Saturday, 31 July 2010

Day 7 - North tip of Skye to Tobermory

I see gulls

Here, there and everywhere (and buoys)

As our previous blog promised, a morning of rough sailing was upon us. The Starboard watch embarked on the ‘graveyard shift’ at midnight (much to the dismay of birthday-boy, Michael). The waves continued to send saltwater into the cockpit, rendering much of our clothing noticeably soggy. Port watch’s resumption of duty coincided with dawn – the sun appearing like a pink disk over Skye – providing an elongated profile alongside which we continued to navigate until we had an unspecified lighthouse (thanks Phil) on a bearing (?). Fortunately we decided to hoist the sails and steer a course as close as possible to the south-easterly wind.

The navigation around Skye having proved simple enough, the wind was now ruining our plans. It was blowing from the exact direction we were heading, meaning that tacking was required. Though we were travelling at good speed, the fact that we were tacking meant that very little headway was gained from our effort. Due to the poor weather conditions, the wildlife of the area was not seen as much as earlier in the week. Two records were broken in the night with Tenacity reaching her most northerly (the top of Skye) and westerly (five miles from the top of South Uist) points. The tacking provided much needed practice with Port watch managing to perform an exemplary tack, wholly unaided, before Alistair turned us into the wind again (to his credit he recovered the situation). In their second watch of the day, Port watch saw a friendly gull following the boat, naming him Oliver. It was more interesting to observe than the solitary pink fishing buoy.

The watches of the day continued until approximately 3 PM when refuge was sought in a small anchorage on the coast of the Inner Hebridean Island, Rum. The entire crew slept until 5 PM when a hot-pot was prepared by Skipper Colin and the Starboard crew. Our journey to Tobermory continued after our meal with a twenty-five mile sail. The wind was present in a favourable direction, though was not of a significant magnitude. This meant that a watch of yes-no sailing was required, alternating engine and sails in a cycle.

As we arrived, Port watch were woken to see an enormous Dutch vessel in the style of an ancient warship, as well as to watch the magical lights on Tobermory’s waterfront. As we moored up, with assistance from some kind Swedes, we could hear some kind of ruckus from the land. It turned out to be a lively ceilidh, with the band interspersing its reels with a rendition of Brown Eyed Girl. We then cracked out the birthday Champagne, along with the beautifully iced cake and the delicious oyster-like (not terribly integral) rice crispy cakes.

After the frivolities which rounded off Beavo’s birthday, we decided some sleep was in order to ensure we were fully recharged for the final leg of the journey to our terminus, Oban.

Day 6 - Loch Scavaig to ...??

As often seems the case with sailing, plans have to be flexible. The previous day saw group opinion split in deciding whether to attempt the Outer Hebrides or to navigate a challenging stretch to the North of Oban. After significant debate, the decision was made to head toward the Kyle Rhea (continuing our journey up to Plockton). After a brief stop in the small fishing village of Mallaig (for water, showers and food supplies), we continued on our journey. Plockton was our heading for much of the day; the ‘tidal race’ meant we had to have our timings perfect with up to eight knot currents taking us through the narrow channel.

As previously mentioned, flexibility was required. Abandoning the sail to Plockton early, we decided to give ourselves a greater challenge. The Outer Hebrides seemed unreachable in the unfavourable wind, though we were ‘hugging’ the Isle of Skye on our previous course. We (unanimously) decided to circumnavigate Skye for the last few days of the expedition. Beef stew and dumplings gave us the energy boost required for a sail of more than one hundred miles. It was challenge we were seeking and this certainly started early on our new course.

This decision was more difficult for some of the crewmates than the others. While most of those aboard were spending their time alternatively on deck or fast asleep down below, Michael Durbar and Alistair had far grander plans: rather than spend their time off watch to get some well-earned rest they took it upon themselves to bake a cake. Considering the ingredients at hand, this would be a great task even under normal circumstances. Yet with the boat pitching every which way it is incredibly impressive that they not only completed the preparations of the cake with little mess but did so in less than 15 minutes so as to get back on watch with time to spare!

Waves larger than those experienced previously on our journey were found just off the coast of Skye. Nevertheless, pancakes seemed like a good idea, so Nutella, sugar and lemon made the salt water barrage more tolerable. Later the sail proved to be pleasant, even though the waves themselves were large in size, allowing many an opportunity for admiring the beautiful views. Watching the skies over Skye amazed the Port watch with an awe-inspiring array of red and gold as the sun descended below the horizon. The appearance of a gibbous moon illuminating the night and the seas behind us provided a truly magnificent backdrop for the long watch. The cloud was also very impressive with high cirrus and stratus cloud illuminated from behind, fading to a clear, cold blue light with the dusk. The day finished at midnight with a chorus of Happy Birthday from the entire crew for Michael Beavis. The rest was short-lived as a night of tricky (and somewhat rougher) sailing was upon us!

Thursday, 29 July 2010

Day 5 Ulva to Skye

After a delayed breakfast in Ulva, we set off for Barra in the Southern section of the Outer Hebrides. We motored to Coll and Tiree, and up the Gunna Sound. Here we had our first Jaws moment, when we spotted our first basking sharks.

The Sea of the Hebrides wasn't as horrendously swelly as expected: although the waves were huge they very mellow. Unfortunately the wind was north-westerly, coming at us from exactly the direction we wanted to head. To keep moving, we bore too far North, and we realised that Barra was a lost hope. To avoid a ridiculous amount of tacking, we decided to change our course entirely and head for Rum (an island whose neighbours are Eigg and Muck. Honest).

In the Sound of Rum we hit the doldrums (with a series of almighty bangs). Rum inconsiderately blocked all our wind, so we were sat for a time admiring the remarkable view. There was a porpoise spied in the distance. Some of us didn't see it, as we were too busy trying to use the mild breeze we had to our advantage. Fortunately the tide was with us, making our speed over ground more than nil. The relative flatness of the sea meant that today's peaches in condensed milk stayed where they were jolly well put!

The music emanating from the saloon today showed quite some variety, with appearances from Sigur Rós, The Little Mermaid, The Pirates of the Caribbean, and a confused rendition of Darth Vader’s theme blended with A Spoonful of Sugar. Not quite as good as George, Toryn and Alistair’s on-deck close harmony last night, but not bad.

Now on our way to Skye, the potential of a peach-themed upside-down cake is in the air. Tonight’s planned anchorage is purported to be the most dramatic in all of Scotland (despite its lack of fresh water of which we are somewhat in need). We’ll get out the tender and see the Cuillin Hills up close, assuming the anchorage isn’t too full and we’re obliged to return to Rum...

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Day 4 - Ready About! Islay to Ulva

Tim with Aviators

Tim without Aviators, 5 seconds later

We were not quite woken by our two neighbours leaving and a new one arriving. Our manta ray sails provided a good start with George’s seal and bacon ciabattas seeing us off from Islay. After some navigational issues, we left Port Ellen in such a hurry, we forgot to prepare lunch, meaning that it was enjoyed slightly late at 3pm. Negotiating McArthur’s Hood (Head) led us to learn how lighthouses operate before we handed over the watch to Team Extreme who tacked erratically up the Sound of Islay. Tim got the worst of the genoa sheet, and his aviators were flung into the drink. After passing yet another distillery, we headed out into the huge swell of the Atlantic Ocean.

We managed to keep the sails up for passing through the notoriously treacherous Torran Rocks, taking heed of the cardinals (once we’d figured out which direction they advised). The Sound of Iona necessitated yet more tacking (flawless by our third attempt). Here we stopped for dinner, only after Elliot, Tim and Johnny had taken a severe beating from the genoa sheets whilst being slow at stowing the staysail. Phil took the opportunity to catch some bass, thirty seconds is an undeniably impressive time. We have discovered that peaches and condensed milk are a foolish idea in moderate to high seas. More serious swell before passing close by Fingal’s Cave on Staffa. Grieg’s Peer Gynt Suite provided beautifully dramatic backing music for such epic sailing. We slipped round the corner of Gometra and were anchored up in Loch Tuath by a sensible 22:50.

Monday, 26 July 2010

Day 3 - at Islay

The day started with the dubbed, “Graveyard Shift” though caffeinated drinks and chocolate bars saw us through until morning. Weary, at 4AM, we handed over to the other team who dropped anchor and went to bed. Breakfast was served late with lashings of ketchup and banter, a brief sail to the Isle of Islay was all that was required of the morning shift.

We spent the day at rest; a tour of the local village and Laphroaig whiskey distillery was on the menu. The extremely smokey whiskey was enjoyed (in moderation of course) by most! A brief spell in the local shops allowed us to replace the lost bucket and restock essential food items (Coke, Mars bars and the like)!

After some on-board chores (such as restocking the water tank), we set out minds on tea; some chicken fajitas were choice of the day. Route planning was the final task, after devising a ‘secret’ route using pasta pieces to denote ports. The route can of course be tracked on this blog; more to follow. On a slightly unrelated note, it has come to our attention that an unnamed crewmate… Toryn… has never seen the Lion King.

Day 2 - Ramsey to Islay

Ramsey saw us off at 10AM. As we swept around the end of the Isle of Man, Scotland appeared before us. A compromise between efficiency and correct course led us to sail close hauled to the wind. Realising that the Scottish coast was fast approaching, tacking appeared to be the only option, until of course we remembered the engine.
Our favourable tide turned against us, as it is wont to do, and the constant drizzle did little to improve the situation. A surplus of rice from dinner inspired Alistair and George to get creative with demerera, chocolate powder and milk. Making rice pudding, eating Malt Loaf, listening to the Fleetwood Foxes: the perfect girly night in.
“Why doesn’t something exciting happen,” said Toryn querulously, whereupon an armada of ferries, freighters and fishers poked their bows out of the mist in what was soon to become a large game of battleships. After crossing this busy sea lane linking Stranraer and Larne, we found it a struggle to maintain watch as night fell despite Neil insisting that visibility was good as he could still see the horizon.
Relieved at midnight by the Starboard Watch, the Port Team headed below for some well earned shut-eye as a raucous game of “Never Mind the Buzzcocks” erupted on deck. Morale soon began to falter during the lonely hours until dawn, with Alistair’s cheery “Good Morning” brutally rebuffed at 4AM by Mister B. The Port Team briefly resumed their vigil as we anchored off the coast of Islay, cheered by the promise of hot showers and shore leave at the fringes of the dawn sky. Thus ended our leg from Douglas, covering an impressive 101NM in just over 18 hours. More to undoubtedly follow tomorrow.

Sunday, 25 July 2010

The Yog Blog - day 1

"Argh, catch it"

"Oh, thanks for that". This represented the first major incident of the morning as Michael D's welly descended to the depths of Glasson Dock.

After filling Tenacity to its gunnels with enough food… to sink a ship we were on our way.
It proved that we were not the only people hoping for a Saturday morning excursion; access for the lock was popular meaning that we had a three hour wait until hitting the Irish Sea. No matter, we put the baseball to good use with a game of 'knees'. There was unfortunately a casualty of war; the bucket was lost during a reconnaissance mission (the second item to be claimed by the dock).

After a mere half an hour we had our first incidence of seasickness, in an attempt to feed the fish, Neil launched overboard. The channel proved difficult to stick to, though after an impromptu rest on the seabed, we navigated the Lune River.

After being warned to keep it tidy down below! We thought some cleaning was in order. Due to the semi rough seas, four more crewmates joined the "Chunderbirds", an elite organization of queasy sailors. Unlike our training weekend the wind was very much in our favour, meaning we could sail all day. Cooking in the galley was character-building, a rich lasagne was perhaps not what the ill sailors were looking for (though was enjoyed in the calmer seas with garlic bread and tiramisu).

Speaking of garlic bread… Mr. Topping has an admission. A rapid onset of seasickness left chunks in the sink. We would all like to thank him for his contribution to the washing up.

A change of plan saw us seek refuge in the Isle of Man, where the team was grateful for the rest; people felt much better as the waves became still.

A final game of 'knees' saw the ball lost for good. We decided to call it a night and head to bed.

Saturday, 24 July 2010

Choppy ride to the Isle of Man

Just a quick blog to let you know that following a lumpy sail today we have stopped off in Ramsey on the Isle of Man. Lots of us have felt a bit grim and a few of us have been sick but now that we are anchored up everything is ok. More from the boat when we get a decent signal.

Friday, 23 July 2010

Map of Gold D of E Trip Glasson to Oban