Oban, 23rd June201

Isles Galore

After 3 nights in Mallaig with strong winds we were glad to leave with a forecast for easier to come. We motored for an hour before the winds came in light from the northwest and soon we were creaming along on moderate seas past the islands of Eigg and Muck. Everyone onboard was glad to be sailing after so much motoring during the last week. Edelle finally found her groove which had gone walkabout in recent days and she had Sinead sick at her helming skills (honest !!!!!!!). Coming behind the island of Coll we had lovely calm seas for the last miles before approaching the anchorage at Arrinagour. The bright sun after recent overcast days made everyoue much more positive. Having a pint overlooking the anchorage made everything worthwhile. The next morning we had no winds for the spin south towards Colinsay. We aimed to pass to the west of Mull among the variety of Islands off the coast which people rarely visit. One gem was Fingal's Cave on Staffa which has a geological connection to the Giants Causeway in Northern Ireland. It has no anchorage to speak of and rocks all around but with light winds and no swell we chanced a visit. We dropped the hook by the entrance to the cave and motored across before the first of the tourist boats arrived. We were able to take the dinghy right into the cave, almost to the back, marvelling at the clear water and the stunning hexagonal blocks on both sides. The crew were able to wander around the shore while I had a great a view from the dinghy of the really spectacular formations so visible on such an unusually calm day.

From there we were heading to Iona, an island colonised by St Columba, an Irish monk, who produced among others, the Book of Kells. The water was flat calm and practically Caribbean as we anchored at the northern end of the Sound between Iona and Mull. We were blessed with such a clam day. All opted to visit the Abbey and were really surprised at how well it had been restored. I for one was reminded of the Abbey in Santillana Del Mar near Santader in Spain with such similar features. One could see that it had been a centre for learning and much more for the local community for so long. Anyway, we had to motor on from Iona towards Colonsay, an island, I had not visited before. On flas seas we motored but on rounding the headland at the north end of the Island, we saw a wind that, thought light, could make for a poor night in the only harbour. So we reluctantly, decided to continue on to Jura Island to anchor off Glenbatrick House on East Lock Tarbert. The drizzle of the evening arrival gave way to a glorious sunrise in the morning to show the impressive backdrop the house has with the Paps of Jura behind and no roads visible, showing how isolated the lovely house was.

We upped anchor and headed into the Sound of Islay past the Distilleries of Bunnabhain and Caol Ila on a fast moving tide. On exiting the sound the light wind had strengthened a bit so we were able to sail to last few miles to Craighouse on Jura to see the Distillery. On settling we found the wind a bit higher than expected, and the anchorage not ideal. After a brief visit to the Distillery (for cultural reasons) we decided not to stay but to move on to Tayvallich (interesting Scottish name ...). This was a small bay 5 miles up a long sheltered Loch and it proved to be a really beautiful spot to spend a couple of nights. We were perfectly sheltered, even when the wind got up on the second night. Sinead and I spent the day hiking through the forests towards Crinan and had a great 3 hours with the reward of the view from Ardnoe Point overlooking the strong tidal races off the islands in the Sound of Luing and the Gulf of Corryvreckan. Even better was that it was sunny and warm for a change.We had found a very English corner of Scotland which was quite reminiscent of Castletownsend in West Cork. Sitting having a pint in the sun by the waters edge made it all the more special.

The next day brought gusty winds and a forecast of winds which would be from a borderline sailable direction. As we exited Lough Sween we were close hauled in winds gusting 10-18 knots. We made the best of the wind but evantually we had to motorsail up to the Sound of Luing where we were able to sail again for a while in increasingly gusty conditions. It certainly was a good test of Edelle's helming. We motored the last 6 miles in deteriorating conditions and arrived into Oban just before the rain came. Then it was maintanance and cllean up duty before the next crew arrived. I had broken a winch 2 weeks before and had ordered replacements for our ancient Lewmars to be sent out to Oban so I had to remove the old, seal up the boltholes and fit the new before a last feast onboard with the "ladies who like to lean" (on account of the "leaniness" encountered on our last days sailing).