Sunday, May 28, 2023

2023 May 28th, Day 45 Lochmaddy to Opsay Basin, Sound of Harris.

WIP pictures to follow.

With the weather looking reasonable from Tuesday or Wednesday I planned another couple of short legs, the first is a very small anchorage with excellent protection from any swell or waves coming in from the Atlantic, there is little protection from the wind but that is likely to be around Force 3 so is a non issue.

Opsay Basin, the red circle is Sancerre shortly after arrival.
note the scale! Also the narrowness of the exit to the NW that
is part of the Grey Horse Channel to the NW of tje Sound.

8 miles in 3 hours in light winds.

Saturday, May 27, 2023

2023 May 25, Days 41 - 43 to Loch Keivagh and Lochmaddy.

 WIP, very poor internet, more to follow.

My plan was to spend the night at Loch Keivagh then Friday and Saturday nights at Loch Maddy either both in the marina or on there and one at anchor depending on exactly when some strong winds went through.

[Pics of the entrance, route etc.]

My track in and out of Loch Keivagh.

The entrance was a little problematic due to the fish farm and lobster pots, and once though the narrow entrance it was quite bleak, had limited swinging room in the shallower bits and the wind was funnelling down the loch, so went on to Lochmaddy. 

Likely to be there for 3 nights as F4-6 winds are forecast for the Minch (F7 in the north) but looking OK for next week with seas < 1 metre by Wednesday for several days but NE winds on Thursday could mean a long trip back to the Sound of Harris. 

22 miles in  three and a half hours.

Click here for Opsay Basin.

2023 May 24, Day 40 To the Wizards Pool, Loch Skipport.

 WIP, v poor internet, more to follow.

[Pic of boat in position “A”.]

The best spot was taken by a boat staying all night so I chose to anchor between Wizards Island and a rock that uncovers almost to windward. 

The Wizards Pool, position A in the given wind was in the NW
corner but I had to settle for where the red circle is with the
anchor towards the small rock. Note the scale.
It was a bit closer to the island than I would have preferred but the wind would blow me clear and the wind was likely to back giving a good long way behind, this is a good safety measure as it can be problematic getting anchor up in a breeze single handed if there is not room do drift back when the anchor breaks free as I need to be on the foredeck to flake the chain into the shallow locker.

In my view a much better the next door Kettle Pool that I used last year, except probably in a north easterly.

[Pic: Channel to Kettle Pool]

My track going out, the initial move west is largely hauling
the anchor up.

15 miles in 4 hours

Tuesday, May 23, 2023

2023 May 22nd, Days 38 & 39 CastleBay to Lochboisdale.

WIP with very poor bandwidth everywhere pics to follow.

With fresh or strong winds forecast I decided to move on to Lochboisdale which is well sheltered and hopefully would have hat water in the showers - they did.

I had planned to go into the Sound of Barra for a look round but the wind was a very cold force 4 - 5, I was wearing gloves for the hole trip despite bright sunshine, so I decided not to and got to Boisdale at lunch time..

Back in 1978 whilst sailing on the half tonner Green Dragon we and another boat hit a supposed Basking Shark off Portland Bill, just past the Sound of Barra I almost did it again; I was sailing so not making much noise and it was fully underwater so I could not see it then a big tail briefly appeared close off of the port bow  and then all that was to be seen were a lot of swirls in the water as long as the boat only 4 or 5 yards away.

I spoke to Dr. Simon Keeling the boss man at who do a lot of work on medium and long term forecasting and there is a reasonable to good chance that the weather and sea state will be ok for St Kilda early / middle next week. So I will leave Lochboisdale tomorrow and have planned a number of very short legs to get me to the Sound of Harris ready to leave on Tuesday.

There is no grocery shopping here and the only shopping point on route is at Loch Maddy and that is very limited so it looks like I will be on tinned food for a while from later in the week.

21 miles in 6 hours.

Click here for the Wizards Pool

2023 May 21st, Day 37 Cornaig Bay to Castlebay.

 Very much WIP, no phone signal and poor wi-fi, this only possible due to my wi-fi extender.

After days will little or no internet access I have found that "marine traffic's" ground stations lost contact with me half way to Vatersay, I have manually updated my position today and will do so in the future IF I can get an internet connect.. Providing I remember to switch on the IridiumGo, tracking withour paying for Marine traffic's satellite tracking service should be available from "Track Sancerre" above.

Just a couple of miles to Castlebay marina for a shower and shopping. Disappointed on the former as there was no hot water so it was very quick and no hair wash, the latter was much better with the best Coop I have seen north of the boarder.

A small cruise ship arrived early on Sunday putting a number of tourist ashore then got them back and set sail at lunch time as everything opened up. As least they, including the Coop opened in the afternoon, they don't everywhere in the Western Isles.

pics and probably more to follow.

Why its called Castlebay, the castle is on an Island.

Click here for Lochboisdale

Sunday, May 21, 2023

2023 May 20th, Day 36 Vatersay Bay to Cornaig Bay

  WIP with very poor bandwidth @ Castlebay, Barra, pics to follow.

Fog bound with visibility less than 150 metres and no phone signal on O2 or Vodaphone so the only forecasts I had was the downloads via satellite for wind, rain and pressure and a general warning on the slightly out of date shipping forecast of some fog banks in the Hebrides. 

I could see that I needed to be in shelter by Tuesday evening because of strong westerly winds, I would be OK at Vatersay Bay and a couple of other places but did not want to stay here that long especially if the weather was poor, so I called my wife on the IridiumGo satellite app only to find there was no mention of fog in the domestic forecast for Barra Airport just up the coast. So I would just have to wait and see.

The fog lifted to give about a mile visibility so I moved north through the Fisherman’s Passage with the option of going to CastleBay or an anchorage at Cornaig Bay on the north shor of Vatersay, I was hoping to get a phone signal from a mile off of the village of Castlebay which is a ferry port and the main settlement in the southern Outer Hebrides and could then decide what to do.

The Fisherman’s Passage is very narrow and a bit of a white knuckle ride as it looks far narrower due to lot of seaweed on the channel side of the partially submerges central rock and the islet to the east, I’ll write that and the two a anchorages up later.

No such luck, no phone signal, and Castlebay anchorage and pontoons are a bit exposed to the SW wind only F3 – F4 at the time but could get stronger and whilst I could do with a shower and a bit of shopping I opted fore comfort and headed for Coraig Bay where, by late afternoon I was again fog bound.

The current plan (Saturday evening) is to go into Castlebay on Sunday when the wind is due to be northerly, briefly explore and anchor in THE Sound of Barra on Monday and head for Loch Boisdale, S. Uist on Tuesday for a night or two until the strong-ish  winds have passed through on Wednesday or Thursday, there is no worthwhile grocery shipping there but showers, laundry and a hotel which served some decent fish and chips when I was there last year.

Four Miles in an hour and a quarter.

2023 May 19th, Day 35 Loch Drumbuie to Vatersay Bay.

 WIP with very poor bandwidth @ Castlebay, pics and more to follow.

The 20:30 download on Thursday showed reasonable conditions on Friday but on some models possibly iffy on Saturday with winds favourable in the morning but not so good in the afternoon with the possibility of higher waves due to strong winds further out in the Atlantic so Friday it was, and an early  04:00 start to avoid adverse tides getting out of the Sound of Mull and past Ardnamurchan point. That meant an 03:15 alarm as my back is playing up and I need half an hour after getting up before it eases and I can do anything useful.

I was away at 04:10 and was sailing in light winds shortly after getting out of the Loch but it was short lived and the engine went back on for short periods twice to get cleat of the point and then I was sailing  in a fairly steady 8 knots of wind from the WSW.

Bad new came at about 05:30 when I found my main domestic battery bank (2 x 120 Amp Hour AGMS) was indicating only 65% charged, although later that was found to be rather pessimistic, I had a problem especially as it was discharging at over 5 amps, more than I would expect even with low input from the solar and virtually none from the wind turbine. I switched off non essentials like the cool box and it was still going down, I started the engine with some difficulty and no charge!

Not an emergency as I have a separate engine battery and a third 120 amp AGM domestic battery and can start the engine from any or all of the tree “banks” but concerning and it the alternator I would have to go to “civilisation” with good communications so I could get a replacement shipped there. 

So I took a Stugeron anti seasickness pill - working on an engine at sea is a good way to get sea sick especially when there is a big sea running and the wind light so not stabilising the boat and after a short wait started work. I was in luck getting the alternator off took 10 minutes or so and I found that the wire to the field winding had broken off at a terminal, in another 20 minutes I had it repaired and all back together as well as tightening up the water pump belt which had stretched a bit after being put on last winter.

The engine started and thanks to the external “intelligent” regulator the 55 amp alternator was soon charging at over 40 amps to the domestic batteries with more to the engine (I don’t have an ammeter on that) and keeping the boats electrical systems working.

I don’t know when the wire broke, both domestic banks were at 100% the previous evening but with some sunshine, a rare commodity, and some wind the “renewables” could have made good usage from a failure any time after Tobermory.

The main domestic bank recovered quickly, I think it had gone down to between 70 and 75%, still a lot on 240 Amp Hours, part of this and the high discharge rate I spotted, was down to it discharging to the engine battery; because the engine had been running but the alternator was not, the Digital Voltage Sensitive Relay was enabled and allowed current to flow (unlike some more expensive types it is bidirectional) and I had started the engine half a dozen times, then there was getting the anchor up. I motor sailed for an hour or so to get charge back into the batteries and then it was back to sailing.

The sailing was cold and damp with mist patches and occasional drizzle but on the bright side the steady rain did not appear until after I had got to Vatersay Bay.

And the wildlife spotted was exceptional, not much variety in birdlife just the ubiquitous Guillemots and a few Gulls and Gannets but the marine life was like nothing I have seen before in a few hours:

  • 100+ Common Dolphins north of Hawes Bank (which is north west of Coll) over many square miles, visible for well over an hour mainly as I moved west at 5.5 knots (motor sailing after the alternator problem).
  • Multiple small pods of Common Dolphin all the way over.
  • 3 individual Minkie Whales - off Hawes Bank, ½ way over and a couple of hours out.
  • 3 or 4 Orcas @12:30 c 12 nm SW of Hyskeir Rock. c 56o 50’ N 6o 57’ W
  • A basking shark 1/2 mile SE of Muloanich (which is just E of Vatersay).

With the wind  dying and heading and the tide pushing me south I put the engine on at 16:40 and motored into Vatersay bay where I was anchored by 18:30 and thinking of dinner after a long day and as the rain started.

58 miles in 14.5 hours.

Click here for the short leg through Fisherman's Passage to Cornaig Bay.

2023 May 18th, Day 34 Tobermory to Loch Drumbuie

 WIP with very poor bandwidth @ Castlebay, Barra, pics to follow.

Friday or Saturday looked as if they might be OK to get across to the Wester Isles so rather than pay another nights mooring I moved to Loch Drumbuie a short hope to the NE. 

According to the pilot this is a very popular and often crowded anchorage, probably because its free! And indeed its quite attractive and well sheltered but most is very deep so boats cluster in a few sheltered spots so I can see how it gets crowded. 

I was the first arrival but what looked like an “Open 60” single or 2 handed handed racing boat converted to cruising with a crew was close behind also from Tobermory and a third followed later a familiar boat but I can place where I have seen it previously, it could have been on a previous trip or the day before. This happens a lot, serious cruisers bump into each other, hopefully not literally, quite a lot, for instance on a Pontoon at Tobermory was a boat last seen at Newlyn and it would not surprise me to see them again as they are up here for the summer.

Five miles in an hour and a quarter.

Wednesday, May 17, 2023

2023 May 16th, Days 32 - 33 Loch Aline to Tobermory.


Although it is unlikely that I can get across to the Outer Hebrides until Friday or Saturday there is a chance and I wanted a shower, diesel (Cheaper than at home), Camping Gaz (£45 !!!) and some other things so I decided to move to Tobermory.

It was a very bumpy ride for the first half of the trip, the very benign conditions in Loch Aline changing to 17 - 20 knots of wind against 1 - 2 knots of tide.

14 miles in two and three-quarter hours, all under engine.

2023 Sound of Mull

Click here for the short hop to Loch Drambuie.

Sunday, May 14, 2023

2023 May 14th, Day 30 Scallastle Bay to Loch Aline


The forecast indicated that there would be no reasonable chance of getting to the Outer Hebrides any time soon and with NW winds forecast I decided to move to an anchorage with more protection for a couple of nights before moving to Tobermory for laundry and resupply. Loch Aline was the perfect place and close by which was useful as my back was (and still is) playing me up and I did not want to do anything to make it worse.

"Provident" a fine old gaffer beating up the Sound of Mull
Best to turn off the sound, just lots of wind noise. 
Entering Loch Aline through the narrow channel and 
sometimes very busy entrance.
Baby seals, if I had known they would turn up I
would have anchored closer to the reef.

A popular large anchorage, well protected from most
direction and quite attractive, lot more pictures below.

2023 Scallastle Bay to Loch Aline

 4 miles in an hour and a half.

Click here for the trip up the Sound of Mull to Tobermory.

2023 May 13th, Day 29 Loch Tarbert to Scallastle Bay, Sound of Mull


A disappointing day although not surprising given the previous evenings forecast. There was a nice breeze when I left but it disappeared after half an hour and I motored the rest of the way initially heading for Lock Spelve which has an anchorage suitable for the forecast fresh winds. However, as I approached it became clear that there was an event  taking place with a dozen vessels entering before I got there and quite a few more heading that way.

With a still SW wind forecast for that night I decided on an anchorage on the south side of the Sound of Mull and chose Scallastle Bay, about four miles from Duart Point which I reached shortly after the tide turned foul.

Fairly miserable weather to start but from late morning it was
largely sunny and warm.

Another three boats going into Loch Spelve.
It felt like the Solent as I rounded Duart Point with three Ferrys in
view, these two heading for Oban passing south of  Lismore Island.
Duart Castle, Mull.
The view from the anchorage across the entrance to the Sound
of Mull to Lismore and the mainland north of Oban. 

2023 Tarbert to Scallastle Bay

41 miles in 7.5 hours.

Click here for the short hop to Loch Aline

2023 May 12th, Day 28 Port Ellen to Bag Glean Righ Mor, Loch Tarbert


The ferry arrived in  thicker fog than this, it's fog horn announcing
its presence when over 5 miles away (Measured on AIS). I was
surprised that one yacht left in the thickest fog (before the fog horn
was heard), fortunately she was AIS equipped so was able to avoid
the ferry by moving into Kilnaughton Bay

I had planned to explore the anchorages along the south coast of Islay and was all set to go at 07:00 but the Mull of Kintyre had disappeared from view 30 minutes earlier and the fog bank appeared to be coming my way so I stayed where I was and sure enough a few minutes later I could not see 50 yards, visibility varied from 50 to 150 yards until is suddenly cleared at 09:45 and I was off.

With the sun out and warm and with a light following wind it was an excellent sail under spinnaker until Ardmore point when the wind disappeared so on went the engine to head for the Sound of Islay an on arrival the wind set in from the North at 10 - 15 knots and cold, I went from sun bathing to multiple layers of cold weather cloths in about half an hour.

I was half an hour early for the tide and the tide was rather late in turning, not unusual in this part of the world, so I was heading into a knot of so of adverse tide until well into the sound but it did enable me to clear the north end of the Sound before over-falls formed.

With mist and drizzle I went straight for the anchorage to find a French boat, also single handed, in position "A" but there is room for several boats and I slotted without problem although rather closer to the shallow water than I would have preferred.

Two excellent distilleries in view 
McAuther;s Head
Bag Glean Righ Mor, Loch Tarbert
31 miles in 9 hours.

Thursday, May 11, 2023

2023 May 9th, Days 25 - 27 Browns Bay to Red Bay and Port Ellen, Islay

I seem fated to motor when going north through the north channel, this was the third time out of three.

Even motoring the tide was not favourable; to get past the Mull of Kintyre before it turned foul would mean leaving at midnight which I did not fancy, so I didn't set the alarm and would hopefully get a good nights sleep then work out what to do. I left at  06:15 with some favourable tide left, the engine went off at 07:00 with the cruising chute and no mainsail on a dead run in a light wind but that did not last long - about 10 minutes so the engine went back on and I headed for Red Bay and an anchorage off Glenariff (aka Waterfoot) to wait for the tide to turn.

Entering Red Bay, 40 minutes after local low water the adverse tide
hit 3 knots.
At Anchor for a few hours waiting for the tide to change.
I had a cunning plan and this time it worked 😀
My track from Bangor to Red Bay the across the N
channel to the Mull of Kintyre.
The admiralty tidal atlas shows a back eddy along the coast north of Red Bay, starting a couple of hours before the tide changes to the south so I left at 11:55, again under the cruising chute, this time for about 15 minutes before the engine went on and shortly I had a knot of favourable tide which quickly increased to 1.5 knots then peaking at 1.7 knots as I head north hugging the coast rather than heading out for the SE corner of the N. Channel TSS.

Apart from the speed boost this also meant I was further north before heading into the strong south going tide, so there was a better chance of the north going tide that I would pick up between 14:00 and 15:00 would compensate for the south going tide as I headed NE.

This almost worked but because I was motoring at 5.4 knots rather than sailing at a planned speed of 4 knots I would have come in a mile or so south of the turning point and rather close to over-falls, although these would have been slight, so with a couple of miles to run I set the autopilot to track to the point which I reached easily across the 2 knot north going tide and then I had a favourable tide all the way to Port Ellen where I anchored for the night in Kilnaughton Bay before moving into the small marina the next day for a welcome shower and revictualling at a much better shop than within walking distance at Howth. 

I don't know how much time this saved but it was substantial, another 9 metre boat left a few minutes after me and headed straight out, by the time she reached the corner of the TSS I was 8 miles further on but a big chunk of this was down to me motoring faster.

I got 28 litres of diesel, as much as I can comfortably carry on the trolley, but on a second trip for a final 20 litres I came away disappointed as they had run out, the planned delivery having failed to arrive. 

I was also unable to replace an empty Camping Gaz cylinder but they are normally available at Tobermory where I plan to be on Sunday or Monday when the wind could be rather strong.

As an aside; why do gas cylinders always seem to run out just after you leave dinner to cook in the oven, rather than when you are boiling water or cooking on the hob? 
Past the Mull of Kintyre with 2 knots of favourable tide.
Port Ellen from Kilnaughton Bay.
White Cloud in Kilnaughton Bay

2023 Browns Bay to Port Ellen

57 miles in twelve and a quarter hours including the lunch stop.

Click here for Port Ellen to Loch Tarbert.

2023 May 8th, Day 24 Ballyholme Bay to Browns Bay (Larne)

Light and very variable winds turning to nothing before I cleared Belfast Loch then returning at F4-5 an hour south of Browns Bay so I called it a day, I might have gone further but residual waves from the SE might have made the anchorages further north, that I have not visited uncomfortable. Islay tomorrow.

White Cloud in Browns Bay, last seen at Milford.

14 miles in four and a quarter hours. 

2023 Bangor to Browns Bay

Click here for the trip to Islay.

Sunday, May 7, 2023

2023 May 6, Days 22 & 23 Howth to Ballyholme Bay, Bangor.

 Forecasts were still equivocal with F7 in one of them for Sunday so I decided on a dash to Bangor with the option of anchoring in Ballyholme Bay, as good an anchorage as you are likely to find along this coast in a strong southerly or going into Bangor Marina. 

Its a long way with complicated tides (explained here, opening in a new window) and I was recommended not to leave an hour either side of low water because of shallows in the fairway to the marina, having seen the area round the pontoons t low water I added on half an hour so that that there would be 1.8 metres (the boats draft rounded up) of water above chart datum if in the dark I went a little outside of the dredged area I would still be floating. So departure was set for 03:45, in the event I left 10 minutes early, did a 3 point turn to head out and was on my way,

Lambay Island from Seaward, previously I have always gone
the other side.
Some wind set in a little after 05:00 and the cruising chute went up in 11 knots from the SSE which was to be pretty steady in 14:00 when it died and the engine went on so that I would past Strangford before the tied turned foul.

At 10:15 the wind lightened to 8 knots and  went round to the SE so up went the spinnaker, typically 45 minutes later and before I had put the camera away from taking the above video, the wind returned to the SSE so the cruising chute went back up to replace it.
With 5 knots of wind or less the engine stayed on and I reached Donaghadee Sound  a couple of hours ahead of schedule, with very light winds and a "smooth" sea I decided to press on through even though it was only a day before springs which would have 2.8 knots of adverse tide in the narrow channel with over-falls and a bit more further north, both predictions that the Admiralties "Total Tide" app nailed. 

Fortunately Sancerre's original 8 hp  engine was replaced with one of more than double the power that, with a clean hull and a calm sea, can push the boat to over 7 knots for short periods and, using the autopilot against a planned track, the passage was uneventful but interesting with rapidly changing tidal flows, especially from a a back eddy running northerly at 1.5 knots to a southerly flow at over 2 knots changing in a a couple of boat lengths.

The forecasts are still inconsistent with each other but all have dialled back on the F7 (Edit: the F7 reappeared in the mid day forecast on Sunday) and it should be possible to move north on Monday afternoons ebb tide to get into position to strike out for Islay or Ghia on Tuesday or Wednesday before the wind turns northerly. I have (Sunday morning) given up thinking about that and will work out a plan when I see the forecasts tomorrow morning. In the mean time the flat calm this morning has been replaced with a fresh southerly wind that promises to get stronger over night with the possibility of thunder storms tomorrow.

Approaching Donaghadee.
Ballyholme Bay (Bangor) Sunday morning.
Also Sunday morning: the ship at anchor had been clearly visible
5 minutes previously as this fog bank appeared from nowhere
A ferry coming down Belfast Loch entering the new fog bank,
it quite likely that a small yacht ahead would not be visible from
the bridge, radar and AIS on both sides makes a huge difference.
90 miles in 19 hours.

2023 Wiklow - Bangor

Thursday, May 4, 2023

2023 May 2nd, Days 18 - 21 Wicklow to Howth.


Another change of plan due to the weather, I had planned to go to the Skerries today (Tuesday) and Ardglass tomorrow to shelter from strong easterly or south easterly winds arriving Thursday evening but the system is arriving early (and much earlier than forecast a few days ago) and that makes entry to Ardglass problematic, even dangerous, even before the strongest winds arrive.

I didn’t want to be at anchor at the Skerries which would be uncomfortable in an easterly and possibly untenable if the wind was north of east so I will divert to Howth, just north of Dublin, which is safe from winds from any direction. I’ll probably be here until Friday but a move to an anchorage might be practical late Thursday.

The view from my berth on the hammerhead

The view back to the huge club house.
Thursday mid day and the wind still increasing. If I had
continued to Ardglass I would be arriving in stronger winds
blowing straight down a narrow channel.

The view out to sea from the club house.

26 miles in five and a quarter hours.

Thursday, day 20:

Ideally I would leave tomorrow at  04:30 to Dundalk Bay or Ardglass then on to Bangor then Larne but looking at the models downloaded this morning I suspect I’ll not get way until later in the day and will do a short hop to the Skerries for Friday night then head north on Saturday, possibly going direct to Bangor, if I leave at 04:30 and can make 4 knots I can get to the tidal gate at Donaghadee as the tide turns favourable at 23:00 on Saturday and into Bangor a couple of hours later to anchor and if the weather looks threatening to go into the marina later on Sunday.

Ardglass is a distinct possibility for Saturday night  as the tides are then good to get from there through the Sound at the end of a N going tide on Sunday afternoon.

The American model is showing very strong winds early on Monday, the others show brisk to strong winds, either way I need to plan to be somewhere secure on Sunday.

I’ll have to make decisions every 12 hours when I get the detailed models to supplement the met office forecasts . 

Friday a.m. day 21:

Thursday's plan didn't survive very long, three models downloaded at 08:30 show winds at the Skerries gusting 25 to 30 knots so I'll be here another night, or at least part thereof, this mornings plan is to leave about 03:30 (there is insufficient water for to leave between 05:00 and 07:00 and I would like  bit more in hand) Saturday morning, accepting a couple of hours of foul tide, heading either for Ardglass or more likely, if the wind holds (the ECMWF says it will the UKMO says it will not), direct to Bangor. Strong winds  are likely to be arriving late Sunday so if I don't get to Bangor on Saturday night I may be at Ardglass until Tuesday.
2023 Howth
Click on the pic above for an expanded view in Flickr, otherwise click
on the arrows to view the slide show.
When time next permits I'll do a write up on Howth, but my back is aching from to much time on the PC so stopping now.