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. 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...



Thursday, 11 July 2019


Yes, yes I know you thought we'd popped our clogs or something its been so long but there you go. Has much happened? Well we covered a good few miles between the mainland and the outer Hebs as we waited for the winds to shift from the north for more than 10 minutes so here’s a recap.
At one point we felt we had a chance to get up to Shetland but 20 miles off Cape Wrath with the rain falling, our self steerer not working properly I’d had enough and persuaded Bee we should head back, sort out the steerer and wait for a better window. Thus we found ourselves back in the wonderful Loch Laxford, great protection and holding and no sea swell. There we stayed for 4 days as the winds blew from the west. Eventually, of course, they didn’t and a quick glimpse at Passage Weather suggested we could make it across to the Hebs for yet another wander around. Leaving Laxford was done in style; 6k+ and fine sailing but within a few miles the wind had died and seas became very confused needing the motor to make any progress and keep fillings in teeth. But then the breeze filled in from the NE and we were on our way. For 30 or so minutes we bowled along happily doing 5k rejoicing in our fortune….10 minutes later the winds were 35k and we were not so smug. Speeds and wind picked up - we hit 9.9k and the wind topped at 41.4k and by now we were down to a double reefed main and white knuckles as we struggled to keep the boat on track. One particularly nasty wave had me thrown backwards across the cockpit landing heavily on my back as we charged along. In reality we could have done with dumping the main in favour of the try'sl or something but the size of the waves coupled with nearby working fishing boats meant heaving to would have been a wet and possibly difficult situation. And of course we only had 25 mile to go, less to gain a little bit of shelter. The bay I’d earmarked as a possible anchorage came in view; a mass of white water and the little protection we had gained disappeared as we sailed across it. The next choice, Loch Grimshader, was open to the east and we hadn’t been in there for 15 years so couldn’t remember how sheltered it was so Stornoway it was for the second time. Isn’t that a great feeling when you finally gain shelter and realise that the madness is over. Until the next time anyway.

The next few weeks we spent exploring more Antares charted areas, relaxing whilst keeping a watch on the weather. We ended up back in Stornoway a couple of more times anchoring in Glumlaig and Sandwick Bay depending on the wind direction. From the former it is difficult to get ashore but from Sandwick, Bee was able to go for a run and we caught up with the only other boat at anchor in the harbour. 
Phil and Lynda, Windora
Kiwi’s Phil and Lynda on Windora dropped in to chat briefly, discuss future plans etc. We spoken briefly by phone and they mentioned they'd cruised Falklands and South Georgia but seemed a little lukewarm in their response about how they found it. You can see why here Seems they and another boat, Diomedea, were heading in roughly the same direction as we were so there might be some shared anchorages ahead. Having said that both boats are bigger than us so there was/is no chance we’d keep pace. Windora in particular grabbed our attention with its inside steering, comfortable pilot house, ketch rig and very solidly built….ah the joys of not standing outside whilst the rains swamp you. Both boats left the following day for the Faeroe's whilst we hung on another day thinking the swells would still be running off the Point of Ness. 
Of course when we left the winds switched to the E and we had to beat our way clear only to have them die as we got closer to the Point. All night we drifted with Ness clearly in view. And much of the next too if I remember correctly. A breeze filled in and we were able to make some northing although the currents pushed us between Rona and the smaller island to its west. That night we drifted off those islands but far enough away not to have concerns about them. The winds finally came back and we began to make better progress. Progress was slow and I hand steered whilst Bee kept an eye on the bird life. A quiet gannet sat in the water next to what looked like a net caught her attention and we swung round to investigate. We needed the motor to make the approach and still the gannet didn't move or show concern. We stopped alongside and realised the bird's beak had become entangled in what was an old green floating rope, the type commonly used by fishermen. We used the big net we keep on board to pick Toots out of the water should she fall in and gently lifted the bird up to deck level. It came aboard slightly alarmed but dragging its trap with it. We carefully cut away the bulk of it then removed as much as was visible from its beak. It sat quietly watching me with an unblinking eye, its beak close to my face as the rope was removed. Bee lowered the net back into the water, the gannet swam free then stopped to check its feathers hadn't been too messed about with before flying off. Hopefully we'd got all the rope free and "Gordon" as we took to calling him/her survives for years to come. There are some advantages to drifting slowly....

We had toyed with the idea of heading direct to Jan Mayan but whilst the winds south of the Faeroe's were vaguely favourable they were definitely not to the north so Faeroe's it was. Things were going ok until 20 miles or so from the southern tip when we ran into the fast south west moving current. Despite sailing NE we were being relentlessly shoved NW toward a turbulent piece of rock strewn water. By now were motoring in an effort to make progress but even so our speed dropped, at times, to less than 3knots. Into Vagur we crept to tie up on the dock and clear customs.
Red throated diver
A couple of things had happened whilst we were sailing up - the nut holding the main gaff saddle had dropped off whilst the main was up causing some alarm. It was an easy remedy once we’d dropped the main but the second issue was a problem with the ironwork holding the mizzen throat block to the mast. It had come loose and the only way to reach it was by ladder. Asking around on the wharf the guy I’m talking to called someone else over and he asked what length I needed. 10 metres…he reeled in shock  but said whilst there wasn’t a ladder that size he could supply me with a forklift and platform to get the job done! He turned out to be one of the ship yard managers and also one of the skippers of the ketch Johanna. A lucky break.

We left there for Tvoroyri a short distance up the coast. The tide was favourable but the wind wasn’t and as the town was relatively close to one of the notorious races and rips that flow between islands we kept close into the shore and thus out of the main stream. The last 8 miles was a long beat, 20 tacks as we worked our way into the harbour. The HM called asking our intentions, seemed relieved we would be anchoring and we joined a Spanish boat at the head of the bay. The Spanish boat had left Stornoway with us but soon left us far behind.

Although Tvoroyri had a festival on the next day we headed out to make the best use of the wind to get up to Midvaag, one of our favourite Faeroese anchorages. The route takes you right through this race/rip I mentioned earlier. Well the winds were about 10k out of the west and the race ran NW so not ideal but not the worst… much of the time it was ok, not brilliant but we were motor sailing across a lumpy wind over tide sea. A couple of times we caught a taste of what it could be like when the bowsprit was buried in a standing wave, the stem lifted a shed load of water onto the deck and we watched in horror as what looked like a 2’ high wave came down the deck at us! All this while being pushed through the water at almost 9k….. Windora and the Spanish boat were at anchor when we arrived. In an evening chat aboard Windora it turned out they had made the trip up from Stowaway to the Faeroes in 35 hours; Angel, the Spanish sailor a similar time (although he had to motor) whereas we had taken 4.5 days….

A few days later we said g’bye to Angel and we motored up to Ventamanna with Windora and later joined by Diomedea. From there to Eidi where we now are, the other two left for Iceland this morning in a short weather window.