Sunday, 10 August 2014

The Sound of Iona and Loch Tarbert, Isle of Jura.

Leaving Bunnessan at 09-00 put us in a good position to catch the start of the fair tide through the Sound of Iona. There was very little wind, so we were motoring with the main up.

The entrance to Iona Sound.

As we passed over a shallow area in the sound we disturbed a flock of cormorants which were busy fishing. The sound was very picturesque, and we had good views of Iona Cathedral and Martyrs Bay village.

Iona Cathedral.

Martyrs Bay Village.

By 11-00 we were through the sound and heading to pass to the north of Colonsay before turning south to Loch Tarbert on Jura. At 12-00 the wind picked up allowing us to have a good sail.

Two hours later the rain started, just as we approached the entrance to Loch Tarbert. We took the sails down in good time to pick up the leading line to take us to the north of Boghachan Baite and Sgeirean Bhudragain. Meanwhile the wind was increasing and the rain heavier and heavier! Our first attempt to anchor was to the west of Cumhann Mor but with another yacht in residence we felt that we were too close to some rocks.

We decided to try our luck further east in the inner loch. In the driving rain Sue was on the helm, steering using the chart plotter whilst I was peering into the rain over the spray hood to make sure that we safely negotiated the channel at Cumhaan Mor between the outer and inner loch.

We attempted to anchor for the second time just to the east of Cunhann Mor but abandoned this after dragging. Third time lucky, at 16-05, we anchored off the north shore of the loch, south of Cruib Lodge on a gently shelving bottom. We were glad we had taken the trouble to find a good anchorage as at 16-00, Belfast coastguard issued a gale warning for Malin and Hebrides sea areas! Despite noting winds up to 30Kts the anchor held fast and we had a good night lying to the northerly wind.

Next morning the gale had blown through leaving a bright and pleasant day for us to appreciate the fine scenery of the loch as we departed to head further south.

Anchorage to the south of Cruib Lodge. 

The Cumhann Mor narrows. 

One of the Paps of Jura. 

Raised beaches on the shore of Loch Tarbert.

Treshnish Isles, Staffa, and Bunnessan.

Having visited all the Small Isles we headed south from Eigg, with an overnight stop at Coll. On our way to Arinagour on Coll we spotted several basking sharks. On approaching Arinagour we had a close encounter as Sue had to make a rapid change in course and take the engine out of gear when she saw a shark very close to the bow of the boat.

From Coll our course to Bunnessan on the Ross of Mull took us directly through the Treshnish Isles and past Fingals Cave on Staffa. We would have liked to have had an overnight stop in the Treshnish Isles but the outlook forecast was for N or NW 5 to 7.

Approaching the Treshnish Isles.

Careful Navigation was required to negotiate the channel, taking us alarmngly close to the rocks of Sgeir Eirionnaich.

Our track through the Treshnish Isles.

Passing close to Sgeir Eirionnaich.

In the channel the wind increased and there was a significant chop. Fishing cormorants were flying up all around us.

Looking back at the channel with Lunga on the left and 'The Dutchmans Hat' in the distance. 

Not long afterwards we arrived at Staffa with it's famous layer of columnar basalt, and Fingal's Cave. The sun came out just in time to make it a magical visit.

Approaching Staffa.

Fingal's Cave.

After Staffa we turned towards Bunnessan in Loch na Lathaich, allowing us to have a nice sail in light winds. At 14-00 we anchored between the fish pier and Eilean Ban in the Loch.

Anchored in Loch na Lathaich off Eilean Ban.

View of the anchorage from Bunnessan.

Despite the forecast we experienced no strong winds and had a peaceful night at anchor.

Sunset in Loch na Lathaich.

Eigg : 30th July

After two nights in Mallaig we set out at 10-20 headed for Eigg. Another short passage, sailing and motor sailing, with heavy rain at times. We anchored north of En Castle island.

 'NJ' at anchor.

We went ashore for a walk and enjoyed the views from the Island.

 Going ashore : Sgurr of Eigg in the background.

Sharing the anchorage.

Wednesday, 6 August 2014


After lunch on the 27th July we weighed anchor, and headed out from Rum to the Isle of Canna. Less than 2 hours later we anchored in a spot recommended by the pilot book, on a line between two churches in the pool between Canna and Sanday islands. We were delighted to have come to this beautiful place, with fantastic views back towards Rum from the anchorage.

'NJ' at anchor in Canna harbour.

Looking eastwards toward Canna harbour.

In the evening we went ashore for a walk and to look at what was available at the community shop. Our initial impression was of a well organised Island where much thought had been put into it's development. The shop was no exception, stocking most of the essential items that are prone to run out on a cruising yacht!

The excellent community shop, bar & bistro

A little later we crossed the bridge to the smaller island of Sanday, to excellent views of a white sandy beach and further west.

The foot bridge between Canna and Sanday

White sand beach on Sanday

Looking west from Sanday.

At bed time we listened to the weather forecast on VHF, and were disappointed to realise that poor weather was on the way. We were planning to have another full day to explore the Island but reluctantly we made the decision to leave in the morning and head back to the safety of Mallaig. It seemed like everyone else had the same idea, as there was only one boat in the harbour when we left the next day. We hope to return in the future to this lovely island.

Solitary boat left in Canna harbour.

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Rum & Midges!

Seventeen nautical miles to the North West took us from Arisaig to Loch Scresort on the Isle of Rum. The day was grey with the prospect of rain.

Rum appearing through the clouds and mist.

We arrived early in the afternoon, and soon the rain came, clearing later in the evening.

Sunshine after the rain.

The following morning we went ashore and encountered the dreaded midges - clouds of them!!! Luckily, we had midge nets with us, even the locals were using them. Despite the midges we had a nice walk around a marked route.

The height of millinery fashion.

After our walk we had lunch in the community centre cafe; soup, sandwiches and cake, it just hit the spot.

View of the anchorage from the community centre cafe.

Return to Arisaig to dry out : 24th & 25th July

We returned to Dunstaffnage on 22nd July to bright sunshine and settled weather. We left the following day, and after an overnight stop in Tobermory to re-provision the boat we headed out to Arisaig. Our plan was to beach the boat for some maintenance and hull cleaning.

Sailing up the Sound of Mull.

We anchored off the main channel into Arisaig and took the dinghy to sound out a suitable spot to ground the boat, and the best line in, avoiding areas with weed and hidden rocks. The water was beautifully clear so this wasn't a problem.

'NJ' at anchor.

As the sun went down we were treated to a spectacular sunset.


The next day, two and a half hours after high water, we nosed 'NJ' in towards the beach. At 08-55, with 0.8m of water on the depth sounder, we were aground.

Looking out of the cabin, waiting for the water to go.

 The water rapidly receded and we were soon able to walk around the boat to clean off the bottom, and change the bowthruster anode. We also took the opportunity to clean the topsides and do a little polishing. After the work was done, I had the first ( and probably last ) swim of the season!

High and dry.

We refloated at 15-45 and motored into Loch Nan Ceall to anchor for the night. In the morning we moved over to the Arisaig Marine pontoon to take on water, before setting to sea again bound for the Isle of Rum.

Sunday, 3 August 2014

Homeward bound via Tobermory and Dunstaffnage.

From Loch Moidart we rounded Ardnamurchan Point on a beautiful sunny day. 

Looking back towards Loch Moidart.

Eigg and Rum still on our ‘to do’ list.

We had one night in Tobermory. It was amusing to see training ship ‘Royalist’ in port, with her complement of sea cadets practising their up mast sail handling skills – rather them than me! 

Training Ship ‘Royalist’.

The next day we headed south east down the Sound of Mull. It was nice to see the sights we had missed in the fog  on the way out. After two nights in Dunstaffnage Marina we took the train home.

Duart Castle.

Lismore Lighthouse.

‘Lady Rock’, just off the end of Lismore Island.

Loch Moidart – 28th June.

Coming away from Loch Scavaig we raised the blue genneker and it carried us most of the way to the Moidart. At the southern entrance the wind increased, and the sun went in.  The channel is littered with rocks requiring careful  navigation.

Sailing South South East towards Moidart.

We anchored at 16-30 to the east of Riska Island. We had a very peaceful night. 

Anchored of Riska Island in Loch Moidart with Castle Tioram in the background.

In the morning we set out for Tobermory via Ardnamurchan Point.

Leaving Loch Moidart.

Loch Scavaig, Isle of Skye and the Black Cuillins.

A visit to Loch Scavaig was top of my wish list of places to visit, as I wanted to return after climbing in the Cuillins with some friends almost exactly 30 years ago. We were unsure if the weather conditions were good enough to allow us to stay overnight, but at the very least we hoped to have a look. As it turned out the wind was lighter than forecast, and we ended up motor sailing!

Approaching the Cuillins.

Around midday we saw a large pod of dolphins, two of which came to play in our bow wave – magic!

One of our dolphin visitors.

Shortly after lunch we anchored in the pool of Loch Na Cuilce, an offshoot of Loch Scavaig just under the ridge of the Black Cuillin. The pilot book had warned us of violent downdraughts which are capable of ‘blowing the anchor out’. It was interesting to experience wind speeds greater at deck level than was being registered at the mast head. The anchor held fine.

The Ridge of the Black Cuillin.

‘NJ’ sharing the anchorage with one other boat.

During the afternoon we watched numerous people being ferried ashore, some from Elgol on the adjacent peninsular , and many others from a cruise ship anchored offshore. We waited until the evening to go ashore and explore when all the crowds were gone. 

Cruise ship anchored offshore.

We walked along the shore of Loch Coruisk which is a fresh water Loch within the arc of the Cuillin ridge, it flows into the sea via a twenty foot high cascade.

The outflow from Loch Coruisk.

Loch Coruisk looking towards the seaward end.

On our way back to the boat, we had a close encounter with some red deer, getting to within twenty feet of one.

How did we get so close!