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 🙁.

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.

Tuesday, May 21, 2024

2024 May 20th Day 52, Tobermory to Camas Croise.

Another lovely morning, but no wind.

With bad weather now forecast on Wednesday afternoon it was either leave or be there for the rest of the week and be on a mooring somewhat exposed to the north winds, so off I went.  

A light breeze came in from the east as I entered The Sound so up went the cruising chute. It actually got quite windy as I approached Ardnamurchan point reaching Force 5, only acceptable with the chute on a very broad reach, I would have to head up when past the point so down it came and a few minutes later the wind completely disappeared so on went the engine. 
At 13:40 a south-westerly wind crept in and the chute went back up until just short of the anchorage when the wind moved backed to the SSW and the chute would not work on the dead run, there was no point in rigging the pole or hoisting the symmetrical spinnaker  so I motored the last 2 miles.
The Hebridean Princess mini cruise ship, I have seen her at least
once on every trip to Scotland and multiple times in the Scilly
Isles and the West Country. The Isle of Rum in the background.
The anchorage at Camas Croise.
39 miles in 9 hours.

Slide show with lots of pics to follow, probably when I get home.

Click here for a rush to Lochcarron for shelter.Click here for a rush to Lochcarron for shelter.

Saturday, May 18, 2024

2024 May 18th Days 50 & 51, To Tobermory.

 WIP, no pics yet except those on the iPad

I left early against the tide to make the best of the day at Tobermory, the morning was very busy, rowing in twice to replenish Diesel and Water, both of which were low and a heavy lift. The a row across the harbour to the beach outside of the COOP for a major shop with some heavy items, fortunately, unlike the shop in Ardglass most of the items had long use by dates, I had decided to stay on the mooring for two nights and left some items for Sunday only to find none of the fruit and veg I wanted  to be in-stock so a second trip was required in the afternoon - I had spied the coop delivery truck leaving as I arrived in the morning.

The rest of Sunday morning was spend doing an oil and filter change on the engine, it was not due  but would become so when I would be out in the wilds of NW Scotland or the Hebrides and I prefered to do it on a mooring with supplies available locally rather than at ancho in some remote place.

A newly built "Pleasure Craft" (according to AIS) came in
for a few hours after anchoring in the fairway. In my view a
very unattractive bow, presumably that long to give room for
the Helipad forward.

The forecast are again all over the place, fat Loch Aline the strong winds had failed to materialise, on Saturday night gale force winds were forecast for Thursday, now on Sunday morning they are due to arrive on Wednesday afternoon with light winds Monday and Tuesday. I therefore gave up on crossing the Sea of Hebrides where I was hopeful of a repeat of last years spectacular display of wildlife. 

Instead I will head up the Sound of Sleat, going as far as I can under sail on Monday then heading for the Kyle Rhea on Tuesday, a fair tide is mandatory here as the tide is stronger than the boat will go, fortunately it starts to run north at 12:30 so I should be able to get through there and past Skye Bridge. An anchorage suitable in a gale force northerly may be a stretch for Tuesday but possible if there is not going to be time on Wednesday before it arrives.
14 miles in less than 3 hours.
Click here for Camas CroiseClick here for Camas Croise

2024 May 17th Day 49, to Loch Aline

Pic album to follow

The strong winds did not materialise, now they are due tomorrow night so with no wind I bit the bullet and headed for the Sound of Mull on a lovely day apart front he lack of a sailing breeze. I started early against the tide to get favourable tides where the run strongest, on a neap tide currents were modest but I followed my already plotted route to give the Gulf of Corryvreckan, famous for it's huge whirlpool and strong tides, a very wide berth.

Passing the Gulf of Corryvreckan

Approaching Fladda and about to exit the rout inside Jura and
Scarba into the Firth of Lorn
The route requires accurate navigation in strong currents
but is not difficult, pots buoys being the main hazard
for a well engined boat.
I was rather concerned when I saw lots of yachts heading for
The Sound of Mull, probably with only half showing on AIS,
if this was a rally going to Loch Aline or Tobermory space
was likely going to be an issue. It turned out it was a local
version of the three peaks race.
This crew were taking the race seriously having sliding seats
fitted to each hull and two guys rowing.
The tide was foul shortly after entering the sound but not strong and I was at anchor in Loch Aline at 16:30 on a very pleasant evening watching a few seals.
A couple of seals moving out of the way as I go into the anchorage.
From the anchorage
47 miles in eight and three-quarter hours.
Click here for Tobermory

Thursday, May 16, 2024

2024 May 16th Day 48, Craro Bay to Muilean Eiteae Bagh, Loch Caolisport.

 WIP and no pictures due to poor intermittent internet.

The forecast was for very light winds during the day and brisk or strong winds overnight, also for northerly winds for several days. Fed up with all of the motoring on this trip I decided on a short hop to one of the limited number of anchorages sheltered from the north, most of which are not usable if there is any swell from the south, not currently an issue. 

I left at 07:45 and arrived at 11:00 somewhat annoyed as there appeared to be a home made pot buoy on the exact spot I had marked to anchor but when I got very close it turned out to be a dead bird so I continued with my plan although as the previous night a light southerly set in as I approached, on this occasion I anchored under power going astern to make absolutely certain I was in the right position with a good anchor hold in advance of a F5-6 wind expected overnight.

Muilean Eiteae Bagh is my kind of anchorage; no habitation or roads in sight and when the wind died after anchoring complete, absolute silence – a rare thing. Until the cuckoos  started calling; I do not like them having, years ago, been sleep deprived for weeks when one took up residence at the end of the garden and stated calling in the pre-dawn every day.

I suspect it will be another short hop tomorrow to somewhere around Crinan and then I will have to bite the bullet and motor to the sound of Mull as that needs to be done in one go and the tide is just about acceptable on Saturday.

16 miles in three and a quarter hours.

Click here for the Sound of Mull and Loch Aline.

2024 May 15th Day 47, Browns Bay to Craro Bay, Gigha.

Wednesday I left at 05:00  initially under engine making good time until some wind filled in at 08:15 so off went the engine except for an hour to avoid going into the Traffic Separation Scheme off of the Mull of Kintire. Heading north I was able to sail for a good portion of the time. With a northerly wind forecast overnight I went to Craro Bay on the SW corner of Gigha.

Typically just after I anchored in the 80 yard wide anchorage a wind set in from the south from which there is no protection, fortunately it was light and variable and unlike on a previous visit the anchor had penetrated the weed and had a good hold as the boat went all over the place during the night, quite close to an islet on the west side.

50 miles in eleven hours.

Click here for Muilean Eiteae Bagh, Loch Caolisport.

2024 May 14th Day 46, Ardglass to Browns Bay.

 WIP and no pics due to poor and intermittent internet.

At 06:00 there was a light cold drizzle so I delayed departure as long as I reasonably could with a reasonable chance of getting to Browns Bay at a sensible time, Bangor is normally a reasonable alternate but would make getting across the North Channel problematic due to tides. Spending another day going to Red Bay would help but the forecast for Thursday did not look good with very light northerly winds that would mean motoring all of the way.

 So I left at 08:15 in a light drizzle and a light headwind for the first few legs, as I approached South Rock buoy just before 11 the wind conveniently increased to a sailable 8 – 11 knots from the east so as I headed NW for Skullmartin and Donaghadee Sound that ideally I would reach at 16:00 as the tide turned favourable. The rain stopped at about midday at about the same time the cruising chute went up until the wind died as I approached the Sound when the engine went on and I entered the Sound at 15:30.

 Whilst still in the fast running tide I again picked up weed on the shaft and / or propeller with smoke coming from the exhausted as before but also with quite severe vibration; I tried three or four times to clear it by moving from forward to revere gear which improved matters somewhat but did not clear all the weed. Not wanting to be carried further down tide I changed course for Bangor to anchor or go into the marina. I tried again and this time with a serious amount of power in reverse and this time it cleared and I resumed my trip to Brown’s Bay arriving at 19:00.

As I prepared the nights curry the Nicholson 38ft Ketch Galloper that had been berthed next to me arrived doing the trip about 3 hours quicker than me.

45 miles in ten and three-quarters of an hour.

Click here for Browns Bay to Gigha

Monday, May 13, 2024

2024 May 10th days 43 to 45, To The Skerries and Ardglass.

Again no wind and chilly with sea fret but warm at times, the wind came up twice but then disappeared within 10 minutes of setting sail and it increased a third time a mile from the anchorage.

On the last three passages across the northern entrance to
Dublin Bay I have had to avoid this ferry.
The Skerries from the anchorage where there was a nice spot
well separated from the surrounding moorings.
45 miles in nine and a half hours
The trip up to Ardglass was rather better, warmer much of the time and I sailed half the time with a pleasant, but chilly wind of 9 - 12 knots from the ESE.
A very large seal in the middle of the harbour entrance.
The narrow channel into the marina, the white marker in the
picture of the seal is shown as a yellow pillar on the chart.
The snapshot was taken as I write with the wind F6 in the
shelter of the harbour. It is rather bumpy so I hope the
wind dies soon.
The narrow channel into the marina, between the red (port hand)
and green (starboard hand) lateral buoys,.
Approaching low tide.
Ardglass is a pleasant stop off point with decent showers, local
shops etc., but its a pity they can't keep the visitors pontoon
clean; the other pontoons and the long walkways in the pic above
are very clean.
Monday was forecast to be blustery and very wet, that was not wrong, as I write it has been raining since late morning and the wind is about F6, as forecast in the lunch time inshore forecast. Aware that this was likely I had the boat refuelled very early.

The wind should die out this evening, the rain may hang around through tomorrow morning but, unless things change, I will be off at about 07:00 for Browns Bay to hopefully get across the North Channel before the wind turns northerly late on Friday or Saturday, unfortunately I suspect there will be more motoring required to get there. Once across I will have a lot more flexibility to make relatively short hops under sail as anchorages with good shelter are relatively plentiful. 

Picture gallery when I have the bandwidth and time.