We write our sailing programmes often over a year in advance, so it is all a guess really what the weather will be like. Wanting to avoid ‘notorious September gales’ we decided to head back from Norway to Scotland in August in the hope of good weather.
Bodo to Oban is over 1000nm and instead of ‘dashing across the North Atlantic Ocean’, we decided to programme in a longer trip and break the passage down by cruising along the coast of Norway, visiting the Shetland Islands and then sailing amongst the Scottish Islands to Oban.
Even with the breaks, this trip proved to be ‘harder than expected’! Any passage across open water is entirely weather dependant and as we found the weather can change dramatically over the course of a few hours.
It only took us 48 hours from Alesund to Lerwick, but in those 48 hours we had wind, rain, lightening, fog, flat calm and finally big waves. In the midst of our crossing we went through an oil and gas rig field, with the rigs looming up out of the fog like alien beings! It was an amazing sight when the fog cleared, the rain stopped and we could see rigs all around us!
The Shetland Islands welcomed us with much better weather, and we ended our passage by tacking all the way up to the harbour in flat water and sunshine.
On all our long passages, the main objective is to get to our destination in time. Our guests have trains to catch and jobs to get back to, we have Velvet Lady to look after and prepare for her next group. With an ear on the forecast and an eye to the distance we had left to travel we realised that we would have to push on south and try and round Cape Wrath before the arrival of a pending south westerly gale. For 3 days the wind came and went, the log book reads, wind dying – bigger sails; wind increasing – reefed sails; wind easing – bigger sails; wind increasing – reefed sails; wind increasing more – very tiny sails and so on!
We changed our plan of heading to Stornaway and headed for the shelter of the Isle of Skye, here in a much flatter sea we sailed in the sunshine admiring the views. With everyone tired from the watch system it was a great relief to anchor in Plockton. With yet another gale warning in force, we spent a day here playing scrabble, reading and catching up on sleeping and eating.
The weather and tide were in our favour for the last trip south, Plockton to Oban, under the Skye bridge, south through Kyle Rhea, and along the sound of Mull. We finally arrived in Dunstaffnage marina, only to find blow of all blows that the pub was shut for a wedding!
After a quick dash to the local shop to stock up, we had our very own Welcome to Scotland party aboard Velvet Lady. 1091 miles for the log book and lots of experiences to think about in the future.