St Kilda – 1999  

Ramsey - Bangor - North Bay, Barra - Village Bay, St Kilda - Borve Bay - Tarbert - Ullapool - Tanera Mor - Tanera Beg - Staffin Bay (Skye) - Rona - Loch Torridon - Plockton - Loch Scresort (Rum) - Canna Harbour - Tobermory - Loch La'thaich - Tobermory - Oban - Ardfern - Ardminish bay (Gigha) - Ramsey

Boat: Anquette, Westerly Centaur, 26ft bilge keel sloop.
Skipper: Dave Le Geyt
Crew: Dave Nelson

For this cruise I had three weeks available, and the crew two weeks. Main objective St Kilda, 265 miles distant on the shortest route through the various islands. In theory possible to get there in three days - given winds in the right direction, well behaved seas, and the fair streams at the various tidal gates. What chances the perfect combination of all three elements  ?

99/07/03, Saturday: Ramsey - Bay Hirivagh (Barra)

Set off around 0010 hrs after the now customary send off - this time the venue the Trafalgar rather than the Saddle. A murky night, with good phosphoresce, overcast with no moon showing and poor visibility. Would have been very difficult to spot any pot buoys on the way to the Whitestone west cardinal.

Off the Point of Ayre set course for just SW of the Mull of Galloway. Lots of lightning ahead - but no thunder. A dry night with temperature around 13°C so quite comfortable. Called Dave just before dawn to take a watch. Each managed two spells of 2 hours kipping before mid morning. We proceeded up the west side of the Rhinns in thick fog. Apart from one large ketch, all we saw was the wake of the high speed catamarans working out of Loch Ryan and the fog horns of ships - probably the catamarans and more conventional ferries.

Having passed the Northern end of the Rhinns fog/mist finally started to lift providing views of the coast, Ailsa Craig, Mull of Kintyre and Northern Ireland, and Rathlin. Aside from two ships, plenty of yachts appearing once abreast of the Mull of Kintyre - from which point we were able to start sailing. Worked out that the tide would turn SE in the Sound of Jura around 1920 hrs - so no need to hurry there - as it wouldn't be until the early hours before the tide slackened off.

Sent Dave below, to turn in @2315 hrs after I had topped up the fuel tank, and made ready for a long night. A ship passed a couple of miles clear and headed for the Sound - at least I wouldn't have to worry about it passing mid channel later on. Visibility was moderate to poor - no moon initially and a heavy mist lying over the island, but able to see McArthurs Head and then the green lateral further in. Tide foul initially, at one stage fell to 0.00 knots over the ground. Still kept plodding away as it would soon be slackening and turning. Pilotage up the channel straightforward - have had the opportunity to pass up and down it a few times in the past - in daylight. Originally my intention had been to pass south of Oronsay, the head north toward Gunna Sound between Coll and Tiree. Before sending Dave to turn in early I had mentioned that I might instead pass east of Colonsay so that he could steer once the north of the Sound of Islay had been reached. In the event, I felt reasonably alert (listening to a Walkman to keep my attention levels up) and so reverted to my original plan. This meant staying up until clear of the reefs SW of Oronsay.

As it turned out Dave woke at 0550hrs - just before I was about to call him at 0600hrs. I hoped that in return for a long sleep that he would keep a proper lookout (from the cockpit) whilst I rested below when I could (i.e. whilst the boat was transiting passages of relatively clear water).

Passed a ship the "Countessa" of Groningen, off Torran Rocks - temporarily altering course 20° to starboard so that we would pass port to port. Exchanged greetings with the officer on watch. A low ground swell present, which appeared to get a little larger over the shoals west of Iona.

Conditions seemed suitable for Gunna Sound, so put the waypoint for the approach to the Sound onto the most detailed chart, and drew in some clearance lines for good measure. The orientation of Tiree gave the Sound shelter from the low SW swell. Ideal conditions. The island, sandy, dune backed (except Gunna itself) with a small number of dwellings. On Tiree a small fishing boat (dayboat) dried out on the sand, and a small cabined powerboat on a mooring. Some crab pots laid on both sides of the channel.

Once clear, Dave on watch, whilst I rested in the salon, had around 3 hours in total, but too awake for sleep - perhaps if we had been under sail rather than power I might have managed some kip. Had set course for the north side of Barra - which would later give me the option of making for North Bay (on the north side of Barra), Eriskay, or even Castlebay if need be.

Once I was up and about again at 1945 hrs, I started to think more about our options and dug the relevant pilot books out.

Decided on the  harbour beyond North Bay. Eriskay was near the Sound of Barra, and could be entered at night - at least by fishermen using the floodlights on the quay to work their way around rocks drying in the channel into the harbour. In contrast North Bay just as close to the Sound, with a sectored approach light, and relatively clear - at least up to the fish quay - anchoring within the harbour between outcrops the most concerning element. 

Carefully worked our way to NE of the east cardinal, and found the white light to  guide us in, I also used the hand bearing compass to check that we kept 311°T on the light.

A fishing boat overtook us in the channel in. In the harbour found two large trawlers alongside a quay with a smaller trawler tied up alongside. A short side of the quay, a crane berth, and held a fishing boat against which we made fast. Went ashore immediately for a forecast, but the box was not accepting coins. Turned in around 0200/0230 hrs.

99/07/05, Monday: Bay Hirivagh (Barra) - North Bay (Barra) - St Kilda

Was awoken at around 0530 hrs by a knock on the cabin roof. Opened the cabin hatch to find my lines being tossed back onboard and a fisherman saying "haven't you got your engine started yet". Not a friendly welcome - and I wouldn't have displayed the same attitude in their shoes (on arrival it had been too misty to see safe route into the pool in which visitors moorings have been reported to have been laid). Their attitude pissed me off.

So once I had motored off I wondered what to do next - Dave N meanwhile hadn't bothered to get up. Could see the pool further west of the quay containing moorings and just one fishing boat. Decided to head out - "I will admit that a "naff attitude" from a local always puts me off a place. Evident that there was fog at sea, so motored to North Bay and dropped anchor whilst I considered the options. Dave N appeared, and I gave him the job of bringing in the fenders whilst I set the anchor. The mist to seaward (i.e. the east) appeared to thin slightly so I decided to make for the Binch Rock south cardinal. Quite foggy, but still continued into the Drover Channel. Got a good view of the ruin of Weaver's castle on top of the Stack Islands - the building and dark rocks silhouetted and isolated in the fog. used waypoints to follow the route of the channel - erring toward the "safer side" whenever there was the opportunity. Passed very close to the north side of the island of Fuday, with it's attractive little sandy beach - but couldn't see any sign of the Drover Rocks isolated danger which should have been close to starboard - had it gone missing or was it simply well hidden in the fog ? The local ferry suddenly appeared off the starboard quarter passing astern - virtually on the track for the ferry on the chart - and virtually on the position on the chart on which the ferries hull is shown). Once through the Drover channel, the passage through the Washington Channel was a lot easier. Once clear set course for St Kilda. At this stage there were plenty of pot buoys to look out for, and some time later we would have to cross the deep water tanker route - would the fog have cleared by then ?

Not much to see for most of the crossing, firstly the fog hid everything around us until it thinned, and then in the latter hours we had just St Kilda and Boreray to look at, which due to their height were further away than they first appeared.

The Autohelm started misbehaving, and Dave disappeared below, so I hand steered the last section in the dark. Gave Levenish a wide berth, and found a SE going tide as we ferry glided onto the leading lights - headed in.

Pleasantly surprised to find several yachts and motor boats (ex MFVs) in Village Bay anchorage. We wasted no time, dropping the mainsail, then the anchor, and pumping up the dinghy. I was keen to at least walk along the shore before the weather might change and force us to leave. Ashore found that the Puff Inn was still open - in fact it was packed with the 14 permanents swelled with yacht crews, the crews of converted MFVs and National Trust workers. Spoke to Donald, Keith and Saya, drank plenty of Guinness, and wrote 'Dave, Anquette Jersey on the ceiling tiles whilst balancing on a non too steady step ladder, as is the custom, encouraged by the pub staff. Got back to the boat around 0330 hrs.

99/07/06, Tuesday: St. Kilda - Borve Bay (* on which island ?)

Woke at 0900/0930 hours, fancied a lie in to catch up on kip, but quite noisy as an SAR helicopter hovered over the anchorage (as I learnt from Dave) to pick up someone to take to a doctor on the mainland, and then before reaching its destination, the helicopter had to turn back for a diver whose gear had failed. Only had to walk a short way up the hill before a Landover gave us a lift to the top. We then walked to get a view of Glen Bay and the SW/W side of the island. two yachts nosed in toward the prominent cave on the eats side of Glen Bay. Walked back down and through the village. back in the Puff Inn complex found a phone, and after buying a phone card found out that SE 5/6 were expected on Wednesday - so a quick exit in order., the wind varied between calm and SE1, so motored with the sail raised. Aside from a good view of the islands to our south, we had the company of three white sided dolphins for a few minutes.

Dave found an army chap who was prepared to part with 40 litres of diesel - so I hurriedly returned to the dinghy, and quickly collected the 4 10 litre fuel containers. No money was exchanged as it would have "raised questions".

We slipped around 1600 hrs, and discovered a small basking Shark swimming round in Village Bay. When we were abreast of Levenish we had a Mike Whale too.

For the crossing, the wind varied between calm and SE1, so motored with no sail raised. Aside from a good view of the islands to the south, we had the company of three white sided dolphins for a few minutes.

I had been considering the Cope Passage - but decided against it, the western end over the sandbar was unlit, the sand bar itself varying in height (charts said minimum 0.9m, pilot said drying at times). In addition mist/drizzle likely to reduce visibility significantly. If we had used the passage Loch Maddy would have been the best port but with the distance might have meant a mid morning arrival and "loss of a new days sail". So, scanning the chart showed Borve Bay to be a suitable spot with shelter for SE to SW winds. Arrived at 0240 hrs, dropped the anchor in @ 12 metres and turned in.

99/07/07, Wednesday: Borve Bay - Tarbert

Didn't slip till 1230 hrs, and made round Toe Head, initially under sail before slipping the engine on as the wind came ahead. A yacht passed close to the head on its way northwards - meanwhile we made for the Leverburgh Channel. Of the two options, the other being the Stanton Channel, I much prefer using the Leverburgh Channel.

The western end of the Leverburgh Channel is not well marked (some drying rocks have no marks to guide passage round them) and it seems that it is just the east part of the channel which is lit allowing local vessels to approach Leverbrugh from the east at night.

Navigational Point of Interest

The chart is interesting (Sound of Harris 2642) in that the lat and long lines are not drawn parallel to the edges of the chart but at about 45° - I can't recall having used any other Admiralty charts with such an arrangement - but here it does get the various passages through the Sound on one chart. Another peculiarity concerns the tides. At springs the streams tend to run SE for the most part during the rising tide and SE during the falling tide, however, during the summer neaps there is a SE stream throughout the day and NW throughout the night whilst during winter neaps the opposite applies (NW during the day and SE during the night). As the streams may run up to 5 knots it's worthwhile having a passage plan ready before you make for the channel.

Passed round the Red Rock then altered course to pass north of Sgeir Valinish. Kept on the shoreward side of the channel as Rubh' an Losaid approached, before altering course to pass between Sgeir Mhic Coma and Jane's Tower, using the leading marks in line astern for a safe transit. Once near the Stumbles Rock red lateral we were in relatively clear water. So made eastward, and once sufficiently clear of Renish Point set sail northward.

Once clear of the channel, leaving with three transit marks in line in stern, followed by a turn to port off Jane's tower, we were soon out into the Minch and clearer water. For the evenings top we made for Tarbert, dropping anchor just clear of the moorings and leaving enough room for the ferry should it materialise. In a nearby bar we chatted to a fisherman had been at sea for 6 weeks off the Outer Hebrides, and who knew St Kilda particularly the Puff Inn quite well.

99/07/08, Thursday Tarbert - Ullapool

Oh dear - I've lost some  pages from my journal !

99/07/10, Saturday: Ullapool - Tanera Mor

Despite protestations from the crew ("why can't we have another night in Ullapool ?") I was keen to visit some of the Summer Isles. As far as I was concerned it would have been preferable to have stopped overnight Friday at one of the islands, got cleaned up, and gone into Ullapool early Saturday morning for provisions - leaving around midday for more exploring. Anyhow I was in the event quite happy to have gone to Ullapool Friday night. The anchorage was sheltered, and there was alive band with a bar extension at the hotel. So, on Saturday after eating at midday ashore, buying provisions from the local Safeway and purchasing diesel (the garage attendant phoned his Dad up, who drove down, took the\cans away in his van, and returned with them full. This chap was quite talkative, and described how one local yacht had been up to the Orkneys/Shetlands, one round Ireland, and one after the Caribbean to Greenland, the  back across the North Atlantic, but got dismasted, had a broken saloon window and was half swamped. A Nimrod went out to look for it (these planes are fitted with searchlights) as it was October, and eventually the lifeboat picked them up west of Lewis and towed them into Stornoway. Once the tanks were cleaned, and filled, the two local lads motored back to Ullapool. A local Contessa 32 "Fiasco" was a participant and survivor of the '79 Fastnet disaster. Some local lads had also been caught smuggling drugs by sea, with a collection being made by a van - which had aroused suspicion parked up in the middle of nowhere.

Slipped sometime around 1600 hrs. The crew stayed below for the entire trip round to the next anchorage. After skirting round the red lateral, and allowing the ferry to overtake, we motored to windward, passing east of Horse Island before swinging round to port for the approach to Tanera Mor. The martin Lawrence pilot describes the anchorage as mostly obstructed by fish cages - however there seemed plenty of room. With the NW'ly I anchored between the NE promontory with its open framework jetty and the ???? (*check) metre summit of    (*find the name from the chart).

Having dropped the anchor we heard a strange noise, not emanating from any of the boat's equipment - in the end we presumed that it was some kind of "sonar" - to perhaps keep seals out of the bay and away from the fish cages.

99/07/11, Sunday: Tanera Mor - Tanera Beg - Staffin Bay, Skye

Didn't wake as early as I had intended. Got underway and motored north about the island, and made for the Tanera Beg anchorage from the northern approach. had Dave look out over the bow, cause some of the heads lie quite close to. Once clear dropped the anchor. Found a yacht lying in the 3.5 m, spot in the passage between Tanera Beg and Eilean Falada Mór. (as we discovered as we raised anchor later there were actually two yachts tucked away in this small pool).

I thought about leaving west about the reefs, as I could see some heads showing which corresponded to the chart - however only the northern approach was described in the pilot (ignoring the SE passage for which the tide was now too low for passing safely over the dangers) so headed back up the west side of Eilean Fladda Mór. This time however instead of going north about Sgeir nam Feusgan and through Caolas a' Mhil Ghairbh, I headed over to Eilean Charinaid (*check name and spelling) as  could see the heads on the north side of the reef, passing south of it and En a' Chàr. This gave us a clear passage. The two other yachts, left at the same time - however they took the "western passage" that I had been uncertain of - so I guess next time around I could use it too !

With the prospect of SW'ly winds decided to bay a visit to Skye's Staffin Bay. The Admiralty pilot mentioned difficult landing by dinghy, but I was surprised to find it quite straightforward. Having 'dropped the hook' in the western end of the bay, it would be a walk across to the village at it's eastern end. A pebble foreshore meant you had to watch where you were putting your feet - but didn't seem difficult. I was wondering where Dave N had got to and turned round to see him upside down wedged in a gap between a drystone wall and a post in a barbed wire fence (these fences one of the unattractive features of Skye but I guess cost effective), with blood on his face. I rushed over - fortunately it wasn't as serious at I first feared at first sight. Being a city dweller and unused to walking on rough terrain he had decided to head in land and had clambered onto a dry stone wall - which subsequently gave way beneath him. We walked to a cottage and the people there organised a taxi to come over from Uig to take us down to the hospital at Portree. During the night time drive down to Portree the taxi ran over a few unfortunate rabbits (similarly on the way back). At the hospital the staff gave the crew a jab, and the doctor ran through a list of symptons to be watchful for after a knock on the head. It was quite late by the time we got back onboard.

99/07/12, Monday: Staffin Bay, Skye - Rona anchorage - Loch Torridon

The crew spent the day down below resting, whilst I sailed the boat. Stopped a while at Rona, before moving to Loch Torridon. Ensconced in the pub the crew forget about their bruises - alcohol helping. Though some tide running running through the anchorage, it was a peaceful spot.

99/07/13, Tuesday: Loch Torridon - Plockton

Slipped around 0915 hrs, and left Loch Torridon under genoa - steering by hand in the varying wind (strength and direction) within the loch. had missed the 0534 hrs shipping forecast earlier - but did catch the Inshore waters forecast which gave SW 5/6 occ 7 for the area.

Outside the loch found a southerly breeze. Tried tacking southward, but after a long tack out to Rona (a navy ship altered course to pass clear) and a tack back it was evident that progress under sail was not going to get us to Plockton quickly - so put the motor on.

Progress was not rapid ! Decided that if I hadn't reached the yellow mark NNW of the range Control  building by 1500 hrs that I would consider running back. In the event got to the special mark at 1450 hrs. In theory the conditions should ease - or at least the waves should diminish as the possible fetch was decreasing so pushed on. Fortunately when nearing Rubha na Guailne the wind veered allowing the headsail to be unfurled and progress under sail to be resumed.

When west of Eilean na Ba I furled the headsail temporarily to allow me to engage the wind vane which would give me a break from hand steering as well as allowing more time for navigating. With a fluky wind, had to tack to clear Runhana h-Uamha. After which managed a brew and taking down the Shipping forecast (SW or W 5/798). Pilotage round into Plockton straight forward despite the absence of the green starboard lateral buoy.

Dropped anchor between a Golden Hind 26 and local boats, but we later found ourselves too close for comfort to a yacht astern. Later on we re-anchored but then dragged - in squally conditions with much veering about the anchor. So after raising the anchor again, I decided to try another spot in the anchorage - in the event picked up a local mooring which judging by the size of the chain was intended to hold a sizeable vessel.

Having almost got to the end of his leave, it was time for Dave to start making his way home to London, swapping the sedate pace of a boat for an overnight train.

99/07/15, Thursday: Plockton - Loch Scresort, Rum - Canna Harbour

Slipped at 0600 hrs, and made my way north about the Sgeir Golach reef. No other yachts about. Followed the coast round at a safe distance off but the wind too light for continued progress under sail.

My chart, 2209, showed how out of date it is (1st Oct 1982 edition, with last corrections in 1987) by showing just one green lateral off the eastern end of the Kyle whereas there are now two, as well as omitting the recent road bridge.

Noticed a pontoon off Kyle of Lochlash holding six yachts, and a number of buoys off the northern side of Kyle akin - possible future stops perhaps. Two naval vessels, Tornado then Tormentor slipped from the jetty westward bound. Also tied up alongside the "Spirit of Scotland" - a gaff ketch. was\ able to do some sailing in Loch Alsh, under full main and no genoa, down toward Sgeira Caillich (* check spelling). When east of this mark I reefed the mainsail and sheeted it in as we headed under power for the Kyle Rhea. Had arrived at the Kyle at HW slack so no dramas on the passage through -n extensive though small (at least at this state of the tide) overfalls off the southern end.

Then followed a motoring session to windward, with the possibility of the wind reaching a F6 I had no firm destination in mind at this point. Passed close enough to Isle Ornsay and Armadale to count the number of yachts using the anchorages. A few fishing boats working in the Sound, plus the Armadale ferry which slipped and passed ahead on its way to Mallaig.

As conditions seemed reasonable, I rounded the Point of Sleat and set course for Rum. certainly some shelter from the waves afforded by Eigg. Entered Loch Scresort on its north side. Four yachts anchored on the south side of the loch which seemed very squally, so I tried anchoring more on the north side. At the head of the loch on low ground a rand house or castle, and to its right, simpler buildings including a shop.

Thinking about it, if I dragged I would drag onto the shore, but if I re-anchored on the SW side near the others, if we dragged we would more likely end up drifting out to sea. raising the anchor revealed huge clumps of weed with silt cum mud. Re-anchored closer in than the other yachts but found myself dragging - past a Rival and down toward a Moody Eclipse. raised some of the anchor cable, then stood by at the helm to ensure that I drifted past the Eclipse safely before raising the anchor. More weed and thin mud - not good holding hereabouts. Considered my options, Soay harbour, Canna or a run back to Mallaig perhaps. In the event decided on Canna, better placed for another trip to the Outer Hebrides (weather permitting) and its low land should afford good shelter.

Tide slackish in the vicinity of Canna so a straightforward approach. Found three yachts in the anchorage, and one fishing boat (the latter at anchor in deeper water outside the harbour), plus a large ketch ("Spirit of Scotland" it's name - I think) and a motorboat alongside the pier. Dropped anchor, and this time it seemed to bite well. Local boats included a clinker dinghy and outboard, and a small potting boat (with cuddy).

99/07/16, Friday: Canna Harbour - Tobermory

As I was tired I decided on a rest day - despite a "highest two week distance" still being up for grabs. When I got up at 1100hrs the other three yachts had already left. Landed on Sanday, and walked to a rocky bay on the SE side. Retraced my route past the Catholic Church - currently being restored. Then walked across the inner drying portion of the harbour - in which it would be possible to dry out Anquette (though I would just make that it was rising tides (neaps towards springs) - to make sure that I could get out later, St Columbas Chapel in line with the first small vertical section of green hill behind just clears drying rocks in the drying portion. Used the dinghy to row over to Canna, to land by a derelict concrete slip. Walked past St Columba's chapel (restored) with its iron gate with painted bird and dolphin design, and to the jetty. The jetty has a shop (open 1pm to 2pm, and 7pm - 9pm) - though I never saw it open during my stay, rubber fendered quay faces on its southern and eastern faces, and a slip on its NE side, which ends before falling abruptly above the low water mark. On the rock face behind the harbour are painted the names of scores of boats - which appear to be spreading to surrounding rocks - I wonder how the locals feel about this ? On the way back to the dinghy made a detour up a side track to get a view of the ruined building on top of the stack, as well as a view of a fine white sandy beach - across which two rabbits sped. Other wildlife on the island, sheep, black birds with white patches on their wings, ducks and gulls.

Rowed back onboard to catch the forecast, and afterward to clean the bilges. For the evening, time to work out possible routes back to the Isle of Man - trying to stick to avoiding calling into places previously visited. A Moody arrived and anchored NNW of Anquette - possibly one of the Moody's which had been at Plockton at the same time as Anquette.

99/07/17, Saturday: Canna - Tobermory

I got both the shipping forecast and the Inshore waters forecast at 0534 hrs, which gave SW4/5 -> SE 5/6 v S  , and sure enough in the morning we had a short lived SE'ly. Fortunately the anchor held so I had a sound sleep.

In the afternoon conditions eased, so I decided to get underway - I had Loch La'thaich in mind, but leaving late in the day 1415 hrs meant that I was unlikely to reach this particular destination unless able to average a fairly high speed.

Raised the anchor to the bow, and had to reach out for a few minutes to clear a mass of weed before being able to bring it onboard.

Conditions in Canna Sound easier than I anticipated. Motored as far as A Bhriddeanach (the western tip of Mull) at which point set the wind vane and raised sail.

By 1925 hrs we were just ENE of the Cairns of Coll, still with Loch La'thaich in mind, with the plan to sail between Mull and Staffa. Unfortunately the wind dropped and speed over the ground fell away - with a fresh to strong S'ly (which would be a headwind forecast). Considered the alternatives (Arigour and Gott Bay out of the equation as neither provide shelter in strong southerlies) and reluctantly determined that sailing to Tobermory would be the best option - would probably get in around 0030 hrs, and get supplies in the morning before continuing on my way.

Having altered course onto a broad reach the wind was too light for reasonable progress under sail alone, so used the engine and genoa. Used the portable TV to grab glimpses of "Jaws" - at one point was concerned that I'd each Tobermory before the film ended. The film finished before Runha nan Gall was rounded. I made the anchor ready, though I'd prefer a mooring as the bottom shelves very quickly in Tobermory Bay. Having motored round for  a good reconnaissance I found the HIE buoys - all occupied. Pleasantly, a woman on a Dufour 29 called out to say that I could raft up alongside them. With the good shelter it seemed a good prospect. Once secured, I turned in.

99/07/18, Sunday: Tobermory - Loch La'thaich

Didn't get up as early as I'd liked however this didn't matter, as after a wash I rowed ashore to discover that the supermarket didn't open on Sundays until 1230 hrs. So I bought diesel, @ 55 litres for £12 and filled the water container and took them back to the boat. The chap on the Dufour advised me that since the change of radio schedules on 1/7/99 that Oban provide a forecast on Ch 73 at 1140 hrs after an initial announcement on Ch 16. I went ashore again for another 5 gallons of water - which finished topping up the main tank. Then a 3rd row ashore for food. Eventually slipped at 1314 hrs, which at least provided a NW going tide in the Sound. Wind light so genoa and engine whilst I fried some onions and pork chops, to be accompanied by tomatoes and salad.

After lunch whilst following the coast round, I read extracts from the book The basking Shark In Scotland (one of the three titles that I'd bought that morning). I was disappointed not to have visited Soay (site of Gavin Maxwell's "factory") during this cruise, but was surprised to discover that I'd been close to another factory when I'd stopped overnight off Carrodale on a previous cruise.

After this book, I switched to a book about local wrecks, and paid particular attention to those around Mull. Interestingly, discovered that the wreck charted in Loch La'thaich for which I was headed were recorded in the book, and had been the subject of a Royal Navy "clean-up" operation. This action had been prompted by the activities of some Irish divers who had been reported to have been recovering guns and ammunition from the wreck (reputedly pistols were well preserved as they had been well covered in grease), and one diver had even left a recovered rifle on the beach, much to the concern of the local police.

Passed east of Cairn (or Carn ?) na Burgh Beg and cairn na Burgh Mre, could see a yacht leaving Lunga, which crossed ahead bound for an anchorage somewhere on the west side of Mull. I was headed for just east of Staffa - would I get to see Fingal's cave ? In the distance I could make put a yacht off the Se tip of Staffa, then in time I could make out a dinghy returning to the yacht. Sea smooth with a low swell. Too risky to try and anchor, then row ashore in the dinghy to the cave. The best bet on my own would have been to heave to or drift someway or Staffa, then use a dinghy with an outboard to have a look at the cave - provided no fog, rain or mist that is ! Quite a number of mall caves on the east side of Staffa. Anyhow, I motored as close to Fingal's cave as I dared to, before resuming progress southward.

Motor sailed with the main raised toward Loch La'thaich. Passed Eilean na Liathanaich on which stands the only light on the west side of Mull.

According to the Imray pilot - a choice of anchoring between the island Eilean Ban and the pier or anchoring/picking up a mooring off the Bendoran boatyard. The latter turned out to provide a small number of moorings - those in occupation holding small fishing boats. I chose to anchor near Two other yachts - an old narrow tall mast racing  an Amel (Supermaramu perhaps). Quite a fetch for an easterly wind, but would provide better shelter as the wind veered S'ly. During the night I was awoken by calls from the crew of the French yacht - I was dragging. raised anchor, and motored up toward the wooden yacht and reset the anchor. Stayed up for an hour to check that the anchor had bitten before turning in.

Northern lights ship, strings of pot buoys.

99/07/19, Monday: Loch La'thaich - Tobermory

I was the last yacht to leave in the morning, after pork chops, onions, tomatoes and salad for lunch. The forecast wasn't suitable for heading over to Gott bay on Tiree, for a stop off Iona not progress south, SE4/5 -> W 5/6, so rather than do nothing I decided to sail, which meant sailing north again.

The return was notable for mist and rain, but at least able to sail under genoa and wind vane. Went eat about Staffa, and needed to gybe to work around Gometra. Quite choppy between the Treshnish Isles and the coast, but once abreast of Rubh 'a' Chaoil conditions eased. A small fishing boat working close inshore. the rain held back, giving me a view of the islands behind - kept thinking that I could glimpse a sail behind - but put this down to my imagination - perhaps it was just a lighter patch - a glimpse of gaps in the rocks forming the islands.

With Caliach Point behind (no overfalls off it encountered) I finally saw a sail - it was the old wooden racing yacht from the night before. As they overhauled me, I raised the mainsail as the wind was now on the beam. Due to the forecast I was probably going to make for Tobermory. Whilst tacking across Bloody Bay I slid across the cockpit and snapped the ignition key - fortunately it had been knocked into the "On" position, so at least I could turn the engine on. Dropped sail and made into Tobermory Bay. I had a look at Aros bay (hoping to claim a new anchorage - but even close in it was too deep - 19 metres), the yachts anchored there were very close in, and I wondered if they 'd be okay when the wind veered from SE to W. Doubling back to the area of moorings, I finally dropped anchor on a relatively flat bottom of 5.8 / 6.0 metres to the west of a waterfall. Spent the rest of the night dismantling the ignition (to remove the broken portion of the key) then re-assembling the unit. It worked with the spare key but without any warning lights.

99/07/20, Tuesday: Tobermory - Oban

Tried sailing but the tide foul and eventually I put the motor on to make progress - which most of the other yachts had been doing. Whenever the breeze returned the motor was turned off, when around it was still ESE despite the forecast having been giving W5/6 for some time now.

Had planned to make a short stopover at Salen Bay, but in the drizzle/rain and thick mist there seemed little point in negotiating the rock encumbered approach, and then sitting onboard with little in view, so instead kept heading eastward with a  view of perhaps collecting a new anchorage nearer the day’s destination.

Eventually the rain stopped and visibility improved (when roughly abreast of the islets whose names escape me but would start Eilean something or other!). Able to resume sailing again, with a now fair tide. Aimed to sail between Morvern and Lady’s Rock, but first a ferry was had just passed through and was heading my way. I stood on but it hadn’t altered course, only when I actually altere3d did it make a change of course and so I resumed my previous heading - close hauled on starboard tack.

Once through the passage I could ease the sheets, with a beam reach now producing 6 knots on the log. Shame that there was only a short distance remaining to be sailed. I plugged in a waypoint to just north of the reefs protecting the west side of Inner Oitir Bay . Having passed the waypoint and with a fish farm directly ahead, furled the sails and turned to motor toward the head of the bay. 8 seals hauled out on a small islet nearby. Dropped anchor neared a moored fishing boat, didn’t bother bedding the anchor in by going hard astern - if it dragged I would weigh anchor. So no surprise when it did drag in the now fresh breeze. Only a 10 minute stopover but could claim a new anchorage !

I left the anchor and chain on deck and motored the short distance round toward the north end of the Kerrera Sound. Motored and waited in a  small bay indentation between the islet (* name ?) and the ruined castle on (*name ?) to allow the inbound ferry to pass.

Motored round to Ardantrive Bay to see what it had to offer. Found the chartered wreck fairly exposed, pontoons (not marked on the chart or in the p8ilot books) and a fair number of moorings. The visitors moorings were fairly large, none free and some already holding two boats. Spotted a large white Manx registered ketch that uses Ramsey harbour, and an Ex Corum race boat (name faded or erased from its hull sides).

Decided to head over to the other side of the sound. After passing through the moorings, eventually picked up a pink mooring buoy off Borro boats. The other boats on these moorings all seemed to be occupied, and there were no permanent looking pick up ropes on these buoys.

Took a day off on account of the weather forecast and went into Oban after talking to the owner of Borroboats. The moorings were free to the public. He confirmed that the mooring to which Anquette was attached and which had submerged overnight did in fact have a habit of doing this - wrapping its mooring chain around its base.

Went into Oban, and bought magazines, a cigarette lighter fitting for the boat (for providing power for a portable PC), had a couple of drinks in O’Donnell’s and went for an Indian meal. Got back onboard at the right time, because a few hours later the long threatened W/NW wind returned and blew quite hard (possibly as much as F8 for a while).

99/07/22, Thursday: Oban - Ardfern

Quite a rough night with a NW wind blowing through the entrance and into the anchorage. Bad forecast still at 0534 hrs so slept until midday and the next forecast. NW b SW 4/5 occ 6 at first and later.

I bought some diesel from Borroboats (@£12 for 25 litres). back on board conditions seemed reasonable. With a deadline to make I had at least to try and make some southing - I could always run back.

So slipped round about 1500 hrs and headed down Kerrera Sound. Used the sails and only used the engine to the second green lateral. Did some calculations and I would have a fair tide through the Sound of Luing. I already had some waypoints stored in the GPS and marked on the chart so I just had to concentrate on the sailing. Used the engine again for 10 minutes to pass Insch island as the wind was hidden in its lee.

Good view of Easdale and its environs - hopefully I'll get to visit it in the future sometime. basically pilotage with no plots being necessary. Had a chart in the cockpit and the tape recorder going. Magical sailing day. Had full sail and 5/6 knots on the log. Shot through the passage between Fladda and Dubh Sgeir. Then kept closer to the Lunga side so that I didn't have to worry about Funaich Mhor. Highest speed shown on the GPS was 9.4 knots.

So now time to think about the day's destination, and hopefully to claim anchorage number 25. Ardfern seemed a good bet. So when abreast with the south side of Corryvrechan (having taken down the shipping forecast whilst on the helm) I bore away to pass just north of Reisa an-t-Sruith, then goose-winged to just north of of the Dorus Mor, then broad reached to mid way through it, then rolled up the genoa, tacked rather than gybed, then let the genoa out again for the broad reach up Loch Craignish. Even when the speed fell in the lee of the land I wasn't concerned - an enjoyable afternoon so I was keen to finish under sail. Only when off Eilean Inhaig did I furl the genoa and allow the boat to round up whilst I dropped the main.

Motored in and had a look round, and decided to alongside Beulah, a Westerly Falcon at the end of an outside pontoon. Plenty of boat related facilities ashore, but not much sign of any other types of facility.

Also managed to wire up a cigarette socket to which to connect the inverter, but then remembered that the connector to the PCs power supply has a German three pin connection, and so still require an adapter to go between it and the English three pin adapter from the inverter. Pleased to find that the laptop was still holding 96% charge after 2.5 weeks.

99/07/23, Friday: Ardfern - Ardminish Bay, Gigha

Spent a quiet night at Ardfern (no wind frapping the halyards on the mast). Got the forecast at 0534 hrs but didn't get under way (bit drizzly and overcast outside). Instead reset the alarms for about 0710 hrs.

Popped my mooring fees (£10.30 26ft) in a re-used envelope (Castle Wray envelope) and popped it through the office letter box. The skipper of the boat alongside gave me a hand casting off. All fenders and warps stowed before leaving Ardfern. The shipping forecast was giving SW 5/6 occ 7 whilst the Inshore waters gave SW 4/5 occ 6.

In reality moderate winds as we headed southward, this time getting a different view of the Sound of Jura than usual (previously have mainly traversed the western side). What was noticeable was that there were more overfalls, particularly near the McCormaig Islands - quite large considering how relatively light the wind was and the fact that the opposing tides were only neaps - could be real rough in a strong southerly !

I was slightly annoyed with myself. rather than stop overnight at Ardfern I should have gone to Tayvallich which would have placed me closer to the Mull (which couple with an earlier start say 0545 hrs instead of 0800 hrs might have just put me within reach of catching the tide round the Mull of Kintyre. This was no longer going to be feasible, so once abreast of the Island of Danna, altered course for Gigha. Tried sailing but the wind now too light for progress in the sloppy seas.

With the detailed chart (hadn't needed it before - but had bought it for Gunna Sound) pilotage was straight forward. No yachts in any of the alternative anchorages. With Ardmininish in view I could see two free HIE moorings.

My plan now was to moor up, top up the diesel, get the 2003 forecast and consider whether I should set off round the Mull at 2200 hrs (tide turning fair there at about 0315 hrs). However, the forecast spoke of a rapidly approaching front during the night, with locally F6 (the Belfast forecast covers coastal waters and up to 12 miles offshore) - before veering W/NW. I decided to get up at 200hrs, tried to sleep though a nearby yacht was charging his batteries at 2030 hrs (I though convention was no later than 1900 hrs).

When I got up at 2200 hrs there were a few gusts, so I decided to set off instead in 12 hours time - i.e. during daylight.

99/07/24, Saturday: Ardminish Bay, Gigha - Ramsey

Slipped at 0945 hrs. Not much wind initially, but still a couple of hours before the Mull would be reached so plenty of time for a breeze to materialise. Overcast but at least dry. No time to bag Caolus Gigulum or whatever the anchorage is called. Two other yachts had left northbound, but none southbound yet - still yachts with a greater speed can leave later and still catch the same tidal gate.

Arrival at the Mull coincided with a navy vessel going east about, plus two other yachts, and two more making their way northwards.

I had drawn extension lines onto the TSS so I would be heading southeast just north of the NW going lane (just short meaning a few miles off but parallel  to). Considered stopping at the Wig or Stranraer but there didn't seem to be any point. Made more sense to use the currently fair wind and ensure that I get back before time ran out. Didn't bother about the purity of sailing, motor sailed to ensure that reasonable progress was made, at times though the wind was too light for realistic progress under sail. It was quite choppy though, some of the waves probably heightened as they merged with the wake from ferries, four in motion, to and from Stranraer to Larne and Belfast, as Loch Ryan passed.

Two ships on their way out of the Clyde and a yacht heading south close inshore to the Rhinns. A three quarter moon appeared - so not expecting a too dark night.

In fact the night was quite pleasant. Dry, not too cold, ships behaving predictably. Kept myself alert by listening to music on a Walkman. All around lighthouses and shore lights visible. Ships heading south and north along the Irish coast, and one or two round the Mull of Galloway. As it was pointless turning eastward toward the Mull with a foul west going tide, I continued outward which kept me well clear of the traffic rounding the Mull.

A course change toward the SE coincided with having to alter course for a fishing boat. Once dawn had arrived at around 0430 hrs, the sky and seascape seemed to temporarily consist solely of various shades of blue. The Isle of Man's tall land (i.e. all except Ramsey and Jurby visible).

Gradually made more directly toward the Point of Ayre. Very quiet now - no other vessels around. Once or twice tiredness was felt but luckily passed over.

Small motor boats and cabin boats out in Ramsey Bay - but no yachts. Inside the harbour tied up to the East Quay. With no evening bridge swing indicated on the bridge, I called the Ramsey harbour which was closed, and so ended up having to use Ch 12 to query the bridge swings. Fortunately there was  a bridge swing for 1230 hrs. 104.91 miles logged on the passage - not bad.