Scottish islands, all weathers and four solo travelers

June 26, 2017

Four solo travelers got on board for an eight day adventure sailing Scotland's west coast. Variety appeared to be the emerging theme the moment we met. A Welshman who had cruised extensively, a racing man from Bangor, a returning customer and a guy who'd never sailed before but had spent years at sea, all made up Nebraska's crew for this extended trip. The range of destinations and changeable weather ensured that the 'variety' theme kept running.

An early start on day one

Knowing we had an early tide on the first day, we all joined the boat the night before. One or two nightcaps in Tessie's bar in Ballycastle got us introduced and settled in. We knew early on, that it was going to be a good one.

We slipped the lines at 6:00am and headed east of Rathlin and north towards Jura. Our sail was welcomed with fog like pea soup as we crossed the North Channel. Our course to steer, radar, radio communications and AIS kept us well informed about other shipping. Some very congenial communications with a 300m gas tanker resulted in a temporary course change but that left us with a great sail to Craighouse - Jura. The fog disappeared for the last three hours of our sail. After a great first day on the water, we tied to a mooring buoy and were soon sitting on the back of the boat, enjoying some cool refreshments in the sunshine before motoring ashore in the tender to meet Elvis, the Jura cat.

Sound of Jura to Croabh

A beam reach the whole way to Croabh made for an exhilarating sail before the beautiful tranquility of this great destination. The sun was shining and it was warm. Short and t-shirts even got an airing as we sat at the picnic table outside the pub before our smoked salmon dinner alfresco on Nebraska's back deck.

Day three took us up the Sound of Luing and Sound of Mull to Tobermory. A fair contrast in the weather with heavy downpours and thunder storms for the last couple of hours of our sail. It didn't dampen our spirits however. Not until we arrived and realised that the lightening had caused the whole Isle of Mull to lose power which ultimate brought Tobermory into shutdown. Gladly, within one hour, everything was back as it should be. The stove had been lit in MacGochan's bar so where else more appropriate to dry off?

No change in the weather for day four

Wind and rain were the order of the day as we made our way back down the Sound of Mull towards the island of Kerrara where we berthed for the evening. The new owners of the marina have created a very welcoming atmosphere and the restaurant was super. Before dinner, they arranged the water taxi for us so that we could take a stroll around Oban for a couple of hours - still dodging the showers of course!

The weather on day four had only been a taster of what was to come on day 5. Stong south westerlies meant we had to rely on the Volvo to get us as far as the Sound of Luing so that we didn't miss the tidal gate. Once there, we unfurled the sails (though reefed right down in ner gale conditions) and had a super sail the whole way to Ardfern. Nebraska was singing.

Ardfern - a welcome retreat

Ardfern yacht haven was a welcome sight and we felt very fortunate that we were able to book the last available berth. Well sheltered from the weather, it really did feel like a different world. A much easier world. Once we all got showered and the boat squared up, we strolled around the chandlers and down to the local pub.

Weathered in

As always, we had been keeping a tight eye on the forecast and it wasn't looking any better for the next day. In the Firth of Lorne pub, we made the executive decision to bunker up in Ardfern for two night. Being weathered in is just part of sailing and we always make the best of it. Everyone had worked hard and it felt right that we all have a relaxing day on day 6.

Relax we did, but not until we had felt we had earned it. With our walking gear on, we headed over the hill on the two our walk to Croabh where we went to the pub for lunch. Two hours back and we had felt like we'd not wasted the day in the slightest. The views were amazing and the conversation didn't stop the whole time we were away.

Gigha & The Boathouse restaurant

Day seven offered a belting sail the whole way on a beam reach. Simon (the racing man from Bangor) pretty much helmed the whole way in the fresh breeze. We were pushing Nebraska hard and she was loving it.

Back on a mooring buoy, we just had time to get showered & changed before a quick pre-dinner beverage and then into the restaurant at 7:30 for three well earned courses. As always, it didn't disappoint and the hospitality was super. 

Homeward bound

Our final sail on day eight took us south in fair winds and dry weather towards Nebraska's home port of Ballycastle. This cruise had given us everything; stunning scenery, fast sailing, sunshine, thunderstorms, relaxing chill-out times and some good challenging elements but most of all, it gave us craic and comradery. We worked hard together, as a team; a great team. Everyone played their part and the fruits of our labour paid with some awesome sailing. Friendships too, had been made.