Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Surprise! Surprise!

One thing I forgot to mention last post was my visit to the doctors in Kyle of Lochalsh, (one tries to forget these things). Due to the gammy leg still not being back to health and my supply of horse strength pills running out I had to visit the doctors again. While in the waiting room I was perusing the usual reading matter and spotted a copy of  Yachting Life. I picked this up, as usual an old copy, but on scaning the pages I came across an article about yours truly and this trip 'David Goes Over The Top'. Fame at last!  (Well something like that). Apparently most of the doctors in the practice are also sailors, so I did become a minor celebrity to the staff.

Now, where were we? Oh yes, dripping in Mallaig. Well, to meet the tide going South round Ardnamurchan Point some 23 miles away to the South West we needed to make a very early start. I left Penny in bed while I got under way. 
Departing Mallaig

Rum to the right and Eigg to the left in the early morning light behind the Sgeir Dhearg, (Red Rock) at the entrance to Mallaig Harbour

Subsequently mugs of tea, breakfast cereal and the like started to appear from the cabin, this is much better than sailing single handed I thought.

The islands that had been stolen from view last evening had been returned, now bathed in the low early morning sunlight. It was all very pretty excepting the fact that we were totally becalmed again. 
We motored on in the sunshine between the mainland shores of Arisaig and Moidart and the Small Isles of Rum, Muck and Eigg out towards the point of Ardnamurchan.
Here I must tell you that neither Penny or I had been looking forward to rounding this point because for both of us it had been on previous trips the scene where the combination of wind, tide and the Atlantic swell had produced a horrible mal-de-mer inducing sea. (I may add that Penny is not usually susceptible to this malady either). But on this occasion it was so calm that as we passed the point we were almost able to reach out and touch the sturdy rock beneath lighthouse. I never expect to be able to perform this feat again as this weather and tide combination is a very rare event.
Close in to Ardnamurchan Point

Farewell to the Western Isles, I'm now in familiar sailing territory

Today's Factoid
Ardnamurchan Point is the most Westerly point on the British mainland, jutting out into the Atlantic almost a full 20 miles further West than Lands End in Cornwall.

We spent the night in a tiny anchorage in Loch Sunart wedged between the islands of Oronsay and Carna. This is one of my favourite anchorages. Previously here we have seen seals and watched otters play. We had just settled the anchor in when another modern gaff rigged boat came out of Loch Teacuis and came over towards us. The occupants saw the graphics on Ruach’s hull and mentioned that they had read about the trip somewhere. It’s a strange feeling to be anchored in the middle of nowhere then all of a sudden to be ‘recognised!’
Sunset in Loch Sunart

Next morning we again had an early start and so glad we did as it was the best part of the day. We ghosted out of the anchorage in an eerie silence. Hardly a breath of wind, but what there was was going our way. However by the time we reached the outer end of Loch Sunart the rains came and oh how they came!. The clouds descended almost to water level, reducing visibility to a few hundred metres. I usually enjoy a trip up or down the Sound of Mull as it is fairly free of obstructions and you can sail along quite close to the shore observing the flora and fauna undisturbed; but not today, for it was a miserable trip. Damp permeating into our very being. It was grim. If I had been alone I would have found a place to anchor and sit this one out, but I had to get Penny to Oban as this was the end of her week with me.....
          ......Well I thought I was dropping her off to catch a train home, so I had started to make my plans for my ‘what next’, but Penny realising what I was up to had to ‘fess up’. She wasn’t actually catching a train home that Saturday, but was going to get a lift home with some ‘visitors’ who were coming to see me on my little trip! Who could it be? I tried to guess but drew a blank. But more of this later.

At the southern end of the Sound of Mull the cloud had lifted just a little and we were able to make out Duart Castle in the mist, then appeared Lady's Rock and the Lismore light. We were almost at the end of our days journey. Just five more miles would see us in Oban bay and into the marina on Kerrera.
Duart Castle in the mist.

Factiod  No2
Lady's Rock is a skerry to the south west of Lismore which is submerged at high tide.
In 1527, Lachlan Maclean of Duart decided to murder his wife, Lady Catherine Campbell, a sister of Archibald Campbell, 4th Earl of Argyll. He rowed out to the rock one night at low tide and left his wife stranded on the rock to die. Looking out the next day from Duart Castle he observed the rock was now empty.
He then sent a message of condolence to the earl at Inveraray Castle, indicating that he intended to bring his wife's body there for burial.
Maclean duly arrived at Inveraray with a entourage of men and the coffin. He was immediately taken to the dining hall of the castle for refreshment only to discover Lady Catherine waiting for him at the head of the table. She had been rescued during the night by a passing boat
No word was said of the incident by Argyll or his sister during the meal and Maclean was allowed to make his escape.

That evening, once we had dried out, we caught the complimentary ferry over to Oban itself to await the arrival of the mystery guests. Penny had arranged where to meet and had placed me with my back to the door, but I saw the light in Penny's eyes as 'someone' appeared in the doorway a distance behind me.
My mystery guests were not any of the locals I had tried to guess, but folk who had travelled all the way up from Derby just for the weekend, just to see me on my trip. Totally insane, but a fantastic surprise too. It was our good friends Phil and Clare.
Phil is the muso who I can blame for me bringing the Ukulele on the trip, as it was a brief discussion at their house last Christmastime that prompted me in the direction of getting a Uke to accompany me on this trip. I have to confess that two minutes of Phil playing around with my Uke the following day really did show me how bad I am playing it! Oh well.  
Left to right, Phil, Clare, Me, Penny

So, instead of putting Penny on a train home we all went for a short cruise over to Achnacroish on Lismore Island. The forecast was 'iffy' but we managed a gentle sail over in light but warm winds, but on the return trip the rain did put in an appearance, so we all went below and left Clare lashed to the helm. 
(This is not strictly true, I was actually on deck attending to the sails at this point while Penny and Phil hid below out of the weather. You just can't get the crew these days it seems!)
First Mate Clare - 'Lashed to the helm'

Kerrera Marina wins the prize for the most exotic marine growth of the whole trip. This photo shows what had attached itself to the pontoons adjacent to where I was berthed. I shudder to think what is now attached to the hull of Ruach!!!

All too soon it was time for my guests to depart. Ruach seems so empty now. 

While in Kerrera I saw the the 1930's yawl Bloodhound. This yacht was owned by the British Royal family from 1962 to 1969. It is now owned by the Britannia Trust who also own and maintain the Royal Yacht Britannia based in Leith. I couldn't get a sail aboard this beauty as she was undergoing a heart transplant following an engine failure. But I was invited aboard by James 'Tiny' Little and the rest of the crew for a mug of tea and a look around. Tiny has his own fantastic story to tell as he has completed a charity single handed row across the Atlantic. For more info see Tiny's website here
Royal Yacht - 'Bloodhound'

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Catch you next time.

David H.