Oban is the biggest town we have been in since arriving here. Really not much to report on about it. It seemed kind of drab without much personality. It was however the perfect place to exchange crew. There are rail and bus links to Glasgow which takes you to the rest of the free world. We were expecting young David Tobin to arrive the same day Joan and Kirk left however this was not to be. Although his 3:30 am from from Yerevan Armenia to Minsk Belarus was on time, his Minsk to Paris was delayed which screwed up his narrow time slot to catch the bus in Edinburgh to Glasgow, which ultimately made him miss the Glasgow to Oban bus. Poor chap, he took a room in a youth hostel before catching his morning bus to meet us.
After four weeks of 70 degree weather, blue skies and light winds, David arrived and brought with him some unsettled weather. It was almost like his presence brought back the tumultuous high school years in weather form. From beautiful to restless and unsettled back to a short beautiful calm only to return back to unsettled and rough. Fortunately those adolescent years have passed and a restless boy has turned into a thoughtful loving funny and very capable young man. Having David on board gives the admiral a much needed break from boat duties and he is capable of handling pretty much anything except cooking and keeping his bunk tidy. Otherwise he is an able young seaman and very much appreciated to have on board.
We were fully re provisioned, filled up the water tanks and took off shortly after David arrived. Our destination was Tobermory again. We needed to find some shelter with something to do as there was a weather system moving through. Tobermory was the perfect spot, they had diesel, which apparently they no longer had any in Oban, and pubs and walks and things to do while stuck waiting for the weather to turn. The forecast called for gale force 11 winds, thats about 60 knots. We never saw 60 in our protected spot but we did get sustained winds in the high 30’s. Reports from other sailors confirmed the forecast was correct and some saw 60+. Nonetheless, we easily entertained ourselves.
David and I snuck in some golf, in rain that was coming down sideways, at Tobermory’s lovely 9 hole course. We lost enough golf balls that the greens fees were the cheapest part of the game. A lot of the courses here just have an honesty box where you put in your fees and go play.
We spent much of our evening time at the Mish Nish again, our favorite so far pub in Scotland. We had some really nice walks around the harbor on woodland trails. Some beautiful water falls along the trail. When the weather finally broke we left Tobermory for Loch Moidart which was on the mainland. Loch Moidart came highly recommended from a few locals so it was an easy decision.
We raised sails in Tobermory harbor and were close hauled for the trip around Ardnamurchan point where we were able to turn and enjoy a beam reach sail into the mouth of South Loch Moidart. Coming into this loch is a challenge. You need to follow specific transits that bring you within spitting distance of skerries with water breaking over the top of them. You make multiple hair pin turns between skerries before getting to the final stretch where there is shoal water. Here, we had to sit at anchor for 3 hours until the tide was high enough for us to cross and get behind Riska island where complete protection was had. The tide races in and out of this loch and the current was significant creating big eddies throughout the anchorage. There is a decrepit castle dating to the 12th century that sat on the little island directly behind us reminding us of the clansmen history in these isles. The views were magnificent in all directions.
When the tide turned favorable we weighed anchor, threaded our way out of the loch and sailed toward the wee isles to the north. We decided on Muck Island as its known to have more sunshine than its high peaked neighbors that hold the clouds and moisture leaving the small island to bask in the sun. The transit into this skerrie strewn north harbor was in interesting one. First you lined up two points of land on neighboring small islets then a 90 degree turn to port and took a leading line from the roof of round barn and the end of a stone fence way off in the distance on a hill. This brought you into the harbor that was surrounded with reefs. We had a very nice group of seals that escorted us into the anchorage.
We rowed our new dinghy to shore and carried the beast far up the beach so it wouldn't wash away while we were on our walkabout. Not much has changed on Muck in the last few thousand years. The island is still scarcely populated by humans, most of its population being sheep and cows. We took the only road by foot to the other side of the island to check it out. On the way we were treated to large sheep migration orchestrated by a women and her two little children, and of course their collie, who was a master at keeping them from wandering off. We were greeted with smiles and waves by all the locals who seemed to posses a more pronounced joviality than the more reserved Scotts, likely due to the sunshine on the isle. Another fantastic meal was served out of the nugget while David and I concentrated much of the night, not too mention week, on our chess matches.
The next afternoon we were expecting southerlies in the low 30’s followed by SW Gale force 8 winds for the following day. We were close enough if we left early before the winds to make it into Loch Scavaig on the west coast of Skye. If we stayed too long we would get pinned into this loch which was described as first, “Europes Most Beautiful Anchorage” followed up by a description of catabolic venomous winds blowing boats in multiple directions in the rock strewn anchorage and off their anchors. The most beautiful spots always must come with some undercurrent of lurking danger. Loch Scavaig was undoubtedly one of the most scenic wild anchorages I have ever seen. We were the only boat anchored in the loch with waterfalls coming down into the wee harbor and spectacular mountains in all directions. No picture can do this place justice. We rowed ashore and hiked for a couple of hours before getting back to the boat, tucking tale and getting the hell out of their.
For ten miles or so we beat into a stiff southerly breeze before turning the corner around the Sleat Peninsula and heading north to our next haven some 12 miles away. We enjoyed a fast sail with a quartering wind all the way to Isleornsay Harbor where we would sit out the next blow. The local inn had a lovely little pub and served up some great grub in a lively atmosphere of locals and sailors. Dont miss the local venison burgers, their to die for, washed down with some local ale. We spent two very windy nights on the anchor here until things would calm down and we could continue on.
Our next leg took us through Loch Rhea, a skinny tide driven area before reaching Loch Alsh. In moderate wind with head sail alone we cruised along at 10-12 knots in the boiling current. After taking on water at the municipal dock in Loch Alsh, we went under the Skye Bridge and sailed our way into Plockton Harbor. Plockton is a nice little town bordering the harbor and facing a beautiful scenic back drop of mountains and yet another vacant castle. Our last game of chess and Davids first victory was spent over another first rate grub nugget meal served up by the admiral. David had a 6:30 am train to catch, so he took the 7 hour trip back to Edinburgh and then flew for 5 hours back to New York. The dinghy dock was high and dry at low tide so I carried David in on my shoulders through a muddy bottom and we said our goodbyes at the dock. He had to sprint the 3/4 miles to get his train of which he was soon to miss. I went back to my warm bed with the Admiral and we slept the morning away. We would miss the time with our guests but we also enjoyed the new found freedom and the more space available as the boat was back to two. Plockton would be our home for 3 days while we convalesced.