For the April 08 cruise, Penguin departed from the two-week format of recent Easter cruises and chartered three yachts for the single week of 12 to 19 April. The yachts, listed with their crews in Table 1, were chartered from Alba Sailing in Dunstaffnage Marina, near Oban. The Commodore Afloat was Richard Gatley who hoisted his pennant on ‘Rosally of Clyde’.
Table 1: Yachts and crews
It was a week of N to NE winds at the start, veering to SE later in the week. Wind strengths were in the range 4 to 6 and up to 7 towards the end of the week. It was mostly dry and sunny but with a few heavy showers. Atmospheric pressure rose during the week. Seas were slight to moderate. Tides were neaps as we started the week, leading to lower tidal ranges and streams through the week.
The itinerary, summarised in the figure and Table 2, took the fleet around Jura and Mull with excursions to Gigha and Islay and enabled it to exploit the tidal streams to advantage through the Cuan Sound, the Sound of Islay, the Sound of Iona and the Sound of Mull.
Table 2: Summary of itinerary
Saturday 12 April: Chance encounters among Penguins in Tesco in Oban. Naisso supplemented her victualling with an assortment of fresh fish purchased from the fish market. All crews assembled in Dunstaffnage, with several ferry trips courtesy of Trevor, and were on board by about 14:00 for the charterer’s briefing and departure by 15:30. Sailed south to anchor in Puilladobhrain in Seil Island, arriving at 18:00. A calm anchorage. A vigorous debate ensued on board Naisso about the feasibility of reaching the pub on Seil Island. Instead, passage planning occupied the crew and Simon and Ian joined Richard and Julie Ward in visiting Rusty Nail to debate the tidal gate for the passage through the Cuan Sound. Evidence of some disparity between the sources of information; decided to accept the timings given in the pilot which is based upon high water at Oban. David’s fish stew for dinner on board Naisso.
Sunday 13 April: A north wind but calm seas as we motored out of Puilladobhrain and sailed south to the western approach to Cuan Sound. Motored through the Sound, discovering that we were at about slack water as the tide stream changed from west-going to east-going, proving the estimates arrived at in Puilladobhrain. A fast run through Seil Sound, passing east of Shuna with the sails goose-winged on Naisso. Making good distance so pressed south through the Sound of Jura and onto Gigha, anchoring in East Tarbert Bay which offers little shelter. Naisso set the kedge anchor from the bow.
Monday 14 April: Passage to Islay. After debate among the crews, decided to motor north and round the north end of Gigha in preference to the southward passage between Gigha and Kintyre. The passage to Islay crossed the direction of the tide stream. Arrived Port Ellen at 14:00 after departing East Tarbert Bay at 9:00. Tied up alongside new pontoons in Port Ellen after careful pilotage past, and close to, the ferry terminal. The yachts watered, took on some provisions, all conveniently available. Simon departed Naisso on an undisclosed mission across Islay and was later retrieved by a shore party after the fleet had anchored near Port Ellen, in Ardilistry Bay. The entry into the anchorage requires careful pilotage between rocks. The anchorage is shallow and there is little room for three yachts to swing. Naisso set her anchor with 10m of chain in calm conditions.
Tuesday 15 April: The night did not remain calm. The Naisso crew was on deck at 03:00, alerted by the skipper who sensed the dragging of the anchor during a NW gust. Re-positioned Naisso and re-set the anchor with 20m of chain. A round of hot chocolate to calm nerves and Brian continued on anchor watch and was found at breakfast time fully attired for deckwork but comatose on the cabin cushions. Sailed to the southern approach of the Sound of Islay then motored through the Sound against a north wind but with the tide. Continued motoring into Loch Tarbert on the west coast of Jura, a Penguin anchorage used just last year. The fleet entered in convoy, Naisso leading. Naisso encountered difficulty in identifying the first set of leading marks – through the outer loch - which seemed to have become rather less visible than they had been last year. The fleet anchored in Cairidh Mhor on the south side of the loch in shallow water, initially for a late lunch but then for the overnight anchorage. Shore parties from all the yachts with Miles and Ian retrieving Simon after a secret mission into the wilds of Jura. The construction of ponds where a burn entered the loch attracted interest. This is a very remote anchorage on the remote side of a remote island. The radio was restored to life after the discovery that the power cable had detached during the grounding. Some skilful probing by David and Brian. At supper, Miles addressed Naisso’s haggis – reciting all the verses in Burn’s ‘To a Haggis’ - which was followed by Simon’s Atholl brose.
Wednesday 16 April: With the wind from the east, the fleet was able to sail north to the Ross of Mull, passing the northern end of Colonsay. Careful pilotage in Tinker’s Hole, another favoured Penguin anchorage, dropping anchor at 13:30. Naisso laid the kedge anchor from the dinghy to reduce the swing in this restricted anchorage which was already occupied by another yacht. Miles ferried Simon ashore.
Thursday 17 April: A needless overnight alarm over a dragging anchor after ominous noises from the chain locker. Probably our best day’s sailing followed. The fleet motored from Tinker’s Hole around into the Sound of Iona then sailed north through the Sound under the genoa, taking the east side close to the entrance to Bull Hole then turning across the Sound to the west and heading north. This route was adopted in preference to the route close into the west side – the Iona side – of the Sound. The appearance of the Sound belies its shallow depths. Naisso headed to Staffa which it passed to the east, heading for a lunchtime anchorage on the north side of Gometra and treated to fine views taking in the Paps of Jura, Coll and Tiree, the Small Isles and the Sky Cuillin, with snow still down to about 3,000 ft. Naisso failed to secure an anchorage in Acarseid Mor on Gometra despite several attempts possibly because of the difficulty of avoiding the kelp which lies across the sandy sea bed in this anchorage, a difficulty exacerbated by a strong north wind. Naisso continued under sail around the north end of Mull and into the Sound of Mull, tacking against a freshening northeast wind until rounding Ardmore Point. Rejoined the fleet at visitor moorings in Tobermory, close to the new pontoons on the south side of the harbour. Miles, Simon and Ian joined the Rosally crew in the Mishnish Hotel.
Friday 18 April: Naisso replenished her water tank from the reserve and found Rosally of Clyde and Rusty Nail had already departed. Motored into the Sound of Mull, turned south and continued motoring against a brisk south east wind but with the tide, once again. Continued motoring to meet an early rendezvous with Alba Sailing in Dunstaffnage for an inspection of hull and keel. The passage took Naisso close to Duart Castle and south of the Lismore light although Rosally of Clyde and Rusty Nail seemed to take the passage between the Lismore light and the beacon. Alba’s inspection comprised the internal inspection of the keel bolts and of the keel/hull join by an underwater camera. Visual evidence of movement, seen through the camera, decided the need for an inspection out of the water which followed later. The evidence of movement was confirmed by the cracking of the anti-fouling but no more significant damage was seen. Naisso needed no repair. Scrub out, showers and a convivial evening in the marina bar with the other crews followed.
Saturday 19 April: Crews departed Dunstaffnage early
after a final night aboard.
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