The trip had to come to an end as I had calls to be on Friday morning which would be best handled from the office. Linda lifted the anchor at Ardencaple Bay early and navigated us back to Craobh. Linda did all the sailing and navigation flawlessly, having already planned her tides through Cuan. I spent the time tidying up and getting Misha ready to dock (reason for no photography).
Linda took Misha through Cuan perfectly. She wanted me on deck, but I was a spare part, watching her take the boat through the rushing tide at the shoulder of the Springs. It was quite something to watch.
I only took the helm again, as we entered through the marina breakwater. There was a lovely little crabber on the diesel dock who kindly moved up to allow us to tie up alongside. We filled up the diesel and the water ready for the next trip, hopefully next weekend.
After a very peaceful, restful and relaxing night in Loch Druimbuidhe we awoke bright and early to another blue sky day. Misha was ready to go but there wasn’t a puff of wind as Linda lifted the anchor and then motored us out of the Loch.
It wasn’t long till there was some wind on the beam coming from the south so we hoisted some sail and exited Loch Sunart under canvas and a blue sky.
The reach along the Loch went well and the wind was moving ever closer to the nose going from a broad reach, to a reach, to a close hauled beat. As we turned south into the Sound of Mull the wind was solidly on the nose. There was a tug hauling six fish farm pod slowly down the Sound and the air was cold, only a few degrees Celsius before the wind chill.
We made the decision not to beat into the wind, it would have been tough to avoid the fish farm making its way south as it was, and start up the engine. We motored all the way down to Duart Castle.
It was very chilly and we happed up well, but the views of Mull in the crisp morning air were breathtaking.
As we approached the Yule Rocks in the south of the Sound, there was a small fishing boat laying creels. As we neared I spotted activity in the water and shortly afterwards we were greeted by two very friendly short nose common dolphins who spent about ten minutes with us bow riding, jumping and swimming alongside Misha.
Turning into the Firth of Lorn we were able to get on the sails again and slowly sail SE towards our destination. The winds were light and getting lighter and eventually I had to give in and stow the sails again relying further on diesel. I have rarely seen the Firth of Lorn so calm. By the time we arrived at the coats of Seil it was mirror calm. We watched a big make seal catch a pollack, and slowly eat it, ripping into it at the surface.
Initially we anchored in the pool at Puiladobhrain and sat reading our books in the warming afternoon sunlight before moving round into Ardencaple Bay and settling there for the night. There was lots of geese arriving and departing and keeping us amused at their arguments and conversations throughout the afternoon.
We slept like logs overnight and I felt too rested and refreshed when I awoke this morning. The anchorage was a bit gusty during the early part of the night, but it didn’t disturb us in the slightest. Dinner was steak pie and roast potatoes, and I may have enjoyed a bit too much but again, it made me sleep.
The morning was bright and blue and windless. The hills were reflected in the water and there wasn’t even a ripple as we made morning coffee. Linda raised the anchor and did a grand job of it. We motored off westwards down the loch.
After the first corner there was a touch of wind, so we unfurled the foresail and stopped the engine. We were sailing! By the time we were abeam Salen we were shifting between 7.5 and 8.5 knots in 15+ knots of wind with gusts up over 20. We sailed quickly all the way down the loch past the north of Rigsa and made our way to Oronsay.
At Oronsay we managed to get all the way to the entrance to Loch Drumbuidh before the wind was on the nose, we stowed the foresail and motored into the Loch. The entrance is quite spectacular with rocky shorelines on either side and a surface rock on the SE of the entrance. Past there it was clear water all the way to the east-end of the Loch. We sussed out the NE anchorage and the SE anchorage and stayed in the SE anchorage. We dropped the hook at 13:30 and spent the afternoon watching the view, reading our books, and relaxing in the March sunshine. It was 18C in the boat when I started cooking and 20+C when I served.
Dinner was venison stew. The venison we bought at Salen along with fresh veggies that went in too. It was washed down with a nice St Emilion and crappy television. It’s as good as it gets.
Overnight it was a crystal clear night with the stars shining like diamonds on black velvet. The village was bright across the bay and the commercial pontoon ended up busy with four big boats tied up on it.
This morning we woke early to the sound of big diesels as one after another they headed out of the Bay. Once they were gone we went back to sleep for a short while then had a relaxed time and started the morning with a good long shower in the harbour offices. Back on Misha I was getting everything sorted for the day when I spotted the Harbour Master towing in a motor boat that had suffered battery issues while out on the mooring. I lent a hand to catch ropes and get it tied up safe.
There was a gentle SSE breeze as we prepared Misha for departure. We wanted to top up the water tank and there was no water on the leisure pontoons, only on the commercial pontoon, so we needed to jump over to it and fill up. The good news was, that all the big boat had left and it was an easy task to tie up and fill the tank.
All filled up, we motored out of the Bay and raised full sail. We had a cracking reach across the top of the Sound of Mull to the entrance to Loch Sunart. As expected, the wind dropped and died as we came into the lee of Morvern. We spotted a seal surface swimming and a few minutes later an otter came to check on us, then ten minutes later we had a sea eagle (white tailed eagle) flying alongside us for a few minutes.
We motored past Loch Drumbuie and onwards past Carna onwards to Salen. Motoring into Salen we went onto the outer pontoon and went up to the cafe. A quick call with the jetty owners confirmed we could stay overnight if we wanted to, they offered to turn on the power and the water for us. But we wanted to head on so we stayed only for a short stay.
The Jetty Cafe and Shop served us a delightful lunch of locally produced chicken and ham pie with a side salad followed by lemon and lime drizzle cake. The shop was so well stocked with local produce we decided to have an extra shop and bought venison for tomorrow along with local veggies to make a casserole. Tonight we planned the steak pie we bought in Tobermory.
We headed off and continued east along Loch Sunart. I left Linda on the helm and stitched and wrapped the port reefing line and Linda took us through the first set of rock-dodging. We passed a large country house with deer in the front garden and a boathouse with pontoon and visitors moorings. Then went through the next narrows.
At Port a’Chalhuin we checked out our fall-back anchorage. It was quite deep at 10m (plus 4m tide) but it was good enough as a fall-back for us. We motored onwards past Strontium to the very head of the loch and then did a quick survey. We noted that the drying area had extended further than charted but we still had loads of room to anchor in 5m (plus 4m tide). We let out 38m of chain and got ourselves settled comfortably.
At anchor we had good 4G connection and were able to update out weather forecasts and phone the ancestors and let them know what we were up to. Linda sat out enjoying the spring sunshine and I disassembled the AIS finding the arial cable faulty and also stitched and wrapped the starboard reefing line. I did it far better then the port one I did earlier but managed to pull the thread through my left middle finger and also put the sailmakers needle right through my thumb. Once finished I cleared up the blood!
Now, at five to six, we are sitting inside with the oven cooking pie, potatoes and stuffed mushrooms for dinner and raising the saloon temperature incidentally. Its really cold outside now, the air temp has dropped to circa 5c already but we are planning on staying nice and ‘womfy’ inside with the heating going on once the oven stops warming us.
Overnight the clear skies sucked all the heat out of the world and the temperature dropped low. Inside it dropped as low as 7c, outside it went down as low as 2C and they were warning of frost and ice on untreated roads.
When I awoke at 06:20 a pastel coloured sunrise was blessing the eastern sky above Oban. A soft orange faded to yellow and transformed to a sapphire blue while the western sky still sheltered frosty stars.
The only sound this morning were the geese flying overhead before the ferries started traversing out of Oban Bay to the north of us.
I enjoyed a breakfast of toast (burned) and leftover sausage casserole from last night (waste not, want not) and Linda had mueslis and yoghurt. There was, of course, lashings of tea and coffee.
I spent a fair chunk of the morning before we set off arguing with myself about the optimal sail configuration for the day. Half of me was wanting to get the main up. But the sensible side of me was saying, with the wind almost wholly behind us all day, fore-running was the obvious choice. The sensible side won again.
We had dropped all the anchor chain as it was going to be blowy overnight so we had over 40m to pick up and when the chain went vertical those 40kn gusts had dug the anchor in deep. It took a few minutes for it to come up and when it did it brought a huge chunk of mud and shale with it.
Linda brought her out of the bay and out into the Firth of Lorn. I got the foresail well trimmed and we were doing 7-8kn across towards Lady Rock and Lismore Lighthouse. We had Lord of the Isles and then Isle of Mull pass to the north of us as we went through the dancing water at the lighthouses.
From there, we turned more northerly and went through the north passage at Glas Eileanan. Gybing the foresail on tot he starboard side we then ran all the way north west along the sound all the way past Salem Bay before we gybed again.
Lord of the Isles passed us again heading out towards Coll and Tiree as we approached Tobermory. With the low tide and high pressure we didn’t dare risk going in via Aros Bay so headed for the main entrance.
The gusts were getting quite strong as we turned into the Bay and I had already reefed the foresail to about half its size and we were still doing over 7kn as we entered the bay. We got her furled away, radioed in, and berthed up nose in on the NW of the main pontoon.
All tied up, we paid and headed towards the CoOp. We were however way-laid when the manager of the Distillery Shop recognised us. He had to give us a taste of a couple of their special bottling and it would have been rude not to! I ended up with a bottle of 23yr old with a Manzilla finish that is just perfectly genteel and full of sweet caramel notes.
Linda treated us to dinner in McGochans and then I dragged us to the Mish’ for a nightcap as we planned our exploration of Loch Sunart .
The sun was bright and clear with barely a cloud in the sky. At 8am when I was cooking breakfast the air temp was already over 11C; mid March! It was like a summer morning.
Breakfast consisted of toast and boiled egg washed down with loads of coffee. It set us up for the day and picking a gap in the gusts we reversed out of our temporary berth and headed out into Loch Shuna.
Stowing the ropes, of course, I found the missing mast car clip under a roll of mooring rope. At least we now have a spare. The fenders and ropes were all stowed, Linda had a fresh cup of tea; it was time for some sails.
We hauled up the main to make sure it was all rigged correctly, but then dropped and stowed it. With the wind blowing consistently 15kn and gusting up to 30kn from the SE we decided just to fore-reach all the way up through Cuan to Karrera. With the Genoa out we finally got to see the refurbished RR Genoa. It looked fantastic and the new suns-trip in beige really looks great. Owen Sails, as ever, did a great job for us.
We were making 7kn NW across Loch Shuna under bright blue skies with just the foresail set and the boat looking great and sailing brilliantly. We turned up towards Seil and, with the wind directly behind us, we were fore-gybing back and forth through Cuan Sound. We caught the current just starting outbound on a very low tide and we could see all the rocks and reefs that usually skulk under the surface. Linda was worried about the swell as we left Cuan and headed for Easdale but it was very gentle, comfortable and a brilliant first sail of the season.
As we turned round Easdale, we could see all the way up the passage to the lighthouses at the base of the Sound of Mull. Behind us Hebridean Isles was chasing us and managed to undertake us before we got to Karrera.
Throughout the whole sail, the sun was bright, the sky was shiny blue, and the water was whipped with little white caps skirting the tops. We sailed east of Insh Island and after we were north of the island, we were making 8.4kn northbound towards Karerra.
The sail was relatively smooth, there were a couple of vicious gusts but it was all plain sailing and just when we were getting into it we were blasting between Bach Island and Karrera and then in the lee of the island we were slowly reaching towards Oitir Mhor Bay.
We dropped anchor on the east side of the bay, just south of the house and lay out in the cockpit reading our books all afternoon. When the heat went out of the sun (around 4pm) we went inside and I cooked a sausage casserole and baked potatoes for dinner before watching crappy television and listening to the wind gust outside.
We came up to Misha at Craobh Haven on Thursday (19th March) with a plan to get her sorted out for the season and then hopefully a shakedown cruise. Thursday was really blowy and that put the brakes on getting the sails up.
Arriving at the boat after vittles’ in Oban I stripped out the failed freshwater pump and installed the new Jabsco unit. It worked perfectly right away but the extra pressure of the new unit highlighted a pinhole leak atomising a spray of water from near the top of the accumulator tank. So we needed a new accumulator tank as well. Thankfully the marina had one in stock and that meant I managed to get the freshwater system working perfectly for the first time since Misha joined us.
Just as we got the freshwater system fixed my satellite messenger totally gave up the ghost. It had been playing up but it kind of gave up and waved a little white flag insisting that it could no longer send or receive messages. I thought it odd as it worked when I tested it just a week ago, and sure enough it would send and receive fine but still it was popping up with the warming. Given that it is our last line of safety to receive weather forecasts and send messages when well out of reception we decided to replace it.
Dinner on board was beef olives and mashed potatoes with green beans. Linda cooked for us and it was damn tasty and very filling. But that didn’t stop us having a few chocolates for dessert.
We had quite an early night as we needed up early Friday morning for a series of calls I had to make for work.
Friday dawned bright and blowy. I hit the phones at 7am and had a few successful calls before I got finished around 10:30. Linda was then on a call so I started getting the sails up by myself.
The foresail was going up but it was slow, feeding and hauling, feeding and hauling. One of the neighbours on the pontoon, the owner of Witchcraft, came over and very kindly offered to feed. Two minutes later the sail was set.
I went on to the main and immediately spotted that I was short a couple of mast car slider clips. I was able to get the main stacked and packed, the stay pack holding it neatly, before Linda finished her call at 11:45. We left the boat tidied and sorted and drove all the way to Strontian to pick up a replacement satellite messenger. The drive was brilliant in a beautiful blue sunny sky and a stiff breeze. The ferry across Corran Narrows was particularly fun but the whole drive was great.
When we got back to Misha I used some steel stock we had sourced to make the new mast car slider clips. That allowed me to get the rest of the main hooked up and after that it took us about twenty minutes to slot in the battens while dinner was cooking.
We had a cracking walk round the village. It was a stunning evening and the twilight was vivid and beautiful.
By the time we went to bed, Misha was all set for a sail in the morning.