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Archive of entries posted on May 2011

A Bit of a Blow

 

 

We had a couple of days notice of the impending storm, but no idea of its savagery. Loch Aline seemed a good, safe option – Tobermory too crowded, and Loch Drumbuy lacking VHF, phone or internet signal. We snugged down on a mooring and waited for the storm to pass. As the wind steadily rose through Force 8 (gale), 9 (strong gale) and 10 (storm) we took photos of the wind speed readout. Just after a gust of 58.1 knots (68 mph) the mooring parted and we leaped into action to prevent being quickly driven ashore. It is difficult to adequately describe the conditions – wind at steady violent storm Force 11 (70 mph+) with higher gusts, crashing waves, sea surface white with foam, little visibility, sheets of spray and lashing rain – the boat driven on to her beam ends with gunwales awash, despite full engine revs scarcely able to make any headway, driven from side to side of the loch in defiance of full steering lock. It took well over an hour to claw upwind the short mile to reach moorings in what would normally be a more sheltered corner of the loch – but not today. A fishing boat pointed out a mooring astern of them, but steering an accurate course to the pick-up buoy was nearly impossible in the conditions. After eight or nine unsuccessful approaches Maggie, on her knees, managed to get it aboard but  it was wrenched from her  hand, which was damaged in the process. On the next pick-up she was unable to secure it to anything with only one hand, but  lay down on it and that was all that kept us from being swept away again. We were only held by the light pick-up line which was chafing and would not hold for long. Unable to reach the mooring rope or haul a six ton boat against wind and sea, we radioed the fishing boat and asked them to buoy a line and float it downwind to us – it might allow us to winch or be winched forward to reach the mooring rope. Unfortunately it was blown out of reach but a brave scallop diver swam down the line and attached it to one thrown from our bow. He scrambled aboard and took control on the foredeck as we were both soaked, frozen and exhausted. Eventually we were secured to the massive mooring hawser of a 70ft fishing boat. After applying an icepack and sling to Maggie’s left hand, which was obviously damaged with a dislocated fracture of at least one finger, the diver called the Coastguard for medical assistance. The hand was hugely swollen, turning blue and in need of urgent treatment. The call was heard by the Lochaline-Fishnish ferry sheltering at the pier, and they launched their rescue RIB to evacuate us. They had great difficulty approaching the plunging, rolling yacht but we eventually jumped in and were landed ashore with the RIB now half full of water, and handed over to the mobile Coastguard, who drove us to the doctor’s surgery in Lochaline. Without electricity due to the storm, the doctor had neither power, light nor heat and did not have a ring cutter – by this time there was a distinct risk of Maggie losing a finger if her wedding ring could not be removed. The Coastguard returned with a huge pair of bolt cutters with which the ring was removed, relieving pressure on the finger and allowing circulation to resume. Normally a helicopter would have been called to take us to hospital, but conditions ruled that out. The ambulance, which had a lengthy journey getting to us as the Corran Ferry was off and the Loch Eil road was blocked, took us to the Belford Hospital in Fort William, via the ferry which had fortunately resumed service. There the A&E team were ready, and quickly X-rayed, splinted and bound the hand, but could do no more as they are not equipped for orthopaedic surgery, which at that stage looked inevitable. After an overnight stay arrangements were made for handing over to the Western Infirmary in Glasgow, and we were able to return home on the evening bus. Following more X-rays and examination by the A&E consultant and an orthopaedic registrar, the hand specialist reserved opinion on treatment and will see Maggie next week when the swelling has gone. In the meantime, we have been back to Loch Aline to sort out the mess inside the boat, remove wet clothes and leave her properly closed down. Fortunately the mooring is not required at present and the owner is happy for us to have the use of it until we arrange to move the boat to a marina and attend to some minor repairs. So………a bit of a blow, both literally and to Maggie and our sailing plans for the summer.

Cruising Continues

At Ardoran

At Ardoran

Port Ramsay, Lismore

Port Ramsay, Lismore

Once back aboard, we had to wait a further day for reasonable sailing conditions. From Loch Feochan we sailed with a following wind up Kerrera Sound, through Oban Bay and north to Lismore, where we anchored at Port Ramsay. We had difficulty getting the anchor to set properly, but succeeded at the fourth attempt. Later in the afternoon we were joined by Tekoa (a fellow Westerly) with skipper Jane, crew Iain and French guests Michel and Helene. A welcoming drink on Arctica was followed later by an after dinner ceilidh on Tekoa with some pipe and moothie music, french songs and Iain’s recitation of Tam o’Shanter. Today we motored south to the Sound of Mull into the teeth of a strong wind, but made better progress in the sound to Loch Aline, where we took up a vacant mooring. Since arrival the wind has been gusting violently to Gale Force 8 with accompanying squally showers. Too much weather, and only a month to Midsummer Day!

Shore Leave

The Arctica crew are taking shore leave for a week, but will be back aboard on Monday 16 May. Arctica is at Ardoran Marine in Loch Feochan, a few miles south of Oban. Getting in is interesting, with a narrow, shallow and tortuous passage between drying banks and the shore, but well defined by port and starboard markers. We were amused by the sign at Rathlin – Irish delusions of prettiness, or a cockney signwriter? More blogging in a week’s time.

Position Report – Puilladobhrain

: Fun

Sounds of Jura and Luing

Shelduck

Shelduck

 

Lochs Craignish and Crinan

Lochs Craignish and Crinan

We were very sorry to learn that our good friends on Seol na Mara had struck a rock outside Lagavulin, and that the boat was ashore there for inspection and repair. The existence of a GRP boatbuilder there seems to have been a well kept secret – but extremely handy in the circumstances. Our own passage north from Islay was exciting, with a quartering Force 6/7 wind and favourable tide, speeding us over the 40 miles to Crinan. We anchored off the sea lock, but the anchor picked up a huge mass of kelp and dragged. After clearing it we settled for the easy option of a mooring, which gave us better shelter. Before leaving the next day there was time for the Skipper to climb a hill and the Mate to walk along the canal to Bellanoch. The short trip up to Puilladobhrain (Otter’s Pool) took 3 hours with a following wind gusting to 35 knots – just touching gale force. The anchorage is beautifully sheltered, the sun is shining but the strong wind continues.

Position Report – Crinan

Rathlin

Rathlin Harbour

Rathlin Harbour

West Lighthouse, Rathlin

West Lighthouse, Rathlin

Rathlin is a beautiful island, well served by ferries from Ballycastle and well worth the short trip by anyone visiting north Antrim. An enquiry at the Visitor Centre established that Bruce’s Cave (of spider fame) is only accessible from the sea in a small boat in calm conditions, so we walked out to the East Lighthouse instead. This is a conventional tower, in contrast to the West Lighthouse, which is built into the cliffs with the light on a platform at its base – hence the nickname ‘upside-down lighthouse’. We met some lovely people from a 50 strong party on an outing of the Irish Dental Association, who had at one time made the trip home from St Kilda in a fast RIB in under 7 hours! Then it was back to sea for the trip across the North Channel to Islay, and a mooring at Port Ellen. We were rocked to sleep by the constant motion due to the bay’s SE exposure.

Fair Winds

Mallard

Mallard

Glenarm Marina

Glenarm Marina

A fair tide and wind carried us up the coast to the quiet little town of Glenarm, with its neat little marina. We had time in the morning for a walk up the glen, through woods luxuriantly carpeted with bluebells and wild garlic, to a nature reserve – but found it reserved for members only. We left in late afternoon and were whisked north by a very strong tide and a following Force 6 wind. At one point we registered a speed of 11.3 knots! In three hours we were at Rathlin, tied up alongside the pontoon, well sheltered by breakwaters.

Position Report – Glenarm