Saturday, 30 May 2015

Better weather, Loch Hourn to Mallaig

We had a lovely quiet night in the anchorage and woke to spectacular views. After a light breakfast I took Worm out to take pictures. I took a couple of Robinetta.

Landing on the island was difficult because of the bladderwrack.

I did get a shot of a pair of seals and the bluebell wood from the boat.

On the mainland shore the rocky outcrop had one good landing spot and from the top I could get decent zoom shots of Robinetta although the light wasn't really right.

The clouds over the snow capped monroes made another lovely subject.

Back aboard it was time to haul up the anchor. It was easy but we had a lot of chain out. The anchor came up really clean. It would have been nice to explore the upper loch but we preferred to make for Mallaig. The wind was not favourable and we motored out of the loch and then motor sailed to Mallaig.

We got there around 2pm and suddenly it was hot and sunny. We picked a pontoon berth where I thought we would not get blown on when the gale came, and tied up, then lifted Worm out of the water and onto the end of the pontoon before going for lunch.

Later, I finally got to refit the missing quarter knee to Worm and reattach the loose thwart. Alison put a coat of varnish on the new boat hook.

Friday, 29 May 2015

Weather window, Plockton to Loch Hourn

The next two days promise a lull before a gale on Sunday. We looked for the best place to sit out the bad weather, and decided on Mallaig as having the best shelter for the expected wind direction.

We dropped the mooring buoy in bright sunshine and headed over to the pontoon in Robinetta. We needed to put a cheque in the honesty box to pay for the mooring, and I did not fancy another row over in Worm. We had the lines and fenders all set, but as we approached we were warned off the only empty spot as the trip boat was going to come alongside. It was not a problem, as the people keeping the pontoon clear took the envelope for us so we did not need to stop.

Like yesterday we raised the main while still in the shelter of the bay, but today there was no turning back, the sea was slight, and we fine reached west heading for Kyle of Lochalsh. The wind was light, then went lighter. We took the reef out for the first time this trip, and Julian decided to change up from the No 2 jib.

There were black clouds and heavy rain over Skye, and by the time the number 1 jib was ready to use they were nearly on top of us. I decided not to fly the jib until the next tack, and was glad of it, when the squall hit. We went from 1 knot to 5 in 30 seconds, heeling well over until I came off the wind and let out the main. Julian put the reef back in sharpish!

The squall passed as quickly as it had arrived, and the wind died away as we went under the Skye Bridge. A fishing boat coming up behind us was very understanding as I lost steerage way and drifted across his path before I could get the engine on! We got the main down and motored to the Kyle of Lochalsh pontoon where we tied up for a late lunch stop.

Hector's Bothy did a good fish and chips, then we headed for the local hardware store. It used to be called Marine Stores, but had recently changed its name. We did not hope for much, as it contained standard home decorating/maintenance stuff, but we asked if they happened to have a boat hook anyway. Sorry, no boat hooks, but they did have a galvanised iron boat hook head, and broom handles.... We had a long chat with the ex-fisherman who served us, then headed back to Robinetta.

Julian spent the rest of the afternoon making the new boat hook while I did various boat chores, then we cast off at 1630, heading for Kyle Rhea on stay sail and jib. We were only making 2-3 knots but were not in a hurry as the tide would not turn in our favour until 1730. Once at the entrance to the narrows we furled the jib and went through on engine. We got a good boost through, making 5-7 knots. There were some swirly bits on the south end, but no overfalls or rips. In fact there was very little wind in the Sound of Sleet. We kept the stay sail up, but did not bother raised any other sails.

We could have gone all the way to Mallaig, but decided to have a look inside Loch Hourn. An excellent decision! We followed the Clyde Cruising Club directions to a sheltered anchorage behind Eilean Rarsaidh, and spent a peaceful night in beautiful surroundings.

Thursday, 28 May 2015

Up Loch Carron

Given the forecast we did not have any great expectations of leaving Plockton today, but the bright sun shine gave us hope.... When we left the mooring at 10am our plan was to head west, out of Loch Carron, and investigate the sea state. If it was not too bad we would head up to Torridon, but otherwise we would turn straight back, and go for a sail in Loch Carron.

Ten minutes beating out to sea, bashing through short steep waves and watching the white horses get closer made the expected decision simple, we would turn round and go through the Strome narrows and into the shelter of Inner Loch Carron. We tacked rather than gybed Robinetta round, then went onto a very broad run back towards Cat Island under the eyes of a seal watch trip boat. Hopefully they got some pictures! The sea state quickly went down, and we had three sails up, so  we looked good!

Then we found we didn't really know the way to Inner Loch Carron! Alison found the entrance to the Strome Narrows on the chart and said “follow the trip boat”.

We then had a nerve racking (for Alison) and fun (for Julian) time picking our way through the rocks towards the deep channel to the narrows. It was all down wind so we needed to gybe several times. We furled away the jib, which meant we only had to worry about the main sail, and got through the “islands” without incident. It was after we entered the main channel, that we relaxed, lost concentration, and had an unplanned gybe, but luckily not an uncontrolled one.

The sea state was slight within the Narrows and we had the tide and wind with us, so made 5½ knots and entered Inner Loch Carron in fine style. Once we were there we got caught by a succession of strong line squalls, some with blindingly heavy rain and some with hail!

There was no fetch so the waves were very slight, but running or broad reaching a gaffer with the wind varying between F2 and F6-7 is 'interesting'. Julian decided to put an extra reef in the main and by the time we were head to wind he had changed his mind and dropped the main entirely. Then we tried goose winging on staysail and jib but of course the sun came out and the wind died. So up came the main again, with the extra reef. It was so nice Alison went below to put the kettle on.

Then the next squall hit. “Can you come up and furl the jib?” came the plea from above. Alison secured the kettle and leap up but the wind was so strong the jib used up all the furling line and was only half away. Julian put the helm over to shield the jib from the wind and Alison let it out and put it away again, successfully, this time. To kill the power Julian dropped the peak and we sailed on with staysail and saggy peak until the squall was over. Then the sun came out again and we had our cup of tea.

Somewhere along the way we did another good gybe and then Julian lost concentration and the boom went back over again – that is the worst thing we can do with a reef in – the sail gets crushed between the boom and the backstay block. Another hole that will need mending this winter.

Julian looked and found that there is an Antares chart for the rocks at the top of the loch and Slumbay Harbour. We were able to go right up to the top and round Sgeir Fhada (the well named 'long rock' – it looks like a shingle bank). Of course we had to put the engine on at the end of the loch – no more sailing – the return trip was head to wind all the way.

The wind was really strong as we stowed the main and motored to the harbour. There were a few good empty moorings – ideal for a lunch stop and to wait for the tide to turn in the Narrows. Picking one up was another matter – the wind kept pushing us away. Alison managed to get the boat hook onto one buoy but could not haul it close enough to get a line on. Then the boat hook would not come free and got snatched out of her hand, only to free itself from the buoy and sink straight to the bottom.

Time to try an alternative method. We drove up to a buoy and Julian got a rope around it from the cockpit and then we walked the rope to the bow and Alison tied a bowline bridle round the samson posts. We went below for a light lunch and were cosy inside when the biggest squall hit with heavy rain that turned into hail.

The return trip was uneventful but as we got out of the Narrows the wind in the outer loch had freshened quite a bit. There were white horses and the spray was getting blown off the tops, even though the waves, luckily, were still low and far enough apart that we could keep above 2 knots under engine.

It was windy enough even at Plockton that it took two goes to pick up a mooring, this time using the short boat hook which is all we have left until we can get to a chandlers. As we got the jib down and the sail covers on I spotted a broad rainbow over the Strome narrows. A pretty end to an interesting sail, but it was time to put our feet up!

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Staying in Plockton

The visitor buoys at Plockton are clearly marked and large, with a good pickup “handbag”. These are on thin rope, tied to the loop of long thick rope which is shackled to the buoy; this rope is encased in plastic hose to reduce chafe. The integral loop on the end fitted snugly over Robinetta's bits and even though the wind started to howl about 2am I did not worry about us staying put.

I was very glad we were in the shelter of Plockton though, and when we heard the morning forecast we decided we were going to be staying for a while. Force 5-7 is too much to take Robinetta out in deliberately, whatever the direction (in this case SW to W, going NW later), and that is the forecast from the coastguard for the next 2 days. There is good phone coverage on the mooring, and Julian was able to pick up xcweather which gives a longer range information. We might be here for the next six days....

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Isle Ornsay to Plockton

The tides through the narrows of Kyle Rhea dictated the best time to leave Isle Ornsay, so we set the alarm for six, and were off the mooring by half past. The wind was still good for the passage up to Kyle Rhea, so we raised the main, but it was not strong enough to take us up there at a good speed so we motor sailed for a while. The scenery was glorious, but the weather not so good, with only occasional patches of brightness.

Breakfast was cereal, a real come down from yesterday' s porridge, and by the time we were through Kyle Rhea I was looking forward to a proper cooked breakfast. We had all the ingredients, so started thinking where would be the best place to go to eat it. Plockton? Broadford? It would be gone 11 by the time we got to either of them, and there was Kyle of Lochalch in front of us! The pontoons there are not sheltered from the north west, where the winds were coming from, but we could fill up with diesel and water...

We tied up on an empty pontoon but by the time we finished second breakfast there were two other boats moored with us. Diesel came from the railway pier, so we had to carry our cans there, but there was water on the pontoon. We stayed until gone 12, then realised we had to go NOW if we wanted the tide with us under the Skye bridge.

We thought about heading to Rona, but the wind would not let us, so we wondered about Torridon. The weather was not encouraging. Cold, damp, and with the wind on the nose! Then the wind shifted for a moment so we could sail, the sky lightened a little, and the afternoon's prospects improved immensely. I looked in the Clyde Cruising Club directions and found a totally sheltered anchorage in the Crowlins, a trio of islands just off Applecross and we headed there to have a look. It was on the way to Torridon anyway! We got the main down as we approached, and as we did, a passing small fishing boat waved at us. It was a friendly wave, but I could not tell if he was also telling us to steer clear, or go back!

The Clyde Cruising club said that the anchorage was totally sheltered, but the approach was very narrow, with waves just breaking over submerged rocks at the sides. A couple of seals put their heads out of the water to look at us. A lovely spot, but too narrow for comfort, with hardly any room to swing and it did not feel like a good place to spend the night. We aborted, and decided on an anchorage on the mainland, but as soon as we were out from the island's shelter the seas began to roll us around a lot. We got the staysail back up, but it only helped a little, and the heading we needed to get to the other anchorage made the rolling worse. Going back south down the coast, to seek shelter at Plockton, became the best option.

We were on a buoy at Plockton by 1700, and happy to be there. We had the forecast winds of 5-6 all day, and as soon as we were past the Skye Bridge we got the seas to match. The forecast is pretty much the same, or worse, all week, and then much worse on Sunday through next Tuesday, so we will have to see where we get to!

Monday, 25 May 2015

Tobermory to Isle Ornsay

After yesterday's preparation day we got an early start from Tobermory. The forecast was not encouraging “Ardnamurchan point to Cape Wrath, W or NW 4 or 5 increasing 6 at times. Sea state rough to moderate”. The Minch forecast was almost identical. We wanted to go to Canna today, with the idea of crossing to the Outer Hebrides tomorrow and into Lochboisdale on South Uist. The forecast made that doubtful, but when we left Tobermory at 0740 it was still possible, so long as the wind was more west, and no north.
Julian bent on the no 2 jib as we cleared the harbour, then took the helm while I went below to make porridge for breakfast. We motored up to Ardnamurchan point in calm seas, but with a headwind that made sailing where we wanted to go impossible. None the less we got the reefed main sail up a couple of miles short of the point, where we still had good shelter from the seas. We could have sailed here, but would have been heading for Tiree! Julian went below to make a second breakfast of egg rolls.
Once we rounded Ardnamurchan we could sail up towards the Sound of Sleat, leaving Muck and Eigg on our port side, so we unrolled the jib and motor sailed on a fine reach, trying to make the course of 28T that Julian had set toward the Sound of Sleat. After a while I realised that we were heading really close to Eigg, so freed off the wind a little. The engine went off at 1050, and we made a steady 3 ½ – 4 ½ knots, heading past Muck, then Eigg. The seas were not bad, but we were well heeled so I had to hold the kettle on the (ungimbled) stove to keep it there when I went below to make tea. Unfortunately the alcohol in the stove was low, to the kettle took 20 minutes to boil!
We tacked towards Eigg for about ten minutes. Not for any course making purposes, but to let the helmsman sit on the locker that did NOT contain the spare stove fuel! Apart from this one short tack we were on the same tack for 7 hours, but for once we remembered to turn off one of the diesel tanks so the one which was lower due to our angle of heel did not cross fill from the upper and overflow through the breathe tube.
With the stove re-fueled it was time to cook a late lunch of beef burgers. My timing was not the best; we were still heeling so I needed to hold the frying pan on the stove, then before they were cooked we came to the end of Eigg and encountered some much shorter sea that made balancing a frying pan interesting to say the least! The wind had got up too, and just before the burgers were ready Julian decided we needed another few turns on the reefing line. I turned off the stove, and wedged the pan on the floor so it would not spill before heading on deck to take the helm. The only yacht that passed us did so at this point, heading straight into the Sound of Sleat.
Julian and I talked while we put the reef in, and decided not to try for Canna. The seas were obviously rougher where we were, at the northern end of Eigg, and wind still had too much west in it for a quick passage beating up past Rhum. Our new destination was either Armadale or Isle Ornsay, which were both inside the shelter of the Sound of Sleat.
With the new destination decided I headed back into the cabin, and finished cooking the burgers and fried onions. There should have been some sliced tomato in the buns too, but it ended up on the floor just after I cut it, as a big wave rolled under us. Not a great meal, but wonderful given the conditions it was cooked under!
The seas calmed down soon after that, and we had an easy passage up the sound. Just before Armadale we encountered a trawler on a closing bearing. It was working, so we changed course not to pass behind it, and got a friendly wave as we slowly overtook it. The wind increased a little, and when I took the helm I got Julian to lower the stay sail which helped with the weather helm. But an hour later the wind speed had dropped again and backed more westerly. By the time we reached Isle Ornsay we were on a lovely broad reach.
Julian wanted to try picking up a mooring under sail, so we sailed into the bay and had a look round. The only visitor's moorings available this year are at Duisdale Hotel. I tried calling them up on the VHS, but they did not answer, and none of our mobile phones had any coverage, so we could not phone. Only one of the buoys was in use, so we decided to take one anyway. I got the main down and the jib away, and we approached, very slowly, under the stay sail alone. Unfortunately we just failed to make it, so Julian quickly put the engine on, and five minutes later, at 1820, we were on the buoy.
We should have gone ashore and patronised the hotel, but after over 10 hours sailing we were both too tired to want to, so Julian cooked potatoes and heated scotch pies and baked beans and we ate what felt like a feast on board, helped by a small glass of wine each!
The view from the cockpit was gorgeous, but there was hardly any sun, and the wind made it too cold to eat outside. We huddled in the cabin, still wearing all our layers from the day's sailing, bar our jackets. Hopefully we will be warm enough in bed!

Sunday, 24 May 2015


Robinetta seemed in quite good condition when we got aboard last night. Not too much mould inside, and not too much water in the bilges. Even better, this morning the engine started first time on the new battery. There have been casualties during the last 5 weeks. Worm's port front quarter knee has come unglued. The string securing the solar panel to the cover broke and the panel was in the water. It doesn't work properly any more. We lost a shackle pin from the bobstay tensioning gear.
We motored to the pontoon and Alison brought her in beautifully. That would make provisioning easy.
I had ordered a new battery so we would have two new ones. It was safe in the Harbour Office. I got it on board and just for fun tried starting the engine on the old one. It started first time! I decided to leave it in place and keep the new one for when we need it. Without a solar panel a spare is very comforting.
The other new battery had a temporary tightening screw for the positive terminal and was not strapped in. The old metal strap fixing had seized and I had to saw it off in Cairnbaan. I had brought a nylon strap but had no idea how to fit it. The Tobermory Chandler stocks battery cable terminals so I bought one and fitted it. Problem one solved. I took the battery out and the old strap was held on at the front with a captive machine screw and a nut. At the back a baton screwed to the floor of the locker held the strap. Amazingly the three screws (good bronze ones) came out easily and I was able to cut the nylon strap and fit it as a direct replacement. With everything back in place the strap could be tightened easily and holds the battery perfectly. I'm really pleased with this.

The bobstay was a bit of a problem. The bobstay is chain. It shackles to a becket on an old block which has two beckets. The other one is really thin and I tie a line to that which goes through a double block to tension the bobstay. It was the shackle connecting the chain to the becket which had lost its pin. The shackle was too big to pass through the becket - it must have been fitted with the block disasembled. We looked in the chandlers for a new block but they had nothing suitable so I bought an undersized shackle that would fit through the becket and sawed off the old shackle. We bought a junior hacksaw handle in the iron mongers. It came with a blade that lasted under a minute. The blades we had bought in Ardfern were made of sterner stuff! One of those made quick work of the shackle and we had a working bobstay again. The new pin was firmly moused in place! I need to go over all the other shackles on the boat and mouse them.
Every time I thought about trying to fix the quarter knee back on Worm the rain got heavier. I will need to put it on with screws. The white beam the quarter knees are made of is lovely wood but it doesn't take glue well and I don't have any clamps. Screws will clamp it in place while the glue dries and I will leave them in place to help. One day when it is dry.

Thursday, 14 May 2015

Planning ahead

When we had Robinetta surveyed at Cairnbaan one of the things that the report highlighted was the need to store her undercover over the winter in Scotland. It is not something we thought about doing further south, but it makes sense given that we can not get to her quickly. Undercover storage is at a premium, so needs booking early, so I started looking once we were back from Tobermory.

We were thinking of taking Robinetta to the Tarbert Traditional Boat festival, which meant she would be in the Clyde, so I looked at Silvers, and Fairlie. Silvers had room, but Fairlie was cheaper, and a lot easier to get to by public transport. Since Robinetta is small they have managed to squeeze her in, so we will be at Fairlie marine this winter. To the best of our knowledge she last visited the yard back in 1937!