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Late August 2008 - Plockton, Tobermory and Loch Moidart

After our time in Loch Torridon we headed south to Plockton. We had a pleasant sail down the sound between Rasaay and Applecross where we only used the engine for a Dolphins at the Skye bridgefraction of the journey. While in Plockton as well as getting the laundry done we had a day trip on the train to Inverness. The Kyle of Lochalsh branch from Inverness is very scenic along the shores of Loch Carron, and also runs through a very sparsely populated region around Garve. Hopefully, we get more time in Inverness next year as we pass through the Caledonian Canal on our way to Orkney and Shetland. One thing we are particularly looking forward to is to have some quality time in the second hand bookshop in Church Street. It is huge and we just could not do it justice as well as briefly looking around the rest of the town.

From Plockton we continued south to Arisaig. As we neared the Skye Bridge we encountered a pod of bottlenose dolphin. We had been watching them for a few minutes when another group approached from under the bridge. There was much splashing and swimming in circles as if they were corralling fish. They were not at all interested in playing with us but were a real Dolphins at the Skye bridgetreat to watch. Then all of a sudden they were gone. Unfortunately it was rather a gloomy day so most of the photographs were disappointing.

While tied up to the Kyle of Lochalsh pontoon we got talking to a Norwegian couple we had spotted earlier in Torridon and Shieldaig. They were also heading south and we both ended up at Arisaig that night.On their way to take Delphi (their Jack Russell) ashore for a walk they passed close by and invited us over. Tore and Solfrid with their daughter Kaia and their trustee dog, BlackFive 62005 Lord of the IslesDelphi sail in Havhest (Norwegian for Fulmar) and were on their way around the UK and hope to be back in Oslo by mid November (see Tore and Solfrid write for Norwegian yachting magazines and also have a book published. They were very interested in our experience of places to visit on their way round.

During our time in Arisaig, we walked up to the station to see The Jacobite go through hauled by K1 class 62005 'Lord of the Isles'. One of our railway friends sometimes is part of the North Eastern Locomotive Preservation Group support crew but Pete was not on the loco that day. The steam train runs a daily service in the summer on the scenic line between Fort William and Mallaig and has done since reintroduction in 1984, it is very popular and there was hardly a seat free in the seven coaches.

The weather in late August was a real mixed bag and to avoid some strong westerly winds we headed south again back around Ardnamurchan and into Loch Drumbuie (between Tobermory and Loch Sunart) - the dark dot right of centre of the photo below is Innisfree at anchor in Loch Drumbuie just to the south of the island of Oronsay. The loch is beautifully sheltered with a narrow entrance that eliminates all the Atlantic swell, and has suitable anchorages for any wind direction.

Inevitably, once the weather really got bad, we ended up in Tobermory for several days. Our lasting memory of Tobermory is of rain, drizzle and grey skies because we have spent so many wet days there hiding from the weather. Since our last visit the new harbour building had opened with showers, a laundry and an excellent Sealife Shop (Sealife offer tourists boat trips to see whales, dolphins and other marine life). The shop also has a WiFi connection at a reasonable price. The facility has certainly improved Tobermory for yachties - we used to have to walk to the opposite end of the harbour for showers at the youth hostel.

The resident otter (left) was much in evidence. The steps on the fuel berth make it easy for the otter to climb up onto the pontoon with its catch, where it munches away oblivious to the yachties with cameras. Only interested dogs will make it quickly dive back into the water. Havhest was also in Tobermory during our stay and we spent a profitable evening with Tore and Solfrid discussing good places to go in Norway. To do the west coast of Norway full justice would take several seasons, so we need to do some more research before we go, but currently the plan is to head that way for the 2010 season.

Tobermory is a lovely town, but it can get quite noisy on the pontoons, so once the weather calmed down, we scuttled over to Loch Sunart to enjoy a few peaceful nights at anchor. However the tidal streams in the loch pulling on the boat forced the anchor to be well dug in, so that it was stuck fast when it came time to raise it. The usual technique is to motor over the anchor and so break it free. This did the trick, but it was incredibly heavy and could not be hauled up. It had collected a huge ball of weed that trailed the length of the boat. The weed was firmly wrapped around the anchor and comprised long tendrils with thick stalks that would not shake loose. After much hacking at it with boat hooks we eventually freed the anchor, but had some anxious moments as we had to still keep the boat safe while drifting.

Judith had long wanted to visit Loch Moidart. So in the last week of August we headed back northwards around Ardnamurchan, worked our way past the rocks at the entrance to the loch, and on to the anchorage just beyond Castle Tioram (right). The ruined castle is in a strategic location on a tidal island guarding the approaches to upper Loch Moidart and Loch Shiel. It was the seat of the MacDonalds of Clanranald but was destroyed by their chief in 1715 to prevent it falling into Hanoverian hands while he was away fighting the Jacobites. The river anchorage was very sheltered being surrounded by steep slopes of native woodland, (see more pictures), so kept out the wind but unfortunately not the rain. From the castle there is a very pretty footpath that winds its way through the trees around the headland. Here there was a fascinating selection of fungi adjacent to the path (see below). Typically we had got half way around when the heavens opened, and despite our waterproofs we were wet through by the time we got back to the boat an hour later.

Our Summer is nearing its end and we are conscious that we need to head back towards Oban to prepare for hauling out for the winter. So the aim for the next couple of weeks is to head in that direction with perhaps some diversions if the weather is suitable..