Saturday, 8 July 2017

North to the light....

Another few weeks pass, another 500 or so miles slide past the keel and still we're heading north.....well why wouldn't we?

We crept out of West Loch Tarbert and continued northwards stopping briefly in Canna, another place we hadn't been to in several years and I'd forgotten how attractive it is with a good sheltered anchorage and visitor buoys available. The only open direction is from the east and when the wind duly turned easterly early the following morning we left, reefed, for the Hebrides. The winds were strong, the fog was thick and the rain too frequent. The Hebs remained invisible until we were much less than a mile from the shore and we were about to enact Plan B when we caught the dark outline of land and plunged on. I don't know if you have ever been in one of those situations when your mind races through “worst case scenarios” but this rapidly became one of them. A lee shore coupled with a narrow entrance and rolling waves. The entrance was a sharpish turn to port leaving the seas abeam. Thanks to some exceptional deck work from Bee we had the main down at the last minute to minimise the rolling and we motored slowly in against the ebbing tide toward the gap. It was narrow and had the engine packed in or faltered there wouldn't have been either time or space to get sails up. Inevitably you allow these thoughts to tumble through the mind working out possible solutions even though reality suggests there isn't much chance . Of course we got in, the seas moderated and we worked our way into another cracking Hebridean anchorage where one other boat lay.

A brief sail up to Loch Maddy, joined briefly by Bob Shepton and Dodo's Delight and then on to one of the summers objectives: across the Sound of Lewis and onto the west side of Harris. The sound was achieved reasonably easily apart from a bit of confusion with a couple of buoys and then onto the magic of the western coast. Several things struck us as we sailed gently toward our evenings anchorage. Firstly far more people lived this side than we had imagined and houses were dotted along the shore and hills and the beaches were a stunning white, almost Caribbean with the green sea breaking gently across the shore. True the folks strolling along had more than Speedos' on but...
Although we were initially disappointed at the anchorage it turned out to be very well sheltered even if room was restricted. However the following day gave us a wild ride with a fair bit of beating as we made it up Loch Roag. The east and west Roags are spectacular; well worth the effort to get here and a great chance to relax, gaze at the Callanish Standing Stones where we anchored one night and sort things out for the trip around the top of the Hebrides toward Orkney/Shetland.

We continued northwards with a hope of getting ourselves up to Shetland...of course the winds died come the evening and the prospect of a fast passage wandered off into never never land. We altered course for Orkney with its heaving tides and overfall's. Get the timing right and they remain a joy and a wonder...wrong and they represent, if you're lucky, a waste of diesel and a very slow passage. It rarely happens but this time it did and we hit the entrance to the Eynhallow Sound at exactly the right time and we swept through with speeds briefly reaching 10 knots before we were back under our own sail power at a more sedentary 4 or 5 k. A beat down to Kirkwall to anchor for the night and we were back in the Orkney's. After the drama of the Scottish west coast the Orkney's strike us as a tad tame, gentle hills rather than mountains and bays rather than dark foreboding lochs and those tides!! The only other time we came here I found myself completely freaked by them to the point we cut short the journey and went elsewhere. This time my mind seemed more at ease. The following day, luckily, didn't change it.

We left Kirkwall with the tide running strongly with us. The journey wasn't a long one but looked to be interesting from a nav viewpoint. Up the west side of Shapinsay we romped and in order not to get swept sideways I kept off the coast line somewhat, a tactic, had I read the pilot book properly, that could only end in disaster. We sailed straight into a particularly unpleasant and dangerous overfall where the seas suddenly became more than 2 metres high and determined to come aboard at every opportunity and direction. I bore away sharpish and back toward the island noting, the 50 degree difference between track and compass, and once sanity had been restored we looked aghast at where the course was taking us. Bee, thankfully, had earlier seen the southbound ferry come very close to the shore before swerving to starb'd which gave us some comfort and reassurance. The gap ahead looked very narrow and the “obvious” choice seemed to be further over to port. Across our path lay gnarly water and Bee went up the bow to watch for anything untoward but of course it was fine and we slid through and onto the next bit. The bay we'd picked was big, well over a mile wide but good shelter, out of the stream and had the benefit of a washed up pallet which we split and burnt. Ah the joys. Another day or so and we were leaving Orkney. We had thought of having a day off but the next bay on Sanday proved large and uninteresting. The wind, forecast to be light and fickle, was blowing a steady 12 knots at anchor and a quick check of the streams suggested we might just make use of the last of the favourable before it turned with a vengeance through the North Ronaldsway Firth. Well the forecast turned out to be correct and we didn't quite make the cut and struggled our way NE towards Fair Isle, that tiny island that is half way between Orkney and Shetland. I think we opted to stop there (and in part leave when we did from Sanday as the next day forecast was for stiff winds and a sub 40 mile trip sounded better than a 60+ mile trip) One of our better decisions we have to say. Fair Isle is a gem with one of the most interesting entrances you can a narrower version of St Johns Nwfld without the space inside and certainly not the houses. It is small, not tiny but certainly small. There is room to turn around and possibly anchor too but the wharf was available with two other boats tied (Dutch and Norwegian) already. We joined them. Up to the Bird Sanctuary building for a much needed shower, shuffled the boat along to allow another boat (French)to tie up astern of us before topping up the water tank. Birds were everywhere; puffins in the harbour; gulls nesting on the cliffs and we regretted not having the opportunity to remain. The charge is £12 for 4 nights and is well worth it. Wonderful place but with the winds forecast to pick up we wanted to get up to Shetland and so left before 5am the next day. Logically, to take full advantage of the tides we should have gone to Lerwick but we wanted to see the west side so opted for Scalloway. The winds weren't that strong perhaps 15k or so and with the favourable tide the seas remained flattish as did the view as a heavy mist or rain accompanied us. Sumborough Head remained hidden as we ran up the coast toward our destination. The entrance to the old capital of Shetland is behind several islands which do a great job of breaking up the seas that had now built up. As had the wind which was a constant 20 with higher gusts as we roared into the harbour before rounding up to drop the main. Scalloway has a boating club that provides a convenient pontoon for visitors, four of which were already tied up. We circled trying to see if we could squeeze into the gap on the lee side before opting to take our chances on the windy side. Easy to get into of course and the big balloon fenders we have kept us off. There we stayed for 3 nights as the wind came roaring out of the SW keeping us pinned to the jetty; not that much of a problem for a us but the 33' something behind us was suffering as too light to resist the waves that thumped into the hull or the wind that pushed the boat over, the boat began to suffer the following day, slamming constantly into the jetty when the winds picked up. We dug out several 100' foot lines to help pull the boat away from the jetty before creating, with another guy, Jason, a cats cradle of a bridle to try to improve the situation. Fenders were dug out of the forepeak to replace the ones that had been crushed and eventually while not perfect at least Paul, the owner, might be able to get a nights sleep. Blows pass of course and by Sunday all was settled, Jason was off to head around Rockall before continuing down to Ireland whilst the rest of us made plans to leave the following day as we did leaving one small 26' Francis to luxuriate in the space. Scalloway is a good stopover; the Club charges £15 a night that includes showers, washing machine & dryer and electric. A bus from outside the club takes you into Lerwick where a decent sized Tesco and Coop trade so stocking up is relatively simple. Fuel too is available across the harbour and we were sorted leaving around midday for Skeld. A gentle pootle through the islands ending in a beat up to the harbour. We'd opted to come here as some years ago we'd met the guy who runs the marina here – well we ended up not using the marina but anchored in the natural harbour outside. Like Fair Isle this is a great place to be. We loved it, rowing ashore to meet people, seriously considering it as a winter stopover. Jim, the guy we met was out with his son fishing so we had little chance to see him but perhaps on the homeward bound trip.

From Skeld we had a short but rewarding sail up to Walls, magnificent cliff scenery and an easy entry into this quiet harbour. With a very secure harbour that yachts can use if space is available and whilst it was we still chose to anchor clear of the channel and in less than 5 metre depths. No doubt about it the Shetland so far has had great and secure anchorages.

Another short leg saw us moving through the islands, fish farms and mussel lines before the inevitable beat up to Hamar Voe where the pilot book spoke of a secure anchorage with good holding. We just made it through the sound at Papa Stour having left Skeld late so suffered to tidal effects as we beat NE into a headwind. The entrance has the inevitable fish farm in it but easily enough room to get by. Rounding the bend in the voe Bee, gazing intently through the bino's said “There's a gaff ketch in the anchorage”. Given that she has a propensity to joke about such things I didn't believe her but there it was a 50' fishing boat that sported a gaff rig and was moored to a buoy as were several other boats. Our sheltered, quiet anchorage has been somewhat reduced in size by the sensible locals making good, permanent, use of it. It is a good anchorage, very well protected and land locked with good holding. We left today, after a quiet night, for Humna Voe when we should have known better. The forecast was for NE5-7 and whilst we had an easy and comfortable ride along the coast turning the corner had us running into it. The coast deflected the wind a little to NNE and the seas were definitely N and getting bigger the further the tack took us from the coast. Nevertheless all was going well and it was only for a short distance.....but doubts were growing...the next anchorage would be fine once we were in but we'd need to dump everything before we gained the shelter and the entrance was only 60 metres wide with rocks. When the winds hit 30k and then 33k more doubts crept in and our fate was sealed when we tacked, got into irons bore away and tacked again only to get several seas aboard that we looked at each other and both said “Lets go back” and we did bearing away to retrace our track. Probably the best decision we made of the day as the winds continued to build such that even in the comparatively sheltered waters of where we'd come from the seas and wind made life difficult. As ever Bee gets the foredeck sorted, sails down and main under control as we slowly, slowly made it back to the anchorage we'd left 20 miles previously.

And finally. The inevitable came to pass as our good friend Mike succumbed to the cancer that had ravaged him. Our paths had crossed numerous times since we met him and Eilean ten years ago in Graciosa including Senegal and the very end he was compiling his working list for Cooya but no more. We will miss him.

60 28.32N
001 26. 36W
Humar Voe

Thursday, 8 June 2017

West, west

We left the sanctuary of Millbrook on a fine spring evening for somewhere else. Within 400 metres I had managed to run aground twice but a flooding tide (and more attention) had us off and away to Cawsand where we anchored for a couple of nights, sorting things out and gearing ourselves up mentally for another summer of wandering.

A hectic day's sailing to Falmouth followed with decent speeds and exhilarating sailing which were made to feel pedestrian by several cats that came by us at double digit speeds....With very strong winds coming in over the next few days we remained at anchor in the harbour but headed off eventually for a non stop trip to Ireland. The first part involved too much motoring but we needed to be clear of Cape Cornwall, the circular tides and the shipping lanes before we could drift in comparative peace until the winds came in. The slow trip across was notable only for the fact that the self-steerer would only work in strong winds leaving us with hours of hand steering when the winds fell all to frequently light. But dawn arrived on the last day and we pulled gratefully into Schull (Skull) Harbour for a couple of days. It's a big, natural harbour but affords good shelter with excellent holding. We needed it of course as we sat out another 30knot plus blow.

Over the next few weeks we worked our way northwards; Valentia, Smerwick, Cashla and then a triumphant entry, through a stunningly green sea, into Clifden with the most spectacular accompaniment of leaping dolphins we have ever had. Even the local fishing boat crew stopped what they were doing to snap pics and watch several of the mammals exuberantly leap clear of the water by a couple of metres. There is no doubt in our mind that dolphins, detecting a boat in their “patch” will immediately come racing across the gap toward us then play in the bow wave, dive under the boat and seem to relish the chance to interact with us. I have no idea how many times we have seen dolphins over the last 17 years but they never cease to captivate and entertain.

We spent a week pottering around the Killery area, some days in Little Killery of which we wrote about enthusiastically on our first visit there some years back and then into Ballynakill. Although the two only a few miles apart they are very different with the latter having a feeling of openness and light. The bay we anchored in had reasonable depths – 5-6 metres, excellent holding and great views. The beat out the following day to Inishboffin took a lot of tacks as the channel is narrow, rocks available for chance encounters if you're not paying attention but on a sunny day it all made for a great day's sailing. A quick wander across to Cleggen the following day produced the first (only we hope) failure of the trip. As we turned the engine off after anchoring Bee thought she had pressed one of the buttons out of sequence and started it again to be sure all was ok........ Whilst the engine ran for some reason we now had no electrics at all and thrown by the failure seemingly connected to the engine controls that is where we concentrated our reasoning and fault finding. By the end of the day we'd only established that it was nothing to do with that but seemed to be coming from the Vetus 3 way switch. We went to bed in darkness knowing we'd have to sort it the next day. And eventually we did by checking the connections to the batteries and finding the negative lead connecting starter to house had come off! Just before we had left Millbrook we'd bought a pair of s/h winches from a guy up in Scotland who turned to be a Marine Electrician. We sent him a text asking if he care to advise us on what he though the problem might be and soon after we sorted it out came his suggestion that it might either be the Vetus or a faulty connection at the battery. We might well get John to undertake sorting out the nightmare that our electrics have become over the years!

Our time in Ireland was coming to an end; we needed to get up into Scotland to catch up with a terminally ill cruising friend and we left Cleggen bound for Rhu. We'd managed to get the self-steer working, although mods are planned for the winter. We rounded Bloody Foreland and made good speeds toward the narrow gap that separates Ireland and Scotland. We were hopeful of making it through in one hit but as time was running out on the favourable tide we opted to slide into White Bay at the top of Lough Foyle. As we approached we had misgivings about its suitability but in the end it was a welcome stop. Good shelter and holding gave us an undisturbed night before heading on down to Raithlin Island where we anchored to await the change of tide. We had a choice of anchorages on the other side; about 20 mile away lay Sanda, the useful passage stop when rounding the Mull of Kintyre, Campbeltown or further on to Arran. We'd let the tide and wind dictate. Sanda was passed as we still had hours of favourable tide to go and we swept up to the easy entrance of Campbeltown, dropping anchor in the early evening.

The following morning came in still and foggy but we wanted to get a move on and so motored out of the bay and into more fog. A yacht passed us as we drifted, tooting its fog horn and minutes later we resorted again to the engine to make progress. But the fog passed, a breeze of sorts came in and we sailed slowly northwards. A “PAN PAN” on the vhf alerted us to a possible issue and the CG reported an overdue small aircraft. Reports started coming back from yotties that various bits of wreckage had been seen and then a body. All this just a few miles north of where we were. We slid into Loch Ranza for the night, staggered at the number of yots on mooring buoys (we joined them), watched a brigantine from Holland anchor at the head of the lock and then we left early the following day.

All in all we were about a week around Rhu, managing to see Mike and Eilean, in good spirits despite his illness before saying our farewells with a promise to drop in on the way back. We'd had a day or two away when we were in Rhu, managing an exhilarating sail down to Lamlash on Arran one evening and then motored back the following day. This time we opted for Rosneath before another early start with no clear idea of where we might end up. It began easily enough with a breeze that carried us south under main, genny and tops'l. The wind began to pick up but nothing to worry about and we carried on. When we began to get 20 knots I realised we'd still got the top up and we needed to get it down sharpish. Luckily we were on starb'd tack and the main blankets it when we drop. Nevertheless it proved to be a handful, at one point the 5 metre yard hanging horizontally as we struggled to contain it. All this time the boat kept thundering on, a line looped over the tiller to keep us straight.

A lumpy, probably over canvassed, beat along the eastern side of Arran was endured as the wind direction indicated we'd have a fast sail to Campbeltown......but no as we cleared the light (just) the wind fell away if not the seas and we were forced to motor clear of the ugly patch of water we'd got into. The wind which had been west of south now came round to north of west giving us another on the nose flog to Camp. Looking at the tidal charts and the current wind direction it seemed logical to abandon that course and turn instead to Sanda which was not only an easier sail but the current would soon be turning in that direction. With a fading wind we motor sailed the last 6 or so miles as the current, overfall's and eddies around the Mull can be interesting. We slid into the anchorage, despite a counter eddy which wanted us on nearby rocks, safely about 10pm joining the other boat silently at anchor. By morning they had gone and as we left we were soon joined by half a dozen more boats making the journey around. What wind there was was on the nose creating a wind over tide situation luckily not at its worse as we were still early in the cycle but off the SW corner the overfall's, standing waves and general unpleasantness built up as we crashed through at 8k+. The favourable tide we managed to carry all the way to Gigha although the wind was down 7 or 8 knots. Gigha which is normally packed with visiting boats had 7 and more spare visitor buoys than occupied. Perhaps it is still too early.

Across the sound the following day and into the Sound of Jura, sweeping tides and whisky distillery's – with the engine on tickover the speed frequently exceeded 8 or even 9 knots and when the wind picked up we dumped the engine for the genny and “beat” our way pleasurable up the sound. Rarely have we managed such tack angles as the current showed 30 degrees difference between actual and perceived. As we rounded the top and shaped up to enter West Loch Tarbet a solitary Swedish yot was heading south through the Sound under power against the tide. Slowly. No headsail set to make use of the 15k of favourable wind just a serious amount of fuel to be consumed. We've witnessed numerous boats intent on getting wherever, no sails set but engine and auto pilot engaged as they plough into steep waves. Each to their own of course but...

Finally we entered what was to be our home for a few days as a stiff NW came through. We anchored outside the inner harbour as we'd preferred the outlook to that of the inner when we were last here. Tucked away in a corner of the inner could be seen a small yacht, the crew returning in the dinghy as we dropped anchor. A few hours later another visitor arrived, Silver Shoes out of Rhode Island no less, also bound for the inner where, it has to be said, the depths are easier to manage at 4 metres or so than the 10-15metres we have beneath us.

The rain fell, the wind blew and we remained snug and warm, startled from our sleepy state by the sound of voices....4 guys in kayaks were drifting around the boat! We'd seen them outside a bothy on the southern shore of Islay as we'd made our approach to the Sound. They'd paddled though it and spent the night camped out at a large house on the shore of Glenbatrick Bay about half a mile from where we currently are, before continuing past us and into the inner loch where another bothy awaits them.

Finally. For a number of days, perhaps weeks, we could hear a particular squeaking noise whenever we ran the engine. Although we checked, listened and tested the tightness of various possible offenders it remained elusive.... The engine showed no sign of anything untoward so our searches became a little half hearted. And then we found it. Turned out to be a squeaky toy belonging to Toots – the vibration from the engine activates the squeak it seems. Ah the joys.

West Loch Tarbert
55 57N 005 56W

Sunday, 23 April 2017

Bluebells and mudbanks...

Winter eases away (not that it has been a hard one), the days lengthen, boat work gets squared away and thoughts turn to the summer and possible destinations. We seem to have spent time and money on making things better/more comfortable although little would be obvious to a casual glance but enough to give me a degree of enthusiasm that seems to have been missing for a year or so. Time will tell...
As I mentioned a post or two back in the absence of sailing we've taken to wandering around the local hills.... well to be honest I've walked, usually with Bee, whilst she runs on alternate days having got back into running after a 25 year break. Just about every winter we've tied up some-place it has been on the cards but this time it all came right. If there is a drawback it would be that Cornwall has many things going for it but flat surfaces are not one of them and consequently every run is either up or down. As are the walks of course but somehow it seems less intimidating, to me, to crawl slowly up rather than run for 2 hours or thereabouts. 

BUT off into the trees, along the wooded trails a whole new world opens up and particularly at this time of year when the bluebells come into bloom and whole areas of woodland are brought to life with swathes of blue. Today we wandered the trail with bags and a small axe as the trails are littered with felled trees and the wood left to rot back into the ground. Nothing wrong with that but some, we felt, could benefit us and the stove. Luckily we'd sorted the route to end up laden but with a downhill stroll to the boat, watched closely by small gatherings of deer. Down below and across the fields the creek lay exposed, the water a trickle. 

Like this the channel can be easily distinguished and I use the opportunity to try and memorise it. Of course once the tide turns and the narrow channel is swamped everything is different and much less obvious. Years ago as a young squaddie in Kiel I used to sail around the Danish Islands...Fyn, Aeroskobing and there the channels would have withies, sort of brooms, with the handles pushed into the mud, with the "brush" made from twigs and either the bound end pointed up or down depending on whether they were a port or starb'd mark. It would be great if they had them here but as a big spring tide here is almost 6 metres rather 6 centimetres I guess the issues are a little different. We'll see how we get on next week when we hope to leave.

Years ago we took the perceived wisdom of good binoculars were a waste of money as the chances were they'd be dropped over the side or ruined by sea water and bought a cheap pair. When we returned in '05 we dumped them as they were crap and shopped around for a decent pair. The best we could afford were a pair of 7x50 Bushnells with a compass. The difference was remarkable as they didn't fog, seemed easy to use and the compass was a definite plus. However. We're not the most careful of sailors and on one lumpy day I watched in horror as the "gogs", stupidly left lying in the doghouse, were thrown by a particularly lumpy section and dropped 2 metres plus into the saloon. Result: the distance measuring thingy inside was on its side and the focus/eyepiece slightly bent. The distance bit was no loss as we'd never used or understood it but the focus needed two hands to make any adjustment. But we got used to it and continued to use them on a daily basis whilst cruising. When we got back to the UK this time, flush with a state pension, I thought we might treat ourselves and did a bit of research, stumbling across the fact that Bushnell offer a life time warranty. I read it again and then looked at the binos - no eyecups, battered, with all the issues I've mentioned previously but thought I might write explaining the situation and find out what a repair might cost. By return came an email stating I needed to print the attachment, then complete and return the item to the UK address shown, only then could they be returned to Germany and an assessment made. We did as instructed and the weeks went by. Three I think before we had an email informing us that Bushnell were repairing the item FREE OF CHARGE and we would be notified when the item was returned. And we were, by phone...."Did they need my card number for the return postage" I asked but absolutely not. So here we are with a pair of refurbished Bushnells, new eyepieces, focus restored etc some 12 years after we had made the original purchase even though we had no supporting purchase receipt. Not only are cheap binos a waste of money in terms of usefulness and quality but getting the degree of service we did coupled to the quality make the company a real winner for us. 


Thursday, 23 March 2017

Newfoundland to Australia NON STOP...

Not so much an update from us but after a long wait the account of Trevor Robertson's journey from Newfoundland to Australia has been written up and posted. Create some space, settle down and read an entertaining write up of a great trip. Remarkable.

Click here to read..

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Stick in the muds.............

How quickly the months slide by and I search around for excuses. Little point in blaming the Christmas/holidays as we neither celebrate Christmas in any form and, it may be argued, we’re permanently on holiday. Whatever, nowt has been written but we have continued with our life afloat. Here’s where we currently are.
How we spend most of the day....
As we had had such a successful winter “refit” we opted to get back into the water rather than spend the time on the hard and we duly recruited Nick, on a sister-ship to Hannah and from the quay we were heading for, to act as pilot on the unmarked channel. I’d been down at the quay the night before to check out the berth and was a little taken aback to see a 60’ fishing boat coming in and tying up. The space didn’t look big enough to take them and us but Daz, the quay owner, assured me everyone would jiggle around to ensure a space. A few hours before we were due to launch I nipped down to check that space and found it too tight especially as we’d just re-fitted the self-steerer. Back to the boat, removed the s/s and on the only tide Nathan could launch us on we splashed at 6pm as darkness settled in. Luckily Nick brought along his gps and his track in and out which made things a little easier……well apart from we always use “North up” and Nick uses “Course up” which threw me as I hadn’t bothered to check. We crept slowly through the channel, Bee and Nick eyeballing the numerous mooring buoys and occasional yacht whilst I tried to stay within the parameters of the convoluted gps track. Funny how the same berth spot looks different at night from daylight…. I opted for discretion and tied up to the fishing boat for the night as I didn’t fancy trying to finagle my way into a gap slightly longer than we are. In the end it may not have been my soundest idea as , although the bottom was mud about 60cm (2’) thick, the ground below was hard shingle with a slope away from the quay wall/fishing boat.

Hillyard, sea-mist and calm water.
All this knowledge was, of course, still in the future and we had Nick and Nadja on for a drink whilst the tide ebbed rapidly. In our defence I would say we’re not usually so lax when we’re in this type of situation but we were this time as we sat chatting and drinking the keel touched the gravel and Hannah began the slow slide. The keel went out, the masts came in. And in. By the time we cottoned on the damage was done and we had no chance of getting the boat upright. The starb’d nav. box crept ever closer to the hull of the fishing boat until it rested against the solid oak planking. Still we slipped and the only way of saving the box from destruction was to rapidly undo the lany’ds on the main stb'd shrouds and allow them  to swing freely. The mast is keel stepped of course and gaffers tend not be set up so tightly that the temporary “loss” of the shrouds causes chaos. Anyway with that done we could do nothing but slink below and perch on the sea-berth at a very uncomfortable 30 degree angle. Not until the early hours of the morning would we be able to climb into bed without the prospect of sliding ignominiously out. Not a good start. The following morning we were up ready to move but with the wind howling. Various folks were roused from their beds by Daz to ensure no damage was done and in a lull afforded by the wind shadow from the Mill we squeezed into the berth. Still tight but hoisting the anchor inboard and judicious adjustment of warps saw everyone at ease. The quay is part of a B&B and the website covers the rebuilding of the mill. It originally dated from the late 1500's is

The big lugger that features in some of the quay shots is called Grayhound and their site can be found here. The section on the actual build is excellent.

One of the many jobs we have been meaning to tackle for several years is the installation of a cabin heater using the engine coolant. We had tried it once before (on the previous engine) using the heater from a mini but it was never really successful and when one of the fittings broke off on the engine block some years back we pulled the whole thing out. However the experience of cruising in Labrador and the frequency that lack of wind can push us into motoring meant it came back up the agenda. Rather than search the scrap yards for a unit that might or might not give us a working unit we bought a new one from a car heater specialist. We talked to the local Yanmar dealer for advice, bought a kit to enable the tight space to be negotiated and finally got the whole unit in and working. Except it leaks a little so we will remove the ptfe tape we used and use a compound to get a proper seal. Running the engine for 20 minutes or so gave us a decent amount of heat from the unit which should make life a little less uncomfortable. Other tasks have been more mundane; painting the rigging etc but all have been helped by the wonderful mild weather we’ve been experiencing.

Although we’re in a well sheltered creek we are only about 2 miles from the English Channel via the lanes or Public Footpaths on the Rame Peninsula. The lanes, so typical of Cornwall are narrow. Very narrow in places and steep but steady walking gets you over the hill and onto Whitsand Bay. With that comes the chance to pick up the South Coast Way, part of which winds its way through a collection of single storey buildings that are, in some ways, reminiscent of the outposts of Labrador.
 They perch on the cliff side, are one or two bedroom dwellings built of wood with wonderful sea views. However, being English, they’re called chalets, can cost anything from £150,000 to £250,000 and many, of course, have neat squares of lawn. The majority are empty as they seem to be holiday lets. Curiosity pushed us into checking some on the internet. Not cheap when a two week spell in August would cost around £4400..... We didn’t book. But the walks are pretty neat, some along the beach, some following the coast, some further inland and wandering along narrow, muddy Public Footpaths. The beauty, as far as I’m concerned anyway, is we’re into solitude and our own company within 15 minutes of leaving the boat. Not sure what we’ll do with all this fitness when we head out again.

Books, as ever, play a big part in our lives. I’ve just reread John Rowland’s account of his trips to Labrador, Baffin and Ungava for the Grenfell Mission. It’s a remarkable story; trips north delivering small sailing boats for the Mission use, a time when navigation was very different; when charts were far more scarce and the detail often very suspect. All this over 100 years ago and with far more “primitive” equipment yet carrying out voyages that ranged much further than we ever have and most yotties who venture to Labrador. If you get the chance it is well worth a read partly because despite the advances in equipment and electronics it is still a testing journey. What counts here, as always has done, is the individuals ability to deal with situations. The book is:North to Adventure by John T Rowland. Long out of print I think but occasionally libraries sell off copies which is where ours came from. Another book that is easier to find and worth reading is Paul Heiney's One Wild Song, his account of his trip down to the Beagle Channel and back - except it is more than that as he comes to terms with the death, by suicide, of his son.


Thursday, 3 November 2016

..give us this day our daily bath...

Haven't blogged for a few months as other things have been keeping us busy and anyway I wasn't really in the mood to write. But a recap of what has happened and where we now are.

We had hoped to wander up the Outer Hebs and, if the weather looked settled, have a look at the west coast of Lewis. Didn't happen of course and we ended up sailing across to the mainland to Rhum (one of my favourite anchorages. Although wide open to the east, the depths are good, shelter good and in the event you need to make a rapid escape it is very easy.) and then onto Tobermory. The harbour remains very busy and we still never made it ashore as we left early the following morning, motoring against a foul tide to make use of a favourable one later in the day. As we pootled down the Sound of Mull it struck me that this particular stretch is a really lovely part of the world. Nothing dramatic but all very easy on the eye - fair lifted my spirits. We plugged on, through the Sound of Luing, skirting the Gulf of Corryvrecken, picking up swirling chaotic water that boosted boat speed before we slid into a wonderful anchorage outside the entrance to the Crinan Canal. One other boat for company and a wonderful peace and shelter. We had toyed with the idea of using the Crinan Canal to avoid rounding the Mull of Kyntyre but the cost is prohibitive - from what we could work out the 11 mile canal trip would cost over £100! The following morning we watched the other boat haul their anchor and head north - a couple in their 70's or more. We headed south and at the end of a long day pulled into Ardminish Bay, Gigha for the night picking up the last available buoy in a very crowded mooring field.  
As the anchorage began to empty the following morning we were roused from below by a call of "Heh Hannah" and found Dougie and Bev, a couple we'd last seen in Portsmouth Va. They were heading up to the islands for a week of racing but gave good advice on rounding the MoK before they headed off for the start. We left soon after, plugging another foul tide for hours in order to get far enough south to enjoy a fast run around and then north. And so it was. Although the first part was patchy because of the wind shadow and the general direction of the wind when we began turning toward the north we picked up speed. Normally with the wind gusting 20knots plus I would change the jib down to the working jib but this time we simply left it and revelled in the way Hannah just moved so well. It comes with a risk of course as the genny is so old and patched that we think it'll blow out any moment. But it held and we tacked on. With a couple of miles to go I noticed another boat rounding the headland as we had. A bigger boat for sure but it caught us before the entrance to Cambletown and I was struck by two did look magnificent as the boat came by, lee rail awash, acres of clean antifoul in view and the sails trimmed perfectly...but I also thought who on earth really wants to travel at that angle for any length of time. So we plugged on, enjoying our own speed and boat before we finally downed sails and moved into the harbour for the night. Ever onwards we again sailed north to Rhu the following morning enjoying a good day on the water with our new best friend the genny. The scenery was good, the weather mostly good too apart from a deluge at one point in the day. As we rounded the headland and the sprawl of Gourock and Greenock were exposed the scenery seemed much less attractive and we pondered when we had last sailed by a town as big..... and we couldn't remember. Thankfully as we turned the corner into Gareloch the urban sprawl fell away and we were again surrounded by hills and a sprinkling of houses. 

True further up the loch was a large nuclear submarine base but at this end it seemed fine. We motored toward the anchorage puzzled by the large tanker tied up to a commercial dock. Nothing odd in that as such but the ship was surrounded by boats on mooring buoys... We anchored in 10 metres between two mooring fields well content with our day.

The following day we moved up the loch a little and picked up the mooring buoy of good friends Mike and Eileen who we met years ago in the Canaries. Mike was away sailing in Iceland (where we'd hoped to meet up) but Eileen hailed us from the shore and we rowed ashore for a welcome shower and catch up. Over the next month or so we did something we have never done and that was to leave Hannah and head inland and go visit friends Robin and Jac. Partly because we obviously wanted to catch up but partly because the last Atlantic crossing had left me unsettled and with the distinct feeling that I had had enough and needed to do something else but not sure what. The time away would, hopefully, allow some peace and equilibrium into my confusion..... not sure that it did although it was good to do different things including driving 1500 miles but once back on the boat it is as though we had never been away. One thing had been decided though was that we needed to find somewhere for the winter and we checked out local yards to get hauled. A little cheaper than yards down south was an attraction but as day after day passed, far too often accompanied by rain, we began to think of moving south. 
The wind remained consistently out of the south but a brief window presented itself... should we leave that night or the following day.... The forecast was for enough wind overnight but where we were anchored remained deathly quiet and our experience of the forecasts suggested they often bore little semblance to what is actually happening and so we trundled off the next day. In fog. With little or no wind. We persevered, happy that we'd spent the night in bed rather trying to drift, and now sailing along slowly but at least moving south despite the fierce tides that rush up and down the Irish Sea. We thought we'd do it in day trips but in the end just kept going albeit in some strange directions at times as we tried to work out tactics for possible wind shifts. As we slowly got south the forecast began confirming what we'd seen on Passage Weather - the northerly element would shift to the south or south west making the rounding of Cornwall difficult. On the morning of the 18 Sept, the supposed day for the wind shift, we were becalmed some 25 miles from Wolf Rock, which marks the end of Cornwall and the entrance to the English Channel. We motored. In fact we ended up motor-sailing all the way into the Helford as the winds were poor and the tides are fierce. At one point, as the tide was with us, I cut a corner and ended up in the rips of Lizard Point giving us a bumpy and unpleasant 20 minutes or so. I'll make sure I don't do that again.

We thought we'd have an easy couple of days getting to Plymouth but a phone call the next morning informed us we'd be hauled the following morning at 8 and we were on our way, motor-sailing again, up to Plymouth where we were hauled at 8 and where Hannah sits now. We were interested in seeing how the bottom looked as we'd been sat around for the best part of two months and how the two very different types of antifoul we'd applied  18 months previously (one to each side) had fared. No doubt that the better quality the better the protection.

Initially we had decided to go house sit for R&J but the weather was so benign we changed plans and began working on the boat. 
For once the task didn't seem arduous and we rattled through the tasks, helped by the new sander and vac we bought. True the sander began to emit unhappy screeches after a week of sanding the hull. Bee never phased by misuse of equipment simply took it back and they gave her a new one whilst I skulked in the car. We ordered the Jotun paint and applied it

Hannah, nothing if not colourful

Slight change of colour which meant we had to remove the dolphins we'd put on several years ago to piss off the purists. We also took the opportunity to get the gammon iron repaired as the eye that holds the bottlescrew from the inner forestay had worn a fair bit. 'course while it was off we had it galvanised too and I've now replaced the leather on the traveller as well so things are really moving along.

Traveller: about half way through the job..
In the course of getting a small job done I was directed down to another yard and wharf a few minutes from where we are. Two things came out of this: we'll be moving to this wharf when we launch in a few weeks, great shelter and a quirky feel.
Deep Blue Engineering windlass
However the biggest thing was coming across a guy called David Webster who not only makes manual windlasses that are wonderful but he will also rebuild parts for any windlass going. 

He is one of the few people I've met who instantly knew what an SL500 was and
took me through a number of the points I had no idea of. I'm looking forward to getting to know him better over the winter months. Check out his site.

For the last couple of weeks we've been back in Berkshire, house sitting for Robin and Jac who are wandering around parts of Europe on their motorbike. The space of a house seems enormous and  unnecessary after a boat....BUT the luxury of an oven, hot water and a bath are very enticing. 

Millbrook, Cornwall 

Wednesday, 3 August 2016

East and North and South and....

Dingwall and North

Dingwall Harbour 
With a favourable forecast we, sadly, left Dingwall early Sun June 16. Though initially we made reasonable progress although a tad hairy off the northern end of Cape Breton as the winds came down off the hills some 3 miles away and exceeded 40 knots. But on we romped, the wind was good, the temperatures cold as we headed for the Belle Isle Strait area. The second day, of course, the winds eased dramatically and we covered 40 miles in the 24 hour, noon to noon, period. As yet another forecasted 25 knots failed to appear we opted to motor the12 miles back to St Barbe on the Nwfld coast. Soon after it came in and stupidly we bashed on rather than use it to get further north to Red Bay. The following day we made that journey and crept in around 6pm to be greeted by Mervyn, who has been greeting us for the last, who knows how many years. The community gets smaller, the school now has about 8 kids……

For the first time that we can remember we encountered ice inside the harbour - a ‘berg had grounded and broken up either side of the entrance channel. When we left, early the following morning, a large section had drifted across the channel to ground itself on the other side. Plenty of big ‘bergs outside, as there were last year. The day began bright and sunny, enough to lure us away from the dock, but rapidly went downhill with thick fog. The winds were still strong and though heavily reefed we were still moving quickly. Radar and eyes strained to detect stuff but nothing was”visible” although, having messed with the ground on the radar we were now only getting a 3 mile signal so stuff may well have been out there. As we found out when the sun made an appearance in the late afternoon. Huge ‘bergs seemed to be everywhere although the biggest surprise was the sight of another yacht heading in the same direction. Eventually Francis B hailed us, having recognised the boat, despite the sail colour change. They were bound for Fox Hbr, which we’d toyed with but thought the 3 day SW’s might be a great start. When the wind suddenly switched to the north then north east we gave up and motored to join them.

Fox Hbr- Labrador
On again the following day, Sat 25 June. Little wind but we hoped to get clear of as much ice as possible in daylight…. A number of mistakes were made! The log shows poor speeds, until we’d been out 50 plus hours and we didn’t cover much. We also heard a vhf conversation between two ships where one warned the other to stay east of a position as the ice to the west was very hard. The position was close enough, I felt, to our route for me to keep to the east of our rhumb line. In the end it worked against us as the wind veered from NW to N and we were now heading toward the Cape Farewell area. True it was some days away but as the hours went by and we rattled along at a good rate  I became increasingly concerned. Long time readers may recall the beating we took around this area when we returned in 2005, a beating that has remained etched into my mind. In the end this is just an excuse of course as the decision was made to abandon trying to head through the PCS (much to Bee’s utter despair) and head south of east to give Farewell a wide berth. The winds treated us kindly to begin with but a day’s run of 29 nm was recorded. Still, although slow, we were making progress toward Reykjavik a little over 600 miles away. The stiff NW’s kept us moving, albeit a little south of the rhumb but all was good. As ever, with us, we have trouble getting weather info…Bee had done a great job picking up stuff from Canada on the ssb but it was becoming less relevant as we had turned the southern tip and were out of their area. We had no success with Iceland or Greenland and I have never have been able to persuade weather fax to appear on the laptop. So we did what we always do, look at the barometer and read Alan Watts “Instant Weather Forecasting” However we did remember a snippet from the Canadians which indicated stiff easterlies(!!) coming on Tuesday. And they did. Initially we were able to make use of them and make some northing to get above 60N but as wind speeds hit between 30-40knots we surrendered and hove to, under reefed main for what we hoped would be a short time. As our course was taking us inextricably toward Scoresby Sound and the ever attendant ice we changed tack and drifted south. Not the worst sea conditions we’ve been in by a long way but the dreariness of the sky, a dull, dripping grey with poor visibility made worse by the patchy fog had a demoralising impact on us both. and our moods matched the bleak greyness. We remained hove to, checking the sky, childish hoping/imagining/wishing that we were seeing signs of improvement. And we did…blue sky sometimes briefly made itself known only to be snuffed out by the relentless grey ”wallpaper” we were covered by. We read up on what we could, deciding in the end that whatever it was had stalled and no change would be possible for some time. The wind, somewhere between E and NE favoured a southerly escape rather than a northerly one and so here we are; 3 days into a grey, sapping mire than shows little intention of easing. The winds remain resolutely out of the eastern quadrant, the direction we want to go of course, and whilst they eased from the 25-30+knots the seas remain lumpy. Our course wanders between SE and S, whereas our temporary destination lies firmly East. We’re hoping that we might soon, within the next 48 hours, pick up favourable westerlies and a little sunshine would be very welcome too.

Aboard, life continues although we’re both pretty fed up about things, weather wise. At the height of the blow when winds were consistently between 35 and 40 knots, the bitter end of the outhaul on the traveler came free and wrapped itself around the bobstay. This is the line that enables us to drag the jib to the end of the bowsprit from the safety of the deck so without it life was going to get harder. As the seas were still running hard we delayed tackling the job until things looked safer. It meant lying on the foredeck, armed with a boat hook and laboriously trying to persuade the line to reverse its tangling. Easier said of course as the waves seemed to recognise a bit of sport a periodically leapt onto the deck burying parts of me in water. The last part we left for a calmer day as it would require one of sliding out on the bowsprit to untangle the mess. Bee wanted to do that bit and today we duly suited up, roped her into a harness, attaching same to the jib halyard and away she went. She had discovered how to make the vids with our camera and I clung with one hand to the halyard, I filmed with the other. It took her about a minute to sort it out and we were both glad we’d allowed the seas to moderate and we’d done the thing first thing this morning as the seas are running again.

Mon 11 July

We continued heading SE for far too long, not that we had any choice in the matter as it wasn’t until 4am yesterday (Sunday) that the winds finally moved, reluctantly, into a westerly element. Finally we were able to make a more easterly course, albeit toward the SW tip of Ireland. With the change came a brightening of the weather, if not our mood, and blue pushed aside the awful grey that has dominated. Much, much worse than the last northerly crossing we did for sure. Toward the afternoon the winds backed a little more and we set a course for Barra in the Outer Hebrides, still a good 750nm away. When the winds eased yesterday we ran with more sail but reefed down again for the night. Hannah seems to run best with a quartering breeze under a double reefed main, stays’l and working jib, remaining, for the most part balanced allowing the steerer to cope. Speeds remain good, the last 5 days have all been above 100nm. As I write we’re bowling along at well over 6 knots….

The seas have been a frustrating combination. A long, loping swell usually out of the N or NE, battles with the normal wind-driven wave train meaning we sometimes get hit beam on by a great lumpy wave. Most are harmless but sometimes a larger version hits and we’re knocked over, lee deck under water and the sound of heavy spray and water tumbling across the windward deck.The swells are running at around 3m (10’) so are a real nuisance and we run at a less than optimum course in order to retain some comfort aboard but it remains a life at an angle. I’ve spoken of the “Air Only Vents” before but they really are a wonderful piece of engineering. Despite the lee rail being under, or when the bowsprit gets buried, either way we can get a torrent of water coursing across the deck in search of mischief, the vent lives up to it’s name. No matter what the conditions outside we’ve always been getting air in whereas when we fitted dories we’d remove the cowls and shut them off. If you still want to keep your dorades these little gems will fit inside giving you the best of both worlds. If you’re looking for a solution to ventilation try looking up this company.

Sat 16 July Under 200nm to Castlebay, Barra.

A rare moment on sunshine and flat seas...
Been a rolly week as we continued east. Stiff winds have been the order of the week, mostly off the beam forcing to heave to once again just to escape the madness. we’ve begun to see ships and able to get weather info from them. One informed us we would be getting SE9 the following day, a prospect, as you might imagine we found less than appealing. We rang off and began to contemplate to what we might do. Obviously heave to but we’d need to keep going as long as possible…. A few minutes later the guy rang back to apologise. They were travelling SW at 300nm a day and the forecast was for them not us. He kindly read out the correct one, wished us safe onward passage and rang off. Not only were we spared an unpleasant bit of weather but the new weather was favourable for our course. And apart from the southerly that had us heaving to it has remained so all week. On top of this we’ve had hours at a time of blue sky and sun and three days ago we picked up the BBC Shipping Forecast via the ssb. Once again the lilting melody “Sailing By” wafted into the saloon, admittedly very crackly, but welcome all the same. Our approach to sea area “Rockall” was in a stiff W5-7 with gusting 8. It took a little time to get the steerer to cope with the seas that built up but we knocked off 130nm and today’s forecast of a repeat wind strength has been a little more muted. The seas remain lumpy and confused of course, occasionally hitting the beam or quarter, shoving our stern sideways and lifting the speed from 6 knots to 7.5k and even 8.5 at times

Thur 21 July.

Hebridean anchorage
The journey ended with a whimper as we ran out of wind about 20 miles from Barra and the ebbing tide wanted us closer to the shore than we wanted so we motored to an anchorage. Thick fog accompanied us of course and the radar resolutely refused to produce a signal. We’d already opted to go for Vatersay rather than Castlebay as it would be less crowded. We crept in slowly although it’s a wide enough bay free or almost so of much danger. We checked we were where the chart was saying we were by testing actual depths against the chart, picking up the 10 metre contour and slowly made our way in. Dimly through the murk could be seen the shapes of boats and beyond the glow of lights from a small village. About 2am the anchor dropped into 10 metres, we dug ourselves in, went below lit the fire and poured a stiff drink and luxuriated in the notable lack of motion. Toots climbed onto the table, stretched out in front of the fire and went to sleep.

Thursday, 16 June 2016

Departures and engines......

As April morphed into May and last minute jobs were completed we began checking the weather for a window to cross the Gulf. A forecast for West 25 - 30 looked promising and the following few days would be helpful too and so a date was set. We rushed up to NE Harbour by car rather than sail to see Phil and Helen, met a last few interesting people on the dock and finally slipped our lines early one morning for Pulpit Hbr. 
Martha and Patsy's Traveling sweater

We've always tried to find a quiet place to head out from as it gives us time to get our heads together plus allows us a small shakedown to get us into the rhythm. This time with a stiff head wind we opted to motor much of the 20 miles to make sure all was well with the engine. And it was. Or at least until the last 4 miles when it cut out minutes after we had slipped through a narrow gap between a couple of rocky islands. As we had sail up we simply carried on sailing and once clear had a quick go at starting it. Of course it started but this was beginning to be more than frustrating. We sailed into Pulpit, with the engine ticking over until we needed it to back down on the anchor. It performed without a hitch. Hmmm. 
As we'd been ticking over for a while I revved it hard to clear the "tubes" and on the final rev it cut out. Ordinarily we would have abandoned the trip across, returned to Belfast and sorted the problem out but the weather window and the chance of getting delayed beyond our May 31st deadline decided us and the following morning we left Pulpit for Lunenburg. As we hadn't sailed anywhere for 5 months or so we reefed right down and then decided to use the trys'l anyway as with the 30 knots forecast we would still maintain good speeds without needing to worry about a preventer on the boom. In the event the wind speeds were more like 20 than 30 and within a few hours we'd changed to the main and soon removed a reef as the winds eased even more. The trip across was uneventful other than dodging lobster pots which continued until about 20 miles from the border between the US and Canada. As we crossed we began to get our towing generator ready to deploy but found ourselves coming across Canadian lobster pots and gave up on the task as a 50metre line with a small prop on the end is bound to become entangled and get wrecked.

Cape Sable is always difficult to get right when coming from any distance away and this time had us arriving as the tide turned against us. We were far enough out, about 15 miles, to miss the worst of it but as it turns favourable earlier closer in it you can't stay too far off. Of course the wind died or at least became very light and we resorted to hand steering in an effort to squeeze more miles and make Lunenburg at a reasonable time.  At one point with Hannah bowling along at 6 knots we seemed to be on target for an early morning arrival but it never lasts of course. By the time we got within 20 miles of our destination it was late afternoon and the wind finally gave up and our speed dropped to 0.7 k and we switched the engine on. Of course nothing happened. Before we got to work on it we called the Coast Guard to see if we could get the OK to anchor in a nearby bay rather than try to work our up to Lunenburg. After taking all the usual details the CG patched us through to the Customs and Immigration. They weren't too taken with the idea and asked us to notify them, via the CG, when we were anchored. Rather than mess with filters etc we just stuck a pipe into a jerry can leading it to the lift pump and dropped the return hose into the same can. Engine fired up, ran successfully and we started, slowly, for Lunenburg arriving about 11pm after Bee had done an amazing job spotting the local lobster pots in the dark. Even with our full keel we still get twichy about snagging these things so anyone with a fin keel and exposed prop must be having palpitations.  

Still into Lunenburg we steamed, dark of course apart from all the town lights and we motored slowly up and down not quite believing that the town has not yet put out any jetty's for visitors to lie alongside. Not normally a problem for us as we anchor but the Customs guy's want us to tie up on the Government Wharf when they inspect us. Except that wharf is out of bounds as they're renovating...... after an hour we give up, not even the marina has a jetty out and we drop anchor, call the CG, get patched through to Customs and are told to ring again in the morning. We do, via Skype, and explain everything for the third time. We can see an empty wharf we can tie to but it will mean the Customs guy's climbing down a ladder to get to the boat. The voice on the telephone says fine, go there immediately as the officers are on their way. We motor over, get alongside and have some irate ticket seller for the charter boats come rushing over to say we can't tie up there. We do as we figure the Customs and Immigration trump a local misdemeanor. 10 minutes later they're with us. They look down 8 feet to where Hannah sits. "Can't we get the boat closer by removing the fenders" - we demur but offer to drag the stern closer by easing the bow. They agree and we comply but the number of ropes going everywhichway leaves them all a little uneasy. In fairness to them they were all pretty big guys bulked out with flak jackets and an assortment of matt black "weapons" dangling from their waists. In the end we were told to bring all our docs and come ashore and they'd interview us there. All civil and reasonably good natured and then we were free to go. A quick check around town, and then off to see John and Phyllis and get the engine sorted. 
We began by removing the hoses that feed the filters from the tank. Although we used a pump to blast air through little came out but poking a wire through revealed a fair bit of crud. Part of the system is copper tubing and a closer look at this revealed it was going an unhealthy shade of pink and that was cut and removed. The worst part was in the ball valve which turns the fuel on and off. Bee discovered a large amount of crud in there and we decided to scrap the lot and replace. The hose, barbs and shut off valve were duly delivered and eventually the job was done. We had intended to install an old Racor filter we had but couldn't cleanly work it into the system and ended up installing it into the hand pump we use to fill the tank from the jerry cans. This enables us to fill the tank at sea without opening the fuel filler cap. The jugs are in a cockpit locker, the end of the hose is inserted, the bulb squeezed a few times and fuel flows into the tank. Now it has it's own filter (which has been lying around since our Taylor's Cooker days).
We went out to test everything, running the engine at 2000 revs and gradually increasing for long periods of time, even hitting 2800 (our maximum) and all without a murmur  or complaint. Back on the buoy we did the oil change, changed an impeller and are ready to go. But the weather isn't. A brief period of SW, followed by a long period of head winds leave us unwilling to head off. We ponder, mull, look at charts, wonder how much we're gaining by moving up the coast to Cape Breton and, for the moment, think we'll head for Iceland from here saving ourselves a detour around the Grand Banks. 

We "amuse" ourselves by helping out on Morgan's Cloud or painting over at Steve and Marilyn's. The work on MC is simply stripping and cleaning winches. The small ones, about the size of our largest, are easy and quick to work on. Not so the huge (to us) #65 which are complex and heavy. In total they have 13 winches but only two headsails whereas we have two winches and a possible 7 or 8 headsails.

We took a day off and went sailing, something we rarely do. Day sails I mean. Not much wind but pleasant enough as we sailed quietly amongst the islands north of here. A few lobster boats gathering in their traps as the season would end in a few days but essentially the waters were ours. We had to motor at one stage as the wind was blanketed by an island but once clear we had a great beat back toward the mooring. It may be our imagination but since we had the new sail the boat slips along much better in very light winds and for the first time ever we have found ourselves pointing closer to the wind. OK there were no waves to knock us about but we were 10-15 degrees closer than we have ever been before.

For much of the time we spent at John and Phyllis’s we were watching the weather, hoping we’d get enough days to knock off some miles and make a dent in the journey. As it became clear that more than two days of favourable winds for the trip to Iceland were unlikely in the near future we began to widen our thinking and find an alternative. Sometimes we (or really me) get fixated on where we are bound and miss the obvious. Which in this case was to break up the trip and, hopefully, go via the Prins Christian Sund in southern Greenland. This will allow us to get up to Fox Harbour in Labrador and then have a shortish 700 mile trip across to Julianehaab, Greenland. So when the winds came in from the SW we took off having said our farewells to two sets of good friends. Of course the 30 mile trip across to Halifax was slow as we rarely made above 4 knots but the following day was good and being 10 or so miles off shore we avoided most of the lobster pots. As ever the forecast didn’t quite live up to actuals and with the wind intending to switch to the NW we began the last section up to the canal. It turned into a beat and then a wet beat as the rain fell. With 4 miles to go we switched the engine on motored in. The staff, as ever, were friendly although we were initially mistaken for “Ironbark” which we accepted as a compliment! At the other end of the canal Jack and Glenda were waiting to greet us, refusing to believe our email that had said we wouldn’t be coming through this year. An all too brief stopover and the following day we were on our way again to anchor for the night in Maskell’s Harbour, where it is possible to end up completely landlocked in solitude. A wonderful stop.
Maskell's, soon after we anchored..

We left early the next day and motored the 20 mile to the exit. The northern section of the Lakes isn’t as picturesque as the southern bits but we were eventually out into the ocean. The winds remained light but the promise was for very strong easterlies overnight. With this in mind we continued to motor-sail and arrived off the harbour entrance to Dingwall around 7pm in mist and rain. It’s a narrow entrance, a little more than 100’ wide with a bar. When a big easterly swell is running it would be extremely dangerous but the seas were small, much less than a metre, and we slid in between the welcoming breakwater overjoyed to have made it before the rapidly building clouds astern of us arrived. The anchorage is about 1/2 mile from the entrance, landlocked and completely sheltered - scarcely a ripple on the water, a definite hurricane hole. The following day no fishing boats left and we could hear the surf pounding onto the shore and knew why. A friend had seen us come in the night before and it was good to see him again after 6 years. We’ll lay here for a few days until wind changes to a better angle and then push on.

A year ago we bought a second hand Pudgy. In the last couple of weeks we have got around to sailing it. The two of us can stretch out in reasonable comfort and, whilst it is not the speediest dinghy I’ve ever sailed, it is a delight. Stable enough yet it’ll still pick up speed with a small gust. Even better from our viewpoint is that Toots has taken to it and will readily come aboard to be ferried ashore for a roam around. We haven’t, as yet, persuaded her that she should try the sailing rig. 

Are they expensive? On the face of it yes. BUT it does not require periodic inspection, at huge expense, for an item (your life-raft) you hope never to use….. You know when you dump it over the side to escape your home that it will work because you’ve been using it regularly to row ashore or pleasure sail around the anchorage which represents genuine value for money. Anyway, it's our choice on the matter and we're very pleased.

And finally. For years we have carried a small log on our foredeck. Casual visitors aboard; always comment on it, querying its purposeand inevitably guess it to be some sort of esoteric gaffer fender. We picked it up in Rockland Harbour in 2004 and it has remained in the same place ever since. Well here's the reason we carry it; nothing nautical.
Toots and her scratching post, lashings by Capt. Lance Meadows, Timberwind.....

Cape Breton