Largs, 30th June 2012

Heading South

The ladies left on a rainy saturday morning for their bus to the shopping highlights of Edinburgh. Then I had the rest of the day to provision and tidy up the boat before the arrival of the next crew. The new winches were installed and laundry done so with a full tank the boat was ready for the off. John Lambe arrived in the afternoon and Ronnie and Glenis that evening. The strong wind which was blowing all day started to abate and we had a favorable forecast for two days before the winds looked like being lighter and on the nose. The agreement was that we would go to Islay for sure but not stress ourselves getting there or leaving to go on south. Sunday morning was overcast with light wind but on approaching the narrow tidal gate of the Sound of Luing, we were able to sail on gentle breezes, making 12 knots at times due to the strong tides pulling us. On passing the Gulf of Corryvreckan, the wind increased to force 5 at times and with a single reef at first and then a double, we were horsing along at 7-8 knots on sheltered seas. Cracking sailing !!!

Our first destination was Craighouse on Jura so that Ronnie and Glenis could visit the distillery but the dozy skipper forgot that it was sunday so everything was shut except for the hotel. The village was really quiet but after a stroll and dinner there was plenty of life in the hotel bar to watch England lose on penalties in the European Championships. Sorry Glenis !!!!!! The breeze had eased the following morning as we set off under cruising chute for the 20 mile sail to Port Ellen on Islay. The sailing was gentle for a while until the wind died away passing the Ardmore Islands of the southeast corner of Islay. Port Ellen was remarkably empty. The small row of pontoons is usually busy with people crossing over from Northern Ireland and the Scottish mainland, many with a visit to one of the distilleries in mind. But this time there were only 3 visiting boats there when we arrived. I was surprised but I suppose it is the sign of the times that people are just not travelling. We had a forecast of light winds on the nose which dictated that we stay a couple of nights at least. That meant a visit to a distillery was on the cards. What a pity!!!! The excellent butcher in Port Ellen was closed down so we had to go to Bowmore for grub so the crew headed to the bus the next morning. Sadly the butcher there had no venison, but he did have Haggis so we stocked up on that. The tour of the distillery was excellent, the best one I had done in my years coming here. Ronnie and Glenis, though not whisky drinkers, enjoyed learning about the complex process of making the malt spirit. The rest of the day we chilled before dinner and a pint in the Ardview Inn.

The next morning we had no wind as we motored around the Mull of Kintyre in overcast foggy conditions. The sea was glassy smooth with the occasional view of a passing trawler or sailboat. One trawler was visible on the AIS as motoring the wrong way down the traffic separation scheme. Belfast coastguard contacted them on the radio and instructed them to leave the scheme but the trawler did not alter course. I am sure a hefty fine will be on its way for the skipper as it is dangerous since any commercial ships coming the opposite direction would have to take evasive action. Anyway, evantually we tied up in Campbelltown on a misty showery evening. After that it was a matter of finding a good pub to see the Spain Portugal semi final. Some onboard supported the Portuguese so there were divided loyalties on board that evening.

The next day we were heading north past the Isle of Arran. We had a forecast of showers and wind on the beam. Initially we were sailing gently doing 5 knots close hauled but the wind increased and soon we were creaming along on sheltered waters in 20-25 knots of breeze. Squalls came through at times so there was lots of reefing and unreefing practice. On passing the north end of the island a stronger squall formed which developed into lightning. It probably only lasted 40 minutes, but it dumped a lot of torrential rain on us and reduced visibility dramarically. Luckily enough, there were no boats going our direction as we sailed along at 5-8 knots in the murkiness. Evantually it cleared as we approached the entrance to the Kyles of Bute. The winds eased as well as we went towards the narrows before we picked up a mooring off the Colintrave Hotel beside the ferry crossing to the Isle of Bute. It was a well protected spot where we could ride out the stronger winds forecast for that night. The next morning we motored 6 miles to Rothesay on Bute. The wind was light and on the nose and eased approaching the town. Again we found marina capacity of 50 boats with only 4 boats present. Another sign of the reluctance of people to travel.

We were well and truly drenched during the day and voted to stay onboard reading and relaxing until the rain passed. In the evening it began to clear and along came an improved forecast. We set off with a forecast of southwest 4-5 but we got south 5 on the nose throwing up uncomfortable seas after we left the shelter of Rothessay Bay. So our plan of going south was abandoned and we headed instead to Largs Marina, not even 10 miles away. The forecast was for the wind to ease and come around to the northwest which would be a much more favorable angle for the longer sail the following day to Portpatrick or Stranraer. The unsettled conditions had given us some headaches on this trip, but we managed to patiently cope and just wait it out or make do with what we got at times. Such is life on Suckin' Diesel........