Leopard’s first voyage
left Southampton for the long trip to Gins Farm on the Beaulieu River.
Moored on the pontoon at the Royal Southampton’s Clubhouse to await
Jenny, Marg, Judy etc from the New Forest. Viv
Robertshaw also came over. The girls brought dinner and a good time was had by
all. A nice way to start the cruise.
made passage to Falmouth over the next 4 days,
stopping to see the Barkers at Portland,
and over-nighting at Cawsand in Plymouth Sound. As usual, the Barkers looked
after us very well, and Marianne and Anna went down to watch us round Portland
Bill when we left. Then three pleasant days in one of our favourite
towns, whilst waiting for the strong Northerlies to abate (I don’t care
for a100 mile beat no matter what the boat). Met up with Mike Webb and David
Healy, both Firebird sailors. David has been researching buying a fast cruising
cat and was already in contact with Tournier Marine the builders of the Freydis
46 (aka Snow leopard). Consequently he was very keen to have a good look over
the boat. He invited us back for dinner (he owns a cider farm!) where Kay Healy
produced a fabulous paella and a great evening was had with all the family. So
keen were the Healys on the boat that David and the two sons, Sam and Jo
volunteered to help sail to Milford Haven, done overnight in a pleasant,
occasionally light NW breeze. We played with the spinnaker and Code 0 (large
genoa set on the bowsprit), both working well.
at Milford Haven; said goodbye to the Healys and moored in the Marina. Next 10 days were
spent managing the Seafair 2008 traditional boat festival, which despite the
weather was a great success.
and checked out of Milford
and anchored overnight in Dale prior to heading north again. Next day we left
in a moderate SW wind, which took us all the way to Campbeltown on the Mull of
Kintyre in 30 hours. At one time we clocked 17 knots under spinnaker. We are
still very much learning the capabilities of the boat and its equipment and at
that speed we hovered over autopilot and sheet ready for fast remedial action,
but Snow Leopard trucked on without any help from us.
En Route to Scotland
sat out a gale, nicely tucked up in Campbeltown
Harbour, we sailed up to Tayvallich
at the top of Lock Sween. The almost landlocked harbour is full of moorings so
we anchored just outside in perfect peace. That night dinner was at the
Tayvallich Inn, renowned for its seafood, and we were not disappointed.
Lucy’s Scallops and mussels were great and my ‘fish and
chips’ the best I’ve ever tasted.
day we took the dinghy to explore the ‘Fairy Isles’, a group of
tiny islands at the top of the loch. A group of common seals were using the
Isles as a nursery, swimming around in the shallow water with very small pups.
Seals at the Fairy
Islands Tayvallich anchorage
light winds, but sunshine for the first time in Scotland. We motored up the Sound
of Jura and on to Tobermory on Mull. That
evening we met up with the crews of two yachts based at Campbeltown for a few
beers in the Mischnish Hotel. We hired a car and toured around Mull, spotting a sea eagle soaring above. On Sunday we
watched the Wimbledon men’s final in the
hotel bar – very comfortable and warm; we can’t believe how cold it
of on a clear sunny!! day for Barra in the Outer Hebrides.
Soon the wind died and motored on flat sea to Castlebay. We encountered a
school of basking sharks (they are big) to add to the dolphins and porpoises
that frequent these waters.
was beautiful and much to our surprise a busy active community. Again met up
with the Campbeltown boats for more beers. We took a bus trip around the
island, up to the airport which is unique in that the runway is on the beach!
The tides play havoc with the airline schedules.
took the dinghy around to Vatersay Bay where the white sands and aquamarine water are
more reminiscent of Antigua than Britain.
of the high spots was a ceiligh at Vatersay village hall with the renowned
‘Vatersay Boys’ providing the music. Lucy even danced! We loved the
atmosphere and character of Barra. It was undoubtedly different from the inner
Caribbean? No Scotland!
Barra Vatersay Bay
trees Vatersay Boys
playing in Vatersay!
the wind persisted to blow strongly from the north instead of sailing up to
South Uist in the Hebrides we changed plans
and headed east to Canna. It blew a steady force 7 and the sea was very lumpy,
especially as we approached Canna. What made it worse was the freezing cold. We
were very glad to get into the shelter of Canna Harbour.
Canna is the northernmost of the ‘Inner Isles’ along with Muck, Eig
and Rhum. It is now owned by the Scottish National Trust and has a resident
population on only 16 people. Next morning the few other yachts departed
leaving us in splendid isolation. We took a long walk around part (the flatter
part!) of the island in great solitude. Suffice to say with that number of
people living there Canna has no shops or even pub, but when the ferry comes in
once a day I think all 16 residents come to meet it.
Canna – just us and
Canna –west side
Canna with Rhum in the
left Canna very early, in the light of yet another gale warning to head for
Skye. Arrived at a pretty anchorage called Isle Oronsay
on the SE coast. The bay has a small hotel with a bar used by the local
fishermen, who were very friendly (perhaps due to being in the bar since it
opened). They mostly fish for langoustine which all goes to Spain where they get three times
the price that they can get here. We’re waiting for one of them to hand
over a kilo or two, but as it is blowing hard again I haven’t seen much
fishing activity. They’re probably still in the bar. Maybe I’ll
abandon writing this and go join them as we wait for this current gale to pass!
Isle Oronsay, Skye. Another Gale!
the weather clears, but we’ve had enough and dedide to start heading
south. Today, back to Tobermory. Rounding Ardnamurchan Point did feel like returning
gentle sail / motor to Puilhadobrain (gal. Otterpool) near Seil just south of
Oban. This is a beautiful quiet anchorage and a short pleasant walk to the pub
at Clachan Seil. My last remaining relative in Scotland, Eileen McGlouchlan lived
here all her life and is still fondly remembered. She must have been a tough
old boot as she farmed all her life by herself.
is a bridge over the channel that divides the island
of Seil from the mainland, locally
known as the ‘Bridge over the Atlantic’.
After the defeat of the Jacobite rebellion at Colludon in 1746, the wearing of
tartan and highland dress (kilts etc) was banned. The islanders of Seil
resolutely continued to defy the ban on their island and used to change into
trousers at the pub when visiting the mainland and back into the kilt on their
Bridge over the Atlantic
though it was a very calm night and I thought I had dug the anchor in well, at
5.30 in the morning we found we were dragging! We had decided on an early start
anyway so weighed anchor to discover a beer can neatly wedged on the point of
the anchor. That’s it, I’ll never drink McEwans beer again.
set sail south on another murky day, passing the famous Papps of Jura (mountains,
for the ignorant) for the second time without seeing them. We finally slogged
to windward into a force 6 to arrive at Port Ellen in Islay
by the evening. We tried to get onto the pontoon (locally called a marina) but
were too large so instead made our way to the newly laid visitors buoys in the
middle of the bay about ½ mile from land. Here we sat in splendid isolation for
the next two days riding out another gale!
did once get dressed up in full oilskins and take the dinghy to shore, but it
wasn’t worth the effort. By now the weather had really got to us and we
couldn’t wait to get south where it may still be blowing old boots but
should be warmer.
fast sail out of Scotland to
Bangor in Northern Ireland. Met up with Peter
Ramsay-Baggs and his family and had a bath at their lovely farm house, then
dinner. Just wonderful!!!. Peter is a friend of James’ from college. He
has been in Northern Ireland
pretty much form the beginning of his medical career and is now the leading maxilo-facial
surgeon in the province. It was great to see him and 3 of his four now nearly
adult children and his newish partner, Alison. We had a wonderfully relaxing
day was spent doing boat chores, particularly rebuilding the furling gear for
the jib. Bumped into John and Helen from Campbeltown and had a few drams
together to celebrate. After all we had not seen each other since the Outer Hebrides.
Rosie, the resident grey seal of Bangor marina!
had arranged to meet David and Kay Healy in Dublin who were going to sail back
down to Falmouth with us, so we headed south to the little harbour at Ardglass,
just north of the border, It is a very small marina and a very narrow and
shallow entrance channel which made for an interesting exercise in boat
handling. We made it, but had to plan our departure next day to ensure there
was enough water to leave harbour.
best laid plans’ and all that! Sure, there was enough water when we got
up at 6 am to leave, but also think fog! We hung about for an hour or so
waiting for it to clear, but with the tide ebbing fast we had to make the
decision to go or be stuck there for the next 8 hours. We edged out of the
harbour with eyes and ears tunes and the radar guiding our way. Fortunately
after a nervous hour or so the fog cleared, the wind came up and we had a
scorching sail to Howth. David was watching our approach and telephoned to say
that even 5 miles out it was obvious which boat we were from the speed!
went out to one of the many waterside seafood restaurants in trendy Howth and
discovered just how expensive Ireland,
and especially Dublin,
and especially Howth has become, particularly with the Pound diving against the
Euro. After dinner it was Guiness in the Howth Yacht Club (and before as well
actually!). It is a mighty impressive clubhouse and the facilities are first
off towards Falmouth, intending to stop
somewhere in Ireland
for the night, but made such good progress so we decided to head direct for the
Scilly Isles and spend a while there instead. An interesting sail with at one
time spinnaker, code 0, flat calms, thunder storms and sunshine, arriving at
Tresco by Friday evening.
finally made it to the Scillies. Lucy and I had twice before tried to get there
in previous boats to be thwarted by strong winds and fog. They were worth the
effort. We anchored just off the harbour wall at Tresco and rowed ashore for a
well deserved couple of bottles of Rattler cyder (we had to with the
Healy’s on board as they produce it), and they do spell cider with a
‘y’ in Cornwall so I was told.
A quiet night in Tresco
a wonderfully relaxing couple of days, walking, sleeping and swimming (actually
Kay was the only one to brave the freezing clear water and only for a very
short while), we headed back to Falmouth.
Yet again we could not get into Pendennis Marina, but Mike Webb the owner,
kindly lent us his own mooring outside his stunning house at Mylor. It was back
to the Healy’s for more baths, dinner and drinks and we slept on shore
for the first time in three months. It’s not all its cracked up to be
– except for the baths.
said our goodbyes in Cornwall and had a very
fast sail in huge south-westerly swell to Dartmouth,
which was full! Fortunately the harbourmaster allowed us to stay on the town
quay provided we were off by 8.30 next morning. Found a very nice Thai
restaurant and went to bed tired and happy.
off intending to stop at Weymouth, but made such
fast progress that we were off Portland by 4pm and decided to continue
direct to Southampton. As is to be expected
the wind died as we approached the Needles, but we nevertheless were moored up
at Shamrock Quay by 11 that evening.
was a rigorous workout for both boat and crew. The boat behaved admirably and
never let us down. Apart from the weather the trip was wonderful, with the
highlight being Barra and the Vatersay Boys. Now we have a few weeks to sort
out a few minor details with the boat and prepare ourselves for the voyage
anyone reads this to the end, I am sorry it took so long to produce!