Ever since our first sailing holiday to Ireland, our plans have become grander ever year. We've sailed a the full length of the UK, stretched as far north as we go, and gone as far west. We've always promised to go on a nice 'easy' trip around the western isles of Scotland, but we always seem to pass them by enroute to somewhere else. However, this year, we did it. We had the same boat, the usual crew, but this time, two weeks to kill and absolutely no plan!
16th Aug - The other crew had just finished their own western isles holiday, so we headed up to Oban where we found Honu waiting on a pontoon for us. We spent a day or two in Oban; doing some shopping, sinking a few brews - you know, what normal people do on holidays. Jen and I went off on a long walk and I tried to show her some of the places I used to go back when my parents would drag us up to Oban for caravan holidays.
18th Aug - With a well rested crew, we left Kerrera at 7am with our sights on Tobermory, just a few miles up the Sound the Mull. Very odd feeling knowing that we would arrive that same night! Very little wind, so Jen thought it would be a good opportunity to practice some of my close-quarters helmsmanship. I managed to get the mighty Honu out of her berth; down through the mooring boys; dodged the water taxi ... all in reverse. Just on our way out we saw the seaplane leave, which was quite cool. The wind was only blowing F2/3 - so a good opportunity to mix things up a bit further. We put Lise on helm and Russ on nav for a change. Again, it all felt very odd! Anyway, after a 7am departure to catch the tide up the sound, we got into Tobermory just in time for lunch. I could get used to this!
19th Aug - We spent the rest of the day in Tobermory and decided on a leisurely departure the next morning. Finally left our buoy at midday, and headed NW with no real destination in mind. The wind started of as F1, but built nicely to a F4. After a bit of chin scratching over the charts, we chose to try our luck in Vatersay Bay (just off Barra). We motorsailed (hitting around 9knots) in order to get in before dark. We arrived in the gorgeous sandy bay around 8pm, with Lise on helm as we dropped anchor. New territory in more ways than one! The next day, me, Jen and Russ took a very long walk to Castle Bay. Several hours later, and after Jen almost losing her sense of humour we reached "civilisation". There we found fish & chips; two foul local ales; scallop pakora (its best not to ask); thousands of midgies; and more importantly, the bus back to boat!
21st Aug - With little to do in Vatersay Bay, we left the next morning around 7am in more great sailing weather (F4, blowing from the north east). We headed sound towards the Ross of Mull - again, with no real destination in mind. We tried popping into "Tinkers Hole", a very famous little bay. Jen showed off her helming skills, bringing the massive Honu through the shalls and into this little bay, only to find that another boat was already in there. Tinkers is so small, that it really is a one-boat anchorage - especially when you're 54 feet! Anyway, after nav'ing Jen back out through the shallows we studied the charts and spotted another one-boat wonder called "Rubh Ardalanish". If anything, its smaller than Tinkers Hole. Basically, its a rock pool. I was a bit worried about dropping anchor in there, but the 360 rocks gave good protection from the wind.
22nd Aug - We left our little rock pool, very carefully, at 7.30am - heading for Islay - famous for its Whiskey!. We sailed past several distilleries: Ardbeg; Lagavulin; and Laphroaig. Lagavulin is famous in sailing circles for having a bit of a strange entrance. You essentially have to line up part of the land with one of big black letters of "Lagavulin" that's painted on the distillery wall. Rumour has it that they white-washed the wall and were paid a small fee to put the lettering back! Sadly, it was a bit small for us, so we sailed on towards the main port, Port Ellen. We started off by anchored in bay just outside the marina, but after getting a weather update using my mobile's GPRS, we had second thoughts. The wind was due to build and back, turning our nice anchorage into a leeshore - not good. Sadly, Port Ellen looked very small, but after a brief chat with the harbourmaster we confirmed he had a hammerhead berth available and Jen got us in alright. Needless to say, we went straight to the pub and then did a few whiskey tours the next few days. (Lagavulin and Ardbeg).
24th Aug - We knew we would have a fairly long sail ahead of us, so we got ourselves ready to leave for 7.30am. There was a slight wind, blowing us onto the pontoon, but Jen thought it would be a good teaching opportunity. Again, I braved the helm and brought the boat out. Not a great departure, but no injuries, and probably the first time that I really "took charge". Thanks to our early departure, we arrived home in Troon at 6.30pm.
An entire sailing holiday without night hours - how very strange. Between trying to continue to improve my skipper skills; having no real plan; having to find strange little bays; and of course, doing more terrifying arrivals/departures, it was quite a stressful wee holiday. However, good time had by all, and I'd definitely do it again!