Running a yacht charter company in Scotland is a great privilege as it gives you the responsibility for providing interesting and enjoyable holidays in our iconic sailing waters for others. One of the downsides, however, is that you don’t get much chance to enjoy sailing in the area yourself. When you do get out, it is vital to make sure that you see some of the highlights. This year we had a three day trip from the Isle of Skye Yachts base at Armadale at the end of August.
On Saturday evening we boarded the Jeanneau SO 439 “Sleat Odyssey” with two helpful friends who had arrived earlier with provisions and had dinner prepared. The evening was very clear with a fantastic sunset. Sunday morning saw us starting early and motoring down the Sound of Sleat heading towards Ardnamurchan Point in brilliant sunshine. By lunchtime it was still very calm and sunny so we headed into Sanna Bay just north of Ardnamurchan to anchor for lunch. Sanna is a delightful sandy bay but it is only suitable as a lunchtime anchorage and if the weather is settled. The view all round was idyllic with the sandy beaches, a few seals and the spectacular view of all the Small Isles and even Coll, which is a very flat island could be seen clearly.
After a leisurely lunch we raised the anchor and decided that there was no point in hoisting the mainsail as it was such a calm afternoon. Motoring past the dramatic Ardnarmuchan Lighthouse built 165 years ago by the Stephenson family; we were able to wave to the visitors to the lighthouse who were enjoying the sunshine ashore.
Arriving in Tobermory with the spectacular arrangement of brightly coloured houses waiting to greet us, we were directed to a space on the pontoons and quickly tied up. We connected up to the shore power, had no need to utilise the convenient hose pipe, but did make use of the Wi-Fi and the excellent shower and toilet facilities ashore. The pontoons are conveniently situated to access the Co-op and an interesting selection of gift shops. Ashore for an evening meal there is a good selection of restaurants but we chose the Galleon Grill and were not disappointed with most of us enjoying the fresh crab and scallops on the menu.
After a peaceful night, we woke to unclouded skies once again. Tobermory was busy and there were a large number of people coming and going on dive boats and day trip boats as well as yachts. On leaving the harbour, there was enough wind to hoist the mainsail and “Odyssey” was soon sailing back out of the Sound of Mull. The original plan had been to head to the Isle of Coll where there was a Shark Festival taking place. The waters around Coll are well frequented with basking sharks at that time of year as well as dolphins and minke whales. Unfortunately, the weather forecast was suggesting strong easterly winds which make the moorings at Arinagour, Coll uncomfortable so we revised the plan and headed North towards Arisaig.
Arisaig always requires careful navigation, the first part of which is clearly identifying the entrance. Once this has been spotted, depending on your draft and the state of the tide, it may be necessary to anchor temporarily in the area known as the “waiting room”. The perches marking the dog legged channel into the harbour are usually clearly marked but care should be taken to make sure you are viewing them in the correct order! On a lovely calm day, getting through the channel was straightforward. A telephone call to Arisaig Marine found us directed to a mooring for the night which was conveniently located only a short distance from the dinghy pontoon.
Once securely attached to the mooring we all went ashore. We enjoyed drinks and dinner at the Arisaig Hotel, still in fantastic sunshine and seriously warm weather. The sunset over the Small Isles was quite breath-taking. Back on board for a calm and peaceful night.
Tuesday morning found us heading back home to Armadale. After a leisurely breakfast, we dropped the mooring and picked our way carefully back out into the open sea. The seals on the rocks in the harbour entrance probably laugh at the antics of yachts which are coming and going! We hoisted the mainsail as soon as we were clear of the Arisaig entrance but this proved to be a bit optimistic. We weren’t in a particular rush so we did sail for about an hour, however, when the ETA on the Chartplotter was beginning to show the following day, it was time to put to put the engine on!
Motoring back up to Armadale was very pleasant. We were keeping a keen look out for the dolphins that have been patrolling the Sound of Sleat all season but didn’t manage to spot them or the basking sharks which are also about at that time of year either. We did see a number of porpoises as well as a selection of sea birds and seals during the trip.
It’s great to get out and about occasionally to remind us what the spectacular cruising waters of the West Coast are like. Although serious sailing enthusiasts would prefer a bit more wind than we had on this occasion, but it is wonderful to get such clear views of the stunning scenery.
Cruising directions for the area described can be found in the Clyde Cruising Club Pilot Books – Ardnamurchan to Cape Wrath and Kintyre to Ardnamurchan.
By Charmian Entwistle
Isle of Skye Yachts