Richard and I safely arrived in Oban slightly later than planned on Tuesday evening after a windy sail through the sound of Luing. As we sailed up between the island of Kerrera and Oban on route to Dunstaffnage we saw how much damage the strong winds on Monday had done. There were yachts beached on either side of the sound that had broken their moorings as well as a fishing boat up on the shore in the bay.
In Plymouth we were joined by John, Richard, Tony, Ben and Colin for this week who were all looking forward to sailing a big boat and experiencing night watches! Before we left we studied the grib files and the weather looked like we would have a fast passage up and be able to stop for a night in Scotland before arriving in Oban.
In fact the first 24 hours were very quiet and we motored all the way from Plymouth to Lands End before a gentle breeze filled in the Irish Sea. We were lucky with the tides, and managed to get ahead and have more tide with us than against us.
As we progressed north through the Irish Sea, the wind continued to increase and become squally and grey, the Irish Sea as I remember it from years ago! With small sails, Velvet Lady surged along in the wind at 7 knots. There wasn’t much shipping to see, but we were rewarded on look out with a visit from a huge school of dolphins that stayed and played for an hour immediately followed by a huge whale (humpback we think) breaching right in front of us on the Starboard bow, obviously enjoying himself.
Once in the Irish Sea, we are never really far from land. On a good day you can see England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales and the Isle of Man all at once. Well we couldn’t see any of them but we could hear the coast guards on the VHF. The forecast soon grabbed our attention. We were sailing along in a Force 6 or 7, but the forecasters were warning us that this was due to increase to 8 or 9 and then decrease 4 or 5 for a time! Velvet Lady doesn’t mind that kind of weather, and with plenty of sea room we carried on. Often being at sea is safer than trying to get into somewhere.
We approached the Mull of Kintyre with the tide underneath us and a moderate beam wind, and flew past heading for the sound of Islay.
The new forecast arrived, and for the first time in my sailing experience around Britain I heard the inshore weather forecast warn of Storm 10 and Violent Storm 11 in 24 hours. It was time to stop thinking about getting to Oban and look at where we could shelter from the potential wind. A study of the charts, pilot book and additional information from the guests who had been there before we decided to anchor in Tayvallich at the north end of Loch Sween. The pilot book describes it as one of the most perfectly sheltered anchorages on the West Coast of Scotland.
We dropped anchor in the bay at 18.30 Sunday evening after 3 nights at sea and 455 nautical miles. The bay was perfectly still and we enjoyed a quiet night’s sleep. The forecast was still for Violent Storm 11 and for the wind to shift during the night. Monday morning, we could see out of the bay and watch the white water and spindrift surging north in the Loch. We were definitely here for the day so we would be later in Oban than expected. With our guests needing to get back to work we set about a plan to get home.
On long passages Velvet Lady does not have her dinghy hanging on the davits, and in this wind our small dinghy would make little progress towards the shore against it.
In a small town the landlord of the pub is usually the font of all knowledge, so after a quick call to 118118, I spoke to the landlord of the Tayvallich Inn who suggested a local fisherman named John might be able to help us out. Thanks John, for coming out on a bleak Monday morning in your 30 foot fishing boat and collecting our guests and taking them ashore. We are very grateful for your help.
John arrived in his boat taking everyone ashore at noon; Richard and I were left to look after Velvet Lady as the guests set off on their very own adventure to get to Glasgow.
The wind continued to increase during the afternoon, Velvet Lady riding well to her anchor. Soon there was spindrift all around us and the windy meter on the chart table reading constantly above 40 in the shelter of the harbour. The maximum it reached was 51 before eventually easing down late in the evening. We were very glad to be in shelter. We spent the afternoon reading and then watching the telly to pass the time at ‘anchor watch’!
The ride home sounds adventurous too, Richard and John have both written to us to tell us about their experience!
‘The bus journey was adventurous too. The little mini bus from Tayvallich to Lochgilpead was really great fun with all the locals making jokes with the driver. At one point some of us had to get out to clear a fallen tree from the road. In the press they reckoned the wind was up to 110 mile per hour! Then the flights were cancelled because of the volcanic ash cloud and John didn’t get home until 0800 on Wednesday morning.’
The wind finally eased on Tuesday morning to a mere force 7, and Richard and I set off north from Tayvallich on our own eventually reaching Dunstaffnage late evening. All the locals are talking about the wind, the seas, the damage to yachts and the fact the ferries were cancelled. I am so glad we made the decision and went to Tayvallich and thank you to all our guests for understanding the reasons why. Thanks for your e mails and look forward to sailing with you again in the future – perhaps with less wind.