Passage 19, Loch Ewe to Kyleakin

I had to wait for two gales to pass by before I could undertake this passage. Gale number 1 was on the Sunday night (the same day as my arrival) with winds from the west. Gale number 2 was on Monday night with winds from the east. I’d chosen my anchorage well. Not only was it as protected an anchorage as one could hope for but I had also dropped my anchor at exactly the right spot to allow me swinging room in the little bay at the end of Loch Thurnaig. Well pleased.

Anchoring always comes associated with a constant fear: that one’s anchor drags and the boat ends up where it shouldn’t. So when the wind picked up you can imagine I was watching for anchor drag like a hawk because there were rocks all around me. When the wind really blows the boat swings about madly and pulls on the anchor rope with considerable force. And the sound of the wind in the rigging adds to the sense of impending misfortune. It’s a nervous time.

I track my boat with my phone chart plotter and I could see the neat little arc the boat made as it got buffeted by the wind in gale number 1. Come gale number 2 there was a neat little arc on the other side of the bay. Join these arcs up and you get a circle. My anchor is at the centre of that circle! It never dragged. I’ve anchored twice so far on this venture and both times in high winds. Both times it has stood fast. This time, incidentally, I deployed Ben’s weight for added measure. Thanks, Ben.

Anyway, gales is why I couldn’t leave. On Monday morning, however, the wind was not too strong and so this was an opportunity for an exploration ashore.

Inverewe garden exploration

Inverewe appears to be quite a famous botanical wonderland and I was strongly recommended to visit by my Scottish neighbour, Ann. It being less than a mile away over that there hill, I thought I’d better go for it. Out with the dingy & outboard (hoist, pump, wheeze, puff, pant) and motor the 50 meters to a rocky landing place. My outboard motor seems to have recovered its composure since feeding it with oil when I last used it in Holy Island.

I had idly thought I’d be able to walk there in 10 minutes or so. Ahem, more like an hour. The journey was in two stages. Stage one was walking up and down steep hills covered with thick heather all laid on a base of water logged peat. If you misjudged your step you were liable to sink 6 inches into wetness. Stage one ended on arriving at the shore of the head of Loch Ewe. Stage two consisted of walking along the shoreline. This was rocky and indented along the shore, thick forest if you wandered inland, which was always a mistake and required corrective action (I’d learned my lesson for the journey back). So, all said and done, this was a varied and exciting sojourn across some of Scotland’s toughest terrain. I ended up passing through a gate at the very end of the gardens and thus obtaining free entry into this National Trust establishment.

Unfortunately I got to the front and went through a door to get me into the visitors centre (to see if I could find a map of the place) which meant that I had to buy a ticket to go through another door to go back into the gardens. Oh well, for the best, one has to pay one’s dues. Having had my well earned cappuccino, I went back into the gardens, map in hand, and wandered about.

It certainly appeared like they’ve packed in a large variety of trees, plants, bushes and flowers into one place. The gardens consist of a patchwork of well kept pathways from which you can admire them all. I kept on ending up in places I recognised before. Not only that I kept on passing people I recognised from before. So we were all buzzing about randomly like a bee hive in slow motion. After a while, I decided enough was enough and I made my trek back across the wilderness to my boat. Packed up the dingy and was all tucked up inside before gale number 2 arrived. A good morning.

The passage to Kyleakin

OK, so the day (Tuesday the 2nd of JUNE) was cold, totally overcast with low rain clouds and it rained most of the time (yesterday, by the way, it had hailed). But for the first time since I can remember on this venture the wind was actually good! It was not too strong (unusual) and it was from a reasonable direction. What’s more the sea was relatively calm due to my now being in fairly protected waters. So the sailing was stress free and easy going. So much so that I was able to hide in the cabin for much of the time when it rained. Except for when I was passing Loch Torridon as there was an alarming infestation of lobster pot buoys - all in over 100 meters depth!

The shoreline was, of course, breathtaking. At least I assume it was because most of the time it was shrouded in low cloud or rain.

The wind dropped towards the end of the day and so I had the motor on for a while. But right at the end it picked up again and it was from right behind me and I sailed up to and under the Kyleakin bridge with just my foresail up. At the same time the clouds parted a tad and the sun almost got a look in for the first time that day (at about 6:30pm).

As I passed under the bridge I saw a man get out of his car and take photos of me. Then, as I caught a buoy for the night he was there on the shore taking more pictures. I surmised that he was Ian, the cousin of Mary Purves, who is a loyal follower of mine who kindly eggs me on and gives encouragement. Mary had said she’d alerted her cousin about my arrival and I had his mobile phone number. So I called him. We chatted for a while, me on my boat, him in his car 100 meters away on the shore. This was very pleasant and he gave me a few tips of what to do and where to go. Thanks Mary and Ian!


After riding out 2 gales at anchor, this passage was just under 11 hours long covering 50 miles in dismal weather, though the wind and sea powered me stress free for most of the time.

Passage 20, Kyleakin to Armadale