again under engine. I made a mistake  picking up the closest buoy to the marina only to find that this early in the year I was shaded by the cliffs and woodland very early.

The plan was to restore, top up fuel and Gas and to get some washing done, the last did not happen as the washing machines were broken. 

The forecast showed strong winds coming in at the weekend but the timing of its arrival varied from late Friday through Saturday. I did not want to stay in Tobermory long enough for this to pass so decided to move on to Canna, the most westerly of “The Small Islands” which has an anchorage with good all round protection that would be needed as the small but intense depression would likely go close overhead so the very strong south or south westerly could tun into a strong wind with north in it.

If I left very early Canna could be reached in a day but I decided to do the shopping on Wednesday morning, leave as soon as it was done and stop off somewhere on route, which turned out to be Sanna Bay.

33 miles over the ground in eight and a half hours with the help of 3 hours under engine and a good bit of tide.

2022 St Kilda Days 34-35 Tinkers Hole to Tobermory