Friday, 31 August 2012

Day 1 Life on the Slant

Noon August 31 56 02N 9 05W 1,263 miles to go.

As forecast, now in a major stream of SW winds between a high (1035) High to the south and a low (985) Low tracking NE to the north. And its not going to let up any time soon. I want to get SW so it is slow progress tacking through 125 degrees against 23 - 25 knot winds and accompanying seas. Three reefs in the main and half the # 2. Taonui doesn't mind too much, but I'm not loving the force of gravity. No worries, it is bound to get better. The weather fax forecast shows the High moving north. Great. I still have about 100 miles of westing to make to be clear off the coast of Ireland. Thank goodness for the big pot of stew that I made before I left.

19:00 latest forecast is for high to stay south and a new low 988 to the NE and gale 8 my area so am changing down to the staysail for the night. When this low goes by should have west winds, maybe even some NW. That would be good

Thursday, 30 August 2012

Off to the Azores

Coryn left this morning...bus to Craigmuir, ferry to Oban, local train to Glasgow, overnight train to London. Plans to visit brother in Cambridge and various nephews on Saturday and fly back to Victoria on Monday.

I left Tobermory at 11 and am now (17:00) clearing the south end of Tiree with open ocean ahead for the next 1,330 miles to Terceira. Easy sailing today in 15 knots of NW wind that is slowly veering into the west and is forecast to go to SW tomorrow and increase to 25 + knots as a ridge of high pressure moves east across the UK and a low fills in behind it This is the first high that I can remember this summer. Mostly it has been one low after another. I suppose that its going to hard sailing until I can south of 50N and out of the steady stream of lows. But for now all is good. Light wind just ahead of the beam. Smooth seas and sunshine. Taonui and Albert are loving it. Great boat.

20:00 Just past Skerryvore lighthouse. It must be one of the more remote UK lights. ten miles SW of Tiree. A small pile of rocks out there in the on there own waiting to ensnare ships sailing to and from Ireland and the west coast of Scotland. The island is called Stevenson Island and I presume he built. Stevenson (brother of R.L.) built most of the early lighthouses around the UK. Given the usual horrific weather and strong tides you have to marvel at the ingenuity of the workers building this 75 foot high,lender pinnacle.

It's going to be a spectacular sunset...and a bright, cold, clear night.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Western Isles

We spent ten days transiting the Caledonian Canal from Inverness to Oban. It can be done in three days, but the outer sea lock at Corpach, Fort William, had to be closed for repair for five days while we were in the canal. We didn't mind at all. The trip was a pleasure. Slowly motoring down the man-made sections past fields and hills with the banks covered in a profusion of wild flowers. The Canal is sixty miles long, 22 miles dug by hand and the other 38 miles made up of natural bodies of water (Lochs) created by a split in tectonic plates and later carving and scouring during the ice ages. The longest loch is Loch Ness famed for the often-sighted, never-captured Loch Ness Monster. The Canal, with 29 locks and 10 swing bridges,took 40 years to build. Initially it's purpose was to speed movement of Navy Ships during the Napoleonic Wars. That didn't happen. But later it was much used by fishing fleets chasing the herring and also for the shipment of coal and general cargo from southern ports to NE Scotland. Today it is for tourists and for small boats and yachts seeking to avoid the long passage around northern Scotland.

We arrived back in Oban four days ago in lovely warm late summer weather. After three days of the usual shopping, laundry etc. and some end of season boat maintenance we have set off for some leisurely, not too ambitious cruising in the nearby Western Isles. Tonight we are anchored (in dripping Rain) in the land-locked Loch Aline, ten miles from Oban and tomorrow we'll likely head NW heading for the islands of Coll or Tiree.

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Inverness, Caledonian Canal

The 400 mile passage from Kristiansand to Inverness has to be one of the most comfortable and easy trips that we have made. The North Sea has a well earned reputation of nasty seas and strong, usually SW or West winds and no fun. Not so this time. The five day forecast called for a deep low to jog around north then south to west of Ireland giving gales to the western UK while the east coast over to Norway was to have light (Force 3 - 4, occasionally 5) winds from the South or SE. And so it came to pass. Huey can sometimes be kind. After topping up with diesel at Kristiansand, we motored east through the inside passages to the west of Kristiansand and came out into the ocean twenty miles from Lindesnes, the southernmost point of Norway. The wind had obligingly veered into the SE and we started making good miles on a broad reach with one reef in the main and the big genoa. The north going Norskrenna current, combined with the building seas made it a bit bouncy, but nothing that Stugeron couldn't handle. That evening the wind veered further into the south and dropped to Force 3 - 4. Under a full moon Taonui creamed along making 5 - 7 knots. An easy night, great for the off watch to have a comfortable sleep.

The next evening we had to be on our toes as we sailed through the Forties oil field. We lost count of the rigs. I think that there were ten, brightly lit, multi storey monsters with attendant supply ships and stand-by rescue ships, plus the odd tanker and fishing boats just to confuse the AIS screen that shows all ships within twelve miles with their course, speed and computed point of closed approach. A great safety device.

The last day was a pleasure. Smooth seas, light winds and quiet sailing at 5 - 6 knots. We arrived off Fraserburgh on the SE corner of the Moray Firth at 21:00 with another 75 miles to go along the coast to the end of the Firth, and Inverness at the northern end of the Caledonian Canal. The tide range in this area is 15 feet and there is quite a tidal current especially at the narrow entrance into the bay that leads into The Ness River. Here the tide can run up to 4 - 5 knots. Luckily we were able to arrive at half tide rising and swept in and then followed the narrow eight mile channel that leads past the sand bars to the mouth of the Canal and to a small well appointed marina just past the first lock. A great trip. So after a shower and a short kip we walked into Inverness (only 15 minutes) and had a very good dinner and a bottle of wine. Its good to be back in Scotland and the Games are on big screen TV's in all the pubs.