Armchair Virtual Cruising West Coast Scotland

Aye the nachts are faur drawin’ in like.

You can of course choose to pick you weather and have short days or dare I say, sail a little at night and really test your mettle, but the season for most is drawing to a close. 

If I were to pop in a boat in the Glesga Fair in 2018 then where would I go cruising? 

Torridon, Sheildaig of all Places …A Possible Destination en Virtual Route??

There is a long standing lust from racing days to actually spend time dropping hooks and sinking pints, or swinging on the chain with an anchor dram in hand in the wilderness along the coast lines and to the isles I have often hurtled past with eyes mostly fixed on spinnaker luff or genoa tell=tales. 

So on this little bucket list there are the places of family folklore I think I have blogged on before- the Treshnish, Tinker’s hole, Polldhorain. Then there is intertwined with this the Malt’s Cruise of course and the Ceilidh as a tie-date.

Which Hook Nooks Have I Raced Past ? (erm, literally…)

 But this all reeks of AWBs (average white bands, sorry boats!) queing to get into the anchorages and wobbling off the various new pontoons as if they just got off the bus at Anderston Terminal. In the Glesga Fair this all really doesnt appeal, and is far better accomplished in May and June, with an exemption say for a trip to Islay to do the distilleries there with the perty at the end, having raided Tallisker  along the way earlier.

Far better in the ‘Faur’ to get the heck out of these lower latitudes and sail north. 

In my mind’s eye there is a kind of blind spot for Harris, Benbecula, Barra. It is Terra Non Cognitosurrounded by Aqua Nova. There are the frightful Minches and the Mightly Atlantic beyond. Oh The Crinan Canal for me……those great ocean breakers would gie me the shakers. More than a blind spot, like a fog of fear out there. And completely unnecessarily. I once helmed an Impala out to Coll from Arisaig after being storm bound there for two days. The sea was NW and fairly monsterous at times, ‘specially on account of it being a beam reach. Nearing Coll they got steeper and a green mountain appeared I decided to take on the bow. That my friends was the Atlantic hitting shallower water and possibly adverse tide! So fright be taken! Been there and got the t-shirt.

The Fantastic Fantasy Cruise

So My cruise ? Clyde mooring or marina on the Friday afternoon before the fair saturday, provisioned well for four days with ‘hard-tack’ for five more. Ailsa Craig and Sanda to Port on an ebb tide I hope, and sailing through the night to breakfast and sleep at Gigha. A tootle around the island and a decision make it anouther night watch or two out past Dubh Artaig and Skerryvore weather permitting. 

This is some challenging sailing. Firstly the Sound of Jura on the right tide, then the course and caution with the weater and sea state out past all the ‘Bad Boghas’ – the rocks and skerries off Iona and Tiree. There after? Well perhaps Barra weather being clement, and a fine anchor spot in Castle Bay. Bound the be ahead of the Bavarians who are mostly trying to get into Caladh or Ardrishaig Sea Lock by now. No, this is not a floating caravan tour super market to super market. 

With good conditions and a flood tide in the Sea of the Hebrides and the Minches, then why not relax with less sail on a broad reach and eat and make merry on board. OFten when racing we do that of course, and when not racing it was usually delivering with hard tack and UHT milk before and after you came on watch. A cruise this as you see, for two experienced skippers and two good deck hands at least!

Now up to the filet of the tour. The Shiant Isles. I had no idea that the Minch between Skye and Harris was so nasty yet contains a major traffic lane for shipping taking a short cut, including the odd super tanker and oil rig! It is quite narrow compared to the Minch proper of course, but rocky too. And with the ‘charmed , blessed, enchanted’ islands of the Shiant archipeligo. A kind of poor man’s St. Kilda, and I admit to my ignorance, I had no idea such a pearl existed until a few days ago. A text would have sufficed and in fact I am somewhat bothered that images are already in my head from t’internet of this wonderful little world. 

From there in a NW or SW I would actually scoot over to another group of Charming Islands, the Summer Isles at Achiltibuie and enjoy a dinner at the famous hotel bar there, if not on the lawn kissed by sunshine.  In a Westerly, and lots of it, more tempting to head to the east coast of Harris and Lewis and explore there. 

From though the Summer Isles, a replenishment at Ullapool. Ole’s Pool has always been a land crab favourite of my, and featured along with the Five Sisters of Kintail in my fairwell to Caledonia. From the Viking’s bay, round then to Torridon, because that is where the photo above was taken. My dad, a whole lifetime ago, exploring and ‘staying ahead of the racing rabble’ 

There after Plockton was also a family kind of place on the map and then over to Talisker Destillery while we are here. The sound of sleet and then Arnisdale and maybe, maybe Hourn heid another spot on the 1970s tournerihng my dad did. 

The ‘small isles’ themselves and Loch Nevis are the matter of a different cruise than tonights, one which involves hill walking boots. So I am afradi now it all gets tawdry and failing the need to take in Arisaig – a difficult entrance that keeps many away from its eateries, PO, shop and walks to the sands of Morar., then it is on to Tob’ to share stories in the Mish’. 

I feel now civilisation would beckon, and small Isles with Iona is as said a nother tour altogether. No Mulling around this time, Terra Habilis, Oban beckons and a chance to change crew, milk the coo, shower and eat and be merry at a finer establishment, or budget dwindling, chippy and the North Pier. Poldohrain then for old times sake and an easy next day to then choose the tide well to Crinan. Canal for a day of ‘chust sublimeness’ before back to Caladh to gloat over the local small timers. An icecream at Roth’y and a bag of chips for the final afternoons tootle over to normality, humdrumness, land lubbing. 
Over Ambitious?

Well all this may seem a little over ambitious, but you have to put this in perspective of what my own father could achieve in the the two weeks of the Glasgow Fair, and what good lifers curcumnavigating get up to. Cruising in Scotland runs the risk on one hand, of getting too pussified with pontoons and close to shore sponsored moorings in every village. However it can be argued that this will take the hoi palloi away from the auld favourite wee hooks, expecially as inclement summer monsoon conditions seem to be the norm for late may through to mid august! 

Gigha to Shiants non stop will seem down right deranged to some readers who are used to the joys of island hopping and getting places before dark and before the tide changes. But in years of old, going back to the Vikings, sailors had to get where they were going before the storms of the equinox were upon them. 

No this trip needs planning, and it is not for the sea sick prone wife you may have, or kids under 9 years old. It is a challenge and full exposure to nature’s elements. Tides need to be taken into account with wind, motoring for battery charges and progress to tidal gates thought of, bolt holes and escape plans if the barometerr drops like a stone, a knowledge of shipping and fishing movements, a watch for whales and dropped cargo too. 

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