Miles logged: 29
Total miles logged: 1,399
Days since leaving Fleetwood: 50
Days at sea: 31
Today would have been a fabulous experience had the weather been pleasant and the wind suitable for sailing. In the event we passed through some truly grand scenery with the wind in our faces, with intermittent rain and with mist obscuring the detail on the great peaks. Yet our passage was a useful one in terms of our overall aim to circumnavigate Great Britain; still unable to find refuge at Mallaig we are now well-placed to make for Tobermory in the morning whilst the weather holds. All being as intended we will be safely settled on a pontoon there by lunchtime, in good time for the weather which comes in later and will last for two or three days.
Rona was still charming in the flatness of this morning’s weather, if not as radiant as it was last evening at the golden sundown. We had to row ashore to pay so there was a chance to see our yachts from the land and to experience for a few moments standing upon this remote and beautiful land. The form was to place hard currency in a wooden box near the little landing pontoon. We took it in turns to go ashore because Mike’s dinghy is a small one. He carries it on Pagets Lady’s davits. My own dinghy is also small but because I don’t have davits, tire of the aggravation of unpacking it, pumping it up, deflating it, struggling to launch it and dragging it aboard again, attempting to roll it up when wet with seawater, unrolling it again because I can never get all the air out the first time and lashing it to the foredeck so that it will not be washed overboard in heavy weather … so I simply avoid using it if at all possible. Because of his davits Mike’s dinghy is always inflated and so is to hand in a few moments when needed. We both have small outboards for our dinghies; Mike’s wouldn’t start today and most probably mine wouldn’t if I could be bothered to try. Dinghies, their accoutrements and rituals are aspects of yachting I find terribly irksome.
It is never totally relaxing waiting around for an agreed departure time when one wants to get on one’s way. But on this particular leg we had to face a tidal gate – Kyle Rhea – a narrow channel joining Loch Alsh to the Sound of Sleat. The tidal streams here are such that passage against them, at the wrong time, is difficult or impossible so we worked out when we would be able to pass easily and safely. That meant at 1200 departure from Rona.
We picked our way between the southern tip of Rona and the northern one of Raasay then entered the Inner Sound between Skye and the mainland. The weather was not good. It was dull, grey and windy, and the wind was, of course, on the nose. Then it began to rain. The discomfort was tolerable because this was to be a relatively short leg and we would pass some points of interest in addition to the grand scenery which was everywhere. After a couple of hours we reached the Skye Bridge which joins the mainland to to Kyleakin on Skye. We noticed that it does not, in fact, do this in one span; a short bridge carries the road to an island called Eilean Bàn then the main span leaps from there to Skye. Once through we had a fine view of Kyleakin to starboard and of Kyle of Lochalsh – its railway terminus a tantalising glimpse at the pierhead – then we were in Loch Alsh itself. A few miles later we turned to starboard to enter Kyle Rhea.
All this would have been of mesmerising beauty in good weather but it was still a rewarding and enjoyable passage. We did gain the expected lift from the tide in the Rhea if not for very long, but the boost to 9 kts did help us on our way.
I tried again with Mallaig but was again refused. We pondered turning up and pretending that we had not called but agreed that the plan we had in place should work well. We continued on down the Sound of Sleat to Isle Ornsay where we picked up very well maintained mooring buoys off the sumptuous-looking Duisdale House hotel. The moorings are keenly priced, presumably in the hope that yachtsmen and women hungry and thirsty after a long passage might, thus encouraged, go ashore to lighten their wallets in the hotel’s bar and dining room. Mike and I moored up, had our simple suppers aboard then prepared for an early night as it will be a first-light start in the morning.
We have decided to leave early for Tobermory because the first part of the trip is several miles further down the the Sound of Sleat, past Mallaig then onto Ardnamuchan Point and as little wind is forecast we want to take this part of the leg with a favourable tide. We can catch most of the south-west-going tide by setting off at 0400. Interestingly, save for Day 1, tomorrow’s leg, which is that on Day 51, is the only other one for which we have chosen to make a pre-dawn start.
Ardnamurchan Point – familiar to anyone who hears the shipping forecast on Radio 4 – is the most westerly point of mainland Britain so, in passing it, we will have completed the set of four ‘most’ points. Today’s leg fell on Day 50 of our circumnavigation. In 50 days, within which we have completed 31 legs, we have covered 1,399 nautical miles, an average of 28 per day or 45 per leg. Our average speed is 5.8 kts. The disappointment is the proportion of our progress which has had to be under engine; almost exactly two-thirds of our time at sea has been under engine, either solely or whilst motor-sailing. I never expected this but have come to accept that if one is to complete long legs day after day, there is no alternative, especially so when the winds are light.