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Home / Offshore / RAYC Round Britain Challenge 2021 - St Barbara V / RBC 21. Leg 4. 12th to 25th June. Arbroath to Ullapool. 19 Regt RA.
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Home / Offshore / RAYC Round Britain Challenge 2021 - St Barbara V / RBC 21. Leg 4. 12th to 25th June. Arbroath to Ullapool. 19 Regt RA.

RBC 21. Leg 4. 12th to 25th June. Arbroath to Ullapool. 19 Regt RA.


SUNDAY 13 FRIDAY 25 JUNE

St Barbara V Crew - Col Neil Wilson (Skipper), Bdr Ed Middleton (Mate), WO2 Adam Shorrock, Gunner Olivia McCarrick, Gunner Ella Spencer, Gunner Alexander Kinivuai - 19 Regt RA, 127 Dragons Battery.

19Regt crew

WO2 Adam Shorrock, Gunner Olivia McCarrick,Gunner Alexander Kinivuai

The Plan

Sunday 13 Peterhead to Fraserburgh. Crew assembled to take over St B in very good order from Leg 3, in Peterhead. Having victualled and conducted all safety and familiarisation briefs, departed Sun 13th at 1500 hrs to do some sail training and make a good 25 nm passage to Fraserburgh. Wind was astern (SE 4) which made for a rolling voyage and a gybe half-way to avoid running directly downwind. From one Scottish industrial fishing port to another. We were the only yacht in town and St B looked very out of place moored up in the inner harbour alongside a fleet of smaller fishing vessels, having passed the main fleet on the way in.

Fraserburgh harbour

Monday 14 June Fraserburgh to Wick. A delayed departure whilst the bosun did his best with the blocked and leaking Heads. Eventually made do but we need spares and will sail in search. Made passage to Wick in a Westerly force 5-7. Wind strength changing by up to 12 knots every hour or so, resulting in numerous sail changes. We left the trusty No2 Genoa up throughout but reefed the Main from full to 3 reefs and every stage in between, frequently. The crew are now pretty good at reefing! We sailed around a huge wind farm that was right on the rhumb line course so just nipped inside the last few turbines as we hardened onto the wind to avoid too much beating into Wick. 2 short tacks and 10 hours after departure, we made port. All crew feeling the effects of sea sickness with one racked-out throughout. Very spacious, hospitable and pleasant harbour.

Dodging wind mills in the Moray Firth

Tuesday 15 June Wick to Stromness. We timed our departure to arrive at Duncansby Head (near the village of John O'Groats) at slack water and thus to avoid the notorious overfalls that can be present in the Pentland Firth at other stages of the tide. We made better than expected time, cheating the south going tide by hugging the shoreline in a light SE and reached Duncansby Head an hour earlier than planned. We pressed ahead all the same and an uneventful 7nm crossing to the Orkneys but felt the power of the eddies and currents all the way across. We altered course to port and wound our way up Switha Sound leaving Flotta and Fara islands to starboard and South Walls and Hoy to port. We passed the old Royal Naval base of Lyness before exiting through Gutter Sound and continuing north west in a dying wind and slight drizzle. We passed Graemsay to port and eventually made is to Stromness at 2030 hrs where our lines were taken for us by a good friend, Nick Nottingham who was our neighbour for the night on his yacht Spellbinder. We were now as far north in the northern hemisphere as Cape Horn is south in the southern hemisphere.

Crossing the Pentland Firth with the Orkneys on the bow

Ed caught with the heads again

Wednesday 16 June Stromness to Hunda Sound, Scapa Flow. Stromness is an hospitable small ferry port with good facilities and friendly neighbours. Fortunately for us, Nick Nottingham had the spare heads base we needed which the Bosun fitted before we departed at 1030 hrs. In contrast to our arrival, we left in good weather with a great view of the mountains of Hoy to the south. We went back through Clestrain Sound directly into a F6 which woke us all up, before the channelling effect of the wind abated as we exited into Scapa Flow. With 2 reefs in the main and the No2 Genoa we bore away onto a comfortable beam reach right across Scapa Flow, passing over the wrecks of numerous ships scuttled by the German High Seas Fleet in June 1919. Several of the wrecks were salvaged in the 1920s but there are many still there, dived on frequently by enthusiasts.

Midnight in Scapa Flow

Whisky Distillery on the starboard bow

We passed the large oil refinery on Flotta Island, an oil rig and some of the tankers at anchor waiting to use the refinery's facilities, and then onto the far eastern edge of the Sound. Here we saw the 'Churchill Barriers', constructed by Italian POWs between islands early in the Second World War to prevent German submarines accessing the sound, but not before one would sink the Battleship Royal Oak in October 1939. We passed this war grave to port and then tacked out of Skerry Sound and East Weddel Sound into a southerly F3. We anchored in Hunda Sound by mid-afternoon and enjoyed the peace and scenery of this very special place.

There were seas birds all around us; Guillemots, Razorbills, Kittihawks, Terns, Manx Shearwaters, Fulmars, Northern Gannets and Skuas, and a couple of shy seals that kept their distance but remained near us for hours. The crew initially took to the dinghy before finding the water and evening sun far too inviting. The shock of the 9-degree water temperature meant they didn't last long but all credit to them for braving it in the first place.

The sun was still shining when we retired to our bunks at 2230 in Preparation for an early start. The anchor watches reported that it never got dark and the unlit anchor reference points identified in daylight remained visible all night.

Thursday 17 June Hunda Sound to Kirkwall via Deer Sound. At 0530 we slipped anchor and raised sails, only for the slight southerly breeze to die on us shortly after, which meant 'engine-on'. We motored south out of Hoxa Sound and around South Ronaldsay. We had planned to pass this tidal gate at slack water but missed our window by an hour and found ourselves punching 4 knots of tide across the rip. It took us full power and 30 minutes to beat our way through it and then dip inshore to Old Head where we encountered another tidal rip, albeit slightly less violent and exciting. It brought it home to us how important it is to get the navigation right in these parts and how fine the margins are. We motor-sailed north up the eastern coast of South Ronaldsay until the wind picked up just enough to allow us to sail past Burray and Holm Sound, and through Copinsay Pass in gradually increasing temperatures. Oilskins came off, shades went on and we all enjoyed a pleasant sail into Deer Sound.

Deer Sound, Orkneys

Deer Sound shoreline

After a short exploration of the sound, we anchored off a beautiful white-sand beach where the crew went ashore, conducting dinghy handling training and beach combing.

The passage from Deer Sound to Kirkwall was short but great sailing, beating into the evening sun in a W 4-5 through the Shapinsay Sound and up the narrow String before bearing away into the Bay of Kirkwall, passing an impressive 19 century castle on the northern shore. With the crew getting it together on the helm and in the cockpit, we made good progress and achieved the aim of reaching the 'chippie' before it shut at 2030.

Met - Fair with the predicted SE 2-3 now picking up, temperatures cool (8 degrees).

Friday 18 June Cultural Day. Friday was a day to explore and experience the culture of the Orkneys. Sadly, much of it is still under much tighter Covid restrictions than the rest of the UK meaning lots of attractions were closed or limited. The very impressive 12 Century Cathedral of St Magnus and the Bishop's Palace could only be viewed from the outside, and the 2 whiskey distilleries (Highland Park and Scapa Flow) were only accepting very limited numbers for tours. The Kirkwall museum was also limited, however, 2 of the crew did manage to get the last places on a distillery tour and enjoyed the delights of Scapa Flow whiskies, including a 19-year-old that numbed the tongue. Meanwhile I took a walk along the beautiful Scapa Bay Beach and viewed the sight and memorial to HMS Royal Oak, sunk by a German torpedo boat in October '39 with the loss of over 800 men.

A proper Malt

St Magnus Cathedral

Breakfast in Kirkwall

Saturday 19 & Sunday 20 June Kirkwall to Loch Laxford via Loch Eribol. Getting out of Kirkwall is not easy and the timing has to be precise to avoid some severe tidal overflows to the west. This requirement, coupled with no wind for over 12 hours, meant a delayed departure on the evening tide. This gave us most of Saturday to restock the yacht - refuel, top up the oil, provision for the next 4 days with food, fill up with water, and replace an empty gas cylinder. We also conducted some sail training alongside, rigging different headsails and learning more about the yacht's rigging and systems. We also took some time for a kip before a long night passage ahead.

Getting out of Kirkwall

As we prepare to depart, I reflect fondly on our Orkney experience. The islands are numerous (over 700 in total) and steeped in a rich history from Stone Age monuments, through Viking occupation and Norwegian rule, to 2 world wars and now the oil, whisky, fishing and tourist industries. The tides can be strong and the navigation testing, but the scenery is beautiful, and the waters are a pleasure to cruise in the right conditions. The locals are welcoming and were it not for Covid, the culture would have been an even more enjoyable experience.

We sailed north out of Kirkwall in a SE 2-3, leaving Gairsay to port before turning downwind through Gairsay Sound and into Eynhallow Sound. The short stretch of water between the mainland and Eynhallow Island is known as the Burger Roost and notorious for its rip tides. However, we had timed it just right and gybed safely through with a slight ebb tide under us. Even so, the strong and numerous eddies created a confused sea and made for an interesting 30 minutes before we cleared the Roost, ate a delicious hot stew meal, and headed out into the North Atlantic.

Skipper in the Burger Roost

Clear of the Burger Roost

The wind had picked up to a F4 from the SE, giving a perfect beam reach and enabling us to zip along at a steady 7 knots with a No1 Genoa and 1 reef in the main. We were again surrounded by the seabird life that is one of the thrills of the Orkneys. Puffins, Shags, Guillemots, Razorbills, Northern Gannets, Fulmars, Kittihawks, Great Skuas, Oyster Catchers, and many more. They entertained us for hours through the light night as we gradually lost sight of the Orkneys and broke down into watches at 2100 hrs.

'Cheap NAAFI Watch' were first on, enjoying a memorable passage in fading light past the high cliffs, headlands and light houses of the Western Orkneys. Just as they were disappearing over our port quarter, we handed over to 'Crime Watch' who took the next 3 hours. They reported seeing the sun setting over the dark outline of Hoy to the west, whilst simultaneously observing the first signs of light on the eastern horizon. It was very nearly the longest day. They covered over 20nm in their 3-hour watch and handed back to us already well over half-way across the Pentland Firth. After just 1 hour we were able to make out the coastline of mainland Scotland ahead. Two hours later the wind fell-away and we motored the last 5 miles of our 60nm passage into the stunning Loch Eribol. A Minke Whale welcomed us to this long deep-water Loch, which is surrounded by high mountains and beautiful beaches, creating impressive scenery. We anchored half-way down the Loch at Ard Neckie, ate bacon butties for breakfast and caught up on sleep.

Loch Eribol

Anchored in Eribol

We weighed anchor 4 hours later and motored around Faraid Head and Cape Wrath in a very light NW. Having spent many a day bombing the life out of Garvey Island that sits just off the headland, in the MOD Ranges, it was interesting to see it from a different angle for a change; and in calmer conditions than normal.

The wind filled in as we passed under the high and imposing cliffs of Cape Wrath, allowing us to sail the remaining 15 miles of our passage to Loch Laxford. We saw a lone dolphin and carried our rig all the way up the 5-mile length of this Loch, only dropping sails when in sight of our picturesque anchorage for the night at Ardmore. The Loch has a narrow and hidden entrance and is just a couple of hundred metres wide for most of its length, with multiple islands and smaller channels, and over 60m deep. It is not marked by any buoys, withies or navigational aids at all. To be able to sail all the way to the anchorage was an extremely enjoyable experience and one that will be a lasting memory of this leg. Ardmore is the home of John and Marie-Christine Ridgeway and is where they run their Adventure School with their daughter Rebecca.

The Ridgeway estate and Bowman

The Ridgeways

After an extremely peaceful and sheltered night in one of the most scenic anchorages imaginable, Adam and I took the tender ashore. We said hello to Rebecca Ridgeway on our way ashore and then met with her parents who invited us into their beautiful house overlooking the Loch and their Adventure School. John and Marie have lived an incredible life of adventure and although now in their 80s, remain active and healthy. Their Bowman 57, English Rose VI, which they raced around the world in 1978 and sailed around the Pacific in 2003, sits on its cradle on the loch shore. We drank tea and admired the view for a memorable hour in the company of such a revered couple of adventurers. The time went far too quickly but we couldn't depart before seeking John's approval to name a recently procured Army Adventurous Training ocean rowing boat after the vessel that he and Chay Blyth famously rowed the Atlantic in, in 1966. We could have stayed for hours but tide and time

Met - Forecast for next 24 hours is for a NW 2-3, fair. Thereafter, the wind turns to the SW 5-6, bringing milder temperatures and rain. We've not had any rain so far so can't complain if the last couple of days are a little wet.

Monday 21 June Loch Laxford to Stornoway. Having found our way into Loch Laxford, we retraced our tracks and exited to make a 50nm south westerly passage across the North Minch to Stornoway in Lewis. The wind was blowing from the west to start with but veered nicely during the day, allowing us to make our destination in about 8 hours on just one tack. The weather also brightened as we crossed and there were numerous sightings of dolphins and puffins amongst all the other ever-present bird life.

Ardmore and Laxford

We entered Stornoway in the evening sun and were welcomed by friendly harbour staff, the bagpipes being played on the harbourside and a pair of inquisitive seals. The channel to reach the town-centre marina is wide, scenic, easily navigable, and overlooked by a 19th Century castle. Sadly, as with everywhere we have been, the town was restricted by Covid regulations, but it provided all we needed. After 3 nights at anchor or at sea, it was good to be alongside for a few hours and we all slept well.

Tuesday 22 June Stornoway to Loch Erisort and back. After a few long days, we made a slow start on Tuesday, heading out for a day sail by mid-morning. This Leg has been largely blessed with fair winds and lots of off-wind sailing. Thus, to give the novice crew the full experience we set a southerly course and beat into a F5-6, gusting 7, to make the 6nm to Loch Erisort and then to explore this unmarked waterway. Sail changes and reefs were conducted in high winds and a rising sea before we lowered the sails and dropped anchor another 6nm up the Loch. We ate a hearty lunch on an even keel before hoisting the No2 Genoa and enjoying a fast and stable downwind ride back to Stornoway in under 2 hours.

Stornaway

Wednesday 23 June Stornoway to Ullapool. We had options for the following day to either sail the 45nm direct to Ullapool back across the North Minch and through the Summer Isles or put into Loch Ewe for the evening and make an early start the following day. However, we had arranged to have some small repairs made to the mainsail by Tim Phipps, a local sailmaker, retired Gunner RQMS, and friend of the Club. Tim arrived from Inverness to collect the main at 0730 on Thursday so we went for the former option in order to meet his timelines and accept his generosity.

Ullapool

Breakfast in Ullapool

We enjoyed another fabulous reach under full canvas and slight seas. The wind had swung to the SW which brought slightly warmer temperatures but also fog. For 3 hours we were in visibility of less than a mile which allowed us to make best use of the radar. Having barely seen another vessel at sea for our entire trip, let alone any other yachts under sail, we now identified 3 or 4 radar blips which kept the watch alert. We averaged 7 knots for most of the passage before the wind dropped to a F2 resulting in us goose-winging at 2 knots through the narrow gaps between the Summer Isles at the mouth of Loch Broom. As the fog cleared, we could see the rising hills of the highlands covered in mist and low cloud, several more dolphins and seabirds, and the stunning views as Loch Broom opened up in front of us. It was a memorable way to finish a superb couple of weeks of sailing.

Loch Broom

Loch Broom

Thursday 24 and Friday 25 June - Handover in Ullapool. The handover was not easy. There is no marina in Ullapool and thus we had to make the short journey from a buoy in the bay to a temporary use pontoon alongside the town's fishing quay on several occasions. We took the mainsail off and were met by Tim Phipps early on Thursday morning, who took it away to affect some small repairs at his loft in Inverness. Meanwhile we topped the yacht up with gas, water and fuel in preparation for the arrival of the next crew. The skipper, Pete Jennings, and Mate, Jill Rogers, arrived that evening. Tim very generously picked them up from Inverness Airport and returned with the repaired mainsail which we promptly re-rigged. On Friday morning we met the new crew from 1 RHA, cleaned St Barbara and handed her over before departing this beautiful area and heading south once more.

Summary. For the record, we have visited 7 Ports (Peterhead, Fraserburgh, Wick, Stromness, Kirkwall, Stornoway and Ullapool), made 5 anchorages (Scapa Flow, Deer Sound, Loch Eribol, Loch Laxford, Loch Erisort) and sailed in all conditions from bright sun to fog, and calm conditions to F7. We passed some notable headlands, including Duncansby Head (near the village of John O'Groats) and Cape Wrath, and crossed the Moray Firth and the Pentland Firth twice. We sailed 540nm and even with the limited hours of darkness, still managed to sail for 8-night hours. We have seen some beautiful places and experienced some amazing scenery, met lots of lovely people and seen endless wildlife, with seabirds, dolphins, seals, and whales being particular highlights. One of the young crew said she never knew that such beautiful places existed in the UK. For that alone, it was worth the effort.


The Crew. The crew have learned quickly and thoroughly bonded; they can all helm competently and keep a good course in most conditions; they know how and when to take a reef and how to change a headsail quickly and safely at sea. They do so with minimal instruction from the Mate and I, communicating and working well together as a team. Despite them all suffering the effects of seasickness on the first couple of days, they have learned to manage it and can all now go below and make a brew or a simple meal at sea. They are all able to anchor the yacht, pick up a buoy, do basic pilotage navigation and handle the tender; they can stand a watch by day and by night, and know the name and function of nearly every part of the yacht. They have learned how to operate a complex vessel and to live and thrive in an alien environment. They are more than competent. Humour has been ever-present, and they have been a credit to their unit (19 Regt) and their Battery (127 Dragons). 3 out of 4 wishes to continue offshore sailing and are already actively seeking to get on RYA/RAYC/JSASTC courses to gain qualifications and experiences. The Mate and I have enjoyed their company and they have been a pleasure to sail with.

The Mate (Ed Middleton) and I have also been tested at times. St Barbara remains a challenge to berth in a tight spot and high winds; the tides around the Orkneys require very careful planning (12-16 knots through the Pentland Firth in an extreme Spring) and the lack of navigational markers, has kept us both on our toes.

Crew Reflections

During this incredible 2 weeks I have been put through the 3 different zones (comfort, stretch panic), but mainly being in the stretch zone; this is where I learn the most. Personally, I feel that my sailing has developed in all aspects, from being a competent crewman to shadowing the skipper and even plotting a course on the chart. As a crew we quickly realised that we had to work as a team on board as most of the tasks require 3 - 4 people. We have bonded well, and morale has been high throughout.

Sailing is a sport that I wish to pursue, and I am very keen to attend the Day Skippers' Course at the earliest opportunity. This will allow me to gain the experience required to progress up to coastal skipper and eventually Yacht Master. WO2 Adam Shorrock

As our trip on St. B sadly comes to an end and being able to look back on the things we have learned, it has shown me how quick people can pick up things. Sailing is a skill, knowing when and when not to do something. When you wait for instruction and work off what you know. When to lead the crew and when to follow the crew. It functions on team work alone. No teamwork, no SOG (speed over ground). Science!

It's taught me a lot about the toll it takes on the body too. Gaining your sea legs, sleeping while at a 45-degree angle while being thrown about the place. Putting the kettle in when your near enough horizontal. But also staying sharp, still understanding the state of the sea and the St. B, to know what's going to happen a few minutes later. Being aware of every gust of wind and every wave that crashes into the bow. If I had to give any advice to myself before I came aboard the St. Barbara V. It would be to enjoy every moment, take in the spectacular scenery and always have the kettle on. The crew's morale is your morale. Gunner Olivia McCarrick

Overall, I am glad that I had the opportunity to experience sailing that I never would have done had I not been in the Army. The experience was tougher than I thought it would be however for the things you get to see it is worth it.

After the first day where I had a lot of trouble with sea sickness It made me nervous for the rest of the trip. At first, I had no confidence doing anything on the boat, but I feel like over time I have made a small improvement. For example, when we first set off, I couldn't go to the bow of the yacht when now I can.

Even though I don't feel that sailing is for me I would still recommend it to others. It is a fantastic opportunity and would be worth doing even if in the end you feel as though it isn't for you.

My overall experience has had ups and downs. Some days I've enjoyed it, others not so much. I feel as though it definitely pushed me out of my comfort zone in more ways than one and I am grateful for that. All in all, it has been a good experience whether or not I'd do it again I'm unsure, however I'm glad I have done it. Gunner Ella Spencer

Coming on this two-weeks AT sailing has been one of best choices I've ever made. This also has been the first ever AT I've been on, first ever opportunity to do sailing which I've never done before and to places I've never been to. It's not easy for someone who hasn't sailed before. The first few days were just taking in and understanding the terminologies. In this two-weeks I was able to learn as much as I can about sailing and enjoyed every bit of it from seeing breath-taking lochs to seeing dolphins, a Minke whale and different types of birds. I now have a better understanding of what to expect or what to do when out on the next sailing exercise/adventure training. The bit I enjoyed on this two-weeks was when we went into Kirkwall, had the opportunity to explore the town and not forgetting anchoring in Scarpa flow for the night. I now have an interest in sailing, hope to get the chance to do more and even get on a sailing course if possible. Gunner Alexander Kinivuai

Tuesday 15th June

Crew Blog:

Wick-Stromness

After attempting to recover from the very fast paced day before, we rose from out light sleep to the sound of the Boson (Ed) getting the kettle on (his main and most important role). He had a delightful morning trying his hardest fix the heads of the sturdy St B. As we all peeled our eyes open and let them adjust to the light that was shooting though the lower deck windows, we one by one made our way on deck to have a look at what we assumed the 'End of the World' would look like. Magical, breathe taking and appealing to the eyes. But Wick had other plans. We adjusted our eyes to a knock-off Ballamory. Grey, misty and only a hand full of fishermen working on their boats. After dealing with the disappointment, we gritted our teeth and ventured out and retrieved some morale (i.e biscuits). Ed had created a temporary fix for the heads so we could set off at just the right time, to make the crossing of the Pentland Firth to Stromness. After suffering with sea sickness the day prior, some of the crew were apprehensive about getting back out on the water but after a few minutes it became second nature and thankfully 10 times more enjoyable. Partly through our 33 miles voyage, we found ourselves in the pathway of another vessel. Even with no signals or movement off course, there was a sense of tensions rising between both us and the fishing trawler the closer and closer we got to each other. Assuming that the fellow seaman had a quick look through the Sea's Highway Code, they promptly altered course and passed our port side. Giving us a friendly wave, but also admitting his defeat. We later on passed through Scapa Flow and embraced all the empty islands and calm-ish waters. Having a quick game of spot the car, as they were a rarity.

When arriving at Stromness at the very light hours of 19.00. We were met with one of the skipper's family friends. Also sailing around the Highlands and Islands, just in the opposite direction. This unknowingly, at the time, was out saving grace as he had the parts we desperately needed to fix the heads. It would drastically improve our lives at sea.

After closing down the boat we went ashore and explored the facilities the harbour had for us. To WO2 Shorrock's sadness there was no McDonalds. When arriving back on board we were greeted with a lovely dinner, gracefully cooked by both Spence and Ed. A brilliant way to finish a day sailing.

Anchored in Deer Sound where crew went ashore, doing dinghy handling training and beach-combing.

Stromness - Hunda Sound

Another late start, as the project to get heads in fully working order was underway. Ed was walking around with a toilet bowl and the skipper, WO2 Shorrock and I indulged in some breakfast. But at last the heads were fixed, only due to Eds brilliant efforts. The Skipper said farewell to his family friend and we set off to find another place to cause mayhem in. We passed straight across Scapa Flow, passing oil rigs and large ships anchored either side of us the majority of the way towards Hunda Sound. The wind was fluctuating all the way across Scapa which had us on our toes. Having to think about every rope we pulled and every knot we made. But of course Ed calmed us by permanently having the kettle on, no matter the weather conditions. We passed Churchill's Barriers and which lay along the east of the island which protected our forces from Germany submarines. But now have aided the residents passing from island to island. We then tacked towards our resting place for the evening, Hunda Sound, and anchored up. Soon after doing so, seals popped their heads above the surface. This gave us a very warm welcome. Gnr Kinivuai and myself inflated the dinghy by foot pump, swiftly got into our swimsuits and started paddling around trying to find this curious seal. When our luck ran out, Gnr Kinivuai jumped back on board and Gnr Spencer and myself went ashore, on a Scottish version of Barry Island, rocky and derelict. We picked up some shells and made our way back in. But we were not done! Gnr Kinivuai was adamant on not jumping in the water. I had other ideas. The crew downstairs were not very confident that our idea on ending up in the icy cold waters were going to become reality. The exact second they doubted my intentions, I dived. Head first and if I could feel my feet, I would say they came in behind me. There was no feeling left. The cold shock was short lived, and when I arrived at the surface it was just like jumping in the Orkney Island crystal clear waters surrounded by ship wrecks from the 1919. It was picturesque and an experience I doubt I will get the opportunity to do again. Would definitely recommend it you make it past the end of the world. But then of cause Gnr Kinivuai's ego kicked in and jumped straight in after me. Olivia Mc

Thursday 17th June to Sunday 20th June.

Crew Blog:

We began our journey to Kirkwall at 5:30 leaving the stunning Hunda Sound where we had spent the night anchored. The route took us around the bottom of South Ronaldsay into the Pentland Firth where we were met by a riptide. As we traveled through this, every so often the yacht would hit the waves right allowing us to surf along the top. After half an hour, we were finally clear of the rip tide. During our journey to Kirkwall, we found a beautiful little bay and anchored for a few hours. While we were anchored , the dinghy was brought out, then Mccarrick and Kini went on a little adventure to the small beach and to explore some caves within the rock face. Despite the water being rather cold, Kini, McCarrick and myself jumped off the yacht into the glistening sea shortly followed by the WO2 Shorrock. A few hours passed and it was then decided it was time to start heading towards Kirkwall. The rest of the journey was calm and peaceful with lots to see including a castle that Neil took a fantastic photo of. We then spent the night at the stunning harbour in Kirkwall. The following day was spent as a down day. During this day a few of us went on a lovely walk across the island to the whiskey distillery where we had a tour and tried some of their samples.

After that, the rest of the day was spent taking in the incredible culture from the breathtaking St Magnus Cathedral to the incredible 13th century Bishop and Earl's palace as well as the Orkney museum. Along the wall of St Magnus cathedral sat a memorial dedicated to those from Kirkwall during the Great War including Major Alastair Steele who was in the Royal Artillery. Time flew quickly and before we knew it was time for all of us to walk back to the boat for a fantastic chilli con carne. The rest of the evening was spent chilling out.

Hoy Sound, Orkney Isles.

By Ella Spencer

Skipper's Report - We departed Kirkwall after a longer than planned stay, in a SE F2-3 that allowed us to wind our way through the myriad islands and channels to exit the Orkneys. We had timed our departure to arrive at the notoriously fierce tidal rip at Burger Roost with a slight ebb tide under us. We got it just right, gybing safely through the narrow channel and into Eynhallow Sound. We were again surrounded by the seabird life that is one of the thrills of the Orkneys. Puffins, Shags, Guillemots, Razor-bills, Northern Gannets, fulmars, Kittihawks, Great Skuas, Oyster Catchers, and many more. They entertained us for hours through the light night as we gradually lost sight of the Orkneys and broke down into watches.

We made a fast 60nm SW passage back to the mainland, arriving at the hugely impressive Loch Eribol just after 0700. A Minke Whale welcomed us to the deep-water and long Loch which is surrounded on all sides by high mountains and hills and beautiful beaches, creating stunning scenery. We anchored half way down the Loch, ate breakfast and caught up on sleep.

We weighed anchor 4 hours later and motored around Faraid Head and Cape Wrath in a very light NW. Having spent many a day bombing the life out of Garvey Island that sits just off the headland, in the MOD Ranges, it was interesting to see it from a different angle for a change.

The wind filled in as we passed under the high and imposing cliffs of Cape Wrath, allowing us to sail the remaining 15 miles of our passage to Loch Laxford. We saw a lone dolphin and carried our rig all the way up the 5 mile length of the Loch, only dropping sails when in sight of our picturesque anchorage for the night at Ardmore. The Loch has a narrow and hidden entrance and is just a couple of hundred metres wide for most of its length, with multiple islands and smaller channels, and over 60m deep. It is not marked by any buoys, withies or navigational aids at all. To be able to sail all the way to the anchorage was an incredible experience and one that will be a lasting memory of this leg. Ardmore is the home of John and Marie-Christine Ridgeway, and is where they run their Adventure School with their daughter Rebecca.

After an extremely peaceful and sheltered night in one of the most scenic anchorages imaginable, Adam and I took the tender ashore. We said hello to Rebecca Ridgeway on our way ashore and then met with her parents who invited us into their incredible house overlooking the Loch and their Adventure School. John and Marie have loved an incredible life of adventure and although now in their 80s, remain active and healthy. Their Bowman 57, English Rose VI, which they raced around the world in 78 and sailed around the Pacific in 2003, sits on its cradle on the loch shore. We drank tea and admired the view for a memorable hour in the company of such a revered couple of adventurers. The time went far too quickly but we couldn't depart before seeking John's approval to name a recently procured Army Adventurous Training ocean rowing boat after the vessel that he and Chey Blyth famously rowed the Atlantic in, in 1966. We could have stayed for hours but time and tide . . . .

Crew Reflections;

Sunday 20th June - Kirkwall to Loch Eriboll

Everyone had a late start to the morning, Gnr McGarrick and I made scrambled eggs with toast for breakfast. Soon after everyone did some maintenance and training on the engine and the sails. The number 1 Genoa was brought up and tied at the bow, ready to go. There wasn't enough oil during our engine checks so WO2 Adam Shorrock went out to get some and made sure we were topped up. Gnr Ella Spencer, Gnr Olivia McGarrick and I went out to do shopping which was a trolley full to last us for four days. We spent our last hour walking arounds and shopping on shore before getting admin squared away and ensuring everything was good to go. Hot Stew, mashed potatoes with cheese was prepped, packed and ready to have on the go by WO2 Adam Shorrock and the Skipper.

We left Kirkwall at 1800, through the rip in Burger Roost at 2030 which wasn't as bad as we expected it to be. It was calm before the rip and felt like we weren't moving at all, but St Barbara was actually going at 7 - 8 knots. The preventer was tied on just so that we were aware of the wind. We split the watch with Skipper, Spencer and WO2 Shorrock taking the first watch from 2100 to 0001. The wind dropped as we came on watch so Ed, the Mate, decided that Gnr McCarrick and I should take out a reef. We were on watch until 0300 and the other watch returned until 0600. At 0600 the weather was grey, the water was calm and everyone was up on deck to take in the stunning view of Loch Eriboll. WO2 Shorrock spotted a dwarf Minke whale when entering into Loch Eriboll , which had everyone's attention and was a delight to see, except for Ed who was in the heads. We anchored off a beach with an amazing view. Ed and Gnr McGarrick cooked a lovely breakfast special of bacon in rolls, then everyone got their heads down for an hour or two.

LOCH ERIBOLL to LOCH LAXFORD

Skipper was up in a hurry and with Ed's help pulled in the anchor as the tide was going out, the wind had starting to pick up and the boat was being pushed closer to the side. Then we made our way to Loch Laxford along the sea between two headlands. We found a cove with 5.4 metre depth and anchored for the night. Soon after, Gnr Spencer and I took note of the bearings of prominent features for our anchor watch. The Dingy was then brought out, pumped and ready for the Skipper's and WO2 Shorrocks' adventure to the boat house around the corner. While they were both out, our pesto pasta dinner was prepped by Gnr McGarrick and Gnr Spencer. As soon as they got back, the food was ready and everyone sat around to take in the lovely evening meal.

Monday 21 June - Loch Laxford - Stornoway, Lewis.

The morning started with breakfast on board St B, then myself and Neil took the tender ashore to visit one of the legends of Adventure - John Ridgeway and his wife Marie in their beautiful cottage overlooking the Loch. After a quick cup of tea we headed back and prepared to weigh ancor. We sailed through the Loch and across the North Minch to Stornoway in Lewis. The sea state was perfect, allowing us to make good time. During our crossing we encountered some dolphins and Minke Whales which boosted morale across the crew, then we where greeted by the sound of bagpipes and some friendly seals on arrival to the harbour.

Reflection

During this incredible 2 weeks I have been put through the 3 different zones (comfort, stretch panic), but mainly being in the stretch zone; this is where I learn the most. Personally I feel that my sailing has developed in all aspects, from being a competent crewman to shadowing the skipper and even plotting a course on the chart. As a crew we quickly realised that we had to work as a team on board as most of the tasks require 3 - 4 people. We have bonded well and morale has been high throughout.

Sailing is a sport that I wish to pursue and I am very keen to attend the Day Skippers' Course at the earliest opportunity. This will allow me to gain the experience required to progress up to to coastal skipper and eventually Yacht Master. WO2 Adam Shorrock

Tuesday 22 June - Stornoway Day Sail

After having a very calm night sleep in Stornaway we made a group decision to have a day sail south to Loch Eirsort. WO2 Adam Shorrock battling the wind while he helmed. We got the anchor down in a windy and wet cove and got some lunch on. We gained our energy back and set off back to Stornaway. Being greeted by seals as we arrived into port. While coming along side it was a very tricky task for the skipper as the wind had us at a very bad angle, trying to swing us adrift. But with his very seasoned helming skills we arrived safe and sound. We closed St.B down under very wet conditions, but the excitement for our next meal made us persevere.

Reflections

As our trip on St. B sadly comes to an end and being able to look back on the things we have learned, it has shown me how quick people can pick up things. Sailing is a skill, knowing when and when not to do something. When you wait for instruction and work off what you know. When to lead the crew and when to follow the crew. It functions on team work alone. No team work, no SOG (speed over ground). Science!

It's taught me a lot about the toll it takes on the body too. Gaining your sea legs, sleeping while at a 45 degree angle while being thrown about the place. Putting the kettle in when your near enough horizontal. But also staying sharp, still understanding the state of the sea and the St. B, to know what's going to happen a few minutes later. Being aware of every gust of wind and every wave that crashes into the bow. If I had to give any advise to myself before I came aboard the St.B. It would be to enjoy every moment, take in the spectacular scenery and always have the kettle on. The crew's morale is your morale.

Wednesday 23 June Stornoway to Ullapool

Wednesday was spent crossing the Minch to Ullapool. We set off at about 0930 and arrived at 1800. During the journey we had the pleasure of seeing lists of dolphins as well as jellyfish. On arrival we anchored onto a boy within the harbour.

Overall I am glad that I had the opportunity to experience sailing that I never would have done had I not been in the Army. The experience was tougher than I thought it would be however for the things you get to see it is worth it.

After the first day where I had a lot of trouble with sea sickness It made me nervous for the rest of the trip. At first I had no confidence doing anything on the boat but I feel like over time I have made a small improvement. For example when we first set off I couldn't go to the bow of the yacht when now I can.

Even though I don't feel that sailing is for me I would still recommend it to others. It is a fantastic opportunity and would be worth doing even if in the end you feel as though it isn't for you.

My overall experience has had ups and downs. Some days I've enjoyed it, others not so much. I feel as though it definitely pushed me out of my comfort zone in more ways than one and I am grateful for that. All in all it has been a good experience wether or not I'd do it again I'm in sure however I'm glad I have done it. Gunner Ella Spencer

Thursday 24 June

Coming on this two weeks AT sailing has been one of best choices I've ever made. This also has been the first ever AT I've been on, first ever opportunity to do sailing which I've never done before and to places I've never been to. It's not easy for someone who hasn't sailed before. The first few days were just taking in and understanding the terminologies. In this two weeks I was able to learn as much as I can about sailing and enjoyed every bit of it from seeing breathtaking lochs to seeing dolphins, a Minke whale and different types of birds. I now have a better understanding of what to expect or what to do when out on the next sailing exercise/adventure training. The bit I enjoyed on this two weeks was when we went into Kirkwall, had the opportunity to explore the place and not forgetting anchoring in Scampa flow for the night. I now have an interest in sailing, hope to get the chance to do more sailing and even get on a sailing course if possible. Gunner Alexander Kinivuai


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