Mallaig, 16th June2012

Change of Plan

On Sunday morning Anne left to get the bus home and we got ourselves organised for the off. I was joined by Edelle and Sinead from work and Sinead's friend Emma for the leg out to the Outer Hebridies. The forecast was for a week of unseasonal northeasterly winds so we decided to go north clockwise around the Isle of Skye. It would mean that we would be in fairly sheltered waters for the first few days which would help the new crew acclimatise. We left on a cracking wind and flat seas towards Tobermory. We sailed closehauled at 5 knots with each crew getting a feel for the helm again. Approaching Mull the wind eased and came round enough for us to put up the cruising chute but thagt only lasted 20 minutes until the wind died and low cloud signaled the arrival of rain. We had a shower for an hour but it cleared in time for our arrival into Tobermory where we dined on slow roasted lamb, a treat for the skipper. Naturally we had to go ashore to sample the cultural highlights. I for one, was looking for the best butcher around from the last visit but sadly his shop seemed to have closed. We ended up in the Mishnish Hotel which is a great old pub with big armchairs and great atmosphere. We arrived at half time in the Ireland Croatia football match which Ireland evantually lost. Thus ended the ladies first day on the move.

Next morning light winds and overcast skies greeted us as we motored out of Tobermory to go around Ardnamurchan Point and on to Skye. We had some sailing on that leg, but only in patches as it was light and fairly close to the nose mostly. We were heading the Inverie, home of the Old Forge, the most isolated pub in Britain as it is a 2 day walk from the nearest road. The while Knoydart peninsula is a walkers paradise with serious ridges, cliffs and mountains all around. We put on our boots and went off for a hike up along a valley to a Corrie lake surrounded by steep mountains. The Old Forge welcomed us back after our exertions but so too did the midgies who attacked us as we left the pub. Luckily, anchored offshore, we were left alone and were able to enjoy our dinner in peace. The next morning we had light winds again on the nose as we headed north between Skye and the mainland. The gap between the two starts at about 5 miles but as you go further north it gradually closes to about 300 metres at the Kyle Rhea narrows. The tide runs fast at this spot but Emma on the helm coped well with the swirling currents. We anchored off Eilean Donnan Castle, scene of many movies and headed ashore for a look. The castle was a ruin until it was beautifully restored in the 1920s' and portrays its history and life inside very well. After returning, we motored the 4 miles to Kyle of Lochalsh beside the impressive Skys bridge. There we were able to stock up on food and get a shower and swim at the local swimming pool. We had a dinner of wild Knoydart venison bought in Inverie and all crew seemed converted to the joys of the meat.

The next morning with a forecast of light northeasterlies, we headed north to go around Skye but the initial light wind gave way to 15 knots wind on the nose. When the forecast came later, we found that the wind for the next two days was forecast to be 4-5 north or northeasterly. That meant wind on the nose or closehauled for the run out to the Hebridies, pretty uncomfortable sailing in open water. So reluctantly, we decided to turn around and abandon our plans for a trip to the Hebridies. With northerlies for the next days, we would end up motoring too much and not sailing. Not fun..... So we ended up anchored off Rassay island with 20-25 knots gusting from the north. I had been to Rassay before and knew that it was a good place for hillwalking, having an outdoor pursuits centre based there which Christine Wakeford once worked in. I suggested to the crew that we stay 2 nights and do a long walk on the second day and all agreed. We did a pleasant walk to the lighthouse on the southern point of the island in bright sunshine. Then we returned over the hills back over dry bogland and forest. A really pleasant walk followed by a pint in the hotel overlooking the anchorage. I resigned the post of cook for the evening and we were treasted to a spicy thai curry to warm us after our walk.

The next morning the winds were light from the East and we thought the Hebridies could be back on, that was until we listened to the 10 am forecast. It talked of a strong depression bringing gales everywhere except in the far north. Our area had a forecast of 4-5 or 6 east or northeast and likely strong winds overnight. With such unsettled wind to our south, we stuck to the plan to head no further north and decided to head back south to Mallaig and go to Talisker Distillery on the south coast of Skye the following day. The tides in the narrow channels around the Kyles of Lochalsh and Kyle Rhea would turn favorable that afternoon so we headed off for another walk to the north of the anchorage before leaving. On our return, the wind had freshened a bit from the north, letting us sail most of the way to Skye bridge. We motored through the narrows and then the wind came back again and soon we were creaming along with 12-15 knots on the beam. The crew were happy to finally have a day of good sailing. Emma treated us to a delicious pork tagine which was a great end to a lovely day.

After a gusty nights sleep the crew awoke to a blustery day in Mallaig. While I tirelessly tollied at the engine the girls treated themsleves to a day in Fort William. Being that one of the crew is from Monaghan the girls opted for the cheaper train to Fort William instead of the beautiful steam engine. She pointed out that they go over the same bridge anyway so the money was better spent elsewhere. They boarded the train after a brief panic and settled in to their seats for a comfortable journey After some shameless flirting with a Scottish Rail employee the girls were able to take a beautiful picture of the Glenfinnan Viaduct (aka Harry Potter bridge) from the control room. Once arriving in Mallaig the girls were disappointed to discover that the cinema they were promised had been closed down for 2 years! Emma melted some plastic in various shops while Edelle and Sinead sighed! After a few hours they returned to find that I had broken more things than Sinead had ALL week! The girls went for a well deserved swim while I starved waiting for their return. Sinead's turn to cook tonight (spagetti bolonegse yum yum) with popcorn and gambling to follow!