Finally, after 4 days of strong wind warnings, we had a weather window to get further north. Derrick was convinced that he was about to miss his flight and had looked into getting a ferry from Islay to the mainland and then busses overnight to London. Obviously a fate worse than death. So it was with relief that on saturday we were able to leave, motoring through a weakening northeasterly wind. Gradually the land on both sides got claser as we headed between the Scottish Mainland and the islands of Islay and Jura. The skies were grey and rainy but at least we were moving. Luckily we all had our sea legs so nobody felt sick at the motion. The tidal gate of the Sound of Luing was our key to the journey, as we had to arrive at a certain stage of the tide to make sure that we didn't have the current against us as it runs at up to 8 knots here. We got our timing right and only regretted that the weather didn't play ball since under sunny skies, the scenery would have been even more impressive. As we came out from the sound, we were back into more bouncy seas, but only for the last few miles to Oban. The town was pleasure to behold after being in Port Ellen for so long. An attempt to anchor off the Esplanade was abandoned as the swell affected it so we went across the bay to the island of Kerrera, a half mile away, and picked up a mooring and got some well deserved rest after a 10 hour trip. In the morning we went ashore and found a quiet lovely marina with internet access, showers, laundrette and decided to come back after dropping Derrick off at the bus station in Fort William.
The sunday morning dawned sunny for the first time since we left Northern Ireland and it was a great tonic for the troups. Crew seemed more smiled and in better humour, looking forward to Derricks last trip up the loch to Fort William. Sadly, it clouded over and the wind got up again but not enough to affect us on the trip. We motored up between rising hills on both sides and the only concern was the Corran Narrows where Loch Linne is constricted from 2 miles to 100m wide. The tide here creates whirlpool currents and for a few minutes we had to hand steer through breaking waves. After that it calmed down a lot and we relaxed for the last few miles to the town. We anchored off and got the dingy in the water to have a gander. I had only heard of Fort William as being where the sleeper train from London finishes and it certainly has an air of respectability about it. Nowadays, it is a centre for climbing Ben Nevis, skiing and the like. It has a quaint appeal with a number of old stone hotels overlooking the water and the town square. After a walk around and the obligatory pint, we went out for dinner. The tradition on board has developed of eating out every time crew leaves and this was to be a special one. We ate in Crannog, a seafood restaurant on a short pier overlooking the Loch with lovely views and even better food. But I felt that it was a suitable way of saying goodbye to Derrick after all the miles covered.
The following morning dawned sunny and calm as I brought Derrick ashore to get his bus.
The town was asleep since the tourists weren't yet up but later Teresa and I returned to buy her a
digital camera. The lady was to take the step into the digital age and the prices here
seemed good. The idea was to practice using it on the way back down to Oban and then to see
what they looked like on the big screen of the computer when we got to the marina in Oban.
Luckily we had plenty of views to practice with on the trip. It all started with glassy seas
reflecting the mountains. Ben Nevis was shy wrapped up in a blanket of cloud, but we
did get a little peek. More impressive were the miliatary jets who used the loch for practice
but you didn't hear them until they were gone so you had to be alert to get a pic of them.
We only got one but it was on the far side of the loch so not a great shot. Later we were passed by the
sail training vessel "Royalist" who ended up going into Oban as well. Below are a selection
of the shots she got.
We decided to spend a couple of nights in Oban to do laundry, etc as well as chill out after covering so many miles in the previous three days. It gave us a chance to go for walks and do land stuff for a bit before heading north on the next passage. This time we would see no marinas, just visitors buoys and anchoring in places moch closer together. So shorter trips and more varied scenery awaits us.