What a trip. Over the course of our year we offer a range of trips. Long passages, day sailing, milebuilding with one or two nights at sea, anchoring in remote places, mooring in small fishing ports, the beauty of Norway and relaxing on board in the sunshine. It is not often that we get to experience all of these on just one trip!
The trip started with a gentle day sail in Norway, as we left Kristiansund and whilst introducing everyone to how to sail Velvet Lady experienced the wind shifts of fjord sailing.
Full of a healthy mix of apprehension and anticipation we set off on our long passage across the Norwegian Sea. The wind direction was more than a little frustrating coming from the southwest but due to shift to the north west so we headed west on port tack waiting for the shift. It took so long to come we ended up sailing down the west coast of Shetland.
As the wind gusted up to 40 knots creating seas to match, Velvet Lady charged along, perfectly balanced. We also had moments of light wind which were a little more difficult and of course occasional rain showers. 5 nights and 750 miles after leaving Norway we motored up into the inner part of Loch Torridon and spent the night at anchor in spectacular remote surroundings. Although the wind was gusting in the rigging sleep was not an issue, after 6 days of watchkeeping, a good meal and a wee dram of scotch we all settled down for a good nights sleep.
We deserved a rest day, but with a schedule to keep to we had to press on, we decided instead on an ‘easy day’ and for once the tides worked in our favour. We crept down the inshore passage between Skye and the mainland, under the Skye bridge and on to Kyle Rhea to take advantage of slack water. We spent a comfortable night in the fishing town of Mallaig – a lovely little place, 20 years since I had been there and with the addition of some great floating pontoons it was a great stop. A meal out with fantastic seafood made the day.
Next stage was dealing with the tides to round Islay, the Mull of Kintyre and head south into the Irish Sea. A fabulous wind allowed us to beam reach around the Isle of Mull and just around dinner time we spotted a couple of whales. Out with the book to identify them and our guess is that they were Minke whales or Sei whales
We felt the effect of the overfalls off the Rhinns of Islay, as the tide and wind bumped into each other and then as the tide turned rushed towards Kintyre at a rate of 9 and 10 knots. We just cleared the mull as the tide turned against us again and continued south down the north channel in a more sedate fashion. Fishing boats are always an issue in the Irish Sea, and at 4 o clock in the morning we had to have our wits about us as we dodged a fleet of 14 boats setting off from Ardglass.
Ireland and Guinness were beckoning and we arrived in Dunlaoghaire – Dublin Bay – 50 hours after leaving Mallaig. Fantastic showers and a launderette revitalised spirits and we set off for some good old fashioned pub grub washed down with a drop of the ‘Black Velvet’
By stopping in Ireland we had set ourselves a target. To make it back to Plymouth on time we had to make an average of 5 knots. The wind was light as we left and so on with the engine. 36 hours of motoring later we rounded Lands End. Whilst the motoring was a little boring the flat sea allowed us to see plenty of wildlife. 3 more sightings of whales, plenty of dolphins and many different birds helped us pass the time watching and recording. Finally, just past Lands End we had a bit of breeze to sail with. We knew that a low was brewing in the Atlantic and were eager to beat it to Plymouth so it was Full Sail for the last 70 miles.
14 nights and 1455 miles after leaving Norway we arrived in Plymouth Sound in glorious sunshine. We saw more boats in the last hour of our trip than in the whole of the rest of the voyage as we dodged not 1 but 2 yacht races on our way around Drakes Island and on to our berth in Mayflower Marina. One of the only places we visit with a bath – and I can hear it calling!!
Our guests took some fabulous photos on the way and I expect to add some tomorrow. Watch this space.