When the Whales came
Stunning! Only partially describes Leg 7 of AB21.
On each part of this amazing adventure we are joined by a new Crew.
On this 11 day odyssey Jan, I & Kasara have been joined by great pals & sailors Andy & Mandy from Hamble.
Their combined experience has provided us with the confidence to venture further into the unknown. We were heading “off grid” to areas where some islands had very few (if any) inhabitants, no shops, no phone signal, WiFi and poor radio reception for the shipping forecast. So we had to take food for whole trip and use water sparingly throughout.
To us, Arnamurchan Point, the furthest West Point of mainland UK, has always been a place beyond which there are storms and dragons. So it was with some trepidation we pointed Kasara towards the Sound of Mull once more and all places North including the Outer Hebrides ……
And what we have seen up there has been incredible…..the boat equivalent to “wild camping” has taken us to some of the most remote & beautiful anchorages imaginable & all reasonably accessible if the weather behaves.
Weather Report: Once again we have been blessed with the most superb conditions for exploring these waters. Calm seas, light airs, good viz, even warmth courtesy of lots of sunshine. According to a local fisherman in far away Coll, last winter was the coldest of recent times, whilst this summer in the Isles is one of the warmest and most settled he can recall. Apparently this makes it tricky to catch lobsters! Only today when we have arrived back in Oban has the weather finally broken & who cares about rain when you are catching up on sleep and doing the laundry.
The result of the fab weather and light winds means that Kasara has enjoyed full use of her engine once again, however….
Best sailing: The Islands Team did enjoy a wonderful cruising chute reach from the Crowlin Isles to Rassay in 18 Knots of breeze.
Our Leg 7 adventure took us to Loch Drumbuie (Mull), Kilchoan (Ardnamurchan), Ornsay (Skye), Rassay, LochMaddy (North Uist), Acairsaid Mohr (Eriskay), Canna Harbour, Arinagour (Coll), Staffa (this time we landed) Tinkers Hole (Iona), Kerrera (Oban).
Only Lochmaddy & Kerrera (plus a short lunchtime stop in Tobermory) were marinas to replenish water supplies & grab a shower. The remainder were wild anchorages.
Kasara dining: Eating aboard was the norm and the best eat in experience goes to on route dining as we crossed the Minch with the sun beginning to set, calm seas, Mandy & Jan serving Rassay Gin cocktails, salmon carbonara, followed by chocolate & marmalade brioche pud.
Other mentions go to Mandy’s homemade on board wholemeal bread otherwise known as the “Paps of Mandy” & a 23.00hrs steak dinner following an anchoring misadventure on day 1 (see misadventure of the week). Last but not least was Mandy’s delicious fruit cake which arrived in her luggage and accompanied afternoon tea everyday of our adventure - a real treat!
Best eat out: The Canna Cafe in Canna Harbour was a real surprise and a great find. Kelp was served as part of most dishes. The Politician on Eriskay was also a lovely lunch stop.
Wildlife Watch: - wow - the conditions were just right for Minke Whales, Colonies of Seals frolicking in the tidal currents of Kyle Khea & Loch Alsh, the numerous Pods of playful Dolphins, hilarious Puffins, flocks of guillemots and many other varieties of sea birds.
The highlight was one of our many sightings of Minke Whales. On this particular occasion Kasara was heading north of Rassay past Rona towards the tip of Skye when 2 Minke Whales, which can grow up to 10.5m & weigh up to 9 tons (both similar measures to Kasara) literally came alongside, under, next to, in front & behind us for around 30 mins. Incredible. At one point we felt them gently brush past the hull of the boat, and the sound of them blowing air was incredible.
Cultural Highlights: we actually anchored off, dinghy’d ashore and landed on Staffa - the holy grail of bird life and of course Fingals Cave. The landscape, with basalt columns was amazing and the cave itself (we actually motored the dinghy inside the cave) was awesome. We were very fortunate to have the island completely to ourselves as we arrived just after the morning visitors had left and before the afternoon boats had arrived - a very special time.
Sporting Activities: included Kayaking, wild swimming, fishing (with some success), walking, liar dice, monopoly deal & dodgy music from Pete’s iPhone - please next crew bring a better selection!
Best Landfall: This is difficult because there have been so many contenders but the Island Team have all gone for the most delightful Island of Eriskay in the Outer Hebrides - simply gorgeous with white beaches, turquoise seas and wall to wall sunshine, not to mention the most fabulous anchorage at Acarsaid Mohr - so good we stayed 2 days.
Eriskay became famous in 1941 when the SS Politician ran aground on its rocks and the islanders “rescued” the cargo of 250,000 bottles of whisky, inspiring the movie Whisky Galore. It is also famous for its rare wild ponies and the wild flower rich machair was incredible.
Misadventure(s) of the week:
Day 1: getting late, possibly a bit tired, needed to get the anchor down in beautiful Loch Drumbuie. Crew new to the boat, anchor hits rock and doesn’t catch. Try this 4 times - to no avail! Move further around the loch - drop a 5th time - seems to
take - full astern to check - sickening grind of rope around prop! Stop engine - skipper into wet suit - over the side - Crew shines torch in growing darkness - manage to unravel rope and reclaim a decapitated anchor marker buoy - yes we had run over ours! Now 23.00 - no permanent damage (only to reputation) - Steak dinner has never tasted so good!
Just to report the skipper still hadn’t learnt his lesson as he repeated this manoeuvre later in the same week - glad I packed my wet suit and an extra sharp knife!
Our anchor marker buoys are now called “Mary” after the beheaded Queen of Scots.
Summary: Once again a brilliant Leg of AB21. We went further & remoter than we ever thought we would, visiting superb places and seeing amazing things.
Thanks so much to Andy & Mandy for making up the Kasara Island Team, for mucking in and having such a laugh with us. Very memorable indeed.
Jan & I are now in Oban and heading for a night ashore at the very delightful Pierhouse Hotel in Port Appin, famous for its seafood. Then will be taking Kasara south, through the Crinan Canal to Arran for family fun with the grandkids for a few days before Jan returns home and I prepare Kasara for the arrival in Largs of Leg 9’s crew “The Canal Team” - how exciting it all is!