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Mahina Expeditions offers offshore sail-training expeditions, offshore cruising seminars and boat purchase consultation.

Ireland to Scotland - Leg 7, 2000

Aug. 23, 2000 0741
51.37N 08.47W Log: 40,201 Baro: 1018+ Winds: ENE 27-39 (GALE)
Broad-reaching @ 8.9 kts under double-reefed main and 20% genoa

Gale Conditions off Fastnet Rock!

Our Leg 7 crew are off to a roaring start with gale force winds driving toward Fastnet Rock. Yesterday we were pinned against the dock in Kinsale with gale force winds. As we were rafted to another boat with boats sticking out ahead and astern, the only way we could get off the dock was to move sideways, to windward. We tried that with Amanda and Rick in the Avon pulling and pushing, but there was just to much wind. When I asked the harbourmaster for the latest forecast he said, "There are Force 8 Gale warnings for all of the SW coast of Ireland, you're not thinking of leaving the harbour today, ARE YOU?" I told him that if we could get off the dock we would, as the easterly winds would be astern, but it was 2200 and nearly dark before we could pull MT off the dock and anchor just inside the harbour entrance.

By 0500 everyone was on deck to raise anchor and sail and what a sail we're having! The gale force easterly winds are dropping, only occasionally hitting 40 knots now, and the large rolling seas built up over the past 24 hours to 20'+ are VERY impressive, requiring the helmsperson to keep the stern quarter to the large breakers. The prevailing winds (and gales) are southwesterly, so we feel incredibly luck to have a gale astern!

In attention to the helm will put the huge seas on our beam and could result in water in the cockpit. There has been a Mayday Relay by the nearest coast guard station for a 121.5 EPIRB that has been triggered 20 miles ahead of us. Overall, it's a wild day for sailing, and we haven't spotted a single boat underway yet today! Only two of our crew have been seasick so far, and I had better run and rustle up some hot oatmeal for breakfast before people start getting too cold.

1400 51.31N, 09.52W, Winds E 28-30, Beam reaching @ 8.5kts

We're Flying Now!
At 1330 we surfed past Fastnet Rock with a solid 30kts and huge seas on our stern quarter. Just a few minutes ago we rounded Mizen Head, the extreme SW tip of Ireland, sheeted in the sails to a screaming beam reach with the wind still touching 30! To top it off, some how Amanda managed to produced an incredible couscous-chicken-vegetable soup while spray was flying on deck!


Peter Schmid surfing past Fastnet Rock in gale force 8 conditions

The grey clouds and low overcast have been totally blown away - replaced with brilliant blue skies, highlighting the foam-streaked azure seas and the wild and rugged cliffs of Ireland. WHAT A DAY!!! We've had to nearly pry crew's fingers off the wheel to get them to eat lunch or let the next watch on.

The 70 miles that we had to cover today have gone by so quickly that instead of being concerned about anchoring before dark, we'll be in the lee of Bear Island by 1500! We'll have a castle and fort to explore, beaches to explore, mountains to climb and maybe, it we're really brave - a bay to swim in. Ireland is sure fantastic!

2100, 51.38N, 09,49W Peacefully at anchor Lawrence Cove, Bere Island.

Our winds held right to the end of our passage which ended at Dunboy Castle. What a magnificent sight to see the castle and forest ruins from the dinghy. We're anchored off Lawrence Cove Marina, one of only three private marinas in Ireland.

Phil and John Harrington, founders and owners of Lawrence Cove Marina, Bere Island.

Bere Island, with a population of only 220 has a long and colorful history. John Harrington grew up on the island, moved to Cork, married a woman named Phil, cruised Europe on their own boat, then returned four years ago to build a gorgeous marina, complete with fuel, electricity, showers, laundry, haulout and dry storage and an art gallery/craft shop. Each year they add another pontoon and last weekend they had 52 boats when the Royal Cork YC had Lawrence Cove as the club cruise destination. The tiny village next to the marina has two restaurants, a pub and a grocery store. As Bantry (town at the head of the bay) is a port of entry, this would be a great stop if you were just arriving in Ireland.

Amanda's off today by bus and plane for Ellos, Sweden, to be the guest speaker at Hallberg-Rassy's annual Open House dinner. Say hi to her if you're attending!

Meanwhile, unusually warm and settled weather may give us the opportunity to visit the uninhabited and rarely-visited Skellig and Blasket Islands as we sail north toward our rendezvous with Amanda in Galway on Sunday.

Aug. 31, 2000 0230
57.19N, 07.14W Log: 40,773 Baro: 995 (Down 15mb in 12 hrs &
still falling) Wind: 25 gusts 39, rain-horizontal

At Anchor, Loch Skipport, South Uist Island, Outer Hebrides,
Scotland

It's blowing a gale, the rig is vibrating in the gusts, there's a rocky wall two boat lengths astern, but both anchors are holding well. We set our primary anchor, a 75lb CQR with all 250' of 3/8" chain, then motored forward at a 30 degree angle and set our second bow anchor, a 44lb Delta with 50' of chain and 150' of 3/4" line. These anchors have worked flawlessly in every imaginable condition. We also have our 40lb West Marine Performance anchor on chocks at the mast pulpit which we can deploy with 50' of chain and 330' of 3/4" MegaBraid.

Although there are no swells in the bay, the force of wind up to 40 kts is immense as we swing in the catabatic gusts. High loads are placed on the bow roller & cleats, I'm glad that Hallberg-Rassy builds a massive stainless stemhead fitting incorporating twin anchor rollers. Everything but the temperature (59F) reminds me of nights spent near Cape Horn four years ago.

Sleep is impossible for me under these conditions, I'm standing anchor watch at the chart table, monitoring the radar and depth, I'll catch you up on our excellent adventures of the past few days.


Skelling Island, site of monastery established in 6th century, now being restored.

Our stop at the isolated Skellig Islands was brief. We found a minimum depth of 135' close to the cliffs. Ross volunteered to stay aboard and motor slowly in circles as we attempted landing since he and Lynn had visited the 6th century monastery before joining us. As we motored toward the concrete landing built in a cave, a man shouted to us, "You can't land now, the archaeologists are working above and there are falling rocks! Come back tomorrow." Disappointed, we returned to MT and slowly motored along the tiny rock island, getting glimpses of the stone beehive huts once inhabited by the monks.

That night we found a peaceful anchorage at Port Magee in the lee of Valentia Island. The following day we left early and arrived off Great Blasket Island, another wild offshore island famous for it's Gaelic authors. Amanda and I had visited the Blasket Heritage Center while on our car trip and I was eager to explore this island which has been mostly uninhabited since its population of 50 were resettled on the Dingle Peninsula in 1953.


MT anchored off Great Blasket Island while crew hike and explore ashore.

Again Ross volunteered to stand watch as we were anchored on a lee shore. A long sandy beach with people swimming in the surf stretched out beside the concrete dinghy landing ramp. On the steep hillside we found a hostel and cafe that utilizes the last intact homes, plus ruins of several dozen stone houses and extensive stone paddock walls. It must have been a harsh existence, but the Blasket Islanders fared considerably better than the Irish on the mainland during the famines, due to the abundant seafood.

The next day we had a long sail around the Dingle Peninsula to Fenit, a small fishing port. We found a well-designed three year old marina with visitors berths, clean showers & laundry and a square rigged sailing ship, preparing for her maiden voyage. The original Jeanie Johnston carried thousands of immigrants from this harbour to new lives and opportunities in America and Canada, returning to Ireland with lumber. The replica was launched in May and is sailing to the East Coat.


Jeanie Johnston, replica of sailing ship which carried thousands of
Irish Immigrants to America and Canada. Fenit Harbor, SW Ireland.

We rendezvoused with Amanda in Galway and because of a good forecast decided to make a dash for the 250 mile passage to Scotland's Outer Hebrides islands. We had light winds and occasional headwinds, so motorsailed for the entire passage. Seeing the glow of the Northern Lights was a highlight.

There weren't enough hours of daylight to make it to the closest village on Barra Island, so we anchored off Mandulay Island at dusk and left this morning for Castle Bay, Barra Is. Although not a port of entry for Scotland, the local constable faxed our details to the mainland, saying we were cleared in!

Scotland's Outer Hebrides are 50 miles west of the mainland, extending 110 miles in a north-south orientation. They are wild, wind-swept rocky islands where winters are long and the population continues to decrease. There is some fishing, a few salmon farms and some sheep raising. The attraction for us is their isolated wilderness.


Lynn navigating as Rick steers MT through Scotland's Outer Hebrides.

Here's our Leg 7 crew:

Rick Atkinson, 47 works for Outward Bound in Fort William, Scotland and sailed aboard Mahina Tiare II in Antarctica where
he was working for the British Antarctic Survey when we met him in 1996. He invited us to sail to Scotland and said he's show us around, so here we are!

Carl Nielsen, 65 of Portland, Oregon is joining us for the fifth time. A lover of high-latitude wild places, Carl previously joined us up the coast of Patagonia from Cape Horn.

Lynn Morrison, 37 of Alaska, Chile and San Juan Island has been on the move for the past 13 years as an instructor and administrator for NOLS, National Outdoor Leadership School. After leading 75 day wilderness kayaking/climbing courses in Southern Chile, cruising Scotland seems like a piece of cake to her. She just married

Ross Brown, 47 of Alaska and Friday Harbor, in Alaska this summer where Ross works as a bush pilot on Mt. McKinley and part time NOLS instructor. In a previous life Ross was a programmer at Microsoft.

Peter Schmid, 36 of Seattle, New York City and Paris had such a great time with us on Leg 4 that he joined us again, and brought his bride-to-be,

Donna Calhoun, 38 who is temporarily living in NYC to finish her post-doctorate in mathematics at NYU. She and Peter are getting married in the south of France in 2 weeks!

Sept. 2, 2000 1220
56.51N 6.12W Log: 40,858 Baro: 1014+ Temp: 71F (on deck & below!)

Sunny Sailing!
The wind blew all the clouds away that night at Loch Skipport and the following day we reefed down for a sleigh ride up to Lachmaddy on North Uist Is. We found the one pub for dinner, then enjoyed a slide show on the local birds and animals by a naturalist at the local school. This area is characterized by hundreds of small lochens, or tidal lakes with a tremendous amount of bird and marsh life visible.


Morning after gale force winds at anchor, Loch Skipport, South Uist Island, Outer Hebrides of Scotland.

The winds and weather have been amazing! Just when we decided to start sailing south, the winds shifted to NE and we had a fast 38 mile sail down the Sea of the Hebrides to Canna, where we found a protected anchorage and sweeping vistas, complete with ancient stone churches. For only the second night of the expedition, we shared the anchorage with another sailboat. Apart from passing the occasional fishing boat or freighter, this area appears deserted.


Puffins inhabitants of the Outer Hebrides.

Today the sky is nearly cloudless, it's warm, and we're sailing past dramatic, cliff-faced islands to Tobermory, a small, traditional town where Rick says there's an excellent chance of hearing some traditional Scottish music in one of the pubs.

Traditional Outer Hebrides home, Scotland


Tobermory, a neat port on Isle of Mull

Rick was right! We did find traditional Scottish music, but it turned out to be a fiddler's meet in the town hall, packed with fiddler's and audience from all over Scotland. It was all Amanda could do to keep from getting up and dancing. It seemed strange to be sitting instead of dancing. You see, she's even gotten me into Scottish Country Dancing!

Following Tobermory, we had a great sail to Duart Bay where we anchored between two castles, and went ashore to explore Torosay Castle and gardens. Completed in 1858 and actively lived in as a family home, Torosay is one of many castles open to the public to help offset the incredible cost of maintaining a castle.


Leg 7 crew, clowning around in front of Torosay Castle, Mull

There were many handwritten notes and signs explaining the architecture, artwork and gardens, just a few guests exploring the home and a tea room with hearty homemade soup and scones in the basement - so it really felt like we were guests, allowed to walk through someone's magnificent home.

Duart Castle, on the opposite headland is a much older and more imposing structure, just recently opened to the public, we sailed close by heading for Oban.


Ghosting past Duart Castle, 10 miles west of Oban.

Oban reminded us of Victoria, Canada, one of our all-time favorite cities, with flowers everywhere and ferry boats coming and going. However, the anchorage in front of town was 80' deep and the few moorings were for small boats. Luckily a mile across the harbor on Kerrera Island is Oban Yacht Services Marina (e-mail: obanyachts@aol.com).



Oban Marine Services marina with Oban lifeboat.


Step-down transformer and assortment of plugs allows us to turn
220 volts into 110 volts to power our battery charger.

Gravity filling MT's propane tanks; the only alternative to leasing different
tanks in each country in Europe.

Here we found Jon & Millie Fitzgerald doing a first-class job with showers, laundry, a free ferry to town and great walking trails on a rural island without cars and only a few families.

Crew caught the bus and train in different directions and Amanda and I enjoyed a wonderful week with a side trip by car to visit Rick and his family in Fort William.

Sail on to Leg 8, 2000



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