Me and my big mouth

Sailing is a cruel mistress. First you get the exam and then the lesson.  And more my kind of expression; with boats there are a million ways to f*ck it up! These are two things that I say a lot to myself and to other people and following my sail to Whitehills from Inverness I can add another scenario to the expansive library of the aforementioned!
The forecast was for a west or northwest 18 to 22 mph wind so I took that and left the Moray Firth headed for Whitehills, a little harbour 60 odd miles away. Fiesta was beautifully balanced and I took the opportunity to have a conversation with Sarah while the auto helm did the work. However, about ten minutes after speaking to Sarah the sea started kicking up and it became quite rough and confused. No drama, just a little less comfy but we were trucking along nicely. After a while I started to get the feeling that something wasn’t quite right. The water coming over the foredeck seemed a little relentless, deeper than normal and Fiesta was digging her noses in quite a lot. This was accompanied by a strange shuddering motion and the auto pilot was labouring to keep us going in a straight line. I feel a little foolish about the length of time it took me to realise the obvious but it finally dawned on me that somewhere up forward we must be taking on water. I got my harness on and made my way to the foredeck where I could hear a deep clonking noise. I lifted the anchor hatch to be confronted by a locker completely full of water and the clonking noise was the anchor and chain being washed around in what was now a big deep rectangular washing machine. At this point I remembered what I had said in a previous blog about two things putting the willies up any sailor. Fire onboard and water from the outside coming in! Why don’t I just shut the f*ck up?
Without labouring the point, many things were going through my mind in that frustrating slow motion way when what you really want is for your brain to race effortlessly and efficiently through the issue, think of the solution and sort it. My thought process was made harder by the fact that I was going airborne on the way down some waves and landing hard on my knees before being drenched by the next wave that rolled across the foredeck which was finding it harder to rise over the waves thanks to the several hundred litres of water in the anchor locker. It’s at these times when the feeling of being alone and away from any immediate assistance really resonates. I thought of some horrible things like a hull failure and even imagined the dreaded mayday call if this situation escalated beyond my control. The obvious concern was that a hole or a crack had opened up but where I did not know as the water inside the locker was dark and muddy in colour. I was now soaked to the skin so getting my head a shoulders down in the anchor locker under the water level wasn’t making me any wetter as I felt around for a hole or a crack, which thankfully I could not find. I then went deeper into the locker and fumbled around for the drain hole which meant moving a lot of anchor chain aside. I found the drain hole but despite the considerable lubrication I was unable to shove my finger in. As I continued to press and prod, like a teenager fumbling around in a cold dark bus shelter, something became loose and I pulled out a cockle shell covered in sticky smelly mud! As physics (or maybe biology) dictates, once the barrier was penetrated I could get my finger right in up to my knuckle and when I pulled out I could feel the rush of water going down the drain hole.
I made my way back to the cockpit, turned Fiesta around and with the seas behind me everything got calmer. On retuning to the foredeck I was delighted to see that the anchor locker was now half empty (perfect time to be a pessimist) and was quickly draining. The drama wasn’t quite over though because as with any situation like this, weaknesses get exposed and water had also got into the boat over the top of a bulkhead in the anchor locker. This shouldn’t be able to happen but I discovered later when I was crawling around in the forward compartment that someone had cut an access hole to secure some deck fittings and the hole had not been sealed up so the watertight bulkhead was anything but watertight.
The anchor locker was empty but I still had well over a 100 litres of water in the forward section of the port hull which had also overflowed into a locker behind it and filled that with another 50 litres.
It was time to pause, take stock of the situation and make a decision. The panic was over and without 300 litres of water in the anchor locker Fiesta was no longer seriously bow heavy and I had established that the culprit was not a hole or a crack but a stupid little cockle shell that must have arrived in the locker alongside a clump of mud attached to the anchor and worked it’s way perfectly into the drain hole where it waited to be discovered once all the water that was coming over the deck and into the locker had no where to drain away.
It was now low tide so none of the harbours near me were accessible as the entrances dry out at low tide.  The distance back to Inverness was only slightly shorter than the distance to Whitehills so despite it being rough, I decided that had it not been for this little drama I would be enjoying the sail so I got myself together, turned round and pushed on. Fiesta got us safely to Whitehills at about 6pm where the calm and protected harbour was extremely welcome! However, there was no time to rest and the clear up began. It took until 1 o’clock in the morning and all of the next day to get everything drained, the hole where the water came though the bulkhead sealed up and for the ship to be checked over and back in order again.
Did the incident scare me? Yep! Did it teach me anything? Well yes. I will fabricate something to ensure that a shell and mud can’t get in the drain hole and block it again but mainly it reaffirmed that there are a million ways to f*ck it up and that the sea is indeed a cruel mistress. It also reaffirmed that the north coast has been tough for me. No, this isn’t the north coast but it is still a long and very exposed north facing coast that roughed me up like the big boy at school does on catching you and your finger in the bus shelter with his bird! Thankfully I emerged unscathed other than being freezing cold following a thorough soaking and having a smelly finger. So on reflection, this would be marked down in any boy’s memory as ‘good times’!
The next day two other yachts joined me in Whitehills and both commented on how unpleasant and rough it was out there.  So it’s not just me. The sea up here really can be quite testing and that’s a good thing.  If this trip didn’t challenge or test me then what would I learn and what would I be achieving?
Having sheltered from the brisk conditions for three nights at Whitehills I left on Tuesday morning in bright sunshine, cock all wind and motored all the way to Peterhead. As I have hinted to on several occasions, I normally hate motoring but on this occasion I was very happy to complete the last of that north facing coast wearing sunglasses and a t-shirt and cruise into Peterhead unmolested.
The wind has been flogging the same old routine for a little bit too long for my liking. It has now decided to blow pretty hard out of the south and looks like it will do that for the next five days so I will be getting to know Peterhead quite well. So here I am, yet again, looking back at my previous blog where I said ‘Once at Peterhead I will be heading more or less south where a northerly wind would give me a lovely following sea and any direction coming off the land, southwest, west or northwest would mean nice manageable waves so I feel that once I am there, the options will open up for me’. Really Mark, you still haven’t learnt! Please, shut the f*ck up!!!
I’m not too worried though because as ever there are quite a few jobs to get on with so being here for a while we give me the time to get stuck into those.
I hope not to be reporting from here next week but now I have said that you can be pretty sure that I will be!!

The end of the rainbow off Fortrose on the way out of the Moray FirthP1050924

When you turn in to Whitehills it looks like a dead end but the opening to the harbour is just passed the rubber bumper at the end of the wall on the leftP1050949P1050946There’s not a lot of room for errorP1050937

Lovely, calm and sheltered. Time to bail out the water!P1050930P1050931

Massive fishing fleet at Fraserburgh on the way to PeterheadP1050965

A cruel Mistress for the professionals too!P1050986P1050979

Oh dear!P1050999

Only joking….P1060001

Entering Peterhead harbour and then the marina tucked away in the far cornerP1060003P1060005P1060007

It’s the same all over

The wind continued to laugh at me although I did manage to leave Lybster and get to the next port down the coast which is Helmsdale. Helmsdale is a lovely little town with a great little port and an extremely friendly and welcoming harbour master. I could have relaxed there for a few days but instead I left at the earliest opportunity when the wind dropped and I decided to make a bit more progress. If I am forced to go against the wind then I’d rather it not be a gale when I do so. That is too hard on Fiesta and her crew! My plan was to head to Nairn but with a very light wind forecast, 35 miles and almost no diesel in the tank I felt this would be a challenging, long and slow sail. Helmsdale has a bar over the entrance and it’s not a sand bar, it’s a bolder bar! I studied the chart and felt that I could sneak across it an hour or so after low water so out I went. As it turns out I think my timing was right but my position was wrong and I just nudged a boulder with the port skeg. Being aware that I was pushing my luck I was going very slowly, probably about 1.5 knots and thankfully the shape of the boulder was very round and smooth so there was a slight scraping noise and the port hull lifted up and then slid down the other other side of it! I stopped and instead of trying to move forward I decided to reverse the way I had come as I knew that the water was deep enough to float in. Sure enough, Fiesta rose up a few inches again as we slid back over the top and down the other side of it back into deeper water. I changed my course and steered towards the area that I should have aimed for in the first place and out we went! No, it’s not ideal to nudge the rocks but the harbour master had told me that they were big round boulders rather than jagged rocks and I was going so slowly that it was all very gentle. The bottom of the skeg has a reinforced fibreglass shoe on it as this boat is designed to take the ground so a little scrape is not an issue. To be honest I would consider that the boat gets a lot more shock loading when I’m pushing hard into a lot of wind and a lumpy sea. Anyway, we were out and clear and luckily for me the forecast was wrong and it turned into a fantastic sail! Because of the way the tide runs around the shape of this coast I had the benefit of a fair tide for longer than usual and with a lovely unforecasted breeze we cruised along in perfectly flat water at 4 or 5 knots and made it past Nairn and on to Fortrose in the Moray Firth where I anchored for the night in a little bay in front of the Fortrose sailing club.
During the sail a beautiful Pilot Cutter called Westernman appeared on the horizon behind me. She looked so impressive under full sail and making better speed than me was soon alongside and we chatted and took photos. This was exciting because not only was she a beautiful sight but she was also the first sailing boat I had seen out sailing since I left the Island of Skye! On the way up the Moray Firth I was treated to the best dolphin show of the trip so far! They were big Bottlenose dolphins and there must have been about twenty of them in the pod and they spent about ten minutes playing around Fiesta. I really don’t know what it is about these creatures that is so magical but it doesn’t matter how many there are or how often I see them, it’s an amazing experience. Amazing. That’s one of those words that is used far too liberally for my liking because there isn’t really much out there in day to day life that is genuinely amazing is there? However, in this context I think it is the correct word to use. It is an amazing experience. Whenever I have seen them, the experience changes the way I feel for the whole day so for that reason I’m sticking to my guns. It is amazing. There you go, I told you that word is used too much. That’s four amazing’s (now five) in quick succession!  Oh f*ck it, they are an amazing sight, amazing creatures and it’s always an amazing experience. Honestly, it gives me the tingles just thinking about it. It’s absolutely f*cking AMAZING…..
Anyway, after anchoring for the night in Fortrose I pushed on under the bridge and into Inverness Marina. On the way into the marina I saw the Pilot Cutter that had creamed passed me the day before. We had already established contact via my blog and arranged to meet up for a chat and swap photos once in the marina. The next night I went aboard Westernman and had the pleasure of chatting to Lloyd and Mike who are lifelong friends and sailors who’s passion for being afloat is something that has obviously never wavered in the slightest. Their stories and adventures were fanastic and fascinating. Fine whisky and fine company on a truly beautiful, cosy, all wood sailing vessel the charm of which is immediately infectious and all consuming. Random meetings with quality people make this trip even more special and provide lasting memories which are a continuous reminder of what a sweet life this cruising life is.
Lloyd and Mike were readying Westernman for the winter and this is what made me realise that time is indeed marching on and I need to be heading further south! However, I would prefer it not to be so but I think I am now in a pattern of things to come. The weather seems to be fairly unpredictable. A good forecast will be issued, I will make a plan and the day before my planned departure it will change and invariably that means a dramatic increase in wind strength. Depending on the direction, I can handle the wind but what is causing me problems is that the trip from here to Peterhead along the north facing coast is just over 100 miles. I plan to do this in two or three hops but the small ports along that coast are old commercial fishing ports and whilst they allow yachts to enter, the entrances are all narrow and shallow so threading the needle between the rocks and stone piers is not something that I want to be doing in strong onshore winds and rough seas. I have to resist the temptation of throwing caution to the wind and simply going for it and instead be patient and wait for conditions that I am happy with. Quite often being out at sea is not the dangerous bit. It’s getting near the edges that is. It’s certainly an exposed coast here and my feeling is that to underestimate it is to dance with the devil and as mentioned in my previous bog, I’m not a fan of what he can serve up!
Once at Peterhead I will be heading more or less south where a northely wind would give me a lovely following sea and any direction coming off the land, southwest, west or northwest would mean nice manageable waves so I feel that once I am there, the options will open up for me. It has also got cold here! I’m used to a chill whilst out at sea but now, here in Inverness it is definitely cold and think my big fluffy ever so slightly gay onesie will soon be on under my waterproof sailing gear! Oh, I have missed that thing!
Inverness Marina is a cracker. Very sheltered, very good facilities, top marina staff and although not fully developed yet I think it will soon be a lovely waterside hub. However, I am a little underwhelmed with Inverness itself and particularly the town centre. I have probably become too accustomed to the peace and beauty of underpopulated areas so wandering into Inverness’s itself was a bit of a shock! It’s not Inverness’s fault, it’s mine. If anything I have probably become even more comfortable with my own company, peace and quiet since being on this trip so the busy town centre was not a pleasant experience for me. WTF is it with people and town centres across the land???? There appear to be many many thousands of people who have somehow succumbed to the dreary, one step from suicide notion that a productive way to spend their spare time is to mooch around the shops for no particular reason at all. Ok, some are there to make specific purchases and I have no issue with them but most it seems are in a totally anaesthetised zombie state shuffling aimlessly from shop to shop waiting for age to overtake, the misery to be over and for Dr Death to do his work!
Well, that’s how it appeared to me as I tried to race by fully loaded with fresh food in an effort to keep the scurvy wolf from my door!
I even have some respect for the thieving little gypsy shoplifters and I don’t have any problems with the down and outs. The thieving toe rags have at least got an aim to their existence, a goal to achieve that day and the down and outs are making the town centre appear much more pleasant to themselves through the bottom of plastic two litre cider bottles whilst remaining tucked nicely out of of everyones way in derelict shop doorways under blankets made stiff by anything but starch.
It’s the rest, just ambling around completely without purpose other than to wonder where their next deep fried mars bar is coming from! Let me be clear here, my impression of our Scottish brethren is fantastically favourable. Everyone I have met has been lovely, welcoming and really friendly but one thing is for sure. Whether oop north or dan sarf, scumbags are scumbags and town centres across our fair land are blighted by them!
I know, I know. That’s a bigoted rant but is it really just me???
Lastly, I’m a little concerned that watching yet another sailing video might be tedious. However, my concern is not enough to prevent me from posting a new one under the ‘Other bits’ part so have a look if you want to! Don’t worry, it’s quite short but that’s an entirely different story…….

The entrance to Helmsdale and the tranquility withinP1050611P1050619P1050620

Cromarty. Where oil rigs are built, stored or abandonedP1050656

These friends are always welcomefullsizeoutput_298

The Pilot Cutter Westernman that sneaked up and passed me. What a beauty.P1050630fullsizeoutput_297

Rounding Chanonry Point and into the Moray Firth after a fantastic sail from HelmsdaleP1050835

The harbour at Fortrose and a view out to Fiesta anchored in the distance with Doris in the foreground.P1050842P1050849

Approaching the bridge at Inverness. P1050897P1050910

Max doesn’t like walking far these days and this was a pretty good way of letting me know!P1050852

I made it round the top!

I would prefer not to say that it was an anticlimax but in the interest of honesty, it was a bit. I felt exposed on the north coast following my experience in Loch Eriboll and although it was great to reach Scrabster relatively unscathed by the gale and significantly richer for the experience, I was worried about the Pentland Firth. Every single time I have spoken to anyone about this trip there has always been a point in the conversation that goes ‘Oh, you’re planning on going round the top are you’??? That has always been the main objective for me otherwise I wouldn’t actually be going round anything would I. There is of course nothing wrong with preferring to take the Caledonian Canal and I would have gone through there if I hadn’t felt happy or hadn’t found a suitable weather window and I’m sure I would have loved it but I know I would also have been disappointed and felt unfulfilled.  The innumerable amount of eyebrow raising and questioning looks about going round the top did get to me on occasion but without wishing to sound like a cock, my view is that there isn’t much worth doing that doesn’t come with a bit of risk and danger. That’s what makes it fun and challenging isn’t it? My approach has always been to pay the sea and the weather all the respect they deserve but to approach, tip my hat and hope to sneak by unmolested! Ok, so the dinghy and outboard did get a bit molested up in Loch Eriboll but the new oar has been ordered and the outboard is running again so we have recovered nicely from that little ordeal.

So. The Pentland Firth……… Put simply, it was a giant pussycat! No, a cute cuddly bear! No, this still doesn’t go any way to expressing how totally benign it was and how relieved and grateful I was to find it so. I’ll put it another way. It was like running naked into a dark alley knowing that somewhere ahead was a mountain of a man lying in wait with a tub of lube, a shoe horn and a massive boner only to discover, once in his clutches, that he’d run out of viagra and was just one big wet floppy harmless cock! Hmmm, not really sure what that descriptive scenario says about me to be honest but there you go.
Anyway, it was a huge relief and as I said, a bit of an anticlimax. I had experienced far worse tidal race situations going though Kyle of Lockalsh, the narrows near the Kyle Rhea and going through Dorus Mor after leaving Crinan. I’m certainly not saying that all the warnings are without merit. It’s easy to see that with the right (or wrong) conditions the ingredients can come together to make the lumpiest, most foul tasting sh*t sandwich known to man but following much research I chose a time when the wind was blowing gently from the northwest and I entered the Firth when the tide was going in the same direction as the wind. Furthermore, the tide was in it’s Neap phase which means that the high tides are lower and the lows higher so there is much less water being moved about than normal and therefore the flow is both slower and more gentle. As it turned out, whilst going past the Island of Stroma in the tidal race area that is marked on the chart as ‘breaking seas’, I was on the roof doing a repair to the boom wearing shorts and T’s instead of experiencing the white knuckled brown trouser ride that I was expecting!
The moral of this story as far as I am concerned is research, preparation, preparation and preparation. If I ever go through the Pentland Firth again I will try to align the stars in the same manner. I have absolutely no wish to see it serving up it’s house special of double feces on mouldy bloomer with a side of devil’s seamen salad cream! No, no, no thank you very much!

As I said at the start, a bit of an anti climax but one for which I’m grateful and in any event this did not detract from the true fist pumping emotion that I felt for reaching and passing this milestone. I don’t think I had realised just how much that bit meant to me until I had another whisky in my hand and was saying thanks and farewell to the north coast and a cheers and hello to the east coast. My home coast! I left the east coast five months ago and it felt good to be back albeit several hundred miles to the north. It was also strange to see the latitudes going down again on the chart after watching them go up since leaving Tresco.
What this does mean is that I have decided to head south rather than go up and explore the Orkneys. I think the weather has shown me what happens from late August onwards and as much as I would like to sail into the Orkneys, I always said that I would be making my way down from Scotland by September and frankly I feel I would be pushing my luck if I changed this plan. I was on lock down in Stornaway and this cost me two weeks while waiting for a weather window so the Orkneys will have to wait for me to return. My Dad used to say ‘Leave a party early while you are still enjoying it. That way it remains a good memory’. I’ve never been very good at that but on this occasion it makes total sense so I’m taking my old man’s advice.

I arrived in Wick last Thursday after a lovely sail down from John O’Groats. Wick served me well for restocking supplies and getting some desperately needed calor gas. There were also several boat jobs that needed doing so I spent two full days getting on top of those. Throughout this time the wind was blowing hard and for the first time in a long time it was blowing from the southeast, the direction that I wanted to go!  These wind gods definitely have a sense of humour! On Tuesday the break came. The direction was still wrong but it dropped off a lot and allowed me to head out and sneak along the coast. I wanted to make some progress and also needed a change of scenery after 5 nights in Wick.
The East and West coasts are like night and day. The scenery is far less dramatic on the east side and whilst the east is often seen as the poorer cousin, I feel that this is a little unfair. Granted, there are far less choices of anchorages and no islands to explore but from now on it’s about sailing this very exposed coast and planning ahead for which tiny fishing harbours you can use depending on tide restrictions and whether or not yachts are welcomed by the local fishing community. In the main I think the answer to the second part is yes. Wick never used to be a haven for yachts or even allow them to enter but now they are welcome.  As I type I am moored up in Lybster which is a really small fishing harbour where I am the only yacht amongst local commercial fishing boats.  All the fisherman have been extremely friendly and welcoming and I was told which boat would not be going to sea and that I could moor alongside that one and stay as long as I liked!  The entrance to Lybster is only 10 meters wide and with the harbour wall on one side, rocks on the other and Fiesta being 5 meters wide, it’s a bit of a heart in the mouth moment but speed and momentum are your friends here so it’s a case of being brave and just getting it done as the waves surge into the entrance and break on the harbour wall and rocks either side of you. Other than the fishing boats, there is a visitors centre with a cafe although it’s only open for a few hours each day and there is one house. It is basic, unspoilt, peaceful and totally protected from the big waves that are crashing in from the North Sea. It’s lovely.

Earlier today I had some drama. Whilst not someone who often feels scared I have now had two frights in a week. First was the vicious blowie I got in Loch Eriboll and the second scare came this morning. I’m still in the process of getting on top of some boat maintenance jobs and one involves replacing a deck fitting on the stern. For this I needed to drill a hole. I have an inverter on board which allows me to run 240 volt equipment from my 12 volt batteries. It basically converts DC power that you get from batteries into AC that you get from your mains electric supply at home. The inverter I have is a top grade expensive unit that has so far been perfect for everything that I have used it for. However, whilst using my electric drill there was a loud cracking noise and the drill stopped. I was immediately aware of an electrical burning smell and turned round to see a plume of smoke coming out of my cabin window which is where the inverter is. I immediately scrambled inside and grabbed a fire extinguisher and went into my cabin. The was a lot of smoke in there and I had to get a torch to try and find the source of the smoke which was indeed the inverter.  I was about to unload the fire extinguisher when I realised that the smoke had actually stopped pouring out of the inverter so I just stayed put and watched for a while rather than covering the end of my cabin with white gunge (I’m aware that this doesn’t really sound right does it)…… This scared me. Although it sounds like I’m back in that alley again, there are two things that put the willies up any sailor. Water from the outside getting in and fire! Fortunately for me it’s not always true that where there’s smoke there’s fire so all I have to worry about is the acrid burnt electric smell in my cabin and an inverter that has gone pop. The strange thing is that the inverter has three fault diagnosis lights and they are all still green which apparently means all systems are functioning! It also has an overload protector which is showing a green light and yet something very bad has obviously happened inside. It made me realise that the only person who can put a fire out on this boat in quick enough time would be me. Thankfully I have three well positioned fire extinguishers and I had good access to the problem area had I needed to put some flames out but nevertheless it is quite sobering as this is my home and more than that, the thing that keeps me alive provided that it doesn’t sink or burn when I’m out at sea! I now have a phone call to make and despite my usual laid back approach, if some cock lunch mofo doesn’t immediately sympathise, apologise and arrange to send a replacement unit asap, I will be suggest that I make a special trip and do my best to fit something the same size as a ream of A4 paper but with sharper edges somewhere pink and small! The only problem is that in order to get a signal I have to climb a mountain!
Better get on with it then……

Some wildlife to start off with…. Firstly this cute little guy and then what I think was a Risso’s dolphin that cruised alongside me for a minute or so…..


P1050308The captain shouted to anyone who was in earshot, referring to his guest in the red trousers ‘Look at one fat f*cker feeding another fat f*cker’! That’s what treating the customer fairly is all about! Equal abuse for everyone…..P1050464

Some pretty big swells cruising along the north coast


Moored up next to the old ice house at Scrabster in prefect shelter which was welcome after the previous night at anchor and the Scrabster RNLI crew going out training.P1050345P1050327

Onwards to the Pentland Firth. So close and yet so far. Next time I will visit the Orkney’sP1050410

John O’Groats, Duncansby Head (the start of the East coast) and going past the uninhabited Island Of Stroma where you can see the tidal race merely trickling along…..P1050447P1050450P1050439P1050432

Safely tucked up in Wick away from the waves breaking outsideP1050558P1050560P1050479P1050516

Wick’s old lifeboat station and the memorial garden to the first WW2 German air raid on mainland BritainP1050499P1050532

Approaching the entrance to LybsterP1050566

Keep the lighthouse on your left, the rocks on your right and breath in!P1050592

Fantastic little place of refuge, quaint, friendly and peaceful P1050578P1050585P1050599

There is a little mountain bike video from Stornoway under ‘Other bits’.


Please just let me pass!

South to southwest 4 or 5, occasionally 6 in the far northwest. This was the Hebridean sea area forecast which got me out of bed at 4 o’clock on Sunday morning and heading out to sea by 5am. There was a possibility of a force 7 higher up in the Fair Isles region but generally the forecast for the next three to four days had all the important letters and numbers in so it was time to go go go!
With the possibility of a force 7 not far to the north I took the precaution of putting one reef in the main and then I could roll out as much genoa as I liked in order to keep Fiesta happy and balanced. Right here I will save you the long drawn out story  (only because one follows later) and summarise by saying that this was the best sail I have ever had on Fiesta! There you go, a big statement after four years of sailing her but an easy one because from start to finish it was perfect! Good speed, good wind strength, the right amount of sail up, no rain, no other boats, no rocks to watch out for, just 74 miles of clear, deep empty sea to play in.
About 40 miles out from Stornoway my DSC safety alarm went off on the radio. This was because a surprise weather change had popped up! Stornoway Coastguard issued a warning for a southwesterly gale 8 and it was expected ‘Soon’ which meant within 6 to 12 hours. Weather forecasting makes me laugh sometimes. The experts have got incredibly good at accurate forecasting and as I explained in my previous blog, I had been watching the weather very closely but once in a while a little brooding hard done by gale terrorist decides to stop hiding in the shadows, put his backpack on, run into the middle of the ‘business as usual weather system’, press his button and f*ck everything up! Fortunately, albeit a late one, there was a warning!
This surprise forecast had no influence over my plan. I was now too far from Stornoway to turn back so I had to accept what I had just heard and be prepared to ride it out in Loch Eriboll. I got to Cape Wrath and quite by surprise I felt a little emotional.  I could see along the North Coast and also down the West Coast of Scotland and realised that this was a ‘goodbye’ to the West. I felt the occasion was special enough to justify an 11am whisky and I raised a glass of thanks and farewell to the West Coast and a ‘Hello’ to the North!
On arriving at Cape Wrath I was met with a stiff force 7 on the beam. I was able to roll some of the genoa away and sheet the main out more to spill the excessive wind and relax as Fiesta trucked along the new coastline at 8 to 10 knots relishing the fresh beam on wind and relatively flat sea in leu of the fact that the wind was blowing offshore and I was only about 2 miles out so there wasn’t enough room for the sea to build between me and the land. It was eerie going passed Cape Wrath. I got a sense of just how far north and how far from a safe harbour I was on this inhospitable jagged coast. I felt both satisfaction and trepidation.
74 miles and 11 hours after leaving Stornaway I was anchored right at the head of the desolate place that is Loch Eriboll.  The wind was blowing pretty hard and although sheltered from the sea, there is not much shelter from the wind in Eriboll. There are huge mountains all around but a valley that runs into the head of the Loch means the wind has the perfect place to whistle through and give you a good going over. At about 8pm the wind dropped off and I thought there was a chance that the surprise gale that had been forecast may have just been and gone. Maybe it had been a gale but I couldn’t feel the full force of it as I came along getting some shelter from the coast from Cape Wrath and into this Loch. I made the most of the calm, launched Doris and took Max ashore for a well deserved walk.
Back onboard I had dinner, watched a film, checked the level of the whisky bottle, let plenty of anchor rode out and made sure the sails were stored away just in case that forecasted gale hadn’t actually blown through yet and was still lurking.
In the first few seconds of consciousness at 4am I was on autopilot fuelled by adrenalin brought on by fear. There was a really loud noise and I hadn’t consciously processed what it could be, I just knew that I needed to be upright, dressed and in a state of high alert. You know that horrible sound of the blood pumping in your ears when you are momentarily shocked and sh*t scared? Well that’s what I had. The noise I heard and was still hearing was the sound of the gale making it’s presence known on the mast, rigging, sail covers and anything else that could flap like crazy in the wind. It was a lot of different noises all at once and the wind hit really hard and seemingly without any prior build up! Someone had just turned the mother of all fans on and aimed it straight at Fiesta!
I didn’t go outside, I just tried to gather my thoughts and assess what was going on. We’ve all been there I think, it’s like waking up in a strange place and you can’t remember where you are and you just sit there saying to yourself ‘Come on cock sock, work it out’ but it seems to take forever for the brain to get up to the speed you need it to be working at.
I thought about the anchor and realised that whatever extra scope I had let out previously was now being tested. If I hadn’t got enough out or the seabed wasn’t good enough holding ground I would soon know about it.
When I picked my spot to anchor I headed for the part on the chart which showed the seabed with an ‘M’ for mud. Being an east coast sailor, I am a fan of anchoring in mud. Anchors like it too. Lots of thick mud to get their teeth into makes for good holding. I turned my attention to the drag queen. She hadn’t been to sleep and was dutifully keeping an eye on things and we weren’t moving. Phew!
I sat in the dark listening to the noise and watching the drag queen. I was looking forward to daylight but when daylight came it only served to show me how hard it was blowing out there! There were foamy streaks on the water and every now and again the wave crests would be blown off and the spray would cover the boat. I made my way on deck to check the anchor rode to make sure it was holding the cleat well and that it was not chafing itself on the bow roller under this huge amount of strain. I went back inside and felt that whilst it was certainly too windy for my liking, it wasn’t dangerous. However, right at that moment things went a bit turbo!
The sound of the wind through the rigging gives you a pretty good idea of what is going on. It had been making a low to medium howling sound but all of a sudden this changed to a fairly high whistling and then a very loud shrieking noise. This noise is frightening and the shrieking was accompanied by Fiesta vibrating, shaking and shuddering with this new wind strength.
The spray coming off the surface of the water was now continuous and was blowing past the boat in sheets and once this is happening you know things are getting serious. I guessed that we were now into severe gale 9 territory and made my way to the foredeck to try and get a wind reading. I saw a gust coming towards me on the water and in the go pro footage that I took you can see it too. The gust was 51.7 knots! A gale 8 starts at 34 knots. Oh F*CK! Is what I thought.  I knew what this meant but I double checked with my ‘Weather at Sea’ book and yes, wind speed of 48 to 55 knots is a Stormforce 10!
Up to this point the dinghy which had been happily tied up sheltering behind Fiesta became airborne despite the fact that the engine was on the back of it! This happened several times but there was nothing I could do about it. There is no way that anyone can hang on to a rubber dinghy in 50 knots of wind and human nature tells you not to let go so there is a chance of being pulled over the side. I’ve seen it happen when a boat was trying to pick up a mooring buoy and someone went over the side because something made him steadfastly refuse to let go of the boathook he was holding onto the buoy with.  The boat drifted off leaving him in the water still holding onto the buoy with the boathook!
Knowing that the only safe thing to do was to do nothing but watch, inevitably the wind got under it and lifted it quite high before flipping it over so it landed upside down. It was now much more stable on account of the fact that my lovely 6hp Yamaha engine was now fully immersed in salt water and was acting like a keel! I had my life jacket on and my harness too so I proceeded to tie various bits of rope to the parts of Doris that I could reach and winched it up onto it’s side. Once up on it’s side I could attach another rope to the side that was now in the water and winch that one in as I let the other lines go in order to right it. I watched as the salt water poured out of my poor engine and one oar became detached and floated away. The only plus side was that the dinghy was now full of salt water and wasn’t going to flip over again and I was able to lash it to the stern of the boat out of harms way. The last four sentences take less than 30 seconds to read but it took me 40 minutes to get Doris back upright and I was exhausted. It was a total fight using ropes and all my strength whilst being harnessed on and leaning over the back of Fiesta and at the same time keeping one eye on the telegraph poles on the mountain to make sure that we were not dragging the anchor. It blew HARD for four hours and we had many 50 knot plus gusts across the deck. It was very tense and I was scared, I don’t mind admitting that.
The first really big gust was accompanied by the much dreaded sound of the drag queen alarm. We moved about 10 feet and then stopped again. What I think happened here is that the first huge gust put a much increased load on the anchor and whilst it did drag ten feet, what it actually did was just dig itself harder and deeper into the mud and as we all know, harder and deeper is a good thing!
I started the engine to make sure that it was warm and ready to go in case we started dragging again but didn’t stop. However there would be little chance that I could control the boat, retrieve and reset the anchor in this wind. I had a spare anchor that was on deck and ready to deploy but my spare is not as big as my main one so if Fiesta dragged with the main one and I had to abandon it in it’s position, what chance was there for the smaller spare to hold? And anyway, realistically I do not believe that I would be able to make any headway against a 50 knot wind. With a water logged engine and only one oar, I no longer had the dinghy so all I could do was hope, pray and trust in the Rocna anchor. I had nearly 180 feet of anchor rode out and was anchored in about 18 feet of water. A 10-1 scope to depth ratio is serious storm anchoring tactics but I was in a serious storm situation so I was pleased I had let that much out.
After securing the dinghy there was nothing more I could do than just sit tight. I tried to read but couldn’t really concentrate as Fiesta shook, yawed, shuddered and groaned. The noise was horrible.  After four hours of gusts into the stormforce category the wind settled to a gale 8 gusting severe gale 9. There were some short periods of relative calm, usually a minute or so when I thought it had blown itself out only for it to return with vengeance and in all the gale lasted until 4 o’clock the next morning when the whistling and shrieking stopped and was once again replaced by a low howl. At this point I went to sleep and didn’t wake until 9am.
Before I left home I remember saying to several people that if I thought I could do this trip and not find myself sh*t scared on a dark night in a loch trying to weather a gale at some point, I would be naive. So, here we are. It happened and it happened on the north coast in a loch where I couldn’t get any radio signal, vhf radio signal, navtex reception (for weather forecasts), mobile reception or internet so I was well and truly out of contact and on my own. Funny isn’t it that the north coast of Scotland delivered my best ever sail immediately followed by the most testing and scary conditions that I have ever had!
Rocna, Rocna, Rocna! Everyone should have a Rocna. F*ck it, even if you don’t have a boat, get one! You can anchor your house down in the next hurricane. The thing was awesome. For 24 hours the anchor rode resembled a tight rope. It creaked, strained and groaned where it was straining over the bow roller and onto the deck cleat but the Rocna didn’t lose it’s grip and in stormforce 10 conditions, that is very good indeed!
Without any external communication I had to rely on my trusty barometer to make a best guess about the weather. It’s funny how calm a force 7 can feel after 24 hours of gales so after taking 30 minutes to coax the anchor from it’s new home deep in the mud, I left Looh Eriboll under full genoa only and sailed the 43 miles east to Scrabster. The seas were big after the gale but they were big rollers with a lot of space between each wave which made for fast smooth sailing. With a force 7 hammering my back door combined with the downward slope of a big wave, Fiesta posted a new top speed of 14.5 knots! Awesome!!!
My average speed over the 43 miles was nearly 8 knots and I have this trip marked in my log as my second best ever sail on Fiesta!
By 17.15 on Tuesday I was tied up in Scrabster Harbour piecing together the tale of the tape for the last few exciting days!
I’ve got some work to do on the outboard engine to try and get it running again, my ensign pretty much got shredded and I need to get a new oar but if they are the only prices to pay following that kind of storm, you have to put that day down as a very good day indeed!
In the last 118 miles of sailing since leaving Stornoway I have only seen three other boats out there, all fisherman. So there you have it. The north coast of Scotland has produced my best two sails ever and my most frightening 24 hours ever at anchor. The peaks and troughs of a truly dramatic, stunning but desolate and exposed coastline.
Approaching and rounding Cape WrathP1050129P1050141
Harsh but beautiful coastline on the way to Loch Eriboll
Hunkering down and keeping fingers crossed. It’s cruel that I had no dinghy to use to get the gold….
Sailing onwards to Scrabster with more dramatic coastline, the ensign looking a little worse for wear and the engine cover off to try and dry it out!


I will try and put the footage of the gale together soon but for now it’s onwards through the Pentland Firth.
Aching, weathered, battle sore but satisfied and relieved sailor out!

Stowed away in Stornoway

Stornoway has me locked in! I always planned to spend a few days here but this is the first time that I only have one option of which way I go from here and that is to the northeast. I have made my peace with the elephant and I’m happy to go and meet him but the wind hasn’t allowed me to put my money where my mouth is. It’s either been blowing a gale albeit in the right direction or blowing some kind of wind, either too much or not enough out of the east or northeast, the wrong direction. It’s just over 70 miles to the only viable stopover which is called Loch Eriboll which is just past the northwest tip of the mainland. I need a favourable wind for this, firstly for the obvious reason and secondly because at over 70 miles I need to be doing it in a straight line and not tacking against the wind which would make the distance too far and too tiring for a one man crew and too hard on the boat if it’s windy.
Throughout this entire trip all the way here to Stornoway I have taken shelter from three or four gales but since being in Stornoway there have been three in a week! This place is right in the path of anything that rolls across the Atlantic and up to the windy Norwegian sea area. After I got here I didn’t check the weather for a few days because I didn’t want to feel pressured to take an opportunity to leave early as I wanted to explore and enjoy being here. After a few days I did check and realised that I wouldn’t be going anywhere soon so that’s it! This is my longest stopover but I don’t mind at all because I love it here.
The main port area is busy and has some heavy commercial ship movement but round the corner where I am is a lot quieter and although still busy from a fishing perspective, it’s not noisy. There is enough going on to make it interesting and so far I haven’t got bored of watching the very tame harbour seals follow each fishing boat in and wallow around in the water right next to them waiting for any unwanted fish to be thrown over the side. I’ve been busy too. Ok, not in the sense of actually having a job but over the last week I have dismantled and bled my hydraulic steering system for the engine’s outdrive unit in order to work a little gremlin out which I think I have now done, resealed a couple of leaky windows, changed the engine oil, filter and fuel filters and even treated Fiesta to a new carpet. The old one was a bit grubby and after I gave Max his hair cut on it I could never get the dog smell out! I happened to walk past a carpet shop with a sign saying ‘Remnant Sale – Huge reductions’ so I went in, spoke to the owner who was more camp than a row of tents, bought the carpet and his lads very kindly delivered it free of charge to the marina where I spent 5 hours on my knees getting it fitted. What a satisfying job although I have no idea how anyone does that for a living because after 5 hours my knees were f*cked and as I found out the next day, so was my back!
Stornoway Castle and it’s grounds are beautiful. It takes a day to do it justice and whilst I was walking the grounds I noticed all these signs warning pedestrians of the fact that cyclists have the right of way on certain pathways. It turns out that the council here approved and supported the building of five dedicated mountain bike trails in and around the castle grounds and golf course. They are awesome trails and the beauty of being unemployed is that when I am using them everyone else is at work so I have had them to myself and loved it! One big crash into a deep peaty puddle in the first thirty seconds on my first go caused some personal humiliation and pride issues but it didn’t put me off and thereafter I have managed to stay upright!
Last Friday night I decided to mix with some locals and I went out for a beer. This beer turned into a bit of a frenzy. It was the first time I had been in a pub for a few beers since Sarah was with me in Tobermory and the bright lights on the bar, the big thing on the wall which I do remember is called a television and the novelty of being in a small place with lots of people really got me going!
I met and had drinks with quite a few people although the only three that I remember are Ailis who was charming although I can’t remember what she does here in Stornoway, Robert the local bagpipe teacher and Mark the fireman who plied me with Laphroaig! I can remember the pub shutting and the last of us stragglers being shown the door but I can’t remember talking to one of the bar staff who said to me the next night (when I decided to visit the scene of the crime) ‘You found your way back to the boat then last night’!
Yeah, I must have done but I didn’t remember talking to him about anything let alone being the visiting prick who says ‘Oh yah, I have a yacht don’t you know’! Seems that I still have the capacity for alcohol but none of the tolerance!
There has been a steady stream of yachts coming and going whilst I’ve been here and I have outlasted every one of them and that’s because they have all been heading south, only coming here to commence the southbound tour of the Hebrides.
This makes me a little nervous to be honest but doesn’t put me off my quest to round the top. The only thing that I sometimes wish I had is the opportunity to bounce ideas off someone else. It would be nice to have another person to say ‘Yeah, let’s go for it’! Or ‘No, don’t be a knob! Instead I have to form my own plan and work through it a few times to ensure that I am happy before actually setting out to do it. However, this is also one of the things that I love about single handed sailing and in fact that is indeed the whole bloody point of it!  Making you own plans, your own decisions, untying the lines and giving it a crack.
So, my weather window….. As I type it looks like there might be one! After 8 days of wind in the wrong direction it appears that it is swinging to the south again for a time. I can’t just take the opportunity of the correct wind direction being forecast for a day because I have to factor in the 70 mile sail, taking shelter in Loch Eriboll overnight and then needing favourable winds again to take me to Scabster which is another 35 miles to the East. At that point I can go into a harbour where there is proper shelter. Loch Eriboll does apparently provide good shelter but the weather has been changing so much up here lately that I wouldn’t want to be in there trying to hide from a northerly gale. Loch Eriboll is open to the north so that would be far from ideal and I have no idea how good the sea bed is there from an anchor holding perspective. The other thing is that I would actually like to spend a whole day and another night in Loch Eriboll. It really is in the middle of nowhere and I’d like to enjoy that if I can. What this means is that I am looking for a favourable weather window of at least three but for the sake of safety, four or five days of stable and established weather. A few days ago, the top of the country had a forecast of 12 mph from the west but 30 miles above that location the forecast was for 45 mph from the east! So you can see my problem. The last place that I want to be exposed to a surprise vicious full teeth blow job is up on that coast! If the shelter is no longer good enough or safe in Loch Eriboll, what would I do? Go out into the storm? It’s worth thinking about that scenario but really that scenario doesn’t bare thinking about at all! The sea up there can produce 30 plus foot waves and in a wind against tide situation you are in for a whole world of hurt! I feel that both Fiesta and I would have a fighting chance in those conditions but something has gone completely against the plan if I end up putting that feeling to the test. No thank you!
So there you go. In case you haven’t got the message, I’m watching the weather like a pedo watches a playground. Whoops! Sorry about that but what can I do? Sometimes I’m inappropriate.
If my window of opportunity presents itself then I will present myself to it and if it doesn’t, I will stay put for a while longer.
Whatever happens, I need to time my run through the Pentland Firth to coincide with the tide. If this all sounds a little over dramatic then it’s only because of what is written in the pilot books and on various web sites. An extract that sums up the challenge for me is what follows, taken from the ‘Sailnorthscotland’ website:
Tide flows strongly around and through the Orkney Islands. The Pentland Firth is a dangerous area for all craft, tidal flows reach 12 knots between Duncansby Head and South Ronaldsay. West of Dunnet Head and Hoy is less violent. There is little tide within Scapa Flow. Tidal streams reach 8 – 9 knots at springs in the Outer Sound and 9 – 12 knots between Pentland Skerries and Duncansby Head. The resultant dangerous seas, very strong eddies and violent races should be avoided by yachts at all costs.
There you go, that’s why my mouth is dry and my hands are clammy as I type this. However, in the interest of not being over dramatic, this is a passage taken by countless yachts and the point is that with the correct weather, tide and timing this is a totally achievable passage for Fiesta, Max and I and I’m looking forward to it.
I’ve been trying to photograph one of these annoying little runts since I was in Solva and this is the best I’ve managed. Talk about camera shy! Not so for the dolphins that escorted me into Stornoway!
Looking out to sea from just inside the entrance to Stornoway harbour and the lovely sheltered harbour itself
Stornoway lifeboat and the last fish wife
See those things you’re standing on? Yep, they’re called legs…. Ridiculous invention and almost as bad as an adult on a scooter!!
The beautiful castle and it’s grounds
He found out the hard way that it’s just not deep enough
Lastly, with a little extra time on my hands I have uploaded two new videos in the ‘Other bits’ section. If you want to watch them in order, look at “The Crinan Canal” video first!
Stornoway out.

Mallaig, the invasion, Mr Maxwell, a good blow and onwards to Stornoway

The shelter offered by Soay was wonderful and gratefully accepted. I loved the delicate balance between being social and having complete and total solitude in my little anchorage. Saoy is the kind of place that I dreamt of for this trip. We all know that we are well and truly on the radar these days and for many this is fine and dandy but there is a sliding scale of acceptability for others. I am somewhere on that scale. Quite where, I don’t really know and because of mobile phone service (albeit sporadic) my guess is that I will never fully find out unless I throw the phone over the side which I’m not about to do! What I do know is that I love being under the radar / off the grid but I do miss my family, my friends and Sarah (no order there Sarah!) but not so I want to abandon this trip to be with them. Knowing they are all there is comfort enough to allow me to appreciate my little world of water. I think about all the people I know, love and like frequently and I try to think about people who I know albeit not very well. I don’t want to get home, see them and think ‘I never thought of you once’ so my mind is pretty active.
I think about my Dad a lot too and with pictures of him around the boat he is never far from sight and in fact I feel closer to him being on this trip than I have since he slipped his mooring and left for his super-yacht in the sky. I bet he’s loving it. The perfect boat (which only exists in heaven), no mooring fees, constant force 4 in the right direction and hot mermaids! The closeness I feel must be because I am doing something that I know he would have loved to do and also because I have plenty of time to think. This is the time that eludes anyone living a ‘normal’ busy life. These thoughts are not sad, they are warmth and comfort and I love the fact that this trip has enabled me to feel like this. Joanna wrote me a note on a postcard as part of a box of leaving presents that my family gave me and on the card she wrote that she is proud of me for untying the lines and doing one! She also wrote ‘I know that Dad would be so proud of you too’. I love this post card and I use it as a book mark (yep, this educationally unenlightened Essex Boy is reading now – mainly ladybird but it’s a start) so I see and read it often. The funny thing is, and I don’t wish to sound arrogant but I know my Dad would be proud of me for what I am doing. He was a believer in living your dreams and he managed to balance this with working to support a family and taking us with him on his dream which was basically sailing as much as possible which we did throughout all of Joanna’s and my childhood. It was the stuff of Swallows and Amazons that lasted from my first sail at three weeks old through weekends away, family sailing holidays, learning to sail in a dinghy that Mum & Dad bought for us, investigating creeks in that very dinghy to being a young man with raging hormones and a head full of questions about life and what lay ahead. What I never questioned was my total and utter love of being on a boat and sailing. As Joanna and I got older, other things like holidays with friends and racing small boats had their place but the adventures on Fiesta continued and Dad and I embarked on a few ‘boys only’ trips up the East Coast. These good times rolled until the original Fiesta was sold in the year 2000.
Here she is…
That was 20 or so years for me so the fact that I can’t get enough and have taken up the mantle of being afloat as much as possible would make Dad proud. Much has changed over the years except the feeling that doing this gives me. It is the same feeling that I remember from when I was in my childhood. It’s fantastic, magical, rewarding and it’s freedom. That dude Ratty from The Wind in the Willows had it right. When Mole questioned him if being in a boat was really that good, Ratty said ‘Believe me, my little felching friend, there is nothing – absolutely nothing – half so much worth doing as simply f*cking about in boats’….
I couldn’t have said it better myself Roland.
I left the shelter of Saoy in a very wet force 7. I don’t usually venture out in a F7 by choice but I needed to get to Mallaig because a family reunion was scheduled! Fortunately the forecast had done what it said it would do and the F7 was from the northwest which meant a dead downwind sail from Soay round the bottom of the Sleat Peninsula and across to Mallaig. What a cracking sail! The wind had been blowing all night so had the time to build up a good sea and once I tuned the corner out of Saoy and headed downwind it was nothing short of mind blowingly fantastic and beautiful out there.
Big rollers with dark grey clouds and hard rain gave it an ominous look to set the scene for a bracing tale of survival on the high seas. However, Fiesta put paid to that by settling down with impeccable manners and taking it absolutely comfortably and effortlessly in her stride. After about thirty minutes of steering with the full genoa rolled out I realised that I was making a meal of it. I switched the auto pilot on and was immediately disappointed in myself but wholeheartedly impressed with the better course being steered by the computer.  In fact, everything was so under control and comfortable that I went down below to make my own meal of it with bacon and eggs while Fiesta carried on about her business of a consistent 7 knots plus a few 9.5 knot surfs down the waves while I looked out the window as the bacon sizzled! She might not be the latest and greatest but the Prout brothers knew what they were doing with cruising cats when they were building them in their sheds on Canvey Island.
Mallaig is a beautiful little harbour. It’s main purpose is still commercial and it is one of the oldest fishing ports on the West Coast. It was only in 2011 that they squeezed a fifty berth marina in the corner and being surrounded on all but it’s north side it is a lovely shaven haven. Sorry, I mean sheltered!
I got in, moored up and set about bleaching and scrubbing both top and bottom sides and gave myself another haircut before I turned my efforts to Fiesta.
Mum (Doris / Wendy / The Old Doris / The Old Dear / D4 / Nanny D / The Old Boiler – but let’s just use ‘Mum’ for the purpose of this), Joanna, James, Tom and Jack arrived after flying from Stanstead and then hiring a car for the three and half hour drive from Glasgow to Mallaig. Now, what with Burnham-on-Crouch being in deepest darkest Essex and one of the original founders of the definition of a close family (hair lip, club foot – that sort of thing) it shouldn’t be a surprise to know that being just over three months since I left Pool Harbour, this was the longest time in my life that I hadn’t seen Joanna so it was fantastic to see her again and indeed all the family.
They arrived on the 5th of August which happened to be Tom’s 10th birthday so Fiesta had been adorned with some balloons, banners and a chocolate cake and we had a great dinner and birthday celebration for Tom.
The weather was kinder than the forecast had suggested and it was mostly dry and frequently sunny. We walked, talked, dined in, out and went for a cruise to Loch Nevis where we anchored in Inverie Bay for lunch before returning to Mallaig. There was a lot of fun and many laughs although I have to say that what tickled me the most happened when we were anchored for lunch. We were pretty much in the middle of an area where there was a guy learning to windsurf. There wasn’t much breeze at all but he was doing pretty well right up until he ran into Fiesta’s anchor chain which sent him off course headed between the bows. The next thing I saw through the front windows was his head and shoulders and two hands on the foredeck before he disappeared below our line of sight under the bridge deck with a look of panic on his face! Mum sad ‘Oh god, do you think he is going to go all the way underneath’? I suggested that James go and see if he was ok because I just knew that I wouldn’t have been able to stop laughing if I had gone and that wouldn’t really have been fair would it. He didn’t go all the way underneath but was floundering just under the bit before it gets dark! He apologised to James and they had a brief chat before he regained his composure and windsurfed away again probably with a chain shaped graze on his shin! I know you shouldn’t laugh at someone else’s misfortune but trust me, it was f*cking funny!
Sh*t, sh*t, sh*t, time flies when you’re having fun. Tuesday rolled around and at 9am we were all saying our goodbyes and I watched as they all disspapeared on their way home. Ok, now I am rewinding to the start of this drivel but I miss those people, all of them. However, in the short visit I did manage to prove once again why I am a better uncle than I would be a father by giving Joanna & James much work to do ironing out all the uncle mischief and new words that you can possibly impart on your nephew’s in a few days!
Fiesta felt very quiet, very empty and much lighter in the water! Honestly, bring back loin cloths and spears. Much easier to fit in a boat.
With apologies, this is advance notice of a tangent and it concerns Gavin Maxwell…….
I left Mallaig and sailed up to the Sandaig Islands (which are beautiful by the way) and anchored in Sandaig Bay. It’s a remote spot but well visited because of both it’s beauty and the fact that it is synonymous with Gavin Maxwell. It is where he wrote Ring of Bright Water and lived with his pet Otters. There is a memorial there to him and his pet Otter which died in the fire that destroyed his cottage and a bolder marking the spot where Gavin Maxwell’s desk used to be before it too perished in the fire. His old rusty boat trailer is also still there on the beach more than 40 years later.
Now, it appears that Gavin Maxwell is remembered as if a national treasure or some kind of hero and whilst I should probably read at least one of his books before I express my opinion here, I’m not going to! I have had conversations with several strangers over the last couple of weeks, both tourists and locals who say ‘You do know that this is where Gavin Maxwell spent much of his time, wrote this, did that etc etc, all delivered with an ever so slightly misty, far away, admiring look in their eyes. Having heard several accounts, stories and accolades I’m not sure that these aren’t a little rose tinted and from what I have read, I’m struggling to see why there seems to be this hype and reverence. Sorry, it is not the intention to warp this blog into a means of inflicting my opinion on anyone else but you know how it is when everyone seems to be on a different page to you…..
Gavin Maxwell was born with an enormous silver spoon lodged fairly and squarely up his sphincter. There is no question about this although he did put his time in as a Special Operations Instructor (or so I read) during WW2 but thereafter it seems to me that he felt he could do whatever he liked with his privileged life. He moved to Sandaig where apparently the locals didn’t like him because he used to recklessly tear around in a Mecedes Roadster, ran up a hefty bill with some local shop owners which remained unpaid despite his means (again, so I read) and generally did very little to ingratiate himself with the community.  It also appears that he seemed to think that creatures of the wild were his to toy with. For example he captured and it seems bonded with Otters although one was barbecued when Maxwell’s house caught fire on account of the fact that it couldn’t escape from it’s enclosure within his house. Ok, so this wasn’t intentional but it seems to me that he was / is seen as a naturalist, carer and lover of animals despite embarking on a three year project to hunt and kill as many basking sharks as possible around this coast and take them to Soay for processing. I have no problem with the killing of animals for food but it should be done with respect to the animal and I read that he tried many different ways of dispatching the sharks not limited to harpooning, dragging them backwards through the water so their gills wouldn’t work and machine gunning them. Yes, really!
In Mallaig there is a plaque that talks of a time when he harpooned a 30 footer and it was towed into Mallaig where they tried to lift it, still alive, by it’s tail from the water but with a loud sickening crack the tail seperated from the body and the shark sank to the bottom of the harbour where it bled to death overnight. Nice eh! Apparanteley he wrote of his concern about their pain and suffering but carried on anyway so to me, that is like going to confession and saying ‘Forgive me father, I know it’s wrong but I’m going on a murder spree and as there is no doubt that I will be filled with post murder regret, is this ok?’
So Mr Maxwell, god rest your soul and all that but despite your literary offerings I remain to be convinced that you were a very nice person at all and let’s not even go down the route of the fly tipping of all your shark processing stuff on the Island of Saoy and of your tailer that is still on the beach at Sandaig Bay 40 years later. Jesus, have you any idea how much sh*te any of us get into for forgetting that the old yellow mattress has accidentally fallen out of the back of the car into the local nature reserve?????
Right, I think I’ve probably said enough!
The next few days are very easy and quick to sum up. I didn’t really do anything at all. A gale was forecast and for the first time I didn’t have a marina to run towards and hide in so this time it was about choosing the right anchorage in which to shelter from the storm. I chose Isleornsay on Syke which was about three miles across from Sandaig. I was able to get right up in the bay and hide behind some high land and trees. There were about eight other boats in there who also chose Isleornsay in which to shelter although owing to the shallow draft of Fiesta I was able to tuck myself right up in the muddy shallows with greater protection. There were some visitor mooring buoys in there too and whilst five of the boats chose to use them, the rest of us chose to sit at our own anchors. Sometimes I do find it tempting to use a boy (sorry I meant buoy) in these situations but you have to assume that it is well maintained and that the chain is not rusting away under the water where you can’t see it. I am confident in my own anchor set up. I know what shackles I have used, I know the chain is good and the rope not frayed. You tend to get a false sense of security with a permanent mooring buoy whereas at anchor you are slightly more alert to movement and windage so you pay more attention to what is going on and when it’s gusting thirty-five knots and howling through the rigging you are that much more alert to deal with any issues should they arise.
Thankfully, there were no issues. There was a big old wooden yacht with about twelve people onboard and they dragged their anchor twice in the night that I saw and were up in the dark trying to get it reset. I use a brilliantly named App called ‘Drag Queen’ and this has proved to be a great way to monitor movement. Basically, you set the longitude and latitude of exactly where you drop your anchor, set the maximum amount of distance that you are happy to move from that point and if that distance is exceeded, the Drag Queen will start shouting at you. I had 100 feet of anchor chain / rode out and set the Queen at 120 feet in order to give a bit of room for error and at full stretch in the gusts the distance reading was 105 feet and in 48 hours of strong winds and continuous strain in the same direction, the figure stayed at 105 feet. Fiesta didn’t budge an inch! The wind howled and the rain was relentless and there was very little to do other than reading and chilling out although somehow I did manage to strain the muscles in my right arm.
When the gale was over I headed up through Kyle Rhea which is an exciting narrow channel between the mainland and the Isle of Skye where all is benign until you get about a quarter of a mile before the narrow part and all of a sudden the water accelerates and Fiesta went from 5 knots to 11 knots and we barrelled through amongst swirling frothing water and plenty of seals which I guess are there to take advantage of the fish that get churned up and confused in the hectic water.
We were now in Loch Alsh where we moored at a community pontoon with a very small town. Once again the Co-op was on station to rape and pillage but this time I was grateful because I needed a bit or a restock because there isn’t going to be much around for the next bit.
On Monday morning I made the break from the Western Isles. I felt very sad to be leaving but having looked at my previous track on the GPS I am happy with what I have seen and where I have been especially as my plan was only very loose at best.  I had allowed it to grow it’s own legs and I am very happy with where those legs took me. Tick!
For the last couple of weeks there has been an elephant in the boat that I can no longer ignore. It’s called the North Coast of Scotland aka ‘The Top’!  It suddenly dawned on me that if I am going to go around The Top, I have got to stop ignoring it and make progress to meet it so on Monday morning I decided to forgo a couple of places on the West Coast that I had wanted to see and take the favourable wind forecast and head to Stornoway! So, today is Wednesday. Hang on, yes Wednesday. Or is it Tuesday? No it is Wednesday isn’t it? Oh, I don’t know and quite frankly I really couldn’t give a toss! Anyway, today is today and here I am in Stornoway Marina. When I look at the chart I just cannot believe how far up I am. What the f*ck is Fiesta doing up here? This is yet another pinch myself moment. I cannot explain exactly why but I have always wanted to come here. The name has always intrigued me as has it’s location and exposure to the elements. I haven’t made a plan yet but I am now sitting right next to the elephant and soon I will be having a good tug on his trunk! Prior to that and for the next few days I plan to have a good look around and enjoy being in Stornoway.
Finally, a funny thing happened to me. I know this is just coincidence but it’s still weird.
When I first got to Scottish waters, the first person that I spoke to when I went ashore in Loch Ryan was a bloke who used to live in Burnham-on Crouch. What were the odds of that? Anyway, when I arrived in Hebrides and moored up here in Stornoway marina, the harbour master and his colleague came along to the boat to give me codes for the gates, toilets etc and they asked me to fill a form in with my details and to do that I went down below. While I was filling it in I could here them talking about Prout catamarans being built in Canvey Island and references to Essex boys! I went back outside and said ‘What’s all this I am hearing about Essex boys’? The harbour master said, ‘He’s talking about me because I used to live in Burnham-on Crouch’! WTF????? Turns out he used to race from the Royal Corinthian Yacht Club which my flat is right next to.
We had a good chat about the old place and then went our separate ways, both dragging a slightly oversized right foot behind us. Small world brother!
Family reunion in Mallaig and leaving for Sandaig
Sandaig Bay anchorage, an old abandoned cottage that used to belong to an ex Eaton Master called Raef Payne and was near to Gavin Maxwell’s cottage before it burnt down. Lovely sunny day at Sandaig, a few campers on the beach enjoying the ‘Right to roam’ and a large cheers from me!
Beautiful night at Isleornsay but as the navtex foretold, it was the calm before the storm
After the gale everything was back to normal (?). 
You can stay mate but no sh*tting!
Entering Kyle Rhea and being swept through.
Moored up at the Kyle of Lochalsh with a view of the Skye Bridge
Fiesta out.

The Small Isles, Soay and party time

It always takes me a couple of days to get used to being social again when I have a visitor. Not so anyone else would notice (I hope) but I think it’s just a matter of adjusting the brain so as not to think in a selfish way for all my plans and actions. Likewise it takes a couple of days when I am alone again to adjust and remember that no one is listening. Once the adjustment is complete there isn’t any reduction in conversation, just a notable lack of responses. I don’t think any of this is a problem unless I do start to hear responses when I’m alone and as yet this hasn’t happened!
I didn’t really have a plan once Sarah left. I knew I was going to visit one of the Small Isles but in the end it turned into an all but one Small Isles tour with a bonus island thrown in for good measure.
Once again I left in the rain after a silent night tucked away in the little loch and headed towards Muck. Muck has two anchorages to choose from and because of the wind direction that was forecasted I chose Port Mor on the southeast corner. The pilot books that I have for Scotland provide small arial photos of the anchorages alongside schematics showing rocks, hazards both on the approach and inside these anchorages and give they guidance of where you should throw the hook over the side. This is essential because whilst these little inlets are shown on the main charts there is no detail so the pilot books fill in the blanks. The only thing that I find difficult to gauge using these is the scale. I found this out particularly with Port Mor. I approached, located the entrance markers and proceeded. What I discovered is that the anchorage is tiny. There is a ferry terminal and my plan was to anchor further in with the hope of getting some protection from the wind and waves behind the ferry pier. What I didn’t factor in is that a roll on roll off ferry for these islands is about a tenth of the size of a Dover roll on roll off ferry. So the ferry pier was tiny and once I discovered this, I realised that the scale of the entire anchorage was much smaller than I was expecting. I found myself at the point where I was going to anchor and I was very close to big rocks on two sides and the ferry terminal on the other. It wasn’t very pretty and the shelter wasn’t very good either so I turned around and went straight out again. This turned into a fantastic bit of luck because I headed round the corner to the other anchorage which was only three miles away and that anchorage, in Gallanach Bay, is beautiful. White sand, clear water, good space to anchor with sheep and horses on the beach! The forecast was for the wind to change the next day which might make the anchorage uncomfortable but for the time being, I was extremely happy to have chosen this place albeit by default. Apart from the forecasted wind direction the other reason that I had initially discounted this place was due to the rocks and reefs around the entrance and the instructions for entry given in the pilot book which I initially struggled to get my head around. Here are the instructions for entry as they appear in the book.
Quote. ‘From the East pass South of Godag Rock and head for the north end of Horse Island. The gap between Lamb Island and Lamb Point, immediately south of it, appears as a square notch in the skyline. When this closes, head for the south end of Lamb Island, keeping the gap well closed, to clear the reef on the east side of Gallanach Bay. A line which leads between Bohaund and the reef to the east, consists of a barn with a curved roof (now painted dark green) at the west side of the farm under the highest point of a stone wall on the left shoulder of the hill beyond; a new barn (which is not the one you want) has been built close west of the first one. About two cables south of Bohaund lies a rock awash. Anchor north or northwest of the tidal islet towards the head of the bay’. Unquote.
Sometimes I find these instructions hard to visualise but this was to be a lesson in just going for it and when I did, these instructions showed themselves to be perfect. The pictures below show the ‘Square notch in the skyline as it appears ‘open’ and by heading further in, the gap closes. Once it has closed you keep the gap closed and the heading that you are on leads safely past a jagged reef on the left and once at this point you can line up the curved roof and the stone wall and you are safely in. Brilliant instructions written in layman terms and without these books I wouldn’t be seeing half the beautiful places that I am, not without taking some pretty big risks / leaps of faith.
The square notch in the skyline
The next day the wind did start to swing as per the forecast so instead of being the calm pool of tranquility that it had been overnight, it would turn into a choppy uncomfortable place with waves running straight into the anchorage so I decided to move and find a new anchorage that suited the new wind direction.
I headed over to Eigg and once again put my trust in the pilot book in order to get to a protected little pool only accessible by boats with a shallow draft like Fiesta accessed by going over a reef that only has enough water covering it above half tide. The instructions were to proceed to the pool and anchor in sand clear of weed and rock that would be easy to see in the clear water. Perfect, job done and in I went and found myself in my own private little anchorage with the keel boats having to stay outside in deeper water.
Eigg was fantastic. The island is not connected to the mainland power supply and until recently the inhabitants relied totally on diesel generators running 24/7 for their power. They are now totally green and have a small wind farm and each house has to ration their electricity consumption so there is enough power to go round. A lovey little Island with around 100 inhabitants and 19 kids at the local primary school! One shop which is also the post office and a small bar / cafe completes the commercial line up! Beautiful island with lovely walks, rides, camping and a very small ferry terminal to connect to the other islands.
Unfortunately at about 10pm the wind changed and my peaceful little pool turned into a choppy unpleasant bay of frustration! Fiesta is quite a noisy boat at anchor due to her shape underneath and that made for an uncomfortable night with a lot of water noise, wind noise, pitching and moving about. I got up early and despite my plan of staying on Eigg for a couple of days, I waited for the water to be deep enough over the reef and got out of there!
I headed north and and then northwest once I was passed the northern part of Eigg and sailed in to Loch Scresot on Rum.
I carried on towards the head of the loch and went right up as far into the shallows as I dared and anchored with a beautiful view of the sea to the east and a beautiful view of Kilnoch Castle on the ‘Forbidden Isle’ right in front of me.
This is a popular anchorage and there were six of us anchored in there that night. The sun was shining and the spectacular mountains of Rum made for a perfect couple of hours sitting on deck marvelling at the scenery.
I went ashore to give Max a comfort break and looked around Kilnoch Castle and the visitors centre which is just a shed containing leaflets with information on where to go and what to do.  I wandered off for a walk and managed to sneak up on and get a couple of photos of some of the islands’ red deer before heading back to Fiesta.
The anchorage provided a perfect calm silent night and I had planned on getting the bike ashore and going for a ride.  However, once again the wind god had other plans. At the moment the forecast around here is full of words like ‘cyclonic’ and variable’ which are basically terms for ‘Absolutely no idea what’s going on but it will definitely be either North, East, South or West’! In the morning, the wind had swung East and there was a confident forecast of strong winds nearing force 7 on the way.
You really can’t stay in an anchorage which is open to this sort of weather. One, it is very uncomfortable and two if your anchor loses it’s grip at night then you are headed straight for the rocks at the head of the loch so once again the decision was made for me and I searched the charts for a place nearby that would provide me with shelter from a strong easterly.
This is where fate lent a hand. I couldn’t find any place to shelter on any of the Small Isles but then I stumbled across a little island on the chart called Saoy with a tiny inlet on it’s West side. There was some information about Soay in one of my books and again, the entrance appeared to be a challenge due to there being a sand bar and a very narrow channel followed by an even narrower channel once inside. I decided to go for it and what a great decision that turned out to be.
I followed the instructions and in a building easterly wind I entered Soay Harbour and anchored in 8 feet of water right at the head of the inlet. The harbour provided so much protection that there wasn’t a ripple on the water and other than a fishing boat moored up in the middle, there was no one around.
Soay is where Gavin Maxwell established his shark fishing venture and whilst it was unsuccessful, the old shark processing buildings complete with rusting old steam engine are still there and are fascinating to have a look around.
Being totally alone, or thinking that I was, I was having a game of shouting random words, some beginning with C and listening to the echo all around the enclosed bay. About two minutes after my last outburst came a voice that made me jump.‘Welcome to Soay’ it said! He was the owner of the fishing boat and was rowing out to pump out all the rain water after the recent deluge. He was extremely welcoming and friendly despite undoubtedly having heard me and quiet correctly deciding that I was a complete twat!
Jim is one of less than ten residents of the island. He said that whilst a few people visit the harbour, not many go ashore but I told him that I wanted to go and have a look around and he immediately invited me to his place for a cup of tea! I must admit to being slightly concerned about being ‘fresh meat’ on the island but I decided to throw caution to the wind. I picked up my shoe horn and knee pads and followed Jim through the undergrowth along a very boggy path towards his place. Along the way I got a full talk on the history of the island and the names of the other residents as we past their houses along the way.
Like Eigg, there is no power on the island at all but unlike Eigg, no big diesel generators or wind farm so each person has their own method of generating power and making life on the island work. There are two wind turbines but these are only there to power the telephone exchange although there is actually only one telephone on the island.
Jim lives in a ruin. He bought the land, gave up his tecnology teaching job and bought a fishing boat and that is how he makes his living. His plans are to rebuild the house but at the moment it is a one story stone building about 10ft x 8ft with a metal roof and within is the kitchen, living room and bedroom all in one room.  A small shed about 100 feet away houses the ‘bucket and chuck it’ toilet system. Lighting is provided by 12 volt batteries charged by solar power although he does have a generator so he can run a washing machine and also a gas powered fridge. We sat down outside his house, had cup of tea and talked shite whilst looking out across the bay to the mainland. Absolutely beautiful.
The next day I was walking Max and bumped into Jim again who was on his way to see his neighbour Oliver and asked me if I wanted to join him. I was concerned about turning up uninvited but Jim assured me that they all like to have visitors so I would be more than welcome. Ten minutes later I was sitting with Jim and Oliver in Oliver’s kitchen talking fishing, island survival, electricity generation, the weekly postal boat and trips to the mainland to purchase supplies.
Oliver has an old Lister diesel generator in a shed so he does in effect have a 240 volt supply to power his lights and he also has an Arga that was totally dismantled and transported to the island in a rubber dinghy which is obviously for cooking but also provides hot water. The only thing he has to do is to ensure he has enough kerosene to run it.
I have met some pretty impressive and successful people over the years but I’m glad I didn’t meet these two before now because I have to say that in many ways they are two of the most impressive and successful people I have ever met. They both own land so could farm but both choose to make their living from the sea, most of their produce being exported straight to Spain whilst still alive.
They asked me what I was doing, where I had come from and what I did when I was employed. Once I had answered those three questions, not many more followed. Why should they? They had they needed to know about me. Nothing else mattered and thereafter we just shot the breeze and I was suddenly aware that I was sitting with two very intelligent, totally calm, relaxed individuals not even slightly concerned with the b*llshit of the outside world or politics. Instead they concentrated on making their existence work and living their lives. Jim told me ‘When it’s dark, I sleep, when it’s light I get up and when the tide and weather allow, I fish’.
Anything more that I say here will just sound like I believe I have embarked on some weird mission of discovering the greater meaning of life, being at one with nature and turning my nose up at unnecessary material possessions like I’m some kind of gap year prick exploring new and far flung places and then lecturing people ‘Honestly, it changed my life maaan’. Ok, better move on at this point! I will finish by saying that this was one of the most fascinating conversations with a couple of the most fascinating people that I have ever met and all this, just up the coast in Scotland on a tiny island off the mainland.
Once I dragged Max away from his new best mate (Oliver’s dog) we made our way back to Fiesta and on the way I met a lady called Anne Cholawo who wrote a book called ‘Island on the Edge. A life of Soay’.
That wasn’t bad was it. I had met a substantial proportion of the island population and I had even been sociable. What a pleasure it had been.
That night was a special occasion. It had been a long time coming but I decided to host a party although I didn’t actually invite anyone. It was to be a party for Fiesta and her crew. A guest list was drawn up and there was food, plenty of drink, loud music, nakedness and dancing into the small hours.  DJ’s were provided courtesy of Radio 1 in Ibiza. Ok so it wasn’t 35 degrees and nor was it sunny but in my calm, protected anchorage the party was in full swing while the easterly force 7 blew above the tree tops almost unnoticed by the revellers below. It was a cracking night, great company, fantastic music and good food.  We all had a great time although I paid for it with a sore head in the morning. Yep, I sure know how to live….
Point of Ardnamurchan – The most westerly point of Great Britain, my anchorage on Muck and a view of Rum shrouded in cloud
Red deer on Rum, my anchorage and views around Rum
Leaving Rum to escape the coming easterly force 7!
Tucked away in the inlet on the island of Soay – perfect shelter
Remains of the old steam engine for the shark processing facility, the old fisherman’s refuge and the party guest list….
New video in ‘Other bits’

Oban, Tobermory and Loch na Droma Buidhe

Oban was about an eight mile hop from Easdale and there was a gentle breeze blowing so we rolled out the headsail and crept along through the Firth of Lorn and up into Kerrera Sound. I have decided that Scottish people talk boll*cks about their weather. It was another day of blue skies and sunshine but I don’t blame them. I’d want to keep it quiet too if this was my home!
Going up Kerrera Sound there are several rocks and dangers to avoid and although they are all marked, the channel meanders and you can easily become distracted by the beautiful scenery so you have to remember to keep an eye on the charts as it’s not all deep safe water. What we didn’t have to worry about was any tidal races. This part is slow moving and in fact we timed our departure for Oban out of convenience rather than to suit the tide. When we left Easdale the tide was just turning to go out so it would be against us all the way but in total contrast to Dorus Mor the tide runs at a maximum of a knot or so which wasn’t going to make any difference to our short hop or relaxed schedule.

Oban has several mooring options including mooring buoys offered by Oban sailing club and Oban Marina itself which is opposite the town but includes a ferry service across to Oban. Sarah is pretty good at bearing with me because despite these viable options I have become a bit obsessed about balancing the books by anchoring whenever possible. I’m trying to keep this in check though because way back when we anchored at St Mary’s in the Isles of Scilly and bumped that rock in the night we were about 50 yards from a visitors mooring buoy that was in deep water and would have cost a tenner to use for the night so I have to make sure that I only anchor when I am absolutely sure the depth of water at low tide and weather suits. It’s not just the money though, I really feel ‘off the grid’ at anchor and to me that feels good.
We anchored just off a small island about half a mile north of Oban Marina. There was a stiff breeze blowing and behind us was a rocky shore but after giving it twenty minutes or so the anchor was holding Fiesta well so we jumped into Doris to go to Oban. Doris is the blow up dinghy that my mum bought for me and because of her kindness I named it after her although my mum’s name isn’t actually Doris at all but Wendy! However, Mum has been affectionately known as ‘The Old Doris’ or ‘Doris’ for short by Joanna and I from way back before she was actually old! We never checked if Mum was happy being called this but that’s not the point of a nick name is it. You don’t get to pick your own, or at least you shouldn’t, and if I have to live with being known as ’Total and utter C*nt’ then Mum can damn well deal with being ‘The Old Doris’!
Anyway, we went ashore and with Oban being my second favourite whisky I had been looking forward to turning up at Oban for ages and neither Sarah or I were disappointed. What a lovely place. We hiked up the hill to look at the McCaig’s Tower monument which they believe was inspired by the Colosseum. I expected to be underwhelmed but in fact wasn’t. Sarah looked around and then returned to take the p*ss out of me for doing what I always do which is to concentrate on spotting Fiesta and taking pictures of her instead of concentrating on what it is we have come to see.
We went back down to the town in time for our 17.22 tour of the Oban distillery. I have no idea what the reason was for the precise timing but that’s what we were told along with being there four minutes beforehand to collect our tickets!
The tour was excellent and I enjoyed seeing the gin clear distilled liquid pouring out at the end of the distillation process prior to being put in the barrel where it lives for 14 years before emerging as the totally delightful cockle warming coma inducing nectar that is Oban 14. When we reached the point of the tour where the tasting commenced Sarah got stuck in too and not for the first time she grimaced but nevertheless dutifully complied when I told her to swallow it.

Me and my big mouth! On Wednesday morning we left Oban bound for Tobermory in the pouring rain! I have been told that the Sound of Mull delivers some absolutely stunning scenery but we couldn’t actually see any of it on account of the heavy relentless rain and low cloud. It was blowing pretty hard too and we endured a few 28 knot gusts on the way through the Sound of Mull. Well, I say we but what I really mean is me. By this time Sarah had decided that as I have continuously ignored her request to buy a spray hood for the boat she would vote with her feet and was now down below watching the rain from inside Fiesta alongside Max. To be honest I couldn’t blame her because it was bloody awful out there. Oh no, if I have to stand on watch getting soaked, blown to bits and freezing cold then why shouldn’t they put their feet up inside while someone else takes all the responsibility, hell and high water. No, no – I felt fine about it. Absolutely f*cking FINE!
And breath…..
Where was I? Oh yeah, after four hours we pulled into Tobermory and as I looked around to find a book balancing place to anchor Sarah took matters into her own hands and called the harbour master to arrange a berth at the marina. I hate to admit it but for the first time in history she was actually right to ignore me! Everything was soaked and hanging wet sailing suits inside a boat is never pleasant but being able to hook up to electricity and get the fan heater on to dry everything out does make it a lot more pleasant as does not having to get into Doris in the pouring rain everytime you want to go ashore.
Tobermory was fantastic. We both loved it. Very colourful buildings around the harbour, some great restaurants and lovely hotels to go into for a beer. Sarah went running several times and in between downpours we made our way around Tobermory and enjoyed the shelter of the marina which was totally protected from the strong southwesterly wind that was blowing all the rain across. One minute it was bright sunshine and then a big cloud would appear over the mountain above us and that gave a warning of approximately thirty seconds to get under cover! Ten minutes later, bright sunshine again.
After choosing a pub for lunch explicitly to use their wifi so I could upload my last blog we moved to a coffee shop to try their wifi as uploading in the pub had been totally unsuccessful. After giving up on the coffee shop wifi too we went to the information centre to try theirs. The guy in the office was incredibly helpful and didn’t mind me sitting in there for two hours while the blog uploaded at local internet speed. 3 or 4g is unheard of in Tobermory so thanks to him the job got done.

That night we went for a drink in The Tobermory Hotel where there is a lovely little bar before going on to the ‘Spice of Mull’ curry house as I felt the urge to put my ringer through the mangle preceded of course by treating Sarah to a traditional and, even if I do say so myself, rather splendid dutch oven at bed time. She’s a lucky girl that one.
We ended up returning to the hotel bar the following night and although she didn’t say this, the reason we went back there was because Sarah wanted to see Bruce again. Bruce is an absolutely irresistible Bracco Italiano (Pointer) and if I say irresistible then this gives you a measure of the level of Sarah’s obsession with this cute boy. We met Bruce’s owners who are a lovely couple who run a Falconry business in Northumberland and they didn’t mind Sarah’s uncontrollable fawning over Bruce although I’m pretty sure they were running a system of watches to ensure the pair of them didn’t disappear out of the door.

Sarah left on Saturday lunchtime to start her homeward journey. Bus, ferry, walk, bus, hotel and aeroplane the next day is how she got back to London. A massive effort to come and see me and then the same again to get back home. I was sorry to see her leave, we’d had a fantastic week despite me being proved wrong in that the Scottish don’t actually talk bollocks about their weather as the four days of sunshine at the start of the week were balanced by the three days of rain that followed.
I left Tobermory Marina that afternoon and headed to a truly ‘off the grid’ location. A relatively small loch totally surrounded by mountains other than the very narrow entrance between the rocks. I tucked myself up in the corner out of the wind, put the anchor down, made some dinner, got warm, cosy and checked the level of the Oban 14.
I got lucky and managed to complete the trip without getting soaked but as soon as the anchor was down the rain returned and it didn’t stop all night. However, the rain hasn’t actually bothered me at all so far and I think this is the place where that well known saying came from. We all know it.

‘Whatever the weather, you must weather the weather because put simply, sailing in Scotland is the boll*cks’.

Lovely scenery on the way up Kerrara Sound and a chilled out looking Sarah


Enjoying the sunshine in Oban, McCaig’s Tower and the view across from Oban towards Oban Marina


I managed to tie Doris too low down on the ladder on the jetty but fortunately I could just reach the knot without getting too wet after the tide came in


Tobermory, their distillery and me modelling another gratefully received Canadian clothing donation


I saw this boat in the middle of the harbour and thought ‘How has that b*stard Russ beaten me here’?????? That Billybob must be the fastest boat on whole damn river!



Getting blown across towards Loch na Droma Buidhe and sailing past a unmarked rock. Gotta watch those little fockers


Getting ready to breath in through the gap and then settled in a lovely quiet corner, off the grid!



Crinan Canal and beyond

Whilst I am far from unhappy with EE it has now become apparent that ‘Everything Everywhere’ isn’t quite factual and finding mobile wifi is going to be a challenge going forward. I suppose this isn’t really a surprise so I am just going to have to work a bit harder and search out good cafe / pub wifi when I need to.

After a fantastic few nights in Portavadie I was making a plan to sail the 7 miles to Ardrishaig which is the point at which you can enter the Crinan Canal. I had a set back when a Swedish guy told me that I really shouldn’t be contemplating doing it on my own and that my boat would be too wide. I pointed out that the maximum permitted width on the canal was 6.2m and that Fiesta is 5m so it shouldn’t be an issue. However, he insisted that it really would be a problem. If he was right then it would mean an 80 mile trip to go south, around the coast and back up to Crinan instead of 9 miles to Crinan by canal! However, by a stroke of good luck I immediately bumped into a very helpful Scottish couple who invited me on their boat to talk about the canal. They said ‘Och fook nooo ya wee c*nt! The maximum is 6.2m so you will have nee problem’. They also had a solution regarding making the transit on my own. Basically the canal staff are on station to provide assistance with the locks which is just as well because unlike any locks that I have been through before, these ones are all old school manual ones. However, sometimes the canal staff might be busy doing other jobs around the locks so there is a company called Yot Spot who you can enlist to provide assistance with the entire canal transit which is fourteen locks. All this for a £50 fee. So, a no brainer and no more problem. I called Yot Spot and booked myself in for the next day. The staff at Yot Spot are all young people who are fantastic, friendly and utterly competent at operating the locks and make for a really easy time going through.
I sailed up Loch Fyne to the sea lock at Ardrishaig and once I had paid for my transit license I was locked through to the inside basin where I met up with the Yot Spot people. Once you have bought your transit license you can proceed and either transit the canal as quickly as possible or take your time and spend up to four days doing the transit. You can moor up at any of the pontoons along the canal, relax and enjoy. There are two main areas to stop at, the first being Cairnbaan where there is a Hotel / pub and Crinan where there is also a hotel / pub, cafe, walks and other things to do before exiting the canal and heading back into the big bad sea!

Having been through the canal I can now say that it would, in theory, be possible to do the transit single handed but with fourteen locks the procedure for each lock would be as follows:
Enter the first lock and stop the boat next to the ladder inside the lock wall and climb up with both the bow and stern lines in hand. Secure both lines but not tightly because they need to be adjusted from the boat end. Climb down the ladder and jump on the boat assuming that it has not drifted away from the lock wall owing to the lines not being tight. Tighten the lines, climb back up the ladder and shut the lock gates behind you. Walk to the lock gate at the other end of the lock and open the sluice gates and then make back towards your boat quickly so you can tighten both the bow and stern lines as the boat rises with the water level. When the level has been reached, secure the lines, get off the boat, open the gates that you are now going to go through and get back on the boat and motor on through before stopping at the pontoon, mooring up, getting off to shut the lock gates, getting back on again, motoring the 100 yards to the next lock and repeat!
So yes, it is possible but also an exercise in driving yourself round the twist together with a very realistic chance of cocking it up in one of any combination of ways including of course getting very wet and facing total humiliation.
Yot Spot got me through the first four locks really smoothly and it was worth the £50 just to see how it is done properly. Two of them handled the shore work and one of them came with me on Fiesta to handle the bow line so I could look after the stern line. Perfect, fun and easy.

On entering the canal you find a world of greenery, peace and tranquility. It felt like such a refuge from the windy and rough loch that I had sailed up in order to get there. I was instantly fascinated and so intent on taking photos of my new world that after navigating successfully past rocks, through currents, waves and overfalls for the last 1200 or so miles I ran aground about 100 yards after the Yot Spot guys got off the boat! Thankfully I bounced off the shallow gravelly edge of the canal, looked all around and sighed with relief that no one was there to see such a schoolboy error! I’d like to say that the edge of a canal is very difficult to make out against the back drop of solid earth but no one would believe such bulls*t and nor should they! Right Mark, you prick, concentrate…..

The canal was truly beautiful and made even sweeter by the fact that the sun was well and truly out as Fiesta, Max and I trundled along only chancing going anywhere near the edge again when I had to squeeze passed someone coming the other way. It was about 2pm when I realised that I hadn’t eaten anything all day but putting Fiesta on autopilot while making lunch was not a possibility. About a quarter of a mile later I spotted the roof of a petrol station down the green grassy bank next to the canal. Perfect, I moored on a pontoon which was right there, walked down the slope and into the garage where I bought a sandwich, climbed back up the slope and carried on along the canal! Being able to do that felt very odd as did seeing Fiesta on the confines of a narrow canal but I was loving it.
I stopped at Cairnbaan, enjoyed the pub, relaxed and walked up a very steep hill to look at some ancient stone carvings which provide a rare glimpse at the graffiti styles of three thousand years ago. These carvings lay undiscovered for thousands of years and have excited many historians but to me, what a let down!! I stood there, got my breath back, said ‘F*ck, really? Is that it’? No wonder people walked past them for three thousand years…..

After two lovely relaxing nights at Cairnbaan Fiesta got a spit and polish and I rode into town for supplies in readiness for the arrival of QBE Canada. I had delayed my entry to the canal by a couple of days because I knew it would be special and wanted Sarah to experience it too. She had flown up to Glasgow on Friday night and was enjoying a three hour bus ride to Lochgilpead which is a town right beside the canal. In fact the petrol station that I bought my lunch from was in Lochgilpead so I turned Fiesta around and motored back to the same pontoon and managed to intercept Sarah as she walked towards the canal from the bus station. Unfortunately the bus broke down so the three hour bus journey turned into four and a half but she had made it and was still smiling.
It’s always lovely to see Sarah but following a conversation we had the night before when she was at the airport, this time it was even more special. I hastily made my way towards the bus stop so I could help with her bags. She had with her an incredibly special cargo of single malt whiskies and I needed to ensure that the loving embrace of reacquaintance lasted convincingly long enough before reaching for the main prize.
I needn’t have worried about trying to be convincing. It was clear Sarah had other things on her mind too. No, no not that – she was desperate to see Max so we made for Fiesta where I witnessed a truly emotional reunion followed by the usual continuous stream of positivity that you get from Sarah. ‘It’s soooo beautiful, it’s soooo pretty, I love it, oh my god, I LOVE Scotland’ etc etc etc.

Once we were settled on Fiesta, we went back to Cairnbaan where the Yot Spot guys were waiting to get us going through the canal again. Yot Spot got us through the next five locks and then the canal staff took over and pretty much flushed us like a giant white turd through the final five locks in super quick time (they said record breaking time) down to Crinan.
What a fantastic experience going though the canal and arriving at the Crinan basin where we stayed for two more nights with only one more lock separating us from the rest of the West Coast of Scotland!
Everyone we spoke to in Crinan was incredibly happy, friendly and chatty. We visited the lovely bar in Crinan Hotel, met the totally charming owners and looked at Vic which is the last surviving coal fired ‘Puffer’ and is now run as a Trust on this part of the coast.
Men of a certain age with an interest in boats, old school engineering, getting their hands dirty, drinking ale and farting (the last two being my assumptions) pay a substantial amount of money to go aboard for a few days and graft on the boat. Despite the cost I think you’d be hard pressed to find a bunch of blokes that looked so enthralled and happy to get their rocks off and into the puffer, tackle the brass onboard and fill up the old boiler. Sounds pretty good doesn’t it. No wonder they are booked up well in advance…

We were treated to an unbelievably beautiful sunset and red sky on our last night in Crinan and locked out of the fresh water and back into the sea on Monday morning.
We set off northwards and crossed a bit of water called the Dorus Mor which was our first true taste of a tidal race. It was flat calm with a gentle breeze and looked totally benign until we were right upon it when the swirling water became obvious. With the tide coming in, which our departure was timed to coincide with, the water is forced up the Sound of Jura and funnelled into a relatively narrow part where it then relieves itself through the small gap that is Duras Mor. We were moving at about 5 knots but once in the grip of the tidal race our speed went up to 12 knots and we were swept though. The auto pilot worked overtime to keep us on a straight line and we sped along for the next 10 miles amongst swirling water, overfalls and truly stunning scenery. Honestly, the further I progress on this trip the prettier and more jaw dropping it all becomes.

Following advice from a guy we met in the canal we made for an island called Easdale from which Easdale slate originates but is now known for two things. Firstly, it’s the home of the Stone Skimming World Championships and secondly, its f*cking beautiful! Well worth the nerve wracking approach to the sheltered harbour. Having studied the invaluable pilot book you approach via a wide, safe and deep bay then you carefully line up an old ruined pier with the back end of an island that you can see a few miles away through the gap and enter via a 20 meter wide channel with crystal clear water and big rocks looming up from the depths about four feet under the boat. I found it really scary but you simply must trust in what you have read and that you have read it correctly and push on over the rocks and into the safety of the well protected harbour that awaits. Once in the harbour you can still see rocks below but they are now a much safer twelve of fifteen feet under the boat. We walked around the island which took about half an hour stopping to look at the beautiful old quarries now filled with aqua marine coloured water, we skimmed some stones and had dinner in the local pub which must survive principally because of visitors as the total population of the island is 65.
We enjoyed another stunning sunset followed by a lovely peaceful night in the protected harbour. In the morning the sea was glassy, the sky was blue, we put ten pounds in the honestly box for our mooring and left Easdale bound for Oban.

A friend of mine called Jamie who is Scottish but lives in Essex and who’s Dad has a boat at Crinan told me that Crinan is the door to the West Coast and that is where it becomes truly epic! I already know what he said is right. Scotland was beautiful at the other end of the canal but at this end it seems to have reached another level…..

Waiting for a boat to leave the sea lock at Ardrishaig so I could start my journey through

P1040161Moored up at Cairnbaan and continuing the journey through having picked up Sarah



The Puffer and the queue to unload into the the old boilerP1040299P1040287P1040297P1040309Old men and dogs – Sarah can’t resist eitherP1040318

Jamie’s old man’s boat in the basin


Sarah watching all the action unfold and a view of Crinan basin


The view from the Crinan Hotel at 11pm…..P1040278Leaving Crinan and the tidal race that carried us up to Easdale IslandP1040352P1040362P1040372P1040376Appraoching Easdale, back a bit Sarah and a bit more, one of the old quarries, moored up in the harbour, the view from Easdale looking South and another beautiful sunsetP1040377P1040388P1040399P1040405P1040382P1040423

Onwards to Loch Fyne

After a lovely night anchored at Rothesay there was a gentle breeze blowing from the southeast which was perfect for my trip up East Kyle. I had several places on my radar to visit and none of them were very far and the prospect of short little hops was appealing. By mid morning I was itching to go but had to wait for the tide. However, I was nervous and had spent an hour looking at the books and the chart for the next little leg. When I was in Dun Laoghaire I met a Scottish guy who was on duty in the Harbour Master’s office when I went to pay my bill. At that time I had Mum and Sarah with me and I think this next part is akin to the strange phenomina of blokes not being willing to ask for directions. It was clear that sitting in front of me was a Scottish sailor who very probably had vast experience of everything related to sailing in Scotland. However, there wasn’t one part of me that wished to join the dots and say ‘I’m on my way to Scotland, do you have any thoughts, recommendations or advice please’? It’s that strange penis thing again I guess. Well, step forward the Old Doris (my Mum)!
I had predicted this but at the age of 42 I still felt embarrassed when Mum piped up ‘You’re on your way to Scotland aren’t you Mark’ in a voice that had me at about ten years old. Yes Mum, now shut it, I will happily pay the bill and then walk away without benefiting from any of the knowledge that is freely available right in front on me, I thought.
My Mum obviously used her powers of telepathy and gave me a knowing sarcastic head wobble that told me she knew exactly what I was thinking and that, quite frankly, she didn’t give a toss! Again, probably a penis thing but I never like to be wrong or worse, be exposed as being wrong but on this occasion I was happy to be taught that not all 74 year olds smell of wee and have no idea what is going on outside of their six foot radius of familiarity and comfort because there began a valuable insight into the very part of Scotland that I was planning on passing through. Sometimes, I concede, Mum’s do know best.
This guy had lots to say and thankfully had the decency to write it down in English which ensured that it was indeed useful rather than a ten minute session of polite head nodding punctuated with several generic responses of ‘yes, ok, right, that sounds good’, the upshot of which would have been a total and utter waste of everyone’s time.
He said that the trip up East Kyle was a ‘fockin beauty’ and whilst the Kyle itself represents no navigational difficulties, at the top before it becomes the West Kyle there are some small islands called the Burnt Islands. These sit right in the middle and seriously constrict the tidal flow which causes it to speed up in order to squeeze through the gap. My trip adviser had told me that he went through there on a 25ft sailing boat doing 5 knots boat speed but the speed over the ground figure given by the GPS was 15 knots, therefore 10 knots of tide through a very narrow gap with less than a stones throw to each rocky side. Unless you are on a powerboat there is no way of going against this flow so it’s about timing. Timing the tide on most occasions is simply about reading the tide table and seeing that the tide changes at, say, midday and before midday it is going East and after, West. Therefore, if you want to go West you leave at midday. Easy. However, as with so many of the places around West Scotland it’s not that simple. The Isle of Bute is in the middle with West Kyle on one side and East Kyle the other so when the tide is coming in the water is moving up each Kyle at the same time and the two streams collide in the vicinity of the Burnt Islands The strongest flow bullies the weaker one and causes the flow on the weaker side to run back over itself which in turn causes much disturbed water and with the right conditions (or wrong) can make it totally impassable. The precise time and place at which these tides collide along the Kyle is dependent on weather factors like wind speed and direction and also what position the sun/moon are in which have an effect of the height of tides and therefore the speed and strength of the tidal flow. Asleep now? Helloooooo????
What this all means is that books, charts and weather need to be looked at all of which will allow you to make a best guess at where you should be and when. Yes, there is science but it still comes down to a best guess after considering all the variables.
I made my plan and sailed up the Kyle three hours before high water because to me it looked like the tide would change and go the other way about two hours before high water and take me through the gap. This was a nice little practice session for me and whilst my calculations were not spot on they weren’t bad. When I got there the tide hadn’t started to go the other way but it had stopped and the two tidal flows were nose to nose having a stand off waiting for the other to give way. So, pretty much no tidal flow and I pushed through in calm waters at normal speed. My first potential tidal race completed without drama. Happy with that.

I ended up anchored off a place call Kames where I was so close in I could pretty much look into the living room of the nearest house. I had a beer in the Kames Hotel, walked Max and then headed back to Fiesta to do some fishing. My fishing fortunes have changed since being in Scotland. This isn’t the result of any improvement in my skills. Instead it seems that at the moment Scottish waters are replete with Mackerel. I would say that almost every other cast in Rosethay and Kames resulted in two or three very good size Mackerel jumping on the line.
I’m not a big fish eater and genuinely cannot understand why anyone walks passed a fish counter in a supermarket and thinks ‘Mmmm, that smells good, let’s eat some fish’. To me it smells dead and anything but fresh so it’s always been a no go for me. However, via a few separate channels of encouragement I have given it a go and the last time I had Mackerel was in Wales with Russ, Conners and Joycey back in 2012 when Conners caught some off the rocks and they went on the BBQ a few hours later. With some reticence I tried some and actually quite liked it but a full 5 years later and I still hadn’t had another try. The other issue is that I’m a bit of a softie when it comes to living things and the thought of killing a fish did not sit comfortably with me. I know this is hypocritical because if you eat meat or anything else that was once alive then you cannot be blind to the fact that it has given it’s life to be on your plate.
It took about 30 good mackerel being caught and let go again before I finally decided that I was having one for dinner but now that I had released about 30, how on earth do you decide which poor little f*cker gets it? Three on the line at once; why should two go free and one get killed? This troubled me for some time until I reeled in my line with two really good mackerel on and as I lifted them onboard, the one at the top got free of the hook and went back into the deep. Well, there you go – I suppose that’s close enough to natural selection. The strong one has done one, the weaker one fallen to the back of the pack and is now going to be eaten.
I felt guilty and a bit sad about what I had done right up until the part when I ate him. F*ck me backwards with a fisherman’s gaff, it was awesome!!! Sea to stomach in about 45 minutes and just beautiful. I felt better about it instantly. If you are going to kill and eat something, you should at least love it so it hasn’t died in vain. I think this is how I would feel if someone was going to eat me although my last request would be to offer myself as toothless (please) rare sausage starter so we both got something out of it. Sorry, I digress.

After Kames I went South, had a lovely sail and turned right to enter Loch Fyne. Going North in Loch Fyne I found a beautiful little anchorage north of Tarbert Harbour. There’s a small peninsula with two anchorages, one to the North and one South and both protected from the West by the mountains and when tucked right up to the shoreline you are also protected to the East so you can shelter from all wind directions in one of these two bays.
Having absolutely no mobile phone service was frustrating for all of about 5 minutes and thereafter it was fantastic! I stayed there for two nights. The day I arrived was beautiful, the following day it p*ssed down ALL day and the day after it was beautiful again. A gale was forecast and given the choice I will always run for the shelter of a marina and Portavadie Marina was only 6 miles away so on Sunday I left the anchorage in a force 6 to 7 and sailed the 6 mile hop to the shelter of Portavadie.

Ok, quick bit of info. Portavadie was once a facility for constructing massive oil rigs. They were assembled and then towed out to position in the North Sea.
For some reason they stopped building them here and the site sat vacant until some bright spark decided that this big plot of land complete with a basin blasted out of rock where the rigs were floated out was a perfect site ready to be cleaned up and redeveloped into a marina, spa, luxury apartments and holiday lets. It’s beautiful but the photos at the end speak for themselves I think.
On approaching the entrance there are some rocks and fish farms to avoid and then you need to go through a gap between the two original concrete pillars that support the harbour wall. The gap doesn’t look very big and with a fair amount of motion from the waves it’s a bit daunting. Not for the fist time in my life I was thinking ‘How am I going to fit something this big into a gap that small’ only to realise once in opening that in actual fact I could get in there sideways. Oh well, another example of the difference between belief and reality.….

Yesterday was simply lovely. A perfect Scottish summer day and this time I do actually mean sunshine and cloud free too! I got the mountain bike out and did the hardest 8 mile ride of my life. It seems that whichever way you leave this marina there is a mountain to climb. Almost an hour and a half of gruelling climbing in the lowest gear I’ve got doing about walking pace followed by ten minutes of exhilarating downhill back to the marina. That was enough – exercise done!
To reward myself for my hard work I went to the spa where there is an absolutely fantastic bath temperature infinity pool overlooking the loch where I drifted off into a heavenly zen like state from which I was only roused when the lifeguard tapped me on the shoulder and told me to put my shorts back on. Ok, that’s not actually true but she did tap me on the shoulder because I had my eyes shut, was sitting on a ledge with my nose just above the water and hadn’t moved for 15 minutes. Good to see them doing their job although I would say that if I hadn’t been ok they probably would have been about 14 minutes too late!
Honestly, this place is fantastic. Who would have believed that it would be worth spending the millions on this that must have been spent? Someone was very smart though because it works and it’s not just people from the marina using the spa. There were lots of locals turning up to use it too but at 12 quid a swim I can only assume it’s an annual treat for them.

Lastly, in a cruel twist of fate the only place I can pick up any 3/4g here is around the corner near a place where there is a fish farm and the local hang out for a few billion of Scotland’s midges population so I’m off there now to try and upload this followed by a trip to the local hospital to pick up a few bags of O negative…….

Fiesta out.

Sailing up the East Kyle towards Burnt Islands

P1030999P1040001P1040002Kames and a decent Mackerel although this one still swims as far as I knowIMG_4572P1040008Perfectly protected anchorage complete with no mobile phone reception. P1040025P1040021P1040026P1040043P1040089The castle on the North side of the peninsula and it’s anchorage

P1040073P1040079P1040069Sailing to Portavadie, pretty deep out there, the entrance to the marina and the extent of my climb on the bike

IMG_4609IMG_4612P1040116IMG_4635Portavadie Marina