Ardoran to Tobermory

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David Fairhall and Tony Kennedy at Tobermory

David Fairhall joined Tony and Peter for a few days commissioning cruise, first to Tobermory in a brisk southwesterly up the Sound of Mull. This was after negotiating the interestingly shallow, narrow and winding exit from Loch Feochan (reminiscent of the east coast rivers of Suffolk and Essex where we used to be based.) We were retracing our steps from last year, when we went from Oban up past Ardnamurchan to Rhum, Arisaig and Loch Moidart among other places.

The Sound of Mull has interesting wind shifts – the pilot book says it is perfectly possible for it to blow in opposite directions in the north and south of the sound at the same time.

Passage notes: 28 miles, 5 hours, max SSW 5, min SSW 4, pontoons expensive in Tobermory. The budget option is anchoring off or a buoy.

View from the path along Oban Bay
View from the path along Oban Bay
A stroll along the coastal path
One of many waterfalls along the coastal path

Fitting out at Ardoran, 4 -11 May

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First launch….

We arrived at Ardoran Marine on 4 May to stay at one of the three chalets the boatyard owns, with a few days fitting out planned. (Peter, Christine, Tony, Elaine and Nigel). Ardoran stores boats in an old quarry behind the main workshop, and we found Spring Fever in excellent condition, dry inside and well cared for, with the anti-fouling done ( a present to ourselves because of the 500 mile drive to reach her.) All the work we commissioned had been done well, and problems we had during commissioning were sorted out immediately at fair prices, so we certainly recommend the yard. It was also very friendly, and in a beautiful position on Loch Feochan. The chalets would be good for a holiday even without a boat. The owners run the boatyard alongside their farm, which includes a herd of highland cattle,

The ancient Furlex had finally given up at the end of the season with a large crack in one of the main castings, so a new one had been fitted by Owen Sails of Oban by the time we arrived. The wind, depth and speed instruments were also playing up and we bought a new Raymarine set at the London Boat Show at a discount, and brought them up to fit ourselves. Because we needed to have a bracket made for the anemoneter at the top of the mast, the job dragged on several days, so we were not ready to launch until Wednesday the 8th, and we launched twice! We made an elementary mistake, and forgot to check the seacocks properly. The main heads outlet turned out to be jammed tight in the open position, at which point we brought Spring Fever ashore again and the yard changed the seacock, which turned out to be in much worse condition than we had imagined from the slight stiffness the previous year.

This time we made it, watched by a friend.
This time we made it, watched by a friend.

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Round Britain 2012-13: Cowes, Whitby, Inverness, Oban

This is the story of the first year of our two-year round Britain cruise in Spring Fever, a retired racing boat on a mission to go slowly (like us). A previous round Britain in 2007-8 in an earlier boat, Pepper of Brixham, had left us hungry to see more of the beautiful West of Scotland, where we had time to spend only a month sailing.We decided to go anti-clockwise, up the East Coast and down the West, rather than the clockwise route we used last time, and to use the Caledonian Canal rather than Cape Wrath and the Orkneys, which we visited in 2008. The account of our passage back from Scotland down the West Coast of Ireland in 2013  was written as a daily blog (follow this link to see all the posts) but this first part of the cruise is a single account, a photo album with words.

A cheerful start - a Robin spends time with us off Beachy Head
A cheerful start – Robin off Beachy Head

We left Cowes on 11 April 2012 for what always seems a bit of a trudge to the Thames Estuary, though with the right timing there are about 11 hours of favourable tide on the way from Beachy Head to Ramsgate, which cheers things up. After leaving Brighton, for an hour or two we were much entertained by a stray Robin’s search for a safe haven on the boat. He eventually found such a good hiding place – it was a mystery where – that we didn’t see him again until he flew off while we were entering the Deben in Suffolk more than a day later. He had hitched a 130 mile ride.

Follow this link to read the the rest of the story of our cruise up the East Coast and through the Caledonian Canal.

Round Britain in Pepper 2007-8

Goodbye, Kehaar. In  2001 we decided we were spending too much money and time on the boat we had owned for ten years, and sold her. Wouldn’t it be much more sensible to charter other peoples’ boats in nice places, and get on with our lives the rest of the time without obsessing about equipment and cruises?

Pepper of Brixham
Pepper of Brixham

For several years it worked. Hello, Seychelles, Adriatic (several times), Greece and other destinations. However, William began to investigate the idea of buying a small boat and sailing round Britain in his gap year, so naturally I helped him narrow down the choice and began to visit boatyards with him to look at ideas, with a Contessa 26 the favourite. We looked at several.

It was the beginning of a slippery slope back to boat ownership. Will changed his plans and went off round the world using other means of transport; I kept on visiting boatyards, egged on by a small inside voice telling me that it would be good to have a healthy outdoors project in the run up to retirement, and sailing round Britain could fit the bill – my own sort of gap year. The upshot was that in 2005 we bought Pepper, a Verl 900, a 30 footer with an unusually large amount of room down below for a boat from 1978, and a surprisingly good turn of speed for her top-heavy looks.

She had a new engine and Furlex, and the hull had just been resprayed professionally, but otherwise she needed a big refit, which we spread over two years, until we had new rigging, electronics, sails, ground tackle, and a host of the other odds and ends that need renewing on every boat of this generation. The plan was to go slowly, fitting a round Britain cruise into other schedules by doing it in stages, exploring as we went, and finding places to leave Pepper whenever necessary, including a winter at Oban in Argyll.

Follow this link to read about the round Britain cruise in 2007   and this link to read about the second year from Oban to the Orkneys and back down the east coast.