How do you write a narrative of a three week sail? How do you describe the planning, formation of a crew, delivery of a yacht to the cruising ground, exploration of new territory, sharing the experience of expanding comfort zones and bringing the yacht and crew home safely?
I suppose you start with the planning, how you realise the importance of the tides to carry the boat from port to port, how the time to depart from Pwllheli and be at Bardsey for low tide is important to carry up to Holyhead, how after Holyhead the tide does not hinder or help until Chicken Point is reached and then the inland tide carries up to Peel for the right time of the lock gates opening and then how much sleep you get before dining at The Creek before departing.
Then there is how far you can travel with each tide before the boat almost goes backwards and turns a six hour sail into twelve.
A crew of two is by any means shorthanded for a week’s sail from Pwllheli to Oban but that's what we did. Myself and Caroline. Me, owner of a Bavaria 33 Cruiser purchased in May and Caroline, a valued friend and sailing partner of some three years.
Pwllheli to Peel. Twenty two hours starting at 4pm on 20th July this year, overnight and arriving before mid-day two hours before the lock opens, the hardest stretch over, during the night two hours on and two hours off, thankfully now having autopilot, something we did not have on our Channel Island trip. A quick shower, sea bass in the Creek and bed till am.
From Peel to Bangor, leaving at 3.15am - why is the best time to leave at night? A pleasant sail passed Copeland Island where I lost my favourite lure to some aggressive fish, where, from the mid sail we could see England, Ilse of Man, Scotland and Ireland. Shall we go into the marina or anchor in Ballyhome Bay? We needed fuel so it was the marina.
And from Bangor, leaving again at early morning to catch the tide through the North Channel to Rathlin Island.
Now that was a sail! North past East Maiden then north west passed the high rugged cliffs of Fair Head, over 10 knots with a following wind, myself at times of rest pinned in my bed by slipped dunnage from a port tack and Caroline on the weather side with a broad smile shouting "Yahoo" as if she were on a bucking bronco.
Rathlin Island, arriving at 10.30am keeping Drake to port, glad that this one was entered in the light given the over falls and tidal streams. After warping round to give shelter from the wind a thankful couple of hours sleep before lunch at the bar followed by a couple of Guinness and a thrashing at pool, a misspent youth for the crew.
Another night time departure. 2.30am, out passed the upside down West lighthouse before the TSS, glad to be out of the confused water of Rathlin Sound. Up and on into the Sound of Jura past Islay to Craighouse, mooring to one of the numerous buoys near the distillery and another sleep before cooking a meal and watching yachts trying to moor under just sail, failing after several attempts.
The last leg now. Up the Jura coast in perfect sailing conditions, helping the auto pilot by using the mainsheet, passed the house Barnhill where George Orwell wrote 1984 and resisting entering the Gulf of Corryveckan, seeing the great mushroom shaped over falls before entering The Sound of Luing.
Nearly there, just some pilotage to do west of Luing, into the Sound of Insh and on to Kerrera, taking the Kerrera Sound to Oban, the yacht then positioned to explore Tobermory, the Sound of Mull, Loch Sunart and up to Fort William.
Monday afternoon to Saturday midday without hurrying, some of the most beautiful sailing I've ever had. We all know that sailing can be hours of relaxation interrupted by hectic action, that we become ultra-alive and watchful during a night sail into a strange port or anchorage and that if we have fun responsibly the rewards of experiences and sights we see are without equal. The above is just a fraction that could be written of the pleasures of such a sail.
Next year I hope to do it again and if the weather is right see Fingal's Cave but in company - who is up for it?