Hurley Appreciation Society Annual Muster 2006

Arranged to meet Ian and his son Iain in the T’n’T on Friday night . Bumped into DaveS who was rostering his climbing club’s annual sail-and-climb weekend in the bar there. Avilion and Starlight, an F27 trimaran, were taking nine crew to Mull on Saturday for a wee daunder.

Ian and Iain

Miles this trip 47
Miles this season 305 (s/h 72)

Silkie’s crew had arrived earlier than expected so we just had the one before going down to the mooring.

Saturday 5th August 2006

Woke for the 0520 forecast and reset the alarm for an early start to catch slack water at Cuan and make the most of the flood up the Firth of Lorne. Didn’t manage to wake for the second alarm so we motor-sailed through about an hour into the flood in poor visibility. An interesting popple at the western entrance gave an idea of what conditions might be like with  a fresh breeze over tide at springs.

Continued motoring around the south of Easdale before finding just enough breeze to sail. We were in no hurry. Visibility was still poor; it’s not very often that Silkie is steered to a compass course in these waters but there was no land in sight for quite a while. The wind was fluky as we cut close to Duart and gusty (on the beam) as we crossed Craignure Bay. The tide was still flooding and we managed to sail into Loch Aline.

Once inside, the wind picked up, funneling through the entrance and we went barreling down the loch to anchor in front of the reef on the north shore. A light snack afloat was followed by a pint in the Lochaline Social Club and a superb dinner at the White House. On the return down the loch we saw the climbers’ boats hanging off a single hook in front of the sand jetty but the crew were in the Lochaline Hotel by this time and so we didn’t meet up with them that evening.

Sunday 6th August

Motored down the loch at tennish and spoke Avilion on the way. Dave had forgotten his trousers again. There was a fresh breeze from the NW in the Sound of Mull so we poled out the genoa and hurtled off at hull speed. Winds were lighter in the Firth of Lorne and we eventually resorted to motor-sailing.

Ian went below for a nap at this point. I’m not sure what it says about my abilities as a skipper but when I announced some time later that we could sail again young Iain called his dad on deck without further ceremony. There was a fair old swell rolling in from the SW and we beat into it between Insh and Seil before firing up the Yamaha again to motor-sail through Easdale Sound.

Our timing was perfect for the start of the ebb at Cuan and we were able to sail through between ‘the lurking mischief on the right, or the open destruction on the left’ with no problem that constant attention to helm and sails could not overcome. So I was feeling pretty smug as we came into Seil Sound. The sea was flat, the sun came out, there was a gentle breeze astern and the crew were relaxing in the cockpit.

The tide was against us now and the crew were facing a five hour drive home so I was keeping close in to the Seil shore to minimize both the distance and the effect of the current. I had just formed the thought “This is exactly the sort of time you make a stupid mistake, I’d better check the chart” when at the same moment Ian glanced at the echo sounder to see it read 0.0 and thought ‘Bloomin’ thing’s telling lies again.’ There was a nasty bang and we ground to a halt.

Oops, or words to that effect. Silkie slewed round through 90 degrees to point into the shore. The tide was falling (although in my confusion I announced that it was rising) and it would be 12 hours before it would be as high again. We furled the genoa, released the mainsheet and started the engine and I gave it full reverse as Ian swung from the port shrouds. I think we floated briefly again but the main pushed us back on.

We dropped the main on deck and Ian stripped off,  prepared to jump in to try to push her off but this didn’t seem like such a good idea since we’re none of us as young as we once were. We tried full reverse again with Iain on the tiller while his dad and I both swung off the shrouds, heaving ourselves back and forth to get a pendulum effect going. Fortunately Silkie’s hull form is amenable to this and she finally floated clear.

I said a little prayer to Neptune (or something like that) and blessed Silkie’s encapsulated keel.

We were only going slowly; we both thought 2.8 knots SOG when we talked it over afterwards.

We should have dropped the main immediately. It seems obvious now that although it was doing nothing while we were aground (with the wind forward of the port beam and the main right out to starboard) as soon as we floated the first time, the bow blew off so that the main filled and pushed us back on. A backed genoa might have helped especially if we’d tried to heel her the other way, to leeward, which we probably should have done.

We’d run aground on a small (nay, tiny) detached drying bit just south of Rubha na Gaolthe (N26 16.735 W5 35.960) the easternmost point of the southern half of Seil Island, which is exactly the sort of little chart feature I’d thought that I might have overlooked. This is also stupidly close in just after high water neaps when the tidal range here is just over a metre.

Although only moving at 2.8 knots, 2 tonnes still represents a fair amount of energy to be dissipated but at least we only slid up onto some rocks rather than running straight into one. I’m hopeful that there will be little more than cosmetic damage to forefoot and keel and don’t plan to haul out before the end of the season. Silkie had a lump out of this area when I bought her and so some of it is epoxy already.

For some reason, I was never really seriously concerned throughout (ignorance is bliss they say) and took some kind of perverse enjoyment from the experience.

Anyway, although his initial reaction was to want to call the Coastguard, young Iain says he still wants to go sailing again (although he wasn’t specific about who he’d want to sail with the next time) so I suppose all’s well that ends well.

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