Saying goodbye to Ruth was not easy. We spent a wonderful 10 days together meandering through the Caledonian canal and exploring around Fort William but now it was back to singlehanded sailing!
My plan had been to anchor in Port Ramsay tucked in amongst several small low lying islands towards the southern end of Loch Linhe. However although the sea state was calm, the cloud was hanging low and mist and fog was forecast.
I would have seen very little of it so instead I made for Oban and the marina which is actually across the sound on the island of Kerrera. Although lacking in recent investment due to competition from new transit berthing in the town of Oban itself, the facilities were good and I much preferred the option of a walk around an island rather than a town! In the marina on Kerrera I was introduced to the Westerly Owners Scotland WhatsApp Group and have had very helpful feedback from them on places I planned to visit.
My Hebridean cruise then began in earnest with a pleasant sail up the Sound of Mull, dealing with shifting winds and dodging the Calmac ferries from Oban and between the islands. Then into the well known, but a tad ‘touristy’ Tobermory. It is certainly an attractive setting with its many coloured houses which apparently pre-date the Balamory TV programme. I did visit Macgochan’s and sampled some haggis. Although it’s not really to my liking it was served with a whisky cream which made it very palatable!
The next milestone was passing Ardnamurchan Point: the most westerly point of the island of Great Britain. Yachtsmen who pass this point and return south are entitled to attach a sprig of heather to their bows! In 8-12 knots of wind from the southwest we slipped along at 5-6 knots SOG, easing the main sheet down on the traveller in occasional gusts of wind. My destination was the island of Muck – my first of the Inner Hebrides. There are so many to choose from! It was very peaceful here. No visitors ashore and just a couple of boats at anchor. There were views across to the heights of Eigg and Rum which dwarfed Muck, but I loved the small harbour and the village with its Green Hut, open 24/7, which houses crafts and gifts and which, as on so many islands, operates on an honesty basis for payment.
The next day with light breezes I motored through the Sound of Eigg into the Inner Minch and then sailed on a beam reach towards the rock strewn coast of Skye. I was heading for what the pilot book describes as the most beautiful anchorage in the world! Nestled below the towering crags of the Cuillins (some of the highest mountains on the west coast of Scotland and comprising no less than 8 munros) it was absolutely spectacular! Entrance is not for the faint hearted and I have to confess that it was more nerve racking than any other entrance I had tried before! But it was worth it. A short row in the dinghy and walk up from the anchorage and the fresh water Loch Coruisk opens before you. Awe inspiring. I spent quite a while taking photos and just absorbing its beauty! I was very fortunate to have clear skies to see the summits which are often shrouded in cloud even in summer.
It was short motor from Skye over glass smooth waters, with a pod of dolphins nearby, to the island of Canna, another low lying island. I was heading south again! I took advantage of a visitors mooring buoy and took the dinghy ashore to stretch my legs and again later for dinner in the bijou Canna Cafe – only 5 tables inside which were pre-booked as I had found when phoning ahead. They had said they would accommodate me outside which meant dinner with a view. But there were midges! Luckily I had Smidge spray and Avon Skin so Soft (an alternative to insect repellent apparently used by the army!). I used both and didn’t get bitten! One of the features of these islands is lack of mobile coverage so no data to check weather or make calls and no way of updating my blog – hence the delay and this rather extended episode!
From Canna I had a splendid downwind sail, partly with sails goosewinged – a preventer on the main to hold it steady and the Genoa poled out on the other side. I sailed over depths of more than 230meters – the echo sounder gives up at about 180! Coll was just a staging post and the waters were choppy so no dinghy visit ashore but a very pleasant harbour with buoys or space to anchor.
The next day, taking advantage of the continuing northerly winds, I sailed to Staffa en route to Iona. With its basalt columns and sea caves including the famous Fingles Cave the small island is indeed a spectacular natural feature. There was a swell running and F4 wind so I was far too scared (or cautious!) to anchor let alone leave Thalmia to go ashore or into the cave although in settled conditions it is possible. I pottered around and watched as trip boats were backing in for people to view close up. There were yet more puffins around here – lovely to watch their frenetic flight!
In the sound of Iona I had a tea break at anchor but didn’t go ashore. I wanted to arrive reasonably early in my next anchorage amusingly called Tinkers Hole! One visitor apparently likened it to a half flooded quarry. With pink granite walls and less than ½ cable wide it was beautiful on this, another sunny day (though not very warm!). It was used by R L Stevenson as a location for several of his writings including “Kidnapped”.
As a visitor using these tight anchorages I have been helped by good up to date electronic charts on plotter, iPad and iPhone but especially by having the very detailed charts produced by Antares, researched by local people, carefully sounding depths and charting rocks not accurately recorded on paper charts. I would have been far less confident without those!
The forecasts were not ideal for the next stages of my progress south so now I am holed up in Karrera, Oban again! Once again it’s misty, foggy, drizzly and heavy rain is forecast for today! I’m not grumbling though – there are no gales in the forecast! Time to stock up on food, shower (!!!), and do some laundry. The next few days have the promise of fair winds so be patient!
Since Skye I have in fact been edging slowly south closer to home. However I have a couple more ports or anchorages I hope to visit along the way before leaving Scotland, including the islands which are home to some of my favourite whiskies – Jura and Islay. I’ll raise a glass to all my followers and especially all of you who have donated to Rainbow Living. Thank you!