Passage 21, Armadale (Kyle) to Mallaig

We were up early and I saw my wife off on the train at 6:00am and returned to the boat setting off at 6:30am.

It felt strange to be alone once again, especially as my wife had been with me on the boat over the last few days. So I began stage 3 with a heavy heart. I had to get back into my groove.

The weather continues to be absolutely miserable. I measured 10 degrees sailing down the Loch and it was only 14 degrees in harbour (the wind over the water is cold). So I had my full complement of clothing layers bar one: Thermals, shirt, jumper, coat, sailing trouser top, sailing jacket. On all my previous passages the cold dictated two jumpers. It was cloudy and rained.

I needed to go South West and the wind was coming from ... South West. Yep, familiar territory. I belligerently tacked the whole way. I covered 30 miles over a course that was about 20 miles and it took me 7 hours. I met a boat later in Mallaig who had done the same passage and asked "I presume you sailed?". "No way", they replied, "We motored". Hmmm.

Fun stuff

A few fun facts about this passage. First, it was the 4th time I'd sailed through Kyle Rhea and this time I had more tide with me so it was fun tacking down this narrow channel as I was generally doing about 7 to 8 knots with the tide. Second, I'm pretty sure I sailed over a submarine in the Sound of Sleat. Why? a) it is a known and documented place where subs like to hang out. b) I saw a weird patch of relatively calm water in a sea that was otherwise rougher. c) as I went over it the depth meter went from 80-90 meters to between 6 and 8 meters and continued to register that depth for at least a minute. So I'm claiming that as a submarine "sighting"! Third I met a fellow circumnavigator (A-jay) and we radio'd each other in the Sound of Sleat and got to within shouting distance to greet each other. I took pictures of his boat as he did of mine. Fun.

Unfun stuff

Of course stuff went wrong too. My autopilot packed in again. Also, back on passage 18 my VHF arial blew away which meant that I was not able to call the coast guard (reliably) and is generally quite a serious thing to be without. I do have a spare arial which is mounted at the back of the boat but someone had kindly biffed into that at some point when I was away from the boat thus rendering the spare useless. So I'd replaced this spare and rigged my VHF to use that as getting someone to repair the arial at the mast head in these latitudes is nigh on impossible. But I will have to get it fixed soon. For now my spare works fine.

Anyway, back to autopilot. This had packed in before if you remember and I was rather proud of a successful fix. But this time it had gone wrong in a different way. I spent the whole afternoon tracking down how to get a replacement or get it fixed, talking to loads of people in and around this area of Scotland. In the mean time I decided to open it up (again) and see what gives inside. Brown, rusty water poured out of the electric motor and electronics. Oops. I washed it out with fresh water, dried it with my heater and hey presto, it works again! Trouble is it's all rusty and manky inside and I cannot see it lasting very long. So I've arranged for a new one for pick up in Tobermory towards the end of the week. Water had got into the guts of the thing no doubt because I failed to put it back in a suitable water tight manner the last time I took it to bits to fix the previous problem. So I'll use it till it goes wrong again and then I'll have an immediate spare. Costly, though - £400.


Technically a 5 mile passage from Armadale, but in practice 30 miles and 7 hours of tacking against the wind from Kyle to Mallaig. Despite rain, not entirely unpleasant. Arrived in Mallaig at 1:15

Passage 22, Mallaig to Loch Sunart