Petestack Blog

25 September 2022

Kayak round Lismore

Filed under: Paddling,Sailing — admin @ 8:18 pm

I’m ‘supposed’ to be trading my sailing know-how for Amanda’s in kayaking and we’d hoped to go sailing yesterday…

Amanda lives about 180m up the road and Ruth lives right in between (a neat 90m from either of us). Amanda’s a Sea Kayak Leader and Coach who’s keen to do some sailing where I’m a lifelong sailor getting into kayaking, so Ruth suggested we could help each other. What a good idea!

But a forecast short of wind said ‘kayak’, Amanda suggested the single-day circumnavigation of Lismore we both wanted to do, so that’s what we did. And, needing to cover the length of the island by a midday low tide, we were afloat by 8:35am having arrived at Port Appin still only just in time to grab the last obvious parking space! We’d still been discussing which way round to go on the drive down, but settled on anticlockwise to cover the more exposed Lynn of Morvern first when we’d be more sheltered from an expected slight strengthening of potentially adverse breeze (F2–3 NW’ly?) paddling back up the Lynn of Lorn in the afternoon. While we also had to weigh up the possibility of now missing the last of the ebb through the inside passage at Eilean Musdile (Lismore Light) when the flood would be with us there on the clockwise circuit, we thought we could cope with that so headed pretty well point-to-point to get there ASAP before following the coast more closely back up:

In the event we had nothing to worry about with an apparently effortless, almost dream-like passage down to Eilean Musdile taking just over three hours and the channel being child’s play when we got there after a short stop to portage the narrow neck (An Doirlinn) between Bernera and Lismore. Now of course you can have enough water to paddle this, but perhaps not at the state of tide you’re likely to find on a round-Lismore kayak trip where you’re aiming to hit the southern tip of the island at low water, and it might not take any longer just to paddle round Bernera, but we’d planned to go this way so portage we did!

Time to relax after hitting our one and only major target on time, so we stopped for an early lunch at the lovely little bay of Port an Rubha at the southern tip of Lismore before I took my boat for a quick play so Amanda could take photos with my camera:

And then we were on our way back north-east, happy with our decision to save this more sheltered option for the return and making another stop at the ferry terminal of Achnacroish after I’d also popped into a wee bay called Miller’s Port to sort an annoying loose flask rolling about under the hatch behind my cockpit:

For those interested in a similar day trip, I recorded 18.9 nautical miles (21.7 statute miles or 34.9 km) over the ground in a little over seven hours including stops and that brief play at Port an Rubha. We’d planned assuming about eight hours, but everything (tide, conditions etc.) just came together perfectly, with probably about six hours of actual relatively relaxed paddling and typical, mostly slightly tide-assisted, speeds of 3.5 to 4 knots over the ground. If the second half of this speed profile suggests a slight drop in pace where we didn’t feel one, this is perhaps simply due to following the coast tightly where we’d made more obvious use of the tide on our straighter morning line, but the top peak still comes as we crossed the tide back to Port Appin at the end:

All in all, a grand day out taking a logical and aesthetic route in perfect conditions, with plenty of interesting but unphotographed wildlife (porpoises, seals, many herons, geese, more) to further add to the charm!

So could we cap a great weekend by squeezing in a sail today before strong winds forecast for the next couple of days started to really blow up this afternoon? We sure could and it was fun (check the smiles!), if still plenty windy enough to give Amanda’s second sail on Fly a quite different vibe to her first in conditions more like yesterday’s a few weeks ago. The ideal for teaching and learning is probably somewhere in between, but this is what we had:

18 September 2022

Not Loch Etive

Filed under: Sailing — admin @ 11:54 pm

Let’s start at the end and finish with the beginning today…

I’ve wanted to take Fly up Loch Etive for years, had the perfect combination of neap tides and fine conditions, but hadn’t considered the temporary platform:

Connel Bridge reduced clearance ongoing

This work has been delayed by Covid 19 restrictions. There is no clear end date for the work.

BEAR Scotland have installed a temporary platform under Connel Bridge at the mouth of Loch Etive.

The Charted Clearance of 14 metres is reduced to 13 metres for the duration of the works. The installation began in November 2019.

Mariners are advised to navigate with caution in this area until the platform is removed.

Any vessel with a height above sea level greater than 10 metres intending to pass under the bridge during the work must contact the BEAR Scotland Major Bridges Manager on (44)07845 220 531 in sufficient time to warn BEAR Scotland personnel working under the bridge of the imminent arrival of said vessel.

Connel Bridge location is at 56º 27’ 21” N 05º 23’ 29” W.

So should that have been the stopper I made it? Perhaps not but, after calculating everything carefully to arrive at a reasonable margin of comfort then discovering this reduced clearance the night before I planned to go through, I simply had to work with the information I had. Some sources give Connel Bridge as 50ft above the water and I have older charts and pilot books saying 15m, either of which would be plenty at any state of the tide when I’ve calculated (but not actually measured) Fly’s air draft to be in the region of 13.5m. But 14m at MHWS (which I already knew about) is getting tighter and 13m tighter still with my expected 1.5m or so of clearance for this morning’s neap tide suddenly reduced to a not-so-comfortable 0.5m. So, after ascertaining through binoculars that the platform remained in place, I regretfully turned and, with nowhere else in the vicinity I currently wanted to visit, headed home. I still feel like I’m in the wrong place tonight when I really, really wanted to go, had what should otherwise have been the perfect opportunity, but lacked 100% conviction that it was safe for me to proceed. On which note I must measure my actual air draft, which will be close to what I’ve calculated but I’d feel happier knowing exactly even if I’m never going to push it to the limit when predicted tide heights etc. are no more guaranteed than the wave heights that might come with them!

Edit (the next day): found a Facebook post by Alba Sailing with letter and drawing from BEAR Scotland indicating that I could still have gone through easily with the platform there. Not currently finding this text and drawing anywhere else (e.g. MS-00009356, where it’s not among the listed documents), but the normal ’14m advertised chart headroom’ seems pretty cautious when it also gives the platform height as ‘15.65m above Mean High Water Springs (MHWS)’!

Now back to the beginning…

Keen to keep using the boat with a prolonged spell of fine early autumn conditions, I thought to follow my September cruise in company with a three- or four-night trip incorporating Loch Etive, but chose to head for Loch Spelve on Mull first with an almost-dawn target for the Connel Bridge tide becoming just that tad more attractively timed along with yet smaller tides for the following couple of days. And, after a windless motor out into Ballachulish Bay before enjoying a very pleasant sail down Loch Linnhe, I suddenly found myself overpressed and scrambling to shorten sail with the boat luffing up and the whole rig shaking as a properly stiff breeze blew up between Loch a’ Choire and Glensanda. No messing here as I went straight for the second reef in the main before shaking it out as the wind pretended to drop then dousing the main altogether and continuing under just reefed genoa when I realised I’d been had! I’ve got a wee video clip of the double reef here:

So perhaps I wasn’t expecting that strength of wind but, once adjusted for it, did at least get a fast and controlled sail all the way down to the mouth of Loch Spelve, where I started the engine for the combination of battery charging and upwind snaking through the lengthy entrance channel towards the north-west corner some three miles inside. And here I was surprised to find Martin and Philippa on Warisha just a week after I parted from them at Lochaline, now cruising together with Stuart and Sue on Esseness (who invited me aboard when I rowed over) and Simon and Debbie on Aspyrian:

To set myself up for the morning entrance to Loch Etive, I wanted to be anchored somewhere quite close to Connel Bridge and chose Camas Nathais north-west of Dunstaffnage which offered a clean bottom in shallow water with reasonable shelter in the conditions. And I had a great sail over, getting there really too quickly for a comparatively short hop and perhaps regretting not bringing one of the inflatable kayaks with all afternoon to kill there:

While I had Camas Nathais mostly to myself, it was shared over lunchtime with a party who arrived in two RIBs and overnight with a Dehler of some description (older style, bigger than the 34s I know), which came in at dusk and circled just outside me before anchoring further from the head but closer to the west shore, perhaps thinking to lessen the slight swell that found its way in without ever really bothering me:

So here I was with good phone reception and plenty of time, idly searching for any further info on Connel Bridge clearance when I found the notice of the temporary platform. And you know the rest!

11 September 2022

September Cruise

Filed under: Paddling,Sailing — admin @ 2:42 pm

Time for a sailing blog!

Sometimes things get blogged and sometimes they don’t but, months after I last blogged about anything and nearly a year since I last talked about sailing here, the impetus finally comes from a September cruise I couldn’t have done when I was still working. Of course I’d thought that now I’ve retired I’d get fitting the boat out early for an April launch, but started building my kayak store instead before losing weeks of potential Fly time to dismal May/June weather and finally (if only narrowly) breaking my record for latest-ever launch in not hitting the water till 2 August! So was it worth it for what’s likely to be another sub-three-month season? With more good sailing already bagged by mid-September than perhaps the whole comparable post-refit ‘era’ of 2019 and 2021 (2020 of course being lost to lockdown etc.), I think that’s a rhetorical question…

So I fancied a trip south, thinking Sound of Jura or something, and the combination of RHYC Loch Craignish muster on 3 September, proposed cruise in company to follow and weather looking OK for the foreseeable had me heading for Puilladobhrain on Thursday 1 September. With little wind till hints of a south-westerly tempted me into beating down the outside of Kerrera instead of motoring on through Oban Bay and the Sound, I didn’t get much sailing that day, but not to worry when there was plenty to come over the next week! See chart below for Fly’s track, with ‘solo’ days marked in red and ‘cruise in company’ in blue:

Can’t remember how many boats I counted at Puilladobhrain but it was certainly short of summer busyness at about eight (?), which helps when Fly needs a little more scope and swinging room than most as a light boat on part-warp rode when all-chain seems far more common. The yacht we followed in turned out to be Mark and Charmian Entwistle’s Discoverer of Sleat, likewise en route to the muster and cruise.

Friday was much windier, but gave good sailing all the way to Craignish once I took in a reef in the main and some turns on the genoa (setting beautifully with its padded luff) off Easdale, and arriving a day early gave me pretty free choice of anchoring spot within the designated area in the Lagoon (which actually never got busy with some boats preferring Ardfern in the strengthening winds):

While the muster was officially just Saturday evening, other RHYC boats were arriving all the time and I’d also purposefully got there a day early to see David and Carol Graham at Barfad, where we spent a very pleasant Friday evening as well as bumping into George Seaton at Ardfern when Carol took me up earlier to fill a couple of diesel cans. Then some serious threat (amber warning!) of rain caused the muster to be moved from the slip at the Lagoon to Lucy’s Ardfern (very nice café), where Vice Commodore Martin Clarke outlined the latest cruise plans (what… we’re still planning to go out through the Corryvreckan in this wind?), which might have led to a couple of boats heading elsewhere but turned out to be a good call. So we’re off through that notorious gulf on Sunday morning and of course I really wanted to do it (first time in all my years of west coast sailing), but it was windy and had been windy, if fairly crucially from the east with no sea to speak of. In the event it was probably about as straightforward as it ever gets and you’d never have guessed its reputation if you didn’t know… except that you have to know to be there at all! John and Lesley on Leumadair were through first, taking off at speed under full sail and quickly putting miles between themselves and the rest of us, with Fly following under just genoa (typically hitting the sweet spot for efficiency when single-handing in a breeze) and eventually being overhauled by the other bigger boats (Discoverer, YoHoHo and Warisha under various combinations of reduced sail) way out the other side. While my photos of Discoverer show her passing during the brief period Mark and Charmian shook out their reef(s), I think Warisha just had genoa all day and am guessing YoHoHo stuck with the genoa and tiny main you see:

Anyway, we’re through the Corryvreckan and heading for Kiloran Bay on Colonsay, which is providing excellent shelter from the east for us but wouldn’t from the west. I’ve not seen a yacht there in two short holidays spent at a cottage above the bay but there are going to be nine by nightfall, which might surprise those on the land! While Colonsay’s a lovely island and Kiloran’s a lovely bay, there are (many) times when neither’s the place to be in a yacht. This Sunday night it’s paradise afloat as well as ashore:

On Monday morning most of us are heading for Cragaig Bay on Ulva and, mindful that my thoroughbred 28ft cruiser racer is still by far the smallest boat in the fleet and I can’t drive her that hard on my own, I’m looking for a head start and away first again. Today I’ve chosen to start under just mainsail (still reefed from Friday), but the genoa might have been better when it’s almost dead downwind to Ardalanish, I’m not trusting the tillerpilot with the deep running angles and find myself preferring to steer by hand much of the way (NB the genoa’s not much use behind the main because it’s basically just blanketed and doesn’t want to goosewing). But it’s good, quick sailing and no-one’s obviously catching me apart from Geir and Deborah on Grand Banks 48 (motor yacht) Anne of Ardfern, who’d have overtaken me coming through the Sound of Iona if they hadn’t stopped for a break there.

Apart from that, it’s still a thrilling lone ride all the way to Cragaig on what’s now become more of a starboard-tack fetch with no real shelter from quite fresh conditions till I’m almost there, but I’m the first of the RHYC yachts to drop anchor just inside the single prior arrival whose poor crew probably thought they had the place to themselves!

So… Cragaig is a lovely wee harbour with decent shelter and a fine prospect of Ben More. While the entrance isn’t obvious from offshore till you’re really quite close, it’s actually quite straightforward once identified with a clean entrance channel that’s plenty wide enough. When (time to extricate myself from the present tense here!) I decided to pump up the kayak instead of the dinghy to try a wee paddle — and I mean ‘try’ because I hadn’t tried it from Fly before — I was surprised to see a group of sea kayakers appear from the corner of the bay and head off who knows where. Now I obviously can’t carry my sea kayak on Fly, but had brought the smaller of my two Gumotex inflatables, which is the really tiny Twist, and think I’d probably have preferred the slightly larger Safari. It’s a while since I’ve paddled the Twist and it does feel small, but at least I now know it’s possible to get in and out of an inflatable kayak from my hook-on plastic stern ladder and things should work better yet when I fit a more substantial folding stainless one.

Tuesday 6 September came with the twin targets of Calgary Bay for lunch and Sanna Bay for our overnight stop, we had good sailing all the way till the wind eventually (perhaps even conveniently?) dropped off the Point of Ardnamurchan and — wanting to get this blog done — I’m just going to leave the photos mostly to speak for themselves. But you might like to look out for the sailing ship off Staffa, the lifeboat (not sure which one) speeding past Lunga and my full mainsail, which had Fly absolutely trucking NNE towards Ardnamurchan after shaking out the reef as we left Calgary:

Now Kiloran, Calgary and Sanna have much in common as beautiful sandy bays popular with land-based visitors but open to the west in ways which leave them best classed as ‘occasional’ anchorages for seafarers… perfect in the prolonged easterly stream we’d been exploiting but potentially uncomfortable or even dangerous at other times. While Sanna also brought the first ever failure of my Rocna anchor to bite first time when trying to tuck right into the southmost corner with Leumadair and Anne of Ardfern simply brought up a humongous clump of weed, this was quicky rectified by moving slightly northwards to clean sand where RHYC member Doug Sharp coincidentally there on Blue Point had (like the solitary prior arrival at Cragaig) probably been anticipating a quiet night! And we had our first real daylight rain for days, with impressive afternoon showers to seawards (see photos of Warisha below) followed by a pretty wet evening for the beach barbecue we could have had dry any other night:

Wednesday saw our fleet starting to disperse, with Discoverer heading northwards home to Sleat and Neil, Sue and Mark on YoHoHo also deciding not to head up Loch Sunart as far as Salen. So we had just Warisha, Leumadair, Anne of Ardfern and Fly left that evening for a good meal at the Salen Inn although that’s somewhat jumping ahead when we have another pile of photos to take us there first! Again not stopping to say much about these when I’m trying to get the blog finished and it’s really just a peg to hang the photos from, but I do like the one of Martin motoring the dinghy apparently out to sea to say goodbye to Mark and Charmian as Discoverer departs:

While I like anchoring and wouldn’t want to be simply sailing from marina to marina, pontoons also have their place and I enjoyed the change of gear that came with our final two nights at the fine facilities at Salen Jetty and Lochaline Harbour. So, yes, there are fees when anchoring is free, but you’re never going to drag, can step ashore, get toilets, showers, water, fuel, whatever, as well as instant, inter-boat socialising. And, after having previously been invited aboard Leumadair and Warisha for group drinks, it was nice to finally get John and Lesley aboard Fly at Salen and (jumping ahead again here!) Martin and Philippa at Lochaline. But our remaining group of four boats, seven sailors became just two boats, three sailors for Lochaline as John and Lesley on Leumadair headed off first on Thursday morning to catch tidal gates south and Geir and Deborah on Anne of Ardfern (who had been coming with us) had to go to Oban instead. The healthy breezes that had provided almost non-stop sailing from Craignish to Ardnamurchan were becoming more sporadic and my initially fairly determined attempt to sail finally gave way to a calm motor down the Sound of Mull about halfway between Calve Island and Eileanan Glasa or rather more than halfway between Salen and Lochaline. And here I had to stop and make circles to recalibrate the tillerpilot since I wanted to use it but something had started upsetting it as I’d left Salen that morning to the extent that it now simply wanted to steer an imaginary slalom course sweeping from lock to lock!

So I’ve already said I had Martin and Philippa aboard at Lochaline, but must add that was simply the prelude to an enjoyably long evening of dinner, music, wine and chat aboard Warisha with them… strange to think I’d never met them before Craignish, but that’s what a cruise in company’s all about when the people you’re with (and this includes everyone named above) quickly seem like old friends! Sad that dinner pretty well started with the news about the Queen, but we’re surely all aware growing older that none of us are here for ever. And we’re also reaching the end of my cruise tale now with Lochaline but a relatively straightforward day from Fly’s Glencoe home, or so I thought with favourable tide the whole way and the probability of a light north-easterly suggesting a pragmatic, quiet motor up Loch Linnhe to be sure of getting to the Ballachulish Bridge on time. In the event I had significantly stronger headwind than expected and set the genoa for some (mostly) motorsailing beating that would be both more comfortable than bashing straight up on engine and quite simply less hassle than a full-on sail against that wind on this final day:

So what else needs saying before I wrap this up? While I’ve been an RHYC member for many years, I’d never joined one of these cruises before and it won’t be the last! Like the Drascombe rallies and group cruises I used to enjoy from 1992–6 (and on which we sometimes covered as much or more ground) but with bigger boats. It was good for me as Fly’s first real trip in years when I might have been feeling a bit rusty, but you don’t simply forget how to do things you’ve done for so long and it quickly just seemed so natural to be ‘back’. I’ve had a really good chance to test things (including, but not limited to, my new Raspberry Pi chartplotter and sprayhood) for the long-planned Shetland trip and now have a very good idea of what’s ready, what’s not and what I still want to sort or add. Perhaps I’ll discuss some of this stuff in more detail another time when things I’ve discovered about its usage may interest others, but right now I’d prefer just to say thanks to all the other participants (including those on Pride of Erin and True Brew who weren’t with us for so long and I barely saw) for such a good week together! :-)

8 October 2021

Spinnakers and anchors

Filed under: Sailing — admin @ 3:59 pm

Since Fly spent 2006–18 and 2020 ashore with just a short 2019 season afloat, there were two things I still hadn’t done with her since 2005 and just had to do this year, these being to fly a spinnaker (any spinnaker!) and spend one or more nights away at anchor. And it’s good to be able to report both these boxes now ticked…

So here she is on Loch Linnhe on 16 September with the old Hood kite (the ‘cruising’ spinnaker), light sheets and no tweakers in not much wind, ably trimmed by Lorna and steered by Twig. Yes, I have two better kites (the 0.9oz ‘Fly’ kite and an almost new 1.5oz heavy one I bought from Charlie Hussey of Bluestreak during the long lay-up and haven’t even had up yet), but this is the one I’ve put aboard for casual use and it was just a lovely day out with good friends:

And now to the night(s)-at-anchor thing, which I also needed for both the sake of it and testing/snagging, with upgraded heavier ‘cruising’ anchor gear, diesel heater and other things to try. But the weather didn’t want to play, with my projected departure for a week’s cruise last Thursday finally becoming a snatch-what-I-could two-nighter from this Monday to Wednesday… Monday motor (which saw sails up but no real sailing) down the Lynn of Morvern in biblical rain, good Tuesday sail up the Lynn of Lorn and calm Wednesday morning motor home to beat the next blow I don’t think we ever saw. So here’s Fly at Bernera Bay, Lismore, on a clearing Monday afternoon/evening, with a shallow cave on Bernera protected by unenticing vegetation and the still-impressive remains of Achadun Castle guarding the Lismore side (on which note I also have that shot through the doorway from previous visits in 1991 and 1994!):

Tuesday stayed bright and dry, with a fresh breeze conducive to leaving the anchorage downwind under sail, which is exactly what I did, reefing the mainsail in anticipation of a stiff beat (at least for single-handers!) back up the east side of Lismore and unfurling most of the genoa once round Lismore Light. And it was a good sail beating right up to the south-west of Shuna, if made more awkward up that narrower, shallower last bit by (possibly terminal?) tiller pilot malfunctions, at which point I dropped the sails to motor into Port Ramsay with the wind forecast to swing to the south overnight. Might add that I was surprised just after leaving to see that Serco vessel stay to port of me and head into Bernera Bay, but it did:

Now, the wind direction was forecast to change completely overnight, but first came again more strongly from the north-west just as I took the dinghy ashore for the photos to leave me with a stiff row back and ‘interesting’ night as I got bounced about by the swell rolling straight in and was glad to have the new anchor gear (of which more below):

But Wednesday morning saw Fly sitting quietly to seawards of the anchor, as shown by her GPS track here. While some of this is driving around looking for the best spot and some taking the dinghy ashore, the best bit’s about three-quarters of almost perfect circle at anchor where you can see how she swung in towards the head of the bay on Tuesday evening, then back out as it calmed overnight to the extent that I was able to just sit statically drifting while I cleaned the mud off the anchor before heading off:

Plan A for Wednesday was to sail home on the afternoon tide with a fair breeze but, after getting ‘increasing 5 to 7, occasionally gale 8 for a time’ off the 06:00 Inshore Waters forecast and not really fancying 7 or 8, I decided to motor straight back with barely enough wind to sail and hope not to hit the Ballachulish narrows too early. Which of course I did, but thought it worth a go and squeaked through against a near-spring tide nearly two hours before the in-going stream should start, which was pretty well on the limit for my boat and engine with the throttle almost wide open for 40 minutes to get me to the bridge and through. So of course I could have waited a bit (or maybe stuck to Plan A since I didn’t see much wind even once home), but worth remembering how much later the tide turns here than at Oban!

In-going stream begins at –0515 Oban (+0115 Dover).
Out-going stream begins at +0100 Oban (–0430 Dover).

Having mentioned the testing/snagging aspect of this mini-cruise much further up, perhaps I might conclude with some words about that? So let’s start with the clear statement that, for the things I currently want to do, Fly is now being optimised more for fast cruising and passage making than racing although I can still easily put her back in ‘race’ trim by taking some things (‘cruising’ gear) off and putting others (racing headsails and the better spinnakers) back on. So the new anchor gear is heavier and specified to hold her, unattended if need be, pretty well anywhere in anything. I’ve got a 10kg Rocna anchor (my chosen retirement gift for 30+ years of service with Highland Council!) where my previous biggest was a 7.5kg Bruce, and 15m of 8mm chain where I never carried more than 10m before. The rest of the rode is 14mm Anchorplait nylon because the Impala is a weight-sensitive boat with no chain locker and I really don’t want any more weight up in the bow well even for cruising, but I’m well satisfied with the performance of the new gear as well as aware that it’s about as much as I’d want to haul up by hand in more testing conditions. And keeping my 5kg Bruce (I have three Bruces with the third a 2kg ‘baby’!) with shorter length of chain and 12mm warp for a kedge means I also have a lighter class-legal anchor for races where I might want to take the heavier gear off.

With current ambitions in mind, I’ve also ordered a sprayhood and, if I ever had any doubts I wanted that for a trip to Shetland and back (I didn’t!), Monday’s super-wet trip to Bernera with washboards in and hatch closed would have quickly blown them away!

The last thing I might mention just now from a list as long as my arm that I’m not getting too deeply into here is the diesel heater and, having previously just tested that when installed but not run it afloat in October, think I can declare it to be warm, economical and safe. In what way ‘safe’? Well, I put a carbon monoxide detector aboard to check it out and it passed with flying colours, but I’m not so happy with what I was getting from the Origo meths cooker we’ve already used happily for years. So I’m looking at ways to improve things there and it’s a no-brainer to say the CO detector now stays aboard to ensure future safety from engine, heater and/or cooker. So, yes, I’ve still got a further long list of what’s working aboard, what needs fixing/replacing and what else I could do to make things easier and/or more comfortable, but that’s all you need to know for now!

5 September 2021

Sailing again

Filed under: Sailing — admin @ 12:30 pm

At last, the belated update to July’s Retiring to Fly post I’ve been wanting to make but unable to do sooner for various reasons including teething problems getting the new sails fitted and ready to go…

While David Southcott kindly towed Fly down the road to Dunstaffnage to launch just days after that previous post, it was later in the month before things were able to proceed further and I was able to bring her back by sea. But here you see her in the garden ready to go, on the road at the big Appin layby, arriving at Dunstaffnage and back on her own new mooring at Glencoe Boat Club, where she’s sitting unusually level empty before I filled the water tank and put the new anchor gear up in the bow well. (Impalas, like typical IOR-type boats of that era, tend to sit slightly bow down till you add some crew aft!) The fifth photo shows a modified second pickup buoy I had at home and added after finding the unmodified Anchor Marine buoy almost impossible to catch and hold with the boathook:

The next batch of photos shows the new lee cloths getting fitted so I have an ‘offshore’ yacht again. Of course you can fold down the pilot berths to make settee backs and lose the main berth lee cloths under the cushions to open the boat right up in port, but the purpose of these things is to keep sleeping people or gear on the berths at sea! I also had quite a battle fitting six new stanchions when the bushes for the intermediate lifelines proved too tight on five of them, but didn’t photograph that process because it’s not very photogenic and I’m really not trying to describe everything here:

And so to the sails and sailing! While I’d already fitted the furler (twin-groove Harken with the drum down in the bow well, so still well suited to racing) for 2019 in anticipation of ordering a furling genoa, my experiences trying manage the Pentex mainsail with bolt rope alone back then taught me that I really needed a new mainsail with slugs, lazyjacks and stackpack for short-handed sailing too, so I just bit the bullet and ordered both in tri-radial cruising laminate. And they’ve been sitting unused and untried through the 2020 season that never was and most of this summer too after the late launch and other commitments I’m not discussing here conspired to keep me waiting yet longer. After which we get to the teething troubles, including a genoa luff that was marginally too long, a halyard wrap that damaged the top of the forestay and yet more waiting through unavoidable personal commitments till I could get John and Andy from Owen Sails out on Tuesday to sort it all out. So we had the forestay right off to remake the top end, took 34mm off the top of the foil and (I think) about 20mm off the head of the sail (which I collected on Thursday) and fitted the halyard restrainer there wasn’t room for before and it all works quite sweetly now! Here are two photos from Friday showing the mainsail up at the mooring (note the more typical bow-down pose here) and both sails up in not much wind; the lazyjacks are currently just draped over the spreaders, but will get moved up to about the black tape marks between spreaders and hounds for next season:

And here are some more (including two videos) from yesterday, when I had a good sail out on Loch Linnhe till becoming completely becalmed south of Camas Chìl Mhalieu (where I saw two dolphins who didn’t stop to play and swam out of filming range before I was ready for them!), and back on Loch Leven after motoring most of the way home. I’ve tried to get shots with the telltales streaming as they should be, but not everything’s perfect when I was also at the mercy of the tiller pilot steering to release me for the camera, and the later shots (and second video) also show the stackpack tidied up along the boom:

So how are the new sails? Basically all I’d hoped for in terms of short-handed usability and performance. The genoa’s so much easier to handle than the No.1 (which overlaps a bit more and hugs the deck) because the higher clew facilitates easy skirting over the stanchions and lifelines as well as improves visibility to leeward. It’s got a padded luff to help maintain shape when reefed on the furler, and strikes me as almost a ‘furling genoa by stealth’ because it really doesn’t look like one when unfurled with the drum below deck and white UV strip! I’d had some concerns when first fitting it that it might want to sheet too far back for the tracks close-hauled, but think it’s probably going to be OK there now I’ve actually taken it sailing. And the mainsail looks excellent up, so pretty happy overall! :-)

2 July 2021

Retiring to Fly!

Filed under: Sailing — admin @ 11:07 pm

Some 15 months ago I started to half-heartedly get back to a few wee jobs outstanding from Fly’s big refit as it became increasingly apparent that Covid-19 restrictions were likely to prevent me launching with enough of a season left to make it worthwhile, and wrote:

So I was looking forward so much to getting Fly in the water this spring after 13 full seasons ashore followed by that late, late, post-refit launch last year. But now we all know this year’s just not like other years, who knows what’s happening?

And, now we all know what happened, I’m aiming to catch up and get her back in the water again ASAP. But isn’t this July again, you might ask… why so late and what’s changed to make it worth it this time? In a nutshell, I’ve just taken early retirement, don’t have to go back to school in August, and can sail when I’d normally have been working! So I was patient with the early part of this year and similar continued restrictions ruling out the necessary involvement of others, knowing I could hit the boat in early July and still have a worthwhile season left to both enjoy for its own sake and give some new sails and gear a good shakedown with a serious trip next year in mind. So some of what you see below was started last year and just finished just now, but I’ve been at it solid for the past week and am now close to being in a launchable state.

The first thing here is the circular cutout in the foredeck, made on launch day in 2019 when it became apparent that the furler gear wouldn’t fit the previous space even with the actual drum down in the well as intended. So what I’ve done here (all last year) is just tidy up that unexpected cut to make it a touch bigger and more elegantly symmetrical (the difference between the second and third photos is epoxy-coating the exposed wood edges):

Next we have a through-deck double block and stand-up block in the well to bring the furler line to deck level, where it’s led aft by Spinlock eyes on the forward two stanchions and a matching block on the third. The photos are hopefully largely self-explanatory, but it’s worth pointing out that the plywood contraption clamped in the well was to mimic the lead from the drum to determine the fore-and-aft position of the stand-up block and I reworked the walls of the deck slot with thickened epoxy to get the best possible fit for the through-deck block after filing out a couple of unnecessary corners when first adjusting it:

If I told you how much thought and effort had gone into testing and implementing a solution for the chamfered edges of the new acrylic washboards not meeting tidily where they join, you might say ‘overthinking’, but this was nothing like as simple as it first appeared! While it was obvious that they needed to run in narrower channels, my first attempt testing spacer strips of nominally (?) 3mm plastic last year foundered when my test gluing of two pieces to make a double thickness strip for the port side proved the plastic to be just about unglueable. So I revisited the problem this week with hardwood strips, finding 7.2mm for port and 3.3mm for starboard to be perfect apart from the boards binding at the top where the moulding actually leans back slightly into the channels. So I finally decided that short strips just where needed were perfectly adequate to hold the boards in conjunction with the moulding shape elsewhere, so that’s what I made, epoxy-coating them for both longevity and to limit swelling. To which I might just add that I was glad to have my Wolfcraft fine-nose clamps when sticking them in place, and you can also see the new Blue Performance winch handle pockets fitted this week to replace the Lewmar ones from last year that wouldn’t take my new one-touch winch handles:

Finally (for now), some routine antifouling shots. The blue 3M masking tape is expensive, but absolutely worth the money for its superior performance. The keel shot shows that it’s not unusual to find bits that need sorting at just the wrong time, and the shots of the dropped trailer prop how I’ve learned to be very careful doing this (it was just this afternoon and I’ve already put this one most of the way back up tonight in case anything moves):

And that’s it for now. As things stand, I’m expecting to get the boat towed down the road sometime next week for a launch ASAP thereafter, but sure that’ll be featured here too when it’s happened! :-)

8 April 2020

A Brief History of Fly

Filed under: Sailing — admin @ 4:25 pm

So I was looking forward so much to getting Fly in the water this spring after 13 full seasons ashore followed by that late, late, post-refit launch last year. But now we all know this year’s just not like other years, who knows what’s happening? Since she may or may not get to enjoy her 40th birthday afloat but I still have things to share, here’s what I know of her story so far…

[Update, December 2020: in August 2020 I had an email from John Dyson explaining that he was Fly’s first owner. He’d trailed her from Hunter’s yard near Foulness, through central London and on to Chippenham where he’d fitted her out. She was first launched at Bristol Floating Harbour, then sailed around Land’s End to Plymouth, where she was moored for four years just below the Tamar Bridge. I emailed back hoping to clarify some puzzling details of her early history as previously told to me and set out below, but haven’t heard from him since.]

She was, like many or most Impalas, home-completed as a kit boat. I was told when I bought her in late 1998 that she’s a 1980 boat, and her hull (116) and sail (9596) numbers square with that when I believe the bulk of the 155 built from 1977 to 1984 to have been towards the start of that period. Of her first owner, I know nothing except that he was an airline pilot and curiously didn’t name her, but I can piece together her history from 1986, when she was bought by Geoff McBroom. How?

I knew she’d belonged to Geoff because Ian (John) McCallum, from whom I bought her, told me about both the airline pilot and Geoff’s hang-gliding past (he turns out to have been a significant pioneer, but I just remembered the hot air balloon drop!). Perhaps I’d mentally conflated Geoff and the pilot, but some later email correspondence cleared that up!

I first heard from Geoff in 2002 after he’d discovered my exploits with Fly on the Internet. He told me the airline pilot had never sailed her or even given her a name, which I long assumed to mean it was Geoff who’d completed and first launched her, but I’ll come back to that because I was mistaken there. He also told me she was named for her speed (I think Ian McCallum had said for the flying connection), ‘not the buzzing household pest’, to which I replied that I knew but still found it the obvious image to use. Whatever, Fly must be one of a handful of Impalas to have kept one name throughout their life, and I like this one for both its associations with her history and its brevity. It’s also a name kept by Geoff for his subsequent boats, a Hustler SJ36 and an Ohlson 38, which I’ve seen in photos with the same stylised name graphic on the topsides. (Some of this information comes from further correspondence with Geoff in 2004 and 2006.)

This January I heard from Bob Fidler, who’d sailed on Fly with Geoff and also found me through the Internet. Since Bob told me he still had a copy of Geoff’s account of their 1987 cruise from the Bristol Channel to Brittany, I asked if he could possibly send me a copy, and he kindly scanned it for me. From this I learned that this Brittany cruise appears to have been their first trip in Fly since it refers to only just getting launched in time ‘to find the toilet left solidly blocked by the previous owner.’ (Note: if the airline pilot hadn’t sailed her, what had he done? Just motored around, or sat on a mooring? He must have completed and launched the boat anyway.) It’s strange seeing photos of my boat looking so familiar years before my ownership with many distinctive fittings (e.g. companionway grab handles, twin compasses and portlights) as they are today, but predating others (the No.3 genoa tracks). She’s sailing with the original Hood sails including a spinnaker I sometimes still use for cruising, and the topsides are adorned with the first incarnation of stripes and stylised Fly (no leaping Impalas) since modified in both subsequent ownerships. There’s an interior shot with the familiar original cushion covers and lining material, one of her dried out alongside at Padstow (I’d never dare on that fin keel, but see little need up here!), and two maps showing her outward/return tracks between Portishead and Land’s End/the Isles of Scilly and around the Brittany coast. And, while I clearly can’t just go uploading all this material here because it’s not mine (NB I’ll quite happily show people I know, but not redistribute), I’d think a couple of reduced-res boat shots to show her 1987 styling probably OK:

While Geoff clearly loved Fly, he really needed a bigger boat and didn’t actually keep her that long, selling her to Ian McCallum and George Sproul in early 1989. So she moved from Portishead on the Bristol Channel to Port Edgar on the Forth, which is where I found her now owned solely by Ian. I don’t know when George sold his share to Ian, but do know that her then first-choice Sobstad sails came through George’s weel-kent son Kevin, who must have had two spells at Sobstad since Google tells me he’s been with Hyde, Sobstad and Ultimate (in that order) since I bought Fly. My 1998 photos show the Fly name, stripes and leaping impalas as they came to me, along with hatch garage (now gone, but sometimes missed when crew block out the bulkhead-mounted instruments!) and Mk I rudder (replaced by the Mk II in 2002). The No.3 tracks are there if not obvious in either shot, but you can see Ian (facing camera) and my dad in the one from Port Edgar:

So what since then? From what you can see here, new topsides styling (I redid the stripes and graphics to balance things up with bigger impalas and fewer, bolder stripes), rudder and inboard engine. From what you can’t, new just about everything including multiple (Owen) sails. Trips to the Hebrides, Belfast Lough and the Clyde, with some moderately successful racing including that cherished 2003 Scottish Two-Handed Race victory. Nearly 14 years ashore, a neglected boat finally reborn through two years’ relentless effort, a token 2019 mini-season with great plans for the future and now, well… 2020. Which is, let’s just say, neither what anyone expected nor the end of this tale!

29 September 2019

Fly refit final index

Filed under: Sailing — admin @ 4:36 pm

Having found myself frequently referring back to my own blog posts about Fly’s refit and knowing that many friends and fellow boat owners were following with interest, I saw an index of all the refit posts as a useful resource complementing the blog’s search function. So I made an interim version in April which I’m now replacing with this nominally final one when the refit never truly ends! For those unacquainted with the story, it’s been an initially sporadic but latterly concentrated total refit following the 2009 discovery of serious internal water damage while laid up ashore since late 2005, with things both within and without my control to blame for the obvious hiatuses but nothing ultimately stopping me…

  1. Getting back to Fly (26 September 2010)
    Alkathene tarpaulin frame.
  2. Undercover Fly (18 October 2010)
    First tarpaulin.
  3. Clearing the decks (27 February 2011)
    ‘removing just about everything that moves’
  4. Messing about in boat (5 March 2011)
    New forehatch in, lots more out.
  5. Gralloched Impala! (5 May 2011)
    ‘another day spent gutting the boat’
  6. Marine diesels and Munro tops (4 June 2011)
    ‘combining a trip to Dingwall to take Fly’s engine to Brae Classics for blasting and repainting with a run over Ben Wyvis’
  7. Back to Fly again (22 October 2015)
    Preparing for new windows.
  8. Fly has windows! (9 March 2016)
    New windows in.
  9. Stripping paint (2 August 2017)
    Serious refit starts at last with 100+ hours main cabin paint stripping a year after we finally get the boat dry but my June 2016 shed fire throws a very big spanner in the works.
  10. Stripping slime (3 August 2017)
    ‘took the pressure washer to her decks and topsides’
  11. Not well in the bow well (5 August 2017)
    ‘unwelcome discovery of rot in the floor and aft wall of the bow well’
  12. Destruction for construction (8 August 2017)
    Cutting out the remainder of the main bunk tops.
  13. Forecabin fun (12 August 2017)
    Stripping forecabin paint and testing water tank shapes.
  14. Good tarps and bad tarps (18 August 2017)
    ‘a proper little roof to allow work with the main hatch open any day and shed snow if I leave it up’
  15. Constructing again! (22 August 2017)
    New bunk tops in.
  16. More taking apart and putting together (20 October 2017)
    Starting to build an integral water tank, more rotting wood in the cockpit locker false floor and removing the companionway bulkhead facing.
  17. Bow well cover (29 October 2017)
    ‘so we’ve got shelter to get it dry and sort the problems’
  18. Constructive progress (21 November 2017)
    Water tank construction, epoxy coating main cabin hull surfaces and eliminating paths for water ingress to the bow well plywood.
  19. Easter Fly (9 April 2018)
    Bow well repairs and forecabin epoxy coating.
  20. Galley slaves (15 April 2018)
    Rebuilding the galley from old and new parts.
  21. Working after work (24 April 2018)
    More paint/varnish stripping and priming.
  22. Doing and undoing (30 April 2018)
    Varnishing, undercoating, new nav. station bulkhead and planning an integral cool box.
  23. Just doing (10 May 2018)
    More nav. station (including testing chart table fit), galley and varnishing.
  24. Two-man relay team? (15 May 2018)
    ‘nav. shelf fitting and cool box construction done by Twig mostly when I wasn’t here’
  25. The Cell of ‘Little Ease’ (27 May 2018)
    More painting and varnishing including the (awkward!) heads compartment.
  26. Sub-cockpit grovelling (10 June 2018)
    Stripping bunk-foot lockers for repainting and remaining galley paint/varnish stripping.
  27. Bunk-foot lockers (19 July 2018)
    Preparing and painting more awkward woodwork.
  28. Forecabin deckhead (29 July 2018)
    More paint and glue stripping…
  29. Main hatch (31 July 2018)
    And yet more!
  30. Cockpit locker false floor (1 August 2018)
    ‘cut out the starboard locker’s plywood false floor identified last October as rotten, non-structural and surplus to requirements’
  31. What I’ve learned about nylon brushes (2 August 2018)
    ‘Nylon brush summary [for paint stripping with electric drill] from one year and hundreds of hours use’
  32. Cavernous hellholes of peeling paint (8 August 2018)
    ‘one week and approximately 41 hours of work’ stripping the cockpit lockers.
  33. Jigsaw pieces (12 August 2018)
    ‘progress with the chart table and forecabin bunk boards’
  34. Two-month summary (21 October 2018)
    Mast step rebuild, galley, water tank and seacock renovation.
  35. No-photo report (with photos) (25 November 2018)
    Quick summary of stuff you can’t see, with a few pics of stuff you can!
  36. Two months’ work in twenty photos (26 December 2018)
    New (Jabsco) marine toilet, water pump, filler, chart table support block, switch panels, wiring, heads window and teak rings for heads door handle, as well as chart table progress, starting internal hull lining and cleaning the engine bay.
  37. Flying into 2019 (1 January 2019)
    Engine back in, new Vetus mushroom vents, painting (priming) the areas of deckhead where light would otherwise bleed through lining carpet, new stereo, planning custom speaker enclosures, battery box restoration and cleaning/recoating exposed areas of keelbolts and plates.
  38. More bits and pieces (13 January 2019)
    Battery box back in, minor tiller repair, chart table body and lid back together, and preparing for new Treadmaster in forecabin and heads.
  39. Things right and not right (27 January 2019)
    Heads and forecabin linings, and companionway bulkhead facing back in.
  40. Two weekends, one photo (10 February 2019)
    Prototype speaker enclosures and other bits and pieces.
  41. Things to see or just talk about (10 March 2019)
    Headlining panels, new spacer disks for pilot berth hanger eyes, porthole liners for companionway bulkhead and building the final speaker enclosures.
  42. Tricky stuff (17 March 2019)
    New mount for top galley door track, chart table leg and trim for speaker enclosures.
  43. Trim on (24 March 2019)
    Refitting the galley doors and starting to tidy awkward edges of lining carpet.
  44. Four weeks solo (5 April 2019)
    Refitting the galley pole, lots more carpet trim and cleaning/oiling the washboard rails.
  45. Fly refit interim index (6 April 2019)
    (Now replaced by final version.)
  46. Speakers’ corner(s) (7 April 2019)
    Fitting my speaker boxes and test-fitting the porthole trim rings.
  47. Bumper Easter Fly blog (22 April 2019)
    Stripping and epoxying pilot berth components, making/fitting traveller support blocks and helmsman’s footrests, finishing and painting the mast step plinth, some nav. station work, chart table leg, companionway stainless strip, hatch rail repair and more.
  48. Taking the roof off (28 April 2019)
    Removing the temporary roof and cleaning the decks.
  49. Crocked for the long weekend! (6 May 2019)
    Chart table lid stay, more work on the pilot berths and fitting the new mast base to its plinth.
  50. Trolley jack attack! (20 May 2019)
    Wheels off the trailer for new tires and pilot berth bases fitted.
  51. A week from the water? (22 July 2019)
    Non-slip sand for engine box, chart table cushion, renovated hinges, porthole trim rings and instrument covers fitted, pilot berth flaps fitted, topsides/antifouling etc. largely done, cabin sole templated and made, heads door re-hung, forecabin Treadmaster edge protected, increased support for cabin sole and shaft anode fitted.
  52. Fly has left the garden! (27 July 2019)
    Fly at Creran Marine with an empty space beside the house, furler and masthead light, tiller refitted, wheels back on the trailer, boat tied down, fire extinguishers and blanket, heads door catch(es) and varnished cabin sole.
  53. Fly is afloat! (31 July 2019)
    Launched by travel hoist, laughing fly mascot, and home by sea.
  54. Working through the ‘later?’ list (11 August 2019)
    Mainsail up, test sail, new cabin sole fitted, winch handle pockets, VHF mic clip, heads/main bulkhead door catches, switch panel labels, pilot berth bolts, new lifelines, securing the folded chart table and commissioning the water tank.
  55. Flying to Fraochaidh (27 August 2019)
    Not refit as such, but an enjoyable sail reaping the benefits!
  56. The money pit of usability (29 September 2019)
    Why I’ve hardly sailed since launching, what I’m doing about it (spending yet more money!), and photos of the new washboards.

The money pit of usability

Filed under: Sailing — admin @ 4:10 pm

For two months since Fly’s emotional relaunch I’ve been desperate to go sailing yet hardly used her. Why?

It’s simple usability. While so many positive changes made during the refit promise so much for the future, I’m still stuck short-crewed or singlehanded with a boat intended to be raced by six and hampered for now by two crucial factors:

  1. Sitting on an exposed pontoon with a tight approach while I wait to get my own swinging mooring relaid.
  2. Struggling with slippery racing sails that really need crew to hoist and stow.

So let’s look at the problems here and see what’s happening to solve them…

While the pontoon berth was initially welcome for its walk-on access with tools etc., it was only intended as a short-term substitute for the mooring. But sourcing suitable ground tackle to relay the mooring has taken much longer than expected with what I was initially promised for mid-August only becoming available now in late September. So it looks like I’m on the pontoon for the short time left of this ‘season’, though I still hope to get the mooring laid soon in readiness for next spring. Might add that observation suggests more significant fouling (weed/slime?) to the bottom of the boat in two months’ pontoon berthing than I recall from a season’s swinging to a mooring, so guessing that’s due to some combination of static berth, static boat and water conditions.

As for the sails, the main problems have been remote hoisting of headsails (i.e. with no-one at the pre-feeder) and stowing the main after use. I managed one night’s successful singlehanded racing with main and No.3, then tore the No.3 through a pre-feeder jam when I tried to repeat the trick the following week! I also needed help to fully stow the mainsail since I can only get it all flaked down on the boom myself in flat calm conditions, and even then only with time, temporary ties and false starts. So the sails just won’t do for current purposes and I’m splashing out again (hence ‘the money pit of usability’) when I’ve probably already spent more on the refit than the boat’s worth (to anyone else)…

While a new furling genoa to fit the new furling gear was always on the agenda for next year, a new main wasn’t. But usability demands both because there’s otherwise no point to having got this far with a boat I want to sail but am currently finding (almost) unusable. Since my racing No.1, No.3 and kites are all in good order (despite the recent minor and now repaired tear to the No.3), my previous wish list might have prioritised full hoist No.2 and new racing main, with the current Pentex main relegated to cruising/backup in preference to the two much older Dacron mains that came with the boat. But that’s just not a practical plan for short-handed sailing, so I’ve now discussed and ordered tri-radial cruise laminate furling genoa, main and stackpack. The sails were the most expensive of four options (the others being cross-cut Dacron or Vectran), but some mixture of shape-retention logic and vanity still compels me to go tri-radial even after abandoning racing laminates this time round; while my plans for the next couple of years are centred on fast cruising, passage making and longer trips, I still have at least some club racing in mind and know what I like! The furling genoa will probably replace the dedicated racing headsails for typical club races as well as covering the gap between No.1 and No.3 when they’re used, and the new main (with luff slides and stackpack) should be not only more practical for cruising and short-handed outings but probably also as fast or faster than a Pentex main that’s already done the most work of my first-choice inventory.

So that’s it; the sails and stackpack are ordered and deposit paid despite a sobering total cost I’m not going to state here. While I do question the justification for such continued copious expense when I still have yet more needs/wants in mind (e.g. upgraded anchor gear, new lifejackets, flares etc.), the choice here was ultimately between a boat I can use and one I can’t. For sure I didn’t need to choose the most expensive sailcloth and construction options, but I was never going for the cheapest and the difference between each successive specification quoted wasn’t really so very much. You might reasonably ask (re. usability) if Fly’s still the most suitable boat for me, but that’s not even up for debate! She might be designed for racing, but is also just a delightful, thoroughbred, seaworthy, true sailing boat with good accommodation for her size and weight. And, since I’ve had her for nearly 21 years and already been through the protracted pain and expense of a refit that’s cost more than any complete Impala I’ve seen for sale recently, the only excuse for either having got this far or spending yet more I’ll never get back has to be knowing she’s my ‘forever’ boat and the main beneficiary is me. I might question the (financial) cost of it all, but fear the (life) cost of not doing it more!

Time to lighten up with some photos of the new washboards:

These are tinted acrylic from QD Plastics in Dumbarton, and so much smarter than the old disintegrating plywood. Because they’re also thinner and their angled common edges sit over-overlapped (if you see what I mean) in slots that were already over-wide, I had to wedge them in place with some cord behind the teak rails to get tidy photos. Easily sorted by fitting spacers to the backs of the rails for next year, but not right now. So does the refit ever end? Probably not, but another year’s another time after the ‘interruption’ of this year’s launch and perhaps it’s time to replace the ‘Fly refit interim index’ with a final version!

27 August 2019

Flying to Fraochaidh

Filed under: Sailing,Walking — admin @ 8:43 pm

So who’d have guessed I’d be back on Fraochaidh within six weeks of my ‘integrale’ traverse from Sgorr a’ Choise? Not me, but here’s how it came about…

Ex-colleague and (very much current!) friend Isabelle was over from France and keen for some long-promised sailing. Current colleague and friend Eilidh was keen to take Isabelle hill walking, so we took the two days of a fine weekend (no holiday Monday here!) to do both, sailing Fly out into Loch Linnhe and round Eilean Balnagowan on Saturday and climbing Fraochaidh from Glen Duror on Sunday.

Saturday’s sail pretty well started with a chance meeting in Ballachulish Bay with my cousin Alistair on his recently-acquired Silver Leaf motor yacht Silver Bird and exchange of hurriedly-composed photographs as he headed for Cuil-cheanna Spit Buoy and we for Ardsheal and beyond. Which course produced an interesting beat with the expected gentle breeze building to 28 knots apparent before subsiding to not very much at all as we rounded the island and pretty well flat calm from Kentallen home. But that allowed us to motor right into Kentallen Bay for Eilidh to admire her own wee house before another happy coincidence as we came across John Strachan and Jean Aitken on Hawk 20 Didima IV picking up a mooring at the Holly Tree for (I’m subsequently told) Jean’s birthday supper. A thoroughly enjoyable sail despite the odd spit of rain and that increasing and dying breeze not being quite what we’d ordered!

Now, try researching ‘Fraochaidh from Glen Duror’ and you’ll get plenty hits warning of dense forestry impeding this shorter approach, but keep reading and you’ll see that clearing has opened up some good ways through. So we started from the Forestry car park north of the river after deciding that parking for the track to the south of it suggested by Steven Fallon’s site (which would cut out the last remotely awkward ground) really wasn’t satisfactory. The former footbridge is still absent where we crossed, but the river was low enough to cross dry by stones, and our more westerly return track charts another wee track back down before cutting back to the river where we knew it would go. It was hot and sunny with great near-to-mid-distance views and a pretty-well aerial prospect of Saturday’s sail, but things further to the seaward side more hazy (e.g. the Mull Ben More and Scarba discernible, but not really Jura and definitely not Colonsay). Isabelle hadn’t done much walking since recovering from a serious leg problem and was concerned about her ability to make the summit, but got there and back in fine style in the end. It was a pleasant surprise to meet former school captain Jo Shepton and boyfriend at the summit after they’d followed us unrecognised for much of the afternoon, and a pleasant non-surprise to return to Eilidh’s Kentallen abode for the fine dinner she’d pre-prepared. Put the Saturday and Sunday together and the weekend felt like we’d been away for a great wee holiday together even if we’d all headed home separately for the intervening Saturday night! :-)

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