Craobh to Tobermory 42.2 miles, 6.3 hours.

Linda and I managed a couple of days off around New Year and Mum & Dad were stable with their care so we sprinted up to the boat. We had a grand plan to get out sailing Thursday 30th and be in Mallaig for the ‘Bells’. That didn’t work!

We awoke on Thursday morning and the two of us were so tired and worn-done we couldn’t face rigging up and setting off in F6 and Rain. We decided to have a duvet day and went as far as Ardfern to pick up supplies. The rest of the day was spent with cake, tea, cola, books and movies and we were in bed at the back of 21:00.

Friday morning we awoke bright and early. There was some initial discussion about a second duvet day but on a weather update and the realisation it was ‘now or not at all’ we rigged her up and (via the diesel jetty) headed out. James’ comment when I asked for Diesel was telling; “Hang on and I’ll grab my head torch!” it was still darkish when we motored out the marina at 08:20.

Across Loch Shuna was practically windless with heavy mist (aka rain) all around. It was very dramatic, very atmospheric; “Don’t go out on the Moors!” came to mind

We motored across and up into Seil Sound and onwards into Cuan Sound. We were expecting the Sound to be pumping at mid-tide but there was little flow on the east end and only when we got to Rattling Island did we see whirlpools and a river in the stream.

There was a chap who waved at the caravan park and the ferry was plying his way through the flow. The western end was more energetic and we topped ten knots as it spat us out into Easdale Bay. We could just make out the northern marker buoy but the lighthouse was still hidden deep in the mist. Still there was little to no wind and we were showing 2mph true as we motored past Easdale Head where the breakers from the Atlantic roll were crashing hard against the slate.

We sailed west of Insh Island and motored north surrounded by a large pod of common dolphin. They were leaping and breaching all around us. Guessing about sixteen or so of them travelled with us for about half an hour before they pealed off and headed south leaving us solitary for our northbound leg to Duart.

We did see a couple of other boats; Isle of Lewis passed us and a workboat was motoring southbound as we approached Duart. We could barely make out the castle as we passed and were greeted by the watershed and an instant increase in the breeze. Linda went below to make tea ad I raised full sail. In no time we were tracking north-west up the Sound at 8 knots. The rocks had a few cormorants on them but there were none of the seals we usually see there and no more dolphins.

The wind and weather were up and down and all over the place as we sailed up the Sound and we passed Lachaline at 8knotts under full sail. Clansman overtook us and a workboat passed by us and an hour off Aros Channel the wind died away just as Isle of Lewis tried to sneak past us. After she passed, we fired up the engine and dropped and stowed the sails.

Hogmanay in Tobermory

It was past half tide on the rise and we had 3m of tide approaching Aros Channel so decided to take the shortcut in towards Tobermory. It was pretty and uneventful with little current pushing us into the Bay. We routed in the new fairway and there was one other boat on the pontoons. The chap was setting her berthing lines as we approached and offered to catch our lines for us. It was an easy berthing in light winds and we doubled up as tomorrow’s winds are expected to be quite strong.

The afternoon highlight was a visit to the Distillery where I picked up a 17 year old with a Madeira finish, Linda got a new bobble-hat and we grabbed a couple of slices of cake from the deli. We had hot showers then returned to the boat stowing our distillery booty and finally cooking a two-bird roast, baked potatoes and left over veg from last night. Dinner was very yummy, but we are barely staying awake now, and its only 18:00. It is unlikely we will see in the New Year awake!

Midwinter Flap

Linda and I had a terrible last full week of working this year. L was stressed, anxious, and over-worked and I was worried sick about my poor parents whose diminishing health is causing them suffering. So we needed even the shortest of weekends away from everything to escape our mundanity.

After the week finished on Friday afternoon we jumped in the car and rolled up to Craobh. By the time we got there the winters night was well ensconced and had descended her chill over the land and the water. We decided to miss the live music in LOTI due to the increased risk of the new COVID variant; omicron. Rather cooking ourselves a bowl of mince on board and a glass of red wine.

Hunger satiated, we set to bed early and, with the heater having warmed the boat through slept warm and comfortable all the way through to 09:30 on Saturday morning.

The static high sitting over the UK, with its settled air and high humidity along with the winter chill set up a thick but shallow fog over the water. Looking up, most of the time you could glimpse the blue but horizontally an impenetrable mist hung heavy across the calm surface.

Air temps of 2C, and wind speeds not exceeding 5knotts allowed a gentle, peaceful and tranquil motor out of the marina. Shaking the reefs of last weekends sporty sailing out of the. Main, the whole canvas was set and trimmed. We were getting up to 4knotts of speed when tide and gentle breeze helped us along together.

Overall it was a very pleasant sail with seals, two otters and plenty of seabirds to keep us company. We travelled up to Balvickar then down the west side of Shuna before anchoring in the lagoon just south of Craobh in Bagh An Tigh-Stoir bay.

The bottom is thick mud and I reckon a tripping line is a must as there appears much in the way of discarded warps and ancillary junk down there. We were anchored up by 15:00 with the heater on, the anchor light set, and our books on our laps.

Dinner was a Tesco Chicken and Bacon pie with roasted new potatoes and Mediterranean Vegatables. We had the last of our Cantina Zaccagnini Montepulciano D’Abruzzo and savoured every mouthful. The feeling of loss as I licked the last of the tannin crystals from my teeth inspired me to order a case to replenish supplies.

The ability to order my favourite wine, while on anchor in a relatively remote bay wasn’t lost on me and I enjoyed that experience too.

We watched “Valley Uprising” and “Sunshine Superman” after dinner and the whole evening was gentle, pleasant and healing.

We tried a new plan with the heater overnight, switching it off when we went to bed and having it turn on a couple of hours before we planned to awake. It seemed to work very well and Linda was less snuffely than usual on Sunday morning.

Overnight there were some really weird noises and I still don’t know if it was creatures or coming from land. I preferred last weekend’s geese either way!

Sunday saw us up and off by 10am after ham and eggs with toast. I spotted more rope lying in the water just beside the boat before we weighed anchor so we need to keep an eye if we anchor there again.

It was only a very short hop from the lagoon round into the marina so we actually set Misha up for berthing before we weighed anchor. The fog was far denser than Saturday so it was all lights as we motored round.

The air in the marina was very still and I parked her perfectly back in her own pontoon. She is all double roped but needs top ups of water and diesel before we next head out.

I’m writing up the weekend in bed at home, complaining of the lack of ripple and the lack of rocking, I’ll never sleep when it’s this still!

Home from Crinan

Last night we enjoyed a hearty meal of beef olives in onion gravy and new potatoes then vegged out in the saloon complaining how late it felt. The moon was bright over Crinan and the stars sparkling wonderfully but by 10pm we were snoring. That was until 2am when someone (not me) decided to awake and then stay awake till around 5am.

The fun bit was being surrounded by geese around 4am and getting to see the starts silhouette Duntrune Castle.

We had an alarm set for 8am but when I awoke shortly before that we agreed we would just have a long lie. The alarm silenced it was after 10am when I got up and then prepared bacon sannies on the new cooker for the two of us.

Of course then the rain started to really come down and as I prepped to lift anchor the rain was bouncing off my storm suit. I had a seal and a cormorant keeping me company as I weighed anchor and then Linda joined me on the deck and we motored over to Crinan.

There was barely a puff but with the boatyard behind us the sails went up. Initially there wasn’t enough to even move but out past the southern headland a little breeze arrived and out went the genny.

Within 15 minutes I had a doubly reef in the foresail and 30 mins later the foresail as stowed and there was a double reef in the main. We had 4ft waves breaking around us and 25-30kn on our port aft quarter, literally surfing waves in the Sound of Jura.

After putting the reefs in my arms were aching, my knee was swollen, Linda looked drenched and the two of us were exhausted. I wanted to head to Craobh, tie up and get some rest before the week. But… it was blowing a hooley and there was no way I would be able to reverse her into her pontoon beside Witchcraft in these conditions.

A call to the marina followed and we managed a temporary swap to a lagoon side berth and I slid her in nose first easily enough. With a big storm coming in tomorrow I wanted her well sorted. Double roped and all battened down we left her till next weekend.

Loch Crinan & Duntrune Castle

Despite everything that is happening at the moment we managed to get three days away. I was scheduled to be working up north but it was cancelled at the last moment and I had already cleared everything to make way for it so we had the perfect opportunity for a winter weekend away.

We arrived at the marina at 12 noon and were ropes off at 13:00. Linda hadn’t yet seen the cooker that Cairns had fitted for us a few weeks ago and was delighted with it. She was even more delighted with how quickly it boils a kettle to make tea.

Leaving Craobh it looked like there would be little or no wind (despite a 5-7 forecast) so we decided to raise full sails as we passed the marker buoy heading south. Other than one fish farm boat we were the only vessel out and it was chilly but beautiful with regular rainbows and blue sky streaked with ribbons of clouds. But then….

The wind started to increase and soon enough we were skipping along between 7.5 and 8 knots. I put Linda on the helm and I reefed the foresail with a double reef for was to the south west over Jura I could see a spectacular squall sneaking up on us.

Moments after I had the reef in, tidied up and was back on the helm we were having a 25kn gust, driving hail stones and making over 8kn southbound. We were going to be in Loch Crinan early! I contemplated a change of plan and shooting for Craighouse but I have learned to my cost to sail the plan unless there is a damn good reason otherwise.

We had the sole of the cockpit filling up with hailstones, a beautiful rainbow behind us, and 7.8kn speed over ground. You cannot knock that for a Friday afternoon in December!

The Doris Mor opened up to us with a solid 25kn on the beam and we skidded in through the narrows at over 9kn speed over ground. There were no seals in the Jacuzzi but it was beautiful none the less. Crinan Hotel looked lovely in the distance and we used that as the point to steer into the Loch until we were approaching Dunture Castle on our port bow.

I had already set up the ground tackle and I gave Linda the wind forecast, the Antares Chart for the area, and the tidal curve and asked her where we should anchor. Now I know there are lots of folks who would say the south of Crinan Bay behind the island or even ‘grab a mooring’ but with the wind currently from the W or WNW and dropping and backing SW, S, then picking up from the SE in the morning the bay just NE of the castle is an ideal spot with loads of swinging room and excellent holding. Linda bagged it straight away.

To the derision of two cormorants whose favourite fishing spot we nabbed, we dropped in 5m (mid tide 0.8m range) and put it 30m. It was gusting 22kn as we anchored and she grabbed the bottom (heavy mud with a little weed) firmly and wasn’t for letting go. I had sneakily popped on the diesel heater when I had switched on the windlass so it wasn’t long for Misha to start to warm up. With the heater on, Linda made coffee and tea (along with a Tunnocks Teacake) and we settled comfortably on the couch listening to the wind howling through the rigging before 15:00.

The plan is to R&R before an early dinner and probably an early night too. It’s so beautifully comfortable on board with the gentle movement at anchor, a howl of the wind, and the occasional splash as a wavelet hits the hull. We brought some home made but frozen down dinners from home so tonight is beef olives and baby potatoes with an onion gravy around 17:30.

With the sun setting at 15:46, the anchor light is already on as I type at 15:30 and I’m looking forward to reading my book before its time to cook.

Misha did great today and all the monitoring and tracking kit; including the Maiana AIS unit appear to have done a great job and are getting a rest too now that we are safely on the hook.