This year I spent 72 nights on board Jess and went sailing for sixty four of those, travelled just under 1000 nautical miles and almost two thirds of those under sail. Things broke on the way; fridge, auto pilot, water pump and there were many running repairs, It rained, it was sunny, it was foggy, we were out in no wind and winds of 50 mph. We played guitar, ukulele and at times, very loud music 😀
We met loads of wonderful people and even bumped into royalty. It was a fantastic season and I can’t wait for next year.
This is a wee slide show of some of the brilliant places I visited along with the fantastic people who sailed with me.
We left Ardfern for Jura and the moorings at Craighouse. The weather was glorious and the wind favourable we tacked our way down the Sound of Jura averaging six and a half knots. We picked up a mooring in the bay directly opposite the hotel and I got the tender and engine ready. I spent about 20 minutes trying to start the outboard but with no success. I changed the spark plug and checked all the bits I could, but it still wouldn’t start. As we were putting the outboard back on the boat, a couple from a neighbouring yacht came alongside and asked if we wanted a lift or a tow, Unfortunately we weren’t ready to leave and told them we would just row and we would meet them in the hotel later. We eventually crossed and at the hotel we ordered dinner. They managed to screw up the order but were very apologetic about it. We got talking to the couple who had offered us a tow, New Zealanders Pete and Nancy, who were coming to the end of their nine year sail around the world. They owned a holiday camp in north Wales and were taking their yacht back there after a whisky tour of Jura and Islay. We sat all night and listened to their fascinating tales of sailing in the Pacific and through The North West Passage – what a great couple.
Thursday 24th we set off south for Islay and after a good sail we arrived at the pontoons at three in the afternoon. The pontoons at Port Ellen were quite exposed to the South West and it was fairly bouncy when we arrived. Islay is a beautiful island, but the same can’t be said about Port Ellen which is very much a working port. The toilet and shower facilities are a bit of a walk from the marina, but they worked and only cost a donation. We visited all the pubs in the town and would recommend The Ardview as the best of the three, The Islay Hotel very much caters for food and the one at the far end the other one, I can’t even remember the name of it was that notable.
A flotilla of boats from Northern Ireland shortly after us and we joined them on a great sail the next morning to Gigha. On leaving Port Ellen we spotted Princess Anne’s yacht “Ballochbuie” passing the Islay ferry. We had seen the boat in Ardfern, her home port, and I had said hello to her and husband as I was making my way to the showers 😀 . It was a great sail to Gigha, the Irish boats were all bigger than Jess but we kept up with them, indeed, we ended up mid field, not that we were competing :-D. We arrived in Gigha and picked up one of the moorings closest to the shore as we were going to have to row! The Gigha Hotel is a short walk from the landing pontoon where we had dinner and drank delicious Loch Nevis beer. We got talking to a couple at the next table who were on holiday in the hotel and came from Midlothian. We spent a great night in their company talking about all things Midlothian!
We had toyed with the idea of anchoring at Tayvallich but decided instead to make straight for Craobh Haven as we would have a favourable tide get past Corryvreckan.
As usual, there were a number of maintenance jobs to be done, none of them critical, just ones that you mean to get around to. So, I secured the dodgers, fixed the wobbly floor at the heads, fitted some hooks in the cabins made up the bunks and generally tidied up and readied the boat before Brandon (the American) and his wife Lauren (the Canadian) arrived on Thursday evening.
The plan for the weekend was to spend the first evening in the marina, eating in Scott’s Restaurant and then setting off for Portavadie on Friday morning. Saturday a sail up to Otterferry for lunch, heading to Tarbert for Saturday night and returning to Largs on Sunday. We had a great night in Scott’s Restaurant and Brandon and I consumed large quantities of Punk and Joker IPA back on the boat with Lauren getting stuck into a bottle of Pinot Grigio.
After a leisurely breakfast we set off south past Cumbrae and through Cumbrae pass towards Bute. We motored the first part and once into Cumbrae Pass I put the sails up and we managed to get all the way across the Sound and Inchmarnock Water. We arrived at Portavadie around 1630. We had decided to eat on board and I set about making pasta. After eating we played “Wizard” a whist type card game – great fun.
Saturday’s forecast had always been looking poor, but the reality was worse. It was a grey miserable morning, alternating between drizzle and rain which lasted the entire day. Not relishing the prospect of a slog up Loch Fyne to Otterferry and the unlikelihood of actually crossing to the restaurant, we decided to have a lazy morning and head straight for Tarbert for lunch. It was still raining when we arrived but there were some breaks. During one of these Brandon and Lauren went for a walk to the Castle and on the way booked a table at Starfish, probably my favourite restaurant anywhere. Trabert was quite busy as there was a Traditional Boat Festival on and there was to be some entertainment in the harbour marquee later that night. After a fantastic meal we made our way back to the harbour. The entertainment was a local young guitarist, he was reall very good with a voice a bit like Paolo Nutini. On our way back to the boat I noticed that some of the traditional boats were lit up.
After Saturday’s terrible weather, we woke to glorious sunshine on Sunday morning.The forecast for the day was good with F4/5 westerly which we give us a great broad reach to the Western Kyle. We made great time across Inchmarnock Water and started on beam reach up the Kyles. We had started off too close to the island of Bute and were forced to make a couple of tacks to get round. I put the engine on as we passed Kames and we had lunch and then a great run down the East Kyle avoiding the ferries. We sailed all the way back to Largs, dropping the sails just outside the marina.
It was a brilliant weekend with some of the best sailing this season. Brandon and Lauren are great company and welcome back any time they wish.