Welcome to the final instalment of our sailing trip in July.
From Carsaig Bay we sailed to Tobermory on the island of Mull, a useful place to re-provision the boat after being out in the sticks for a week or so. Apart from that it is an attractive town to visit, all the seafront houses are painted in a rainbow of pastel colours. This was probably the inspiration for its use in the BBC TV childrens program Balamory, filmed largely at Tobermory and screened between 2002 and 2005.
Due to the lack of towns in the area it is a crossroads for cruising yachts, few pass by without stopping to use the small supermarket or to sample the selection of pubs and restaurants. So it is a lovely place just to sit and watch the comings and goings of many types of vessel; a seaplane was in attendance when we sailed in.
There is a pleasant walk along the tree-lined cliff edge which we set out for, only to experience the one day of heavy rainfall in our three weeks away – and without the foresight of waterproof clothing! Here also is a spectacular waterfall, the water heavily coloured by peat absorbed on its run flow down the mountains. It ends in Tobermory Bay and used to be a source of ships drinking water right up to the 1940’s when the Royal Navy had a base in Tobermory.
Two days later, a short sail down The Sound of Mull took us to Loch Aline. A secluded loch surrounded by woodland, where we relaxed on the sunny, windless afternoon and evening.
We were now at the turning point of our cruise, beginning the slow journey south, but with plenty of time on our hands to explore more places by taking relatively small hops each day, and our next stop was Puilladobhrain, (a few miles south of Oban) and translated from the Gaelic as ‘the pool of the otter’. In years gone by the small anchorage, surrounded by numerous tiny islets, was home to a community of otters but rumour has it that being such a delightful and popular anchorage in summertime they have moved on to quieter pastures!
The next day we headed to Loch Craignish for the night, anchoring off a small island, Goat Island. With little time, and thick mist, we contented ourselves with enjoying the tranquillity as the mist lent a peaceful ambiance as it hung around the hills and trees. A writers paradise!
For many years I have wanted to visit our following destination, a very small island – Eilean Mor in the McCormaig Islands. I have never been in such a tiny anchorage; apart from the anchor off the bow I had to tie a line to the shore, where mooring rings are provided to stop boats swinging around in the limited room, especially when more than one are present.
Other than two small speed boats paying a short visit when we arrived, we had the island to ourselves for the rest of the afternoon and evening. We rowed ashore and explored the reason I had been wanting to visit. The island is perhaps half a mile by a quarter but there are the remains of an old chapel (used through the years as a chapel, a house and finally an illicit distillery!), a Celtic Cross on the highest hill and a hermits retreat – a damp cave, little more than a hole, in a rock face at the south of the island. Apparently, this was for those souls for whom the lack of people and community on the island wasn’t quiet enough. It is difficult to understand how anyone could contemplate anything spiritual whilst in such extreme discomfort! Nevertheless, for us it was a beautiful place!
Just one more stop remained before our return to Gigha, the starting point for the offshore passage back to our home port on the Isle of Man, Lowlandman’s Bay on the east coast of Jura. A lovely view of the Paps of Jura which we had anchored close to nearly two weeks before on the other side of the island. Other than that, a relatively uninspiring stop, though only in comparison to the stunning places! However, we spent much time laughing at a mother and baby seal on the rocks close to shore. The mother spent the entire time sunning herself on a rock while the youngster splashed about comically, in much the same way a child would play in the bath. Occasionally the mother would turn her head towards junior as if to say ‘keep quiet!’ 🙂
With no wind we motored from there to Gigha, to rest before the long haul. That, however, was broken down into smaller stages, first, Sanda Island a mile south of the Mull of Kintyre. The intention was to take a walk ashore the following morning but a heavy swell made conditions uncomfortable and we made a hasty, early departure.
We then sailed across the North Channel, at the north end of the Irish Sea, bound for a small island outside Belfast Lough, Copeland island. Fifteen miles from our destination a small yacht, Lola, had become disabled, there was no wind and she had lost the use of her engine. They asked us for a tow to Bangor Marina, which I obliged; it’s an unwritten law of the sea to help others, with the philosophy ‘there but for the grace of God go I’, the sea is an unforgiving environment. I happily took the vessel in tow but was a little peeved that we wouldn’t make our destination, strong tides exist in the area and the current was due to turn against us, too soon with the tow. Fortune smiled on us; an inshore life boat RIB was out on an exercise, spotted us, and offered to take over the tow. We were free and just made our chosen anchorage as the tide turned.
I’ve anchored at Copeland Island many times on passage and have always been the only yacht there. This time was different, it was mid summer, four other yachts were anchored and the next day it became a magnet for visitors from the mainland of Ireland; kayaks and speedboats, a passenger launch with tourists, and more small yachts and sailing dinghies, most people were heading for the lovely white sand beaches to enjoy the sun.
The penultimate leg took us down the coast of Northern Island to Strangford Lough, one of the largest sea lochs in Europe, most of which is a nature reserve and Site of Special Scientific Interest. The stay was for one night then we set sail for the Isle of Man, with a perfect, stiff sailing breeze and a steady sea, probably the best sail of the trip, a fine end to the voyage 🙂
If you missed any of the previous posts, here are links to previous episodes;