Link to: Scotland Orkney and Shetland
The Western Isles
Early start again, on June 11th. Mike our expert on working out tides and currents and wanted us to be through the Cuan Sound at slack tide, before 10am. Even then, the current was several knots in strength and eddies were challenging for the skipper! The wind was gusty and increased up to 31 kts. making anchoring in Loch Melfort unpleasant so we chose Craobh marina in time for a late lunch. “Nordstjernen” followed with next tidal gate, 12 hours later. We had another of Dorothy and Mike’s delicious steaks for dinner then enjoyed wine aboard “Nordstjernen” later in the evening. The weather wasn’t too good next day so we altered our plans and motored to Ardfern through the Dorus Mhor tidal gate.
Ardfern Marina Rhododendrons on the hillside
Inger Lise and Gunnar plus crew walked over the hills to Ardfern and had lunch at the local pub. We had a fine hike with them, admiring the fertile landscape with vast expanses of rhododendron, gorse, fuschia, bluebells and roses. Back at the marina Jon Erik and Mike organized an alternative gas supply in case our 8 kilo Norwegian cannister should go empty. Adfern Yacht sentre is apparently the best marina on the west coast with diesel, an excellent equipment shop, workshops for woodwork, hull and engine repairs.
We met friends of D&M: Ron Dunn and Tony King in Ardfern marina. Don wanted to show us his extravagant cottage extension so drove us up the hill. He and wife Sandra have a fantastic view over the bay and marina. Later, Mike was kind enough to invite us all out to dinner. The weather is still pretty good though not as settled as before.
Gas problems annoy us all and especiallly Jon Erik, the next morning. Luckily we found a plumber at the marina who replaced the rusty valve adjusting the flow of gas from deck to cooker.
We sailed northwards on tuesday 13.th to Loch Aline out through the Dorus Mohr stream, into the Firth of Lorne and then motored in to see Loch Spelve with numerous mussel farms. We motored, no sailing wind, between Duart Castle and Lady’s Rock into the Sound of Mull .
Duart Castle Siller Lass on the way north
Ladys Rock got that name after a local lord decided his wife wasn’t up to his desire so he tethered her there in a storm and came back next morning to find that she had been washed away. Feeling pleased with himself he contacted his wife’s brother to tell him of the tragedy and was invited over for breakfast. Much to his astonishment and horror he found his wife sitting at the dining table with her brother – she had been rescued by a passing fisherman!
Part of a colossal fir tree ! At anchor on Loch Aline
We anchored up in Loch Aline, a charming place with an amazing, beautiful garden surrounding a baronial house. We’ve never seen fir trees with such dimensions before! Fish were jumping but our efforts to catch any were unsuccessful.
With sufficient wind next day we sailed up to Tobermory. Unexpectedly, six Norwegian warships (MTB) with Kongsberg Penguin missiles on board met us at full speed in the narrow sound. Quite a sight! Norwegian flags and greetings from the crews.
Tobermory at low tide Norwegian MTB on it's way south
We tied up at the pontoon in Tobermory to find Nordstjernen and Lina from Molde there too. The Nordstjernen crew had hired a car to drive round the island of Mull. We visited Tobermory Destillery, some of the local shops and then one of the local pubs, Mishnish.
Bob & Bob on Lina
Tobermory is a quaint wee place, all the old stone houses along the quayside being painted in different colours. Tobermory has become well known to British folk, partly because the childrens’ TV program “Balymory” was filmed there. The crew decided to celebrate Normas birthday in advance, by having a wonderful dinner at Tobermory hotel. June 16th with rain and no visibility made our sail to Canna, one of the “small islands” out of the question. We had thus to skip one of the attractions on the island, a fine shellfood and fish restaurant.
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We motored round Ardnamurchan head, the most westerly point in the mainland UK. Poor visibility but we managed the intricate entrance to Arisaig and picked up a mooring no. 29 after consulting the harbourmaster. Cousin Angela had driven over from the E.coast to meet us there and she sailed with us to Mallaig the next morning after a very pleasant evening aboard. Mallaig was one of the larger fishing harbours, probably good for stocking up on food and other necessities, otherwise uninteresting as far as we could see.
Whisky tasting at Isle of Ornisay
The weather was deteriorating so we wanted a sheltered mooring – anchoring at Isle Ornisay in the Sound of Lochalsh was ideal. A trip ashore in the dingy was rather interesting. A designers clothes shop, an artgallery, a destillery and a little hotel. The walk we’d planed was terminated by great rain showers. We anchored in the bay in 4 meters of water using Mikes technique of dropping tha anchor rapidly by releasing the clutch on the windlass and then backing to avoid the chain falling on the anchor itself. Good dirt anchor bottom.
Sunday, we motored (no wind) on through the currents of Kyle Rhea to the Kyle of Lochalsh. Our speed was increased to 11 kts. It’s difficult and sometimes dangerous to go navigate these straits against the currents set up by high tidalwater differences. Admirality Tidal charts are the clue to solving this problem. Timing is of essence!! Mike did his best to teach us all the inns and outs of tides and streams and currents and neeps and springs. Our Raymarine chartplotter with Navionics charts also gives tidal and current information for most straits.Mike and Dorothy left us on Monday unfortunately. Before that we served fenalår (Norwegian cured, smoked leg of lamb) with all the trimmings, aquavit and beer. A memorable evening!
Monday was a restfull day, tidying up, laundering, and stocking up at the local prizewinning butcher and we stayed at the pier at Kyle of Lochalsh another night, waiting for Odd Hestad our new crew member. Were wakened at 7 am by the harbour master who advised to move to the more sheltered harbour over the bay at Kyleakin because of expected gale winds. A gesture we appreciated. We lay 4 boats outside one another, even the fishing boats and local tourist boat came in for shelter. The ruin of King Håkons castle lies just by Kyleakin. In 1263 the king passed here on his way back to Orkney after having lost the battle of Largs. The rain poured down and winds were up to over 35 knots at times. The harbour fee was reasonable and odd - £15,51!
Odd arrived safely with lots of sailing literature, we made use of local facilities, the Internet at a bar and at the Royal Life Saving Institute centre. The folk at RLSI were welcoming and friendly. Their medical advisor and retired, local doctor John Adamson had worked in Norway at different periods and talked fluent Norwegian! His house in Kyle of Lochalsh is called “Sandvika”, after a spell at Bærum Sykehus.
Ruins of kong Håkon Håkonsens slott Skye bridge from Kyle of Lochalsh
We were sorry to lose the opportunity to see more islands and anchorages, instead we enjoyed relaxing while waiting for the better weather. On Thursday22nd. the sky was a bit more promising and the wind more normal in strength so we set sail under the Skye bridge for the island called Rona and had an exciting trip round the Inner Sound submarine practice area. The control ship was on our tail making sure we kept well away from submarine periscopes. Acairseid Mohr, “pirates bay”, was clearly marked by a white arrow on the rockface, opening up into a picturesque little lagoon. The island was owned by a Danish lady who renovated several of the buildings and kept highland cattle. We were impressed by the number of birds, both guillimots, red shanks, herons, puffins and gulls. 21nm. Two other boats lay in the lagoon, both Swedish.
Acairseid Mohr lagoon One of the roaming Highland cattle
The promise of better weather urged us on to Kinlochbervie, 65,5 nm in 9 hours and we had a pretty exciting time in the middle of a large Nato naval exercise. We were surrounded by 4 warships from Germany, US, Norway and UK, and had fighter planes and a helicopters buzzing around us. Not another sailing boat in sight all day!
Kinlochbervie was a rather uninteresting place and the harbour master didn’t turn up. We tied up alongside a fishing boat for a few hours then set off at 4 am. to round Cape Wrath under the best tidal conditions and get past the shooting range there before 8am. This went smoothly, though the sea was choppy. We continued on to Scrabster, on the Pentland Firth, in brilliant sunshine, were invited to the harbourmaster’s office to get the latest weather forecast and currenttables, spent the night there and started early next morning for Stromnes, Orkney.
Harbour fee £10. These last couple of days were perhaps the least interesting, naturewise, on the whole expedition