Friday, 26 August 2011

Crowhurst or Knox-Johnston?

Farewell to Oban. It's time for me to head further South. I departed via Kerrera Sound and skirted across the end of the Firth of Lorn towards the Sound of Luing.
Farewell Oban

Kerrera Sound

I was heading for Croabh Haven and had to decide whether to go via for the Sound of Luing or through Cuan Sound. Both these routes are tidal 'gates' that would either enhance my progress or firmly shut the door. I had a favourable tide for either of these passages so decided on the former as this would give me a broad reach between Luing and Lunga/Scarba rather than a run through Cuan Sound. Besides I had not been through the Sound of Luing for a while.
Fladda Light at the top of the Sound of Luing

As it happens the boat in front of me took Cuan Sound and I again saw them again half way down Shuna Sound as I passed the end of Shuna Island. So it looks like I had travelled further, but at a faster pace. Again Ruach had achieved a far greater speed going through the Sound of Luing than her hull alone would allow.
I spent the next few days holed up in Croabh Haven while waiting for the weather to improve.
Ruach in Craobh Haven

On my departure from Craobh I was met by the crew of Iolair who I last saw in Kinlochbervie. Because according to my blog I was still somewhere North of Ardnamurchan and here I was sailing past them in Craobh they questioned whether I was actually completing the trip or if I was being a Donald Crowhurst and reporting my position elsewhere to my factual location. Well I can see their point as at any one time there are three indicators to where I am. The first being what you read here, this is the most out-of-date information as I post to this blog 'as and when', the second is the red line on the map posted on the home page of again this is only updated on an infrequent basis. To know where I really am at any one time the factual trace is provided on the 'Where am I' page within the main website.
This question did remind me of my own thoughts when I set off on this journey. Was I a Donald Crowhurst or a winner like Robin Knox-Johnston? Donald, I'm sure, set out with every intention of completing the course, but circumstance and consequence of failure probably drove him to a tragic end. I don't remotely think his outcome could have been my outcome, but I could have chickened out and failed to complete this journey. However spurred on by your best wishes and phenomenal generosity I have become my own personal Knox-Johnston as I sit here in Ruachs small cabin and write this.

                 But enough of this navel gazing, there is fluff in it anyway...
                             ...On with the blog!

I set off from Craobh with a destination of Gigah just under 40 nautical miles away to the South. A journey that should be reasonably easy with the wind from the North or North West. However nobody told the wind to blow from either of those quarters and so I was close hauled the whole day. By the time I reached Gigha I had an aching left arm from the exertion of steering one tack all day and a stiff neck from the continuous looking forward over my right shoulder.
The day had been almost without incident, but that almost had been a big one. The track took me South East down the Sound of Jura past the Gulf of Corryvrekan. Now Corryvrekan is the site of the worlds third largest whirlpool. It's the kind of place that was marked on the ancient mariners chart with 'Here be Dragons'. I know to respect this place. At the right state of tide and with the correct wind this place is quite benign, in fact I have been through Corryvrekan on occasion over to Colonsay. But I wasn't intending going anywhere near there today. We were almost at spring tides, when the tides run with greatest force as they sluice their biggest and out.
Running at right angles to the main NE tidal flow there is another strong tidal force called Doris Day the Dorus Mor, or the 'Great Door'. This runs between Craignish Point on the mainland and the island of Garbh Reisa. Where the main tidal flow and this 90 degree cross flow meet there are strong overfalls where the sea gets very confused, generally in a fairly narrow band as the opposing flows converge.
Well I could see the line in front of me, I was sailing along at 6.5 knots and I grabbed a quick shot with the camera as I passed through. I glanced down at my chart plotter display to see I had suddenly leaped a considerable distance to my right and my forward speed was now only about 0.25 of a knot, yet I was still speeding through the water as if nothing had changed. What had changed was the power of Dorus Mor had punched me sideways into the clutches of Corryvrekan, I was now being sucked into the gap between Jura and Scarba. I immediately started my little engine and with it racing away headed for a little bay just South of the gap. Now this was a mistake! Usually small bays or even just closing the coast gets you out of the main tidal flow. For example if you needed to make a passage against the tide you can run along a shore in tides of less strength that out in the main flow. However what I failed to observe was the long tidal arrow through this bay marked on my chart. I was running my engine at about full revs and the sails were still pulling well, but I was still only managing about 0.5 knots in the right direction. "Little engine, don't fail me now" I prayed. I'd discovered that this bay was not the safe haven I had hoped for so headed across towards the Crinan shore, as I ferry-glided across the tidal flow my speed across the ground slowly began to increase and once I was at 3 knots I was able to throttle back the engine. I had gotten away with it! (this time).
I have to say, I have sailed around these waters many times and never experienced anything like this before, but from now on I will treat this area with a higher level of respect.
Rainbow off the end of Point of Knap

The rest of the journey was without incident, in fact quite pleasurable. I watched the sun go down, then the moon come up as I glided down the Sound of Gigha to pick up a mooring off Ardminish in the dark. Thankful of the lights provided by the Northern Lighting Board that guided my way.

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Catch you next time.

David H.