After a quiet week in Oban with Mhairi, Emma and Lise it was time for our resident sailor Rus to join us, with his girlfriend Alimay. This was also set to be the point where I took over as skipper, taking on the responsibilities of getting us from A to B without incident!
We left Oban around 11am in light airs - good conditions for me to do my first departure of the holiday. We had previously moored "nose first" on the end of a hammerhead pontoon in towards the marina, where it gets a wee bit shallow. There was a big powerboat behind us and a gentle breeze was blowing over our beam, pushing us slightly against the pontoon. After a bit of head scratching I decided that we'd be best using a bow spring to bring our stern out past the motorboat before reversing out. Its a fairly basic manouvre but not one I've had a great deal of experience helming. It all went reasonably smoothly, but there came a bit of a scary moment when we came pretty close to the motorboat! Thankfully, I knew not to panic and, instead, put on more power! It seems a little counter intuitive, but if I hadn't then the wind would have pushed us down onto the motorboat.
We arrived in Lochaline around 4pm after good sail up the Sound of Mull. Its a really shallow entrance to Lochaline and we were unfortunate enough to be attempting it at low water. The choice as skipper was to take our chances and attempt and entry or to either go somewhere else or spend a few hours hanging about waiting for the tide to turn. We had been into Lochaline just two weeks before so I had a fresh idea of where the deepest part of the channel and so decided to go for it. We inched our way in and managed to keep in just under 2m of water. Our draw 1.8m ... so there was only 20cm to spare - which isn't much when you think about an uncharted decent sized rock on the seabed!
After spending the night in Lochaline we had a leisurely morning and left around 11am for Loch Drambuie at the mouth of Loch Sunart. We arrived at about 2pm to an empty anchorage and so settled ourselves in for a peaceful afternoon and evening.
After a good nights sleep in Loch Drambuie, we were up fairly early on our way to Bunessan by 10am the next morning. Bunessan is a small village on the Ross of Mull that's fairly well protected from the south. Unfortunately, the wind was promising to come more from the North, so it made sense to avoid our usual anchorage and instead venture into the smaller "main" buoyed area. It gets pretty shallow in there and it took us a while to find a decent spot. However, we put the anchor down and laid out a anchor buoy so that anyone else entering the bay would be able to see where we had laid our chain. It also served as a useful way for to judge our swing with all the other nearby boats.
We left Bunessan the next morning in a good wind and sailed through the Sound of Iona. The sound gets quite tight in some places, particularly for bigger boats. For that reason, my original plan was to motor down it; however, as we approached the north entrance of the sound, the wind backed letting us sail down the sound on a gentle broad reach. It was a beautiful sunny day to boot!
As we approach lunchtime, it was time to decide on an anchorage for the day. I did have a fleeting thought of anchoring off Iona for lunch, but the anchorage is small, busy, doesn't have great holding, and is notorious for having a number of underwater cables that are just too easy to accidentally get your anchor fouled on! Instead, we popped into Tinkers Hole, but as usual, there were already some other boats in there. Instead, it was off to our secret little "rock pool" at Rubh Ardanish. As usual, it was empty, so we helped ourselves to the best spot. We arrived just after lunch and it was a gorgeous day so it would seem rude for Jen and I not to take the opportunity to do a bit of snorkling! Even the girls per persuaded to jump in for a bit a swim!
After a hearty meal and another sound nights sleep, it was time to start heading back to Oban. Unfortunately, the Clyde Cruising Club were enjoying their Centenary Cruise and Oban was packed full of their 500 members enjoying their final dinner to celebrate the end of the cruise! So, instead, we changed our plans and headed for Craobth, another marina a bit further south than Oban. While the crew explored the local village, Jen and I put together a plan of how to get the boat provisioned up and deal with the logistics of collecting the car from Oban.
Whilst out and about, Rus spotted Timothy Spall of Harry Potter fame (or Auf Wiedersehen, Pet if your old enough!). He was there with his wife Shane enjoying a cruise round the UK on his sea barge as part of his TV programme, Somewhere At Sea. As fate would have it, Timothy had booked the village's only taxi to take him to Oban that day to do a voice over. However, we desperately needed to get Oban so that we could collect our car so that Jen and Kyle could get home. So, Timothy was generous enough to let me share his taxi all the way to Oban. It was a pretty hilarious trip as the taxi driver had absolutely no idea who Timothy Spall was. "Have you been in anything I would know?" ... ho ho ho!
Anyway, after helping Timothy find his recording studio I picked up the car and drove back to Craobth. The wind was picking up so I decided that it would be best if we left pretty sharpish, rather than face the possibility of being weathered in. Jen and Kyle were packed into the car with the TomTom - leaving me with the job of skippering the boat the hundred or so miles back to Troon . . .