This day started at 6am, it was chilly, raining and kinda overcast.....it started like most other days these days, but a little later on - it was gonna get wild.
Having been in the holding basin for three days and catching up on a few blog posts, it was nearing the time to start getting ready to go.
While we were there I happened to spy a very sorry-looking boat on the left-hand side of the basin, that despite its present condition - it had definitely been a well-loved boat, at one time, but the name of this boat was far more interesting.
There is a lot of superstition when it comes to boats, not that I subscribe to any of it, but much of the older generation still abide by it. Like for example, I met an old-salty sailor who believed it was bad luck to use the word 'rabbit' on a boat - he hilariously referred to them as 'underground chickens' while onboard...
Having women and even whistling onboard is also considered bad luck! Perhaps having an all-female crew contributed to the day we were about to have.
Another one is, you shouldn't set off on a journey on a Friday - there is an old story about an attempt to dispel this particular myth. A boat was designed and only worked on, on Fridays. The keel was laid on a Friday and so forth...They even managed to find a captain with the last name of Friday - The boat was loaded up on a Friday and set sail on Friday - and was promptly never seen again.
All I can say is the owner of this boat was a serious rebel, I would like to have met this person, but when you see a vessel like this - something has usually happened to the owner, illness, financial ruin, or death, you just don't leave your much-loved vessel in this condition, perhaps it was best I didn't meet or learn the fate of this person - I hope he/she is ok...
The crew seemed to like the stillness of the basin, and although the last few days were pretty rough, weather-wise...there wasn't even a breeze in the basin, however, outside the basin it was chaos. A number of yachts turned up seeking shelter in the basin only to have to leave as the canal sea-lock is now closed a percentage of the time due to Covid-19 - We were lucky to get in when we did...
The canal actually opened a day earlier than they had said it would, so a little activity graced the day, and our Chief of Security kept a close eye on the goings-on...
Nothing happens without her knowing about it!
As they had opened a day early, I had asked to come out of the basin so that I could leave early the next morning probably before the staff started - If I had waited, I wouldn't have been able to leave till sometime after 9am - when the staff started in order for them to operate the sea lock, I wanted to be well underway while they were still in their beds...and I would be, unknowingly heading into a situation I had been doing my very best to avoid since beginning this trip.
Now, docked on the other side of the sea-lock, we were all set to go in the morning and the crew got a bit more topside time before going to bed early...and I had no idea how much energy I was about to expel the next day or how I was about to be tested...shit was about to get real.....but check out that rainbow! (in the pics below)
Backing away from the holding pontoon the next morning I felt quite good about the day, we were heading for Loch Ryan as our final Scottish destination before heading for Ireland.
There was a tiny bit more sun than when I arrived and you could see how green everything was, as well as getting a good look at the sorriest-looking lighthouse I think I've ever seen. But we were on our way...into...well...something
It was such a pretty morning, I mean really just nice to look at, everything was just so green and bursting with life - I should have known something was up.
But we pressed on with about 14 knots of wind, and we were making good time as we sailed back down Lower Loch Fyne, it was just - nice...
Now, at this point, I still had a single reef in the sail from our last sail, as the first reefing point just shortens the sail a little, knocks about two feet off of the overall height of the mainsail...I just left it in, it was maybe keeping half a knot of speed from being realized...and with a solid 14 knots of wind - I wasn't too fussed
As we carried on down Lower Loch Fyne the green kept coming and we passed a fishing boat, still just working away even as the winds had picked up considerably, increasing by almost 10 kts...
We were stopping Portavadie to take on some fuel, as they had the cheapest in this area - they also had a very protected marina - by the time we got there the winds had picked up yet again.
So I radioed the harbour to check on actual conditions inside the harbour before attempting to enter and to get clearance to proceed on in to pick up fuel, and also to make sure I wasn't going to get in the way of another vessel on the way out.
Now, I said they had the cheapest, but somewhere in between making the call to ask for prices and arriving at the pump, it seemed to have gone up in price...I heavily protested in the office and a suitable compromise was met with the ladies in the office, who were actually very nice about the whole affair, I had to sign some things but the price I was quoted was eventually had...
As the wind was picking up, I did consider staying here - and although they may have had the best fuel price, but that's where the savings stopped, they were certainly the most expensive marina we've been in - we cleared out, we just didn't have enough cash to stay, let alone to splash out on a pricey marina...
Having left Portavade, we carried on South, and as we entered Inchmarnoc Water this happened...yet another increase in the wind speed...
And for the next 4 hours, there would be no more photos as the wind continued to increase. All of a sudden, Gale Warnings were being issued over the radio by the Irish Coast Guard, and over the next 4 hours, I would hear no less than 20 Pan Pan calls and maydays from other boats in some sort of trouble as the wind continues to increase to the maximum recorded, on our instruments, with gusts of up to 37 knots. I went from a single-reef to a double-reef, and then onto a triple-reef of the mainsail, reefing a mainsail in this environment, by yourself, is challenging as with each roll, the boat tries to throw you over the side - and with each reef, I also shortened the headsail till there was just a tiny bit rolled out, not that we needed the sail area - but just to balance the sail plan to take the pressure off of the autopilot in order to hold a course without too much fuss - and plus bits of the sail were just tearing off, I watched as the wind ripped a 4ft section of the UV stip clean off of the sail!
But the autopilot was performing amazingly well, big shout out to Raymarine EV-100 Tiler Pilot designers - woot woot! - UNTIL...
There was a strange noise coming from the bow, I adjusted my safety line and went to investigate, in almost the exact moment I reached the bow, our vessel took the full force of a huge wave. I should have seen it coming but I was looking for the source of a strange noise...and just not watching the waves. I was standing, looking up at the rig when the wave hit, and it knocked me down and I began to tumble down the deck, as I passed amidships I grabbed onto a wooden safety rail. As I rolled over the top of the dodger and slammed into the safety netting on the stern all I had in my hand was a little hand-sized piece of wood....lol
As the water cleared and I opened my eyes I could hear two alarms going off at the same time, the autopilot was no longer keeping our course as I had knocked the control arm off of the rudder indicator as I hit the stern rails, and that was the source of the first alarm. The second alarm was coming from the radio, screaming about an all-ships-bulletin about serious weather and gale-force wind warnings - Gee, like I hadn't f-ing-well noticed.
As I picked myself up and checked myself over, and finding out that other than being a bit wet, but I had no broken bones or cuts, and sure, I was hurt - but thankfully, still fully functioning to the degree necessary to do what needed to be done, and get it done I would - no point in giving up now, my girls were counting on me to fix this situation.
First up was the rudder indicator, as I had knocked off the adapter that connects the control arm to the tiller, and could not locate the missing piece, I managed to lash it in place with a piece of cord and got that operable. Next up was to shut the damn radio alarm off which was producing a very annoying noise, but no sooner had I turned it off - it went off again - this time the Irish coast Guard was appealing to all ships in a particular area to look out for a vessel that had issued a distress call but could no longer be contacted - things were getting pretty wild out here, but I was glad - I wasn't that boat.
There's nothing quite like someone else's misfortune, to make you feel fortunate for your own situation...Remember, it can always be worse, there are degrees of misfortune best unimagined...
Making emergency repairs under these conditions, with no one and nothing steering the boat means that during this time she must fend for herself amongst the waves and weather - she performed well
With each wave that struck the boat, you begin to realize that there is only so much this vessel can take before bits of her start to break off, and eventually, something important WILL break, and the hull will breach eventually, and water will come in faster than you can pump it out - and the clock will start.
You can feel the reverberations of each wave vibrate through the entire structure and into your bones as escape becomes more and more desperate with each successive wave...the need to fix this situation becomes overwhelming, as for us - this boat is everything, it's all we have, it's our home. The pan pans continued, one, in particular, was the absolutely panicked calls of one guy who had gotten his boat pushed up onto some rocks. This fella was only 4 miles away from me, and I later saw his yacht being pulled off some rocks by a Fisherman's workboat as I passed within 1.5 miles of his location - I think he had a very lucky escape!
I had attempted to make my way to some kind of shelter behind the island of Arran, hoping that there would be a break from the wind and waves - no such luck - it only seemed to intensify as the sea filled with white caps and continued to build until the waves and swells were almost 10ft high. I called ahead to a marina a little further south to seek shelter, they had a space for us, but as we made our way there, things just got worse and worse - and we had to change course to get in behind the Island of Bute, and as we got behind the Island of Bute, things dropped to a more palatable 23-26 knots of wind and the seas calmed, but the wind still remained high and I kept the reefs in the sails, and although it wasn't raining, the spray from the waves was constant.
We managed to get the Island of Arran behind us and creep in behind Bute and make our way North up the Firth of Clyde, I called a further 3 marinas to check on prices and only one was within our budget.
Relieved to have found a sanctuary of sorts we set a course for Rothesay, not where we wanted to go, but where we had to go. It was our only option, in these conditions - anchoring is just not a smart option.
Approaching the Rothesay Sound wasn't pleasant, the swell was making things quite uncomfortable, however, once we got a bit closer things seemed to get a bit more tolerable, and navigating through some hazards, and despite all being clearly marked on the charts and trying to keep a safe distance - the wind and weather just kept pushing us closer them, I suddenly realized how that chap had been forced onto the rocks, but being mindful of disaster can sometimes help prevent it.
Getting into the Sound of Rothesay was nice as conditions dropped considerably, the seas leveled out and the wind, now fully behind Bute, dropped to 20-ish knots. Still not quite there and beginning to feel very sore all over from my earlier tumble as the adrenaline slowly began to wear off, I definitely needed a coffee.
At this point, I now had a visual on Rothesay and as it loomed closer I radioed ahead to clear my arrival with the harbourmaster, who informed me that our arrival time would conflict with an arriving ferry and if possible I should increase my speed or stand-off until the ferry had docked.
Without any hesitation, the engine was fired up - Full Ahead - Flank Speed!... I really couldn't be bothered to wait, I was really starting to hurt now, and we had been out in this mess for long enough.
Now, I don't know if it was just me, or if I was really tired and beat up or something, but in the distance, this place started to look a little hazy and dreamy for some reason...
Approaching this place with a huge unyielding ferry in hot pursuit, I decided that I kinda like the architecture of this place, it seemed very old and the buildings all seemed to have a very unique charm to them. A lot of the buildings had a similar look to them, I'm sure it's a style - But I don't remember what it's called..lol
The whole place was kinda removed from time...I mean, they still had their Christmas decorations up!? Say what?!
As soon as we were tied up to the pontoon I breathed a sigh of relief, and as I made a very strong cup of coffee, licked my wounds and surveyed the damage to our vessel.
A horn suddenly sounded and the harbour warning lights came on - this maybe marked the days only real victory- we had beaten the ferry, although I'm the one who felt pretty beaten, and having looked in the mirror, all I see is failure and blood coming from somewhere...we didn't get to where we wanted...and things are just getting tougher all the time, but we're alive and the crew is just fine.
In Ireland, we will need to be extra careful with the weather - no room for this kind of crap over there, it's even less forgiving in that neck of the woods, with almost nowhere to hide.
The crew was eager to get topside to perform their usual inspection of the new mooring...as if nothing had even happened...
Now, when I say this place seems kinda old, this was totally confirmed when I happened to visit the local restrooms...just check this place out...
Tomorrow, I will begin to make repairs and prepare for the last of our Scottish destinations, our last stop won't actually involve any town or place but just a small quiet anchorage across from Ireland, I'm looking forward to the crossing and going to a place I've never been before...tbh - I'm pretty excited - albeit with a certain amount of trepidation regarding the weather...
One last notable note on vessel names - we came across this boat with a strange name. After looking at it for a few minutes - it became apparent what it meant. Also, the fact that it was slightly off-center was mildly infuriating. Just why??
It stands for:
Its Just One F-ing Thing After Another Perhaps the most appropriate boat name ever!
We plan to leave here in the morning, heading back South towards Loch Ryan, our intended crossing point for Ireland, with any luck, the weather would be better this time around and we have just decided to press on in the morning, repairs would just have to happen at sea, another day in a marina was just not going to be possible. An early night was in order, and after dinner, the crew wasted no time in cozying up to the Captain for a well-deserved sleep, I think we had earned a good night's sleep.