Sunday, 10 July 2011

Cape Wrath

Todays Factoid - Cape Wrath, sounds frightening doesn't it. Well it is a place that can have angry tides, it's where Atlantic storms roll in un-impeded from the US, Canada and the tip of Greenland, with over 3000 miles of fetch. To confuse the waters even more, the tides that run up the west side of our little island tend to flow in in a North Easterly direction and ebb out to the South West. At Cape Wrath these tidal flows meet and fight for dominance with the Atlantic flow.
However for all that Cape Wrath doesn't mean Angry Cape. Wrath is a corruption from the Norse word hvarf, meaning turning place, the point where Vikings used to turn east for home or south to the Hebrides. A similar meaning to Cape in fact. So Cape Wrath means Cape Cape. (So good they named it twice). But as Private Frazer from Dad's Army was wont to say, 'it's a wild and lonely place'

From a sailing point of view in a small boat, the worst thing about Cape Wrath is its remoteness. From leaving Loch Eriboll there is almost nowhere to hide if it turns nasty until reaching Loch Inchard with Kinlochbervie tucked into its northern shore over thirty miles distant. Comparing this with Duncansby Head, the previous 'big corner' top right of the map, which has safe havens just a couple of miles either side of the point.

I set my alarm for six am to get me on the move for six-thirty. I wanted to reach Faraid Head off Durness by nine. Best laid plans and all that. When I arose the wind was coming hard from the North, totally the wrong direction. Still I thought I could still make the appointed time if I motored out of Eriboll. As I progressed North out of Eriboll The winds went light, then went West (Bad for my trip), went South West (even worse), then died completely. Where was the forecast Easterly? I arrived at Farraid Head just as a little Easterly sneaked into the wind. The water off the head was as lumpy as school mashed potatos. Glad I'd kept my sea legs handy.
I began to doubt I could make the the next seven miles to the Cape if it continued like this. Ruach was dropping into holes then pointing into the air to slam down onto the back of the next wave.
Thankfully past the head things calmed down and I started to make reasonable progress.

A first sight of Cape Wrath after passing the lumpy water off Faraid Head  

By the time I got to the Cape itself there was just a long Atlantic swell and a wind well astern. The sun shone and the grin widened. I was here, I WAS HERE! I passed close in to the Cape, between it and Duslic rock. The long swell was breaking over the rock as it passed. The Cape towered over to my left, at around 400 feet (122m) the cliffs here are some of the highest in the UK.

Cape Wrath

Cape Wrath behind me!

Once passed the Cape I continued South towards Loch Inchard. Coming in the opposite direction was the Hebridean Princess. This vessel is an old CalMac ferry which on retirement was converted to be a luxury small cruise liner that is charted by the rich and the famous. It is reported that this was the 'secret location' that a certain royal couple spent their short honeymoon on earlier this year. However who was on her at this time remains a secret.

The Hebridean Princess

As I approach Loch Inchard I spied another gaff rigged yacht coming out. This turned out to be the yacht 'kipper' built in Whitby on the English East Coast. Her skipper is Barry Pearson, who was the nephew of the controversial artist Stephen Pearson. Barry is also an artist (among many other talents). You can see some of his work here


Over the next few days the weather couldn't make up its mind, it was either too windy or no wind at all, so Ruach took root in the harbour at Kinlochbervie. On one windless evening I went out on 'kipper' for a cruise down loch Inchard with Barry. The water is so clear and the edges of the loch are so free of obstruction that as we went down the loch we could have reached out and touched the sides. Barry tells me that at the right state of tide he will do this and pull a pan full muscles from the rocks. We spent a very pleasant evening creeping up on the local flora and fauna.

View from my pontoon mooring - Kinlochbervie

Well now, on passing Cape Wrath phase one of my trip is over. I have achieved what I set out to do.
I have taken my little ship over the top of Scotland!
No longer 'David goes over the top!', now 'David has gone over the top!'
The next phase is to explore some of the islands around the Hebrides and visit some of the Lochs along this shore. I hope to participate in the Hebridean Maritime Festival in Stornoway which is run at the same time'ish as the Heb Celt Fest. If you are at either of these events pop by Ruach and say 'Hi'

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Catch you next time.

David H.