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Ardfern to Orkney - April 2008

At last!  We were on our way for the first leg of our dream world trip.  Red Ruth was to be based in Orkney as a live aboard and for exploring whilst Peter was working in Orkney.  Johanne and Allan were to join us for the trip North.  A change from our usual summer sailing holiday in warmer climes.

The trip from home (on the Black Isle just north of Inverness) to Ardfern was to prove as much a challenge as the sailing itself.  How to get 4 sailors, 2 weeks victualling, clothing, spares etc to Ardfern and return the car home.....

Family came to the rescue and volunteered to drive us down to Ardfern in a hired MPV, staying over to wave us off and returning to Inverness.  It was a bit cramped and rather warm but we managed as far as Oban when we discovered we had left the frozen and fresh food behind! Fortunately Oban has a Tesco where we were able to replace the forgotten goods.

On arrival at Ardfern we unloaded the car, loaded the trolleys and headed off down the pontoon. We had heard that a famous Rustler 36 was in the marina and we wondered if we would meet up.  As we approached Red Ruth we did indeed see the said Rustler 36 berthed alongside Red Ruth.  Imagine our amazement when the skipper and crew popped out to say hello and have a chat about Rustler 42's.  The skipper had even had a look down below before we arrived and without our knowledge.  However we were happy to forgive the Royals their indiscretion!  The fact that the heads were rather sulphurous was embarrassing but just dues for unannounced visit.

We enjoyed a nice meal at the village after we had unloaded and packed, then settled in for an early night.  Departure morning was sunny and bright so a trip to refuel, a wave goodbye to the family and we were off.

Sunday 27th April 2008    Ardfern to Loch Aline   Passage leg 33.9nm

We set of on a beam reach with the wind SE 8knts, sailing at 6knts. We sailed through the Sound of Luing where we were amazed at the whirlpools, overfalls and rocks which abound here. Constant lookout, checking of the chart plotter, whilst admiring the views, the ruins on the islands and watching out for the lighthouse was the order of the day.
 
On exiting the Sound of Luing into the Firth of Lorne the whirlpools were spectacular. A gentle sail up to the Sound of Mull was calm with no wind. We arrived in Loch Aline and picked up a buoy. Very light winds in the bay with warm sunshine. Peter and Allan did a bit of investigative work on the anchor windlass. After our meal we jumped in the dinghy and motored ashore where we joined the locals for a drink. 

Monday 28th April 2008         Loch Aline to Inverie   Passage leg 42.3 nm
We left Loch Aline on 0745 with no wind, calm sea and good visibility. We took a turn into Tobermory to provide J&A a photo shoot opportunity and then headed towards Ardnamurchan Point. Sails up in 11knots apparent wind which lasted about 15 minutes!
 
It was our first time round Ardnamurchan Point we were delighted to finally have the opportunity. (Peter and I had attempted it in 2007 in a 24/70 Hurley but had to abandon due to a severe weather warning).
 
As we approached Mallaig Harbour a series of squalls headed our way and broke over us as we reached the Harbour entrance. We dropped the main and motored up to the Old Forge Restaurant moorings in Inverie Bay. The rain continued for a further hour and then cleared and the sun broke through again.
 
We had radioed in to the restaurant on the approach to the bay and booked our table for dinner. We tidied up the yacht and then went ashore to enjoy our meal. It was a really nice experience with good food, friendly people including a genuine French waiter. We were glad we had booked as not long after we arrived the moorings filled up with more yachts which decanted into the restaurant.
 
Tuesday 29th April 2008 Inverie to Kyleakin   Passage leg 18.9nm
We dropped our mooring at 07h50 in bright sunshine, no wind and flat seas and motored to Kyle Rhea. It was a very interesting passage through Kyle Rhea – lots of seals enjoying the swirls and whirlpools. Divers on the Port Side shore whom we noted were swept very quickly down stream with the tide. As we approached Kyleakin the Skye bridge was visible. We tied up on the pontoon on the starboard side. Sun shining, some light cloud. No wind and flat sea.
 
We went ashore for a walk around and had tea and cake at the local café. In the evening we took a visit to the local pub where a tourist group were having dinner. Unfortunately the tour guide (a local) attached himself to us and became extremely rude. The town is in a very run down state and could do with a face lift.
 
Wednesday 30th April 2008 Kyleakin to Gairloch
Departed Kyleakin 08h00 with flat sea, no wind and sunshine so we motor sailed at 6.5 knots with the wind on our nose, tracking 326°. At 11am we put the main up and the yankee and put the engine off. With 14-15 knots of wind we sailed to the loch entrance at Gairloch. Once again the rain came on as we approached land and visibility diminished. We headed for Flowerdale which is around a small headland and not visible until you are in direct line with it. It provides very good shelter.  Once tied up on the pontoon we took a walk towards Gairloch along the road and decided to take the beach walk back to the boat which ended up being a cross country challenge.
 
Thursday 1st May 2008 Gairloch to Lochinver
We sailed all the way to Lochinver however the weather stood true to form and treated us to a down pouring as we approached the entrance with reducing visibility. We tied up on the pontoon in the fishing harbour. Its not the prettiest place but it is a working harbour. A walk to the shop for some provisions ended up being a much longer walk than it looks! We settled in for dinner on board and a quiet night. Unfortunately the Spanish fishing boat next to us kept its generator on all night so it was not a very quiet night.
 
Friday 2nd May 2008    Lochinver to Kyle of Tongue (via Cape Wrath)
The wind again was in our favour allowing us to sail all the way round Cape Wrath. This was our first ‘Cape’ so we were all once again thrilled at achieving another step in our dream. As we approached Kyle of Tongue we could see that the weather pattern would continue. A huge thunderstorm was sitting over the headland and we knew it wouldn’t be long before we felt the rain again. True to form as we started our approach the rain came down and visibility reduced. Our Clyde Cruising Club Pilot book wasn’t much help and we resorted to using radar and good lookouts. As we picked up a mooring buoy in the bay the rain stopped and the sun came out.  (pic - rounding Cape Wrath)
 
Saturday 3rd May 2008    Kyle of Tongue to Stromness
Leaving the Kyle of Tongue was much easier in the daylight and with the benefit of being able to have spent some time identifying the obstacles before setting off. A Force 6 SE wind allowed us to sail all the way to the Sound of Hoy in Orkney with one reef in the main sail. As we approached the Sound we needed to drop our sails as we were running out of water to keep sailing. We motored into Stromness Marina and tied up on the hammerhead. The Stromness Marina Manager arrived on the pontoon shortly after our arrival with a welcome pack. It was a very welcome arrival in Orkney. The facilities in Stromness are excellent allowing us to do some laundry and have a very welcome hot shower. 
 
Monday 5h May 2008   Stromness to Kirkwall
The weekend weather proved to be typically Scottish, being wet and cooler so we decided to stay an extra day exploring Stromness. This included a meal out and a few libations in the local. Monday dawned fine and sunny so we set off. We managed to sail a little in the Sound but had to put the engine on as the wind died. The seas were flat calm so Alan decided he would do some fishing to see if he could catch dinner for us. He trawled for some time until just of Eynhallow he had a significant catch. What excitement!  We hauled in his catch only to discover it was actually a seagull who was most unimpressed that our lure was not a nice silver fish! A sturdy pair of gloves, a pair of pliers and some willing beak pecked hands later and our feathered ‘friend’ was back in the skies and our lure was safely stored out of harms way.
 
As we went through the Westray Firth the tide was in our favour giving us the benefit of 4-5 knots. Our GPS speed over the ground was reading 11 knots.   The scenery was magnificent with blue waters and sunshine. We arrived in Kirkwall late afternoon by which time the wind had picked up and was blowing us off the pontoon. We eventually got Red Ruth tied up only to be told by the Marina manager that the pontoon was broken and we needed to move. As the wind had picked up significantly we gratefully accepted the help of some local sailors who had arrived on the pontoon and proffered assistance
 
A drink and meal at the Shore Hotel to end our trip was most enjoyable.  And now for the next step in our dream journey.......