Harder than expected

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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.

Fresh Cod for dinner – again!

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Velvet Lady approaching the harbour in Reine

We’ve just finished our final Lofoten islands trip for 2010, which was yet again amazing.  We had some great sunny weather, and a mix of good wind and calms giving us plenty of time to sail and explore our wonderful surroundings.  We swam, kayaked, walked, visited museums and galleries, and a few even ‘climbed up mountains.’ My idea of a walk is a half hour stroll to the pub,  three hardy guests had other ideas as they set off on what looked like quite reasonable routes on the map to discover they were strenuous 5 hour steep walks up mountains with detours around lakes!

After all these activities during the day the evenings were spent quietly either in small fishing villages or at anchor, which gave us time to fish and even have a bbq in the evening sunlight.  Not to be outdone by last weeks guests Andy set his hand to fishing many evenings and caught more cod than we could eat. 

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Its hard to believe its all over and time to head south.  I am already looking at the charts and the weather and planning where to go on our passage.  The route takes us to more new and exciting places, further south down the Norwegian coastline, the Shetlands and the Orkneys before heading towards the Outer Hebrides and Scotland.  Lots to pack into 2 weeks and 1000 miles! 

So much to do, must dash!

Our Autumn programme is now filling up rapidly with only 1 space left on our Ocean Passage across Biscay and one space from the Med to Madeira, so book soon to avoid disappointment