Sunday, May 21, 2023

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.

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