Irene’s Scottish Adventure

Our winter in Ardrossan, Scotland? Predictably cold, dank, windy and long and bleak. But we did not hate it. We enjoyed our long dark evenings – cabin warm with the Reflex heater cranked up and kerosene lamp lit, gale howling in the rigging outside, watching episodes of “Outlander” on the laptop (maybe not the best educationally but somehow appropriate) and lingering over long meals. With a drink or two. Or three. Pillows and lap blankets were employed. We were safe – let the gales rage on! Sometimes we would crawl out of our cocoon and check out the sea state out on the Clyde.

Agitated Firth of Clyde
The Firth of Clyde: often agitated
Ardrossan winter wave
Ardrossan winter wave 2
Ardrossan winter wave 3
Waves overtop the outer breakwater near the ferry dock

The ferry parking lot collected beach rubble thrown over the wall by the force of the waves. Locals knew to never leave a vehicle there during a gale. A massive boulder had smashed a car flat in a previous winter.

In the calms between gales we walked up the hill to the local castle, around town, shopped for groceries, or maybe walked to nearby Saltcoats for a coffee and pastry.

Snowy Arran over Ardrossan
Snow covered mountains of the Isle of Arran loom over Ardrossan
Adrossan community building
Ardrossan landmark – church turned community center
Glasgow neighborhood
Glasgow neighborhood

Irene was hauled out – and we were very lucky with weather. Bottom painted, zincs replaced, chain marked, and we had the mainmast lifted out for good measure. We relaunched and spent the next couple of months with the mainmast under cover to allow us to revarnish. Irene was noticeably steadier in the wind gusts without most of her rig.

Sunrise Clyde Marina

On the rare days the sky was visible, it seemed like the sun would barely rise above the buildings lining the basin before setting again

Stepping the main Clyde Marina
Glad to get our mast back in place

We visited all the local maritime museums, and took the train to London to visit a friend. More museums, and the Cutty Sark!

Cutty Sark dreams
Peter has always wanted to command a square rigger, someday when he grows up

We noticed the prop zinc was wasted, so Peter wasted no time putting in a new one despite the cold water. He also spent the next week cleaning up electrical ground points, aiming to increase the time between replacements.

Cold Hand Pete
Not Peter’s favorite job. Cold hand Pete!
Eider Duck!
Is that Eider duck smirking at us?

Spring came, and the weather was positively nice. Everyone was in a good mood, greetings and smiles were exchanged on the street – but nice weather by Scottish standards turned out to be still difficult for painting and varnishing. Over and over we would check radar (all clear,) look at the weather channel (0% chance,) squint at the horizon (nothing in sight,) and put a bit of varnish on. Twenty minutes later it would rain. Hard. For ten minutes, just long enough to ruin the work. Och, aye!

Finally, on April Fools Day (our traditional season’s opening date) we were ready to set sail.

Spring departure
Happy to get moving again.

We flew down the Firth of Clyde with a brisk following wind, rounded the Mull of Kintyre and tacked up the Sound of Jura to a windy night anchored at Gigha Island. Sailing past the Isles of Muck, Eigg, and Rhum we agreed that we really enjoy the geographical names in this part of the world.

Scotland Apr - May 2019
Irene’s route April – May 2019
First night at anchor 2019
Sundowner, the first evening at anchor 2019
Lilly at Cullipool
Cullypool, getting closer to Oban
At goose level
A flock of northbound geese flies over pretty Irene in a serene anchorage
Cullipool on Luing
Irene alone again, anchored at Cullipool on Luing Island

This coast has hundreds of wonderful anchorages. Probably because we were early in the season, we were usually alone. Another benefit to our timing – there were no midges about. So our shore explorations were bug free. And the weather was perfect – long warm days and rare rain, good sailing winds alternating with gentle calms.

Remnants of the middle ages on Eileach an Naoimh in the Garvellachs
Beehive Cell excursion
A short easy row ashore in the Garvellachs
Holy Isle hike
We love exploring the remains of earlier times
Oban Marina, Kerrera Island

And the pubs! Dog friendly! Sheep and cows! Hills and valleys! And right to roam! Our kind of cruising.

Happy Peter, happy dog
Happy Peter, happy dog
Happy lamb
Happy lamb
Happy coos
Happy coos
Hen Doo pole dancer
Happy Hen Doo pole dancer Nobbie McLarty
Puilladobrain anchorage
Puilladobhrain anchorage

We took to towing the dinghy, as every stop offered interesting shore exploration.

Gorgeous Kerrera Island
Gorgeous Kerrera Island
The view from inside Kerrera schoolhouse
Inside Kerrera schoolhouse
Isle of Mull

Earlier water oriented times left wonderful stone infrastructure for bringing small boats ashore

Castle Tioram Loch Moidart
Ruins of Castle Tioram, Loch Moidart

More castle ruins – so many castles.

Full moon castle
Anchored next to Castle Tioram one spooky night
Stoul Loch Nevis
Old stone walls of Stoul still standing near the loch
Hiking Stoul
Irene is swinging on the hook way down below, waiting for us in Loch Nevis

One sport we never tire of? Whenever possible we like to anchor or moor under sail. Then depart under sail the next day. We award ourselves extra points for difficulty factors of shifty winds, poor charting, foul currents, and sudden calms. Points are deducted for excessive swearing, missing a mooring pickup on the first pass, or resorting to the motor.

Tacking out Loch Dunvegan
Having fun tacking out the bay at Dunvegan Castle.

We ghosted into the beautiful little anchorage at Loch Scavaig

Loch Coruisk hike
En route to Loch Coruisk

We enjoy Scotland’s wonderful combination of sailing and hill walking.

A toast to Scotland
Toasting the Isle of Skye during a visit from Christine
Lochinver sunset
Beautiful sunset at Lochinver

Our original rough plan had us crossing the Minch to the Outer Hebrides, but the steady easterlies suggested to us that we had best stay on the mainland side as we worked our way north.  We had time for a circumnavigation of Skye in the process, and soon found ourselves up at the northern part of the mainland. A short hop across the straits and we were at Orkney.

Stromness Orkney
A large number of WWI era warships lie on the bottom of Scapa Flow
Ring of Brodgar Orkney
Ring of Brodgar, Orkney

We rented a car in order to greet dawn at the Ring of Brodgar.

Leaning on the Standing Stones of Stenness
Leaning on a Standing Stone of Stenness
Susan and Ginger Westray Island
Another castle on Westray just waiting for a visit from us and our new friend Susan
Noltland Castle steps
Slippery stone stairs in Noltland Castle
Westray boat noust
Westray boat noust

Always alert for Viking influence, Peter finds a row of nouses at Westray in perfect condition – garages for small boats

Nesting puffins

Throughout our Scottish sails Ginger had been on the lookout for puffins. They are shy and only nest in a few remote areas. We heard there were some on Westray, no small factor in our decision to sail there! The puffins were on the other end of the island and timing is important to find them back at the nesting spot but not settled in for the night. The harbormaster kindly took us on a sunset expedition (which happens to be around midnight at this latitude in May!)

We plotted our departure from Orkney very carefully. The area is known for big currents, which we planned to ride through the island group and out to sea on a single tide if possible. We needed to get to Denmark and wanted to make sure not to get caught out in a gale in the notorious North Sea. The weather looked favorable, bordering on a bit too much if anything (which we prefer rather than a bit too light,) so the next morning we flew through Orkney on the tide (the plan worked!) and found ourselves at sea for the first time in six months. Under jib and mizzen we reached across the bumpy sea, threaded through several oil rigs, one jibe three days later, and hello Denmark!

North Sea oil rig to port
North Sea oil rig to port
North Sea off watch
North Sea off watch

2 thoughts on “Irene’s Scottish Adventure

  1. This was so very much worth the wait! So many wonderful photos and vicarious experiences without the chill of winds, and the threat of those huge waves crashing over the seawall at your winter moorage. And the puffins!! I am so envious and so happy you captured such great photos of them! Your photography is wonderful and the captions enlightening (although I don’t want a pronunciation test on those names).
    No pressure, but I can hardly wait for the next installment!

  2. So awesome to see Scotland through your eyes. AMAZING photos!!! Those standing stones are incredible ( I can feel them from here). Love the names in that part of the world. 😉 Thanks for sharing this leg of the adventure!!!!
    Love, E

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