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Old 11-19-2010
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Another summer cruise,from over the pond

Having seen the beautiful images of jrd22's BC cruise I thought I would post a few photos and brief account of some sailing in Scotland.

Throughout the winter I had been thinking that the target for the summer would be St Kilda. We would leave Edinburgh with the mast down, westwards up the Forth , through the Forth Clyde Canal and then sail non stop from the Clyde to Barra, about 190nms, where the "Cruise" would begin. Hopefully in Barra we would meet other boats from our club, wait for a weather window and then sail west to St K. We would return through the Sound of Harris if the weather was OK otherwise back to Barra or round the Butt of Lewis. I hadn't really planned how to get home, by Orkney as in 2008, through the Caledonian Canal or back through the Forth Clyde, plenty of options.

In the two months before we were due to sail the weather was very settled, droughts on the island of Eigg and plenty of sun. I began to get suspicious thinking the weather would turn, as it usually does, for the start of the school holidays. It did, and with a vengeance.

The motor up the Forth, straight into the wind, was horrid, lots of spray, short steep seas. The Forth Railway Bridge looked good, even wrapped for repainting

The trip, with the flood up the River Carron was a nail biter. There is a low bridge where you have to get the depth of water and the air draught just right: with a four knot tide a mistake could be catastrophic.. And so into the canal basin, safely.

The next day the downpour started. It was miserable. We stopped for coffee at the Falkirk Wheel, well worth a visit, and got just past Kirkintillock to tie up by a reasonable pub. It was so windy I set up springs, in a canal!



Passing through Glasgow was uneventful, great support from the Waterways team, the sail through Fish and Chip shop was interesting but then we were halted by a tree blown down across the canal.Yes, stormbound in a canal. We had to moor under a footbridge which felt a bit vulnerable



We lost a day between getting the mast back up and the tides being at the wrong time but finally escaped the canal to head west round the Mull of Kintyre and then to Barra. Unfortunately the weather thought differently, 5-6 from the SW, definitely not the wind for the MoK so it was off to another canal, Crinan, and more rain.



We left the canal, getting the start of the flood through the Dorus Mhor, an up to 7 knot tidal gate, up the Sound of Luing, across the Firth of Lorne and into the Sound of Mull still with the tide, and all the way up the Sound, with a stop in Tobermory for supplies, to Kilchoan on the South side of the Ardnamurchan peninsula. There, my friend John who was the crew left the boat. He lives in Ardnamurchan.

Crinan to Kilchoan was 45 nms and by then it was about eight in the evening. The weather at that point was OK but the forecast was talking about a 6-7 from the north "later". I did not really want to be stuck in Loch Sunart or Tob. so thought I would just sail on to Canna, another 28 nms, get there before the storm and hopefully meet up with some friends. So off I went, alone.

Unfortunately the Met Office were wrong with the "later", they should have said "imminent". It started getting a bit bouncy between Ardnamurchan Point and Muck and then nasty betweem Muck and the lee of Rhum. Three reefs in the main, not much jib and pitch dark. Not fun.

I would have been happy going into Canna harbour in the middle of a calm "braw, moonlicht nicht" but thought it unwise to try it in most of a gale, yet more heavy rain and little visibility so I hove to in the lee of Rhum.

Heaving to is great: suddenly the noise stops and every thing becomes calm. The visibility was so bad that the light on Hyskeir a major light about 8 nms away was lost as was the minor light Sanday, 4 nms away.

As dawn broke, and still in torrential rain I started the motor, set off straight into the wind and made it to Canna. The pilot books warn that the holding in Canna harbour is poor which was a bit of a worry. I had not quite worked out how I would manage the boat in a gale in a tight harbour whilst lifting and the re dropping the anchor. Which is why I have a new 16kg Manson Supreme and 35 ms of chain then a whole lot more multiplait. Fortunately the anchor worked first time but I still stood out in the rain taking cross bearings before I went to sleep. Crinan to Canna, 73nms, about 20 hours.

The gale blew out that day, the sun shone, my gear dried out, I met two sets of friends, life in Canna was good.

The remainder of the passage across the Minch was relaxing, plenty of basking sharks and a pair of killer whales, gentle winds and easy sailing. I made a landfall at Loch Skipport, South Uist and anchored in the pool Coalas Mhor, a truly perfect place





Then it was Rodel in Harris: I decided to go into the little harbour that dries out, a rarity on the west coast. I could have anchored in the bay but there was another gale forecast, too much for the inflatable, and I didn't fancy being stuck out at anchor.



After a two night stop at Rodel I made it up to Stornoway, the rain continued but the Hebridean Celtic Music Festival was great. The festival went on for three nights, a big tent in Lewis really is the place for a Runrig gig. What a night.

I then thought I would make my way south back down the east coast of the outer Hebrides to Barra. I had been told about the Cafe Kismul, home of the best Rogan Josh west of Glasgow, the Vatersay Boys were due to play in the Castlebay Hotel and I wanted to see the beech airstrip. By this time I had given up on St Kilda, the weather was just too unsettled.

Going south from Stornoway you have to catch the tide through the Sound of Shiant, a nasty place when the wind is against tide. I set off at the right time for the tide, engine on with no wind. Just as I got to Uisenish, ready to turn south the motor started to make a dreadful banging noise. I shut it down and tried the sails, no wind and the tide setting me south towards Uisemish and into the sound.

I decided that with an engine problem I was better off heading for the mainland, more spares, more mechanics, so I turned east to pass north of the Shiants but there was still not enough wind. I discovered that if I ran the engine at full throttle the banging stopped so offf I went, north of the Shiants, across the Minch to Badachro in Loch Gairloch, back on the mainland. This vessel, approaching from my port bow, gave way, turned and went round my stern.


In Badachro I decided the engine had a fuel problem so I checked the primary filter, discovered a lot of water and drained it. I didn't have a spare secondary filter so I decided to sail south to Mallaig where there would be supplies.

So, after a gentle run down the Inner Sound, most of an overnight on a mooring off Kyleakin, a departure before light to get through the Kylerea tidal gate I got to Mallaig as the next gale came in. Time for new filters and an oil change.

The following day was tremendous , a perfect wind from the north, time to try for Barra again. Out of Mallaig, south of Sleat Point, north of Rhum, north of Canna and off across the Minch. I had a day to spare so thought I would check out Eriskay before going down to Barra.

Looking back towards Mallaig and Knoydart

Passing south of Sleat Point

Leaving Canna astern

Eriskay ahead

The sailing was perfect


Eriskay was good, a perfectly sheltered anchorage, a lovely island with wild Eriskay ponies wandering about and a strong Gaelic speaking culture.
Acarsaid Mhor, Eriskay


Unfortunately in Eriskay I met the vanguard of a fleet of 120 yachts converging on Barra for the centenary celebrations of the Clyde Cruising Club. That sounded to me like congestion and crowds so the next day I departed Eriskay for Soay Harbour, Soay, just south of Skye. This time the wind had gone into the south so the return across the Minch was just as good a sail as the outbound leg. Lucky at last.

Soay Harbour is where Gavin Maxwell(Ring of Bright Water) had his basking shark fishing base


Then a day down to Arisaig, halliard wrapped around the radar reflector so I had to motor, a night on a mooring, then off round Ardnamurchan Point in very poor visability and into Loch Drumbuie, another fine spot. After that up Loch Sunart to Salen where I left the boat on a mooring for a week.

When I sailed again my friend John was back aboard and we decided to return to Edinburgh through the Caledonian Canal but first we took a diversion south to Belnahua, one of the so called Slate Islands in the Sound of Luing. Most of the island has been removed leaving deep water filled "lagoons"


The next day we sailed up the Firth of Lorne, throug the Sound of Shuna, caught the tide through the Corran Narrows and into the sealock at Corpach.

The Caley canal was quite relaxing, good weather, no rain, easily managed locks,

Loch Ness


Once out of the canal at Inverness it was eastwards out of the Moray Firth with nights at Lossiemouth and Whitehills, both very pretty harbours, unspoilt villages although I would not recommend the Indian in Lossie. The entrance to Whitehills is good fun.

Then it was round the fearsome Rattray Head, we stayed about three miles offshore so it was not too bad, and into the excellent marina in Peterhead Harbour

The next day there was a stiff wind out of the north which, with the strong tide on that coast had us the the 36nms down to Stonehaven in just under 6 hours. We were in Stonehaven for just another six hours to let the foul tide go through then out we went in the pitch dark at 2330. The forecast was northerly, 4 to 5, 6 at times occ 7 in the south. We ran south through the night, two reefs and a bit of jib, most of the time at 5.5 knots with the seas building all the way down to Fife Ness. We ran out of wind in the Forth and motored the last 10 nms into Granton.

836 miles travelled, 358 alone.
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Old 11-19-2010
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Beautiful post ...I want to go...Thank you, all the links are great.
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Old 11-19-2010
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Absolutely gorgeous pictures!

I lived in Aberdeen for a year but I don't remember it due to being a tot at the time. However, I remember visiting Loch Ness, Eriskay, and many of the other places you mentioned many years later when I lived in England. Did a lot of climbing with my father (predominantly in the Glencoe area, but really we made the Highlands our playground) up in your neck of the woods during the 8 years I was back in the UK.. Thanks for the fond reminders!

Ahh.. that's where we were introduced to Runrig and Silly Wizard.. Good times!

Beautiful country, beautiful writeup!
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Old 11-19-2010
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Great post about a great voyage... nicely done.

SOOOOO different from cruising in the PNW... amazing.
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Old 11-19-2010
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Great Post. thanks
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Old 11-19-2010
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Wow, just reading the locations sounds like poetry, and then the pictures back it up.

Thanks for posting.

-Argyle
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Old 11-19-2010
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As previously states, simply wonderful. Some of those shots were spectacular. I really love the old countries of Europe because you can SEE the history like in the picture with the deep lagoons and what was left of some houses/cottages.
Thanks for sharing such stunning sights!
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Old 11-19-2010
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Thanks for the nice words.

About 120 yachts turned up for the Clyde Cruising Club Centenary in Barra for the Vatersay beach party. About 40 of them had come from the US and Canada.

There were also a number of US and Canadian yachts at the Centenary Sunflower
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Old 11-19-2010
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Bloody Fantastic!! The sights there are amazing. Quite an adventure.

Love the shot of the boat high and dry. Wow.

Thanks for the thread.
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Old 11-19-2010
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What a great post and such beautiful pictures. Providing all the links was fantastic, like going along with you. Especially meaningful to me since this is the area where our clan (Davidson, Clan Dhai) originated from and I've always wanted to visit. I love the names ( Ardnamurchan Point and Muck and then nasty betweem Muck and the lee of Rhum) and the country is beautiful.
Thanks for sharing, this has my vote for post of the year. Well done.
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