Saturday, 27 August 2011

Mull of Kintyre, oh mist rolling in from the sea.....

I had a troubled sleep last night, the boat was tossing and turning as the wind fought the tide and Ruach did a merry dance round the mooring buoy. I’d arrived last evening at around 23:00 and needed to be up at 06:00 to catch the tide for rounding the Mull of Kintyre, not much time to eat, sleep and be fresh for the long journey today. I really could have done with some decent sleep. Oh well.

The wind was again fine on the bow which meant again a day spent looking over my right shoulder as I kept a good forward lookout, but today I'd spent more time looking around and stretching my neck the other way to avoid a permanant kink in my neck.

At first I could make a course direct to Erradale Point, just beyond Machrinanish, but as the day progressed the wind wandered more and more from the South pointing me more and more North of my goal. Progress was also painfully slow because the sizable waves were slapping into Ruach’s bow each one sapping momentum. I had to give up pure sailing and again turn to my little iron topsail. I could see at my rate of progress the possibility that the tidal gate that is the Mull of Kintyre could close in my face and there are few alternative options once committed. However as always I did had a plan ‘B’ just in case, but didn’t relish the thought of the extra miles this would entail as the plan ‘B’ had ‘Ireland’ stamped right across it.

The conditions once I passed Erradale Point were rough to say the least. My chart didn’t indicate any warning of this here, but I suppose it was wind against tide. What was the Mull itself going to be like I thought? I was already running late for a West to East passage, but as soon as I got to the lighthouse the seas went completely flat as if oil had been spread on the surface to calm the troubled seas. I saw seals playing around me, their inquisitive faces and big brown eyes looking at me look at them. I had done it, I had rounded the last great headland of my journey. I headed on in these flat calm seas towards Sanda Island. As I did the wind that I had been fighting all morning evaporated to nothing.
Just rounded the Mull of Kintyre

On passing Sanda Isle and heading into the Clyde (Even though technically I was in Kilbrannan Sound) it dawned on me that I had done it! I had done what I set out to do. I had taken my little vessel ‘Over The Top’ from the Firth of Forth to the Firth of Clyde! I laughed out loud and at the same time a tear welled up inside. Mixed emotions grabbed me from nowhere. I felt very elated. I called my Dad to give him the news. He has been following my exploits from his chair using just a road atlas. My brother has been keeping him updated with my whereabouts and letting him read the updates on the internet. (Thanks Geoff).

During the last two days I had used my engine a fair amount and there are no motorway service stations in the sea-lanes. As I puttered up the sound the last of my fuel coughed through the carburettor, what to do now? Well the tide seemed to be pushing at a near 1 knot in my favour, but still no wind. I did had a little petrol left in the container I use for the outboard motor that powers my inflatable dinghy. This was my reserve reserve! Only about a litre and a half. So I ghosted along until I reached Island Davaar (Yes that is written the right way round) at the head of Campbeltown Loch. I was about to start the motor when a cats paw of wind rippled the surface of the water. The sails filled and I glided into the loch on a gentle broad reach.
Island Davaar Light stands at the entrance to Campbeltown Loch

When I arrived at the pontoon in Campbeltown it was already fairly full, with some boats moored two abreast, but I motored in to take a look to see if there was any space for me, I spied a gap just under 1.5 times the length of Ruach, which I passed, turned around 180 degrees next to the lifeboat and glided in. Still having only ahead on the engine you may recall. I stepped ashore and made the boat fast. A local boater and an Scandinavian who were standing chatting opposite commented on a job well done, an excellent manoeuvre. (Little did they know of my swan like manor again).

My first task was to take a stroll into Campbeltown to find the one and only petrol station to fill my two ten litre containers. I noted there was a supermarket across the street for me to stock up on supplies, but not on this journey, my arms were going to be long enough by the time I returned to the boat after this trip and I had the prospect of doing it all again tomorrow to ensure I had a full tank and full reserves for my departure.

While in Campbeltown I visited the Aqualibrium. Strange name, it sounds like the Romans got here first and built this place to sit and read in a communal bathhouse. In actual fact it is a recently built public library and has a 25 metre swimming pool. But I don't think they would take too kind to you taking your library books in for a swim with you. It also has fitness facilities, a crèche and the 'Mussel Ebb' bistro.
But in a way the Romans were here earlier. I read in the library that the Italians 'Invaded' Campbeltown one hundred years ago. In true Python style I hear you ask 'and what did the Romans Italians do for us' Well, they brought us the cafe culture.

The pontoon at Campbeltown is quite a cosmopolitan hub. It has boats coming and going from all parts. Placed where it is it is a convenient place to rest and replenish. Located at the Southern end of the Clyde cruising ground, it is close to Ireland, one hop away from the Isle of Man and near enough the Mull for boats coming to or from the Hebrides to call into if passing. On its own it doesn't have a lot to captivate you with, but as the property people will tell you it is all about location, location, location.

I'm grateful to Kevin McCann for sending me a few shots of Ruach from earlier in the trip, so I thought I'd share this one with you here.

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Catch you next time.

David H.

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