Thursday, June 13, 2024

2024 June 13th Days 76 and 77, Around Cape Wrath to Loch Clash.

Draft. Slide show to follow.

I left at 05:15 to carry the tide to and hopefully beyond the Cape. If was frustrating and quite tiring sailing with the wind changing frequently then turning to the west towards the end despite a forecast of easterlies. 

I had the Cruising Chute up 3 times and flew if from the pole, as
the wind changed each time before giving up on it a couple of miles
from the Cape.

Cape Wrath, Duslic Rock left. Don't go there.
Cape Wrath Lighthouse
Cape Wrath in benign conditions.
After rounding the wind dropped and I found myself in a back eddy pushing me east and the engine had to go on to get out of it. I lost count of how many times the engine went on and off before I reached Loch Clash, a slight disappointment as I could have made it around Pointof Stoer if the wind had been as forecast, but it is a good anchorage I have not been to before and I was at anchor before two for a relaxing afternoon.
Heading towards Loch Clash which is hidden behind the Island
right of centre.
The Sadler yacht and it’s 2 crew arrived that evening, I suspect
if they can sort out their engine problem we may well meet again.

Loch Clash anchorage.
Loch Clash is quite a nice anchorage although over looked by several houses and an area people use to park their camper vans. The down side is that it is exposed to the south west and quite a lot of Kelp, when I arrived the wind was NW and the anchor was secure against going hard astern with the engine. 

Later the wind swung to the SE and I dragged, bringing up the anchor there was a lot of mature heavy Kelp on it with stems over an inch thick, I may have been anchored by it or the swinging wind may have unscrewed the anchor and on dragging picked up the Kelp. I suspect the former.
Anchor pro track: Initial position at the top with
dragging top left as the wind changed then increased.
Overnight plots below.
I re-anchored and had a piece full night in a brisk wind, in the morning a larger yacht to my south that probably anchored just before me, was quite some distance behind her former position in deep water, presumably also having dragged.

33 miles in 8.5 hours.

Friday is uncertain, forecast strong easterly winds are not a particular problems but they may turn south or south easterly head winds which could be getting any distance.

Update Friday:

I woke at 04:00 and checked the domestic forecasts (that are updated frequently for the next few days) and the midnight inshore forecast and decided to go back to sleep, it is unlikely that I would get much past the Point of Stoer and, with the exception of the fishing port of Lochinver, the anchorages are rather restricted, either by wind direction or swinging room - an anchorage 100 yards wide is rather tight when the wind is forecast to swing most of the way around the clock. 
Another reason to stay put, it arrived a bit late but is
Forecast to last until early Saturday or a bit beyond.
Hopefully the forecast for tomorrow is correct showing northerly winds that should allow me to get the 45 miles to Loch Ewe or perhaps a little further before the wind increases overnight on Saturday when I will need a secure anchorage in a Northerly.

Wednesday, June 12, 2024

2024 June 11th Day 74, a tough trip to Loch Eriboll.


I was away a bit early, a little before seven but, not unexpectedly, when I could see down Hoy Mouth it was white from side to side with breaking waves so I held off until 08:00, the planned time to enter. 30 minutes before the tide turned foul but when the Rost (over falls) have largely subsided.

The Pilot gives general instructions for going west at this stage of the tide, the text suggests following the north shore to avoid the worst of the Rost, this would be essentially obligatory if heading north to Kirkwall and optional if heading west. Elsewhere it is noted that the west going tide is strongest to the north, great to help you through quickly but likely to make for rougher water especially with a strong wind.

The chart shows a fairly large area on the south side that is normally out of the Rost and when I got there is looked reasonably smooth so I opted for the southerly route that, judging by the way a 40 foot boat was pitching on the northern route, regularly showing her keel as she pitched, gave me a slightly smoother ride.

A 40 foot yacht on the northern route.
Entering Hoy Mouth 10 - 15 minutes before slack water.
Best viewed full screen.
The “Old Man of Hoy” as I left Hoy Mouth at
slack water.
It was quite rough as I left Hoy Mouth with the wind at F5 that quickly increased to F6; about 2 hours out things took a turn for the worse, which I did not expect as when I have previously been in these waters the sea was more confused close to the islands, this time a rough sea was coming from the north and leftover waves / swell was coming from the W - NW, when a “set” from one direction arrived at the same time as one from the other the sea became very bad. At this point the autopilot could not really cope and after getting knocked well over and at the same time getting quite a lot of water into the cockpit over the weather dodger I steered manually for over an hour before things improved.

There was a repeat of this at about 12:30 when the tide, previously on the starboard bow swung to be dead on the bow and I had to hand steer again, fortunately that lasted less than 2 hours although I was expecting it to last longer, until the tide changed. Even with the manual steering, after working so hard the autohelm gave the batteries a real bashing but most charge was restored motoring down Loch Eriboll.

The wind decreased to F5 at about 14:00 and the rest of the trip was uncomfortable but not bad except rounding Whiten Head entering Loch Eriboll. Once out of Hoy Mouth the rest of the trip until just before the loch was made reaching under the reefed headsail.

The run down the first mile or two of Loch Eriboll was a little rolly at times as big sets came down but the anchorage at Ard Neackie is fine as the wind first backed to the west and will be when the wind turns east.
This old Sadler was also stuck in Stromness after a trip to
Norway was abandoned, it was berthed next to me for several days.
They arrived a couple of hours after me after battling the adverse
tide through Hoy Sound in the late morning and then making
good time with better tides and two of them to helm manually.
08:00 and already a couple of site seers, coming to
a lot more are likely during the day.
What they are stopping to look at, lime kilns centre left.
Today, Wednesday, I am staying at Eriboll as the wind is in the west, seas are likely to still be high - not something you want off Cape Wrath - and on Thursday the wind should be easterly, and with the tide an hour later it should be relatively straight forward to get round the Cape and a reasonable distance down the west coast.

If the ECMWF forecast model is right I’ll then have a at least a week of fair winds to move south, the UK model is not quite as positive but still good. Fingers crossed!
Tracks to and from Stromness.

57 miles in 13 and a half hours, all spent at or near the helm.

More pics to follow.

Monday, June 10, 2024

2024 June 10th Day 73, going west about tomorrow and it is going to be hard going.

I have checked 6 different weather models, all agree that the east coast will have wind with east in them from Thursday for quite a while.

The UK model for Sunday.
A strong easterly on Thursday or Friday would keep me at Wick or Peterhead for a day or three, anchorages would likely be closed to me until at least Thursday next week and I would have to do long overnight legs, sometimes with headwinds with expensive stays in marinas in between.

So it’s west about.

That presents more problems; strong winds from uncertain directions and rough seas. The inshore forecast from 07:00 Tuesday is:

Cape Wrath to Rattray Head including Orkney - Strong wind warning

Northwest 4 to 6. Moderate or rough becoming slight or moderate. Showers. Good, occasionally moderate.

Update: the 12:00 forecast is somewhat better for Tuesday afternoon:

Northwesterly 4 or 5, occasionally 6 at first in east. Slight or moderate, occasionally rough at first in north and east. Showers. Good.

Doable to get to Loch Eriboll but very uncomfortable. As of yesterday that meant leaving Wednesday, but now we see:

UK Met Office for Wednesday.
All of the other models show even more west in the wind, and it’s over 40 miles from Hoy Mouth, much of it could be a beat. But this is OK for rounding Cape Wrath.

Thursday & Friday complicate matters further , models differ but there could be strong easterlies.

UKMet Office model for Thursday.

UK model for Friday. One full barb on the
arrow equals 10 knots.Gusts will be higher.

So, unless things change on this evening’s forecast I’ll need to bight the bullet and head for Eriboll tomorrow, nip round Cape Wrath on Wednesday or Thursday, then scoot down the west coast in the shelter of the mainland and/or hole up somewhere until the weather improves.

Sunday, June 9, 2024

2024 June 9th Day72, moved to the anchorage at Bay or Ireland.

Finally out of the marina but only about a mile and a half east as the crow flies, but anchoring is free. I thought I might have to stay longer as with the strong wind i probably would not have cleared a large boat behind me but it briefly dropped off to c12 knots and I got out before it increased to 30 as I made my way to Bay of Ireland, wind now F4-5 gusting 6 but is forecast to be a bit stronger at times. And rain all day tomorrow . 

The probability is that I will head west so I stayed close to Hoy Mouth, if that changes I may move south but could leave from here.


Approaching the anchorage at 3 knots. Stromness 
Visible at the start.

Hopefully away Tuesday or more likely Wednesday. Video of going into the anchorage at < 3 knots, Stromness in view at the start.

Click here for plans for Tuesday.

Thursday, June 6, 2024

2024 6th June Day 69, Still at Stromness and the weather prospects get even worse.

 Winds are still gusting over 30 knots and likely to get worse.

UK Met Office prediction for Saturday.
The current plan to save marina fees is to move to an anchorage on Sunday when gusts should not be much over 30 knots. I should be able to move south Tuesday or Wednesday although I may be pushing the recommended max wind strength for crossing the Pentland Firth given it will only be 3 or 4 days after spring tides, but I’ll be able to go at slack water and get through quickly with a following wind and past Duncansby Head before the tide turns against the wind.
Excel spread sheet calculating time check points to cross to
S to the mainland or west via Hoy Sound. Point of Ness is
just outside Stromness. Nos Head is between the anchorage
in Sinclair's Bay and Wick. See below for other points.
South bound I could start from Hunda Sound or an anchorage
off South Walls.

West via Hoy Sound is probably only a 30% chance as going home west about is 150 - 200 miles longer but there are lots of advantages:
  • shorter legs, so less need of rest days.
  • anchorages in easterly winds
  • Anchorages more likely to be available when sheltering from strong winds.
  • better scenery
  • some forecast models show I could make a lot of progress in the first few days compared to the east coast, seas are likely to be higher but less dangerous than the Pentland Firth and the next 10 miles or so.
  • And finally, statistically going east along the south coast is easier the going west from Dover.
But it could take a long time if the weather does not cooperate.

Having written that list, perhaps the chance is more like 50:50 depending on the weather forecast.

If going down the east coast I will probably then head straight to Peterhead arriving next day, to make the best of the weather window before the wind turns to the SE then E, just what I don’t want heading down the east coast, apart from the head wind it closes off the anchorages so I may again get stuck in expensive marinas, at least Stromness is relatively cheap.
ECMWF Forcast for Thursday evening.
This is turning into a very expensive and tedious cruise, To date I have been weather bound for 35 days from 76. Hopefully late summer will be better. In the meantime I am getting more adventurous on the cookery front.

Spag Bol, mince often has a long shelf life so it is useful when away from supplies for a week, but doing it properly uses a lot of gas so I just cook for 25 minutes after browning etc. Also you can’t really make just one portion so one goes into the electric cool box.
Quick Spag Bol. Scratch made with some leftover
red pepper, tinned baby carrots, onion, fresh mince,
fresh tomatoes, red wine etc.
Beef bourguignon, although strictly speaking this is Beef “COOP Chilean Red Blend”. Very tasty even so.
Scratch made, this one with all fresh ingredients.

Saturday, June 1, 2024

2024 June 1st Day 64, Weather bound in Stromness, trip to Shetland abandoned.

Update Saturday:

Looking at the various forecasts, short and medium term, and given all the time I have already lost on this cruise, 23 days weather bound plus the false start due to the failed windlass,  I am giving up on Shetland as to go on would mean getting back so late in the year I would not be able to go out again.

Also I have just finished a second CampingGaz cylinder and only have one left having been unable to get a replacement as any of my recent stops; they are no longer available here (they were on previous visits) or, according to the UK distributers web site, in Shetland, it should last a month but I don’t want to be eating cold food! 

So I am going to stay at Stromness or a local anchorage, until the weather lets me head south - that could be a while, all forecasts say windy for a week after that who knows? The BBC and the GFS then say SE winds for at least a week 🀬🀬🀬 thereafter which is very bad news for getting back to the Solent down the east coast with head winds and most of the anchorages likely to be untenable - I had that T shirt in 2020 and in 2021. Hopefully the other forecasts are nearer the mark but none are that good, there is even a chance I’ll have to come back down the west coast.

I might be able to move to a sheltered anchorage on Thursday when the current forecast shows gust reducing from Gale force to less than 30 knots and steady winds at F4-5 but we shall see. I may be able to leave Orkney next weekend but with Spring tides that will require favourable winds and definitely not easterlies unless I opt to go home west about.

Now off to get some diesel for the heater, it is rather chilly.

Update Tuesday: despite what the uk distributors web site said, extensive Googling tracked down 3 potential suppliers in Kirkwall via a camping website, the first was out of date but the second had 2 cylinders available so I hopped onto a bus and got one of them; one less thing to worry about but the weather looks to be bad through the weekend but hopefully not too bad to find somewhere to anchor later in the week and perhaps to get back to the mainland early next week.

Click here for the Thursday update and plans.

Thursday, May 30, 2024

2024 May 29th Day 60 - 62, Stromness and Skara Brae (by bus).


A very damp trip in mist and fog, again motoring all the way.

The "Old Man of Hoy" as the mist and drizzle lifts.
Bay of Skail from Skara Brae
Entering Hoy Sound with 5 knots of tide, 1 day from a neap tide. Stromness 3/4 of a mile behind that headland.

At Stromness marina, "Puffin" and Sancerre had been leap
frogging each other from Rassay and she was just behind me
going round Cape Wrath but then went directly to Stromness.
We will probably meet again at Kirkwall.

Skara Brae
Puffin had left for Kirkwall when I got back from Skara Brea so I warped Sancerre over to the next pontoon so that I could have a go at cleaning some of the weed off of the starboard side having removed a lot from the port side on Thursday. Despite the adverts for the cleaning devise it’s very hard work and is only effective from a pontoon, not from the side of the boat when you can’t apply enough pressure.
After warping (moved with ropes not under engine) across
the bay to the next pontoon
Inshore survey vessel HMS Magpie behind.
I'll be moving to Kirkwall on Saturday before bad weather arrives on Sunday and it is entirely possible that strong winds will keep me there for a week or more πŸ™.

Fortunately the Rost (Roost) only forms on the west going tide.
31 miles in six and a half hours.
Click here for a disappointing decision.

Tuesday, May 28, 2024

2024 May 28th Day 60, Loch Eriboll to Sand Side Bay, Dounreay


I was awake so left at 03:45 to get ahead of forecast rain pm and strong heads winds that didn’t arrive. There was no realistic chance of making Hoy Sound before the tide changed when the race and “Rost” is dangerous. So I was heading for Sand Side Bay with Scabster harbour as fall back if the exposed anchorage was untenable. The impossibility of getting to Hoy Sound was confirmed 8 miles from Sand Side Bay even after a quick passage under engine due to there being no wind, shortly after I was able to sail for a while.

Leaving Loch Eriboll at 05:06 after the long trip down the loch.

Strathy Point, about half way, sea birds probably there as currents
produce some turbulent water of the point.
The Orkney Islands from 25 miles away 

The approach is a bit worrying as the anchorage looks v bad until directly offshore.

The bay and anchorage is hidden behind the odd shaped cliff
on the right. Dounreay power station centre.
Not shown on the charts or mentioned in the CCC pilot is a small, old drying harbour in use by locals (but not visitors I assume)
The anchorage coming into view, the harbour on the right.
Fresgoe Harbour
Fresgoe Harbour
The Anchorage.

With "only" 25 miles to get there and the tide an hour later there would be plenty of time to get through Hoy Sound next morning. 
33 miles in eight and a quarter hours.
Click for Stromness.

Monday, May 27, 2024

2024 May 27th Day 59, Around Cape Wrath to Loch Eriboll


The phone signal in the anchorage was very iffy but I finally got a rather confusing set of weather forecasts downloaded but with generally easterly winds over the last few days (when there was any) it seemed likely that I would be able to get around Cape Wrath in relative comfort although the engine was likely to be needed. I set off very early and was soon sailing in light variable winds with the cruising chute. 

I probably persisted for longer than I should have done which meant there was rather more tide than I would have like leaving Cape Wrath that resulted in very bumpy going for 20 minutes or so as can be seen from one of the short  videos below.

Cape Wrath

And just after the above………

Rather bumpy 

I had hoped to anchor in the Kyle of Tongue but with a northerly swell and wind forecast that did not seem like a good idea so I made the long trek down Loch Eriboll to the anchorage at Ard Neachie, naturally as I arrived the wind filled in at 15 knots from the north which would have saved some diesel so I went to the southern side. The forecast SE wind overnight was likely to be light or non existent and in any case there would be some shelter from it and, at least in theory, there is less Kelp in that section. 

For the second time in two days it started to rain as I came into the anchorage and again stopped a few minutes after I had anchored and made ready for the night.

The Ard Neackie Anchorage.

It was difficult to plan the next leg, Hoy Sound tidal gate was not “open” till 20:30 and east or north east winds were likely, Scabster anchorage exposed could be exposed. So the plan was to try for Sandside bay then Stromness via Hoy Sound Wednesday , if Sandside proved not to be tenable due to a northerly swell or wind, Scabster Harbour was a fall back or to hang around until late evening to go through Hoy Sound, but with the very early start that would be a very long day.

35 miles in seven and a half hours

Click here for Sand Side Bay

2024 May 26th Day 58, To Tarbet Lagoon, Handa Island


At last! sailing as soon as I cleared the Loch until I turned to go behind Handa Island. It was a bit of a work out with the wind frequently changing from 10 - 20 knots, resulting lots of reefing, in the offshore wind the sea was not rough but the first choppy water since the leg to Milford Haven and it did help remove some of the dead weed from the hull resulting in my speed gradually increasing and relieved some of the strain on the engine when I stopped sailing.

Cliffs on Handa Island

The cliffs of Handa Island had huge numbers of guillemots lined up on the ledges, not really visible on the picture above but clearly visible with binoculars and indicated by the white droppings.

AI description from Google. 

Handa Island, a Scottish nature reserve in the Highlands, is home to the UK's largest population of guillemots and one of the most important seabird colonies in northern Europe. In the spring, tens of thousands of seabirds migrate to the island's Torridonian sandstone cliffs to breed and feed in the surrounding waters. The best time to see the seabirds in action is April to July, when they are reproducing.

More  pics to follow.

The anchorage as depicted on the Antares Char, if the
weather had been better it would be a very pleasant
place to sit out in the evening, especially when you
are the only one there.

41 miles in nine and three-quarter hours.

Click here for Cape Wrath and Loch Eriboll.

2024 May 25th Day 57, Portree to Loch Ewe.


Motoring again. ☹️ but at least there was a peaceful evening and, for the third time in three visits, a good sunset to watch. 

Fortifications at the entrance to Loch Ewe, an important refuge
for the fleet and merchant ships during WWI, especially after
the sinking of the Royal Oak in Scapa Flow and before the
Churchill barriers were built to prevent a repetition.

39 miles in 9 hours.
More photos to come in a slide show but probably not until I get home and have some time on my hands, working on the laptop on the boat is not good for my back.

To Tarbet Lagoon, Handa Island.

2024 May 24th Day 56, Lochcarron to Portree


The weather improved except for a lack of wind and what was coming would be from the east so I decided to pass on the Shiant Islands and N. Uist and to press on towards Orkney. With winds still in the North I went to Portree on Skye that would give the best shelter, unfortunately much of the trip was under engine - like a lot of this cruise.

I went ashore for some fresh supplies but unfortunately most were on fairly short use by dates, on the boat I usually stick to these as being ill on a small boat is even less fun then when ashore, particularly when single handed.

Portree, Isle of Skye.

More Pics  to follow.

30 miles in six and a half hours.

Click here for Loch Ewe.

Wednesday, May 22, 2024

2024 May 21st days 53 - 55, Kyle Rhea and hiding from another gale.

Bad news on Wednesday morning; on Tuesday the forecast had been for strong northerly winds and I was planning to shelter on one of several anchorages near Rassay, probably Churchtown Bay, but this mornings this was the inshore forecast at 07:00:

24 hour forecast: Variable 2 to 4, becoming north or northwest 3 to 5 later. Smooth or slight. Showers, fog patches in west. Moderate or good, occasionally very poor in west.

Outlook for the following 24 hours: North or northwest 3 to 5, increasing 5 to 7, perhaps gale 8 later. Smooth or slight becoming slight or moderate. Rain and showers. Good, occasionally poor.

And worse the met office model I downloaded showed gusts of 50 knots Wednesday night.  

With the direction of the wind not 100% certain I changed my plan and went to Upper Lochcarron, the best anchorage in a northerly that I know of in the area, sensible depths, there would be a reasonable distance behind in case of problems, mountains to windward are some distance away reducing the chance of mountain affects and there is good protection from wind and sea from the NW to NE and some from every direction.

Anchored at the red circle, chart by Antares.

Getting there required passing three tidal gates in one tide, The Kyle Rhea, The Skye Bridge narrows and Strome Narrows at the entrance to the loch. To do this I timed my arrival at the south end of Kyle Rhea for slack water, easy enough to do as I was only about 7 miles away, leaving at 10:50 I was there on time at 12:35 and went through with only a modest maximum tide of 2 knots. 

Sandaig, home of Gavin Maxwell and the Otters.
Annoyingly a nice sailing breeze set in as I entered Loch Alsh but it was dead on the nose and if I tried beating against it I would miss the tidal gate at Strome Narrows. So I motored on.

A unique sight for me, Skye bridge and a clear sky.
Naturally the wind died as I went under Skye bridge when I could have sailed so it was a motor all the way. I arrived at 16:35 in time to get 10 litres of diesel, a few items from the shop - a long row up wind, and again failed to replace an empty Gaz cylinder.

The entrance to Strome Narrows centre left to Plockton right.
Strome Narrows.

On Wednesday it became even more apparent that the change of plan was a good call, all forecasts in the area were worse  and looking further out, as is normal with a passing depression up here the wind will veer, from N or NW to NE which could cause a problem in some anchorages.

With the possibility of gusts of 40 - 50 knots some additional precautions are in order, either backing up the anchor, putting out two anchors or both.

A significant change in wind direction makes having two anchors out problematic so the first job  on Wednesday, before the heavy rain arrives was to back up the anchor with 10Kg of anchor and 5 metres of 8mm chain that should stop the anchor from being jerked out. Hopefully the anchor will reset by itself as the boat swings from lying to the west to NW, but that should happen soon when I will be awake.

Ready to go
In action with the normal shock absorber to stop the chain
“Grumbling” against the roller. The wind is c 18 knots less
than 10 minutes after it being zero.
The lull before the somewhat delayed storm. Coincidently
its 3 years to the day since I last rode out a storm here.

Hopefully I will be able to move out on Friday.

Lots of pictures to follow.