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April 2008 - Oban, Puilladobhrain, Ardinamir, then south to Islay

New Riding SailNew Whisker PoleThis month has been very frustrating because we spent much of the time waiting for the new whisker pole to be delivered and fitted, during which time there was excellent sailing weather. (For those non-sailing folk, a whisker pole is used to hold out the head sail when running before the wind - see right - It helps to keep the sail filled when the boat rolls on the waves, and stops it flogging. It is very similar to a spinnaker pole, but is usually stronger). The fitting of the pole was fairly quick because there was already a suitable track fitted to the front of our mast. However, this was slightly too short to use for storing the pole as delivered, so the fitter simply cut 10" off the pole and riveted the end back in place - job done. With our small head sails the shortened pole is plenty long enough but it does rather add to the collection of string!.

During the waiting period the weather was so nice that we sailed down to Puilladobhrain for three nights at anchor. Here we could try our our other winter acquisition - a riding sail (see above left). This is used to help the boat stay pointing into the wind while at anchor, a bit like a weather vane. It reduces the amount that the boat shears back and forth in strong winds, so reducing the shock loads on the anchor/anchor chain, and hence provide a more restful nights sleep.

Looking south west to Puilladobhrain anchorage

During the lovely sunny clear days we went walking. The picture above was taken on one such walk from the Puilladobhrain anchorage. Innisfree is the left most black dot; the one below the "Puilladobhrain" black line. Below is a picture taken from a walk around Kerrera when we were staying at Oban marina, and shows Ben Cruachan and a very obliging Highland Cow. The snow on the mountain tops stayed right up until the end of April as it was quite cool despite the sunny weather. The cold has caused us a few problems with our butane gas which we use for cooking. When the bottle is cold the evaporation rate of the gas from the liquid in the bottle isn't too good - it is not strong enough to do the toast in the morning! We've never had this problem before and on asking around we have learned that cooler climate boats use propane instead which does not suffer this issue. Roll on the warmer weather! One of the upsides of being in a marina for most of the month means that we have been able to use an electric kettle (and our fan heater too....)

Ben Cruachan

Reflections in Ardinamir BayTypically as soon as the pole had been fitted, the weather worsened and we watched the rain and wind from the safety of Oban Marina. This summer they have a very friendly Canadian couple operating the shuttle service between the marina on Kerrera and Oban itself. They invited us over to dinner one evening, at the "log cabin" which the marina use for staff accommodation. This is an interesting house with wooden walls and a grass roof which looks like it needs to be mown by a sheep! We'll return the complement when the gas warms up enough to run more than one cooker ring.

Silly hatsWhen the weather improved it turned into a flat calm. We motored south through Cuan Sound to Ardinamir Bay which is in the north east corner of Luing. It is a lovely spot especially in a calm because the reflections are perfect (see right). Last year we walked mainly around the southern half of the island, so the north beckoned. Here there is lots of evidence of old slate mining works, and we had a fun time looking for fools gold (Iron Pyrites) which is present in the slate in cubes up to ¼" in size, aligned on the diagonal to the slate slices so they stick out and glitter in the sun.

Finally the wind returned so we set off southwards to Islay with an overnight stop at anchor in Jura. It was a northerly wind so very cold giving the opportunity for pictures of the silly hats Judith had bought in a sale in Oban. (Tim took the photo at arms length while the autopilot was on).

We are now in Port Ellen on the south coast of Islay waiting for a suitable weather and tide window to go either to Rathlin Island or round the Mull of Kintyre and into the Clyde.