Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Voyage Update

I've updated the voyages map with our trip from Stornoway to Holy Loch.

Monday, 27 July 2015

End of the Sailing Season?

We are going to be getting Robinetta out of the water for the winter at Fairlie Marine, and putting her in their shed for some TLC. That will happen sometime in October, but we have no firm plans to sail her again before that (although we hope for some time in September...) That meant we needed some where to keep her until then.

We investigated possibilities, and leaving her at Holy Loch Marina turned out to be the best. They offered us their summer mooring rate, rather than a monthly visitor rate, and she will be safer in a marina with someone keeping an eye on her than on a mooring.

This morning we moved Robinetta from the visitor's area to a berth much closer to the marina office, and put her covers on. Worm is ashore and upside down to keep her dry. Leaving them both with an "end of the season" feeling in July feels sad, but we have had nearly six weeks on board already, and Julian doesn't have much holiday left!

Sunday, 26 July 2015

Colintraive to Holy Loch

We came off the mooring at 0655, and motored down the East Kyle, with what little wind there was ahead of us. It was a grey morning, but dry, with good visibility, and within the hour we had the sails up and were on a close reach past Port Bannatyne. After that the trip just got better! The sky brightened and showed us some blue, and we had a lovely sail up the Cowal coast, only having to tack once as we rounded Towards Head. We started with full main, and ended up with it as reefed as it can get, but we carried the no2 jib and staysail the whole way.

By the time we reached Holy Loch the sky had clouded over, and the seas were getting up, but we had timed it pretty perfectly. Going head to wind we shook the reef out before towering the main, then motored into the marina and onto the fuel dock. The only thing wrong with today's sail was the temperature. I look forward to sailing when not wearing full oilskins on top of four layers!

Saturday, 25 July 2015

St Ninian's Bay to Colintraive

Got up in a very leisurely fashion again, 1000 before we finished breakfast! However we did have the sail covers off, the jib bent on, and the end of the stay-sail's self tacking track repaired before we ate...

The knob that stops the stay-sail sheet car sliding off the end of the track had been jury rigged ever since we bought Robinetta. Every time we try to put something permanent in place it comes off! We had ignored the current “temporary” set up of gaffer tape, washers and screw for too long, and it needed replacing.

After breakfast Julian went forward to haul the anchor up. It had held us securely all night, and saw no reason to shift now! We had to motor forward to take the weight off the chain before he could move it, but it came up clean. We tried sailing once we were out of the bay but progress was too slow even after we tried the reaching sail, and changed up to the no 1 jib, so the engine went back on and we headed up the West Kyle towards Tighnabruaich.
Once there we anchored and had lunch, then rowed ashore in search of ice cream. Tighnabruaich was bustling! The paddle steamer Waverley was moored up at the pier, the life boat station had an open day and a raft race had just finished. The weather was glorious too; bright warm sunshine!
Once back on Robinetta Julian decided that his trousers were too filthy to wear to the pub we were heading for. Due to a packing error he only had one pair with him, so he got back into Worm and washed them over the side, using Ecover washing up liquid, rather than laundry detergent. They are “solar dry” Craghoppers, so there was every chance they would be dry by the time we reached our destination!

Once back on Robinetta we raised the main and sailed off the anchor without turning the engine on, which is not something we do often! Julian reported twice the anchor's weight in kelp hanging off it when he hauled it up! The old fashioned fisherman's anchor has really worked well for us this trip.

We sailed in fluky winds to and through the Burnt Isles to Colintraive, on the edge of gybing several times, but never actually doing it. The Clyde Cruising Club directions says how variable the winds can be here, and they went from a fine reach to a dead run with hardly a moment's notice. As the wind speed varied between force 1-3 it was interesting and fun, rather than hard work. We got the sails down at Colintraive, ready to pick up a mooring, but left the staysail up as we often do. This was a mistake here, as it kept blowing Robinetta's head round making us look like amateurs, but once we dropped the sail steering became simple and we picked up the buoy without any other problems.

We looked at the weather in the pub that evening, and decided on an early start. Tomorrow afternoon promised F6 gusting 7-8, with rain. It would be good to be safely in Holy Loch Marina before then.

Friday, 24 July 2015

Lamlash to St Ninian's Bay via Dunagoil Bay

We had a very lazy start to the day... With very little wind and bright sunshine we raised the main on the mooring to shake out yesterday's reefs. With the stay-sail and no.1 jib there was just enough wind to sail off the mooring. Then we raised the reaching sail and furled the jib, to make 1-2 knots towards the south end of Holy Isle. We even got the old stay-sail out and rigged a water sail... The main point was to dry the sails, but it made a lovely contract to yesterday's foredeck work!

Holy Isle

We lost steerage way after an hour, and were still in Lamlash bay, so the engine went on, and at 3.5 knots instead of .5 we soon reached the red channel marker that marks the end of Holy Isle. Once there we found a little wind, but could only make 2 knots under sail, heading due east. The engine soon went back on, and we headed north, back towards Bute, completing a circumnavigation of Holy Isle instead of Arran!

The seas were totally flat so the autopilot went on and we dropped the main sail.
I washed the inside of the cabin down with sea water to get rid of the black mould that was creeping back, and Julian straightened the winch handles and did some fishing (with no catch) while the weather went from warm sun, to light rain, then back again. We had no wind until after lunch, but as soon as we'd eaten the main went up again and we sailed (still on autopilot).

After a lovely gentle sail we dropped anchor in Dunagoil Bay. The water was so clear that we could see the sand 3m below. It was not especially sheltered with the wind now from the NW, so we decided not to spend the night, but we wanted to visit Dunagoil Fort, so I rowed ashore while Julian swam!

Watched by curious heifers we moored Worm to some rocks and set her anchor in the sand. An easy scramble along the shore brought us to Dunagoil Fort. A lovely place! We discovered house remains on the summit, plus our first chunk of vitrified fort. We also found fresh puffball mushrooms, and picked enough to add to our dinner.
Vitrified fort remnant

The row back to Robinetta into the swell was not as pleasant as the row to the beach, but not too difficult, and the anchor came up beautifully clean. We raised sail as we cleared the bay and set off best course to windward.

We beat north for a couple of hours. The tack towards Arran was depressing, the land being dark and far away, while the sun was in my eyes so I could not easily check the sail set. The swell got up, and I wondered about reefing. Then we tacked, and had the sun behind us, and Bute to admire. We also sped up, from a slogging 3 knots to 4, and this was the making tack!

We approached St Ninian's Bay, our intended overnight anchorage, and were not sure we had made the right choice. There was one yacht already in there, and it did not look especially sheltered. Clyde Cruising Club directions said to anchor in 8-9m, which is deeper than we like. We got the sails down in the bay, and it was calmer than it looked, then as we were motoring towards our chosen anchoring spot another yacht came in under motor and passed us. They were obviously more aware of us than it seemed, and left the area we were aiming for clear.
St Ninian's Bay anchorage

Once the anchor was dropped and set we realised that the anchorage was great. Despite the cold wind above decks it was peaceful below with no rocking at all, and we had an undisturbed evening, watching gannets fish on the other side of the bay.

Thursday, 23 July 2015

Kilchattan to Arran

About 0430 Robinetta started to roll, just like she had in Craighouse last year. By 0500 it was too bad to sleep, so we got up and by 0520 we had the anchor up and were motoring out of the bay. Our destination was Arran. Julian wanted to do a circumnavigation of the island, so we hoped to make Cambeltown, then back up the west side to Loch Ranza tomorrow. I suggested that we might want to motor the 3 miles to Great Cumbrae and have breakfast at Millport, but it was a very vague idea and Julian made a cup of tea instead, He had just hauled up the anchor, and raised the main. We kept the reef in from yesterday.

By the time we were clear of the bay the source of the swell that had woken us was obvious; the sea state in the Clyde was higher than yesterday. The wind was strong too, certainly more than the 4-5 of the forecast. We had not put yesterday's jib away, so Julian had just hoisted the same one this morning. It was the no 1, too large for today's winds, so Julian went forward to change it for the no 2. He got soaked as Robinetta repeatedly ducked her bowsprit in the water, sending lumps of spray over the foredeck. The drenching was worth it though, as the jib made Robinetta much easier on the tiller, but the seas were pretty horrid. Without the engine we slowed to under 3 knots, and the waves stalled her, so we needed the engine on all the time to make progress, as more sail had her heeling too much for safety.

The promised 4-5 SW with slight seas turned out to be 5 gusting 6 with moderate seas. Our next reef down meant dropping the stay sail, which meant another soaking trip to the foredeck for Julian as the stay-sail never wants to come down even though the halyard can be dropped from the cockpit. Then the stay-sail sheet shackle came off the end of the club foot so he made a third trip forward to secure it.

Meanwhile I stayed on the helm and motor sailed our best course to windward. We reefed the main another few rolls as a rain cloud brought stronger winds and steeper seas, then we finally got some protection in the lee of Arran. Conditions were too nasty to want to carry on.

By 1000 we were in Lamlash Bay, and we picked up a mooring at 1020. The wind was still fierce but there were no long swells to make to make Robinetta roll, so after a cup of tea I made porridge, then Julian cooked bacon rolls. After that we went back to bed. 5 hours of challenging sailing before breakfast is exhausting!

Waking at 1430 we got a second line on the mooring buoy, and made Robinetta ship shape, with the jib away and the sail covers on. The wind was still too gusty to want to row ashore, but there was sunshine, so we hung up the oilys and life jackets to dry in the cockpit, and did some maintenance work, then relaxed in the cockpit with a drink and snacks. The wind was dropping, but there were still gusts that would make if unpleasant to row ashore (although fast to row back!)
Pequita moored at Lamlash

By 5 all the visitor moorings were full, and the moorings boat came by, and took our money. Then we had another visitor. We had met Luke, who owns the twister Pequita, at Tarbert, and he keeps her at Lamlash. We were moored close to his boat, and he saw us there and came over for a chat. After that he very kindly gave us a tow ashore in Worm so we could go to the pub for dinner.

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

A walk from Kilchattan

The walk from Kilchattan bay to Dunagoil Bay and St Blane's Church then over the hills and back to Kilchattan is pretty near perfect. There are standing stones, wonderful views, an atmospheric ruined church, and abandoned farmsteads, so lots to see!

There is wild life too. I saw a deer bounding away from us, and we both saw a pair of buzzards (or two) overhead. They were difficult to photograph, but Julian got a lovely shot of a gold finch.

It took us two hours, and if we had had another hour we would have detoured to see Dunagoil fort, but as it was we did not get back to Robinetta until 2100.

Holy Loch to Kilchattan Bay

After a day ashore in Dunoon we wanted to get sailing again, so got away from the marina by 0920. A very broad reach down Holy Loch gave us hope that we would be able to reach down the Clyde, but unfortunately that turned out to be a funnelling effect; when we got into the Clyde we were having to beat. With very little wind, and a fair amount of swell, we put the engine on and motored until the wind got up.

The weather was a bit dreary again, with drizzle and occasional rain, but the rain brought more wind, and by the time we were off Kip we had turned the engine off. We furled the jib and reefed during one rain squall, but then got everything up again when our speed dropped to 2 knots. The engine went back on for half an hour, then we needed a reef back in.... It was a day when wind strength varies between f2 and f6, but once in the Clyde the direction was pretty constantly SW. At 1300 the rain stopped altogether, and the sky had some blue in it.

As we sailed between Great Cumbrae and Bute Julian asked me to check on the identity of some rocks he could see off the south end of Bute. There were none on the chart, and with the aid of binoculars we realised that we could see a surfaced submarine being escorted north by a number of smaller vessels. Very interesting to see it!
We intended to anchor in Kilchattan bay, but had two contrasting suggestions as to where to drop the hook. The charts put the anchorage on the north side of the bay, off a gently sloping beach. It looked idyllic, but there was a yacht already anchored there that seemed to be rolling a bit. The Clyde Cruising Club directions (2004 edition) give precise instructions for anchoring on the south side, near the houses and between a jetty and a pier. We decided to check it out.
Unlike the north the shore looked rocky, and there was only a small area with the right depth. There was one mooring laid. We motored around for a bit, getting the sails down, and decided the shelter was good enough that it was worth trying to anchor.

We found the right spot and dropped the anchor. It held, so we decided to go ashore for a walk.

Monday, 20 July 2015

Wreck Bay to Holy Loch

Despite the name Wreck Bay is a very good anchorage, perfectly sheltered overnight. Worm behaved herself too, and we slept in, not stirring until 0800. I blame the Belfast Coastguard! They broadcast the weather report a full hour later than Stornoway, so there is no incentive to be awake at 0700.

Anchored in Wreck Bay
Lowering clouds had replaced yesterday's sunshine, and our tentative plans to explore the Burnt Isles and the vitrified fort did not survive the weather. We set off at 1100, motoring through the Burnt Isles then down the Eastern Kyle with very little visibility. We decided to make for Holy Loch, so we could spend the day ashore in Dunoon if the weather got no better tomorrow.

It alternately rained and drizzled all day, and the wind was on the bow until we turned up the Firth of Clyde. We got the sails up, and had half an hour of sailing until the wind died away, then the engine went on again. The contrast with yesterday was extreme!

Once tied up in Holy Loch Marina we put the cockpit cover on, and ate dinner on board as there were no restaurants in easy reach. The marina staff had told us there was a pub in the village, so we left Robinetta and spent the evening there, using the Internet and soaking up the warmth.

Sunday, 19 July 2015

Leaving Loch Tarbert

After a crew breakfast and awards at the Tarbert Hotel the final event of the Traditional Boat Festival was a sail past on Loch Fyne. We motored out of the harbour near the front of a pack of boats, then got our sails up and had a lovely sail with a variety of traditional boats; everything from converted fishing boats to a varnished wood Antigue Classics racing yacht. Julian took some great pictures.

Some of the boats went back into Tarbert, but many headed straight home. We sailed across to Portavadie Marina, just across Loch Fyne. We needed diesel after our days of motoring south and Loch Tarbert only has it available Monday to Friday.

Portavadie Marina is too new to be on our chart plotter, and a fish farm confused us slightly but we found the entrance and got the sails down. A fender went overboard while Julian was tying them on, but we picked it up without problems and headed in. Julian called them up on the VHS and we got a reply!

We headed straight for the fuel dock and someone was waiting there when we arrived. We had been warned that the fuel was expensive compared to Loch Tarbert, so we just filled the tanks, not the cans, but the whole process was very time effective. It only took half an hour from getting the sails down to raising them again, then we were off on a glorious sail to the Kyles of Bute.

The scenery was spectacular, and the weather perfect; blue sky, force 3-4 wind, and calm sea, The wind dropped as we approached Kames, so we furled the jib and put the engine on to motor along the shore and look at Tighnabruaich. Julian spotted some gannets diving, and decided he wanted to have a go at fishing too. He got out the new mackerel line he bought at Tarbert and streamed it out behind.

I put the engine in neutral and we sailed very slowly (½knot) along the shore towards Tighnabruich. For the first time ever we caught fish! Two beautiful mackerel took the lure, so that was dinner sorted!
The wind came up again, so the engine went off and we sailed up to the Butt of Bute. The wind dropped away again there, so we got the engine on and since it was 1900 and we were close to where we wanted to anchor we got the sails down. We had a look in Caladh Harbour, a very popular anchorage, but it was full as expected, and there was already a yacht in the tiny anchorage by One Tree Island we had been recommended to try. We ended up anchored in 3m of water in the scarily named Wreck Bay. There were already 2 boats there, but there was plenty of room for us.

Julian cleaned and cooked the mackerel for dinner. Delicious!

Tarbert Traditional Boat Festival

There are many tarberts in Scotland. The word means an ithsmus or boat porterage. The best known separates the Kintyre peninsula from Knapdale. West Loch Tarbert is a remote anchorage but East Loch Tarbert has a fine village, fish dock and marina. I have been there twice before, once years ago in a charter yacht and then on Bonify during the Round Britain in 2013. This year the traditional boat festival fell in the middle of a two week cruise on Robinetta. When we were planning our holidays we didn't know where Robinetta would be. We hoped to visit the Outer Hebrides in May but expected to be somewhere closer to the Clyde.

Then we ended up leaving Robinetta in Stornoway and arranging to keep her in Fairlie for the winter. So we wanted to be in the Clyde but were 180 nm away. We weren't sure we wanted to try to get to the festival, or just sail. When we got to Stornoway the weather was fine but with not much wind so we decided to motor sail south and keep our options open.

We called the organisers and got a programme. It sounded relaxed and fun. The tiller pilot was doing most of the work so we had two long enjoyable days getting to Crinan and then got to Cairbaan on Thursday night. On Friday the wind was a strong southerly. Perfectly wrong. We fought it down to Tarbert. We think we were the only boat to leave the canal that day.

We arrived in Tarbert to a great welcome. Most boats had arrived the day before to avoid the strong winds. There was a grand collection of boats, both local and visitors. The biggest was Cruinneag III, a beautiful varnished bermudan cutter ketch built in Tarbert by Dickies in 1936. The smallest was a Drascombe Skaithe. The two boats from farthest afield were Lassie of Chester, a Nobby from Bangor and a motor cruiser from Wisbech. At least four boats were from Arran, Pequita a Twister from Lamlash and three boats from Lochranza, a Hillyard 2 1/2  tonner, a Memory 19 and a larger old wooden yacht. Local boats included festival organiser Hans Kok's 1918 gaff ketch Makkemok. As well as many sailing vessels there was a good selection of converted fishing boats One must not forget the longship Freydis hand built by festival organiser Phil Robertson for his other event, the Viking Festival. Saturday's barbecue was a fund raiser for Phil's aspiration to take her to Norway to participate in festivals there.

The primary public purpose of the event is to give locals and tourists the opportunity to walk around and look at the boats and talk to the owners. We spent most of Saturday and part of Sunday morning aboard with our hastily scribbled sign showing people around and answering questions.

For the participating crews it was mostly about the craic, but also about sharing skills and knowledge. Douglas, a lad from Loch Ranza had just migrated from dinghies to his first larger boat, a Memory 19 called Odyssey which had not been looked after by her previous owner. He had been shown how to sail gaff rig by his friend Robert a self declared 'sea gypsy' with Storm Petrel, a tiny Hillyard. I helped Douglas set up his bobstay tension and when the wind died there was a big topsail debate. The general feeling was that it was too big to sheet.

There was a boat moored on our pontoon flying an OGA 50 flag but somehow we never got to meet the folks on board.

We had a reception on Friday evening with good music from local musicians and a fine ceilidh with country dancing and rock covers on Saturday night. It poured with rain and the midges were out in force but we had a grand time.

Saturday afternoon also saw a greasy pole competition and the village raft race.  Those able to get out to the end of the greasy pole, grab a bottle and bring it back won a bottle of whisky. The hard part was turning round after getting the bottle, but a few managed it.

On Sunday morning, many nursing sore heads, we gathered for a great breakfast in the Tarbert Hotel which some will remember from the RBC for its kippers. A low key prize giving completed the formal proceedings but it was agreed by vote that we would do a sail past in the loch. The weather was starting to clear up as we left the pontoon and although it was still cloudy we had a good breeze and lovely backdrops to the collected boats. After an hour we scattered to home ports or next destinations.
Cruinneag III

Swn y Mor

Lassie of Chester

Friday, 17 July 2015

Into Loch Fyne

After a peaceful night at Cairnbaan we headed off down the canal at 0900, into an obvious headwind. The early forecast was still for SW force 5-7 occasionally 8, but the wind did not feel that strong in the canal. Two large modern yachts locked into the canal basin at Ardrishaig as we prepared to lock out. They reported that it was rough in Loch Gilp, but we decided to give it a go anyway. It is less than 10 miles from Ardishaig to Loch Tarbert, and we were determined to get to the festival!

We got the bowsprit out and the jib bent on in lock no 2, but there was no chance to raise the main and put reefs in it. We got the stay sail up in the sea lock, then motored out at 11.00, letting Worm out onto a long line as we went.

We were never tempted to unfurl the jib, or raise the main to reef it. Even the stay-sail kept her heeled! We beat down Loch Gilp and into Loch Fyne on stay-sail and engine, keeping up a steady 2-3 knots. The seas were Robinetta friendly, in that they did not stop her, but that was due to the fact that we were sailing across them, not straight into them as we would have been just on engine.

We reached East Loch Tarbert at 15.30 after what turned out to be a pleasant time on the water. Robinetta rolled a bit, and took the occasional wave over the bow with spray coming aft into the cockpit, but she felt solid and safe. The gusts were fierce, but too short to cause us problems. Worm had followed along in her normal problem free fashion, arriving with no water in her at all!

People were waiting to take our lines, others came along to chat and admire Robinetta. The Tarbert Traditional Boat Festival is run by very friendly folk.

Thursday, 16 July 2015

Black Isles to Cairnbaan

We woke to cloudy skies and after another fine breakfast we raised sail and for the first time for as long as I can remember we sailed off the anchor.
The other yacht crews were up and about too and the bermudan, now identified as a Hallberg-Rassey left behind us. The folks on the ketch took our picture as we passed and I took theirs.

We were so busy enjoying the view that we went the wrong side of Lunga and only noticed because there was no rip.  We turned back and crossed into the Sound of Luing and sped down towards the Dorus Mhor.

The skies had cleared into a gorgeous morning as we arrived at Crinan but the lock was full and we had to wait so we picked up a spare mooring. We locked in with a large bermudan yacht and tied up by the café. It was lunchtime so we used the facilities and bought some paint at the chandlers.

Then it was time to leave. We wanted to get to the Ardrishaig basin but we ran out of time getting through the locks, and had to stop for the night at Cairnbaan. It almost felt like we had come home. Our Journey to the West was over.

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Canna to the Black Isles

Early morning at Canna
We didn't want to go down the Sound of Mull again so we looked for a route around the west of Mull. Rubh Ardlanish has an anchorage liked by both Martin Lawrence and the Antares folks. It is about 50 miles from Canna and 30 from the Dores Mhor so we made it today's 'plan A'. We both woke around 4 but couldn't face getting up so we went back to sleep until the 5:30 alarm. I made the tea as usual and we bounced into action. Ok, bounced might be over-stating it.

Coming in so late in calm weather, we had done the bare minimum of putting her to bed. The peak halyard and jib were still in place so we just had to unfrap the halyards, fit the stay-sail halyard and free the tiller and we were ready to go.

But first breakfast. Stornoway black pudding, fried tomato, bacon and egg.

Then Alison started the engine and I hauled the chain up. The anchor came free really easily with only a little kelp. Anchor stowed, we raised the stay-sail and tensioned the bob-stay and we were off. Hardly any more work than coming off a buoy.

A ketch motored off ahead of us and a sloop raised sail on the mooring and followed us. We left just after 7 and for the second day in a row heard no weather forecast. A mystery we would solve later in the morning.

Once clear of Canna we went head to wind and got the main up. Back on course it was clear that there was enough wind to sail, but not to make 4 knots so we motor sailed.

The route took us around Coll and down the west side of Mull. I wanted to pass east of the Treshnish Isles and down past Staffa but a read of the pilot and the tide tables on the way to Coll told me we would be fighting strong tidal streams that way. So Alison laid in a course outside the Treshnish Isles and Iona.

The weather was stunning, showing off the very best of Rhum, Eigg, Muck and Coll with distant vistas of Ardmamurchan under puffy cumulus clouds with stratos and cirrus above.

I didn't hear the 10:10 weather either. Alison checked the radio and the volume was turned right down. Mystery solved. She had tried to turn it off yesterday by turning it down like we did with the old radio and not turned it up again. This morning I had turned it on and assumed the volume was still as I had left it.

We discussed the options for Thursday. Rubh Ardalanish would be a good place to get to the Corryvreckan or the Sound of Luing. It was near springs so the former was only attractive at HW slack. That was too early or too late. The latter was Ok at any favourable tide. The trouble was the favourable tide was 6:45 to noon. That meant a 2 or 3 am start. If the weather was fine we should go further on to Carsaig. Plan B.
Dutchman's Cap

We couldn't quite make the course to leave the Dutchman's Cap to port and the gap between it and Lunga looked wide enough that the tide should be weak so we deferred the decision and motor sailed best course to windward as I cooked scotch pies in the Omnia. After lunch it seemed we could nearly make the course and  would sail better past Iona if we pinched around the outside. That worked nicely.

Finally at 13:10 we got a weather forecast. It was fine to go on to Carsaig. We would get a night's sleep.

Then the machine screw I fitted last year in Peterhead when the weld failed on the tiller pilot attachment sheared off. Alison helmed while I found the packet of machine screws, sawed one to length and fitted it.

Iona looks almost uninhabited from the west at first. One house peeps out through the rocks, then more appeared as we sailed past.

As we turned the corner the wind dropped and the tide kicked in in our favour and we headed east at 51/2 knots. It got very hot out of the breeze and we peeled layers off including the legs of my Craghoppers. T shirt and shorts at last! 7pm and we had to put sun tan lotion on.

We passed the Rubh Ardalanish anchorage almost without noticing it. Carrying on was the right idea. We would be 10 miles closer in the morning.

But Carsaig was horrid. The wind funnelled down the valley and the anchorage was tiny and the wind would blow us towards the rocks. The Black Isles were 2 hours away, we would be there by midnight. Plan C.

The wind calmed down as soon as we were away from Carsaig. It was dark but we could still see as we entered the anchorage. The Garmin chart plotter was pretty useless but the Navionics charts on my tablet were ideal.

There were already three boats in there, a gaff ketch, a lug schooner and a bermudan sloop. Our gaff cutter added perfectly to the mix!

Anchoring was simple and the shelter and holding good. We settled down for a quiet night.

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Sailing South from Stornoway

The alarm went at 4am, but it was 0450 before we'd drunk our tea and packed the bedding away. We hoisted sail on the mooring and sailed off, with only 15 seconds of engine assist to get us clear of the buoy and give us steerage way past the moored boats. We were very slow getting clear of Stornoway bay (1½-2 knots) but we sailed anyway.

We laid in a course for Barra, but did not expect to get there. It was a wish that could only come true if the wind stayed west, and it was due to go south west. At sailing speed we would not get there until gone midnight. By 8am we knew it would not happen as the wind was on the nose, and we changed our plan, heading south of the Shiants then diagonally across the Minch and down the west coast of Skye. We needed the engine to sail this course too, but at least the wind was helping, until it died away to nothing. The autopilot went on for the first time this year, and by 1500 we had the main down since it was doing nothing.

There were compensations for the motoring. We had blue sky and sea, glorious sunshine and scenery, and the air was warm enough for both us us to lose layers of clothing! There were small family groups of guillimots sitting on the water, and occasional solitary puffins. Gannets and fulmers flew overhead, but they were rare. Not as rare as yachts though! I spotted only 4 all morning.

We phoned Loch Tarbert (Lock Fyne) where we are booked into a traditional boat festival as we passed Loch Pooltiel and had phone signal.We booked ages ago, when we were first planning our trip, and before we decided to leave Robinetta in Stornoway, and have not really looked at the programme. There were no details when we booked, so we wanted to check it was actually going to happen! It is, starting on Friday with a reception, so that is our aiming point, timewise. There are high winds forecast for the following Sunday so we want to be somewhere sheltered then anyway. We do not have long to get there, but that is okay.

We got the main back up just off Neist Point when we got some wind, but it soon went (the engine was only off for 5 minutes.) There was a bit of swell off the lighthouse; two tide regimes meet here, and for a while we were slowed to 3 knots. We had lost the tide that helped us down the Minch now and progress slowed. We decided to head for an anchorage in Loch Bracadale and stay there for the night. Our ETA showed as 22.00, so we would still have light to anchor.

By 19.10 we were off An Dubh-sgeir, with a lovely view of Macleod's Maidens, and about to head into Loch Bracadale, but the ext forecaste changed out plans. By Thursday afternoon, when we were planning to go through the Corryvrecken there was a force 7 in the forecast. That is way too much wind to even think of taking Robinetta near the place.

With the benign conditions of this evening it made sense to push on as far as possible, to give ourselves more time to take the route through the Sound of Luing on Thursday morning's favourable tide, so we abandoned the unexplored beauty of Loch Bracadale, and headed towards Canna. We would not arrive until Midnight, but it is a familiar place, and if we felt up to it we could keep going and do an overnight passage. We raised sail again at 20.00 when the wind came in a little from astern, but there was not much of it, and the boom lifted with every swell, so it only helped a little. We got them down again at 22.30 before it became totally dark.

There were a lot of fishing boats gathered on the north shore of Canna, obviously after the same fish as the dolphins that swam past us at 23.00. The dolphins did not stop to play, just swam past at speed, but it was lovely to see them again. We picked up Canna's pilotage lights, and headed into the harbour on the leading lights. Much easier to see at night than in the daytime!

As we had feared all the moorings were taken, and 3 boats were already anchored, but there was a good gap between the end of the moorings and one of the anchored boats, so we dropped our anchor there. Our anchor light has stopped working, so Julian hauled an LED lantern up the mast on the spare halyard. Then we turned in at 00.20, with the alarm set for 05.30.

Monday, 13 July 2015

Flying North

Flying from Stansted to Glasgow, to Stornoway is certainly an efficient way of getting north. The Stornoway plane sat on the runway at Glasgow for nearly an hour for some reason, but all that meant was that we only needed to wait 10 minutes for the bus that runs every 2 hours into the centre of Stornoway.
Both Julian and I were glued to the bus window, waiting for our first glimpse of Robinetta on her borrowed mooring. The relief when we saw her there, covers still in place, had us grinning at each other.

I spotted Worm too, upturned on the shore near a boat shed where we had left her. Her red anti-fouling looked unusually pink after a month exposed to the air.

We had lunch ashore, then did some shopping before heading round the bay to launch Worm. I tripped on the way and fell, bruising the palms of both hands quite badly. Not a good start! Putting any pressure on the heel of my hands hurts, but it does not feel like I've broken anything.

It seemed like a long walk after that, carrying luggage and shopping, but getting Worm across the beach and into the water was easy. Her oars and floor were safely stowed under the thwarts where we had left them, and she looked none the worse for wear.

We had been warned that sea birds would use Robinetta as a perch and they obviously had, but no worse than when we left her a month unattended at West Mersea and Julian got on with scrubbing the stern and cockpit cover while I went below and unpacked.

We had left our damp gloves hanging up in the cabin to air when we left. They were still damp when we returned and were growing a coating of green mould. Julian's hiking boots, left in the hanging locker, were the same, and our pillows were damp too. We would normally have put them in a dry bag, but this time they got left out accidentally. Not a good thing, and I realised I had forgotten to pack pillow cases too. My heart sank at the idea of using T-shirts over the damp pillows: we could do it if we had to, but there was a Tesco just over the water...

We got into Worm, with Julian rowing for a change, and headed for the town side of the bay. There is nowhere to leave a dingy there long term, but there is a broken slipway we could tie her to and walk up. It was high water, so the sewer pipe that runs parallel to the beach was covered, but not enough to let Worm float across with two of us in it. I  had my sea boots on, so got out while Julian stayed in the boat and floated to land dry shod on the beach.

I've had my sea boots for longer than we've had Robinetta, but it turns out that I should have replaced them, like Julian did. This was their first dip in the sea this season, and they both leaked. I walked round Tesco sloshing slightly (why didn't the water run out as quickly as it ran in?). Tesco had no pillowcases, but they did have pillows, so we bought a pair. I also got some cheap tea towels to sew together into cases, while Julian picked up some draw string bin bags to stow the new pillows in when we leave. Tesco also supplied a salad, and a hot chicken for our dinner. Bliss!

Julian phoned Donald Macsween, the generous owner of the mooring, to say thanks, and he replied no problem; it was good to have something keeping the ropes out of the water, so weed and barnacles could not make their homes on it.
We went to bed early, having decided on a 4 am alarm. The winds are forecast to go light tomorrow afternoon, so we want to use the wind while we can.

Wednesday, 8 July 2015


Before we fly north to Stornoway on Monday I decided I should post a reminder of one of the highlights of our June adventure.

As we sailed past Rhum towards Canna we encountered a large pod of dolphins. Taking still photos of moving dolphins is very difficult, but filming is much easier! You can see how much Robinetta was moving as well! She looks like she is sailing well, but we were cheating a little as we motor sailed to help her stay closer to the wind!