Please select your home edition
Henri-Lloyd 2022 December - SW LEADERBOARD

From Guernsey to the Scottish Isles and Back

by Reg and Nicki Barker 22 Dec 2022 10:15 UTC

OCC Roving Rear Commodores Reg and Nicki Barker, s/v BLUE VELVET OF SARK, report on their summer's cruise in their regional waters.

For family reasons, we couldn't leave Guernsey until late July and had to be back by early October. However, after a very busy year, the time on board Blue Velvet that stretched out ahead of us seemed an impossibly luxurious period without commitments.

We had a lovely couple of months away and, in particular, thoroughly enjoyed our time in Scotland and out amongst the islands. By all accounts, the weather this season was much worse than normal with days of fog and poor visibility - very Nova Scotian! We also had a surprising number of both calms and gales and, late on in our cruise, as we came to think about our departure past the Mull of Kintyre and down the Irish Sea, we were faced with an extended forecast of strong SE winds which is very unusual in September. But in amongst this somewhat mixed bag, we enjoyed some lovely fast passages and a few fabulously sunny days with beautiful views, notably around Taransay (west of Harris) and in the Small Isles. We ate as much local seafood as we could - mussels from the farm in Lock Spelve (£6 for 5kg!); huge scallops from a dive boat; squat lobsters - by-catch from a Tobermorey fishing boat (many thanks John Blair for negotiating for them); langoustines in Doune Bay; kippers, smoked locally in the traditional way, and crab in Peel; and several seafood meals out including a memorable platter at the tiny Café Canna. And, of course, no trip to Scotland and Ireland would be complete without tasting the obligatory whisky or whiskey, Guinness and rum (the new kid on the block) from the new micro-distilleries.

We were fortunate to meet up with several old friends and to make new ones. John Blair (of the squat lobsters above) we first met in Bequia but he spent the summer of 2022 sailing solo around Ireland and along the Scottish west coast, which is where we caught up with him. He became one of the OCC's newest members at the Scottish Open House and we subsequently shared several anchorages, and meals, with him. John's now in the Madeiran archipelago and planning to cross the Atlantic again this winter. At the Scottish Open House we were also able to put faces to many OCC members we hadn't previously met, amongst them Simon and Sally Currin (of course!), Andy and Sue Warman (Spruce) and Graham and Kate Walker (Barracuda of Islay). We later met Graham and Kate at anchor in Caolas Mor (Loch Skipport, S Uist) and had a delightful evening with them before they headed east to Skye and we continued north towards Harris. A few days afterwards, we found Infinity B, also last encountered off Bequia, anchored off Taransay. Her new owner, Ida, joined us that evening to chat all things sailing - another delightful evening - and the OCC gained another member.

It was off Taransay, where we had a remarkably good internet connection, that we had an unexpected surprise. Old friends from work had seen our FaceBook post of Taransay's stunning scenery and got in touch to say that they would be arriving on Harris for a holiday that day. Did we want to meet up? We met them at East Loch Tarbert and had a day out on the water with them, enjoying the scenery, missing most of the showers and exploring caves from the dinghy. In amongst the wide-ranging chat, they told us about local specialties, including Stornoway black pudding, another foodie delight!

Having returned to the mainland side of the Minch to escape a forecast run of bad weather, we stopped at Isleornsay on Skye to see another old work friend. She recommended the anchorage off Isleornsay as a safe spot - 'even the Mowi [fish farm] boats come in when the forecast is bad' - and also pointed us in the direction of an excellent farm shop in Plockton, another fabulous stop off. Time was ticking on so we needed to keep moving but Isleornsay certainly seems a good spot from which to explore Skye in the future.

We had never intended to visit the Isle of Man but forecast brisk to strong S and SE winds in the Irish Sea whilst we wanted to head south made it a sensible stop. After motoring down the North Channel in a flat calm and a night at anchor off Bangor, we picked up the tide again on a passage that started grey and slow but ended with a blistering close reach. We had five days in Peel waiting for the wind direction to change, grateful that the town is no longer home to a huge kipper smoking industry. The scents from the one remaining traditional smokery were evocative; the smell from hundreds (plus that of the fishing industry that fed the smokeries) must have been overpoweringly awful! Peel was an unexpectedly interesting stop and has good links to the wider IoM. We did some walking, a little boat servicing, and some food shopping and had an evening chatting to a young couple, Robert and Andrea, who have just bought their first boat, a Westerly Oceanlord, and are refitting her for long-distance sailing. Robert is rewiring her to take LiFePO4 batteries and qualifying as a marine electrician in the process. It was a fascinating evening, and we hope to meet up with them both in a remote anchorage miles from Peel in the not-too-far-distant future.

When conditions started to change, the wind was perfect for a fast sail to Dun Laoghaire, so we headed there for a quick day in Dublin to sample the Guinness and Jameson, as well as for the sights. Then the wind veered further and a passage past Land's End and onwards to Dartmouth became viable. Dartmouth, accessible in all weathers, is another lovely stop that enabled us to meet up with another set of friends, enjoying coastal path walks, National Trust properties, and sharing more good food in excellent company.

We dallied in Brixham and at an anchorage off Torquay for a day or so before catching a favourable wind east. Monitoring the AIS signals we saw that there was another yacht that had caught the same tide, sailing at the same speed and heading for the same anchorage as us. It turned out to be another Rustler 42, Coruisk, which prompted a lovely evening in Worbarrow Bay with fellow OCC member Brian Steel, comparing notes on both our yachts and our sailing travels.

A day-sail east and we were in the Solent, our old weekend cruising ground when we lived in Hampshire 10 years ago. It was a lovely trip down memory lane but we had an eye on the clock and it was already late September; we had boat stuff to do, friends to meet, the Southampton boat show to attend, the OCC boat show dinner to enjoy and, finally a retirement party in London - the last of our deadlines to make! Despite the time constraint, we managed to squeeze into the now silted-up Newtown Creek, our old favourite anchorage, along with a few other haunts, to relive old times. Visitors' berths in the Solent now seem to be scarce but we did manage to find spaces, mostly on harbourmasters' pontoons, where we could leave BV for our various shore-based activities. The OCC dinner was lots of fun and around it, we were fortunate to meet up with more friends we had last seen on the other side of the Atlantic, Anne and Jonathan Lloyd (Sophia) and Richard and Julie Farrington (Escapade of Rame).

We reluctantly headed for home reinvigorated by our time away and, as Richard and Julie had said of their summer on the west coast of France, reminded of the joys of living aboard amongst the cruising community once again.

This article has been provided by the courtesy of Ocean Cruising Club.

Related Articles

The Reverend Bob Shepton sails up the Thames
An eye-opening voyage he had never experienced Honorary OCC Member Bob Shepton has sailed far but had never experienced a sail up the Thames. As Patron of the Novara Project, he jumped at the chance to join as crew on this eye-opening voyage. Posted on 20 Mar
OCC announces 2022 award winners
And recognises the Schwartz family adventures with the Barton Cup Now that cruising has returned to somewhat normal territory, the OCC Awards Subcommittee has found numerous achievements to recognise. Posted on 28 Jan
Warmest years and warmest ocean on record
2022 had much stand out news for many of the wrong reasons 2022 had much stand out news for many of the wrong reasons, two of them being climate oriented: the oceans were the warmest in recorded history and the last 8 years were the hottest on record. Posted on 18 Jan
100 anniversary of notable early circumnavigations
In 1923, Irishman Conor O'Brien and American Harry Pidgeon were both girdling the globe In 1923, Irishman Conor O'Brien and American Harry Pidgeon were both girdling the globe in boats they built themselves. Posted on 16 Jan
Commodore Escrich welcomes the first yacht
Shimshal is the first vessel to sail to Marina Hemingway this year Commodore Simon Currin, with his wife Sally, skippered SHIMSHAL into Marina Hemingway on New Year's Day 2023. Posted on 10 Jan
State of the Oceans Report
From pollution and habitat degradation to the impacts of climate change The report explores the state of our world's oceans, from pollution and habitat degradation to the impacts of climate change, Sustainable Development Goals, and protection of marine environments. Posted on 24 Dec 2022
An early spring cruise through Patagonia
Sea Wind left Puerto Williams in Chile under blazing sunshine and light winds OCC Roving Rear Commodores, Lars & Susanne Hellman, s/v SEA WIND, left Puerto Williams in Chile on August 24 heading toward Puerto Montt in Chile, hoping to arrive sometime in November. Posted on 23 Dec 2022
Rethinking Baltic Cruising
Avoiding Russian waters and savouring the Scandinavian Baltic OCC Roving Rear Commodore Andrew Curtain, s/v PILGRIM SOUL, reflects on avoiding Russian waters and savouring the Scandinavian Baltic. Posted on 23 Dec 2022
Across the Atlantic and on to Scotland
Sue and Andy Warman return to the UK after some 66,000 miles of cruising abroad OCC Roving Rear Commodores Sue and Andy Warman, s/v SPRUCE, return to the UK after some 66,000 miles of cruising abroad. Posted on 21 Dec 2022
From Ibiza in the Med to Graciosa in the Canaries
OCC Roving Rear Commodore Rhys Walters gets a grip on single-handing OCC Roving Rear Commodore Rhys Walters gets a grip on single-handing s/v ZORA while Niamh prepares for their wedding. Congratulations Niamh and Rhys! Posted on 20 Dec 2022
North Sails 2021 Innovation - FOOTERHenri-Lloyd 2022 December - SW FOOTERGJW Direct 2020 FOOTER