Trilleen and I marked the arrival of New Years day during the shrouded darkness of a Scottish winter night rounding the Mull of Kintyre. The headland has an evil reputation for angry overfalling waves and eddies to often agitated by violent storms. This New Years morning though it was quiescent in the window between two deep depressions. I had left from Kerrera on Oban, a week before and exploited a series of tiny windows between fierce gales to reach this point.
The Clyde is Trilleen’s planned operating area for until spring sets in in 2024. This estuary runs from the Mull of Kintyre to Stranraer, and all the way north east into the central lowlands of Scotland and the Clyde river which bisects city of Glasgow. Home to a major naval base and port the estuary is also the one of the busiest yachting areas in Britain The river and estuary have the greatest density of yacht services anywhere outside the South Coast in these Islands which makes it a great place to work a boat back up to campaigning fettle.
I had left Ardminish on Gigha, the closest secure anchorage to the Mull of Kintyre in the Hebrides earlier in the day. At some headlands Trilleen can force her way round against the tide, but the Mull on springs is different, Trilleen can’t sail fast enough to outpace the tide. The best we could do was arrive slightly early at the corner and hang motionless for several hours waiting for the turn of the tide. Being early was critical on this occasion because the safe weather window was very short – too short really and inevitably imperfectly aligned with the tidal window. I was somewhat on edge because I’d loaded final reserve fuel in Ardminish, and with the forecast being for potentially short steep seas I was trying not to use too much fuel to avoid the engine aspirating air, or worse sucking dirt and filth out of the sump of the tank.
Ardminish that supposedly secure anchorage had been a wild ride for the previous two nights. The mooring field there – enterprisingly laid by Gigha Trading Limited for community benefit is like the Trading Company, limited. It’s evident that the bay is open to the east, and the pilot (navigation guide) points that out. What’s not so obvious is that it’s also horrifically exposed to the south, south east, and south south east, at least with winds over 20kt sustained. For the first and I hope last time I had to cut a line to escape. The bowline and two round turns had tightened itself into a welded mess which given the sea-state I couldn’t make an impression on even with a spike working from the deck of Trilleen. The two nights of disturbed sleep were not welcome because the even shelter at Crinan Boatyard – an altogether better shelter mooring field at the top of the Sound of Jura – had been imperfect.
I had said goodbye to the wonderfully friendly and informal marina on Kererra on Boxing Day, after a lovely Christmas together with some of the Island folk and some very distinguished blue water cruising yachts wintering in the marina. It was a gorgeous day with great company, even as I was slightly apprehensively refreshing the forecast and contemplating the fact I was about to descend the Lynn of Lorn, a narrowning funnel up which waves born in Newfoundland nearly two thousand miles to the south west smash their way inland across the bows of unwary boats to dissipate awesome power onto the shores of Mull and Argyll.
This journey south has been too much under motor for my comfort – but it has revealed a few things that needed finding. The alternator’s internal regulator is sick, and that will do my batteries no good. In fact the batteries are also sick, having endured three seasons of hard usage – certainly exceeding their projected life of 500 deep cycles. It’s also become apparent that there’s a problem with the anemometer. Entertainingly off Ardminish it was reading 989kts It looks suspiciously like a connectivity problem. These are all the sort of problems which would be really awkward to fix off the west of Harris when I re begin my Round Britain and Ireland attempt in the spring.