Welcome to the Maunie of Ardwall blog

This is the blog of Maunie of Ardwall. After a six-year adventure sailing from Dartmouth to Australia, we are now back in Britain.

Tuesday, 29 June 2021

Sailing with my Dad

Geoff, my dad, taught me to sail when I was only six years old. In hindsight, it might have been easier if he wasn't teaching himself how to sail at the same time, but never mind. Anyway, Dianne has headed south to see her family for a few days so Dad and I are having a few days sailing together - and the weather is amazing!

Slightly dodgy sunglasses but Dad's enjoying helming Maunie

We had a cracking sail up to the Kyles of Bute and anchored in the lovely An Caladh harbour, expecting it to be crowded with boats but delighted to find it all to ourselves, and flat calm.








Today we headed down the West Kyle into Loch Fyne and picked a nice little spot for a lunchtime stop, Asgog Bay:


From here it was only a 4 mile crossing to East Loch Tarbert for a welcome return to this pretty harbour.



Sunshine and light winds are forecast for the next few days so we'll continue with out little boys' tour until Thursday, when we'll return to Ardrossan just in time to meet Dianne's return train. 

Sunday, 27 June 2021

Sailing into the azure blue waters of the Clyde?!

We're pleased to say that the rounding of the Mull of Kintyre was a lot less stressful than was the Mull of Galloway, a few weeks ago. We managed to get our timings pretty much spot-on so had increasingly fast current pushing southwards and then scooting us round the tip. At one point we had over four knots of tidal assistance so our SOG (speed over ground) briefly showed over 12 knots when we were sailing at about 7.5 knots through the water.


Even in favourable conditions (wind and tide in the same direction) the Mull kicks up some interesting  tidal overfalls - the seabirds obviously pick off any fish flung up to the surface

We had a lovely sail up to the port of Campbeltown and found a spot on the visitors' pontoon; luckily we arrived in the early afternoon because boats were being turned away when it filled by mid-evening.

At last, sunshine! Very welcome after 3 days of pretty relentless drizzle


Sunset lighting the clouds

The town itself came as a bit of a shock - fast moving cars, police and a lot more shops than we've become accustomed to. Graham even had a haircut before we left at noon on Saturday.

The sunshine also revealed something slightly odd - the sea had turned an almost turquoise colour.

This photo doesn't do it justice, but the water had definitely adopted a colour more reminiscent of our time in the Pacific.

The answer, apparently, was some kind of rare algae bloom that was reflecting sunlight much as coral sand does in warmer places.



The weather seems to be settling in for a nice period of light winds and sunshine and so we motored around the southern tip of Arran yesterday to anchor off Brodick Castle on the eastern side of the island. We enjoyed an absolutely calm night.

Another anchorage, another mountain. Goat Fell on Arran.

Calm 

Maunie presumably features in the background of this couple's wedding photos

We're now in Ardrossan and it's all-change for a few days. Di's getting the train down to Lancashire to spend a few days with family and to see her dad, while Graham's dad, Geoff, is joining him for a boys' tour of the Clyde. It promises to be a much calmer experience than the last time he was aboard!

Thursday, 24 June 2021

Taking plenty of water with it - a virtual distillery tour in the rain

Friends, Elisabeth and Duncan, had told us a few weeks ago that they'd made the painful decision to sell Quahog, a sister-ship to Maunie, and they passed on the details of her new owners, Alex and Cathy. We made contact with them and it turned out that they were heading north as we were heading south so, slightly improbably, we managed to rendezvous in the very remote Loch Tarbert, on the west side of Jura. They are thoroughly enjoying their new boat and came aboard Maunie for drinks. We met the third member of the crew the following morning when Alex called by in the dinghy with Molly, the Cockerpoo.

This anchorage sits below the Paps of Jura, three impressive munros with the highest peak at 2,575ft, but when we were there the cloud ceiling was probably never more than a couple of hundred feet so they were completely invisible to us.



Looking west towards the very narrow passage between the inner and outer lochs.


Good charts are needed to attempt this route into the inner loch.
There are leading marks ashore but they are very difficult to pick out, especially in poor visibility.

We left the anchorage yesterday afternoon in very poor visibility (less than 300m at times, which technically rates as 'fog' in the official definitions) to head south, through the narrow sound of Islay, to Port Ellen. This will be our last island stop-over before we head round the Mull of Kintyre and back into the Clyde.


Our route down the east coast of Islay took us past a series of malt whisky distilleries so Graham has had to make do with this virtual tour (most aren't doing physical tours at the moment and the few that are have already been fully-booked). This was the tally, from north to south - award yourself one point for each whisky that you have tasted:

Bunnahabhain

Ardnahoe - a relatively new, independent distillery up on the hillside. It's the 9th distillery on the island, reportedly built at a cost of £14M.

Caol Ila 

Ardbeg

Lagavulin

Laphroaig

Graham is very pleased with himself that he scores 5 out of 6! His favourite, Lagavulin, even has a tiny anchorage just beside the distillery but it sounded too rock- and kelp-infested to try.

The Lagavulin anchorage - probably needs local knowledge!

We are now safely into Port Ellen, a little town with a hotel, two grocery shops, a bistro and a couple of gift shops. 

Unfortunately the rain hasn't stopped since we arrived so our walks have been limited to the showers and washing machines provided by the Harbour Association, a community-owned charity that looks after the little visitor marina, and to the bistro for an excellent light lunch. 

We'll leave at six in the morning to catch the favourable tides for rounding the Mull; unusually there will be a following, northerly wind rather than the prevailing south-westerly so we'll take full advantage of it.



Tuesday, 22 June 2021

Under Orders for the West of Mull

 This part of our voyage is all the fault of Simon Raine, full-time cheesemaker and part-time volunteer for the Mull Tourist Board.  He can be very insistent at times and was adamant that we should visit the south west corner of Mull. Well, we’re here now and it’s OK, I suppose…

Actually, it’s bloody lovely! We sailed south from Tobermory, blown along by a very handy north-westerly, and headed for Ulva, the island separated from the main Mull landmass by the narrow and rock-infested Ulva Sound. Coming through the sound from the northwest was a bit scary because the windage on the mast, plus about a knot of tide behind us, pushed us through the rocky slalom course at about 5 knots, even with the engine just ticking over.


The rocky sound - we came in from the north-west

Ulva has been bought by the community after some years of neglect by its previous owners and, thanks to some diligent pursuit of grant funding, they have started to invest in this beautiful place. The most surprising thing here is the 10-berth visitor pontoon that was installed in 2016.

According to Mark, a very experienced blue water sailor who manages it, the idea was met with some scepticism when first mooted. “Who would want to bring a yacht into here?”, was the commonly held view but the project is a great example of the “If you build it, they will come” maxim. It has become increasingly popular and, when we arrived, we managed to bag the last available spot. This involved parking at 90 degrees to the 20-knot wind and 1 knot current, so it was a tricky manoeuvre, with plenty of onlookers for additional pressure, but we patted ourselves on the back at a job well done, once our heart-rates had returned to normal.

The outer end of the pontoon is the boarding point for the trip boats that take visitors out to see Staffa. There’s also a busy little passenger ferry that crosses over to Ulva and a small but productive fishing fleet, mostly catching lobster and crab. We met a couple of the fishermen when they brought their slightly scruffy boat alongside Maunie, at some speed, to access the diesel pump on the pontoon; initial worries were swiftly allayed when the skipper executed a neat handbrake turn and then handed us two lobsters for our trouble (great barter economy around here)!

A great gift for us, but pretty worthless to the fisherman as both had lost their claws

The ferry across to Ulva gave us the chance for a coffee and excellent home-made cake at the Boathouse cafĂ© – also with new owners this year, this time coming from Edinburgh. Suitably fortified, we then had a lovely hike around the southern side of the island. Thanks to some new grant funding, there was a team of builders starting projects to upgrade 6 houses and some of the ‘roads’ (just unpaved farm tracks) were getting a bit of repair work. There’s an old cottage that has been turned into a little museum and the island is rich in its basalt-column geology and human history. Its most famous occupant (and one time owner of the island) was one Lachlan MacQuarrie, who became the Governor of New South Wales and is often regarded as the father of modern Australia. We’d become very familiar with his name when we were in NSW and had no idea that he came from this remote spot.

The once-grand Ulva House, looking rather neglected

Looking SE through the sound. Sheila's Cottage, to right, is the little museum




Hike done and lobsters cooked and shelled as a starter for that evening’s supper, we had another perfect sail southwest, with a quick detour to Staffa for a sail-by view of Fingal’s Cave.




From Staffa it was a downwind, due-south, 6-mile passage to the Sound of Iona, timed to coincide with high water as the Sound has some distinctly shallow patches in the middle. We had a great view of the Cathedral as we passed.



We’d hoped to anchor in the Tinker’s Hole, a very narrow but perfectly sheltered anchorage between the rocks on the south-west tip of the Ross of Mull. Unfortunately, its fame has spread and there were 7 yachts anchored there as we passed the entrance – far too many for comfort in such a small space! Instead, we had the beautiful Traigh Gheal anchorage, just around the corner, to ourselves; it’d be a hopeless spot in a southerly wind but with the breeze from the north-west it was just perfect. 








For those wondering about the lobster starter, we can confirm that it was delicious. However, note to self: lobsters give off a permanent shade of tangerine so Norma, Gary and other Blackpool fans will be pleased to know that Maunie now has a full range of chopping boards in Blackpool colours!

An added bonus with this anchorage has been the wildlife. As well as cormorants  roosting vertically on sheer rock faces and seals checking us out, this morning we spent a good half hour watching one or more otters playing in the kelp. One was lying on his back. We eventually flew the drone to get a better view without causing any disturbance only to find our relaxing otter was indeed another piece of shiny kelp. Never mind!

We are now heading south towards Islay and the distilleries! We’ll probably break the passage with an overnight anchorage on the east side of Colonsay to allow us to get our timings right for the narrow Sound of Islay, which separates Islay and Jura and has fast tidal streams, tomorrow.

Stop press: An on-passage message from another Vancouver 38P, Quahog, sailed by new owners, has brought a slight change of plan with us heading for Loch Tarbert on the west side of Jura.