Once round the Isle of Mull

The work on the boat was finished, the kitchen was equipped and stocked after numerous trips to Aldi and the weather forecast promised good sailing so we left Oban early and motored against the wind through the Firth of Lorn to the south coast of the Isle of Mull. Once there we set the mainsail and jib at which point the wind disappeared not to be seen again that day. We continued along the coast as a motor boat until we reached the Sound of Iona and navigated through the rocks and islets to the stunning anchorage of Tinkers Hole. This is described as probably one of the best anchorages on the west coast and is beautiful. Despite its apparent popularity, we only shared it with one other boat.

McCaig's Tower

McCaig’s Tower above Oban

We pumped up the dinghy and rowed across to the neighbouring island of Eilean Dubh where we climbed through heather and across bare rock to the summit. On the one side Artemis sat in a deep, sheltered, green pool while on the other side the Atlantic swell washed the rocky shoreline.

On the second day we sailed through the Sound of Iona passing the cathedral at Iona. We had hoped to land and visit the cathedral but all three anchorages were too windy and too choppy. We ate lunch in a cove on the northside of the Isle of Iona and then sailed to the sheltered bay of Loch na Laithaich on Mull. Having seen almost no yachts the last two days, we were eventually joined by seven others and at sunset their silhouettes and anchor lights made a pretty picture.

sunset at Loch na Laithach

sunset at Loch na Laithach

On day three we were up before the alarm and shortly after on our way to Staffa Island for a sailby to view the basalt columns and Fingal’s cave. We then sailed on to the uninhabited Treshnish Isles where we anchored for lunch surrounded by nosy seals who kept their heads out of the water two seconds less than it takes to photograph them.

With mainsail and jib set we continued our circumnavigation towards Tobermory. It was a pleasant sail (even more so once we had reefed the main sail) until we turned directly into the wind in the Sound of Mull. After the seventh or eighth tack we turned the motor on for the last mile into the bay.



Tobermory is a picturebook port where we picked up a visitors buoy for the night and rowed in to town for a well  deserved fish ‘n chips. The town was full of mainly inebriated people enjoying the annual Tobermory Music Festival with live bands in all the pubs including one with a bagpiper playing scottish rock. We treated ourselves to a pint with free scottish music before falling in to bed.

Thankfully tomorrow is Sunday and we get a day off.

Day 3 and 4 of the maiden voyage

Once in the night our anchor watch alarm claimed that we were drifting. Jumped out of bed and checked. False alarm. But better one false alarm than no alarms when needed. In the morning the engine batteries were empty again so we needed to jump from the domestic batteries. We need to find a good electrician.

We left the bay in rain, mist and a little wind, both very glad that we have waterproofs from top to bottom and warm dry sailing boots. Once out in to the Firth of Lorn the wind picked up and we were soon sailing under Genoa. It was a great feeling to be sailing amongst barely defined, mist shrouded islands. Almost ghostly. Continue reading

To Puilladobhrain

Having survived the first day without causing any damage, we today continued on our maiden voyage towards Oban with the plan being to spend our first night at anchor.  Today we had two tidal gates to pass through so the state of the tide specified when we had to leave and therefore when we had to get up. A tidal gate is a gap where the water flows fast in one direction or the other depending on the state of the tide. If you arrive at the wrong time in a sailing boat, you will find yourselves going backwards. Arrive at the correct time and you shoot through with wind and current both helping you along.

As soon as we left the lagoon and entered Loch Craignish we had a wind of about 13 knots so it was out with the Genoa and we sailed the rest of the day. We reached the first tidal gate “Dorus Mor” dead on schedule and were helped by the current between the headland and the island. Turning north we headed through the Firth of Luing and cleared the second gate without hitting any of the submerged rocks. By now the wind was gusting beyond 20 knots so we rolled away part of the Genoa. It was warm (for Scotland), not raining and we were doing a good five to six knots. Life was good. Continue reading

The “first day”

So today we officially “left”. Actually we flew from Germany to Scotland last week and spent the week at Ardfern Yacht Center working on the final preparations to the boat.

In a brisk wind we reversed in to the marina pond and then spent half an hour trying to escape. No matter what I tried the boat would not turn her nose up in to the wind. This was the dreaded “Rustlers won’t go backwards” syndrome that every one warns about. Eventually she was facing to the entrance and we headed for the refuelling jetty to “fill her up” with 111 liters of diesel. After a little bit of being “blown around” we managed to berth to the pontoon. Stuart McDonald came over and thanked us for the entertaining show in the marina and politely asked if we were aiming for the fuel jetty or if we had just taken refuge here. He then congratulated us on achieving our aim without causing any damage. Continue reading

Registering Artemis

When we bought Artemis we were told that she had been deregistered from the British Registry. That fitted well with our plan of registering her in Gibraltar. Little did we know that this was the start of a tragi-comedy that would take months to run its course.

Gibraltar Registry

Our first information was that the Gibraltar Registry “only” needed originals of the bill of sale, the builders certificate and (of course) some money.

The bill of sale wasn’t a problem but we had never seen a builders certificate. The broker and the previous owner also did not have it and we received information that “back then” there wasn’t always a builders certificate. We contacted the first owner and he had a photocopy of the certificate but wasn’t sure if he had ever seen the original. We now knew that it had once existed but it could no longer be found.

Back to the registry.

Registering Artemis

Registering Artemis. Death by paperwork.

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Navigating with Sun and Moon

using a sextant to take a sunsight

using a sextant to take a sunsight

After having learned the theory of fixing my position using celestial objects during my Yachtmaster Ocean theory course, I was keen to try it for real during a trip from Spain to Morocco a few days later. The first two days there was no horizon, no sun, nowhere you could  safely jam yourself in to and no chance of my even thinking about doing calculations of any type. But on the third day the storm abated and the sun came out. Continue reading

The Perfect Reach

After crossing the Straits of Gibraltar from Spain, we were cruising south about twenty miles off the Moroccan coast. Just before dusk the wind freshened and turned off our port quarter so we stowed the mainsail and continued with just the Genoa. The wind was pulling us, the swell was pushing us and a half knot ocean current was also helping us on our way. The heavily laden boat was perfectly balanced and we were helming with just two fingers.

sailing towards the sunset

sailing towards the sunset

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Sailing School

I have been sailing since the army kindly taught me during my twenties but living in the middle of Europe has severely curtailed the use of boats the last thirty years. I did however join a cruise with a friend in Croatia and passed my German “inland skipper” course which allowed me to take the family and friends out on a local lake.

Go-n-Sail at Ayemonte

Go-n-Sail at Ayemonte

When I decided it was time to “get back in to sailing” I took a look at the British and German systems and decided that the former seemed to be more “reality based” while the latter was perhaps more interested in “passing tests”. I therefore searched for a school offering British RYA courses but better weather than is normally to be found on the island. I was attracted to Go-n-Sail in Spain, particularly as they offer an instructor ratio of three students to one instructor and only have rave reviews. After a discussion with the school I registered for two weeks training with the target being my Day Skipper certificate. Most RYA certificates have a practical and theoretical element and in order to be awarded the certificate you need to not just prove yourself practically but also take a theoretical exam. Continue reading

Marine Insurance

This is a subject I approached with great respect. My research in Internet forums led me to believe that the insurance market is peopled by evil, money grabbing scrooges who hide behind small print and set unreasonable conditions before they will even agree to consider taking a huge chunk out of your boating money.


This turned out not to be true.

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