RBC 21. Leg 7. 18th July - 24th July. Oban (Scottish Isles). 3RHA.
(Tim) Wordsworth - skipper
(Josh) Bates - mate
Day one - Sun 18 Jul 21.
Dunstaffnage Sound of Mull Lochaline. Lt R A Beeby RHA
Following a stunning drive north from Albemarle, the crew met Col (retd) Wordsworth at Dunstaffnage marina. After a period of maintenance, St Barbara, was looking in a fantastic state. It was the first time the majority of the crew had laid eyes on her; we felt privileged to be calling her home for the next week. After the mandatory briefings and orientation, the crew settled in and soon set off (1400).
We were pleasantly surprised to encounter a north westerly wind of 5-10 knots. This enabled new sailors to practice the foundations of sailing, and the very rusty ones to blow away those skill fade cobwebs too. After hoisting the main and headsail we soon started to tack our way through the entrance of the Sound of Mull before heading north into Lochaline Marina, arriving at 2030; supper was served shortly after. On the menu, Gyros served with smoked paprika sweet potato fries accompanied by Ribena.
Thought of the day: We have all been blown away by the beauty of the area already, and whilst writing this in a beautifully tranquil Lochaline Marina, we cannot wait to see what the rest of the week has in store. Oh and cooking on a tacking yacht is testing.
Quote of the day: 'Which Berthing are we?'; 'We are Alpha 85'; 'Are you sure that's not the road we just came off'; 'Good point, I stand corrected, it's Bravo 16.
Food review: Food was prepared and served by Head Chef Lt Beeby and Soux Chef Capt Harrison. LBdr Lally was only slightly reassured to find that Gyros is basically a Greek chicken kebab and happily managed to stomach seconds in the end. The spread was extensive, and the crew are looking forward to whatever Chicken Paprikash is. Bdr Striton,
An interesting afternoon, spent chasing wind I suspect it has set the tone for the rest of the week! Notwithstanding, some really good sail training in the end, with a very satisfying beat up the sound of Mull. Crew settled in and raring for more. Fingers crossed we don't spend too much time under the iron genoa.
Day two - Mon 19 Jul 21.
Lochaline Sound of Mull Isle of Rum - Canna
After a nearly wake up of 0700, and some rapid swapping in and out of timed showers for the gents, the crew departed Lochaline for an ambitious day to Canna. Some absolutely stunning scenery provided the backdrop as we came alongside into Tobermory for a crucial replen and some gift purchasing. Six cheese and pickle sandwiches and we departed for Canna, passing Muck, Eigg and Rum. Today's wildlife was also impressive, providing the first sightings of dolphins, as well as more seals and some puffins.
Thought of the day: Bring a pack of cards with you sailing. There are few opportunities these days to truly escape phone signal and resort back to the entertainment of the 'past'.
Quote of the day: J - "I'm the least musical person in the family, I can't play a thing but all of Katie's family have at least one instrument there are two pianos in the house!" A "Can you read music at least?" J "Why would I read music if I can't play any instruments?!"
Food review: Following a stellar performance as chef on day one, Lt Beeby was ably assisted this evening by young sous chef Capt Harrison. Accomplished in the arts of chopping vegetables and fetching things from the fridge, together they produced a chorizo and pesto pasta for dinner. Pronounced "bloody lovely" by most, and "inedible" by Mike "I'll have a sausage roll thanks" Larry, there's still a chance of a reshow tomorrow.
A great day's sailing! Apart from a couple of hours mid to late afternoon, we enjoyed fairly steady N/NW F3 winds. This allowed us to make good progress beating up Canna, with St B in her element, only resorting to engine for the last hour or so as the wind died off. Arrived to find all visitors' buoys taken and joined the dozen or so other boats sitting at anchor. Beware, the holding further in is not as good as nearer the entrance we dragged and had to relocate, having cleared a huge great clump of kelp from the hook!
Day three -Tue 20 Jul 21.
Canna Loch Scavaig Isle of Rum Mallaig
By Bdr A Striton.
Another early start of 0700 as we weighed anchor form the Isle of Canna and headed to Loch Scavaig, which has been said to be one of, 'the most remote and beautiful anchorage in Europe'. After anchoring in the shadows of the Cuillin Ridge the dingy was pumped up and deployed for a trip to shore. Lt Beeby and Bdr Stirton decide to take the more adventurous route and swam ashore. After a short walk the crew reached Loch Coruisk, an inland fresh-water loch, lying at the foot of the Black Cuillin in the Isle of Skye. It was a truly special setting for a wild bath and a few pictures. LBdr Lally decided to swim back to St Barbara and soon regretted the decision. After a quick spot of lunch, the sailing carried on (11 knots TWS) to the Isle of Rum where we anchored up in the vicinity of Kinloch for a quick brew. Finally, we headed to Mallaig, en-route there was a magnificent sighting of a rather large pod of dolphins playing in the evening sunshine - this undoubtably rounded up a splendid day of sailing and fantastic conditions.
Thought of the day:
Army Regimental banter never dies.
After we pulled into the very secluded Loch Scavaig we anchored next to a yacht that was home to two retired Cavalrymen (Lancers) and their wife's.
They were delighted to see the RAYC ensign and bantered:
'Do you know where you are?' 'The cavalry salutes you!'
Quote of the day:
'It takes longer to get warm than to stay warm'. Wise words from our skipper Col (retd) Wordsworth.
Once again, a magnificent evening meal of Chicken and Chickpea Paprikash served by Lt Beeby and his sous chef Capt Harrison. Bdr Stirton tried to help but later found out that her kitchen skills are no match for Lt Beeby's, when she noticed she was actually using the back of the knife to top and tail the green beans. Again, LBdr Lally did not fail to impress with his diet of sausage rolls and biscuits; a connoisseur of both he has become though. Bdr Stirton.
What a top day! I will not deny that a night in a crowded anchorage, in a stiff breeze with a faulty anchor alarm, is not something I am keen to repeat! Nor did it leave anyone in the best of moods at breakfast. However, the splendour that is the Western Isles did not take long to shake us out of our stupor. Two great anchorages and an afternoon of reaching in sunshine and stiff breezes, with the
backdrop of the Cuillin Ridge on Skye, is a life experience not oft to be repeated or taken lightly. Enough said. Oh, and we did some dinghy drills.
Day 4 - Wednesday 21st July 2021
Mallaig Arinagour, Isle of Coll
By LBdr Lally.
The crew began the morning with a well-earned later start from the late evening prior. We began our morning moored up in the magnificent port of Mallaig, the scenery was setting up for a spectacular day as we were greeted with the blistering heat and breath-taking views. However, after we slipped Mallaig we soon encountered sea fog and very little wind. With the engine on we started a watch system as we began our long-haul adventure to Arinagour, Isle of Coll. The visibility soon lifted, and the wind picked up a little. This gave us a window to conduct some sail lessons of which we soon put into practise, enhancing my knowledge as a potential comp crew member.
Thought of The Day:
After seeing a large Bee flying around the Yacht, 1 NM off the nearest land mass - I wonder what it's like to be a Bumble Bee.
Quote of The Day:
TW: Michael could you just look over your right shoulder See that, that's what happens when you spend more time on your phone rather than steering the boat. (See below picture).
Well, by this point there should be no surprise that our onboard 5* chef managed to once again cater for all fellow members onboard St Barbara with a superbly executed stir fry. The pork fillet had been in a marinade all day and was a delight. Helpful sous chefs (carrot cutters) LBdr Lally and Capt Harrison) produced some superb julienned carrots, and most significantly it managed to pass LBdr Lally's taste test! LBdr Lally.
Mallaig is a good 'stock-take' port, for most facilities mid cruise. We needed water (having somehow used a full main-tank's worth in 36 hours) and a boat hook from an excellent little chandlery set up to cater for fisherman (having broken the existing one, removing heavy kelp from the anchor in Canna beware, holding there is pretty poor the further you go into the loch. Best spot for a worry-free night's sleep is off the slipway closer to the entrance). Conversely, if conditions allow for a night in Coll (normally so relatively low-lying that it is exposed to pretty much any fresh breeze), Arinagour is a great jumping off spot for Staffa, the following day. Get there early if you want a visitor's buoy, if not anchor holding is excellent in sand/mud.
Day 5 and 6 - Thursday 22nd Friday 23rd Jul 21.
Arinagour, Isle of Coll Staffa (Fingal's Cave) Calgary Bay | Night Sail | Tobermory Dunstaffnage
By Lt R A Beeby.
Started the day in beautiful Arinagour. Woke up to light breeze that built to a 12 knots NE wind. Lt Beeby had his mandatory morning swim and then we had quick breakfast and began to prep St Barbara V; we were very eager to get away and begin a sail southward toward Fingal's cave. After a lesson on spinnaker sailing theory, we made up the necessary guy and sheet ropes and set off.
In our haste we did not notice that our port spinnaker sheet rope had disappeared beneath the hull. Inevitably this caught on the propeller and sheared the sheet. Back to anchor we went and back in the water Lt Beeby went to cut and clear the rope from the propeller.
Round two of our southwards sail to Fingal's Cave had begun. The wind held at around 8 knots and the spinnaker went up. St Barbara was looking glorious under the spinnaker. We were cruising nicely in the beautiful sunshine as crew were slapping on the sun cream. However, as we neared Staffa the wind dropped to 3 knots and the spinnaker had to come down. It was clear that Col (retd) Wordsworth's well taught spinnaker lessons had stuck as both the hoisting and bringing down of the sail went without issue.
We anchored at Fingal's Cave and had a very special hour at this geological wonder. The cave is made up of Basaltic columns that were once part of a thick basaltic lava flow around 60 million years ago. Once the lava had solidified, cooling on the upper and lower surfaces of the lava flow would have resulted in contraction and fracturing and surface cracking. As cooling continued these fractures would have extended perpendicular to the cooling surfaces and extended towards the centre of the flow. Wave erosion over millions of years would have exposed the cross section of columns we now see today. Similar features can be seen at the Giant's Causeway in Northern Island and were formed during the same volcanic activity. Fingal's Cave is an absolute must visit.
Having anchored near the cave it gave us the opportunity to mount and test the tender's outboard motor, it must be said that some were better at using this than others. The tender gave us the ability to motor right into the cave whilst having a geology lesson from Lt Beeby. Once back onboard we had an impromptu diving competition, again it must be said that some were better at this than others.
We set off under the Genoa no.1 under 9 knots of wind to Calgary Bay next. On the way we practiced man overboard drills and was passed by the glorious tall ship Tenacious of the Jubilee Sailing Trust in Southampton. We soon found 14 knots of true wind speed to make a very nice late afternoon sail; tacking nicely to Calgary bay early evening. After a couple of hours enjoying this beautiful bay and looking over its white sandy beach you could have mistaken that we were in the Caribbean.
At 2100 we set sail again northward to Tobermory via Coll. We were to sail through the night and set up a 3-hour watch system. The first watch finished at 0000 and reported very light conditions. The second watch fared better, enjoying irregular wind speeds of 7-14 knots. At one stage a 14.2 knot NE wind enabled a cruising speed of 7.5 knots (SOG). This was the top speed for the week. St Barbara was moving beautifully through the still night. However, those below deck were not moving so gracefully as they slipped around their bunks on every tack.
Just before we reached the next shift change at 0300, we hit a deep spot of no wind just west of Ardnamurchan Lighthouse/Point. This was extremely disappointing, especially after a previous fantastic watch. The wind dropped from 14 knots to 1 knot within seconds. With the sails let out we tried to capture what wind we could but to no avail: headsail down, engine on. After pushing through the dead wind zone, we soon found 13 knots again were in a good position to continue all the way to Tobermory without a tack manoeuvre.
After a quick stop off for showers and a carb replenish to see us through the day, we slipped away with bacon sandwiches in hand St Barbara continued down the sound of Mull. There were fabulous winds of up to 17 knots and St Barbara was tacking in them perfectly. An absolutely beautiful mornings sail.
After one further watch change at 1100 the wind died off. The head was sail brought down and the engine was put on. As we broke out of the Sound of Mull, we conducted some triangular manoeuvre drills around three buoys in the Firth of Lorn just off Lismore Lighthouse. This was a great opportunity to practice points of sail with relation to the variable wind acting upon St Barbara. We also went over theory on Mayday, pan-pan, wind awareness and sailing manoeuvres.
We finished the day with broad reach wind and pottered slowly back to Dunstaffnage for some close-down admin and a well-earned refreshment. What a superb 48 hours!
Thought of the day:
Is this the hottest Scotland has ever and will ever be?
Quote of the day:
- 1.JH: Would you rather a Cornish Pasty or a Pizza. ML: Neither. JH: But if there was a gun to your head. ML: I'll take the bullet.
JB: I've had so much pizza. It's just the best
- 2.*When jumping into the water off Final's Cave there were a few small jellyfish.
RB: A jellyfish sting is temporary but a picture of you jumping in will last forever.
Thursday 22nd July. With stores depleted of the finest ingredients and a night sail ahead of us it was decided that quantity over quality was the order of the evening. Cue 24 eggs, 21 rashers of bacon and a cauldron of beans. Six crew fuelled and ready to go. Task achieved .Lt Beeby.
Friday 23rd July. Fish and Chips eaten around the St Barbara's cockpit. The long 48 hours and the scenery around Dunstaffnage Marina multiplied how good this was. Splendid. Lt Beeby.
If conditions allow, anchoring off Fingal's Cave is a 'must'. It is quite earie to drop the hook so close to sheer sided cliffs and explore such an amazing feature. Holding is good but must use a tripping buoy the ground is very rocky. Calgary bay is completely the opposite. A great beach, easy holding and an ideal place to spend a couple of hours having supper before heading off for an overnighter back to Dunstaffnage. Bearing in mind it is not truly dark until gone 2300 at this time of year, we had a superb sail, with some good lights and other vessel activity (mainly ferries, it has to be admitted) for the Comp Crews to learn from. A 2100hrs start with 3-hour watches splits the night hours well enough. A trip that way around Mull also offers some interesting passage planning and tidal calculations for Day and Costal Skippers to wrestle with the over-falls at Lady's Rock are not to be underestimated! Finally, just south of Lismore is a great area (with suitable buoys) for the conduct of triangular sailing, wind awareness sailing. All in all, an outstanding final passage which marked the end to a superb week!
(missing upload 905927) Sailing under moonlight during the night sail.
Day 7 - Saturday 24th Jul 21.
Clean down and HOTO to 32 Regt RA at Dunstaffnage Marina.
In summary, we have visited 4 Marinas (Dunstaffnage, Lochaline, Tobermory, Mallaig) and made 6 anchorages (Canna, Loch Scavaig, Rum, Arinagour, Staffa, Calgary Bay).
Although not strong winds, the occasional F4, flat seas and incredible weather made for some superb sailing. Most memorable of all though is the scenery we had the pleasure of sailing amongst. From the imposing Cullin, Ridge, to unique caves, to the picture postcode Tobermory and isolated anchorages like Canna and Calgary Bay, we saw some of the most beautiful places this find island has to offer. It was a privilege to be able to experience from the water. The crew never stopped smiling and the bug of sailing is firmly set within the two young newly qualified Comp Crew.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank our skipper Col (retd) Tim Wordsworth for taking the time to join us and his superb instructing we felt lucky to have him. I would also like to thank our mate Capt Josh Bate for the additional guidance throughout. The crew left in a very good place having them both in charge of St Barbara for our Leg.
Additionally I would like to express my thanks to the RAYC for organising such a fantastic, well organised expedition, and the ATG for their support of it. In particular I'd like to thank Captain Bate, Captain Bird and WO2 (BSM) Nothard, their guidance and evident hard work ensured my leg and, i'm certain, others ran smoothly. I can appreciate the time and hard work many others have put into such an expedition and so I sincerely thank all involved. I can wholeheartedly speak on behalf of my crew when I say we had a superb experience, on a very special yacht in St Barbara V.
From my following, and personal experience, the RAYC Round Britain Challenge 2021 has been a great success and has enabled junior soldiers to experience one of the best forms of Adventure Training available. There will inevitably be a legacy left by such a wonderful event and the future of Gunner Sailing looks bright as a direct result of this expedition.
Lt R A Beeby RHA
3 RHA GPO