We had an easy crossing to Stornaway, although we were becalmed for an hour or so.
Stornaway is the ‘capital’ of the Outer Hebrides. It is blessed with an excellent harbour. Many seals inhabit it too and even come into the marina to look at the boats. They are very curious creatures.
Wind generator woes
Our wind generator is normally very quiet. Over the past week or so it has been whistling and behaving erratically. It seems to be overspeeding. All this wind has just been too much for it. Before the passage to Stornaway the whistling became a scream and we stilled it for the passage.
Once in Stornaway marina it was time to investigate. In order access it we had to remove the solar panel frame. The generator has slip rings to pass the current down the mounting tower. It turned out that one of the brushes was no longer contacting the slip ring – its spring had broken up. A new assembly was ordered from Electric Energy in Nottinghamshire. DHL Next Day Delivery only reaches to Inverness. From there, at extra cost, a different carrier has to get it to Ullapool and onto the ferry to Stornaway – an extra day. It did arrive as scheduled.
Fitting the replacement assembly without it springing apart was tricky but successful on the third attempt. Thankfully, the generator is now working again quietly.
Isle of Lewis
At last we have some lighter weather for our passages down the Outer Hebrides. There are many anchorages to choose from, many in intricate rocky lochs.
First night out from Stornoway, we tucked into Loch Mariveg and the next day made passage to Loch Bhrollum. Here we were surrounded by seals. With the improved weather we have been able to sit out in the cockpit and enjoy the spectacular views.
Isle of Harris
From Loch Bhrollum we had a good spinnaker run to Scadabay on the Isle of Harris.
Scadabay has a very intricate entrance up a narrow passage with sunken rocks into a well-sheltered pool.
The passage from Scadabay to Lochmaddy on North Uist was a long spinnaker run. We had some hazy sunshine and felt summer might be arriving but by lunchtime we were drenched in rain. We berthed in Lochmaddy’s tiny marina and were able to plug in and dry out again.
We sat out a blow in Lochmaddy before working further south. For the first leg, the remnants of the blow gave us a nice off-shore F3-4 and some sunshine between showers but it was only 12ºC even in the sun.
Our first stop was in Loch Skipport, where we tucked into the Wizard Pool – a well sheltered anchorage where the sense of total seclusion was powerful.
The high pressure fully arrived overnight and the next day we had no or very light winds until the mountains did their thing and a F3 appeared. It was on our nose but that is better than nothing. We made passage to Loch Eynort. While there are a couple of poorly sheltered anchorages in the outer loch, the best are in through some notorious narrows strewn with rocks. The Admiralty Pilot just says they are dangerous, while the Antares chart says
The prize for negotiating what is traditionally regarded as one of the more challenging passages of the Outer Isles is access to some of the most stunning anchorages they offer.
Usually we seek a favourable tide to carry us through narrows. Here the trick for entry is said to be to wait until low water outside and enter against the last of the ebb pouring out through the narrows. This allows more control over the boat than when being swept along by a fair tide and at low water you can see more of the rock hazards. Once through, we anchored in a pool known as Sloc Dubh over which towered Beinn Mhor 2034′ (620m). The photo does not covey the enormity of it. Indeed stunning views and again total seclusion.
We left the following day at high water slack and made passage to Lochboisdale – the southern-most loch on South Uist and which has a marina. Even marinas here have mountain views. This was a restock and laundry stop.
The weather finally came good. It was warm and we had full sun in the evening so we could sit out enjoying the views and warding off the midges. But this was not to last. By the next evening it was blowing F5-7 and raining.
From Lochboisdale we had a good sail to Barra, despite frequent bouts of drizzle. Together with Vartersay, to which it is attached by a short causeway, these are the southern most inhabited islands in the Outer Hebrides.
We berthed in a small marina in Castle Bay, which is dominated by the medieval fortress Kisimul Castle, which stands on an islet in the bay. Most of Barra and the castle are owned by Clan MacNeil. The 26th MacNeil of Barra is an American professor who has leased it to the Scottish Government for £1 and a bottle of Talisker whisky per annum.
We cycled 1½ hours over to Vatersay where there are two fine sandy beaches – one facing the Sea of the Hebrides and the other the Atlantic. They are separated by a narrow spit of sand dunes from which we could view both seas.
We did not get to Barra airport – believed to be the only airport operating scheduled flights from a beach. The schedule has to take the tide into account!
We are to get two days fine weather. These would be ideal to visit the uninhabited islands south of Barra. However, several days of wet and very windy weather are arriving again on Tuesday evening and we have decided to cross The Minch eastwards before they arrive.
More news in due course
Ynskje & Tony
Track log here.