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Carbost & Mallaig

Cuillins from Carbost

Cuillins from Carbost

Sunset - Carbost

Sunset – Carbost

Pontoons at Mallaig

Pontoons at Mallaig

We found that there is a bus service at Carbost, despite information to the contrary on the Stagecoach website, so the Mate was able to take local walks and a trip to Portree while the Skipper was on the hills. A group of other yachts came in, all flying their large Malts Cruise flag, and looked well against the colourful sunset. A fine morning saw us starting early out of Loch Harport, down the Skye coast then across to the Point of Sleat and Mallaig, where we wanted to sample the new pontoons. Verdict – too expensive, no toilets or showers (yet! – but we’ve heard that line before), and exposed to swell from the north. We spent a bumpy night alongside, but then were offered a discount on the normal rate. We motored north into the persistent wind from that direction, timing our arrival at the Kylerhea narrows to catch the young flood tide. Continuing through Loch Alsh and under the Skye Bridge, we made for Plockton, where Seol na Mara was resting at anchor out in the bay. It was the Sailing Club Gala Day with much activity in the village, including a visit from the Kyle Lifeboat.

West Skye

Approaching Neist Point

Approaching Neist Point

Macleod's Maidens, off Idrigill Point

Macleod’s Maidens, off Idrigill Point

An early rise saw the Skipper off up Ben Geary before 0800, but at that hour the morning mist still clung to the summit, obscuring what should have been a fine view. Back at the boat and stowing away the oars, the temporary hitch on the dinghy painter proved to be just that, and the dinghy took off out to sea in the strong breeze. We had a lot of chain out but raised the anchor as fast as we could, by which time the dinghy was half a mile out and no longer visible – but it was recovered without difficulty. After that sudden start we continued round to Dunvegan where we moored in good shelter. The afternoon was clear and sunny, allowing another hill to be ‘ticked off’. We sat out two days of N5-7 then left in moderate conditions, enjoying a good sail south round Neist Point (with its lighthouse) and Idrigill Point (with Macleod’s Maidens) and into NW Loch Bracadale, anchoring overnight in Loch Bharcasaig. We are now at Carbost, Loch Harport, where there is Talisker Distillery, pub, PO and shop but sadly no bus service during school holidays. Time to get out the bikes?

Scalpay to Skye

Scalpay Sunset

Scalpay Sunset

We spent a night in Scalpay North Harbour – the beautiful still evening giving a lilac sunset. Today we crossed the Minch to Loch Bay, Skye, running into a thick fog which obscured everything until thinning just before our landfall. The wind suddenly died so we fished briefly, the Mate catching mackerel to try out her new fish smoker. The wind rose again as we anchored in Ardmore Bay and was soon blowing F6 gusting 7 but from a safe NE direction, and the sun shone. It has now been blowing for seven hours so our anchor is well dug in. We judged it unwise to venture ashore in the dinghy, so have been catching up on our reading.

Meeting Friends

Grey Seals

Grey Seals

Thrift

Thrift

Back in Lochinver, we had a visit for a couple of days from Euan &  Morag and Jim & Linda.  As ever, it was a great reunion with much  merriment. A powercut following a fierce thunderstorm thwarted plans  for dinner at the Mission, but we found that the Pie Shop & Restaurant  had a gas grill and could serve us delicious steaks. After crossing  the Minch to Stornoway we met up with Ken & Isabel, and found that we  had just missed John & Helen on their boat by a day. After a quiet  Sunday – Lewis is closed on the Sabbath! – the bus pass was flashed  for a trip to climb the final Marilyn of the Outer Hebrides (excepting  St Kilda’s stacks, which are a different kettle of fish). In the  evening Peter and Angus came in on Seol na Mara, so we played a few  tunes together after dinner. The pontoons are full as the intended  marina extension has not materialised, although the necessary harbour  dredging has been done – maybe next year?? At least diesel is  available again from the pier, unlike on our last visit.

About Turn

Fulmar

Fulmar

Lichen & Thrift

Lichen & Thrift

Hoy Head

Hoy Head

We set off from North Ronaldsay for Fair Isle but soon found ourselves in rough seas and making slow progress into a strong NE wind. Our patience finally cracked after weeks of such conditions so we turned around, temporarily abandoning thoughts of Shetland. After a day at Pierowall, Westray (a favourite place) we had the wind with us to head south to Stromness, then Kinlochbervie. A close encounter near Cape Wrath with a large coaster which ignored the collision regulations relating to an overtaking vessel gave some excitement to that lengthy trip. We are now safely down in Lochinver, where Arctica will lie for a spell while we catch up on things at home.

Kirkwall

Standing Stones of Stenness

Standing Stones of Stenness

Whalebone Sculpture

Whalebone Sculpture

We spent a week in Kirkwall marina, using it as a base for exploring the Mainland and southern isles, both by bus and hired car. The wind continued to blow steady and cold from the NE with occasional showers, making the prospect of sailing to the northern isles unattractive for Innes and Janice – city folk not used to the motion of a yacht. Around the town, visiting the cathedral, museum, library, bookshops and supermarkets kept us all occupied. We also had a lengthy fruitless search for a new deck plug for the masthead lights which, despite pre-launch checking, were refusing to work. A temporary repair has now been effected. On Sunday night we had dinner and a very enjoyable evening at the home of friends Ann and Ken, who now live in Kirkwall. It was good to get on the move again as we left the marina early this morning and set course for North Ronaldsay – our first visit to the island, the most northerly in Orkney. There is good anchorage on sand off the pier, but the bay is subject to a constant swell, which is a bit tiresome.

Stromness

Mute Swan'sNest

Mute Swan’sNest

Login's Well, Stromness

Login’s Well, Stromness

Stromness Harbour

Stromness Harbour

We crossed to the east side of Scapa Flow and briefly looked in to St Margaret’s Hope, the Orkney terminal of the John o’ Groats high speed ferry. Although the village is attractive, the anchorage is less so, being very shallow and requiring lying a fair way off it. Burray has a well sheltered bay close to one of the Churchill Barriers. There is a good walk round to Hunda Sound and back by the Ayre, where swans are nesting. St Mary’s Bay gave another nice anchorage once we got the anchor to set in the gravelly bottom. We spent two nights in the welcoming Stromness marina. The town was very busy with the Folk Festival, with virtually all events sold out, but there was a good afternoon session outside the Ferry Inn. The excellent little museum has lots of interest regarding the whaling trade, the Hudson’s Bay Co and John Rae, the under-recognised Arctic explorer, discoverer of the final link in the North West passage and the fate of the lost Franklin Expedition. We are now in Kirkwall, looking forward to the arrival of Innes and Janice for a short holiday with us.

Scapa Flow

Longhope Lifeboat Museum

Longhope Lifeboat Museum

Robin of Longhope

Robin of Longhope

It was a relief to get away from the din in Scrabster harbour. Yachts are apparently tolerated rather than welcomed – in a virtually empty fish dock we and another yacht were instructed to raft up together immediately astern of a rather dilapidated fishing boat, whose engine hammered away constantly during our stay. There are also extensive development works underway, including dredging at the harbour entrance with a huge grab crane dumping spoil into hopper barges round the clock. After clearing Dunnet Head we could see a fog bank in the east of the Pentland Firth, but this dispersed over Scapa Flow before our arrival at Longhope, where we tied up in the corner of the small harbour. The lush greens of Orkney glowed in the hot sunshine, which prompted the first venture into shorts this trip. Longhope is on South Walls, which was an island until joined to Hoy by a causeway separating Aith Hope and Long Hope. This afternoon we walked the seven miles to Lyness, an abandoned wartime naval base, and took the the ‘last’ ferry back. This involved return trips to Houton on the Mainland (of Orkney) and Flotta (with massive oil terminal) before the ferry returned to its overnight berth at Longhope. We certainly got our money’s worth!

Round Cape Wrath

Old Man of Stoer

Old Man of Stoer

Foinaven from Kinlochbervie

Foinaven from Kinlochbervie

Cape Wrath

Cape Wrath

After the break, we returned to Lochinver by a long but enjoyable bus journey via Inverness and Ullapool. The sun shone, the hills stood out sharp against a blue sky and the scenery was magnificent. An early start saw us up past Stoer Head and Handa and into Kinlochbervie by early afternoon. Later we had a chance encounter with Elaine and Mark, who had kayaked up from Handa. They are great adventurers, and the Skipper knew Elaine from the Everest trek in Nepal four years ago. We enjoyed their company over a drink and blether in the cockpit in warm evening sunshine. The following day we rounded Cape Wrath, passing Sandwood Bay with its sea stack Am Buachaille, and close under the lighthouse on the Cape. It is one of the main turning points on the West Coast along with the Mull of Kintyre and Ardnamurchan Point. We had intended stopping at Talmine at the mouth of the Kyle of Tongue, but the fine weather induced us to continue to Scrabster, ready for a short crossing to Scapa Flow in Orkney.

Wester Ross

Low Water - Strath, Gairloch

Low Water – Strath, Gairloch

Coigach Hills

Coigach Hills

On a bright morning, with heavy frost covering the deck, we left Loch Shell to cross the Minch to Gairloch – an uneventful trip apart from sighting a minke whale. We tied up at the Flowerdale pontoon and walked along to Strath, visiting the excellent book/coffee shop. A walk up Flowerdale to the waterfall – reduced to a trickle after weeks of dry weather – sharpened the appetite for dinner at The Old Inn. Before leaving Gairloch we discovered that the spare diesel drums had not been filled before leaving Dumbarton, so what was left in the tank would probably be enough to just get us to Lochinver, but without any margin for safety. With the harbour now unmanned we had to make a sortie to the filling station to buy road fuel – and at a price! It was a long, lumpy trip up to Lochinver against a swell kicked up by the persistent northerlies but we got there in late afternoon – the first visitors of 2012 to the pontoons. There will now be a break in blogging while we go home for two weeks to pursue other activities.