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Ardfern to Port Ellen 24th June 2007


I feel really refreshed this morning, the sky is blue with only a few clouds, the wind is still from the North, which is unbelievable, I am sailing the wrong way down the West coast of the UK where the wind is usually from the South West, but I am not complaining, I am sailing while all the boats heading North are motoring. The tide isn't too strong down the Sound of Jura, and it's Neaps so I will leave later today, which will give me time to sort the washing, and tidy up the boat, I will fold up the dingy and tie it down in front of the mast again where it is out of the way. I noticed that my VHF aerial is missing from the mast head, and there isn't another available in the well stocked chandlers at Ardfern, but a radio check confirms I still have a signal on the ships radio, and I have only been using the hand held, so I am not too concerned.

Its about forty miles to Port Ellen, the wind is variable F3, and at 12:00 I am ready to go. Engine on cast off and head out, and down Loch Craignish, and in only fifteen minuits the engine is off with the sails raised, sailing again, I am running down the Loch, and happy to be off again, but at 13:00 something is wrong, A quick look astern confirms the dingy isn't in tow, and its not on the deck, SHIT !!I have left it on the pontoon, so I will have to go back. The only problem going back is I will have to motor. I return to Ardfern pick up the dingy, and am on my way again by 14:00, and I  pass over the Ruadh Sgeir ledges at 15:30, which is turbulent with the tide passing over the shallows, which would not be too wise if it were Springs.

I navigate generally down the middle of the Sound of Jura, heading for Skervuile light but passing west of Beloe Rk past Skervuile and on to Na Cuiltean Light, and by 19:00 I can see through the passage between Jura and Islay, I must sail through there some day and visit Lock Tarbert, then I can sail back through Corryvreckan. The last time I was in Port Ellen was in May 1997 aboard Namara, David Bradbury's Barbican 35, which Ron and me were sailing together with David and Liz. We were sailing from Badachro to Cork, where we would leave for home. Another friend of Davids will be joining them, as the third member of the crew sailing Namara to the Azores.

The approach to Port Ellen from the north, is strewn with obstacles, and caution will be the order of the day, unless you stay seven and a half cables south of Texa, until past the island, when its safe to head for the starboard bouy marking the channel. I don't want to scratch the antifoul or worse, so I prepare some food etc before reaching Ardmore Islands, so I can concentrate on the task in hand. As I close Eilean a Churin, I keep about five cables off, untill I have a bearing to the light of 300deg. I steer a course 224deg T for 3.5nm to clear the rocks. I decide to take the passage between Texa and Islay and head for the point. Its about half tide as I approach Texa, and I can see the danger points as I round the island. I can see Carraig Fhada Light and decide to stay South and round the starboard light before entering the bay. The choice is to anchor in the bay, or moor alongside at Port Ellen. As I get closer I can see there are now pontoons available.Its busy on the pontoons which wern't here the last time I was, so I find a finger berth so I can walk ashore. TS Royalist, is moored alongside the harbour wall. I have seen Royalist several times since I set off from Hull, the first time in Hartlepool, and again in Eyemouth, where I was told she was circumnavigating the UK the same way round as myself. Picture of TS Royalist underway courtesy of Mark Pilbeam

I take in the sails, and motor into the harbour to see what, if any berths are available. There are three yachts rafted up at the end of the pontoon, but there are a couple of spare berths on the pontoon further inshore and in shallower water, but deep enough for Anita, so I come alongside a finger and tie up.I heard the weather forecast by the Coastguard earlier, and the wind is due to rise to F6/7 overnight so it looks like a day in port tomorrow, which will give me the chance to unblock the heads. If I can't find a place to dry out, I am going to try to unblock the heads afloat, I think I might get wet, but I will think about that in the morning.