Tuesday, 31 July 2007

Polbream - Fathers and Sons

Half way through my week on Polbream in July I switched a crew of Ladies for 3 Fathers and 4 sons. The culture change was very noticable from me being mothered by four crew to me mothering 7 crew!

Dietmar with Lucas, Alan with David and Ian with Jon and Andy made up a very full crew for this last three days. It was a new challenge for me having a full boat with no other sailing experience on board. We had a great time learning the 'ropes' from basics. I think the lads were keen to get going with the sailing and would have liked to skip the briefings and instruction. However, once they'd had a bit of sea air the tiredness caught up with them and I think we got the right balance of sailing and snoozing.

The weather was very unsettled and mixed so we didn' get to Fowey along the coast. But we did have soke variety going up the Truro river to anchor and mooring in Mylor one night. We also sailed to the Helford river and experienced some poor visibility mixed with some Man Over Board drill on the way back. We nearly got the boat planing one day, but not quite!


Czar is a Contessa 32 and was skippered by Lois with Gordon as 1st mate, our daughter Esther and friend Mary as crew. After gaining her Day Skipper qualification Lois was very keen to charter a boat as skipper. After booking the boat she gradually got more and more doubtlful about the whole thing! However she did brilliantly and skippered for a whole week in what were very difficult and unsettled weather condidtions.

The original plan was for Lois to do some training just in case I got hit by the boom or fell over board so that she would know what to do. Skippering her own boat was way beyond the call of duty and we were all so impressed with her courage and skill.

She was blessed with a wonderful crew. Esther had recently completed a dinghy racing course and Mary was sailing for the very first time. Gordon was brilliant giving Lois confidence with his experience and familiarity with this kind of sailing.

Polbream Ladies

In July we concluded my Sabbatical with another week chartering Polbream from Cornish Cruising in Falmouth. The first helf of the week was billed as a 'ladies cruise' with Lois and myself and four other ladies. After inviting the others Lois decided to 'jump ship' and skipper her own boat (see "Czar"), so I had Chris, Chris, Sue and Kath all to myself. I think they all thought I was wasting away as I have never had so much concern expressed for my need to eat!

We had a great time exploring the Fal, Truro and Helford
rivers. On Saturday we got away from Falmouth Marina and headed up to the Pontoon at Tregothnan. On Sunday we headed out to sea for a few hours. There was quite a 'lumpy' sea with swells coming from various directions at once - typical of the Western Approaches and very different from the flat seas of Scotland and Turkey!

Over the hext souple of days the ladies enjoyed a range of wind strengths and sea states and coped with it all admirably. We had another night on the pontoon at Turnaware and also a night in the Falmouth Yacht Havern where we went ashore for showers and an excellent meal.

Kath and Sue really enjoyed coming back for a second trip. Sue was thrilled to get away without any seasickness this time, inspite of the windy and roiugh conditions. Kath revelled in the coastal sailing when we gave sailed to Gull Rock and back. Chris and Chris thoroughly enjoyed their first go at sailing.

Wednesday, 18 July 2007

Scotland - Caitlin & Talisker

After saying farewell to our "Pipedreamer" crew on Saturday morning (7th July) we had time for a quick cappuccino outside the village store before the advance guard for the next crews arrived. Frank & Terry Page had kindly offered to do a mega shop at Oban for us so we were very pleased to see them.

Meanwhile we transfered our gear onto Caitlin, a Beneteau Oceanis 411. Mike and Elsie Lyth arrived from Carlisle in the afternoon. We had worked on OM with Mike and Elsie in the '70's and Mike is team leader of the OM International Co-ordinating team. We were thrilled they could join us and renew friendship.

The rest our our crew and the crew for Talisker eventually arrived by minibus from Glasgow airport. Jim McGibbon and Baastian van Griensven completed the eight for Caitlin. Mike Salisbury, Richard Hovey, Mary Heathcote, Gay Maxwell and Peter Jolly were assigned to Talisker, a Dufour 385. Mike had sailed with me on Kerenza last year and to Brittany and Guernsey on Wild Betony in April this year. It was great to have him take on skippering a second boat, our first attenpt at running two boats together.

We decided not to sail on Saturday evening, giving time for folk to settle into the boats. On Sunday after briefings, we headed out into the loch for an introduction to sailing for the uninitiated and a chance to see how the boats worked.

Then we set off around Shuna and Luing and up to the Firth of Lorn. We decided to head for Loch Spelve again as it was such a success the previous week. We had a weird experience crossing the Firth when the echo sound recorded minimal depths, even zero where the charts showed at least 90 metres of water. We could only comclude that a submarine was lurking beneath us!

On our boat we had keen bird watchers Frank and Terry giving a running commentary on the bird life around us. Mary on Talisker is a regular visitor to Mull and could tell us exactly what birds and animals to expect at every turn.

In addition to this being the first outing with two boats it was also the first time we have had eight people on one boat, six being the maximum previously. Caitlin has eight berths without having to use the saloon, having said that Jim and Baastian had to shrink to fit into their bunks! Overall I was pleasantly surprised at how well it worked. The trick seems to be 'divided and conquer' as in large families. When there are different activities such as sailing, navigating, sleeping, reading and birdwatching people seem to find their own space and the boat doesn't feel too crowded.

We sailed from Loch Spelve to Tobermory again on the Monday, the Sound of Mull presenting some great sailing and wonderful scenery again.

Tobermory was very busy when we arrived there and we didn't think we would get a mooring but the harbourmaster kindly let us raft up on the outside of the fuel pontoon for the night which was great as the shopping and showers brigade could tumble ashore with glee.
It was a beautiful evening when the effects of a late summer sunset in the north was put to good effect in the colourful setting of Tobermory Harbour. We were able to have our dinner in the cockpits almost Mediterranean style.

Sailing from Tobermory the next morning we headed north around the top of Mull and set course for Coll. After motoring on Caitlin into a head wind we then had a terrific sail. Talisker chose to tack out of the Sound of Mull, geting caught in some rain but finally broke free into fine weather joining us in Aringour harbour.

The plan was for a walk across the island to some sandy beaches on the north side. Only three of the party made it the whole way and reported on wonderful sands. The rest either enjoyed exploring Aringour or stayed on baord reading. In the evening we all met up at the Hotel for a terrific meal in a very friendly establishment.
On the next day we set sail for the Treshnish Islands. We were very fortunate having ideal weather and sea conditions for visit to these amazing islands two weeks running. Everyone was very excited at the prospest of walk amongst the puffins.

After arriving at the anchorage Lois informed Talisker on the ship's vhf that we would have lunch on board and wait 'til the 'grockles' had all left the island before going ashore. She forgotn that on marine vhf every vessel from Cape Wrath to Malin Head can listen in on your conversation - including the 'grockle' boat 50 metres away! When we got back to the marina at the end of the week people from other boats keptr commenting on the ' authoritative sounding lady on Caitlin'!

As predicted, everyone was totally amazed at the Treshnish experience. The guillemots put on another deafening display of community screeching and the puffins strutted their stuff posing for photos and demonstrating their unique version of flying.

We eventually tore ourselves away from this little paradise and headed for our next stop, Fingal's Cave on Staffa. On the way we encountered a trawler doing what trawlers do. The previous week it was very late and dull when we got to Staffa. This week we had glorious evening sunlight and got some great photos.

We stopped overnight in our usual anchorage at Bunessan, sailing again in the morning through the Sound of Iona. This time the weather was very dull, even threatening to be foggy. The tide was low so we had to engotiate the Sound carefully. Thanksfully the mist cleared as we came out into the Firth of Lorne as there are a maze of rocks defending the southern end of the Sound.

We then had a very pleasant and 'sunny' sail across the Firth, I even managed to get a couple of hours kip down below. Then we had to wend our way around the Garvellachs and into the Sound of Luing with some very challenging tides pushing us this way and that (or was it Frank's steering Terry wondered?!).

We eventually reached the quiet waters of Loch Craignish and anchored for the night in the 'Lagoon'. We were joined later in the evening by 'Seventh Wave', our friend Andrew's training yacht. The next morning we saw him teaching a bunch of inner city Doncaster youngsters to rig the sails.

On our final day we decided to invade an island. Our friends Chris and Mary Jenkin (see Pipedreamer) had invited us to visit their family island Eilean Macaskin in Loch Craignish, just opposite Crinan. So we anchored off Goat Ilsnad and went ashore prepared for a one and a half mile walk to their cabin at the other end. It was pretty rough terrain and eventually some of our crew were rescued by thier 80 year old motor launch! We had a great time with Lucy and her children and friends. It was like stepping into an 'Arthur Ransome / Enid Blyton world and a great conclusion to our cruise.

Friday night found us back in Craobh Haven enjoying a celebratory meal at the Lord of the Isles pub. Everyone agreed we had had a very successful week exploring the Inner Hebrides again.

Tuesday, 17 July 2007

Scotland - "Pipedreamer Six"

Here we are again - sorry for the long gap between posts, we have been north of the border and north of the bad weather by all accounts!

We departed for Scotland on Thursday, 28th June, stopping overnight in Orton , near Kendal, with Chris and Mary Jenkin. Chris was vicar of St. John's Newport when we lived on the Isle of Wight. They encouraged us to visit their family island, Macaskin, when sailing in the vicinity of Crinan.

On Friday we travelled on via Glasgow and Loch Lomond to Craobh Haven where there is a marina set in a semi natural harbour between Crinan and Oban. We met up with Andrew Thompson who operates "Seventh Wave", a Halberg Rassy 49, as a Christian charity sailing venture http://www.questforlife.co.uk/. It was good to learn from Andrew's 20 years experience sailing on the west coast of Scotland. We stayed overnight on board sampling the luxury of his terrific yacht.

For our first week chartering on the west coast of Scotland Lois and I were were joined by Chris and Sue Barnes and Rick and Marian Evans. We chartered "Pipedreamer Six", a Dufour 40, from Portway Scotland http://www.portwayyachtcharters.com/, based in Craobh Haven about 20 miles south of Oban.

Our crew were delayed by 24 hours due to the terrorist attack on Glasgow airport. Whilst it was frustrating for them to have to wait in a hotel until the Sunday morning it was a blessing that they were safe as they were only metres away from the incident when it happened.

Once they were safely on board we set sail immediately for Loch Spelve, a very beautiful, secluded anchorage on the island of Mull.

Although it was cloudy, the changing light and mysterious shades as the clouds moved around the mountains all added to a very beautiful spot. The entrance to Loch Spelve is also fascinating as it is narrow and unexpected as you sail along the coast of Mull.

On Monday we contiued our journey from the Firth of Lorne into the Sound of Mull, passing Duart Castle, the home of clan Maclean. The Sound of Mull stretches for some 25 miles between the mainland and the northeast side of the island. It is wide enough for some really good sailing whilst you are surrounded by mountains and beautiful scenery. Some people saw more of the scenery than others!

We spent the next night at Tobermory which is a delightful port where shopping and showers are the main attractions as well as the picturesque setting and visiting dolphins.

We sailed from Tobermory on Tuesday morning and headed north around the Ardnamurchan penninsular to the small isles (Rum, Eigg and Muck). The further north we went the better the weather. We could see fine weather ahead over Skye and out towards the Outer Hebrides and as we looked back the clouds looked very threatening over Mull.

We arrived at Port Mor, on the south side of Muck. I wasn't sure about anchoring there overnight but the girls were keen to get ashore for a walk. So we came up with a great compromise. I ran Lois, Marian and Sue ashore in the the dinghy and left them to walk across the island whilst Chris, Rick and I sailed around the east side to an anchorage on the north shore.

Just before negotiating the rocks to enter the enchorage we spotted a basking shark, and then another so we circled around photographing them. We knew the girls would be upset to have missed this! However they had great fun on their walk and came back on board with lots of stories of their adventure.

The anchorage north of Muck was really special, with wonderful views of Eigg and Rum and we were watched over by the local seals patrolling the bay.

As we sailed away
around the west side of the island, completing our circumnavigation of Muck, we met up with our basking friends again, this time three of them, much to the delight of Lois, Marian and Sue.

We eventually tore ourselves away as we had a lot of sailing ahead of us. Next stop the Treshnish Islands, between Mull and Staffa. The big attraction here, we had been told, was that you could walk amongst the puffins. We were not even sure it would be possible to land as the islands are very exposed to the sea and the approach to the anchorage is very complicated involving picking ones way through lots of rocks with no navigational aids like buoys etc.

Lois did an excellent job piloting us in and we anchored in a little bay by Lunga, the largest island. There was one tourist launch waiting to pick up their charges so we had some lunch at anchor so that we could have the island to ourselves (along with thousands of birds).

The experience of walking on Lunga was way beyond our expectations and not to be missed if you ever go to Mull. Within minutes of climbing from the beach we were surrounded by puffins, razorbills, guillemots and shags. Not to mention Fulmar, Shearwaters and lots of other birds. The puffins are amazing, strutting about and posing for photographs. They are most amusing when flying around and negotiating the flight path back into their borrowed burrows in the grass. Meanwhile rabbits watch bemused wondering how they lost tenure of the holes they had taken the trouble to dig.

A short walk with glorious views brings you to a massive outcrop covered in sea birds. The Guillemots seemed to be the noisiest. However one had the impression that as soon as we dispappeared one of them would tell the rest to shut up as the show was over for the day "let's have some peace and quiet around here!"

After the Treshnish Isles we continued on to Staffa where we saw the famous Fingal's Cave, although the sky was rather dark so it all looked rather mysterious.

That evening we anchored at Bunessan in Loch na Lathaich on Mull 5 miles east of Iona. We decided that we would have a 'non-sailing' day on Thursday and walk to Fionphort and get the ferry to Iona. The weather didn't favour anchoring in the Sound of Iona which is subject to strong tides and exposed to the wind.

We had a great walk, though longer than we imagined so we appreciate the pub stop before the ferry. It was great having plenty of time to explore Iona, the village, museum, beaches and the Abbey. Lois and I enjoyed visiting the same beach we had been to on our honeymoon 26 years ago. We left the Abbey until last which meant that most of the tourists had gone and we could enjoy the peaceful atmosphere with the sound of the Iona community practising their songs for an evening service wafting through the cloisters.

Returning to Mull on the Ferry we didn't relish the 5 mile hike back to the boat so Lois and Sue ran up the slipway at Fionphort to hijack a tourist bus which kindly dropped us neatly outside the Argyll Arms in Bunessan. After an excellent meal we walked along the shores of the Loch to the fishing pier where our dinghy awaited our return to the yacht.

On Friday we had an early start for the long sail back to Craobh. The voyage started as we went through the Sound of Iona with great views of the Abbey as we sailed past. Then we had to negotiate the Torran Rocks followed by a long sail across the Firth of Lorn. We considered the possibility of heading for the gulf of Coryvreckan, then chickened out as it is renowned for tortuous tide rips and whirlpools. The longer route took us up to the northern end of the Garvellochs and then back down the Sound of Luing to Craobh Haven.

Although we were a day late starting out we managed to pack a lot in to our week exploring the Inner Hebrides. The overall impression was that this is a terrific area to cruise and explore with all sorts of possibilities for the future. Pipedreamer is an excellent charter yacht and we had great fun with a terrifc crew .