Miles logged: 16
Total miles logged: 1,582
Days since leaving Fleetwood: 57
Days at sea: 36
Today’s leg, our third-last, was the shortest of the entire trip. Once again a tidal gate provides the explanation. Sailing south from Portpatrick, one must pass the Mull of Galloway. Very strong tidal streams form around here and there are overfalls which can make the sea very choppy or even dangerous. Despite the quiet weather today we chose to respect the Mull and agreed that we should pass it at the right time, that is when the stream is beginning to run eastwards. The snag is that to reach the Mull at the right time one must leave Portpatrick, heading south, whilst the north-going ebb from the entire Irish Sea is passing by at speed. Fortunately there is a well-known counter-current which runs southwards close inshore between Portpatrick and the Mull around two hours before the flood tide in the North Channel turns south. Yachts such as ours need around two hours to make the passage to the Mull so by leaving Portpatrick to head south two hours before low water, a favourable tide can be enjoyed down to the Mull by which time the streams there are running eastwards, the direction in which we need to sail. In today’s conditions much of this might well be disregarded but in worse weather ensuring that such matters are properly taken into account can make the difference between a difficult and uncomfortable passage and a relatively smooth one.
We are on spring tides at the moment and this made me anxious about the depth in the narrow, rocky channel at Portpatrick at two hours before low water, so we left at three hours before, hoping to enjoy some lift from the inshore tidal stream later in our passage south. We knew too that in such light winds we were unlikely to face a dangerous situation when rounding the Mull.
The passage southwards needs to be taken very close in indeed in order to pick up the south-going current. This meant that in today’s fine, sunny conditions we had a wonderful opportunity to study the cliffs of the Rhins of Galloway in detail. I have done this route before but in poor weather, so have never really appreciated the beauty of this rather neglected piece of Scottish coastline. There were some magnificent rock formations, quiet bays and caves and towering cliffs.
The Mull presented no problems at all. We had timed the our arrival well and there was insufficient wind to raise a big sea. I have had considerable difficulty passing the Mull of Galloway in the past, both north and south-bound, but today’s passage was straightforward, enjoyable and relaxing.
At the extremity of the Mull we turned hard to port, back on ourselves, in order to pass into East Tarbet Bay, a quiet bay with a sandy beach which is popular with visitors, especially those with motor-homes. They come for its tranquility and, perhaps, because it is the most southerly bay in Scotland. It is well sheltered by the Mull from winds other than those from the east, so with today’s light south-westerly the bay was calm and we anchored for supper in the expectation of a peaceful night.
Tomorrow the wind is expected to be good for a sail to Whitehaven, our penultimate stop. At the moment it seems likely that we will need to spend a weather day in Whitehaven on Friday before completing our circumnavigation at Fleetwood on Saturday.
Video: diving guillemots off the Mull of Galloway.