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Archive of entries posted on April 2012

The Uists

Castlebay

Castlebay

Stulaval from Arnaval

Stulaval from Arnaval

Gale force winds kept us in Castlebay for two days before we could continue north to Lochboisdale, South Uist. Our departure was preceded by one of the “wintery showers” of the forecast – a squall bringing sleet, hail and some swirling snowflakes. Despite the cold breeze and a head sea the trip was pleasant – returning sunshine makes such a difference to everything. We bussed to the Co-op at Daliburgh and walked the few miles back. The next day was very fine – sunshine and blue skies, although the light breeze was still rather chilly. We caught the mid-morning bus for Lochmaddy, North Uist – the Mate continuing there while the Skipper alighted at Mingarry, from where a rough track leads on to the peaty moors. The ascent of Arnaval and Stulaval and return across the moors to Lochboisdale made a good 5 hour outing. We are now at Lochmaddy, North Uist basking in warm sunshine, and planning to visit the west coast of Lewis while good weather holds.

Ambition Achieved

Barra Airport

Barra Airport

Loch Skipport, South Uist

Loch Skipport, South Uist

Approaching Barra Airstrip

Approaching Barra Airstrip

For more than forty years we have hoped to experience one day a flight to Barra, landing on the extensive sands of the Traigh Mor at the airstrip. If the plane has spare seats a sightseeing return to Benbecula is possible, and today our presence, seat availability and ideal conditions combined to make the trip a reality. The flight is short, about 20 minutes, but gives stunning views of the coast, beaches, lochs and hills of Eriskay, South Uist and Benbecula. Many anchorages and hills previously visited gave fascinating views from an unusual perspective. On the return flight we had the 19 seater plane to ourselves! Our timing was perfect, as today the northerly wind is getting up to gale force and we are reluctant to go ashore in case of difficulty returning aboard. We are happy to take it easy and catch up on some reading.

To the Outer Isles

Castlebay Pier

Castlebay Pier

Kisimul Castle, Barra

Kisimul Castle, Barra

We carried on down the Sound of Mull passing multi-coloured Tobermory then turning SW at Ardmore Point for the crossing of the Sound of Tiree to Coll. At Arinagour we anchored off the stone beacon before the old pier as depth allowed – the only boat in the anchorage. There were a few spots of rain at intervals throughout the afternoon – but not enough to hamper the making of a new dinghy seat to replace the old one which collapsed at Oban, and repairing the boathook which got broken at Sanda. There’s aye something…….!! Today we went through Gunna Sound between Coll and Tiree and out into the Sea of the Hebrides. At last we had a sailing breeze which gave us a sparkling sail across to Castlebay, Barra. We have a lovely position in the bay with the village, pier, castle and Vatersay affording good views all round.

Scarba and Loch Aline

Looking North from Cruach Scarba

Looking North from Cruach Scarba

Sunset, Puilladobhrain

Sunset, Puilladobhrain

The next ploy was to climb Cruach Scarba, separated from Jura by the Corryvreckan Whirlpool, which can be a dangerous place in the wrong wind/sea conditions. We anchored out of the tide race in a little bay at the SE end of Scarba, from where the ascent was easy, if rather undulating. The summit views were magnificent, especially north over the Black Isles, Luing, Seil and Kerrera. We carried on north through the Sound of Luing to spend the night at Puilladobhrain (otter’s pool – but no otter!), where we viewed a dramatic sunset. The next port of call was Oban for shopping, fuel and gas before making into the Sound of Mull for Loch Aline and a berth at the new pontoons. It’s a nice little marina which next season will have shore facilities. On a quiet evening, it is hard to imagine the hurricane conditions we survived here last year!

Jura Hills

Old Pier, Loch na Cille

Old Pier, Loch na Cille

Kinuachdrach Harbour

Kinuachdrach Harbour

In continuing fine weather we headed north from Port Ellen, past the Ardmore Islands and the Sound of Islay, where a warship crossed ahead of us. There is a major multinational joint services exercise in the area for two weeks, training for a combined response to a potential terrorist threat. We anchored at Lagg Bay for a visit to Cnoc an Ime, a fine little hill just south of the half-mile wide narrow neck of the island. The night was spent at Loch na Cille on the mainland shore of the Sound of Jura. Another fine morning saw us head for Kinuachdrach Harbour at the NE of Jura, from where Cruach na Seilcheig was climbed, giving good views of the Corryvreckan with its Great Race and the “cool high bens” of Mull. The two hills have similarities in being almost identical in height and having their trig point on the wrong top – both out by half a mile. Having lost the flood tide, we crossed through the Dorus Mor to anchor off Goat Island in Loch Craignish. All is peaceful apart from the honking of four pairs of Canada Geese.

Port Ellen, Islay

Sanda

Sanda

At Port Ellen

At Port Ellen

It was a calm, bright morning as we left Sanda with the start of the west and north going tidal stream, which we carried all the way up to Port Ellen, reaching there at lunchtime. As forecast, the SE wind gradually got up during the afternoon and was soon pressing Arctica hard against the pontoon.We fixed extra warps to hold her off and lay more comfortably thereafter. It was bitterly cold in the wind, but we enjoyed the protection of the cockpit cover, from which we could survey the scene in comfort. The strong wind moderated overnight but still had a bite to it in the morning, and the radio gave news of snow at Drumochter. We took the post bus to Bowmore where we browsed the shops and had a pleasant stroll round in the fine conditions. There is a small marina but it looks too shallow for yachts, and its scanty breakwater largely cosmetic.

The First Day

Approaching Cloch Light

Approaching Cloch Light

Arran Hills

Arran Hills

Arctica’s Summer Cruise 2012 got underway as we left Dumbarton on a sparkling bright morning under a clear blue sky. It was cold on the water, with late patches of snow on the hills and good cover on Ben Lomond. With very calm conditions we settled down to motor south, enjoying the fabulous views of sea and hills, especially the Arran hills. The inshore waters forecast suggested a good W/SW wind tomorrow, ideal for rounding the Mull of Kintyre and making north for Port Ellen, Islay. So we made the 58nm trip down to Sanda, the nearest anchorage to the Mull, anchoring off the stone jetty at 1900. Tired after a long day, we did not venture ashore after our meal, although lights appeared in the pub as darkness fell.