We were so glad to get the disastrous canal experience behind us and get out into the open sea. I’ve written an email to the CEO describing our experience but I don’t hold out much hope of things improving any time soon. I won’t be using the canal until more positive news and stories appear from other sailors and next year it will be round the Mull of Kintyre.
The main reason for us wanting to make quick passage through the canal and then north was to pick up a mutual friend, Hamish, who is from Stornoway. Both Alan and I got to know him though our time working together at Midlothian’s ICT Development Team, he is an Education Officer with Comhairle nan Eilean Siar. He joined us on our trip to Northern Ireland last year. We had arranged to pick Hamish up at Kyle of Lochalsh and would spend a few days around Raasay.
Thursday 3rd July
We had spent the night on the North Pier Transit Pontoons. In the past we have used both these and the pontoons across the bay on Kerrera . At first sight, the North Pier pontoons appear to be more expensive, but when you take into consideration charges for showers and ferry across to Oban they actually turn out cheaper than those on Kerrera.
Our next stop would be in Tobermory and a trip up the Sound of Mull in rather wet and miserable weather. Tobermory is usually pretty busy as it’s the last stop for supplies and fuel before heading round Ardnamurchan, but when we arrived there were plenty of spots on the pontoons and moorings and it had brightened up. Not in need of any supplies and not that enthusiastic about a walk to any of the pubs, we had a quiet night on the boat sipping whisky.
Friday 4th of July
In contrast to the previous day, it was sunny and bright the next morning and crews were preparing to head out both north and south. The wind was looking to be in our favour once round the point and there was no rain forecast. We filled up with fuel before our trip round Ardnamurchan Point and on to our next stop at Mallaig.
Heading out to the point we were passed by luxury French charter yacht “Tempus Fugit”. You and six other guests can enjoy this beautiful sailing yacht for a mere €30000 per week.
Apart from the small islands of Coll, Tiree and Barra there’s nothing between Ardnamurchan Point and Newfoundland so this can be a wild bit of sea. However, today it was fairly benign and after a couple of tacks we were past the lighthouse and heading on a beam reach for Mallaig. The lighthouse was designed by Alan Stevenson, uncle of novelist Robert Louis Stevenson. It’s style is different from other Stevenson Lighthouses in Scotland and is often described as Egyptian. The sail to Mallaig was fantastic and we covered the 24 miles in just over four hours
There were times in the past when we shunned Mallaig as from the sea doesn’t look particularly attractive but it’s a great wee marina and the Harbour Master will always try to squeeze you in somewhere. It’s a bustling harbour with ferries, fishing boats, a boatyard, pleasure and other craft constantly coming and going. The facilities in the town are great with a couple of pubs, a well-stocked Co-op, a garage and a good chandlery. There is the most wonderful bakery and pizza restaurant on the harbour wall.
Saturday 5th July
Kyle of Lochalsh is a short trip from Mallaig, around 20 miles, but it does involve passing through Kyle Rhea with its extremely strong tidal stream running at eight knots. Jess will do a maximum of six knots under engine power so it’s important to get the tide times right. We had a couple of hours to spare before the tide was suitable so a trip to the chandlery, the Co-op and the laundry. We sat on a bench in warm sunshine with a coffee and a delicious pastry thing waiting for our washing to finish.
The passage through the narrow strait was pretty uneventful and we were soon into Loch Alsh and heading for the pontoons at the Skye Bridge. The pontoons are community owned and pretty basic with water available but no shore power and they are very exposed from pretty much all directions. Space is limited and it can be crowded as it’s a popular stop for dropping off and picking up crew as we were. At one time, before the bridge was built, the town must have been busy with the railway bringing passengers directly to the ferry for the short crossing to Skye. Nowadays its run down and really quite shabby and sad. When Hamish arrived we walked up to the pub, which if nothing else, was cheap.