Archive for August, 2011

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.

“I think that I shall never see,………..

Monday, August 15th, 2011

The Home Run

Ray on Watch

A Lovely Tree








Position N56,37 x W006,03 Wind: Who cares, we are snugged up in Tobermory!

….A poem as lovely as a tree”.
Paul Robeson

We arrived safely in Tobermory Harbour yesterday afternoon after a really fast down wind sail through the Sea of the Hebrides. Once we were safely tied to the visitors buoy we rowed ashore for a desperately needed 7 minute £2.00 shower (Heaven), a couple of pints (Heaven) and a curry (Heaven). It was a good feeling being on land again after a week at sea but it is sad that the big journey is nearly over now. Ray needed to get back to work as he had a production fit up on Tuesday morning. Ray began to accidently call his watches scene changes – a bad sign. He caught the bus this morning to Oban while Gudrun and I went for a walk through the trees along the cliffs to the lake. I always miss the trees when I sail north.
Early tomorrow morning we will sail on to our final stop, Dunstaffnage. It is a spring tide so it may get bumpy around the south end of Lismore Island. There is some uncertainty as to whether the gearbox will grip to get us into Dunstaffnage and with the strong tide a maybe light wind it could be interesting.

Blog Update

Monday, August 15th, 2011

There’s a new post “Stretched Limos” that appears before “Land Ahoy” but I’ve only just posted it. The email got lost in the spam filter. I’ve put it in the right sequence, otherwise it will look if Alasdair is going backwards – although I guess that’s always possible!


“Land Ahoy”

Monday, August 15th, 2011

Position N56,41 x W006,41 Wind F4 Westerly rather unstable.

Now we are sailing downwind through the Sea of theHebrides with Coll on our starboard bow. We hit some rough seas as the depth dropped from 1000m to about 100m but it is more peaceful now except for the occasional viscous squall which drives through with heavy rain and violent winds. But they are quick to go. Gudrun and Ray have been great crew. Gudrun has only been sailing a few times with Peter Mercer on the East England coast and once with me on the Limfjord in Denmark and up to Skagen.This was her first
offshore passage so it was a pretty tough choice but she has been great, not a moan – even when hurled across the cabin, and no signs of seasickness. Ray has a strange sailing CV. His first long passage was after a handshake with me that we would sail the Atlantic. He did a short course on the Clyde then crossed the Biscay on Sumara and then the Atlantic to Barbados. He sailed back from Spitzbergen to the Faroes, Iceland to Scotland (2006), Scotland to Bergan and England  to Denmark. All on Sumara!

Ray is a hugely practical person with great knot skills and can stow things away like no one else.

We are hoping to arrive in Tobermory early this evening for a desperately needed shower and a beer. Opps here comes a squall best get on the helm!

Sent at 11.06GMT 14th August 2001

Stretched Limos

Monday, August 15th, 2011

Position N57,26 x W010,02  Wind force 6 southerly.

Now we are under reefed staysail and two reefs in the main. She is in the groove banking a bit of south which may be useful if the wind veers at all. It is getting rather rough. Now I need to pump the bilge. It takes about 20 strokes an hour on the starboard tack but virtually none on the port tack. Down below is bone dry, not a drip through the decks. A testament to the way Terry built her.

I’ve been reading a book called Niav Super. I’ve been reading it for about a year now because it is in Norwegian – only a few more chapters to go. The main character writes lots of lists. Mainly silly ones. I have started to write a list of things I like and things I dislike about Iceland. It’s too long to blog in these rough seas but one of my favourites is:

– The Stretched Limo for Hire on Heimay. Heimay is only 7km long, you could walk around the island in a day easily. It is a natural paradise, an outdoor kind of place. But the Icelanders think big. “If New York has stretched limos then we shall have stretched limos”. The fact that the population of the Island is only a couple of thousand and there is only one town is not important. I wish I had hired it for a tour. Imagine Ray, Gudrun and me in a limo on the Westmann Islands. The shear ridiculousness of it is highly appealing. The stretched limo sums up a lot about Iceland. They are about to open (20th August) the third biggest concert hall in the world. It rivals the Sydney and the new Oslo Opera Houses but it is a concert hall – or rather five concert halls. The population of Reykjavik is only a couple of hundred thousand. You would need one percent of the population there to fill it! Swimming pools are another Icelandic feature. Every town and village has a splendid pool w  ith hot tubs. Even if only 500 people live there. Iceland is a think big country. My list of good things is much longer than my list of bad things!

Now we are having bacon and banana in pita bread. Yummy.

Sent at 10.18GMT 13th August


Sunday, August 14th, 2011

Position N57,59 x W011. Wind force 5 – 6 South easterly.

Last night we had pasta with reindeer meat balls. At least we hope they were reindeer meat balls and not reindeers balls. Come to think of it the reindeer on the can did have a surprised expression on his face. As the journey nears its end the food becomes more exotic. All the M and S curries have been eaten and we are left with cans of bear meat, smoked whale, dried fish and catfish balls (lets not go there). We also seem to have sheeps
head onboard. I can only think Gudrun sneeked it in the shopping trolley in the same way John used to do with Haribo Gummi Bears. As a special treat, Gudruns mother boils a couple of sheeps heads as a treat for her when she visits Iceland. What a lovely thought. I’m not sure if the eyes and teeth are still in but I suspect they might be.

Now I am wedged horizontally in a place free from spray while the boat beats into a lumpy sea. We dropped the staysail a few hours ago and are back under two deep reefs and a reefed yankee with the lee rail under. The barometer plummeted a few hours ago but seems to have steadied now. Our course is rubbish so it is unlikely we will weather Barra Head on this tack. We will plug away at it. Rounding a headland and bearing off is one of those amazing feelings, the harder the beat the better the feeling. Well that is my hope! Alasdair

Sent at 15.34GMT on 12th August


No fulmars even!

Thursday, August 11th, 2011

We picked up one ship “Italian Reefer” on the AIS passing about 6 miles away and have seen one aeroplane trail in the sky but otherwise it is pretty empty. No fulmars even! Our track is slightly south of course so we don’t get stopped by the lumpy sea. The reefs are still in but it appears the wind is easing a bit so next watch I may shake one out. We are intending to head straight for Tobermory and should arrive on Sunday. Maybe Thembi will be there? Still looks like a SW gale on Sunday so it should be challenging. Gudrun bashed her head against the handrail today, nothing broken but a nasty swelling. I’m glad my boat is so narrow or it could have been more serious. Now I am really looking forward to getting home, going for a walk in the park and meeting friends again and getting back to work.

Sent at 17.35GMT 11th August

Nothing Remarkable

Thursday, August 11th, 2011

Position N59,48 x W013,12. Wind easterly force 5
Still making progress into a boisterous sea. We recorded our first ship passing 8 miles away but never saw it. Long dark nights now. Gales still forecast near landfall time and with no gearbox we may hove too at sea for a day or so or make a dash for Tobermory. St Kilda looks pretty unlikely now.

Sent at 04.11 GMT 11th August

Rough Ride

Wednesday, August 10th, 2011

Position N60,50 x W014,53. Force 6-7 easterly
It is pretty uncomfortable now with two deep reefs and a reefed yankee. The waves are around 10ft and occasionally breaking over the yacht but the sun is popping out between the clouds so it is an attractive view. This weather is set to continue until tomorrow afternoon before easing off a bit but gales are due at the weekend and we are unlikely to make a safe harbour in time. We may hove too and ride the weather out at sea.

Sent at 10.52GMT 10th August

Gearbox Stuffed

Tuesday, August 9th, 2011

Position N61,32.2 x W016,11. Wind SW F3 and fading out.

We have had a lovely sail this afternoon but the wind eventually died off. I started the engine but there was no thrust from the gearbox. I checked with Jim at Dunstaffnage and he thinks the cones must be worn out. With a blast of throttle it does eventually pick up but it is getting worse and I suspect we will have no engine power soon. The weather ahead isn’t too great with east and southeast gales forecast as the deep low passes through. We will plug on but once again St Kilda is looking unlikely.

Sent at 16.58GMT 9th August