Miles logged: 24
Total miles logged: 1,474
Days since leaving Fleetwood: 54
Days at sea: 33
We spent a rest day and a weather day at Loch Aline and until today expected to spend a second weather day there too. The forecast was for strong winds and rough seas, yet we woke to sunshine and almost complete calm. The morning brought the odd shower and some spells of wind, but the overall picture was of reasonable conditions for us to move on, and to do so sailing. Other yachts came and went and we could see others sailing in the Sound of Mull beyond the entrance to the Loch.
Knowing that we would have to anchor at least two, possibly three nights in succession in the coming legs, and needing to top up with diesel (not easily available at Loch Aline) we wanted to move on to a fully-equipped marina and chose Craobh Haven (pronounced ‘Croove’), just 24 miles distant. We had been refused berths at the last two marinas we had contacted so we called Craobh in some trepidation. Happily, two adjacent berths were available but they could not be booked for tomorrow, only for today. We peered outside, then at each other, and decided to go. As I lay my phone down rain began to hammer on the coach-roof.
It was only a shower. We left at 1500 in more settled conditions with a little sunshine. Out in the Sound the conditions were ideal for sailing on a reach. We were making in excess of six knots and had marvellous scenery to enjoy. On the opposite shore a three-masted barquentine, the Dutch sailing ship Thalassa, slipped majestically by.
Our course had been planned to make the most of the tide as we passed south-east down the Sound of Mull then into the much wider Firth of Lorn. In the shadow of Mull the wind fell back and I began to wonder if we might have to motor, but as we moved further into the Firth it returned with a vengeance. Bubble was slightly reefed yet was soon going like a train, heeled well over and powering excitedly through the choppy waters. There are several large rocky islets in the Firth so a sharp lookout was essential and there were quite a few other yachts, and some ferries around too. The wind increased and the sea became rougher as we crossed; it was hard work controlling Bubble in these conditions but exhilarating too. Then the rain returned; in well over 20 kts of wind it was like having tacks fired in one’s face. I was glad that the leg was a short one and that I’d have to endure all this for only a short time. If it had been the start of a long passage I’d have turned back for fear of quickly becoming exhausted, and the yacht overpowered. Past Easdale we turned downwind and at once things became more settled.
There is a narrow channel between the small island of Easdale and the much larger one of Seil. The course generated automatically by our plotters took us through there. It looked very, very narrow and shallow too, so it was an easy decision to pass to the south of Easdale en-route for the notorious Cuan Sound. I had checked the tidal stream atlas several times and was certain that we would arrive with the tide carrying us through this narrow, curving channel. Get it wrong and you go backwards, even under full engine power. As we approached the waters were considerably calmer than they were out in the choppy Firth of Lorn and that was a great relief. Yet closer in the sea became very turbulent and the speed over ground began to rise … very quickly. At the narrowest point Bubble set a new speed record – twelve knots over the ground – which she sustained for several minutes. Then we turned to port into Seil Sound and things became calmer again.
Just three or four miles remained to Craobh. It seemed likely that we would enter the marina in moderate conditions but closer in the wind was still strong and I was anxious about finding the berth that had been allocated and manoeuvring Bubble safely onto it. It wasn’t a textbook landing and it was extremely difficult in the conditions, but at last Bubble was on her berth and I was able to help Mike onto his. He had no chance of a first-time successful berthing due to the strong wind blowing him off his finger pontoon and some confusion about which side he would need to berth. He did the sensible and only thing he could do which was to allow Pagets Lady, to settle gently onto Bubble, then we both hauled her onto her finger with warps.
Craobh Haven Marina is very large and seems well equipped. The berthing master is exceptionally welcoming and helpful. There is a well-stocked chandlery and diesel is readily available at a fuel berth, but the berthing master invited us to take our empty cans to his office to be filled by him, which is far more convenient.
The plan now is to head south, to an anchorage at the island of Gigha, taking advantage of the westerly wind forecast for Monday. The weather quietens down after Monday which will help us when passing the Mull of Kintyre, another notorious headland which requires very careful timing.
We will watch the weather carefully and make a ‘go’ or ‘stay’ decision after lunch on Monday, given that an early-afternoon departure is best to ensure favourable tides to Gigha. It is touch-and-go at the moment; it is cold, windy, rain seems never far away and our berths here at Craobh are safe and comfortable.
There is a short video of the passage through Cuan Sound here.