Log #16d Highland Lochs Part 1, Charts and Pilots

July 30, 2000 in Log Series 11 - 19, Logs by Series, Series 16 Scotland, The Logs

Log #16d Highland Lochs Part 1, Charts and Pilots

Started on July 30, at Caladh Harbour, Loch Riddon
Off Firth of Clyde and completed at Loch Ryan, Aug. 11, 2000
Covers the period June 14 to 17, 2000

After having been storm bound in Corpach at the end of the Caledonian Canal for three days, it was a relief to get out onto open water again as we went southwest out Loch Linnhe from Fort William. Of course we were going into a wind from the south west, but we put up the genoa and motor sailed into it for a few hours once we got into the more open waters past the narrows at Corran. En route we saw Castle Stalker, a picturesque structure, dominating the entrance to its bay from a spit that is totally awash at high tide. We have pilot books, and a variety of guide and history books that give us quite a bit of background information on all these castles and ruins. Each of the hundreds of castles has a long, complicated, often bloody history, some dating back 800 to 1000 years or more.

We went alongside the new pontoons at Oban Yacht Services on Kerra Island opposite Oban, a large commercial, fishing, tourist town. The pontoons have been considerably expanded on the Kerra side, with acceptable heads, showers, and small laundromat. We went for our first distillery tour in Oban, getting a feel for the Scottish national industry, and of course a taste, and a bottle, of it.

Next day we motored up the Sound of Mull to Tobermory, passing Duart, another picturesque castle (on Mull) that was intact and open to the public. As we went up the sound, we passed several navy ships. First was a submarine from Denmark, its black silent hull interrupted only by the national flag and a few sailors in the top of the fin (conning tower). Then we passed a couple of French minesweepers that we saluted by dipping our Canadian flag to them. The first responded, the second didn’t. Next we passed HMS Cumberland, a large RN destroyer, to whom we dutifully dipped our flag again. We watched the few officers and hands on the bridge as they realized they were being saluted by us, and a female rating was directed to respond. However, she too was up on the bridge, and we watched her scramble down several decks and run aft on the main deck to reach their stern ensign and dip it in reply to our salute, a distance of over 300 feet. But at least they responded.

In Tobermory, we rafted alongside Den Njord to enjoy the company of Jill and Frank Trew, friends we met at Limehouse Basin during the winter in London. Later that evening as we were preparing a joint meal with Den Njord, we were in VHF contact with Blue Highway, who were also heading for Tobermory, so came in and rafted along with us for an late enlarged “pot-luck” supper between the three boats. We knew Russ and Lynne from Blue Highway, out of Florida, from periodic meetings in Bermuda, the Azores, the south coast of England and at St Katherine’s Docks in London over the winter. It was a most enjoyable reunion with sailing friends.

Tobermory is also of significance to us as there is a Tobermory at the end of the Bruce Peninsula in northern Lake Huron, also a small tourist town with fishing and diving as main activities, and at which both Judys and I have sailed and dived, on wrecks and in Fathom Five Underwater Park. In addition, this was a major training base for British and Canadian convoy escort ships during WW II. Judy J. had to leave us there to return to London and then back home to Vancouver. Unfortunately in the two weeks she was with us, we never had the chance to actually sail under full main and genoa.

Of course the day we left Tobermory, we had a lovely sail most of the way up past the Ardnamurchan Peninsula and over to Loch Moidart. Ardnamurchan is a major peninsula which can have heavy weather as it is exposed to the open southern part of The Sea of The Hebrides. It is considered a major sail to go beyond this point and yachts having done so display a bouquet of heather on their bow pulpit upon their return to “civilization” south of it. Wending our way past shoals and islets, several of which had seal colonies, we entered Loch Moidart, the most beautiful anchorage we had been in so far in the UK.

Our pilot book provided sufficient navigation detail for us to find our way in. Rather than buying expensive detailed charts of every entrance, we have a few Imray coastal charts at £12.95 each and then use the Yachtsman’s Pilots by Martin Laurence put out by Imray Laurie Norie and Wilson to navigate our way in to each loch and anchorage. Judy dutifully updated these pilots from the addenda that came with each book. The charts by Imray also have various sections, lochs and entrances encompassed by rectangular lines indicating larger scale diagrams located on the chart itself, or indicating the page number in the relevant pilot for which that area has more detailed diagrams and information. We have found the diagrams, pictures and aerial photographs of the areas and entrances of great use, and quite accurate. There is a series of similar pilots put out by the Clyde Cruising Club which we understand are excellent as well, but since the store where we initially started purchasing these in Oban did not have the areas we needed, we stayed with the Imray pilots. The Clyde Cruising Club pilots are also a bit more expensive, but are better bound with wire ring spines.

The “Nautical Almanac 2000” of the Cruising Association (Macmillan-Reeds) also has good detailed diagrams of major ports and their entrances, as well as a wealth of information on tides, currents, weather patterns, coastal navigation, Traffic Separation Schemes, communications, radio navigational aids and much more, covering the whole of the UK, Ireland, Channel Islands, Spain, Portugal, Gibraltar, France, Germany, Denmark, Belgium and the Netherlands. This almanac is essential for sailing these waters. Another publication we have found valuable, not so much for navigational use, but for general historical, geological, and environmental information, is “Scottish Islands – A Comprehensive Guide to Every Scottish Island” by Hamish Haswell-Smith, published by Canongate. It also indicates the best anchorages around each island.

We do not have the computer facility to use the electronic plot charting CD’; if we did, to get such for every area of the world we will be passing through would be very expensive, and the paper charts would still be required as well. We don’t have radar, and have not missed it. It might have been of some use when closing land to identify the entrances, but our Garmin 128 GPS has been very reliable for positions, tracks, courses, distances, etc., and is quite sufficient for us, especially now that the Selective Availability errors have been removed from the system, giving an accuracy within 10 meters or less. As for hazards from other ships, we have a permanently mounted radar reflector, and keep a good horizon scan at all times. While crossing the Atlantic, we would call up any ship we saw on the horizon to inform it of our presence,  course and speed so it would be aware of us. We don’t make the continuous calls this would involve while in coastal waters, but do keep a good watch, especially for ferries and fishing boats.

So with our navigational aids and publications, we entered Loch Moidart, a complex entry involving identifying a series of rocks, and steering appropriately to avoid them and the submerged dangers they showed the positions of. Since it was high tide, we went south of Eilean Riska, in front of Castle Tioram, to anchor 200 yards west of the castle, sheltered by it and the sand spit, covered at high water, linking it to the mainland. This was a bit risky as there is a shoal off the castle on which we subsequently found out a power boat had lost its skeg a few days earlier. However, it was marked on our diagram of the entrance, and we avoided it. More about this glorious secluded picturesque loch in my next log.