I cannot adequately express how wonderful a time was had by our entire crew on the Cruise this year. The weather was really spectacular, the boat was quite adequate (held 7 of us well and still sailed well), and the whisky was, well, you know quite well I would imagine.
I am actually working on writing an article for either Sail magazine or Lattitudes & Attitudes, both stateside sailing rags. (BTW, I picked up some UK sailing mags on the way out of town and was reading them on the plane when I noticed a bit about passagemaking by none other than Nick!) We have mucho snaps, which I am getting winnowed down and up onto the web.
Our travels took us first from Dunstaffnage to Tobermory, where we grabbed a mooring for the night. Other than a darned good bakery, we were a little underwhelmed by Ballymory. No matter. The next night was Inverie in Loch Nevis/Knoydart on recommendation of Terry Saunders. Really incredible spot. (Having seen the Coast episode of the West Coast several times, I was overjoyed to see a pic of "Frankie" on the wall in the Olde Forge). The passage past Ardnamurchan was met with some concern, but it turned out to be for naught - we reached the point and it was flat as a lake and unfortunately no wind. I would second the sentiment that Mr. Lawrence seems to "overplay the hazardous" - a theme that was constant throughout our trip. We tried to break our dink's motor on the rocks of Inverie but managed to only lose the shear pin.
Next we were on to Loch Harport, and we had a marvelous romp of a reach in a nor'easterly at 20-25 knots. Managed to sail the entire way from the entrance to Loch Nevis to our anchoring spot in Harport off of Carbost. Ear-to-ear grins all around. More wee drams. ("wee" has a different meaning than the popular US perception, I found...). We did pull into Carbost to see a rather snazzy looking racy boat on its ear on the hard - the shoal off the distillery seems to fool a lot of folks. Skye was another fave - sitting there smelling the distillery looking at the Cuillins was just about perfect, if you ask me. Rather liked the pub at Carbost as well. At the ceilidh we were pretty much considered the oddest birds, even though the Kiwis had a team that had delivered their boat on her bottom. We spend an extra day at Carbost as the skipper (me) managed to make himself ill on undercoked beef. Stupid, but an extra day on Skye? Why not.
Next we set off for points south. We made a bit of a run out of it, though it was yet another flat windless day (Twice past Ardnamurchan and both times it was quiet.) We made for Loch Sunart, to see David at Salen. As noted on this blog, it's pricey (~20 pounds for the night) David not only gave us the weather forecast and got us tied up, but gave us the tides, offered to get us seafood, and the next morning he and his wife made a grocery store provisioning run for us! I dearly loved it when he pulled up to the boat at the pier in his brand new Audi TT - being an Audi man myself. (Apparently David and his wife have purchased a place on the other side of the peninsula, so he will be retiring from his role at Salen...)
After Salen we headed back down the Sound of Mull to Puilladobhrain. We had a pretty light but enjoyable sail down the Sound, managed to worry a warship in the Firth of Lorn - "Sailing yacht Eloise, this is British Warship Somethingorother, we are conducting operations, please state your intentions." Our intentions were to sail directly away from them at a blistering 5 knots. My favorite night of the entire cruise followed. We anchored, along with about a dozen of our closest new friend's boats, in the most wonderful anchorage of Puilladobhrain. Whoever painted the rocks to create range markers, thank you. After a lovely dinner a few of us decided to head to the pub, so we rowed ashore - witnessing a truly magnificent sunset - and proceeded to the Tigh-an-Truish. I never wanted to leave, and I should not have.
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After that, it was down into the Sound of Jura. We stopped at Ardfern...our only marina the entire trip. S'okay. The next day was a wonderful sunfilled sail down to Lowlandsmens Bay on Jura. After making the entrance and getting the hook set (yep, a good set), we had a good meal, more wee drams, and off to bed. I woke up about 01:30 from the howling in the rig, and came into the main cabin to find another couple of my crew there. We made sure our swing was ok, and confirmed we were not dragging, and set up 2 hour watch shifts to keep an eye on things. About 0530 the winds were down to 10-15 knots, so we all got some sleep.
Next day was Islay - another sunny sail, this time with Minke whales alongside for much of the way. (I love Islay whisky, so this stop was really nice on the whisky front.) We managed to grab an anchoring spot in the Port Ellen bay, and hit Ardbeg, Laphroaig, Bowmore and Bruichladdich before heading to the ceilidh at Lagavulin. Bruichladdich was the most interesting to me, as he is doing some wonderfully insane things with double-maturing, like a 15 yr old in Chateau d'Yquem casks. Mmmmm...Really enjoyed the Islay seafood as well, wolfed down copious amounts of oysters, scallops, crab, really anything that floated by my maw.
We pulled a marathon back to Dunstaffnage so as to not leave our charter hosts in a lurch, and thence off to Glasgow. The ride home was a blast, with 20+ knots most of the way. I will say a blow above 20 makes coming out of the Sound of Luing pretty interesting, especially with an albeit small outgoing tide. Nice wave heights - we had to time our turn north as if we were out in a true blow. No wonder you guys are such good sailors, you get a little of everything!
Besides Mr. Lawrence, we were using the charts (of course) and I had the BA charts on my trusty Mac with GPSNavX. Being a geek I had my bluetooth GPS receiver, which worked out well as the boat plotter was more of the trip planning variety, not so much for navigation. I also had a handheld GPS with all of our waypoints on it - belt, suspenders, and a bit of rope. Best book on whisky I read to prepare was Iain Banks' "Raw Spirit." I enjoyed his anti-Bush rants almost as much as the whisky discussions. This blog was extremely helpful, especially in finding those places that aren't in the books, and are all the more special because they aren't.
I still feel a bit like McIntyre at the end of Local Hero, calling the phone box whilst breathing in the sirens and noise of my home port, Seattle. I hope I always feel that way, it means that it's all still alive in my heart.
Next year we plan on taking our own baby up north from here, towards (but not to) Alaska, romping in our own backyard. Not so different, methinks.
I'll post the pics collection when we get it all together!