Sailing plans

After leaving Stornoway we spent the night in the nearby Loch Grimshader. I checked the charts, checked the tidal streams and made a plan. We would sail out of the Loch before breakfast, tack out a few miles and then follow the coast south west.

The part about leaving before breakfast worked but the wind was so variable that nothing else went as planned. The wind came from the wrong direction and the self steering wouldn’t do what I wanted and the tidal stream had turned before we reached the gap. Finally the wind dropped completely and. thoroughly annoyed, I motored to the beautiful Shiant Islands and anchored there.

That evening Heidi reminded me that I was the one who had said “the great thing about sailing is you have to be situative”. So for the next day there was no plan and that made things much better.

We were up early but the house batteries were too empty to pull up the anchor so we ate breakfast while we charged them with the motor. We then did a complete tour of the islands and enjoyed the incompetence of the puffins who seem to have a real problem taking off from water. There was no wind so we set the autopilot and cleaned the boat. About lunch time we agreed that we would just motor on to Loch Maddy, anchor in a bay and walk in to town. Ten minutes later there was 10 knots of wind so we set all sails and tacked out to sea. Another 10 minutes and there was more wind so we pulled in the Genoa and set the Gib. A few tacks later and we were reefing the main sail.

We reached Loch Maddy much later than planned and in a wind gusting 25 knots. No more plans to walk in to town, just get everything straightened away and then cook dinner. Heidi was tidying up the last rope when “something happened” to her back and she was in immediate pain. She hoped it would get better and lay down.

Leverburgh lifeboat
Leverburgh lifeboat took us to the pontoon

The next morning it was clear that Heidi needed a doctor. She couldn’t stand or sit and lieing was difficult. The wind was 20 gusting 25 knots so I could not lift the anchor alone and was pretty sure that trying to dock at a pontoon would be a disaster. I called the coastguard per marine radio and they connected us to a doctor. He asked questions and Heidi answered with long latin words. I didn’t understand what we were talking about. The doctor then talked to the coastguard and they sent the brand new Leverburgh lifeboat to help us. That is an extremely impressive beast with a fantastic crew. They rafted up to us and then used their 640hp to move us round the Loch and on to a pontoon. There is a press release from the lifeboat about their coming to our rescue at

The doctor confirmed Heidi’s diagnosis and gave her lots of pain killers. Nothing life threatening but a “real pain”.

But the great thing is we didn’t have a plan so it never went wrong.


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