May 2018 - Loch Melfort Launch, Tobermory, Gometra, Lunga
An early start this year with the aim of being afloat for our 25th wedding anniversary. All went according to plan with the week of prelaunch jobs, though we were glad of the extra days so could avoid working in the rain. Typically the two days following launch were wet and windy so we stayed in Loch Melfort until the last day of our cottage rental. Then with light southerly winds it was a motor all the way to our favourite anchorage of Dumbuie at the north end of the Sound of Mull. With more light winds forecast for the next few days we decided to hop across to Tobermory for some walking.
The bus journey from Tobermory to Calgary on the northwest corner of Mull is brilliant value for money. It is only 12 miles, but takes 45 minutes as the bus negotiates the steep twisting single track road, frequently pulling into the passing places for cars coming the other way or to let them pass. The views are stunning with a new vista around every corner. The walk from Calgary around the coast to Calnish point is equally stunning with views out to the Treshnish Isles, across to Coll and north to the Small Isles and Skye. The weather held fair until after lunch when the drizzle set in as we returned to the cafe at Calgary. This is set is a small wood filled with interesting and varied sculpture. The above is the statue of a lady made from fishing net washed onto the beach, she stands on a promontory looking out towards the beach, the sea and the drizzle.
Our anniversary it was wet so we had a lazy day on board, just venturing out to the fish shop for fresh scallops and local smoked bacon to be washed down with champagne for dinner. The sun came out for the next few day, but the winds were still light. We managed to sail part of the way around to Gometra from Tobermory when the wind was on the beam, but on turning south our speed dropped to less than 1 knot so gave up and went back to motoring. The anchorage between Ulva and Gometra (below) was a very pleasant place for the night, but with the wind turning southerly the next morning we could not linger.
A short hop west from Gometra are the Treshnish Isles. This is the best place on the west coast for puffins. We have been before but never with Innisfree. There were two tourist boats, a rib and another yacht in the anchorage, but there was plenty of room even if it was rather rolly. Landing the dingy on the boulders was awkward but we got ashore dry.
Just up from the shore a small plateau opens up (left), the puffins nest on the edge and the humans sit on the grass and watch. The birds seem unafraid and curious, popping out of their burrows to watch us watching them from a distance of less than 2 meters. It is very hard to leave that spot but the rest of the island is just as enticing. At this time of year it is covered in primroses, bluebells and cellandines, and there are birds everywhere. The Shag and Razorbills nest amongst the boulders with one parent standing sentinel a short distance from the entrance. No large telephoto lenses are needed to get fantastically detailed pictures, we each had a small "point and shoot" camera and took over 200 pictures in the time we were ashore, far too many for this page and selecting those for "More Pictures" was difficult.
After a night in Loch Cuan it was back to Tobermory as strong winds followed by lots of rain was forecast for the next few days. Unusually the wind was accompanied by sunshine rather than the usual rain, so we decided it was a good day for a cycle ride. Our Brompton folding bicycles had completely flat tyres - not surprising as they were not used at all last year, but other than that they were good to go after getting out the pump. So we caught the ferry across to Ardnamurchan the following morning and headed west to the light house.
The route is another single track road but even twistier than that to Calgary and thankfully with hardly any traffic. The peninsular is wild barren looking place at this time of year when the heather is brown and before the bracken has grown up. There are a couple of farms along the way, but otherwise it is just open country and rocky hills (see below).
After nearly 8 miles the welcome site of the Keepers cottages appear followed by the imposing Stevenson lighthouse. First stop was the cafe for a well earned coffee and cake. Then a walk around the exhibition, of which the most interesting to us was the old machinery used to compress air for the decommissioned fog horn. As well as a compressor room and air tanks behind the lighthouse, this also included some sort of clockwork/chain-driven mechanism in the room below the fog horn itself. Unfortunately this was unsafe so we could not examine it too closely.
The return journey was harder work as it was against the wind and it was obvious that cycling uses different muscles to walking as they were protesting by the time we got back the the ferry slip (below). We are so lucky to have lots of time so do not feel we have to use every day for sailing. It was a glorious day for a cycle ride, and would probably been rather too exciting for sailing. Then followed two days of almost continual rain which we could spend reading in the cabin watching other boats come an go with soaking crew trying to look as if they were enjoying themselves.