Sunday, 14 September 2014


We got a replacement pin for the Wykeham Martin drum. Of course it is brand new and shiny compared to the years of patina on the rest of the assembly. There is a small gap at the ring end even when the thread is fully home, but it fits nice and tightly.

In other news, we have decided where Robinetta will spend the winter. She will be at Adam Way's yard at Cairnbaan. That is just a short trip from Ardfern. We will take her there during the first weekend in October and she will stay there until some time in April. We may talk to Adam about doing some winter work. She is letting quite a bit of water in via the top sides - not good for sleeping on a rainy night, and we still haven't completely cured the garboard leak.

Thursday, 4 September 2014

1937 to 2014 Track

I've put this map together to show Robinetta's circumnavigation. She started in Rock Ferry in 1937 and ended in Rosneath. In 1938 she travelled as far north as the Sound of Sleat and then returned to Liverpool via Northern Ireland. Later in 1938 she moved to Beaumaris for the winter. In 1947 she sailed from Beaumaris to Weymouth and in 1949 she must have sailed from Weymouth to the Crouch.

In 2013 we sailed her to Cowes and back to West Mersea, so the coast line we don't have written logs for is only from Weymouth to Cowes. This summer (2014) we sailed from West Mersea to Ardfern (green), crossing her southbound path (orange) on the west coast of Scotland. If you click on the map it becomes live and you can open the legend and zoom and scroll. This is disabled until you click to prevent problems with scroll wheels and gestures.

Sunday, 31 August 2014

The Perfect Shower

I've not kept count of the number of marinas and harbours we have visited this summer, in England, Scotland, France, Belgium and the Netherlands. Almost all of them have something wrong. Back at Ardfern this week, I realised the showers there are almost perfect. So here is my illustrated guide for Marina and Harbour owners.

Firstly, and perhaps most importantly, the shore heads should be available 24/7 and should be available for crews arriving after the staff have gone home. Ardfern just leaves them open. Stromness has the code written on the inside of the gate, where crews can see it but the public cannot. Many places lock the facilities between 10 pm and 7 am which is no use at all. There are even places where the local rules mean you shouldn't use your boat heads and they still lock the shore heads at night.

Once inside, the first obstacle one tends to face is a coin machine. The worst of these have a single machine for several showers with a knob to choose which shower you want to pay for. I'm not the only person to waste their only Euro coin getting this over-complicated system wrong. I've seen prices varying from 50 Euro cents to £2. Charging £2 for 7 minutes is ridiculous. Ardfern doesn't charge for its showers. This is the only acceptable policy. It's just too much like hard work trying to make sure you always have coins for all possible permutations of charging.

Once inside the cubicle the first problem is often not enough hooks to put ones clothes on. There should be at least two, one for the clothes and one for the towel. Three is better. Next, there should be somewhere to sit. You need to be able to sit down to dry your feet and put your shoes and socks on. Finally, and this is the one bit that is almost never right, the changing area should have a dry floor. How are we expected to put keep the bottom of our trousers dry if we have to put them on while standing on a wet floor? Ardfern gets this right three different ways - the shower is on the side of the cubicle, not the back, so it doesn't spray straight out into the changing area; there is a proper shower tray to keep the water in; there is a grid mat on the floor of the changing area.

Finally we get to the shower itself. There are so many ways to get this wrong. Worst is kind of shower where the head is fixed to the wall and the on button can't be reached without putting ones head under the shower, which inevitably comes on cold. Then there are the many ways of arranging the controls so that the temperature has to be adjusted after turning the water on. Another recipe for getting frozen or scalded. Ardfern has a domestic shower where the head is removable and the temperature control is separate from the on/off control so if the previous user has set the temperature OK it is still OK when you turn it on. A movable head also helps for cleaning those special parts. The ventilation grill clearly visible in the photo is also something of a rarity. I've showered in facilities where it was so hot and steamy that one felt one needed another shower by the time one was dressed. Finally, there is somewhere to put ones shampoo and glasses down at hand level. Not too rare this one, but surprisingly often absent.

So, I said that Ardfern was almost perfect. Where does it fall down? There is no hair drier in the men's showers. Some places have them in the ladies' but not the men's. Some have them but they are coin operated.

Come on, the requirements are pretty obvious, it isn't hard to get it right. How come so many places don't get it right?

Friday, 29 August 2014

Heading Home

Thursday night was quite blowy and noisy in the marina but we had a reasonable night's sleep and a nice lie in. This morning was an anti-climax with nothing much to do except load a bit more in to the car and move Robinetta to her mooring. There was not much wind but the rain came and went, discouraging any thoughts of going for a sail, either in Robinetta or in Worm.

We went for a walk up to the Craft Kitchen, the Ardfern eatery we have yet to try. We both decided we could have pretty much anything on the menu by shopping at the Post Office and putting it together on Robinetta. Needing to stretch our legs, we carried on a bit down the peninsula. They are building new houses just south of the village and there are a number of yacht moorings further down the loch. We both felt like we were now twiddling our thumbs and we might as well start heading home. We have arranged to have lunch tomorrow with Alison's parents in Kirkcaldy and we wanted to to do that, but it meant driving 140 miles in the morning, with another 400 after that to get home. We decided to have an evening in Perth.

Back at the marina we finished unloading. Not staying the night on the mooring allowed us to walk the sleeping bags to the car. Robinetta was in a good mood leaving the pontoon. I put the the tiller right over and just watched, hands free as she pottered backwards and turned beautifully round.

Once facing roughly the right way I took the tiller and we motored out towards mooring S3, right next to where we left her in July. When we got close, we could see it wasn't going to work. Meander on S2 was on such a long chain that there were only inches between her stern and S3.

Alison called up the marina on the VHF and explained the problem and asked for instructions. The lady said to go on S4 if it was clear, which it was, so we picked that up and and I made sure we pulled up enough chain that Robinetta would stay nice and close to the buoy and not foul anything on S3 or S5. The only thing left to do was to put the cabin cover on. The roof leaks and it will help keep some rain out of the cockpit too.

Alison rowed us back to the pontoons and we hauled Worm ashore and borrowed a launch trolley to shift her to the dinghy park. We put the floor slats in the car - they have warped badly and one is broken, we will make a new set. Both turn-buckle mounts have come unglued again - epoxy doesn't like being in the bilges and the wetted area isn't really big enough. I'll have a think about what to do with that.
We stopped the car to take a last look before heading east. Robinetta looks at home. When we got to Perth we really couldn't be bothered to find a nice, cheap place to stay so we just asked the Mercure, near where we had parked, for their best rate and we didn't choke so we took it.

The Perth Playhouse was showing the film Lucy in 2D IMAX and we had enjoyed the trailer when we went to Guardians of the Galaxy so we bought tickets and had a coffee in their cafĂ© while we waited for the performance.It was a cleverly scripted, well acted piece of hokum. Alison found the violence a bit too believable and I know what she means. Afterwards we went to the Everest Inn. Three out of Tripadvisor's top four restaurants in Perth are Indian, the Everest is currently number two and it was really nice. We had Nepalese specialities and I even had a Nepalese beer, which was rather good, for a lager.

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Through the Dorus Mor again

We could hear the wind in the high tension rigging of the boats around us last night, and the decks were wet this morning, but it felt as though the gale had blown through overnight. There was no 0710 forecast to tell us differently either, but when Julian checked on line at quarter past it was clear that this morning's calm was just a lull. We should get round to Ardfern while the tide was with us, before the weather closed in on Friday.

We got the main and staysail ready to use, but did not bother to set up a jib, and were off the pontoon at 0835. We raised the staysail once we were clear of the marina, but it was obvious that the wind was too close to our course to use unless we wanted to tack, and it was so light that we risked missing our tidal gate if we sailed.

We motored down the Penninsula towards the Dorus Mor in bright sun and calm seas, and were through it by 1005, an hour and a half before the tide turned against us. There were no overfalls, just slightly raised seas, and the odd swirl in the water, but we gained 2-4 knots of speed over the ground on the way through...

Once we were in Loch Craignish we got the main sail up and very broad reached up towards Ardfern. We heard Stornaway Coastguard talking to the Isle of Mull ferry. The coastguard was asking the ferry for a radio check! The Coastguard aerial had got damaged somehow, which was why there was no 0710 weather. Julian called them up, with the info that we could hear them too, in a much smaller boat and further away. The coastguard lady sounded amused, but thanked us for the information.

We were only making 2 knots, so Julian shook out the reef which did not help much. The engine went back on and we were at Ardfern in an hour. I felt rather sad as we turned towards the marina; the adventure was coming to an end. Then Julian accidentally dropped a fender in the water and it took me three tries to get close enough for him to pick it up. Maybe we should spend tomorrow doing man overboard drills....

We filled up with diesel, then motored round to a pontoon berth where we left Robinetta and Worm for the rest of the day.
 When we were anchored at Puildobhrain yesterday we had wanted to walk to the pub near the Bridge over the Atlantic, but the tides and the weather meant we did not go. We have the car at Ardfern though, so we drove there for lunch, then on to look at Easdale and Cuan Sounds from the shore. The weather was lovely, bright warm sunshine and a light breeze. What had happened to our gale?
We went back to Ardfern and unloaded all the charts and extra bits and pieces that we do not want to leave on board. We still have two nights on board through, so the rest can wait until we are on the mooring, and be rowed ashore in Worm.

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Changing Forecasts

We had a plan on Sunday. It was something like Monday Tobermory, Tuesday Oban, Wednesday Seil, Thursday Loch Melfort, Friday Ardfern. By Monday it looked like we might get stuck in Tobermory. On Tuesday morning the 7 had gone from the forecast and we had an easy motor to Oban. This morning the 7 was back, with a possible 8 to keep it company. And the following 24 hours were no better. Worse, the low pressure was moving north, not east, and so likely to be around for a while. We decided we should get inside the isle of Luing as soon as possible, or we might not make it to Ardfern by Friday. It wouldn't be a huge problem to be somewhere else - we would just need public transport to get to the car, but Ardfern is the easiest place to end the cruise.
So we combined our Seil options into a breakfast stop at Puildobhrain and a passage through the Easdale narrows. We left Oban at 8 am and had a nice sail. A broad reach with strong gusts and deep lulls. The wind came out of Loch Feochan really strongly and then died as we crossed the entrance to the Clachan Sound.

We got a glimpse of the bridge over the Atlantic and then dropped sails and motored in to Puildobhrain at 10 am and anchored. Pipistrelle,  a Cape Cutter 19 we had seen in Ardfern was at anchor. 2 gaffers!
I cooked a fine breakfast. Haggis, black pudding, tattie scones, bacon and eggs. I wanted to go ashore and walk to the bridge but we decided we might miss the tide. I programmed in the shortest possible route to Craobh. It would take us inside Easdale and through the Cuan Sound.
Passing the top of Seil Stornoway Coastguard relayed a new gale warning for Malin "Southeasterly gale force 8 imminent increasing severe gale force 9 soon". We were now officially in a hurry.
Easdale is hard work. There are shallows and rocks and moorings and ruined slate harbour structures. We went the wrong side of one post and scraped the bottom for a second but got through okay. It has two notable eating places, we should go back.
Alison's fears that the tide would have turned before we got to Cuan were founded but only just. We got 1-2 knots against us, not 7. We dropped the main as we were now fully head to wind.
Hay lorries were backed up at the Cuan ferry, delivering to Luing. They only just managed to get off the ferry and up the steep road. Kayakers were out enjoying the spring tides and whirlpools. We enjoyed them too, it is a beautiful spot and the whirlpools and eddies are fun, not scary.
Emerging into the Seil Sound, and even more into the Shuna Sound, we finally started to get the kind of seas we associate with strong winds. There are lots of rocks to dodge but the weather was still fine and we had a lovely, if slightly bumpy motor to Craobh. It was great being able to make out our friends' house in Loch Melfort as we passed.
In Craobh, we relaxed, happy to be within a few miles of sheltered waters of our target.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Tobermory to Oban

Yesterday's forecast had made us expect to spend today in Tobermory; we had gone as far as to book a table for dinner at the Fish Cafe. This morning's made us change our minds. The Force 7 was now due later, and had turned into a force 8, leaving this morning's SE 4 to 5 occasionally 6 looking very attractive for a trip down the Sound of Mull by comparison! The tides would help us all morning, and as it was springs tomorrow we really did not want them against us by leaving later....

After a quick trip to the shore heads we prepared Robinetta for sea. We took a slight detour to photograph the Flying Dutchman, which had arrived yesterday afternoon, but we were raising a 2 roll reefed main sail in the bay by 0810. It felt beautifully calm in the bay, but as we cleared the point I waited for the wind and waves to kick in the way they had on Saturday. Only they didn't. Instead of having to beat against a head wind we motored down the sound in a flat calm and soon put the main sail down. With just the staysail up we could head a lot closer to what little wind there was, and go almost straight down the Sound, making 5 knots with the tide assist in places.

There were a few times when the wind picked up and the sea got up a little, by Eileanan Glasa they slowed us down to under 3 knots, but as soon as I headed back towards the centre of the Sound the speed came back up to over 4.

With pure blue sky overhead, and only a little head wind we had a lovely trip past Mull and the Morvern Peninsula with time to take in the sights, like a wharf full of timber waiting for a ship. Sailing would have been better than motoring, but given that the wind was supposed to be against us I was not complaining.

We passed the entrance to Loch Aline at 1115, watching as a ferry came out. It changed course and passed well behind us on its way to Fishnish. The dreaded tide rips off Duart Point were nothing more than small waves in the otherwise calm sea, and I began to peel off layers of clothes as the wind died to nothing.

We took the same route as the ferries past the south of Lismore Island, passing between the Lismore Light and Ladies Rock. It was practically low water, and we could see a lot more rock than most times. The views up the Lynn of Morvern were superb, but such panoramas are not easy to photograph. Being there was better! Julian made cheese sandwiches for lunch and I throttled back the engine a little while we ate.

As we headed for the top of Kerrera I glanced back and saw a ferry coming up behind us. Julian kept an eye on it, but it passed well to port of us. Its wash was horrible, rolling us all over the place, so when I saw one coming out from Oban I made sure to meet its wash head on. That was much easier! Then another ferry came up behind us, even larger than the first, and passed us to starboard. Once again I met the wash head on, but I'm not sure I should have worried as it was very gentle compared to the first.

We entered Oban bay at1400, and headed over to the Community Berths to the south of the town. According to the Welcome Anchorages magazine there are 16 visitor moorings there, available first come first served. We were early, and this whole week we have been aware that the Scottish sailing season is almost over; there has been space everywhere we've been. We managed to pick up a buoy really close to the landing pontoon, and were securely moored up by 1415.

We rowed ashore almost immediately as we had an urgent mission. Haircuts! Julian has to be back at work on Monday, and there won't be time to have one at home. I was feeling very shaggy too, so we found a hairdressers and a barbers and had a much needed tidy up. After we met up again we wandered round the town for a while, trying to decide where we should go for dinner latter. Nothing really appealed, possibly because the choice was so wide, but when we spotted a sea food shack just by the CalMac terminal, that did cold platters of sea food, but also freshly cooked mussels and hot scallops we knew we'd found dinner. It closed at 1800, so we sat and ate immediately. Just right!