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Easter 2018 Cruise to Skye and the Outer Hebrides

The 2018 Easter Cruise took place from 7th – 14th April, with 28 crew manning 4 boats from Isle of Skye Yachts: Explorer of Sleat and Sleat Odyssey, Jeanneau SO439 s, Ab Fab a Jeanneau  SO 42i and Finn a Bavaria 36.  There were two new Penguin skippers, father and daughter Mark and Wallis James.  Although only 19, Wallis is a Commercially Endorsed Yachtmaster, having spent her gap year as watch leader on a 75 ft ketch and is a very accomplished sailor.  We also had three sponsored/subsidised young crew and seven new members sailing.

As is tradition, 20 of the crew met for a pre-cruise dinner on Friday evening at the Four Seasons, Inchree, just South of Fort William, before completing the journey to Armadale the following morning, picking up supplies at Fort William on the way.

For most of the week the Inshore Forecast was for East or North East winds around 4-5 occasionally 6.  Although we did experience the predicted wind for some of the time, there were periods when the wind didn’t materialise and motor sailing was the order of the day.  Given the winds the Cruise plan was a basic anti-clockwise circumnavigation of Skye, taking in some of the Outer Hebrides.  Sunday morning saw an early start from the Saturday night mooring at Isle Ornsay to catch the first of the North-going tide through Kyle Rhea.  The combination of a shower and early morning sun reflecting off the water produced a rare form of double rainbow, which was captured in Eddie Jackson’s video of the passage.   The fair tide carried us through the narrows and onto the Crowlin Islands for a lunch stop.  We then continued to the spectacular anchorage of Acaseid Mhor, Rona for the night.  

The following day we sailed North to the Shiant Islands for lunch where we saw many sea birds and a pair of Golden Eagles.  We then pressed onto North Harbour, Scalpay, just off Harris after some detailed calculations to assure us that we could pass under the road bridge to the Island.  Despite these, it always looks as if you’re not going to squeeze under and there was much holding of breath as we approached.  We berthed on the new pontoons at North Harbour to be greeted by the Marina Host, Fred Taylor, who informed us that we were the first yachts to use the facility, an event again captured on video by Eddie.  

This mirrored an earlier Penguin cruise, where we were the first boats to use the newly laid mooring at Canna Harbour. 

Next day was a brisk sail South to Flodday Sound, Benbecula and the Poll nan Gall anchorage.  Although a beautiful, remote anchorage, the 5-6 NE wind meant it was difficult for all 4 boats to anchor.  Finn did manage to find a sheltered spot and elected to stay there for the night.  The other three decided to head back North into the wind and waves to spend the night on the pontoons at L Maddy.  However, Finn’s decision to stay was rewarded by sightings of sea otters, eagles and a phosphorescent display on the water.

We took the opportunity of benign conditions on Wednesday to cross The Minch back to Skye and spent the night moored/anchored at L. Harport, where some of the crew took the opportunity of a guided tour of the Talisker distillery.  A wrongly calibrated depth sounder led to one of the boats at anchor to ground  on the shoal off the distillery.  She refloated just before 02:00 Thursday morning, with no apparent damage, which was confirmed by an inspection back at Isle of Skye Yacht’s base.  Two of the yachts proceeded with the cruise and had a great sail across to Canna on a glorious spring day; the other two went back to base for the inspection.

The final evening was spent at Mallaig, where all the crews assembled in the Clachain Inn for a delicious end of cruise dinner.  Overall it had been an enjoyable cruise with around 250 nm sailed and the Scottish weather was reasonably kind to us.  A video blog of the cruise shot by one of our younger crew, Jess Scott is available.


John Marriott

Cruise Commodore