Miles logged: 61
Total miles logged: 1,566
Days since leaving Fleetwood: 56
Days at sea: 35
It was no hardship to rise early for an 0500 departure from Gigha after a night of calm and total silence at anchor there. The weather was fine with just a light breeze. This had been an ideal place to stop; we were alone at the anchorage and the holding was good. We felt well rested ready for the passage past the feared Mull of Kintyre.
We had to be careful leaving Druimyeon Bay because there are many submerged rocks, but they were marked on Bubble’s chart plotter, though not on the chart on my iPad. We slipped into the Sound of Gigha from where we were soon able to see into Ardminish Bay, the ‘usual’ anchorage on Gigha. I didn’t count but I’d guess that there must have been at least twenty yachts at anchor or on the pontoon there. Our decision to choose Druimyeon Bay had been a good one.
I was pleased to see a couple of other yachts heading towards the Mull of Kintyre. We all have the same pilot books and almanac so everyone will do similar tidal calculations; that other helms had made the same decision as ours afforded some comfort. This was my first time round the Mull and I was anxious to ensure that we would pass it safely.
It occurred to me that once past the shelter of Islay we would be fully exposed to the Atlantic swell. For so much of our passage down the west coast of Scotland we have had protection from one or more islands. We did indeed notice swell building as we neared the Mull. There was not much wind, though it did build as we closed on the Mull to around 12 kts. The waves didn’t break, but the swell became quite heavy and I noticed that Pagets Lady’s hull disappeared completely from time to time. We sped up too; we had the tide with us from early on but it soon reached 8, then 9 kts. At the lighthouse, which is almost at the end of the Mull of Kintyre, we were making 10 kts over the ground and that held for several minutes. We were thrown around a little but were never out of control nor were we particularly uncomfortable. I noticed that close to the rocks and slightly east of the Mull the sea was far more turbulent than it was for our passage due south.
We continued to enjoy a substantial lift from the tide for several miles past the Mull and it was still very early, so it was no surprise when Mike called me to suggest a change of plan. We had intended to round the Mull then head for an anchorage on the isle of Sanda, a small island just south-east of the Mull. From there we would have made for Loch Ryan. We knew that Loch Ryan was not particularly attractive as a cruising area but there is a small marina at Stranraer which could have been useful should the weather change. Mike suggested that we make for Stranraer, rather than Sanda, given that as things appeared at present we would have fair tide for most or all of the way. This seemed like an excellent idea. I considered it for a few minutes then suggested that we make instead for Portpatrick. We had both been to Portpatrick before as it is the usual stop-over when on passage from our home port of Fleetwood to Northern Ireland or Scotland. By choosing Portpatrick we would save a day or two for our return to Fleetwood and with the weather as it was I was keen to get back without unnecessary delay.
So we made a course change for Portpatrick. It was likely that we would have fair tide for most of the way but given the distance we expected the tide to turn against us for the last few miles. I did turn, but with greater force than we hoped so the last few miles were quite an effort, with our ground speed struggling to exceed 4 kts, even under full power.
The entrance to Portpatrick is notoriously narrow and rocky and a sharp turn to port is required once through the first rocky entrance. The are no pontoons so berthing is against a very high and very rough wall. Some attempts have been made in recent years to make life easier for yachts attempting to berth safely but the original iron ladders remain, and these protrude some distance from the wall, making fendering very tricky.
Mike and I had agreed that Bubble would raft to Pagets Lady, as is our usual practice, so that we would not be blocked in should other yachts enter and ask to raft to one of us. Mike had difficulty getting Pagets Lady to lie comfortably against the wall and he spent some time adjusting his lines. We both had another go after supper. Shelter is good, though, at least in the settled conditions we expected for the night.
Since my previous visit the harbour authority has installed a 16A electricity supply for visiting yachts – a most welcome addition to the rather limited facilities at Portpatrick. The harbourmaster is clearly very proud of ‘the electric’; when I called up to request two berths his response consisted entirely of fussing about ‘the electric’. When he came to collect our dues his conversation, which was far from reticent, was entirely about ‘the electric’. We didn’t particularly need ‘the electric’ for a one-night stay, with our batteries fully charged our hot-water tanks piping after a long leg under engine, but I felt that we should try to appear grateful so we dutifully hooked up. We spent a peaceful night at Portpatrick; we were connected to ‘the electric’ and all was well with the world.
There is some video footage of our passage past the Mull of Kintyre here.