“In Loch Linnhe one is not at sea at all. Surrounded by great hills, green valleys, and pleasant woodlands, the loch is more of the land than of the sea. Not the ocean, but the bens are masters here.” John McLintock 1938
Monday, 22nd July: Sailing to Port Ramsay, Lismore Island
The weather today was foul, but we had strong south-westerlies to take us through the Sound of Mull and up the Lynn of Morvern. It rained the whole passage, sometimes very heavily, and visibility was poor. But it wasn’t actually too cold, which was a nice surprise. We had F5-6 winds, gusting F7, so it was a very lively sail. The mainsail was double reefed throughout and the foresail was heavily reefed for the first couple of hours, but then let out a bit.
There’s been a lot of rain lately, and the waterfalls are overflowing, cascading down the mountain sides, the wind catching the spray high up in the air. A rather wonderful sight! We saw quite a few pairs of guillemots in the water, one being smaller and we guess this is parent and fledgling, swimming along together. Very sweet!
We anchored in Port Ramsay, on the north side of Lismore Island. Now we’re ready for a day of enjoyment tomorrow!
Stats: distance 26.3NM , underway 3hrs 55mins, average speed 6.7 kts, max speed 10.6 kts
Tuesday, 23rd July: Port Ramsay, Lismore Island
Toby and Janette came up in Trofast from Oban mid-morning, and after lunch we gathered in our RIB and went over the top of Lismore Island and tied up on the ferry pier.
Lismore Island is ten miles long, with fertile soil and sits in the lower reaches of Loch Linnhe. It has been inhabited since at least the bronze age, and was a centre for Christian missionary work in the 6th century led by the Irish St Moluag, a contemporary of St Columba. The island may well have been chosen for being easily reached by sea. With both passenger and vehicle ferries, the island is still well connected and now supports a population of about 180.
Janette always brings an OS map, which is very useful. We also found a local tourist brochure in a re-used phone box, (where you could also buy yourself a cake!) and with this in hand we walked the narrow road south. Whenever a car passed we had to move off, which was surprisingly often. We had seen there is the remains of a broch within easy walking distance. We arrived at Balure and walked up the steep incline to the top of the hill they had chosen to build on 2,000 years ago. What a view they enjoyed!
Back on our boat we had dinner out on the deck with Toby and Janette. It was lovely and warm, so we could sit out until sunset!
Wednesday, 24th July – sailing to Fort William
We set off 11am, going north towards Fort William which is known as the outdoor capital of Britain. For yachties its main attraction is that it is the start of the Caledonian Canal, which takes you and your boat across to the east coast of Scotland.
The sail wasn’t that exciting. The wind died down quite quickly, it was rainy and very grey. We managed to sail to the Corran Narrows, with its very busy ferry linking the western and eastern coasts of Loch Linnhe. We motored the rest of the way and the skies cleared up by 3pm as we approached Fort William. Going through the town we confirmed landing places for the RIB and anchored by Rubha Dearg opposite Corpach.
In the evening we went to the sea lock, the beginning of the Caledonian canal and walked along the canal banks for a while, then back through Caol and a quick shop at the Coop. We know there’s a heatwave in England, but here we have nice warm air. We take every opportunity to enjoy it and sat outside until dark.
Across the water by Corpach is 67 ha of BSW Timber, UK’s largest sawmilling business as well as boatbuilding and haulage firms. The gulls, crowded on two small islands, still managed to be the louder ones!
Stats: distance 21.6 NM, underway 5hrs 15mins, average speed 4.1 kts, max speed 5.8 kts
Thursday, 25th July: Birgitta’s Birthday
The Scottish weather delighted! Warm day with light and mixed clouds, and we had a long breakfast on deck in shorts and t shirts. I talked with all our children and had lots of birthday greetings from family and friends around the world. I’m so grateful for modern communications!
We took the RIB to the town pontoon where we chatted with the very nice attendant. He knew all about Ben Nevis as he used to be up there a lot as a child as his father was a shepherd. He had also helped the re-build of the Caledonian Canal some 20 years ago. Very interesting!
We had a lovely birthday lunch at The Wildcat in Fort William, a very low-key cafe / food / shop which is entirely plant based. There is one hot main meal available each day, but also a variety of filling salads, wraps and sandwiches. And a very delicious array of cake! The furniture is re-used from schools and they sell several magazines with a positive, ecological message. A place to be proud to work in!
We spent the afternoon on the RIB mooching about and discovering Loch Eil, just west of our anchorage. Lovely and peaceful!
In the evening we headed in to Fort William, planning on a drink or two in a pub. But they were all very crowded and hot. We heard pipe music and found that the Lochaber Schools Pipe Band was performing by the local museum. Very talented young people! Have a peak here: Lochaber Schools Pipe Band
We went back to our uncrowded boat veranda, and enjoyed a nice bottle of red.
Friday, 26th July: Sailing to Lismore Island
We went back to Port Ramsay today, where we had just been as we knew it to be a good anchorage. We had F4 southerlies, gusting 5/6 and the wind funnelled along the loch. We went in deep tacks down to Corran, motored through the Narrows and then started tacking again. It is a bit wearing, this kind of sailing. You have to brace continually and it is quite difficult to move about safely. So we were quite happy when we arrived and anchored in our little bay.
Stats: distance 31.8 NM, underway 5hrs 42mins, average speed 5.6 kts, max speed 8.7 kts
As you may have noticed, the passage to Rubha Dearg was 21.6 NM, and the return 31.8 NM. That’s the difference tacking all the way makes!
Saturday, 27th July: Port Ramsay, Lismore Island
I got up as soon as I woke up, and sat outside for a couple of hours hoping to see an otter. I did see a seal, and lots of seabirds, which was very nice too. Then it started to rain so my wildlife watch ended. I will have to try again another day. What is exciting though, is that I kept seeing this bird skua mentioned in a book I’m reading, and when looking it up I knew that I had found out what it was we saw a few days ago. We basically saw a large, predatory bird but it was clearly a seabird. Seeing a photo of the skua, there is no doubt in my mind that this is what we saw that day.
It was rainy on and off for the rest of the day so we had another rest day on the boat. To be honest, we don’t need any more of these now.
Sunday, 28th July: Port Ramsay to Bernera Bay, Lismore Island
We took a walk around the bay in the morning, saw lots of contorted hazel which is very pretty, and Dominic saw a hare, which we understand were introduced to the island not long ago by the community. It started to rain, so after lunch we motored down to the south west corner of Lismore, and Bernera Bay – a change of scenery!
There is a castle ruin here; the heavily fortified Achanduin Castle was built in the 13th century by the Clan Mac Dougall. It is also called the ‘Bishop’s Palace’ as it was the seat of the Bishopric of Argyll. The castle is well placed, and can only easily be reached from one side, which we noticed trying to get to it on foot from the bay.
After our walk we had supper outside, but it is not as warm as it was previously. We see a thick roll of fog sitting over the Sound, just waiting for a bit of wind to envelop us.
Monday, 29th July: Bernera Bay to Kerrara
Foghorns woke us, presumably the Oban ferries making sure everyone knows they’re coming. It was definitely foggy but we could just discern land on the two sides of the bay. Once it had cleared we took our mini-me dinghy across the water to walk on Bernera Island. It was simply too slippery on the rocks to climb up where we first landed, but further away was a pebbly beach and that was fine. Next difficulty was that from this beach all potential paths went into thickets of brambles. Not nice for bare legs. We tried to revive a few stranded jellyfish, then went back to the boat. We’ll try walking again this afternoon.
The wind is changing to southerlies this afternoon so we can’t stay in this anchorage another night, so we motored across to Kerrera and another lovely bay on the north-western side of the island. It started raining as soon as we got there. We are not destined to go walking today.
Loch Linnhe is lovely, with high peaks and green mounds, long valleys and wooded slopes, seals, sheep, lots of birds and lovely anchorages. It is a different kind of cruising to that of the islands further west. We like them both for different reasons.
We’re off to Oban Marina, on the other side of Kerrera Island tomorrow where we will leave Idun on a buoy while we go home for a couple of weeks. 3 months we’ve been on Idun, sailing and walking and exploring. Not bad!