Posted by: Ray | April 20, 2009

Oban to Talmine Bay, a challenging passage Ullapool to Loch Inver through the Summer Isles.

Passage: 284M, 10 Ports visited, Max wind F7, F9 gusts.
 
Looking north from Kerrera Island

Looking north from Kerrera Island

 

Delayed by gale force winds, Eddie and I eventually set sail from Oban on Saturday 11 th April. I had decided to head North, making a clockwise loop to cruise the islands on the W coast of Scotland, then rounding Cape Wrath to visit the Orkney Islands. The loop allowed me to cruise coastal waters that I had not been able to sail during my passage up the E coast last year.

Returning to Oban from the Orkney Islands via the Pentland Firth, Wick, Inverness and the Caledonian Canal means I will circumnavigate the UK anti-clockwise making a figure of 8! 🙂 

Walking across Kerrera Island

Walking across Kerrera Island

 

 

On Saturday morning the strong winds were still blowing from the SW with gusts of up to 40kn forecast until later in the day. Eddie persuaded me to walk round the island of Kerrera, the leaflets said a 4 hour walk. We rose early and by 0700 were enjoying a brisk walk through the lovely farmland and hills of Kerrera.  

South Kerrera across to the castle.

South Kerrera across to the castle.

 

It’s an unspoilt, beautiful Island and I would recommend anyone to visit it. Inhabitants are about 40, mainly living in small farmsteads.

The walk was hard with several hills to climb and against the strong wind on our way to visit the castle and tearooms at the S of the island. We took lots of photographs. The walk took us 5 hours and boy did we both know it the next morning!! I told Eddie he should try it in 20 years at my age!! 🙂 

We left Oban after lunch. The wind was F4 from the SW, with gusts above this, but we would be in the lee of Mull once we crossed over the short passage entering Mull Sound between Lismore and Lady Islands.

The sail was brisk and we were soon approaching between the two lighthouses on the Islands. We could see turbulance ahead of us and passed through a mixture of choppy broken seas and pools of unaturally flat calm. Christine Marie slowed sharply in the turbulance that worried Eddie a little at the time (he had been reading about whirlpools up here in Scotland). I am used to this type of sea when passing the Needles and Hurst Castle, so soon reassured him.

Sailing Mull Sound

Sailing Mull Sound

Safely through, we enjoyed a great sail through the stunning scenery of Mull Sound. It was interesting to see the wind change as we progressed up the sound. The pilot books tell you it funnels through the mountains on Mull and can split direction when it enters the sound. We met this and were close hauled as we approached Tobermory.

1.6M from Tobermory the wind died suddenly and we motored the final distance to moor on a buoy in the attractive, picture-postcard harbour. 

Moored at Tobermory, Mull

Moored at Tobermory, Mull

 

  

We took the inflatable to visit the town the following morning and had a really good fish meal ashore in the white restaurant overlooking the harbour. 

 

Point of Ardnamurchan

Point of Ardnamurchan

 

In the late afternoon we set sail the short distance to Port Mor, Muck, one of the Small Islands. We rounded Ardnamurchan Pt at 1800. Now exposed to the Atlantic, but in light winds, we mounted the traditional lucky heather on Christine Marie’s bow. 🙂

  

Sunset Port Mor, Muck.  Rum mountains in background.

Sunset Port Mor, Muck. Rum mountains in background.

 

By 1930 we were approaching Port Mor, the wind was now increasing and rain clouds were gathering as forecast as we picked up the leading lines through the rocks on entrance to the harbour. It was going to be a windy night with swell entering the harbour, so we picked up a mooring buoy to allow us a restful evening. We were alone in the harbour as night set.

 

Muck looks good to walk around but having lost a few days due to the strong winds, I was keen to reach Mallaig the following day. 

Anchored Loch Scresort, Rum

Anchored Loch Scresort, Rum

 

With good winds we decided to make a detour and had fantastic days sailing, cruising round the small islands passing along the shores of Muck, Eigg and visiting Loch Scresort, Rum, where we anchored for lunch. We arrived in Mallaig at dusk, picking up a free mooring buoy for the night. 

 

Mallaig Harbour

Mallaig Harbour

 

 

In the morning we took on fuel at the quay and were able to make a brief visit into town for supplies and a fish-n-chips lunch before sailing on the fair tide to Kyleakin, Skye, where we would meet Henry the following morning.

 

 

We timed our passage carefully to pass through the strong tidal narrows (Sp tides 7Kn) at Kyle Rhea at slack water. By 1800 we were in sight of the bridge across to Skye and made our approach to enter and moor on pontoons in the small harbour at Kyleakin.

Kyleakin Harbour, Skye

Kyleakin Harbour, Skye

I had seen pictures of this harbour in magazines, drawing me to visit, it did not dissapoint. 🙂

Eddie and I relaxed in the evening with a walk round the harbour and a visit to a local pub. Henry joins Eddie and myself tomorrow when we set sail to Loch Garlochy. I hope to make the passage round Cape Wrath to Orkney Islands when tides and weather are favourable next week. 🙂

Skye Bridge.

Skye Bridge.

 

Wed 15 April: Henry joined Eddie and I on board early Wednesday morning. We needed to depart early to catch the tidal gate at Kyle Akin before it turned foul. A brief farewell to Henry’s wife Ruth and we left the harbour, passing under the Skye Bridge to set course for Loch Shieldaig, Gairloch.

 

Moored for the night at Loch Shieldaig

Moored for the night at Loch Shieldaig

 

Henry soon settled in and with light winds from the NE we had a pleasant sail for the 45M passage, plenty of tacking to keep us warm in the cold wind. 🙂 By 1800 we had entered Loch Gairloch and then made the passage through Loch Torridon into Loch Shieldaig. A nice sheltered mooring or anchorage.

 

Henry and Eddie on passage to Ullapool

Henry and Eddie on passage to Ullapool

 

The 41M passage the next morning to Ullapool was made in cold winds, still from the NE, that ranged from F6/7 to 0 suddenly.   A lively sail, we shook out reefs and put them back regularly! Weather conditions I have become to expect whilst cruising these waters! 🙂 We approached Ullapool in the evening passing Priest Island on our port side. We arrived at dusk to pick up a buoy in the harbour. The owner of the buoy rowed out in his small tender to welcome us and offered to come out in the morning to take Eddie ashore to catch an early bus. We had sailed 50M during the day, so relaxed with a meal and wine on board before retiring.

 

The following morning I prepared passage plans to Loch Inver where Graham would join Henry and myself for the cruise to Orkney and back to Inverness. We said our farewells to Eddie as he boarded the small rowing boat filling it with his gear and the yachts rubbish to dispose of! Gusty winds were blowing F5/6 from the NE as watched him depart and make it safely to the shore in experienced hands. 🙂

With the gusty winds, I decided to put 2 reefs in the main whilst on the mooring and to sail with this and a small headsail. It did cross my mind to sail on a small headsail alone, but we would be coming on the wind once out to sea past the Summer Islands. ( They always say reef down the first time you think of it!!).

Leaving Ullapool Harbour

Leaving Ullapool Harbour

 

Once clear of the harbour we set course to pass through a narrow rocky channel between the Summer Islands to the NW. Once away from the harbour the wind was on our quarter, funnelling down Loch Broom.

 

 

 

 

I set a preventer on the main and we clipped our safety harnesses on as Christine Marie picked up speed with increasing wind and rollers pushing us along at a pace. The wind and following breaking swell, whipped up by F9 gusts, continued to increase as we rapidly closed the narrow channel south of Tanera Beg, fringed with dangerous rocks. On the helm, Christine Marie was under control, but on the edge … we were surfing along on the following seas. I knew we needed to reduce the main with the 3rd reef whilst we had searoom.

Getting ready to reef, I made a mistake and gybed the yacht. The surprise was that the boom crashed across to starboard taking us sharply up on the wind. The shackle holding the preventer on the boom had snapped cleanly across releasing the main! My first thoughts were that we were now in big trouble, with damage to the rigging. But Henry and I worked calmly together drenched by the spray, to drop the main, check no damage had been done, before continuing under a small headsail. It was good teamwork in difficult conditions and we both ‘punched hands’ that we had come through safely.

Now under control we navigated the rocky passage through the Summer Isles out to sea where we made our course change towards Loch Inver, 20M further north. 

Lochinver

Lochinver

 

We arrived at 1730, sailing into Lochinver to meet Graham who was waiting to take our lines at 1740. We all enjoyed a pint and meal together ashore in the evening, recalling our experiences at Ullapool.

 

 

 

Sunday 19 April:

We left Lochinver at 1100 on engine to charge the batteries until we passed the green buoy marking the rocks to the NE of Soyea.

Henry up the mast.

Henry up the mast.

At 1130 we started to raise the main only to find we had a problem. The main halyard had wedged behind the radar reflector, nothing we did would shift it from the decks ….. there was only one solution … someone had to go aloft to free it. Henry volunteered 🙂

Fitted with the boson’s chair and two safety lines Graham and I winched Henry up the mast to free the line. Henry said it was a good view from up there! 🙂  

Continuing our passage under sail we had a lovely sail in the sunshine to complete the 30M passage to Kinlochbervie in 6 hours. Kinlochbervie is approached through several small creeks.

Approach to Kinlochbervie harbour

Approach to Kinlochbervie harbour

 

 

Tucked away, it’s a lovely fishing harbour nestling in between the rocks that surround it, just 14M south of Cape Wrath. I liked this harbour with its new pontoon and friendly sailors.

 

 

 

I had intended to stop off at Loch Erenbol on passage to Scrapster, but a local sailor suggested we anchor at Talmine Bay further along the coast. This anchorage is good except in strong northerlies. The wind was forecast to go to the SE the following day, so we decided to amend our passage plans.

Mon 20 April:  At anchor Talmine Bay, a sheltered anchorage on the north coast of Scotland between Cape Wrath and Scrabster.

Rounding Cape Wrath

Rounding Cape Wrath

 

Despite its reputation and our own apprehension, the passage round Cape Wrath gave us no problems …… conditions could have been very different. In sunshine, light winds and calm seas we rounded close to the cape and inshore of the dangerous Duslic Rocks just showing offshore of the cape.

 

 

We had time to take some good photos and sighted a dolphin and seal as we approached inshore 1M off the Cape lighthouse.

At anchor Talmine Bay

At anchor Talmine Bay

 

A fantastic weeks sailing through stunning scenery through the Scottish Highlands on the west coast of Scotland. As well as the scenery, the sailing was great and very challenging on some occasions! 🙂

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