Voltair to Norway, heading towards Cape Wrath


"Let's leave Worcester at 6pm", said Robin, "then we'll be there by 1:30am and have time for a decent night's sleep before setting off." Well, we nearly got to Oban on time, give or take 30 minutes, succeeded in getting the dinghy and engine out of the locked compound, and three of us just about made it to the yacht on the mooring before Ermintrude the outboard gave up in a cloud of steam. So we started Voltair up and berthed on the fuelling pontoon for the rest of the team to get on board. "Maybe just a wee dram before we turn in", but Frank had already got hold of the bottle and poured 5  generous Laphroigs. "Not worth keeping that bit, is it?" saw that bottle bite the dust. The partial bottle of Haig went the same way. What surprised us all was the way the full bottle of Teachers (our reserve supply) similarly vanished before our eyes. I think we got to bed by 5am - it was certainly light. A scene of devastation met our eyes the next morning before we started packing the boat.


In fact, Robin was the first to wake. "Help, help!", he heard, possibly from outside the boat. Was this the start of the DTs or something worse? On emerging from the stern cabin, he found an elderly gentleman clutching our stern warp and another yacht nearby. The gentleman was in the sea and the yacht was untenanted and drifting away with engine running! Prioritising quickly, Robin rapped loudly on our hull to call for help, then he rescued the man from the water, and, (having absolutely no response from our crew) he rowed the dripping man as rapidly as possible towards the drifting yacht and rescued that too.


About an hour or so later, the rest of us succeeded in waking up also, to be regaled with this story of valour and arduous rowing in a somewhat flaccid dinghy. Me, I think he dreamed the whole thing!


Most of Saturday was then spent preparing for our departure: viz - consuming huge cooked breakfasts at the Wide Mouthed Frog, bending on the sails, victualling (buying whisky even though nobody felt like drinking any), putting new elastic around our canopy, failing to mend Ermintrude, failing to install the new bilge pump, failing to find any second-hand outboards in the vicinity of Oban, failing to remember to tighten the alternator belt, and failing to buy plywood. Succeeding in meeting Suzi and welcoming her on board (sending Ermi off to storage meanwhile), abandoning the Avis car somewhere near the Avis garage, getting our spare keys back and, almost 24 hours after leaving Worcester, saying our goodbyes and departing from the marina for the last time.What a wonderful relief it was to be off at last (also, the 5am alcoholic haze was wearing off a bit by then). The sun came out, the wind blew from a kindly direction as we slipped past Lochaline in the Sound of Mull, the spinnaker set without a twist, the only twist being that of the lemon in the tonic being drunk by some of the crew without the usual gin!


The skin on the chicken in the oven went that lovely shade of crispy brown, a garlic and herby aroma wafted up to the wheelhouse, the vegetables cooked to perfection and we consumed Vaughan's first culinary masterpiece of the trip under way with a cloud-capped Ben More towering over us to port and a box of Muscadet opening up to starboard.


We made it to Tobermory just in time for the last dance at McGochans. They had the last dance, we had pints of Guinness. Back on board, we allocated two slices of salami to the new prawn trap and dropped it down 20m to the dark sea bed below us. We were in our bunks at least three hours earlier than the night before, and no cries for help awoke any of us on Sunday morning.


We slipped the mooring at 7am (after hauling our pot, returning a small berried female langoustine to the water, but keeping her un-encumbered buddy for JK's lunch) and headed out into the sunshine of the sound with a force 3 southerly helping us along. A minesweeper bustled towards us making a fearful wash, and collected five hoots from a huge bulk carrier that was heading north and thought he was being cut up. The mound of water being pushed along by the Yeoman Bridge was formidable: two crewmen were dots on the deck of the enormous ship - almost a quarter mile long. Was she a sister ship of the ill-fated Kowloon Bridge whose wreck we had sailed over near Baltimore in 2003? Spinnaker up once again, we sailed towards Eriskay in the Outer Hebrides - our plan being to coast along the island chain, calling at Loch Skiport, Stornoway and points north-east, until we swung east and regained the mainland near Cape Wrath.






So what are we now doing heading up the Sound of Sleat towards the Kyles of Rhea and Loch Alsh? The weather forecast saw to that - we heard it at 10am, forecasting strong to gale force winds from the east or northeast by Tuesday, and causing us to abandon our Hebridean plans and hug the coast. But the new course did give us a wonderful view of the sky above Skye!


Love to you all - from Dick, Frank, John, Robin and Vaughan.


P.S. Langoustine mayonnaise for lunch - delicious! Pity we couldn't stop at Doune Marine and eat a plateful, as we did in 2002!

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