Baffling winds and Basking sharks

Weather forecasts… what can you do. First of all you pick the right one, that’s the one that suits your purpose best. Than after that don’t get to frustrated…

We left Oban the 13th of June with just that type of forecast. We would not need to put in one tack or even start the engine. St Kilda was not out of the question so we decided to set course for Barra Head the Southernmost point of the outer Hebrides.  First stop Iona at the Western tip of the Isle of Mull. We arrived just after the last day trippers left and got to enjoy the place in total tranquillity. We were on a neap which made the tides in the sound mild, but still very lively.

So far so good NW’ly turning NE’ly, Next stop Mingulay just south of Barra. The pilot did not refer to it more than mentioning a day anchorage of a beach. We did not care, it was a convenient stop for a possible passage to Hirta, St Kilda. In the morning the NE’ly was still a bit N’ly but in the second part of the morning it started to come around to the East a bit more; Not very convincing but just enough for us. At that time we were abeam of Tiree with the current going North. All and all it was a perfect sailing day. With a little help from the Scania we made it to the beach the pilot had referred to. As we made our approach we suddenly saw a massive fin come up, and before we knew it we were surrounded by Basking Sharks. At first we did not want to disturb them by dropping the anchor, but when we did they did’t even seem to notice it.

After enjoying this scene we decided to go explore the island. What a place it turned out to be. There where the old croft houses overlooking the beach filled with Seals. Half way though our walk we had a perfect view of one of the many cliffs covered in Fulmars at St Kilda (2)nesting Fulmars, Guillemots, and Razorbills. What a sight! On the way back the sun was setting and the Puffins were making their way back to their burrows. Nice!

The wind stayed in the NE that evening and by morning it was all gone. Sight seeing was the most logical option, and there is plenty to see among the little islands of the Outer Hebrides! We went out West of Pabbay and in passing Lingay. These islands are all uninhabited but in the old days were used for grazing by cattle. Now they are home to a great variety of birds, one of them being the Sea Eagle…  And surely there it was, gliding majestically on the thermic winds. In the end we even spotted four! We all went quite for a while.

Hirta was still our plan, but we needed a fair wind to bring us there. We gave our self’s until after dinner that evening and dropped anchor at Vatersay, a nice and secluded place just south of Castle Haven. The day was still young so time for a little walk. When everyone was back on board, after a wet walk back from Castle Haven, we got ready to go through the sound of Barra and make for St Kilda. There was something wrong with this plan. The wind was still light and not yet South East, which it should have been 12 hours ago. The Barometer was plunging and the air was filled with water. It looked a lot like strong winds in the make. We set sail and made it through the Sound. 10NM out, a new forecast came in and told us what we already knew, but did not want to admit to. Strong winds with perhaps gale force winds from the South East…  No St Kilda, but twice through the sound of Barra… Weather forecasts what can you do…

We dropped anchor of Gighay and had a beer. At least we tried…  The South East stayed and flew in to a gale when we made it to Neist Point on the Isle of Skye. 13 knots boat speed was enough and we took in the reefed main sail and number two jib. Still doing 11 knots and spinning of the miles. Destination Staffin Island on the Eastern tip of Skye. This would be a good jump off point for Ullapool. What we got to see of Skye, was impressive but the winds kept us working most of the time. Although it was pouring down the whole day no one went down to read a book or have a nap. We sailed the 60 plus miles together rain or no rain, complements to the crew!!!

Next morning the breeze was still up, but a lot less rain. We left under reefed mizzn and fore staysail and had a comfortable crossing to Loch Broom. In among the summer Isles the wind picked up a bit and we had an exciting sail in to the harbour of Ullapool. Here we were welcomed by the harbour master and assistants with a berth and a smile. We must have looked like drowned cats or sheep…

Thank you Ann, Ken and Collin for a great week!

Ullapool - oban2

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