Posted by: Ray | April 24, 2009

Talmine Bay to Inverness, visiting Orkney Islands

Passage:  200M, 6 Ports visited, Max wind F7

Cliffs on Hoy, Orkney Islands

Cliffs on Hoy, Orkney Islands

  

Now safely at Inverness and will take Christine Marie through the sea lock at Clachnaharry tomorrow.

We spent an interesting and sometimes challenging few days visiting the Orkney Islands before returning via the Pentland Firth to Wick, then visiting the attractive small port of Helmsdale on our passage to Inverness. 

   

Whilst in the Orkneys I reached the most Northerly point of my cruise round the UK, having now sailed 1523M and visited 54 harbours since leaving Lymington last year.

Passing Old Man of Hoy, Hoy, Orkney Islands

Passing Old Man of Hoy, Hoy, Orkney Islands

 

Our passage across from Talmine Bay to Stromness avoided the Pentland Firth tides and races, so was a pleasant sail in the sun.  We made good progress and had time to visit the Old Man of Hoy close in for photographs, whilst waiting for a fair tide into Hoy Sound on our approach to Stromness.

  

Approaching Stromness under Sail

Approaching Stromness under Sail

 

We timed our passage into Hoy Sound  carefully to arrive at the start of the flood (E going tide)   We sailed briskly into Stromness Harbour, Main Island, escorted by a ferry that overtook us as we made our approach into the buoyed channel marking the shallows on either side. 

 

Stromness harbour

Stromness harbour

 

Since leaving Oban we enjoyed sailing in sunshine on many days, but it had been very cold.  At Stromness we were able to connect to shore power and had the luxury of warmth on board!  🙂  We visited the town, took on supplies and Henry, Graham and myself enjoyed a meal ashore together. 

Henry and Graham enjoying the action

Henry and Graham enjoying the action

 

 

On Tuesday 22 April we set sail for Long Hope on Hoy.  It was a lively, short, fun sail and Graham, who has an Ocean Yacht Master, asked if he could practice ‘Man overboard’ under sail.  I threw the bucket with fender attached overboard and we had a very brisk time recovering it!!  Graham did a great job and I think the casualty only suffered minor hypothermia.   🙂

  

 

 

Long Hope Harbour from our mooring.

Long Hope Harbour from our mooring.

 

We spent Tuesday night on the visitors mooring buoy off Long Hope harbour, with winds increasing from the SE.  Not what we wanted for our passage across the Pentland Firth to Wick.  Wind over tide and with Spring tides five days away, potentially gave very dangerous conditions in the Firth.  The forecast did not look good, F5/6 occ F7 from the SE, seas slight to moderate.

 On Wednesday morning I telephoned the HM at Scrabster for advise on conditions in the Pentland Firth, we would have fair tides of up to 9KN, but with wind over tide.  He told me that the wind had not yet built up any swell and that we should be ok.  We decided to sail round to Aith Hope later in the day, a small bay to the North of the Firth where we could assess the situation. 

We set sail and on approach to Cantick Head lighthouse we could see broken water off the headland.  Our speed over the ground increased rapidly to 11Kn as the tide shot us out of the sound through large and confused seas.  With Graham on the helm we made an uncomfortable, lumpy and wet passage along the south coast of South Walls with winds F7 to enter into the shelter of Aith Hope Bay.  

We dropped anchor with the intention of staying for the night until conditions improved for passage across the Pentland Firth.  The yacht at anchor we started to get out of our wet gear, then the bearings we had taken of our position changed rapidly and we were dragging anchor towards a moored fishing vessel!   With me on the helm, Graham and Henry worked hard to recover 40m of anchor chain, with large amounts of kelp attached to it …… the reason it had not held!   🙂

Not wanting to stay awake all night on anchor watch, we returned back out to sea. With SE F6/7 blowing for most of the afternoon seas had built and conditions were increasingly getting worse.  We were not able to make much progress beating into the wind and waves and conditions mid-Firth in the stronger currents would be very uncomfortable (if not dangerous), so we made passage back to the shelter of Longhope for the night.

Christine Marie with the Long Hope lifeboat in the inner harbour

Christine Marie with the Long Hope lifeboat in the inner harbour

 

The next morning the conditions had improved and the forecast was for lighter winds, still from the S or SE.  Further delay in our passage took us closer to the stronger spring tides.  We decided to visit the Longhope harbour to take on supplies and the HM gave us permission to enter the inner harbour next to the life boat.

 

 

We had a very warm welcome from the villagers of Longhope, many had seen us out in the rough seas the day before.  The lady in the village stores told us she had seen us going out to sea and had thought …. ‘I’m glad I’m not on that yacht’ !!

Kevin, the coxswain of the Longhope life boat came to see us and took us into the lifeboat station for coffee and biscuits.  We were welcome to use the showers and facilities there.  He and the crew were very friendly.  Kevin lives with his wife in a house overlooking Aith Hope bay and had seen us struggling with our anchor the evening before ….. he told us we were unlucky and that the bay was generally sandy and good holding!    🙂

Looking across Pentland Firth to Duncansby Head on a calm day.

Looking across Pentland Firth to Duncansby Head on a calm day.

 

Kevin then drove us round Long Hope showing us the coastline.  We could look out over the Pentland Firth and the passage we had made the day before.  What a difference a day made, calmer seas and looking better for our passage to Wick later in the day. 

 

 

My crew with Kevin, Coxwain of Long Hope Lifeboat, in the museum.

My crew with Kevin (right), Coxwain of Long Hope Lifeboat, in the museum.

 

We visited the Longhope Lifeboat museum, well worth a visit as it houses the Thomas McCunn life boat used between 1933 -1950’s.  It is seaworthy and made passage in October 2006 to meet the arrival of the new Tamar Lifeboat to Longhope.

  

 

Long Hope Memorial, Hoy

Long Hope Memorial, Hoy

 

We also visited the village’s memorial to eight lifeboat crew who lost their lives when the lifeboat capsized whilst answering a call to a fishing vessel in distress. Close to the memorial the graves of those lost showed mostly young men in their 20’s or 30’s: we noticed that four came from the same family. 

Long Hope Tamar Lifeboat, Helen Crombie

Long Hope Tamar Lifeboat, Helen Crombie

 

Later we realised that Kevin’s surname was the same as those lost, they were his father and relatives.  Very brave of Kevin to give his service to the RNLI supporting  others like myself at sea.  I am full of admiration for these men and women who volunteer to serve on the lifeboats.

 

Ray at the controls of the Long Hope Lifeboat

Ray at the controls of the Long Hope Lifeboat

 

 

 

 

Kevin, Alec (the lifeboat mechanic) and other crew showed us around their new Tamar lifeboat, Helen Crombie, that came into sevice at Longhope in 2007.  Six are now in service around the UK. 

 

 

 

 

In the evening we made our way round to Aith Hope, said our farewells to Kevin with a blast on our foghorn and set off on our passage across the Pentland Firth when the tide had turned east in Middle Firth.  I had plotted a CTS to account for the strong tides and this kept us on track across to Duncansby Head between the Islands of Stroma and Swona. 

Confused seas in the Pentland Firth, light winds close to Spring tides.

Confused seas in the Pentland Firth, light winds close to Spring tides.

 

As we approached the Islands our speed over the ground increased rapidly and we recorded 14.1Kn, seas became a little rougher and confused with the light SE wind against the 9kn tide.  We can only imagine what it would have been like there the day before!!  It was a fantastic experience. 

 

 

 

It brings home the point that crossing should ideally be made with winds F4 or less, little swell and wind not opposing the tide, ideally at Neap tides.  With our very light winds and little swell, we had little problem with adverse wind close to Spring tides.

Sunset off Noss Head Lighthouse, Nr Wick.

Sunset off Noss Head Lighthouse, Nr Wick.

 

We made the passage to Wick, 32M, in 3.5 hours!!   A very fast time for my yacht helped by the strong tides!  🙂    

The sunset as we approched Wick past Noss Head lighthouse was spectactular and rounded off a great day.

 

 

We rounded into Wick Bay in the dark on the correct approach to the Commercial Harbour, but had difficulty picking out the white sector light.  We had sight of the sector light on the S pier and followed this, clearing the dangers on both sides of the bay.  Closer to the harbour we moved into the green sector to ensure we made our approach across and well clear of the pier until we had sight of the fixed red transit lights leading us into the outer harbour.  Keeping close to the south harbour wall we entered the outer harbour and berthed alongside the quay by the Fish Market for the night. 

Christine Marie alongside the Fish Market Quay, Wick.

Christine Marie alongside the Fish Market Quay, Wick.

It had been a long day, we relaxed with a late supper and retired.  Onward passage planning could wait until morning.   🙂

In the morning, Henry wanted to practice his passage planning.   Helmsdale is a shallow harbour, so a phone call was made to the HM to determine the conditions there and if a suitable berth was available.  

The HM told us they had a berth, but we would need to be there by 1500 with our 1.5m draft.  Henry had completed tidal height curves for Helmsdale ….we would be on a falling tide.  I was not happy with this, we could be late.  Henry gave me the time we could pass in over the bar with a rising tide, 2000, much better …..  I am very familiar with entering this type of harbour in the Solent and up the E coast last year.  Henry telephoned the HM to inform him of our plans and he offered to come down to meet us on arrival. The dissadvantage of our late departure was that we would have a foul tide until we cleared  the long headland south of Wick.

Henry completed passage planning and we had time for a brief lunch ashore before sailing.  We set sail at 1400 on the 32M passage south to Helmsdale on the west coast of the Moray Firth.  With wind F3/4 we had a great sail for the first 4 hours, then the wind ‘switched off’ suddenly. We had no option other than use the engine for the final 2 hour passage to Helmsdale.

The foul tide had slowed us initially, but once clear of the headland it reduced and we made good headway.  We approached the harbour on time at 2000, the HM was there to guide us into the final approach to the harbour pontoons using VHF.  I had to crab across the tide to hold course on the approach to the harbour and we passed through the shallow channel without problem once in sight of the channel buoys and transit beacons. The HM guided us to the pontoon where I had 0.2m under my keel on the final approach to the berth!   🙂 

Helmsdale, harbour pontoons far right.

Helmsdale, harbour pontoons far right.

 

Once moored we explored the village and local pub for refreshments.  Helmsdale is a pretty, fishing village … worth the visit.  Christine Marie was the only fin-keel yacht there and we sunk into the soft mud by 0.3m overnight at low water without problem.  

 

 

Leaving Hemsdale Harbour

Leaving Hemsdale Harbour

 

We left the harbour at 0900 the following morning when the tide had risen sufficiently for us to exit over the bar.  Once clear of the harbour we set sails and made course for Inverness, a nine hour passage  of 45M. 

 

 

 

Oil platform at anchor, Moray Firth.

Oil platform at anchor, Moray Firth.

 

The passage to Inverness was not very enjoyable.  With little wind and with mist reducing visibility to just over half a mile, we had little to see for much of the passage under engine power.  We did pass an oil platform at anchor, just visible through the mist.

 

 

Kessock Bridge through the mist. Lucky heather still on the bow.  :-)

Kessock Bridge through the mist. Lucky heather still on the bow. 🙂

 

The shoreline became more visible as we passed through the narrows off Chanonry Point, passing Fort George .  Several seals were seen following us and a group of them basking on the shallow sandbanks on our port side.  We soon had sight of the Kessock Bridge through the mist. 

 

 

 

Rounding the green Meikie Mee buoy we made passage under the bridge to the new Inverness Marina, now open.  🙂       (See Lossiemouth to Inverness 2008)   Its a new marina with good facilities and very friendly and helpful staff. Good for cruising the area or as a stop to/from the Caladonian Canal.

Ray and crew in charity T-shirts .... No 1 of 3   :-)

Henry (left), Ray and Graham in charity T-shirts .... No 1 of 3 🙂

 

Moored at Inverness Marina, we set about taking photos of myself and crew in the charity T-shirts.  I had been asked for these earlier, but it had been very cold.  We pursuaded a nearby mechanic at the marina to take the photos. 

It was still very cold and we were scruffy from a long days passage, but this was our last opportunity.  We had a laugh as we first posed in Rethink T-shirts, a quick change into Marie Curie and then RNLI.   Job done we retired to the warm cabin.  🙂

Henry left the yacht the following morning and Graham and myself took Christine Marie the short passage round to enter the Caledonian Canal via the Clachnaharry sea lock.  By 1100 we were safely moored on a pontoon at Seaport Marina.  Graham left the yacht to return home early Monday morning.

My thanks to Eddie, Henry and Graham for their support whilst making this passage.  Along with Eddie, who sailed with me from Oban to Ullapool, they helped me bring Christine Marie safely through a challenging passage at times.  My thanks also to Crewseekers who helped me find these experienced sailors as crew.

I will spend the week preparing Christine Marie for her passage back through the canal to Oban with my friend Brian in a couple of weeks time.  I will also get time to update my BLOG and to catch up with some amateur radio  …..and sleep!    🙂

This has been a fantastic passage with some great sailing, at times challenging.  We will all remember the friendly, warm welcome and support we received on our visit to the Orkney Islands, in particular from the villagers and lifeboat crew of Longhope, Hoy.  They made the visit one to be remembered, Thank you all.

Crewseekers

Crewseekers

Advertisements

Categories

%d bloggers like this: