Anchored in Vatersay Bay having a lazy day

Saxon Blue's Blog
Harvey Jones and Andrea Stokes
Wed 19 May 2010 18:27
56:55.444N 007:31.678W

It's been two days of contrasts. We left Rum yesterday (Tuesday) morning heading for the Outer Hebrides. The wind was a bit flukey around the North coasts of Rum and Canna so we had to motor for some of it but the views were spectacular. I was hoping to see a White Tailed Eagle along there as I'd seen one on Canna before but no luck this time. Saw a load of red dear hanging around on the beach on Rum, though, so that made up for it.

Once we cleared Canna, we set a course for Castlebay on Barra and had a great sail all the way. Wind between 15 and 20 knots and full sail out. We were making around 8 knots all the way in a fairly bouncy sea but it all felt great. As we got towards Barra, the wind strengthened and we had to reduce sail a bit but managed to sail all the way to the harbour entrance. We headed towards the pack of visitor mooring buoys and picked up the outside one, rated at 15 tons. Trouble is, we're 25 tons plus all the gear we've got on board so probably getting on for 30 in reality. Also, the buoys are only just off some nasty looking rocks and the wind was blowing right across the bay and onto those rocks.

By this time, I was feeling pretty tired as I'd been sailing the boat most of the way and I really wanted to have a curry in the fantastic little cafe in Castlebay. I was in a right dilemma. Sensibly, we had to move. Trouble was, Castlebay doesn't have any other moorings and is notorious as bad holding for anchoring - also there isn't really anywhere to anchor and we'd still be upwind of the rocks. The only real alternative is Vatersay bay but that meant another hour. We had a think and, to be honest, I got very grumpy at the thought of a curry opportunity missed.

The thing is, there really isn't any other reason to come to Castlebay. The castle itself is pretty but the place is pretty bleak. The houses look harsh and the landscape is windswept. Some of the outer islands have a dramatic beauty but Barra seems to have missed out on that and just looks hard.

Kali went ashore for a walk around and see if she could get any local information. As usual, she found a lot of very helpful chaps but nobody who could really offer us an alternative mooring. I heard a shipping forecast that mentioned force 6 from the South East overnight and that was enough for me. Luckily, Andrea came up with a great compromise. We'd stay and have an early curry and then leave. Good plan.

Our curry was delivered at 5:45 and it was superb. The Kisimul cafe has a scottish woman and her indian husband running it and they can really cook. They're also two of the nicest people you could hope to meet. The prawn dish was amazing with fresh prawns, rather than the usual frozen ones. After that little lot, my enthusiasm had come back and we did the most amazing team effort of getting into the tender, back to Saxon Blue, onto the boat, swap mooring warps for a slip, tender up, engine on and away.

As we headed back out from Castlebay, the wind had really come up and the sea was exciting. We had plenty of green water over the deck as we rounded a small island and then surfed into Vatersay bay at around 12 knots with a scrap of genoa to keep us pointing downwind. We came right into the bay, pointed her head to wind and the amazing foredeck crew let the anchor go and that was that. We laid out the chain at a rate of knots as the wind blew us backwards but we had loads of swinging room, a lovely sandy seabed to hook into and complete shelter from the sea.

After a bit of Battlestar Galactica action, I just collapsed into bed. Andrea took a while to drop off and actually got up at midnight to check around. The boat was veering around and waves were crashing into us. I didn't notice a thing! I wasn't so much asleep as unconscious. Didn't really wake up until 10 hours later so I must have really needed that.

Woke up today feeling much more positive and we decided to have a day of rest. Andrea and I had a great walk around the island which is covered in flowers. I've never seen so many Primroses. Whole sand-dunes just covered in them and orchids among them. We spent an hour watching a couple of seals while the Peewits and Oyster Catchers wheeled around. The Razor Bills are great to watch as they fish in little teams of around 8 birds. They all dive together in a line and then surface again, have a chat and repeat. The co-operation is lovely and we wondered whether they take it in turns or does the boss bird always have the prime middle position. Either way, they all benefit.

It's so peaceful here that it's very tempting just to stay but we've decided to work our way north up the islands so we can spend a bit of time each day sailing, a bit just watching and get to Stornoway on Monday to pick up Greg. Then, if we lose a day to bad weather, we're already making progress and we can always catch up. We're having a bit of an issue with charging the batteries from the generator but I'm hopeful that we can fix it with a bit of advice from Discovery.

So there we are. Yesterday was definitely a bit too much. More than I wanted, anyway. I coped OK and made the correct decisions so I was pleased with that but it stopped being enjoyable and I needed a bit of recovery time today to get some perspective back. Hopefully we can find a better balance going forward and I need to make sure that I'm feeling good and rested before embarking on the big passages to come.


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