Saturday 25 December 2021

and then there was one....again

Monday 31st June

A week has passed since the break and much of the time, well several days were spent in Skipport waiting for better winds. We left one evening but seas still out of the NE mocked our efforts and we slipped back to our comfortable shelter leaving early the next morning. The wind, now SE was light but favourable and with the tide running our way, the engine just ticking over we moved along at a fair pace arriving in Plocrapool. We've anchored here before and although there are a number of houses we rarely see folks moving about. This time was no different other than a friendly couple who came paddling by and stopped to chat.

We'd been able to contact someone we'd met years ago in Stornoway and he gave us phone numbers of builders who should be able to help. One was in Mhairvig, a loch we knew and the other on the mainland; given that the former was en route to Stornoway and offered good shelter and holding it was the obvious choice and we duly arrived. Arriving on a Saturday with a Sunday and Bank Holiday Monday following has meant a long, to us, wait but at least we've done the overdue engine service if not much else.

Tues 8th

Spar done in 48 hours though a tad shorter than previous as neither I or the builder thought to measure the sail rather than the, broken, gaff, we're up and running. A 3 day visit to Stornoway for a shop, load up and catch up before heading out and south down the chain. Easier said as the winds remain persistently south and we beat the 5 miles or so down to Erisort and an anchorage we hadn't used in donkeys years but is a cracker, arriving as the weather eased and a glorious evening materialised. South again the next couple of days; one soso anchorage and the second in Loch Claidh after a detour to the Shiants to view the hundreds of puffins that can be found here. Loch Claidh reminded us of various Labrador/Greenland slots we've used and it wasn't until we'd been anchored for some hours and Bee happened to look out at the entrance that we got a real understanding of how sheltered we were; outside were white caps but we had barely rippled water. True, comms were non existent and the following morning we rowed ashore to retrieve a large fender, checked out the sea state and decided to head down to Plocrapool where the shelter was also good and we'd be able to get a signal to check on the upcoming blow. A beat, of course, but enjoyable as we were able to sail through the Sound of Scalpay and then beat through numerous islands to gain the shelter of the south shore. Well shelter from the waves if not the wind but it all went well and by 1pm we were anchored, settled and stowed. Now the fire is on, the wind generator is up and we're ready for the 30k we're due.

It came, it went. The surrounding hills are low but a valley funnels the wind from the south but the holding is excellent, a couple of otters were visible on one of the nearby islands that are adjacent and all was well. Except with further strong southerlies coming we chose to use the SW to scoot back over to Skye for a change and anchored that night in Loch Grishornish after a cracking sail over. The loch is a bit nondescript but shelter and holding was good and the choice was to sail into a couple of nearby lochs or head over the top of Skye to the mainland. The latter was the choice to take advantage of the westerly and get a good sail. Once in the Inner Sound we made a half hearted attempt to sail south between Rona and Skye but an increase in wind strength had us turning back to our original destination of Loch Torridon. This is a longish loch of three parts and it might be a place to explore for a few days. Hmm. Heading first for the outer anchorage I felt the swell caused by the West wind would make life uncomfortable, the second choice already had a boat in it and we sailed on and into the second part. Here the wind increased substantially although the swell had lessened but anchorages looked... well not welcoming. But Antares had a possible choice inside a reef of islands and as we approached the water inside look calm and flat – we entered slowly, picked a spot and dropped. As we were approaching low water we were almost landlocked with reefs and islands and were ecstatic with our luck. It didn't last as the returning tide plus the squally wind had us getting to close, for my comfort, to one of the large rocks and we moved out late at night but still daylight. A nearby shelf of 5-10 metre water saw us punting round for an hour or more as we looked for some protection from the very stiff squally wind. By 1am we were “settled” and unsettled and wondering what the rest of the day might bring. A dumb decision is the short answer. The second and third loch have high surrounding mountains with all that entails whereas the outer loch is slightly more benign so we thought we might go back and try our original choice but rounding the headland the other side was now white water and though we only had the stays'l and engine running we were soon on our ear. Beating was the only option but as the violence increased we turned and ran back into the second loch but chose to go right down the far end. Here we anchored in relative calm not far off the visitors buoys in deepish water. We dug in, looked at the lugger on the buoy and realised we usually see the boat on a buoy of Mashford's yard on the Rame Peninsula. Not long after a flash modern boat came in took the second and last buoy. I had some concerns about how well we were holding but reversing down hard, again, didn't budge us. We'd just gone to bed when a skiff we'd seen earlier calling on the modern boat came over to talk to us. Seems he and the “flash boat” skipper had some concerns as the holding was well known for being poor, few boats ever anchored there but used the shelter between a large wooded island and the village where depths were lower etc etc. I guess my earlier concerns made me more susceptible and we readily agreed that we might move and so we motored the short distance around the island and into the anchorage. Was it better. We didn't really think so; yes depths were a fraction of what we'd had but the fetch was longer and the tide had more influence and the following day we could see that the head of the loch had flat, still water whereas we didn't. After a couple of days of this loch we'd really had enough but a sort of lethargy had overcome us but a lull gave us the impetus and we decided to head back to the outer loch and try the cove there. Mizzen and stay'sl pushed us along but as we approached the cove it seemed we might be able lay a course to the top of Skye wait overnight there then use the southerly to get back to the Hebs. Bizarrely as we running through all this the lugger emerged from the cove! Bee got the main and working jib up and away we went. Sort of. The SW wind had now backed to W, the seas of these headlands are lumpy, confused and hinder progress. Staffin Bay was about 12 miles away but a little north of west and and hour later we knew it wasn't really going to happen. The problem, for us, is the next alternative is Loch Gairloch and entrance and exit that has caused us no end of misery and is on our “do not use” list. But. The 3 mile wide entrance faces west and the seas were rolling in...Windy showed the wind dying completely overnight and going SW then S but light before ramping up later in the day. We anchored in our usual cove, another house has been built but for the first time a phone signal was available... Windy confirmed the weather status for the next day, we ate a big pasta meal, a stiff whisky and went to bed deciding we'd leave at 5am.

In fact we were up at 3, noting the almost absence of wind but more important there was no sign of waves breaking on the far shore. We headed out covering the miles to the entrance and a clear view of what lay ahead. Very little it seems – the wind was light perhaps 6k and the seas flattish. Lots of sail and the engine running had us up to 6k+ and once clear of the entrance the winds settled into the SW giving us a tight angle to get to somewhere 30nm away. By 6 or so we were nearing the top of Skye, the wind veered to the S but we held our course, ducked below Eileann Trodday, a frantic bit of overfall and eased for E Loch Tarbet. We were heading back to Ploc, because, despite the wind funnelling, it suited us. By now we were sailing and romping along but uneasily watching the weather – we did not need another stiff wind on the beam hence one of the reasons for our destination – we could always turn and run further N for an easier time although we starred in that movie just a couple of weeks back....

Anyway just after 10 we slid into Ploc, dropped the hook and within the hour the wind picked up. We can't believe our luck as it is strong, wet and grey outside whereas in here it is warm; aromatic – the potato is baking nicely on the embers and our glasses are full. Sometimes it all just works.


N57 50.63 W 05 45.07

All this was written soon after the event and I couldn’t get back into writing once we’d got back. Another blog prompted me to get down to it so here we go.

We eventually moved through the Sound of Harris to spend a day or two on Taransay before we hoped to get over to St Kilda. 

 a Hebridean beach....really

Taransay was a joy; superb beaches, clear water and a welcome respite from the weather. When a small window presented itself we headed out late afternoon for St K; a destination that has been on our list for some years. The journey here was uneventful until we closed the island in the early hours of a Sunday morning. Pitch black with the wind and seas beginning to pick up we were glad to make the shelter of the cliffs where at least the waves were smaller and we shaped in for the anchorage where numerous anchor lights could be seen gently moving. We dropped anchor at the back of the boats in deeper water than we wanted but at least clear of everyone and by 3am were below and ready for bed. Daylight gave us a clear look at our surroundings; several boats had left, we moved closer in, raised the double reefed mizzen and spent the time watching the activity ashore. 


A World Heritage Site that has a military presence the beehive structures, dry stone walls at odds with the very steep tarmac road, diggers and housing that are clearly visible. By mid day we were all sat in the cockpit, huddled by the doghouse out of the cold wind. The sun was shining and all was well. Around 1pm a loud, gut wrenching cracking erupted above our heads and the mast split in two dropping across the cockpit no more than a foot or two from where we sat. 

The bottom section lay across the cockpit, one end resting on a winch supporting the top end which lay fore and aft. Shocked, devastated, numb yet oddly relieved that the mast had come down when at anchor and not as we worked our way in to the cliffs in rough water. We cleared up, removing all shrouds, furniture etc to make the deckside presence of the two section as small as possible and stowed sail, shrouds etc below. By 6 we were as ship shape as we felt we might reasonably expect, had a quick chat on “what next” and opted to head back to the Hebs rather than wait until the following day as we had intended. We headed out, slightly bemused that none of the remaining boats at anchor had thought it slightly strange that the yellow ketch had suddenly transformed itself into a sloop….

We headed back round the south of Barra/Vatersay, a stroke of luck bringing us into the Sound with a favourable tide and anchored for a few days to make further changes/improvements to the mess. The canvas shelter was badly torn (again) but we were able to effect a repair and propped the whole thing up with a combination of lobster buoys and poles we happened to have aboard. We sailed south from there to visit Pabbay for a few hours and in late afternoon moved a few miles further south to Mingalay. We arrived about 6pm, all the tourist boats had gone home and the anchorage was empty of boats but not of sea life as we were joined by dozens of dolphins leaping, swimming alongside or racing us and each other; further inshore could be seen many more seals watching our arrival. The bay is deep and as, we later discovered, deep quite close into shore; dolphins were seen diving a matter of metres off the beach and rowing ashore seals watched, some followed and we had the whole place to ourselves. An abandoned village; the ruined outlines of small houses; an overgrown graveyard all had us contemplating what life must have been like for these people. As night came in the seals began to gather on the beach singing into and through the night which although tiring by 4am nevertheless was an amazing memory of the place. If you do get a chance and the weather is kind this is wonderful place to stop. The following morning we headed further south just as the first yacht of the day arrived, sadly for them, to a silent bay.

Bracadale arrival

Back in Vatersay briefly before heading north up the islands but opting to get a better sail by freeing off for Skye and arriving late at night in Loch Bracadale. A slow day followed as we made our way down to Canna intending to use the Boat Hbr on the south of the island but stiffening winds and a foul tide saw us head into the, crowded, main harbour. Poor holding really although the anchor held us. We had a look at the boat harbour the following morning; good for one boat with easterly winds.

Drumbuie welcomed us again as we sailed in through the narrow entrance; I’d suggested we might sail in with both main and boomed out genny but then I would as it wasn’t up to me to get pole and genny down before tackling the main inside the anchorage and Bee made it clear that was not going to happen so we swept, rightly, in under main alone. It was here we helped another boat try and retrieve its lost chain and anchor. They’d dropped in 17 metres, the clutch and slipped and the chain and heavy anchor had roared out with the speed and weight snapping the line attached to the butter end…. It’s interesting relating this tale subsequently how I can see dawning on the listeners face (as it did with me) I must check the quality of line I’m using. In the end we spent several days trawling the depths to no avail. A 23 metre yacht was approached to see if they might have a diver and gear aboard but nothing and they left the next day. The lost anchor crew had already contacted a local diving company about recovery but were told it would cost £1200….. We decided on one more sweep, the two dingies rowing in opposite directions when a power boat swept, at speed, through the entrance. I was getting ready to scream slow down when it abruptly swung hard toward us, throttled back and motored over; a guy stood on the foredeck.”I bet you could use a diver” he said and it seems the 23m yacht had mentioned it to them, four farmers on holiday, slightly bored and one a qualified diver with gear on board. He found it after half an hour, the whole lot winched aboard and the question of payment dismissed with a “make a £20 donation to this charity” 

We covered the half mile back to Hannah propelled by an umbrella.......

The weeks went by; a great anchorage east of Gometra, a brilliant few days spent at Lunga in the Tresnish Isles lying on the ground ashore watching the puffins watching us and slowly worked our way to Oban to collect Jemma, Bee’s mate from Cafe Ab. She had a week which coincided with high pressure so the sailing was never going to be exhilarating but we circumnavigated Mull where at anchor in Traigh Gheal, Ardalanish where we met Mark on who sails out of Iona on Birthe Maithe, a converted Danish fishing boat. Amazing story and if you’re looking for a trip with a difference he could be the one for you. We left together for the Sound of Iona after he assured us we’d get through no problems, he for home and us to L Caol on the northern side. 

Fingals's Cave looking out to Hannah
We headed up to Staffa in the morning and while I drifted offshore Bee and Jemma rowed in to visit Fingal’s Cave with J, a keen sea swimmer even swimming in the cave itself despite the jelly fish that seemed to be everywhere. A beat up to Lunga to anchor for a day or so and let her experience the puffins first hand before heading back over to Mull and the beat back down to Oban. Jemma headed for home and we turned Hannah south to begin our journey. A night in Ardencaple Bay preceded a tidal swept jaunt through the Sound of Luing, skirting the Corryvrecken before fetching up at L Na Cille.

A long day saw us anchored off Bangor NI and then a 50nm took us down to Dundrum a wide open bay. A local came out to visit and welcome us, assured us the gusty wind was normal as the town sat beneath a mountain but holding was good and we’d be welcome at the bar. I’m sure we would but the strong gusts made life a little tense or perhaps we were just wanting to get this next bit over so we headed out intending to keep as much as possible to the Irish coast. Progress was ok and we were looking forward to getting through the narrows between Rosslare and St David’s Head which we’ve always felt to be a bind. With 20nm to go came the forecast that the next sea area down, it “starts” at the narrows we were lusting to get through would, experience gusts 50k whereas where we currently were would have much less. We hove to, dumping the main in favour of the try’sl and spent 36 hours warm, dry and comfortable as the current moved us 13nm up and then back as our gusts rarely exceeded mid 30’s.

The last part took us around the corner and back into the English Channel; Mousehole, Coverack and Goran Haven gave us shelter over the next few days before we arrived back at Cawsand. Rolly and uncomfortable we headed further up river into the Lynher, anchoring west of Jupiter Point for a few days until the big tides allowed us back onto our berth. The river is more like a lake here and, for the most part shallow, so we’re limited on how close to the land we can get but the fetch was ok even if the wind over tide situation wasn’t. Heh ho. Back down river to await the tide into Millbrook…..the wind picked up and white caps focused the mind on manoeuvring into our berth. A text message to a friend back on the quay about the state of the wind there elicited a puzzled “what wind” response and so it was. True to form I managed to put us an the mud again and Daz came out to haul us off so by 7pm and about 2500nm later we were tied up.

Since then we’ve got a bit of work done and the mizzen will be started in the new year when we’ve kindly been given access to the big shed that sits on the quay. The wood is ordered and ready; as we work on the mizzen we also need to repair the mizzen boom which was badly damaged by the fall and scarf a piece onto the main boom. The radar has been regularly tested and seems to work fine; the main and bowsprit have been checked for rot and repairs made to the latter which had some punky bits. With the winter approaching we decided to make some changes to our stove which involved removing and then dismantling to strip the rust out. Luckily Bee had found someone obsessed with Morso stoves not far away who proved very helpful over the phone. He agreed to reassemble while we waited and we borrowed a van to take it out there. He did it within a couple of hours although we’d inadvertently stumbled across a fully paid up member of the conspiracy brigade, Covid is a Gates plot assisted by Soros and whoever and on and on. Nothing we could say would or could dent their belief and really there is little point in saying much at all other than we didn’t agree and surely not everything they’d seen on the internet has to be true. Still, he made a good job of our stove and it works now as it did when we first installed it many years ago.

So that's it; we made the update before the end of the year... a year in which the pandemic continued to wreck lives and which makes a dismasting insignificant; a year in which Toots reached 19 and continues to show, thankfully, no signs of slowing down and we started on our 21st year aboard. Look after yourselves; live the best life you can 'cos you're dead a long time.

We'll leave you with this..Take note of the words






Saturday 10 July 2021

Oh dear......

If we have thought about Loch Tarbet over the break it has invariably been coupled to another wild loch to the NE of the Sound of Jura. Known as Drumbuie it's narrow entrance helps break up any big westerlies and we had only used it last time when heading south. We wanted to get there and were up early, again, to pick up the north going tide up the Sound. I don't think we've ever sailed this sound non stop, usually having to motor to get the gate at either end but this time we stopped just short of Loch Aline and anchored for a few hours before moving on. The bay is fine, decent holding etc but the swell from the CalMac ferries can cause havoc so perhaps a night there was never really on the cards. We beat/motored up the Sound, rounded the headland and sailed toward the entrance.

 Ahead we could see the mast of a boat at anchor but we were the only two in that night. The following day when they left we moved up into the vacated spot and were rewarded by the shore side sighting of a large fox hunting amongst the kelp.

We should have stayed there but with no internet and the forecast promising NE3-4 the breeze seemed ideal for a passage to the Hebs. 

Exiting the anchorage a sea eagle flew across our bow and the phone signal came back but the forecasted breeze wouldn't come in until late evening with a promise of very strong easterlies soon....Go back, plug on.... in the end the latter prevailed although we changed our destination from the Hebs where winds might be a lot stronger to somewhere around Skye, perhaps Loch Scavaig..... As we motored on past Muck, Eigg and Rum the destination nagged away at me – it has a reputation for fearsome squalls coming down from the nearby Cuillin Mountains and it might not be the sanest berth for a couple of days. Exciting perhaps but we'll leave that to others. Checking the Antares there looked to be a possible shelter in a nearby loch that had hills rather than mountains surrounding it and trees as a bonus. No mention in any pilot book and a entrance that involved having to slalom through rocks to gain entry to a less than inspiring Loch caused mostly by the huge mussel farms that seem to be everywhere. The approach was made worse by a hard running ebb though luckily at neaps and the shoreline looked distinctly rocky.... At the head of the chosen bay there is sufficient room between shore and farm to get good swinging room, the shore looked to be less rocky but that may have been wishful thinking on my behalf. The anchor went down and.....

silence! No rumbling or grating and Hannah swung sharply to lie behind the anchor. Might be kelp of course but reversed, as ever, hard down so remain reasonably confident. The blow is expected this evening and tomorrow although the gribs suggest gusts of 30k rather than 40.

Monday 24th

We spent a couple of days in Eishort With strong gusts keeping us aware but the bonus of an eagle and four otters to observe. Despite its initial uninspiring impression on us we came to appreciate its qualities, not least the excellent holding in thick mud. But we wanted to get on and with a short lived quiet spell forecast we wanted to try Scavaig. A short 15nm sail found us entering at low water with the “to be avoided” patches clearly visible with basking seals atop. The anchorage proved bigger than we'd imagined and surrounded on three sides by high walled peaks. In the corner sat a white-washed climbers hut and the afternoon had a series of punter boats arriving to collect or deposit various groups of sightseers. To be honest anchorages such as this leave me on edge as the escape route is not straightforward and the surrounding land is going to substantially increase any wind but all was quiet but we were up for another early start the following day with the destination of Barra on our mind....

The forecast was for S or SE 6-7 so a blowy day but if it came in SE a fairly comfortable one. Passing Soay we experienced the lumpy seas at the western end followed by the increase in winds off nearby Rum. Off Canna both wind and seas began to build although the boat remained comfortable – jib, stays'l and a reefed main pushing along at 7k plus. With 20nm to go however things had begun to deteriorate to the point the jib had been dumped and a second reef put in. As we completed the job Bee asked if I wanted the vang (a line that controls the end of the gaff – there's one for each side) easing as it was tight but it was keeping the gaff off the shroud so I said leave it. Stan coped well but in an effort to keep to windward of our waypoint I had begun steering but as seas increased and we were shipping far more water we knew we needed to think of saner options and opted for Skipport some 18nm to the north. With the main out and a preventer rigged, the stay'l sheeted hard in we settled down for a fast if nervous run. The headland we needed to clear was proving to be on the cusp of being cleared but was still 10 or more miles away. We could gybe but would then need to gybe back again for the entrance and the seas were growing, starting to roll and breaking making the manoeuvre a potentially fraught one. But the downside was we were treading a fine line that required a lot of attention. We're were stbd tack but sometimes a sea would hit us on stbd and shove the boat over causing the main to flutter dangerously...

The weather was pretty bad with heavy rain and a cold wind so the coffee Bee produced was very welcome but stupidly I took my eye off the job in hand and in seconds we gybed. The preventer stops the boom smashing over but the gaff, of course, doesn't have that restriction so comes over much further. All hell was let loose with seas and wind seeming to up their game to take advantage. We have had involuntary gybes before and with “luck” we're able to persuade Hannah to come back onto the right tack by keeping the tiller over and that's what happened - back came the boom with huge force. The coffee was still, just, in the cups and as we took a welcome sip I happened to glance aloft and there, hanging forlornly was the end metre or so of gaff. 


Finally down and lashed..

 It had snapped in two, Heaving to and the struggle to get the main down in big seas took some time and was a hairy moment. We had to get the boom tied down to stop it knocking one of us over; the gaff was now a couple of lethal, jagged spears and either hands or sail could suffer serious damage but it was finally under control and lashed down we were able to free the stays'l and head on, still managing 6k in the stronger gusts. Down below Bee reported that our home was a mess and Toots indignant that a couple of light cushions had fallen on her sea-berth where she had been sleeping. Onwards we ran the headland disappearing in the rain and mist but getting closer. The big advantage with no main is the gybe risk implication disappear and made us think again of a square sail benefits.

We finally rounded the headland and shaped toward the entrance where shelter from the waves was assured. Down the channel we raced in driving rain and down to where we'd anchored many years previously. Sadly not to be as fish farm operations now take up most of the available room. We went back to the first anchorage we'd passed and, eventually, dropped there getting the stove lit as a priority.

The morning brings more rain and continuing strong winds, though not yet, Talking it through we think the vang that Bee mentioned was tight enough to cause the spar to snap and it's something we'll ensure we never do again. Is it repairable? Not sure, certainly when hove to we noticed a couple of “splinters” fall into the water so parts of it are missing. Scarf? Rebuild? A new one? Perhaps in Stornoway we'll find out.

Wednesday 16 June 2021


 As 2021 ticked off the months, we gradually began getting Hannah back together, sails bent on in February so anxious were we to convince ourselves that this year Covid restrictions would be eased enough for us to feel comfortable with cruising. By April we knew we should be  able to move and Bee told her mates at Cafe Abundance that their all purpose washer-upper would be heading out. Come the day and the very high tide we slipped our lines and headed out. Unfortunately not very far as my inattention put us firmly on the mud. But as we'd left earlier than we should, the tide and Daz in a rib eventually had us off. First stop, of course, was Cawsand Bay, rolly as ever, and then the following day a brilliant return to sailing with a passage down to the Helford for the night. 

Onwards the next day for the Scilly Isles and into St Helen's Pool. On the few times we have gone to these islands we always been underwhelmed by their reputation whereas this time we were captivated albeit we were only there a couple of days. At low water this pool offers a huge amount of protection and the ocean swell only really noticeable either side of HW but the forecast offered a soon to arrive stiff NW and we decided to head off to Dale Bay at Milford Haven. In retrospect this was a dumb decision given our last experience (and with this wind direction) there was of a boat and mooring being pushed across the bay and sunk but we arrived and to our surprise found three other boats at anchor, but worked our way inside of them and anchored. Soon after two boats left for their marina berths leaving a Rival and us. The wind began as SW (OK) before backing to NW and not OK. The wind strengths were in the 30's but gusts touched mid 40's but the wind over tide situation had spray coming over the boat with a serious amount of fetch so not our finest choice. The Rival had it worse of course, almost burying their bow and at the limit of their chain they can't have had an easy time but both boats and crews survived and when conditions eased headed off. Our plan was to poke our nose into Skomer for the night and we slowly beat our way toward the island.... the seas immediately off it were not particularly welcoming and didn't moderate on closing the entrance. Bee checked with the bino's and reported little change further in which, given this is a tight-ish anchorage for us, had us bearing away hastily checking the stream and making for the Jack Sound where our speeds rapidly shot over 8knots and we were through. But to where? St Bride's Bay offers few anchorages and not with protection from the east and the nearest place would be Fishguard (FG). We plugged on but went around rather than through Ramsey Sound as I thought we might have missed the gate. By the time we had rounded and left it to our south the tide was running against us and we motored slowly on. Ahead we could see another yacht and we both came into FG about the same time – turned out to be the Rival from MH. Fishguard has a poor reputation for strong winds from NW-NE but we didn't think the forecast was for strong so took a chance. It was rolly but the holding is good and we waited out the passing of this front. We tried another anchorage but being further to the N of the bay meant it had far more swell and back we wandered.

On the Sunday we heard those magic words from the forecasters “Gale now ceased” and we made preparations to leave. At 15.10 we hauled anchor and made our way out of FG. The seas were minimal, the wind decent and we were on our way. The forecast had been for S6-7 occasionally 8 and that's what we got. We knew some of it would be lumpy as tides run strongly between here and the Mull of Kintyre but other than a slowing of our speed we were able to truck on. And on. I contemplated various places we might pull in for the night but Bee felt it a waste of the wind and she was right. The seas ran, perhaps 2-3 metres but mostly the wind stayed in the high 20's sometimes gusting low 30's so we were pretty comfortable. I'd made a change to Stan – our steerer -over the break which meant he didn't foul/bend bolts any more and things were hunky dory aboard. On the second night I did consider pulling into the anchorage by Bangor, NI but pitch black, big rolling seas and a beam wind would have meant a very uncomfortable trip in and Gigha was only about 90 miles away. We passed close to the IOM but didn't really see it and even the Mull of Kintyre was nothing but a smudge of a shadow. But the day came, the sun came out though the wind remained cold as we slid up the west coast of this island to an anchorage we'd never used before. The last few miles were gusty and quick but thoughts were on the anchorage and whether it would work, what the holding and all those other things we consider.... Rounding the headland we found a broad, deepish bay, no houses but a couple of camper vans and two fishing buoys. We dropped anchor a little under 48 hours after we'd left FG now almost 250nm astern. The trip itself was exhilarating but the views from the anchorage were just wonderful as was the sighting of loons in here with us! OK they lack the call, for the most part, of their North American cousins but they remain one of our favourite birds. Away to the north could be seen the magnificent Paps of Jura, the sea sparkled, the holding was good and very little swell could be felt. The fishing buoys turned out to be a temporary anchor for a fishing boat but we were clear enough not to cause a problem and he'd left early the next day. As we did to catch the tide through the Sound of Islay. The scenery in this area is stunning and the short 10nm across to the sound is a joy even if the wind was less than impressive. Once into the sound the wind is almost meaningless as we were swept along hitting 10k at one point. I did think of taking the reef out until Bee reminded me that the last time we came up here with the wind in the SE we experienced humongous squalls when we reached the end.....and so it was this time. It's short lived but certainly wakes you up. Our destination lay ahead and one we've thought about often over the Covid times. Loch Tarbert has an intricate entry that twists and turns using painted marks on the rocks originally to guide you in followed by a narrower passage into the loch itself. This is a big loch so anchoring choices are plenty. Our first choice was almost as you enter but the following day we moved across to anchor off the bothy on the northern side where we stayed for a couple of days even dinghy-ing ashore to check out the bothy and talk to a walker who was using it. We wandered around and up the hill, startled when the phone suddenly burst into action as it picked up a network, and Bee decided she'd have a bathe in the pool that gathers beneath a waterfall. It was cold apparently...

Down at the bothy the walker, Cathy, had developed problems in a leg and was resting up prior to tackling a particularly arduous part of the walk and back on the boat we thought perhaps she might appreciate a lift to get her back into the easier section so rowed back to make the offer much to her delight. The following morning we picked up our passenger and dropped her off a few miles down the loch on our way out. A few miles by boat but, we were assured, a tough day to get to where she now was and re-united with her walking companions. We upped and moved on up the coast pausing for the night in a small bay south of the Corryvreken. Perfectly adequate for the night we were to have, not perhaps a stop if winds were forecast.

Crossing the Great Race the following morning presented no problems mostly because there was no swell and no real wind so the current just sent us bowling along, somewhat off course but heading roughly N. What wind there was picked up but moved into the NE giving a wearing beat until we gave up, dumped the genny and motor sailed our way along the Mull coast. Close in we dumped the stays'l and simply motored up to the narrow entrance to Loch Spelve. We've never gone in here, mostly 'cos the c-map we use is inadequate for the entrance giving very little detail other than a contour line. As I've mentioned before some years back I came across Antares Charts, large scale chartlets of various Scottish lochs and they have been invaluable. Here was such an occasion as we entered under sail meeting an outgoing yacht in the narrowest part of the channel and then up into the northern part creeping between a huge mussel farm and a small island to reach the anchorage. We chose to go further into the bay where there were no boats – probably because the bed was a tad graunchy from rock but we had a couple of nights there before moving to another bay, again with mussels growing and one other boat at anchor. Enough room and by evening a further two had arrived.


no pics until we get a stronger signal....

Sunday 13 December 2020

a cautionary tale

Well this has been some year for all, what with Covid, nonsensical conspiracy theories and a dangerous petulant, narcissist wreaking havoc on a democracy but, given that we haven't sailed even a metre of distance there hasn't been that much movement to write about. Consequently this update will really just be about repairs, changes or cock-ups....

Last year I noticed the leather covering on the main mast hoops was showing signs of wear. Not the usual stitching coming adrift but the leather beginning to split. Given that they were probably made up 28 years ago I can hardly complain and recently decided I needed to get on and get the split ones replaced. In the end 5 of the 6 needed replacing and having established I had nowhere near a big enough piece of hide I bought one from a supplier. Natural not tanned and 3-3.5mm thick, it was ideal. 
The rings are about 30cm diameter so each ring would need about a metre by 50mm strip for decent coverage and once it had arrived I began the process of cutting off a strip then marking out the two lines of facing holes for the stitching about 5mm from each edge.

Stretching into the distance..
 It is much easier to pre mark this before you soak the   leather and I used a "pricker" to form the holes that will make the actual stitching so much easier. Having made the first pass and made sure the line is straight(ish). I go over the same holes a second time but it requires a mallet to drive the pricker through leather this thick and it all takes time. The pricker doesn't punch a round hole through but an angled slit which enables you get the first stitch through and leave enough room for the second coming from the other side. The needles are not sailmakers needles but narrower with a soft point that rarely snag the thread and a joy to use. The 1mm Ritza thread compliments the needles and being pre-waxed is easy to thread through the eye.
Having soaked the leather overnight I set to, having to work with the rings in situ was made difficult only by the cold weather - it was December. 
part of the process..
The wet leather is roughly formed by hand around the ring and then using two needles at opposite ends of the thread I push one in from either side (one from the left, one from the right), overhand the thread as they pass then insert each needle from the inside to the out so the left needle exits on the right side and the right from the left and haul tight, stretching the leather so it dries tight on the steel. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat... I wasn't particularly in any hurry so the individual marking out was done on one day, soaked overnight and stitched the following day. The whole thing took a couple of easy weeks as somedays standing on a foredeck in rain and wind lacked any sort of appeal. Anyway all five are now done, a couple of coats of tallow applied and I'll replace some of the mizzen ring leather too over the winter.
Five completed


The traveller was done at the end of last year, different leather, thicker and bigger spacing between the holes. The white is tallow sat in the indentations of the hide - but we're pretty much good to go.
As part of the checking of gear we'd hauled out our anchor chain to go over the links. Much of it was rusty which we don't fret over too much but a closer look at some of the links showed marked wear - from 10mm down to 8mm. It may not be significant but a rough calculation suggested we were losing more strength than we were happy with and we began to think about replacing. We'd got the chain second hand though with very little use some 10 years ago and it has served us well. But we always felt it to be too short and had gone on to chain and rode but much prefer all chain and punted around for what was out there. In the meantime, while we researched, we dug out the spares we have for the SL500 windlass as we wanted to check the gypsy against our existing one. Turns out to be for an earlier model and didn't fit anyway. But it had 6 "slots" for the chain whereas our existing one had 8. The new 10mm chain fitted the 6 slot gypsy very well whereas the 8 has a bit of slop but takes a 3/8 chain perfectly. Hope that makes sense. You can, if you're so inclined get Dave Webster to make you up a gypsy to fit the chain you use exactly although, understandably, you need to provide a new chain sample with the order before he'll start work.

Carbon from the elbow
The year long break also pushed us into those jobs we know we should do but invariably put off. The engine exhaust elbow was one such. Apparently these very expensive pieces of kit are prone to pinhole damage where the ally is welded to the stainless part. It's a pain to take off but worth it in the end. Although we couldn't really see much damage it had been on for 5 years and the resulting carbon was something to see and having gone to the effort we replaced the elbow keeping the old one as a, cleaned up, spare.
Before the clean up

 Apart from Covid, a reason in itself not to wander off for the summer, we've also had the distress of 3 friends die this summer from non Covid issues. The last one was actually Steve, a boat dweller here at the quay. Painful to watch him in his last few weeks; grateful for the kind friends who offered him a room in their house for his last months. Given the restrictions on internal gatherings his send off gathered, fittingly, on the quay where there was enough room for all to be socially distanced yet able to share the moment too. I'll never hear "Into the Mystic" again without having his send off come flooding back....
On a positive note, in October we began out 21st year aboard this fine boat and in August Toots started out on her 19th year of life with all but the first couple of months aboard. She's curled up on the table as I write, basking in the warmth of the stove. Of course those aren't the only positives we've found - Bee, ever active around and about came to know the two women, Jemma and Hazel who run a brilliant project called Cafe Abundance in the village. Rather than waste the food that many supermarkets end up with they have persuaded said s'markets to donate the food to them. Actually by donate I mean food becomes available and Jemma drives out, loads up the van and returns late at night when it's all unloaded, stuck into freezers before being reloaded and taken down to the kitchen. Once a week they cook up whatever they've been given and turn the food into a 3 course meal. Orders are sent in by Wed and on Friday a team of volunteers deliver anywhere between 80 and 130 meals to one of the two alternating designated areas. The price of the meals are what you can afford to give, the food would probably go to landfill if not used and it's far more important that folks get a good meal.
That rather bald paragraph really doesn't do justice to the amount of energy and effort they have put in to getting this thing off the ground - the days are LONG, particularly the Friday when the meals go out and possibly the most amazing aspect is, to us, that they have no idea what food will be passed onto them, the dietary requirements vary enormously requiring a lot of ingenuity and talent to make this all work. As if this isn't enough all the meals come with a small bunch of flowers, often a poem or note from these two caring people.
One of our regular tasks is to empty our pee bucket and on this particular day it was my job. It's easy enough, tipping the contents over, hosing out the jug and replacing. Not exactly rocket science.... Having sorted it out I carried on with pottering around until nature called again and I sat down to pee (this is a boat after all) and then went back to whatever I was a doing. It must have been about 10 minutes later when I wandered up the companionway and into the cockpit and saw the pee bucket hanging innocently from the tiller where I'd hung it to dry and air several hours previously.....

It took several hours to clean up the mess....
A sign, designed by Bee, is now placed on the cover whenever the bucket is reads "Piss Off"

It will take several years before Bee allows me to forget....


Saturday 4 April 2020

Bound for Greenland......en route to the Co-op

Ah yes the thought crossed our mind, the ice-charts have been examined in minute detail and we finally made it..... of ice was there none, no gales encountered and the night watches comprised of sitting around the wood burner supping whisky.

 A tiny street off Millbrook Lake may well be the closest we get to the continent this year as we all struggle to come to terms with the pandemic. Awful as it is we can't help but be inspired at the way folks are responding and helping out where they can.

Wherever you are, whoever you are, stay safe, look after yourselves and your neighbours and we'll see everyone on the other side of this.



Friday 14 February 2020

Beach Combing in the 21st Century

As with so many folks we've become increasingly concerned about the amount of plastic we have in our lives and look for ways to reduce it. But recently we moved to a different side of the discussion and got involved with our local  beach cleaning group

We arrived a few minutes or so before the advertised time and spent a few moments trying to work out how we could possibly make ANY impression of what we could see. 
The majority, by far, seemed to be these awful nurdles in various colours, tiny and with no easy way to collect them it looked as though many hours would be spent for a minute reward. Luckily the organiser arrived armed with the tools required; bucket, dustpan and brush and a kitchen sieve. 


 The process is simple but very effective. Sea water into the bucket, sweep the plastic, sand and any other small items entangled in the stuff into the dustpan then empty it into the bucket. Plastic etc floats on the surface whilst sand sinks allowing you to scoop the detritus out and dump it into a bag. Unfortunately because the plastic is all very different it can't easily be recycled so gets incinerated. Not ideal but at least it's off the beach and away from birds etc who are often confused into thinking it is fish eggs. We set to and before long the beach was a mass of people with a group of 70+ pickers interspersed with dozens more enjoying the beach, walking dogs and themselves along Tregantle Beach

Since then we've got involved in further beach cleans and also in the local woods where volunteers help out with various management tasks and tree planting. I'd file this under hard physical work as the it involves moving logs from where they've been cut to an area of track where they can be shifted by vehicle and stored. As the woods are on a serious slope it is possible to roll the smaller (about a metre)logs down pathways which sounds easier than it is, as logs are frequently heavier at one end sending them off course and requiring retrieval or restarting. Still easier than trying to carry them down hill. 

The longer logs, 4 metres, are dragged down using a portable winch and a clever semi-flexible cone. A rope passes through a hole in the cone "nose" and is then attached to said log. The shape of the cone enables the log to ride over stumps and through undergrowth to a remarkable degree. I'm not sure what these things are called but they work far, far better than the canoe "nose" that was once used but proved too brittle and thin for the task.

Aboard Hannah, life "quietly" continues. The winter storms come and go although we're well protected in our little spot. The local Coastguard Watch, part of the NCI provide updates on the weather coming over Rame Head. The trees I wrote about at the top of the page offer excellent protection and of course we're much lower so Rame's 70knots of wind is down to 40knots when it whips across our masthead. We're due the next storm, Dennis, this weekend and can look forward to 48 hours or more of shrieking noise; wearing yes but certainly no where near as uncomfortable as being hove to in the seas such winds would generate.

a lovely part of the world..


Sunday 3 November 2019



A quick look at the long term forecast was enough to persuade us that we either left with what we had or waited indefinitely for who knows what. So we slipped our lines from Eidi and on 28th June headed out for Iceland. Progress was slow and lumpy, so much so that the early hours I felt I'd had enough - a feeling that hits me from time to time, usually during long passages so this was a tad early. By the following day we were drifting and we tightened the mizzen rigging (using our chain hoist to get the tension)in flat seas and sunshine. By the next day the forecasted winds had kicked in and we pushed north of our rhumb line to try and stay above the low and take advantage of better winds as it went through. We ploughed on under double reefed main and stays'l making reasonable if lumpy progress as the high 30's wind was too far forward for any comfort and eventually we hove to to allow the wind and seas to calm down rather than bashing away. The AIS gave us warning of approaching fishing boats with two projected to come close. Despite several calls on different channels to each of the vessels we had no response leading us to conclude the 80m ships steaming to their fishing grounds at 10k have crews who opt to bank sleep rather keep watch which is a bit unfortunate on the rest of us. But the next ship we called, responded and updated the weather for us, kindly calling back later to suggest we might want to try and head north rather than remain hove to and drift south as that way we would miss the 5 metre seas the front was generating. A kind gesture and we duly set off, hand steering, in order to put more miles between us and the seas. It was whilst we were hove to we bent the first of three bolts on “Stan” the self-steerer. We managed to get the paddle assembly aboard despite the seas (and its weight) where we stowed it below until we could spare the time to repair it the next day. By then both winds and seas had dropped and with a new bolt in place we were able to get everything back together. Not for long as over the next 2 days we bent a bolt a day – something was obviously wrong but we couldn't for the moment see what it was. Unlike the genny which chose a brief increase in wind speed to rip just below a panel close to the peak reinforcement. A bummer as we really needed a lightweight sail in the bulk of the winds we were getting. By now it was late Monday and my mind kept switching between jacking it in and continuing....Bee was philosophical on the surface but deeply gutted that we might not make it but with her quiet support and strength I eventually came round and we persevered. Well persevered is a stretch really as the lack of wind and some kind of circular current seem to keep us trapped in one area for almost a day. In the end we had little option but to motor for several hours to try and clear its influence. As it happened it was a good decision.

We'd downloaded PW before we left and although 4 days old it still bore some resemblance to what we were getting. Based on that we opted to keep sailing south of west in the hope that the winds would become SW which they finally did on Wed 31st. Around 8am that day Bee could clearly see the Icelandic peaks some 50nm away and gradually we closed the coast . Naturally the current was against us and our request to arrive for clearance at a small fishing village whilst not declined was not greeted with enthusiasm and we continued on to Neskaupstadur arriving around 11pm in daylight. We tied up in the fishing harbour, customs were waiting and within the hour we were cleared in.

We liked the town and Iceland too what little we had seen of it. People are friendly but not “in your face”; A fisherman/engineer answered my questions patiently, said he might be able to help sort out the steerer and came down later that evening to look at it. He thought the bearings were too loose, the bolt in question needed to be a size up and we needed to check the alignment.... Not only that but he gave us the use of his washing machine...

The next day we took the self-steerer off, changed some of the bearings and tightened up the bolts that hold them. It was while putting it back together I realised I had stupidly put one of the tufnel blocks on back to front and that was causing the misalignment! Idiot!!! Anyway we sorted everything out, checked it whilst in harbour and it all seemed smooth – the proof would be in the sea trial when we moved on. Before we did that we thought we might move down to the town dock which is more convenient for the town as the katabatic winds were hitting 40k and dragging us (and the jetty we were on) about. Once that calmed we headed down, made a hash of coming alongside and shearing another of “Stan's” bolts in the process. And then a truck pulled up and someone came running over to us....surely not to move us on..No just letting us know we had front row seats for a music concert that night. The music in question turned out to be Viking Metal and luckily for us this was the fourth gig they'd played that day, the audience was very small and 20 minutes later they were packing up and heading home. Never have been a fan of heavy metal and the brief hearing we had a Viking Metal has not changed our minds so we think we had a lucky escape.

Phil and Linda called the following day just as we were clearing off the dock wanting to know where we were and we made arrangements to meet up in a few days in Husavik where they currently were. The winds would be better and stronger further north of us so we motored up the coast to an open bay to anchor. This is an incredible country for back-drops and despite the slight roll we had through the night the anchorage at Horstroend was very impressive. An hour or so of motoring the following morning had us into the wind belt and we were on our way. The absolute joy was the fact that the attention we had given Stan had paid off and we were able to relax and not fret about hand steering. As with most headlands the currents can be difficult in a wind over tide situation so we'd planned on staying at least 5 miles off and thus we found ourselves back in the Arctic Circle, albeit briefly. It was here that we watched the sunset at 1:30am only to rise again 76 minutes later with little change in the daylight in-between. Rounding the headland, heading south, passing islands alive with puffins and into Husavik which claims to be THE Whale watching centre of Iceland as it may well be. 

Certainly there is no shortage of boats for punters to climb aboard to see the whales as we found out when we approached the harbour with cruises returning or heading out at speed. But we found a berth and Phil let us know he'd found a local with a Sailrite who could repair the sail. Roderick is Swiss but has opted to live and work in Iceland and he made short work of the repair that very evening after he'd finished his stint on one of the sailing whale boats. We were back in business. Husavik has a remarkable backdrop - snow covered mountains seem to surround us.

Hannah and Windora left Husavik within an hour of each other. It is a good place to stop; electric and water included in the 2000isk (about £13) a night fee, supermarkets, running trails and, as ever, the most amazing backdrop of snow covered mountains dropping to the sea. 

But we were heading across the bay to an island called Flatley with, perhaps a dozen summer houses, church and a community hall but who knows how many thousands of puffins and terns. At each of the landing points on the island a bin with sticks about a metre long for visitors to carry as they wander around the island. They're really needed if you venture into tern territory as the birds will attack anyone they see as an intruder by diving at the highest point – your head unless you're carrying a stick pointing vertically above the head to give them something else to aim for. Our object was to see puffins and we didn't have to go far. Windora had anchored in the pool with a line ashore and we tied to them. Astern the shore was, perhaps, 10 metres away and there were hundreds of puffins stretched along the shore watching us watching them. 

A stroll through the houses and onto the cliffs revealed birds everywhere and we spent ages snapping pics as they sat or launched themselves into space away from us. A nearby island Grimsay, has a huge puffin colony too but the birds don't react to humans in the same way- simply ignoring them for the most part. We assume that with Grimsay being uninhabited the puffins don't see humans as predators whereas here they're closer to human habitation and their need to have puffins as part of their diet.

We moved out of the harbour and onto a convenient quay and both boats left for harbours further west after a day or so. Windora with its powerful engine and 4 blade prop easily leaving us behind as we plugged on in lightish winds to make our way over a headland before the NW winds came in. It was a pity really as the combination of a potential head wind and trying to remain in company meant we missed out on some neat places. As it was we anchored for the night in a bay that on the chart seemed to have scant potential but was very good and apart from a few local skiffs we had to ourselves. The following day we beat down to Isafjorour where we thought Windora might be. The entrance was interesting with the local airfield alongside it and the channel open to the wind but once through we had a large enclosed bay before us and a sharp right hand turn took us down toward the town. The only boats in view were local and it turned out that all the cruising boats, including Windora, had congregated on the docks. Needless to say we opted to anchor where we could lie in comfort and light the wood stove without possibly annoying the neighbours.

By the following day almost everyone had left for Greenland a destination we had in mind but were now unsure of. The ice in Scoresby showed little evidence of moving and the option would be to head further south and it then became a “do we go just so we can say we went” type of discussion……but there was also, for me, the thought do I really want to cross the Denmark Strait twice to simply gain those bragging rights. Undecided to the very end but we checked out. Or tried to. Whereas the other boats US, OZ NZ had been able to check out via the police station we needed to complete a form online and email it and still not sure why. Anyway by the time we left we had little of the favourable tide left, a head wind and a feeling that this wasn’t a good idea. Not a good start. After several hours of tacking we managed to clear the headland, found the wind had veered more to the NW and picked up which put heading directly W to GL firmly off the itinerary. We called the coastguard to let them know our change of plan, they didn’t think we would need to check back in as we hadn’t left territorial waters and only intended to stay another two weeks in Iceland.

We headed down the west coast with a destination in mind and a decent breeze.
As night fell winds were gusty but ok but with a headland to round we were torn between staying as close as we dare and standing off to avoid the dangerous squalls that can be generated by the downdrafts. In the end we chose a middle path and suffered for it as the winds picked up dramatically leaving us scrambling to reduce sail. Once past all calmed down and became enjoyable. By now we were about 10 miles north of Reykjavik but our destination lay 15 mile up a fjord that ran NE-SW but promised excellent anchorages. We’d never intended to go to Reykjavik but did pass a town (Akranes) with a bay with potential before we turned for the fjord. Of course with fjords and mountains it is almost a given that whatever the wind the terrain will cause it to funnel and, in our experience, always towards you. So it was and what may have looked like a decent sail turned into a war of attrition as we beat our way up this narrowing stretch of water. We had one possible anchorage earmarked that was half way up but we could see as we drew closer it was a non starter; a second one we came across that was much better but by then only a few miles from the destination so kept going by now having to motor tack as the tide was now ebbing adding its influence to the 30k gust coming off the snow covered mountains. Time passes of course and we were finally able to make our way into a sheltered bay where we anchored around midnight exhausted. The following day we moved a few miles to a much more sheltered cove, Hvammsey, where eider ducks were bred. Not much evidence of them but we could see on the shore one of the famed Icelandic “hot pots”. 

We launched the dinghy and rowed over to find a 2 metre diameter circle of stones overflowing with water provided via a hose pipe. Within the circle for several boulders for the bathers to sit on and we decided we’d give it a go, keeping the towels close for when we beat a hasty retreat from the cool water. How wrong could we get? The water was more than warm it was hot and getting too close to the end of the hose proved very uncomfortable. Steam could be seen coming from a nearby patch of ground (bit of a giveaway really) and several pieces of wood in that area were charred. 

We sat there gazing across to Hannah with yet another backdrop of dramatic mountains around us and marveled at our good fortune.

A few days later we beat our way back down (see what I mean?) and anchored off? the town we’d past on the way up. Launched the dinghy and rowed in with the diesel jugs to find some fuel. We tied up and asked a couple of chatting guys where we could get fuel and were ushered into a pick up and driven 200 metres to a nearby garage before being driven back to the pontoon. Such kindness.

One of the benefits of cruising Iceland is the ability to use our UK sim as although not part of the EU it is included when it comes to charges and we were able to readily access weather info. It seemed no matter where we where we always had access to a phone signal and Iceland probably has one of the best signal coverage we have experienced anywhere. Of course the population lives along the coasts, well west, north and east coasts with little if any along the south so logically that's where the towers would be but we never failed to be impressed. Anyway armed with latest forecast and updated before we drew clear of the land we felt we had a plan that would see us riding the grips from Iceland down to St Kilda a 600nm journey toward the SE. Part of the problem was the 40 mile chain of rocks and shoals that stretch just west of south from the headland we were now passing. The grids lay to the west of them and our track took us slowly on a diverging course to the point that we ran out of wind, drifting and ever more unhappy with our lot. We struggled on, making then losing ground but slowly making toward St Kilda. It was always going to be a gamble as the anchorages are on opposite sides of the island and not protected from all directions so not an ideal end to a week long trip. As it happened we got to 105nm from the island when the winds switched to the east, picked up and we decided to keep heading south and take advantage of a beam wind. To windward lay the Outer Hebs, mainland Scotland with Ireland further south….our choices looked limitless but a persistent and stiff easterly kept us firmly offshore but first we had to steer clear of Rockall Bank where depths rose from 2000+metres to 200 metres and the sea would react accordingly. We plugged on, passed the bank with a few miles to spare, drifted then picked up a favourable wind out of the west. By now we were some 30 nm off Donegal and pushed on thinking we’d get to Baltimore before resting up and then heading back. And we might well have done had not MetEirann come up with an approaching front that would generate SW50k and further strong winds behind it. Initially we thought we’d head into Ventry Harbour but snuck through the Blaskets and made a beeline for Valentia. We’d used both anchorages before but in a SW wind the Valentia anchorages offers a heavily tree covered hilly surround and we knew the holding was good and there we went and stayed whilst it blew. At anchor all was calm, the clouds racing across the sky the only indication that something was happening outside. As it went through the wind veered a little to the WNW and a swell could be felt rolling Hannah as we lay at anchor. We moved across to anchor, just, in the lee of Beginish Island the trip across demonstrating just how strong the winds had been blowing as wind speeds exceeded 30k and we rounded up in spray before motoring in as close as we dare to the beach. A good length of chain deployed and we were well dug in albeit with our stern a little closer that we wanted but comfortable. The winds continued to blow and we were happy in the knowledge we chosen to come in to shelter rather than pushing on further offshore.

Leaving was a tad difficult as the NW wind can make the entrance uncomfortable to get out particularly in a wind over tide situation. We were lucky in that the wind was only 10-12k but even so with a foul prop we struggled to exit the narrow entrance and the minutes passed as slow progress was made. Once clear we had a further few miles of motor sailing to clear the headland before we could turn on a more southerly course. Good progress was made, perhaps the best since we had left Iceland some 18 days or so ago and we discussed keeping going over pulling into Baltimore and exploring the surrounding area. In the end we decided to keep going, the winds were reasonable and mostly in our favour with the possibility a stiff southerlies in a day or so. Pushing on, we aimed for a point that would take us south of the Scillies and thus give us a better slant for the Lizard. The tides would still be an issue but not as much as the ebb closer to the mainland might be and we duly rounded the Scillies and altered course for the Lizard. We closed the headland and to our surprise and joy we actually managed to get the timing right for the flood and were carried north and onto Falmouth. Not without incident of course as the weather worsened and we ended up pushed further off the sheltered coast and among the anchored ships in heavy rain at night.

We spent a week or so in the Falmouth area, meeting up, by chance, with friends from way back before taking a favourable if light wind back up to the Plymouth area. Cawsand for the night then up to the Lyner before hauling out at Southdown to get the weed and barnacle offer hull and prop. Constrained as we are by draft we either had to rush through things in 5 days to make the next springs to each our berth or wait till the end of the month and chose the latter allowing us to get more done. We arrived back at the quay around 7am but found our new berth and when settled it was nose down as the bottom was obviously hard in places. Once the water had gone Bee went into the mud to try to clear enough to get us level whilst I got a last coat on the deck. To no avail as the tilt was still uncomfortable but able to take advantage of Nick and Nadja’s absence we were able to use their berth and spent days clearing rocks, cement and lumps of metal to make a cleaner berth. 

 It was an awful job; thick, gloopy and very smelly mud that clung like a demented tentacle to legs and footwear, Bee, who gets tunnel vision when working, was deaf to my whimpering entreaties that I really was stuck and barely spared a glance in case her manic attempts to clear the rocks should be slowed down by a millisecond. It took about 30 minutes for her to accept that my struggles were getting nowhere and she reluctantly abandoned digging out rocks to digging out my trapped left leg immediately returning to her more important work once she’d cleared enough mud for me to be able to haul my leg free. I guess she chose to wear my trousers the following day as her fee for the rescue. That and the fact her own clothing was still soaking from the previous days attempt to hose the mud off before we dared wash them. Bee, who is an indefatigable worker is also, unfortunately, prone to covering herself in whatever she happens to be using; anti-foul; Stockholm tar and in this case the mud. At one point I thought she was using the waders I’d borrowed but it was just my trousers now covered from ankle to waist in mud. Along with her arms, face, hair….well you get the picture.

On the next set of springs we moved back into our berth but found we still suffered from a tilt and spent another day or so digging around the hull in an effort to make a decent flat spot to sit. But it is much better than when we first arrived and the slant is bearable.

So that’s it and we ‘ll be here for the winter. Several storms have already come through the last over the w/e and hitting almost 50k where we are. No doubt more to come.

Some memories comes to mind…..we’re on our way south somewhere on the trip from Iceland. The forecast is for increasing winds sometime overnight and we decide to reef before nightfall. It only blowing 20 odd knots with a bit of sea running but we rather get it done in daylight. I go forward to lower the main and find the throat jammed….nothing I do makes any difference and we realise that the block that controls the topsail outhaul has fouled the throat halyard and jammed it. With no way of lowering the main Bee opts to climb the mast hoops whilst I keep the tension on the tops’l halyard. Her journey up was slow and controlled as she balanced speed against a pitching, rolling gait but once the two lines were separated she was down the hoops faster than I’ve ever seen it done, harness off and the job completed before the night fell. Good job done. You might wonder why it is Bee gets all these difficult jobs and the answer is simple enough. She takes the view that if she falls and goes overboard then she believes I have enough skill to get her back whereas the other way round would see me lost as she doesn’t feel confident enough in her ability. Hmm long term readers may well remember that when I fell overboard Bee did in fact get me back…….twice!

The Lamprey fish that attached themselves to the hull for several days cleaning us of whatever delicacy they'd decided we had and watching the gannets trying to work out a diving angle that would get them a meal whilst avoiding the self steering rudder.

And the two birds that arrived separately, blown from a far shore by stiff winds. One made it aboard where it remained for several days refusing any food but trying to rest before attempting to fly looped round and came back on then tried again and landed, exhausted in the water. The look on its face and the panic thrashing of its wings as it tried desperately to reach the safety of the boat was heart breaking and somehow we managed to stop the boat and rescue it with our net. Sadly we're not sure either bird survived...