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0018 - Sailing to Islay and Jura

After such a good day yesterday - I feel we were overdue for some foulness, the yin-yang of sailing - I wasn't wrong - right on schedule - it appeared and almost got us!


When I started writing this - It's 3 am - It's pitch black, like, really pitch black outside - Haven't slept properly in about 30 hours - The wind is blowing 25-30kts - The anchor is dragging - I've already reset the anchor 3 times - It's holding now, but not for long, I'm just waiting for it to slip again..... What am I doing? Got a cat on my knee, writing this while I wait for the anchor alarm to go off - yet the dream - be glad, none of you are here right now, it's not nice.


We left Lunga Island first thing in the morning as we were in a hurry to get to our next anchorage - It was supposed to be shelter - but only getting half of a weather report, with the other half being lost to static, was an omen - and I knew it. And losing half of the report meant that when selecting an anchorage - I chose.......poorly.

Leaving Lunga was super easy and we left our new neighbors to be alone with their new insect friends (below) - As soon as they open that hatch - breakfast will be served!

Overall, we had a good morning - a bit of wind and calm seas, quite ideal - so far.

We sailed past Scarba Island and the on to the western coast of the Island of Jura, would've been nice if it hadn't been mostly raining, but the coffee was hot and the crew were sleeping as if nothing was going on - love my girls - they're troopers!

First up, Scarba, not much to see here, poor little island was shrouded in low-lying clouds and fog, with just some fishermen for company...but yea couldn't see much, it seemed to have its very own cloud ecosystem going on...I'm told it's an impressive little island.

Leaving Scarba behind - You can already see a bit of color change in the water, very slight a but a change nonetheless...can't say I really noticed it at the time, but looking back on the pictures - it is detectable.

After we passed Scarba we entered a bit of water called 'The Great Race', the chart says that it's full of dangerous tidal streams, eddies, and overfalls - I saw none of that. Btw, an overfall is just fast-moving currents of water that encounter underwater ridges and create some odd turbulence in the water, fairly common I think - I've yet to encounter one that presented a real threat - not saying they can't - I just haven't seen one that can.

I have been in large eddies that have spun the boat 180 degrees but always at sea with plenty of room - I'm sure in a restricted area like a narrow waterway these things could be very dangerous.

Next up, the Eastern side of the island of Jura, a bit more to see here.

I remember seeing a Jura Whiskey label years ago and recall thinking that it can't be that color -I thought it was a gimmick of sorts, but it really is!

I feel like it's strange to see this color of sea in Scotland, looks more like early morning in the Bahamas! Certainly, not a colour I, personally, would associate with the West Coast of Scotland!

Having spent a great deal of time growing up on the W.Coast of Scotland I remember it always having a rather ominous rocky coastline, just lots of sharp rocks and relentless wind - but this place is kinda nice, in fact, I would have liked to have spent a little more time in this area, but we were in a rush to beat the weather that was due to arrive in about 10 hrs time.

We continued down the coast of Jura then it just rained on and off, but it wasn't too bad, where I sit, under the dodger in front of all the instruments its quite protected, in fact, I think it's the only bit of canvas on this boat that isn't starting to fall apart.

The UV strip on the genoa is just shredded, and the sail bag is starting to fall apart like the stitching is actually rotting away and 90% of the bag is not even attached to the boom any I said we are running this boat pretty hard, and things are just beginning to get a bit tired and, well, in need of replacement - oh well...till the wheels fall off I say.

Having traversed almost the entire coastline of this country has taken its toll on both myself and the yacht, but this boat has a lot of life still left in it - the canvas is not a symbolic representation of the integrity of the yacht, she is very capable, and the fact that the canvases are getting 'done' affects this none - I got this boat to travel, not to look pretty and impress people with - I care not for the aesthetics, but the performance and capabilities - And these are not affected by a little shabby canvas. On a personal note - If someone is going to judge me based on the quality of my canvas, if they're on that level, if that's where they're at - you know, perhaps I don't want their approval ;)

Along the way the scenery was just interesting, although overcast, it was somehow just pretty to look at, kinda mysterious, and somehow - very Scottish!

Approaching the cut-through between Jura and Islay (below)

We had planned to shelter in a small bay called Bunnahabhainn Bay at the top of the cut-through - I know, another unpronounceable name - Scotland really can name the hell out of places! It's also the bay in front of a Distillery, for Whisky - of course - And the Whisky bears the same unpronounceable name - I've heard people say the name, but my mouth just can't form the sounds to repeat it...maybe you'll have better luck!

Now, at this point - all seemed OK. I got the anchor down, no problem, good holding and I thought we were set for the evening, then just before dark - the wind changed direction and the anchorage became untenable as the swells just rocked the boat in such as way that it was just not workable, things were flying off of shelves - that bad. There weren't any other nearby anchorages that were 'good', or close enough to get to before it was completely dark, and this is 'pot country' - not a place you to be creeping around in the dark - it's just not worth the risk. The only one that was kinda 'OK-looking' was down the channel and only a few miles away, an area called Whitefarland Bay, kind of off to one side that might not get too much of the heavy currents that flow between the islands, and might offer some protection from the wind - or so it seemed, what can I say - I'm a victim of error, but either way - I moved the boat - and managed to get there before dark.

This entire situation was caused by me only getting half of a weather report, and also by the fact that I had not enough cell phone reception to get updates - I even ran my phone up to the top of the mast in an effort to get a signal - it didn't work! Just nothing out here in some places - Had I possessed complete weather reports I would have known what was to come and made better choices, but these are the things that can happen when you venture out to these kinds of places with the only the basics...

We actually stayed here for two days, and the first day was actually fine - I thought I noticed a little drag on the second day as the winds picked up, but it didn't fully register in my brain....a tiny bit of drag after a tide change is not always something to worry about.

Now the chart said that Whitefarland Bay had sand and rock on the seabed, good, had it actually been sand and rock it would have been - but it was nothing but kelp - very poor holding - but I didn't know it was kelp until the anchor dragged on the second evening and I had to reset it. When the anchor dragged for the first time - it was 1 am and very dark as there is no light pollution as very few people live out there and as it was overcast - no moonlight. When I pulled the anchor up it, and under the light of the flashlight it looked like a huge swamp monster! A giant mass of green slimy vegetation tangled all over the anchor. An anchor fouled in this way cannot bite into the seabed and will just slip and slide.

Now, what caused us to drag was the high winds of 25-30 knots, had there been no wind it probably wouldn't have mattered and I'd be writing about something else, but as soon as I pulled the anchor up, and with the combination of current and wind, we started drifting quickly towards the rocks - but at night you can't see anything. You can hear the crashing of waves, but can't tell how close or precisely what direction they are coming from - very disorientating - but you know they are there.

Before I lifted the anchor I had started the engine and looked at our position on the chart plotter, once I got the anchored cleared - and it took maybe 3 min - I glanced at the chart plotter and we had drifted almost half a mile, and not in a good direction, a further 2 min more and I probably wouldn't be writing this, we would have lost it all - I'm just glad I work fast.

The scary thing is that the chart plotter doesn't show what direction your bow is pointed in, it just shows the direction of travel and it's easy to assume that's the direction your bow is pointed in - so if you are drifting sideways it shows that as the direction of your bow, and until you generate some forward motion, it won't show an accurate heading and that time-lapse between drift heading and bow heading can really get you into trouble.

There's a number of lighthouses in the area, and they all have different light patterns and different colours from different angles, so they can be identified in the dark, so I knew what direction we were pointed in. I gunned the engine to pull us away from the shoreline. At this point, I normally would have just gone to a new anchorage - but in the dark - and being in 'pot country' - we just had to work with what we have - and that's kelp.

Before the sun came up I had reset the anchor a further three times and removed three huge swamp monsters and three times I wrestled with the wind and currents. - The fourth time it happened, a little after 5 am, it was just as there was enough light to spot pots, maybe an hour before sunrise - And although the wind had slackened the current had doubled in speed - this time, I didn't have enough time to get the monster fully off before I had to get the vessel out of harm's way, this last time was a very close one.

So we left Whitefarland Bay with half a monster hanging off the bow (below), the funny thing is - those kelp strands trail back under the boat for about 10 feet, they were huge.

We were leaving this area, and as we left with only half of the genoa out and a reefed mainsail the winds and currents pushed us up to 12kts - a record for Cats on a Yacht - this is an insane speed for our home to be traveling at...even if most of it is current, I'm just glad we were going with it, and not fighting into it.

About 3 hrs later, we pulled into Port Ellen Marina, which had actual pontoons and I got us tied up and plugged in without any issues. The day before I had contacted Port Ellen to confirm that I would tie up on a short stay to collect a few supplies and take on water without being charged - we're gonna stay for a night to get some sleep before attempting the crossing over to Kintyre.

We're constantly trying to economize and live on the hook as often as possible to save really not that much money - but if you don't have much money and a marina charge is the equivalent of half a week's supplies, if not more - from that perspective, it can seem like a lot - But sometimes the risk isn't always worth the gamble...I started writing this at 3am, but didn't complete till later, in an effort just to focus on something in order to stay awake, I was just so tired and I was scared that if I did fall asleep - I might not hear the anchor alarm. However, I'm sure I would have woken up, just to a very different sound. Safely secured to the pontoon in Port Ellen that definitely wasn't going to drag as I slept, I figured I would have a cup of tea before getting some sleep - I made a cup of tea, sat down, and promptly passed out without having even having taken a sip.

(The above events went largely unnoticed by the crew - They lost, not a wink of sleep! I'm sorry there's not more pics of the crew on this one, but when the weather is foul, they are not permitted on deck, and when stuff start starts to go wrong - I put the camera down)


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