Thursday, 8 June 2017

West, west

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

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

Over the next few weeks we worked our way northwards; Valentia, Smerwick, Cashla and then a triumphant entry, through a stunningly green sea, into Clifden with the most spectacular accompaniment of leaping dolphins we have ever had. 

Even the local fishing boat crew stopped what they were doing to snap pics and watch several of the mammals exuberantly leap clear of the water by a couple of metres. There is no doubt in our mind that dolphins, detecting a boat in their “patch” will immediately come racing across the gap toward us then play in the bow wave, dive under the boat and seem to relish the chance to interact with us. I have no idea how many times we have seen dolphins over the last 17 years but they never cease to captivate and entertain.

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

Dating from 600Ad I think...
Our time in Ireland was coming to an end; we needed to get up into Scotland to catch up with a terminally ill cruising friend and we left Cleggen bound for Rhu. We'd managed to get the self-steer working, although mods are planned for the winter. We rounded Bloody Foreland and made good speeds toward the narrow gap that separates Ireland and Scotland. We were hopeful of making it through in one hit but as time was running out on the favourable tide we opted to slide into White Bay at the top of Lough Foyle. 

As we approached we had misgivings about its suitability but in the end it was a welcome stop. Good shelter and holding gave us an undisturbed night before heading on down to Raithlin Island where we anchored to await the change of tide. We had a choice of anchorages on the other side; about 20 mile away lay Sanda, the useful passage stop when rounding the Mull of Kintyre, Campbeltown or further on to Arran. We'd let the tide and wind dictate. Sanda was passed as we still had hours of favourable tide to go and we swept up to the easy entrance of Campbeltown, dropping anchor in the early evening.

The following morning came in still and foggy but we wanted to get a move on and so motored out of the bay and into more fog. A yacht passed us as we drifted, tooting its fog horn and minutes later we resorted again to the engine to make progress. But the fog passed, a breeze of sorts came in and we sailed slowly northwards. A “PAN PAN” on the vhf alerted us to a possible issue and the CG reported an overdue small aircraft. Reports started coming back from yotties that various bits of wreckage had been seen and then a body. All this just a few miles north of where we were. 

We slid into Loch Ranza for the night, staggered at the number of yots on mooring buoys (we joined them), watched a brigantine from Holland anchor at the head of the lock and then we left early the following day.

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

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

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

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

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

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

West Loch Tarbert

55 57N 005 56W