I have not been able to write much since we left The Azores for Ireland on the 8th of this month. Then we were not long in Ireland before we hastened north to Scotland and, taking advantage of the weather, finally to Inverness on 29th June.
I will not say much about Azores to Ireland because I still expect a blog on that from Charlotte, Svarte and Jon Mikko, who came as crew from Azores to Dublin before flying back too see Svarte´s new grand-daughter and of course enjoy the Swedish mid-summer celebrations. Suffice to say that we c covered the 1250 or so nautical miles to Kilmore harbour almost at the SE corner of Ireland, in just under ten days, arriving at 0350 on 18th June. Charlotte´s father Warwick, in his 80s, had sailed his own boat across from Wales with two friends of about the same age, and he met us in his pyjamas.
Kilmore was a fine harbour, and we enjoyed our brief stay there before sailing up the east coast to Dublin with the early tide on 19th June, a sail of 15 hours.
Charlotte and Svarte departed on the morning of 20th June, Jon-Mikko already having disembarked to explore Dublin before we left Kilmore. It was great to have such a fine crew from The Azores. And they brought Jon-Mikko´s home smoked and cured Reindeer meat, as well as a nice piece of Moose (Elk) from Svarte´s forest near Umeo, as well as a nice bottle of Swedish malt whisky.
I hastened to undertake the needed maintenance tasks. At long last we found a nice man who got our Fridge and Freezer working again, without the need for a new compressor! I can thoroughly recommend Eoin Mulvey at Mulvey Refrigeration Technology (+353(86)8135996). Owen (Eoin) lives near Houth, but was very happy to come to the harbour at Dun Loughaire on the south side of Dublin bay. He was very thorough, and tracked the main problem to wiring that was disconnected, but should not have been. Eoin is also a sailor.
We have lost the deck level navigation lights as the wiring has finally perished and needs replacement. The lamps are also becoming obsolete, and are vulnerable to salt water ingress in heavy seas. However, we have the masthead navigation lights working fine.
Of course I shopped for the next stage. Sally Shortall and Dave visited on Saturday 22 June, which was wonderful. We had a great evening together, as usual. They left the following morning, as Sally had to get over to Trondheim for the ESRS conference.
Shortly later my new crew – Stuart Black and Fraser Grieve from Inverness – joined the boat and we set off almost immediately to sail overnight to the island Gigha off the Mull of Kintyre in Scotland. This is a tidal sail – because the Irish Sea is like a bathtub, filling and emptying from both ends at the same time. Luckily we hit the tide right, had a good wind, and so made good speed all the way up to Belfast. There followed a quiet period with tide against us and less wind, but then as we reached the short north channel between Ireland and Scotland the wind and tide perked up, and we swiftly reached the Mull of Kintyre. After that the wind died, and it took us a few hours to reach Gigha.
We had sent a message to our friend Mags McSporran (who gave us all dinner before we sailed to Belfast/ Bangor on our way South last year), and who had requested a mooring alongside the pontoon at the outer, deep, end. We needed that for our depth. The night we arrived we had a super meal in the pub at the pier head, after partaking of a wee nip of Macallan Gold together. We can all recommend this pub for food and ale, and friendliness.
We take a day off on Gigha, which we all like very much. In the afternoon we cycle up to the lovely beach at the NW end of Gigha and Fraser and I have a dip in the crystal c lear sea, which is, however, cold! We cycle back to the boat picking wild flowers en route, and then prepare a meal for Mags McSporran. As ever Mags comes bearing gifts of local strawberries, wine, crisps, etc. We BBQ lamb chops and have an excellent evening together.
Next day (25 June) we get up early to catch the tide North through the Sounds of Jura, Luing and Kerrera. We pass the Dorus Mhor and Corryvreckan at some speed, and get to Oban in good time. There is plenty of room for us to tie up at the main pontoon, after which we repaired to the shack on the fish pier for an excellent seafood lunch.
We had another early start on 26 June to get up to Loch Linnhie and through the Corran Narrows with the tide. Svalen´s depth also means that we can only enter or exit the Caledonian canal at Corpach at High water plus or minus about two hours. As it was, our timing was almost perfect, and we had a tide in our favour all the way, if no wind! Anyhow, we got in, filled with diesel and then eventually got up “Neptune´s Staircase” of locks to Banavie, where we tied up and spent the night. The crew took the Captain our for an excellent meal at the splendid “Moorings” at Corpach, which we can also recommend to others.
On 27th June we again had to set off early to reach Gairlochy locks at the exit of Loch Lochy before repair works started at 0900. All went well, and we progressed the ten miles of Loch Lochy to Loch Oich and the opening swing road bridges at either end in good time. After Loch Oich the descent begins to Loch Ness, at first in slow stages, but then in a rush of locks at Fort Augustus, which we descended toward the end of the afternoon, mooring at the pontoons outside the locks and at the south end of Loch Ness for the night.
Soon we had visitors. First, Stuart´s mother and father, and then Andrea with her two spaniels. Now one is really feeling to be in one’s homeland. After our visitors. we had a very nice meal together and a long political chat into the early hours of the next day.
Which led to a slightly late start next day to sailing up Loch Ness. No sign of Nessie the “monster”, and no wind to speak of either, so a long motor up the loch, but mostly fine weather and scenery. Later on it got damp, and it took us a while to descend the locks to Muirton Basin or Seaport Marina where we finally moored at 1800 hours.
Now we are settled here for a week, awaiting new crew, having social life with family and friends, and preparing the vessel for the 3 or 4 day and night crossing to Denmark. This small marina in the sea basin is where Aldarion and I were based for the period 2004-7, and so we know it well. The local pub is the Clachnaharry Inn, which has good basic food, and real Ales. When the weather is cold it has a nice fire burning.