Friday, 15 July 2011

In Dry Dock for Repair

That's me in dry dock, not Ruach, but more of that later.

I spent a few days in Kinlochbervie, again either too much wind or not enough wind.  On the last day stuck in port Barry offered to take myself and two other stormbound sailors for a trip by road to some of the local lochs and anchorages, ending up for a drink at the far side of the bridge at Kylesku. What a fantastic cruising ground this is, set in spectacular scenery.

Looking towards the Bad Call Islands

I'm not sure how to title this picture, Maybe "last of the summer wine" as Barry, left is 67, Maurice centre is 82 and Jim on the right is just not telling"(More of Jim later), maybe "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly" but I'm not naming who is who. Whatever they are called we had a great day out

Looking towards the Handa Island Wildlife Sanctuary from Tarbet

The following day it was a seven am kick off for the trip across the Minch to Stornoway. Four yachts departed at roughly the same time, Maurice peeled away left to savour the lochs and anchorages we had spied the previous day, leaving three yachts to continue the fifty mile crossing. 

Farewell Kinlochbervie

We were soon widely dispersed as I had had my sails up since leaving Loch Inchard whereas the other two had set off and continued under engine alone. In truth I was being wildly optimistic as the winds were very light, at one point my instruments indicated I was to arrive in Stornoway at 10am, not the same day, not the next even, but the following day. I admitted defeat and fired up the iron topsail. To keep fuel consumption to a minimum for what was going to be a bit of a marathon crossing I set the throttle to push me along at 4.5 knots, this was fine for a few hours until the engine started to overheat, not dangerously so, but hotter than usual. I lifted the engine hatch to see an animated fountain of salty water spraying droplets all over the inside of the engine bay. Was this to be the first major mechanical breakdown of what has been so far a trouble free trip? (Erm, no, not the first because what I haven't told you so far is that I haven't had astern available to me since I left Elie in the Firth of Forth, several hundred miles ago. It has all been avante! avante! But that is another storey) 
I discovered the fault was with the raw water pump, it looked like a bearing or seal had failed, so I reasoned that as the pump was still pumping I could continue as long as I kept monitoring the situation, resting the engine whenever a zepher came along or as needed. My logic for this course of action was that anywhere within striking distance on the mainland was probably less equipped to deal with this type of problem than Stornoway, the capitol of the Western Isles.

On we plodded eating up the miles. I broke out the Ukulele for light relief from the hum of the motor. That was a first for this trip, playing the Uke while under-way. 
At first I couldn't see the Island chain which is the Outer Hebrides, but I knew where they were because of the line of clouds that gave away their existence. Then a few peaks appeared followed by a long low blip on the forward horizon. The hills behind me faded into blue/grey washes on misty blue canvas of sky before slipping away over the horizon astern.

About six miles out from Stornoway Dolphins came to play with me. My filming of this is not great, I couldn't see a thing in the view finder as the sun was so bright, the camera was on the wrong setting half the time, I was far far too excited, but the experience was brilliant!

Sailing with Dolphins   

Taking something like 14 hours to complete the crossing while nursing a sick engine was some achievement. 
Another impressive achievement was on the following day stripping down the old pump to see what parts would be needed, aided and abetted by Jim (The blind leading the blind). finding that this pump was of a much older vintage than the manual I had for it. A worst case scenario was going to be a complete new pump, which of course "they don't make 'em like that any more", and the replacement costing the thick end of £200, plus carriage to the islands, plus whatever odds and ends would be needed to connect the new pump to the old fittings, then of course plus the dreaded value added tax at 20%, only to find the problem seems to be a blockage in the greaser tube. I may still need to replace a small plastic bush at about £6 plus shipping and tax and it has cost me the skin off my knuckles and a days labour, but I now know more about my boat and at this time I am one happy bunny.

However, that was yesterday as they say. Now the reason for the title to this update. I woke up Monday morning, quite early for me, hands and feet like icebergs but with a head as hot as fire, and oh how I ached.
Thankfully after going for a walk to try to get my temperature to equalise between head and feet I realised I had been here before, I suspected that the flu like symptoms were coming from an infection called cellulitus. Because of the raging temperature I knew I needed to get to a doctor ASAP before I started to speak total gobbledegook (worse than normal that is). Harbour office to get docs appointment, taxi to medical centre, ages waiting for the doctor; I could feel 'me' slipping away. Once with the doc I blurted out what was going on, what I diagnosed and what I needed, that was the max dose antibiotic treatment she could prescribe for me now! Thankfully she was very understanding (I bet doctors hate patients who think they know best).  She also tried to get me into the hospital for observation as I was alone on the boat with a fairly serious illness, but there was no room for me there. In which case she arranged to call me later to monitor how I was progressing. Finally back to the boat via the chemist for sleep. 
At the boat I was met by Jim and some people from the Maritime Festival. Mandy, one of the organisers took one look at me and said when she completed doing her stint at the Festival she would return and whisk me away to a land based bed to recover. 
Little did I know what other plans were being put into operation. Nancy, who goes to my Church in Livingston, was visiting her daughter Allison and family who have recently moved to Stornoway. Penny, my wife, txt'd Nancy asking if Allison knew of anyone who could put me up for a few days as the hotels and B&Bs are full due to the HebCeltFest, Tall Ships and Maritime Festival all taking place this week. (I had met Allison, Paddy and the three boys the day previous for the first time and I knew that they already had a full'ish house with Nancy staying there too). The first thing I knew was being woken from sleep by the sound of my mobile phone, to hear Allison tell me she was coming to pick me up. Poor Alan, at 16 and a half, turfed out of his bed and this poor old bloke he hardly knew had taken over his room. For the next three days I lay there only raising for visits to the doctors and calls of nature. Alan, I cannot tell you how much I appreciate your sacrifice. To Donald and Ian too, all three of you being pushed into the one room for an indeterminable period for me, you have my thanks. 
On the fourth day a significant improvement. Now slightly more compos mentis. I'm able to write this blog, that's just where I'm up to now. I am totally indebted to Paddy and Allison for opening their home so readily. I'm their first non-family guest here on the island, but now I feel like part of the family.

So far while here I've missed the majority of the Maritime Festival, missed the arrival of most of the Tall Ships and the start of the HebCeltFest. But such is life eh. 

I guess it may yet be a few days before I have anything more to blog about. So your inboxes will receive a well earned rest while I continue my recovery.

For me, time now for pills, five four times a day is my prescription!!!

If anyone out there is having trouble donating at the justgiving sites (behind company firewalls, don't trust the internet with my card details or just don't want to give that way, etc) you can mail me a cheque direct. To do this just send me an email and I'll send you the details.

Don't forget to drop me a note at to sign up to be informed when blog updates appear.

Please share this site with your friends and family
( Especially the rich ones :-)  )

If you came to this blog from the main website you will hopefully have had a look around the site and be aware of what I'm up to, both the adventure itself and the fact that I'm aiming to raise awareness of dementia in our society and to raise money for the Alzheimer's charities.
I'm doing this trip for fun and funding the trip myself, but while I'm on this venture you can do your bit to by supporting the Alzheimer's charities through either or

Catch you next time.

David H.