Oronsay

Saturday 19th August

DaveS had said that he would probably head for Oronsay today and this seemed like a good idea since a NW wind was forecast for a couple of days.

Sailed off the mooring just before 1200 though I had to give a quick burst of engine to avoid the adjacent mooring buoy. She takes a fair few seconds to gather steerage way and if I misjudge the ideal moment to drop the mooring and we don’t head off in quite the right direction there are several close obstructions in the firing line.

Sailed down to Cuan without hitting anything (!) and rolled away the genoa after Cleit rock to motor-sail the west reach. Started to sail again in light airs once through and headed SW. Tried to raise Avilion on the VHF without success and resorted to the mobile. Dave and Callum were just about to go ashore on Eileach an Naoimh and were still headed for Oronsay.

Continued to sail slowly until the wind died altogether at Garbh Eileach and motored down to Eileach an Naoimh to see if Avilion’s shore party had yet returned. They hadn’t and I was just about to drop the anchor when they appeared from the old landing place. The inflatable sped over to Avilion and they put out fenders for me to raft up. This was to set a precedent for the weekend.

It was 1600 by the time a beer had been consumed in Avilion’s cockpit and since there was no wind and 20 miles to go I’d have to get a move on if I was to reach Oronsay before dark o’clock. It was quite a while before Avilion followed me out and I discovered later that they were having windlass problems.

On the horizon

They still beat me to Kiloran Bay of course and had the hook set, fenders out and dinner in the oven by the time I arrived in the failing light at 2100. I was nervous about the entrance since it was my first time and I wasn’t sure I had identified the boathouse, to be kept on 270 degrees. All went well, though I certainly appreciated the large G&T with which I was welcomed. The wine, whisky and rum which followed the dread FBs also went down a treat.

Sunday 20th August

Kiloran Bay has several large lumps of rock set in white sand and crystal clear water and looked spectacular in the morning sun. It is open to the south though (hence the sand) and only suitable as an anchorage in the right weather.

We weren’t long up before a sail appeared over the NE arm of the bay. Jim was solo and engineless on his F27 trimaran Starlight and had had to anchor overnight in Loch Staosnaig on Colonsay. In a pretty display of seamanship he joined the raft under sail (at the second pass) with nary a bump.

The raft

Over a communal fry-up it was decided to catch the start of the ebb south through the Sound of Islay at 1600 so we went ashore to explore the Priory, an early Christian monastery with interesting carvings, cloisters and niches complete with real human remains. Back at the beach, the boathouse had been converted into an amazing dwelling with the original arched boat entrance, which occupied one wall of the living room, forming a huge window looking out over the bay to the Paps of Jura.

As the smallest boat, I left first at about 1500 while Jim’s modified outboard electronics were still being dissected in Avilion’s cockpit. I attempted to leave under sail and nearly rammed Starlight’s stern in the process.

It was a straight-line reach from the raft to the Rubha a’Mhail light on Islay however the wind was from the SW and there wasn’t quite enough of it to keep Silkie entirely settled in the swell which rolled in from the same direction.

There was probably up to 5 knots of tide flowing through the Sound at the narrower bits and I mostly sailed though with occasional use of engine when the wind disappeared and we found ourselves reversing (in the right direction) at several knots.

The rest of the fleet hove into view as we emerged from the Sound along with a fourth boat and a race developed (which Avilion won) when it became apparent that all were headed for the Craighouse mooring buoys The stranger probably thought that he came second (and was pleased to get the last buoy) but we had intended to raft up again anyway.

Jim’s arrival was delayed by having to lash his inflatable between Starlight’s hulls and use it’s outboard to complete the last few miles, so Callum and I were landed as an advance party to ensure that a meal would be available for all. This was more or less achieved though the hotel staff were not quite as obliging as might have been hoped.

Monday 21st August

The wind picked up through the night and I didn’t sleep very well. The following morning there was still a gusty 20-odd knots and I was apprehensive about the 30 miles back to Balvicar. I haven’t been as confident about single-handing this year as I was last year, as is probably obvious from the mileage recorded in this blog and I hadn’t been entirely at ease on the first two days of this trip.

Nevertheless I was making preparations to go when the wind suddenly stopped, resulting in me worrying about whether I had enough petrol to get up the Sound of Jura before the tide turned at the top end! There was a gentle breeze as I left at 1015 and the first hour or so was spent alternately motoring and sailing as I tried to balance my limited fuel with the need to get past Corryvreckan before the start of the ebb.

Eventually the wind filled in from NNW and we had a superb close reach under full sail with the wind forward of the port beam. We were soon caught by Avilion.

Being overhauled by Avilion

Starlight had obviously had a much later start but her speed was impressive. She was abeam half an hour after first becoming identifiable astern and half an hour later she was a dot on the horizon ahead. She was probably twice as fast through the water as wee Silkie who was going well enough in spite of her dirty bottom.

Having been overhauled by Starlight

It seemed to get gustier as we approached the north end of the sound and I put in a prophylactic reef but it wasn’t required and came out again fairly quickly.

Sailing up the sheltered sounds was wonderful. Luing, Torsa and Seil played tunes with the breeze which went up and down between 5 and 15 knots from moment to moment. Silkie is top fun in these conditions. When hit by such a puff she heels to 25 or 30 degrees, the helm loads up (as they say in the yachtie mags) and she accelerates with a stately vigour. As the gust eases, she rises up again, decelerates gradually and the tiller becomes finger-light once more. Probably all boats are equally entertaining but Silkie is my own delight.

Sailed into Balvicar Bay and motored onto the mooring.

A great sail, a great weekend and a significant restoration of my single-handing confidence. Thanks to Dave and Jim for the photos.

Miles this trip 87
Miles this season 392 (s/h 159)

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