We left Belfast after changing Skipper and collectively decided that we needed to get up the west coast fairly quickly so we could spend more time around the ‘little’ islands.
Our new Skipper arrived yesterday. A Mr Mervyn Down. Or ‘Merv’ for short. A more complete contrast with Duncs you cannot imagine. I had been told that, as each new leader comes aboard they will have their own way of doing things. This is our first change over and the advice is holding true. We are all learning alternative ways of carrying our some tasks, particularly around the deck. That’s a good thing as we can then make the choices as to what way best suits us and our capabilities. Merv has lots of experience in teaching and we are all looking forward to learning from him.
Well, Saturday was a good day’s sail as we headed north, and then left a bit, to get into Ballycastle on Northern Ireland’s northern coast. Ballycastle is, well, Ballycastle. A tiny fishing port with a very good fish n chip shop – past which we had to walk to get to the shower and toilet facilities – so very, very tempting to pop in for 6 pennyworth of chips.
From Ballycastle we sailed north to Islay and had, as crew, decided to explore the distilleries as we considered it would be rude not to. After a reasonably good sail we motored into Port Ellen and tied up o the local pontoon next to the ferry. My first time on Scottish soil. Wohoo. We tied up next to a yacht flying the White Ensign. That means that the owner is either a Commodore in the Royal Navy, a member of the Royal Yacht Squadron or royalty. Well, the salty old dog we met, very well spoken indeed, looked nothing like any of the royal family Windsor, so we took him to be a Commodore of some description. That said, he could have been Camila in Oilies.
We had a lunch of ham, cheese and salad wraps and a pow-wow to decide our next move as we had made good time getting to Islay. Not without a little disappointment we decided to carry on and try to make Loch Sween, up on the right side of the Sound of Jura, and to anchor in the delightful harbour at the village of Tayvillich.
The journey as we motored up Loch Sween was not without incident as we had a real life Man Overboard event. Well, not a real man overboard but the foot pump of the dinghy that was being very enthusiastically used by one of the other crew members (no names, no pack drill!) to top up said dinghy. With a wet deck and too much pressure, the plastic foot pump slid out from underfoot with as much ease as a bar of wet soap and went straight overboard. Merv had the presence of mind – coupled with about 30 years of experience – to shout for the boat to be stopped. This I did as I was on helm and in charge of the engine. There followed a period of around 10 minutes where we were dangling over the transom (the bit at the stern of the boat) with a boathook in hand to bring back aboard the lost foot pump. Slippery little things those water-logger foot pumps but we did hook it eventually. Once on board we spent a further 10 minutes pumping water out. That retrieval was very fortunate, as it turned out, as we needed the dinghy as the transport for our dinner event in Tayvillich Tavern later that day.
Tayvillich is now in my Top 10 places to have stopped in so far on this trip. The others include Yealm, Falmouth and Howth. Dinner was in the only local restaurant which, consequently, was very busy. Adding to the customers we holiday makers, mostly walkers, from the nearby caravan/motorhome park on the outskirts of the villager. [There was another such caravan park further down the Loch but I wondered how they ever got the planning permission. That said, what’s the point in having beautiful scenery if we can’t all enjoy it?]
So, the disappointment at not having time to cruise the distilleries of Islay was offset by the delights of Tayvillich.
This morning, Monday 5th, we slipped the mooring buoy and ventured onto the nearby pontoon, given that is was high water so we had the depth, and from there we treated ourselves to a 2nd breakfast in the local cafe. Spicy beans on toast. Not just baked beans but several different types of beans in a chilly sauce. Topped with mushrooms and a side order of the local Black Pudding. That Black Pudding was delicious – with a texture and consistency somewhat akin to a smooth pate´. All accompanied by a Green Tea. Brunch done.
Breakfast #2 over and done with we spent an hour or so killing time waiting for the tides to turn in our favour. With forecast winds as high as gale force, we were being extra cautious about moving on. Given that, we ‘stuck our nose’ out of the harbour, into the loch proper, to sniff the weather conditions there. Deeming them to be not too scary, we set sail for Craobth, where we are now. That sail was very exciting as the conditions and wind were perfect. I admit, it was a little ‘white knuckle’ at times but, with a following wind and well reefed sails, we really had a terrific sail. Best of the journey by far. We made Craobth in a little over 5 1/2 hours, had a chilli pasta for dinner, played our card game and went to bed in preparation for an early get away at 6am.
P.S. You will be pleased to know that we have, at last, solved the problem of the water leakage into the engine bilge and are now, touch wood, dry in the bilge so all’s we’ll with the world. Although, as a preventative measure, I should go to the clinic to get some dry bilge ointment for future use.
Days 28-30, May 3-5th.