Ullapool to Kyle of Lochalsh and beyond. Sailing around Britain 2014

Date posted: 10 July 2014

We were all up relatively early this morning, Sean and Mike took us off the mooring and I motored onto the pontoon by the quay, so that we could drop Mike off and fill with water.

I have to say it’s been a pleasure to have had Mike on board with us, he is exceptionally laid back, which is just as well as we are all living in such close proximity, there are no secrets when everyone can hear everything. Apparently he’s now off to Malta, so I didn’t feel too sorry for him leaving us here.

I reversed us off the pontoon just after 7.30am and then Simon took over for the first hours watch. Yesterday I thought that I saw a whale blowing, but as it wasn’t witnessed by two people, the sighting didn’t count. But at 8.15am this morning as we were motoring towards the sea, three of us saw a whale blow twice, there was such excitement on the boat. We then positioned ourselves on whale watch duty, one looking over the bow, another over the stern, one on starboard and the other on port, the excitement lasted for about half an hour and then we all lost interest again! Simon thought that he saw a flash of white by the ‘blow’ , but he wasn’t one hundred percent sure.

We also saw a couple of harbour porpoises and a grey sea, plus Skua’s, now as its only 10.15 in the morning it’s been a great start to the day.

I took the second watch and we pulled the sails out, although with almost 60nm to go today we want to maintain an average of six knots to get there within a reasonable time. As the wind is so light we are motor sailing, the direction of the wind is north westerly, so once we go round the Greenstone Point and Rubha Reidh, we should make better use of our sails.

We are in the North Minch heading south through the Inner Sound, keeping Raasay and Scalpay on our starboard side as we head past the Crowlin Islands on our port and into Loch Alsh. Simon has done the passage plan for today and calculated our window of opportunity to get into the Loch hence we need to maintain the 6 knots.

Whilst I was on watch, Sean caught up with all our hand washing, so our guard rail looks like a Chinese laundry, it’s a few more days before we hit Tobermory, so these things have to be done!

A great day for the washing

A great day for the washing

I’ve opened our bow hatch fully and upended all the foam mattresses to give them an airing; otherwise they can get rather damp.

The scenery around us today is stunning, we can look west and clearly make out the Hebrides, I have been watching these distant islands for a couple of days. The temptation was to head away west, but I think Mike may have had something to say, if we had dropped him to make his own way home from Stornaway. We did visit these islands three years ago, and had such a smashing time it would have been quite easy to take the detour, but we have to get home for the beginning of September for a friend’s wedding, so south bound we continue.

 

Beautiful scenery all around us

Beautiful scenery all around us

fabulous views

fabulous views

At about half past eleven we as we went round Rubha Reidh our point of sail changed and Simon was of the opinion that we could goose wing, some discuss went on until I suggested that we used the cruising chute. So I instructed Simon and he laid out all the lines and attached the head of the sail, we all stood in position and he hoisted the cruising chute without a hitch.

 

 

 

Is this a cruising chute or a spinnaka, it came with the boat, we arent sure.

Is this a cruising chute or a spinnaka, it came with the boat, we arent sure.

So for the past two hours we have had the main to our port and had the added assistance of the cruising chute. This meant that the engine was turned off for a few hours and we glided along at  between 4 and 5 knots.

But now the wind direction has changed and it is more to a beam reach, so we all got into position again and the cruising sheet was dropped behind the main sail, as anyone will know who uses cruising sheets, this can be a tricky manoeuvre, if you get it wrong it is easy to lose the sail over the side!

The engine is still off and we now have the foresail out as well, the sea state is changing slightly and the wind is picking up a bit.  So the afternoon progressed without a hitch until….

We went underneath Skye bridge and went to port to try and get into Kyle of Lochalsh, Marian motored up to the pontoon but there was no room, so she went about and headed off across the river to Kyleakin, where I took over as the pontoon area looked jammed packed with boats, and it was quite a narrow shallow area.

Well again there

Approaching Skye Bridge from the North, you keep the red mark to your starboard!

Approaching Skye Bridge from the North, you keep the red mark to your starboard!

any room so, I turned the boat about and was slowly heading back out into the main flow, I asked Simon what the depth was, and he told me we were an hour off high tide. I then commented that it was very shallow as I crept very slowly forward, then…. we hit a rock!

When this sort of thing happens, it’s best to pull up the floor boards and peer into all the bilges, which was exactly what Sean did. There was no additional water seeping into the bilges, so that was good. But as other sailors will know, that’s not all the damage that might have occurred.

I had written the passage plan for tomorrow and was aware that four miles further up through loch Alsh and Kyle Rhea was a beach Glenelg Bay. So we discussed when low tide was, and if we should beach Kantara to check the keels, when Sean said’ we’ll get a much better night’s sleep, If I just jump over and check the hull for any damage’.

So that’s what happened we anchored, and Sean donned his wetsuit, he jumped off right into a bloom of jelly fish. There were hundreds of them all around the boat, Sean just popped up amongst them, and kept diving down with his torch in his hand, until he was satisfied all was well.

We sustained a scratch on the base of one keel, but other than that all was well. I can’t tell you how impressed we all were with Sean on the boat. Now he is showered and having a hot drink, none the worse for his adventure. The rest of us are just getting over it ourselves, it really shook me up, and I know the others felt the same.

Sean getting ready to go in and check the hull

Sean getting ready to go in and check the hull

 

Sean jumping in amongst the jelly fish

Sean jumping in amongst the jelly fish

 

Sean checking the hull

Sean checking the hull

 

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