Late July 2013, Mull and surrounding area
The plan had been to sail south from Oban and visit Luing, Jura and surrounding area, but once again the weather was against us with was no wind and far too hot. The lack of wind meant that we would have to motor to get anywhere, and any walks we did would be midge infested. At least the midges do not venture over water, so lying at anchor and sitting in the shady cockpit with a good book and a beautiful view seemed an attractive prospect, and from Oban you do not need to go far to find such a haven.
A couple of hours chugging brought us to Loch Aline. In the last few years the local development trust have installed a few pontoons. On previous visits it was just pontoons, but this year they have erected a posh new facilities block. We happened to arrive the day before the grand opening ceremony, which appeared to be the event of the summer. The Tobermory lifeboat arrived tied up to the pontoons, offering guided tours down below. A classic (1930's?) motor launch turned up fully dressed with flags to add to the spectacle. The facilities block was also dressed in bunting, while a local Ceilidh band enlivened the atmosphere, further enhanced by a barbecue and temporary bar. (see More Pictures). Early afternoon saw the annual raft race, where the entrants were of very different caliber. The winners (left) had a sturdy tub and several strong rowers, but the losers had such a wobbly raft that any movement by the rowers and it immediately capsized. But this all added to the hilarity.
To accompany the event, the local church put on an exhibition about St. Columba. Legend has it that the church was established by St Columba who was walking through the Morvern hills on the way to Lismore, spotting the site overlooking the Sound of Mull he decided to build the church. The original church is long gone, with the current building dates from the 19th century. The exhibition was not very exciting, but what we did not know before we got there was one of the out buildings housed a collection of finely carved medieval grave slabs decorated with swords, warriors and robed churchmen (right and More Pictures).
From Loch Aline it was a short motor to Drumbuie at the northern end of the Sound of Mull. Here we sat for four days listening to the second Ashes Test Match (the result was an England landslide victory). It is a popular anchorage, and we counted 15 other boats one evening. But it is plenty big enough for twice that number. It is not just yachts, there were also some intrepid kayakers camping on the shore who we got chatting to as they paddled around the anchorage. They were having a terrible time, with the camp site plagued by swarms of midges and ticks. It made us very glad to be on the water.
Once the cricket was over we hopped across to Tobermory on Mull for some civilization - Showers, Shops and Fish & Chips! At last the weather broke and we had some heavy downpours, reducing the temperature and tempting us out for a walk. Below are some of the "friends" we met on our rambles.
The most memorable walk was from Calgary on the North Western corner of Mull. Calgary is an hours bus ride from Tobermory. This sounds a long way, but it is in fact just 12 miles. But it is mostly single track roads with many steep hills, so the time is taken up with waiting in passing places, and crawling around sharp hairpin bends. It is great to watch the unfolding panoramic view, and to be thankful we are in the bus and not meeting it coming around the corner.
Calgary has a large white sandy beach so is a popular spot on a sunny day, with people young and old sun bathing on the sands and swimming in the clear turquoise water. Neither of these activities is our cup of tea, instead we went for our usual walk. This started from the car park, opposite which as a delightful shed (left) with an upturned boat for a roof, and the walls curved to accommodate the shape of the hull. The walk traversed the coastline on a raised beach with ever changing views of the outlying islands, starting with the Treshnish Isles to the south (see More Pictures), then Tiree and Coll to the east, and finally the Small Isles and Skye to the north (see below). Fantastic. Returning to Calgary we found a "Art in Nature" trail through the woods beside the road. Here was a modern stone circle, fish and shells carved from wood, a willow sculpture of a stag, and rack paintings to name a few. The trail led to the wood carvers workshop and (even better) a tea shop which was most welcome at the end of a hot day. Then to end a wonderful day we found a rope swing (right) next to the bus stop where, with no one watching, we could forget we were in our 40's and enjoy the wind in our faces as we swung back and forth across a stream.
All too soon the end of our season arrived, just in time for the weather to change from hot and sunny to amore usual showery mix. Another motor brought us to the MRC moorings in Loch Creran by late afternoon as the rain cleared. With heavy rain forecast for the following day we got the sails dry, off and bagged up, and the mast electrics disconnected before dinner. The next job was to withdraw the log and replace with a bung to protect it from damage during the lift. This is rather a stressful job as the sea water gushes in when the log is removed, meaning you have to be quick. This time for some reason the bung did not seal, and a steady stream of water kept flowing in. There is not much time to think when this is happening, all we could do was reverse the process, and replace the log. Thankfully it sealed, but it took a long time for our heart rates to return to normal, and neither of us slept well that night. The rain arrived next day, but thankfully it had cleared by the time of our lift out the day after. It hammered it down for well over an hour (see More Pictures, and http://youtu.be/ZOx9oRS_gJ8 ), and the MRC staff said it had raised the water level of the loch by about 1m! The day of the lift out arrived, and with the usual lack of fuss the staff at MRC had Innisfree out of the water, mast removed and in the shed by early afternoon.
We have been asked to give a report on the performance of our new vertical axis turbine. The answer is that we do not know how well it has performed. Originally we had it wired through an old controller previously used for the solar panels, but with the batteries charged from motoring or marina electric it didn't need to load up the turbine. We therefore rewired it direct to the house batteries. It then turned/operated as expected, when there was a decent breeze, but we have no idea what power output it created. A job before next season is to fit an ammeter so we can see what it is doing.