Heading South!

It was sad to see a marina with real potential suffer from lack of investment. The lease on the marina at Kerrera (Oban) is apparently changing hands imminently so let’s hope investment follows. Currently the ferryman is also the berth marshal and the chef is also the crane driver! Someone commented that he would be happy if the crane driver cooked the meals but wasn’t sure about trusting his boat to the chef as crane driver! To be fair the staff were very willing and capable!

After a very wet day Thalmia was berthed on the fuel pontoon overnight after getting refuelled. It was a bit exposed and the waves slapping against the transom stopped me having a good sleep. A spring line on the stern quarter to get the boat off the pontoon the next morning and I was on my way down the Sound of Kerrera, sailing with just the Genoa in F4-F5, with gusts up to 28 knots and a quartering sea. But the autohelm coped well!

Again I experienced the phenomenon of 140m depth of water on all my paper and electronic charts but saw the depth sounder changing to 3m for a little while then back to 140m! It happened twice this time! I was sailing in an area that is marked on the charts as a submarine exercise area! Was I being shadowed, did a sea mammal pass underneath the boat, or just weed or did the depth sounder give up? I even gybed, just in case there was an uncharted rock! But no – soon back to and holding at around 140m. Curious!

Into West Loch Tarbert for the next night and what a difference! I picked one of many anchorages here. It was recommended by the Antares charts as good holding in gritty mud – ideal! A stunning setting on a lovely sunny evening looking out over the “Paps of Jura”. Totally calm and a chance to row ashore and take some pics followed by a peaceful night!

After cleaning the anchor of the gritty mud and kelp it brought up in the morning we entered the Sound of Islay and jumped on its tidal escalator! It pays to choose your tidal window – on this calm day and with little wind we motored at 5.5knts through the water but hit 10.8knts over the ground! There were eddies and whirlpools along the way.

At the southern end of Islay we motored through the delightful Ardmore Islands which was crowded with seals basking on the rocks at low water. Another tight passage through the rocks. We poked our nose into Lagavulin bay. It is accessible to yachts to anchor off the distillery pier if you know the area or have good charts but that day I decided to take the easy option to go to the marina at Port Ellen.

The following day I walked along the newly laid tarmac path to the 3 distilleries which are all within a 1hr walk of the port. Actually the distillery at Ardberg was completely closed but I went into Lagavulin and Laphroaig and sampled some of their finest before buying something less expensive and having a very relaxed walk back! As I said to Ruth – it has to be done!

And so goodbye to Scotland. I really envy the local yacht owners here with their lovely cruising ground. So many anchorages and ports to choose from, majestic landscapes and seascapes and wonderful flora and fauna.

Crossing to Northern Ireland brought back thoughts of the English Channel – having to plot a course to steer (CTS) across the North Channel with Spring tides. Fortunately it could be mostly completed in one tide. For the yachties out there I used the ‘savvy navvy’ app to check my plan and it was really quite good! The only thing is that, although it shows the effect of tide and wind on CTS, it doesn’t seem to adjust your speed for tides but assumes boat speed is governed by wind! I had to arrive at Rathlin Sound to make a timely entry from the west with the rather strong currents through the Sound so my judgement had to trump any app! Get it wrong and you can end up going nowhere against the tide! I had the added interest of crossing close to the edge of a Traffic Separation Scheme and had to dodge behind a cargo vessel heading into the TSS at 20knts!

I arrived in Ballycastle early enough to take a bus ride for 27mins to the Giants Causeway. I describe this as Durdle Door on steroids! The National Trust has developed it into a major tourist attraction! In fairness the visitor centre is discretely set into the landscape and it is after all a UNESCO world heritage site. The basalt columns are part of the chain that includes Staffa. It is indeed an impressive natural feature but quite busy.

Turning right out of Ballycastle I passed Fairhead sailing on a broad reach on moderate seas with a northerly wind. Off the headland there were the predicted overfalls, turbulence and eddies which lasted for quite a while past the headland. I hate to think what is would be like in a strong wind over tide situation. Heading south I enjoyed (?) A F4 downwind sail, this time with full main and sometimes the Genoa maintaining some 5.5 knots through the water but up to 11.3 knots SOG! Thalmia, perhaps because she is fractional rigged (the Genoa is attached to the mast lower than the mast head) is sometimes more comfortable downwind with just the main and adding or furling the Genoa is easier that adjusting the main downwind. For a while I hand steered as although the autohelm coped and reacted to the wind or waves even through the eddies, it does not anticipate the movement of the boat – which the skipper can!

Entering Bangor marina was tricky as the wind was then gusting to 24knts with a big swell. Not knowing what clear space there might be inside the harbour I dropped the main outside and partly set lines and fenders before entering. It is a very big marina but quite tight.

Next stop was Ardglass, another busy fishing port but with a marina as well. This is just south of Strangford Loch and today I have motored inside the Loch riding the fast incoming tide through the “narrows” to what is a huge expanse of enclosed water. It was produced by a retreating glacier which has left deposits in its wake which now form islands and rocky outcrops. One cruising guide describes it as like the Scillies but less exposed! The shelter inside is very good though not so necessary today with very light winds and smooth sea state. I am completing this post at anchor looking out on this scene and hearing only the call of gulls, terns and oyster-catchers and the occasional moan of a seal!

Where to next is in the hands of the Isle of Mann officials. I have gained COVID clearance to go ashore by filing an application online. I still need permission to land at the only approved port of entry – Douglas – and they have very limited berthing available as they’re dredging in the marina. This is bizarre as they only opened up to visiting yachts on Monday this week but now they have limited berthing! Poor timing! A phone call tomorrow morning will decide what happens next!

Published by Derek

Having started sailing later in life I have migrated from a 14ft dinghy via a Sadler 26 to a 32ft Westerly Fulmar. I sail mostly single handed in the South West from the Solent to the Scillies or across to the Channel Islands and ajacent French coast. In 2020 I planned to sail mostly single handed around Britain. Due to Covid-19 this was unfortunately not possible. I finally completed that challenge starting in April 2021: finishing in early July. You can check out my journey and experiences, good and not so good in the blog posts below or my YouTube channel - search for “voyages of Thalmia” - https://youtube.com/channel/UCb4WnIlleSAbN6oNFmSTAOQ

8 thoughts on “Heading South!

    1. Thanks Danny! Yes I’ve been a tourist for a couple of days here! The inner harbour staff especially Craig have been really helpful. Just one more evening here – Hoping to press on to Holyhead tomorrow morning.


  1. Another fantastic episode in your journey blog, Derek! Those first few photos illustrate the very best of Scotland – & you were so lucky with the weather too. Stunning. Will you be sailing down the Irish coast or crossing over & doing the Welsh coastline?


  2. THank you Derek for another great post. Wish I could understand the seaman speak but perhaps you will translate for me when we are allowed to meet? Your photos and descriptions continue to amaze.


    1. Thanks Jim! Yes I’m trying to address mariners and land lubbers – glad you’re enjoying it!


  3. Thank you for your latest blog Derek. Your photos and commentary continue to fascinate. However I wish I could understand the ‘sailors jargon’ so please may I ask for some translation when next we meet? All the best for your next sail and good luck with the IOM.


  4. Thanks for the update Derek, looks fantastic, stay safe. ⛳️

    Sent from my iPhone



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