Trip on Hebridean Flame starting 2023-08-24 in BSASep23

Road to the Isles, Aug 24 – 31 2023 – report by Ian Collins

Skipper, Ian Collins. Crew, Reg Morris, Nigel Alltimes and Chris Perry

GSA yacht ‘Hebridean Flame’, Jeanneau SO 37based at Largs

On the Thursday 24th of August Reg Morris and I took an electrifying trip to Scotland in his Tesla arriving in LargsMap to take over the Scottish based GSA yacht Hebridean Flame at Yacht Haven and meet up with the other crew, Nigel Alltimes and Chris Perry. It’s a long way on a lot of motorway so it was later in the afternoon when we boarded. Hebridean Flame is a Jeanneau 37 in nice condition. That evening we ate at the Yacht Haven restaurant and planned our assault on the Islands and Highlands.

With a 0800 start on Friday 25th we were off down the Clyde with first Bute then Arran to starboard. A fresh breeze gave us an easy 5 to 6 knots with some outgoing tide over barely ruffled water. It was my first look at the Islands for many years and the scenery has lost none of its magic, and for us softy Sassenachs the weather was “dress for March” in August. But for all that it was a grand day, some cloud with a few squally small showers which we missed, and glorious moments when they switched the sun on. It turned out that this variable weather, but for us, thankfully dry, was the pattern for the week.

Passing the southern end of Arran we steered west for the Mull of Kintyre and our destination CampbeltownMap. By now the wind was a brisk westerly and our designated berth on the pontoon was on the east and 6 to 8 feet short of our o/a length, but waiting to greet us was the harbourmaster and the concerned skipper from the boat that would be behind us as we came in alongside at 1735, with a little help from our friends. Later we inadvertently joined a soberly attired group at a noisy wake, in one of the pubs in the square, and finally deafened by disco, retreated to the Indian Restaurant on the Quay for an excellent curry.

In the morning after a peaceful night, when considering our arrival, we used the very good facilitates; and for the first time, in what turned out to be normal procedure used the “Honesty Box and envelope system to pay for the berth. It’s so nice to be trusted. During this first passage we sailed 37nm with 3.3 hours on the engine.

Saturday 26th August and away early at 0550 to catch the tide round the bottom of the Mull of KintyreMap. Little to no wind on this part of our trip giving us the opportunity of being able to keep close in and enjoy breakfast. On the passage close to the shore it was not to comment on the several weather-worn, incredibly basic, caravan sites strewn along the shoreline. I suppose that if your background and home turf lie north of Stirling, then this area must appear positively balmy. This pleasant interlude ended at 0845 when completing the transit along the southern shore we entered start of the Sound of Jura. Here as we rounded we met a NW wind arguing with a Northerly current proving Jura in the Sound is nowhere near as pleasant and smooth as Jura in the Bottle.

Sails helped, a little, tacking helped, a little; but the heavy lifting for this leg was left to the engine. Port EllenMap (Eilean) on Islay was our destination and home for the night. Our concern was for the wind a lively 14knts plus some extras blasted away at us till we turned into the little port from where you could see the windsock on the outer harbour straining at ninety degrees while all on the pontoons was sweetness and sun light. We ate onboard as Port Ellen is not overburdened with hospitality venues, but after having sailed 39nm with engine assistance for 7.6 hrs, berthed at 1430 the toilet facillites were quite unique but clean and tidy, being in a house close to the harbour. Enthusiasts Reg and Nigel stretched their legs before turning in for an early night.

Sunday 27th and at 0800 we began a virtual tour of the distilleries. Sadly they were shut on a Sunday, and regrettably to start we had not a lot of sailing as the wind remained stubbornly NW. So along the SW coast of Islay going North there’s Laphroaig quickly followed by Lagavulin, then a few short cask lengths past Dunyvaig Castle and you’re abreast of Ardbeg. The field clears as you reach Ardmore point and the slow bend to the little lighthouse at Mc Arthurs Head.Map It’s due north now with the tide up the Sound of Islay past the lifeboat station at Port Askaig and round the headland to Ciaol lia Distillery and in the distance nearing the head of the sound is BunnahabainMap. At this point taking advantage of the tide turn and with the opportunity to run before the wind we quickly cruised back down and past two of the Islay Distillerys once more. Then NNE up the Coast of Jura and past the last in the list, Jura itself bottled right on the coast and from where with not far to go past the Small Isles into Lowlandmans BayMap by 1530. We wrestled with the weed. We caught a large rock with the anchor as it slid across the kelp and had to lever it out of the prongs. But perseverance paid and at last a peaceful night on the hook was our reward for an abstemious day viewing distilleries. This was a total of 40nm with 8.9 hours on the engine.

0700 on Monday 28th and away south down the centre of the Sound of Jurra once more. This was marred a little by some leakage into the engine compartment. Chris, competent so newly appointed ships engineer investigated. It was simply when the filler cap had been replaced previously a smear of oil should have been wiped round the thread to assist it biting and not shaking loose. Easily missed and simply corrected. From the light at Eilean Craobhach marking the rocks off Port Ellen it was a grand and swift sail southwards to round the east end of Rathlin IslandMap through the overfalls and into the peaceful bay with its small marina where, this being Northern Ireland we were met by the cheery harbourmaster from Hereford.

An interesting visit spurred on by the fact that this year Reg and I shall have sailed both the north and south coasts of the Emerald Isle. In fact it turned out to be a great place with all the facilitates good hospitality venues and friendly locals. We had sailed 40nm and motor sailed 3 hours. The harbour on this occasion was affected by a lot of swell through the night which we could, maybe have mitigated by being more selective when choosing a berth Warning to the wise however. The tides around the Island are very strong and behave in an interesting pattern. So close attention to the tide tables and timing are a must. The other pointer is if you are intending your passage to be past the Mull of Kintyre from Rathlin Island then you will almost certainly have to trade off between tidal flow predictions one to the other. We chose to go best tide at Rathlin.

Tuesday 29th our chosen tidal gate was to leave at 0950 and once clear of the island we were pushed along briskly in a WNW wind over a north going current giving us lumpy seas to climb and closer to the Mull of KintyreMap the much steeper seas we had expected. This slowed progress but provided some exhilarating helming if not much in the way of distance travelled. Using the tide tables we were able, at the appointed time to sail closer to shore and benefit from the counter current that eased us round and up to once again berth in CampbeltownMap. This trip we had covered 51nm almost all apart from leaving and berthing under sail.

Wednesday 30th and our penultimate day and time for a river cruise. To this end we left Campbeltown Marina 0825 heading north up Kilbrannan Sound with Arran to starboard. A sailable wind allowed us to successfully tack up to the top of Arran, across Inchmarnock Water to the Kyles of Bute. As we headed toward the top of West KyleMap we passed the town of Auchenlochan, on past Port Driseach then round and through a narrow, quite shallow passage into East Kyle passing by the Isle of Bute Ferry . This whole section was truly beautifully scenic, sheltered and very worth the detour. On down the East Kyle then till we berthed at Rothesay HarbourMap at 1740 for a meal and drink ashore.

31st and our final day so at 0710 we followed the ferry out of Rothesay and with a following wind and a calm sea I pulled the privilege of time served and had a great sail down to the cardinal at Scoulag Point. From there Reg brought us into LargsMap Yacht Haven and our berth at 0925 a distance of 10nm. A shower then the long drive south and home with thankfully Reg at the wheel.

A very enjoyable, interesting and instructive cruise. I was as always impressed by the dedication to the job of Reg as first mate, and the effort and input of Chris and Nigel.

My heartfelt thanks to them all.

Largs  55.7723,-4.8571
Campbeltown  55.4255,-5.6026
Mull of Kintyre  55.2866,-5.7629
Port Ellen  55.628,-6.1876
Mc Arthurs Head.  55.7639,-6.0308
Bunnahabain  55.8803,-6.1067
Lowlandmans Bay  55.8829,-5.8939
Rathlin Island  55.2919,-6.1946
Mull of Kintyre  55.2844,-5.7646
Campbeltown  55.4255,-5.6026
Bute  55.8941,-5.2285
Rothesay Harbour  55.8384,-5.0536
Largs  55.7723,-4.8571