Islay in the fog

Woke to thick fog, but having found the chartplotter pretty accurate around the rocks we trusted it to take us out of Tinker’s Hole again, though the leading lines were obscured.

A few hundred metres visibility most of the way across to Colonsay, so radar on and constant monitoring of the AIT, which shows other vessels’ positions, and ours to them. Nothing but the occasional fishing boat showed up. Fog cleared completely for a while close to Islay. 10.5 knots with the tide down the Sound if Islay.

A day of distilleries – passed Bunahabhan and Caol Islay in the sound and then used Bob Bradfield’s ultra large scale charts to explore close inshore on the east coast of Islay. Mirror water surface, complete reflections of the sky and the rocks.

McArthur's Head lighthouse, south end of Sound of Islay
McArthur’s Head lighthouse, south end of Sound of Islay

The Bradfield charts, the result of his passion for amateur surveying of difficult anchorages, are on the laptop, overlaid on Memory Map’s UK admiralty charts. A GPS is plugged into the laptop and turns it into a plotter.

CalMac ferry in the Sound
CalMac ferry in the Sound

Explored inside the little Ardmore Islands, creeping between rocks, then picked up a mooring off the Ardbeg distillery, for tea rather than Scotch. A very suspect mooring riser, encrusted in mussels; we picked some and steamed them open – strong, sweet taste, perfect. There was only this one mooring, though the now rather out of date pilot book says there are three. Then we briefly visited Lagavulin distillery’s bay, but thought better of it half way in.

Peter at Ardbeg
Peter at Ardbeg
Tony at Lagavulin
Tony at Lagavulin

The bay has almost no rise and fall of tide, but the weather was fine with exceptionally high pressure and so the water level must have been pushed down, as often happens in these conditions. We almost ran out of water before we turned. We were particularly cautious because we had grazed a rock at low speed just before going in, as a result of momentary distraction by the beauty of the place. It was exactly where Bob’s chart had shown it! At Lagavulin we could see two mooring buoys, one of them occupied by what may have been a local boat.

Leaving Lagavulin
Leaving Lagavulin
Fog again as we leave Lagavulin
Fog again as we leave Lagavulin

Leaving, we ran into another fog bank, which cleared as we went into Port Ellen, finding the last berth in the marina, right inshore by the fishing boats.

The view from the cockpit at Port Ellen
The view from the cockpit at Port Ellen

Showers in an outbuilding to a B&B, and dinner aboard. Disappointed to find no fuel available, but there were several shops. On a previous visit we toured four of the island’s distilleries, but this was not the time for a repeat.

Passage notes: 54 miles,10 hours, max S2, min calm, fog with sun when clear

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