Archive for the ‘Oban and Dunstaffnage’ Category

Scottish Islands Peaks Race

Friday, May 27th, 2016
Sailing from Oban to Mull

Sailing from Oban to Mull

This is no normal race and it is well to remember that!

For sailors it is a demanding race which takes in some tricky tidal areas. Unusually for a race picking up the crew or dropping the anchor has to take place under sail.

Equally it is a demanding race for runners. Running up mountains over loose boulders and then across hummocked bog land back to the boats is not easy going.

However it is the combination of the two that turns this into a very challenging race.

Normally before I go for a sail, I take a look at the weather and work out the tides. I then decide the best time to go to catch the all important tidal gateway. I also prefer to sail during the day. Equally, before I enter a half marathon or suchlike I’ll make sure I get a good nights sleep and a decent breakfast with a large dollop of coffee inside me about an hour before the start. The start is generally at a civilised time, about 9 or 10 in the morning.

Well forget all that!

To be fair, the first race around the hills near Oban does start at a predictable noon but after that anything can happen.

Simon and I had a reasonable first run near Oban finishing in about 38 minutes. We then jumped in the little inflatable to row out to Brimble. Our prediction of a slackish tide was not to be correct and I had to row like stink to counter the current. Once clear of the moored boats we were picked up by Brimble and a few seconds later we were in a near collision with a navigational buoy and a catamaran bearing down on us while another yacht tried to squeeze between.

We then had a lovely sail to Salen. It is important to get to the first anchorage quickly because Scottish Power turn off the wind at about 6pm to save energy. Our runners, Grit, Simon and Rob, were landed and running by 5pm on Mull. This allowed them to reach the summit of Ben Mor before dark. The really fast fell runners can get there and back while it is light but that is crazy fast. Sadly the weather was awful and it poured with chilly rain. The summit was apparently freezing cold. Our poor runners managed to get back onboard by 0245 having made the wet descent in the dark. It was a tough 22 miles and they were glad to be back on Brimble for some nosh and a rest.

John and I sailed the good ship towards the Sound of Luing before waking the Mull Runners to take over the watch. Craftily we handed over our watch just as the tide was about to turn foul in the narrow straits. Feeling slightly smug we crawled into our bunks. Sadly our cunning plan backfired as the constant tacking meant I couldn’t get to sleep. We got up as the tide turned again and Jura gradually approached. As Craighouse neared the wind began to drop and we decided to enter the northern approach to the harbour. At this point the wind died completely and Simon, John and I got into the little Seago dinghy to row ashore. The problem was it was about a mile and a half to row. By the time we reached the check point at about midnight I was virtually asleep. We were greeted by “You know you are last – you had better take your Yellow Brick tracker on the Paps” which was a bit unnerving!

However, I would hate this to sound like a moan about the marshals who are basically the most generous kind helpful and wonderful people you can imagine. There is no way an event like this could exist without their dedicated help. As we were the last to start the run, they basically had to wait overnight in the Community Hall until we arrived back safely. And they had to wait over 8 hours!

It was my fault. I was basically too tired to even start the run yet alone complete it. Along the roads and tracks I could slowly jog along but I couldn’t conjure the energy to cope with the foot placement needed for the scree slopes. I was falling asleep as I ran and fell over at least twenty times.  I was wearing a heart monitor and ironically it only registered an average of 131 and a max of 157. My normal running heart rates average about 167 and peak around 190. I never really got going. It was such a shame as I had been looking forward to the Paps for a long time but I can’t say this was an enjoyable experience at all.

The one thing that kept me going was Rob had promised to make a big dahl curry for our breakfast and indeed he kept his word. We arrived back on the boat and tucked into a most wonderful creation. There were seconds too! Then I fell into deep sleep as the crew sailed Brimble towards the Mull of Kintyre.

Refreshed after a good snooze on a calm sea I got up just as the tide had turned ready to sweep us around the Mull at 9 kn. John managed to arrange for Wings to be playing at the moment of the rounding! In perfect conditions we sailed towards Arran only to be caught out in the traditional manner by Scottish Power once again turning off the wind in the evening. The good news was that the run would now take place in daylight!

Grit, John, Simon and Rob ran the route to Goat Fell in fine weather and they made it back in good time ready for the final sail. After a slow start the wind gradually built up and we were sailing at 4-5 kn towards the finish. Grit and Simon rowed ashore and ran to the finish. We all retired to Scotts for a few too many beers and a lovely meal.

It was a great pleasure to be part of the race and to sail on a fine ship with such lovely crew. Thanks everyone!

Check Point on Mull

Check Point on Mull

John doesn't like to get cold!

John doesn’t like to get cold!

The secret weapon - Beetroot Juice. Sadly it didn't work!

The secret weapon – Beetroot Juice. Sadly it didn’t work!

View from a Pap in the morning

View from a Pap in the morning

Rough under foot

Rough under foot

Passing the Mull of Kintyre

Passing the Mull of Kintyre

Rowing the boat when the wind dropped

Rowing the boat when the wind dropped

The Goat Fell Runners return

The Goat Fell Runners return

Simon collects the finishing certificates

Simon collects the finishing certificates




Scottish Islands Peaks Race

Wednesday, May 18th, 2016
This should do the trick but those Jelly Babies are not for sharing!

This should do the trick but those Jelly Babies are not for sharing!

Oh dear, here we go again. This time I am joining the crew of the Good Ship Brimble, a 27ft Twister. There will be more space onboard than Sumara but still pretty cosy with five runners and all the kit. I’ve been a bit disorganised this year struggling to find the time to sort out my kit. When I went down to my yacht to collect my boots, hat, running compass and other gear I found she had been locked in a shed so I’ve had to buy a load of new stuff. There is a strict kit check before each run so there’s no busking it. Every runner also has to take 250g of chocolate on each run. Something to look forward to!

We are getting the sleeper to Glasgow tonight so we will arrive in Oban on Thursday lunchtime. That should give us enough time to get ready before the noon start on Friday. The weather isn’t looking too bright but at least we won’t be rowing again.

The Start

Friday, May 25th, 2012

Kit Check at Oban Sailing Club

The Race starts with a run over Pulpit Hill near Oban. It’s about 6 miles I think. Grit and I ran it on Wednesday night as a trial but got lost! That was pathetic really but we just missed one turning. We sailed Sumara down from Dunstaffnage to Oban Bay Marina early on Thursday morning and picked up a buoy. Charlotte and Sarah arrived on the 1130 train and booked into a hostel for the night. Sumara only has three berths and there were to be five of us onboard. We still had to do the provisioning and meet our new crew member Rick Robson who was arriving at 1530. I met Rick at the station and he looked just the ticket! A big smile and a Basque berry with a soft bag slung over his shoulder. Rick looked like a real fell runner – well he was a real fell runner! At 1600 we trundled down to Oban Yacht Club for the full kit inspection and registration. They are pretty thorough on this and every item is carefully ticked off. They make sure the torches actually work and no one has filed the studs of their shoes. I’m not sure why anyone would want to do that. Mind you I will give a pretty dammimg report on the studs on one make of shoe later. We all passed the inspection, were given our race numbers (41) and we queued up for the ferry back to the boat. There was still a long list of tasks needing to be done.  In the morning Sarah and Charlotte would sail the boat up towards the start area and Grit would row ashore to collect Rick and me who were doing the first running race.

The race briefing was at 0900 outside the clubhouse. Rick and I went off for breakfast. The race start was to be at 1200. On this race there was no requirement to carry full kit. I was still a bit worried about my knee so I wore an elastic bandage and a bit of Ibuprofen Gel.

At noon about 120 runners were lined up for the start. Some of these runners are the top dogs of the fell running world, and then there was me at the other end.  However we did our best and were certainly not last back. After running through the finish line we met Grit and rowed as fast as we could back to Sumara ready for the sail to the start line.

We were underway. After all the stress of the preparations, it was a great feeling.


Fell Running and Invertors

Friday, May 25th, 2012

You may be wondering what happened to my enthusiastic blog. It all started well with lots of posts and then it stopped just as it was going to get exciting. Well my first excuse was that the ship invertor stopped working – it  just tripped the contact breaker. I decided against gaffer taping the breaker on as apparently it is poor form. That meant my lap top went flat so it was bye bye blog.

Trouble is everyone has mobiles but not many people have 12v chargers so it became obvious that the world would simply grind to a halt and collapse if the good ship didn’t have an invertor. Grit and I had a fleeting moment in Oban to try to buy one in the Car Spares Shop. The man behind the counter just couldn’t believe it. He had sold six that morning! He really thought we were winding him up!

It’s a funny old world when you need an invertor to go running but mobiles are fairly important on this race. The runners need to warn the boat crew half an hour before finishing so the anchor and mainsail can be raised ready for the pick up. They are a useful safety device too.

A Rather Un-seamanlike Decision

Wednesday, August 17th, 2011

Sumara Finally Moored Alongside in Dunstaffnage

The Flowers from Annie

The List of Animals that we Saw

Lismore Lighthouse

Position Dunstaffnage Marina

Gudrun and I decided to spend Monday in Tobermory and to get up very early Tuesday morning to sail the final leg down the Sound of Mull to Dunstaffnage. I had looked roughly at the weather on a grib file and it didn’t seem too bad. The weather on the harbour office television screen was suggesting winds of just 4mph so it actually looked as if there may not be enough wind. We got up at 0300 in the dark and it was quite windy, and a head wind too. We let go the mooring with the sails ready to hoist in case the gearbox didn’t play fair. And it didn’t play fair, but then it eventually gripped and we were able to motor through the moorings. It is definitely on its last legs after my stupid mistake. About an hour into the trip a VHF weather forecast came through with a strong wind warning stating that we should expect winds of around F6 to F7. That was a bit of a surprise. I suppose I should have checked the forecast first, I normally do, but it was such a nice day!
With a spring tide and a strong contrary wind the overfalls off the end of Lismore Island can get interesting. Peter Mercer had mentioned once that the journey is not over until.. well something to do with 9/10ths. I think the implication was there is still plenty of time to prang things up! Now if I was Dan, I would have just thought “It’ll be fine” but I always get a bit nervous on the first and last leg of a journey and managed to conjure up an image of a maelstrom with Sumara finally overwhelmed in a ferocious tempest just a couple of miles from her final port.
But of course we weren’t overwhelmed. Rather underwhelmed to be honest. It all seemed rather calm off the end of Lismore. We pottered up to Dunstaffnage to be greeted by Mark in the launch for a tow onto the pontoon. Friendly faces came a chatted, Annie gave Gudrun a wonderful bunch of hand picked flowers and said her son wanted to know what animals we had seen, and local fisherman thought we were crazy (and I take that as a compliment).

And that was the end of this year’s adventure.

Thank you all so much for joining in on the blog of the trip. I really hope you have enjoyed it.

I have been sailing with fantastic skilled and entertaining crew – Terry, Hannah, Alexander, Catherine, John Davidson, Torsten, Peter, Sarah, John Halsall, Charlotte, Ray and Gudrun.
The cutlery tray has now been rigorously inspected and we are missing just one Muji knife. Generally we loose one piece of cutlery about every 750mn but we have achieved a ratio of over 1 in 2000nm so I feel this is a marvellous testament to the quality of crew.

We also really enjoyed the company of Thembi and her crew – Tim, Charlotte, Dan and Stuart- who added so much to the trip. Siggi and his father on Aurora helped us to achieve our dream aim of climbing Beerenberg. Sarah and Stuart were heroes as they safeguarded our anchored yachts while we were climbing.

Hundreds of others have also helped in all sorts of ways. Engineers, sailmakers, staff at Flints, wellwishers, advisors, fellow sailors, climbers, insurers, running mates, military fitness trainers, and loads more.

And without Gerry’s help the blog wouldn’t have happened – thanks Gerry.

Before I closedown this year’s blog there are a couple of announcements.

Lost Property – various left hand soggy gloves, right foot smelly socks, damp bags, sacks, underwear, hats, books and thermals have been uncovered. A small stand will be set up at the “Classics”.

Website – There will be news, photos, videos and gear reviews posted on but it may take a while to sort out.

Diary Date – There will be a celebration event on 29th October in London. I’m not sure exactly where yet but I will email everyone on the mailing list. If you are not on the mailing list and would like to be please drop me an email –

Jan Mayen Blog Closed.

Boring Bit about Ropes

Sunday, July 24th, 2011

Sumara Moored in Dunstaffnage the Week Before Leaving

There has always been a debate about mooring warps. Should they be nylon or polyester? I fall generally into the polyester camp, but only just. Nylon is a bit lighter, a bit stronger, and a bit more stretchy. It does absorb some water and becomes weaker when it is wet but even then it is still as strong as polyester.
The reason I err on the side of polyester is because I find the stretch on nylon is just too much. Last night we were sweating long 16mm Octoplait lines off to some fishing boats in a full gale. On the bow I had a nylon warp and on the stern I had polyester (both 16mm Octoplait). In the strong gusts the nylon would keep stretching until the yacht relied on its fenders. The stern line held us off and there was no snatching.
My standard mooring lines are three strand classic coloured polyester. They are a joy to splice, soft to handle and they look traditional. The springs stretch just enough to absorb all the shocks but not so much that the yacht surges or moves position to bump into other yachts. I tighten my springs right up and keep them as long as possible but leave my bow and stern lines a bit slack.
Sumara currently carries 100m of 16mm Octoplait in polyester, 55m and 45m of 16mm Octoplait in Nylon, in addition to a 60m three strand kedge warp and her mooring warps. I like the long warps to be Octoplait construction because it flakes down like chain into their rope bags without the need for coiling.
So my choice is polyester because I get more control to position Sumara in heavy weather and the rope construction and length is adequate to prevent any snatching.
You never know when it might kick up a bit!

Over 70 knots at Dunstaffnage

Thursday, June 2nd, 2011

Here are a couple of amazing pictures taken last week when one boat was registering well over 70 knots of wind. It’s a good job the cover was well made!
No damage to the boat thanks to the marina staff who rose to the challange.

Sumara is on the left of the cream coloured Fisher, virtually covered by the wave. The other picture shows Sumara side on taking the blast in her stride! I seem to have repeated the pictures. It’s fair to say I’ve no idea what I’m doing.

Sumara is under the wave on the left!

Preparing Sumara

Wednesday, June 1st, 2011

Dunstaffnage Marina Near Oban.
I arrived last night to start to prepare Sumara. It has been blowing hard from the South West with plenty of rain so I’ve been trying to tackle the jobs down below. Apparently last week Sumara was virtually submerged by waves in 79 knots of wind – and that’s in the marina! The staff have been great and added a rope or two to hold her off the pontoon. She is quite hard to fender because she is narrow and heels easily. My inflatable uber fender no doubt did some hard work. I’ll try to post the picture of Sumara being almost overwhelmed tomorrow.
The ice in Scoresbysund is still very close 7/10 to 9/10 but does appear to be improving. You can get ice charts from
Go to the Regional Ice Chart Section and chose East Greenland. Scoresbysund is the biggest fjord on the map – it’s the biggest fjord in the world!
Hopefully tomorrow I can start to set up the rigging.