Friday, 17 June 2016

Gigha on the West Coast

Utterly lovely video of my old friend Scott and his son on their yacht Gigha. She's a couple of years younger than my Stroma.

The footage towards the end reminds me of sailing over the same waters in Stroma, in similar conditions, in the Summer of 1977, tramping along in a good breeze with no worries, knowing that these old ladies know the coast better than we will ever do and will always look after their custodians.

It's great that another generation is coming through to experience the truly civilised behaviour of a properly engineered, if unengined, little ship.

Watch the video here:


The Raeburns on Gigha

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Islanders again


There's a simplicity and serenity about a Scottish Islander that you just don't get with a modern yacht. 

Canna is back afloat after a spectacular restoration by Adam Way and I'm incredibly envious of the great grandsons of her first owner, who form her new crew.

It's forty years since Stroma came into my life and she's still sitting on the hard at Cairnbaan, in the care of the aforesaid Adam, waiting for a new custodian.


Friday, 27 May 2016

Monday, 16 May 2016

Sunday, 15 May 2016

Return from Luing

Political mooring post
For the fourteenth year the muster people duly assembled for a weekend of serious sailing, eating and culture. It's not every small island that can host a proper ceilidh with turns that included a Telemann flute concerto, but Luing is special that way.


This year the sun shone and a steady wind blew, ideal conditions for the fleet of little boats to reach South down to one of our favourite bays a mile or so North of the Dorus Mor. On the yellow Kelpie I shipped along an illustrious crew, the guru from Bernisdale himself handling the jib, Judie and Phoenix on the bailers. After lunch the wind freshened and we had a fast circumnavigation of Shuna back to base, to unwind a bit before the festivities. Sunday was more of the same, with Clare and Tina working the ship, a picnic on Eilean Gamhna and a really hard beat back home, as the weather was returning to the usual West coast pattern. As usual the weekend finished with some intellectual stimulation in the form of diverse lectures on coracle building, open boat sailing, chaos theory and such like topics.

The change in the weather had been predicted, so the ship was left ashore and recovered on the Friday. Buses are few in Argyll, but friendly neighbours aplenty. There was a funeral at Kilbrandon and our kindly minister gave me a lift to the graveyard, from where it was only half an hour's brisk walk to the ferry. (The old kirk contains some of the finest stained glass windows in Scotland, by the wonderful Douglas Strachan.)

Kilbrandon Kirk on a sunny morning
The wee ferry at Cuan

It didn't take a lot to persuade Richard Pierce to join me for the sail across and the voyage back. It was the best sail of the year so far, sparkling seas and a steady wind giving us a reach across. A couple of hours later the wind had veered a bit and Richard had another reach back, covering the seven miles in about an hour and a quarter in his flying machine.

Reaching down Shuna Sound

Past Degnish Point

Home, at rest

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Return to the Sea (and blogging)


The last couple of years have been extremely busy for me, as I have been involved in establishing a fine art gallery in Glasgow, see www.leiperfineart.com As a result I've hardly been sailing and have had little time for blogging.

Both of my yachts, Stroma and Juni, are for sail, through www.woodenships.co.uk , which doesn't mean the end of yachting for me, but a change of course. It's forty years since I became the guardian of Stroma and I no longer have the strength or the nerve to get the most out of her. Juni is an absolute delight, a mahogany gem on the water. Now that she's restored to a reasonable condition I feel that I have done my duty by her and hope that she'll find her way to a peaceful mooring at the foot of someone's garden in a nice part of the World.

The old adage was a foot (waterline) for each year of age, but that probably always was complete rubbish and certainly is now in our austere age when virtually nobody sails with a paid crew. In my view it makes good sense to reduce the size of the boat to keep it manageable.  I marvel at the faith of elderly folk in the use of hydraulics to weigh anchor and electric winches to get in massive genoas. I'd far rather sacrifice a little comfort and speed by keeping the ship small enough to work safely without such things and mainly single-handed, as most of my sailing is destined to be solitary.

I've been checking out Francois Vivier's Beniguet , which looks just about right for the purpose. Any comments would be appreciated.

Meanwhile Scottish Coastal Rowing continues to spread. I've mainly been rowing with the Isle of Seil's Selkie but I'm now getting involved in the new Glasgow Coastal Rowing Club, which currently hasn't a website, but can be found on Facebook.

And the lovely historic Isle of Luing continues to exert its pull. Last weekend a couple of dozen small skiffs, wherries and similar classic shapes were to be seen thrashing about in a stiff breeze in the wonderful stretch of water North of Crinan. the photograph at the top of this post shows my Kelpie charging along on a reach with self at the helm, Iain Oughtred forward and Judy and Phoenix bailing, the old Ensign of Scotland on the sail and the Toberonochy Dolphin flying at the stern.

photo courtesy of Mark Robertson

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Pendana's Cruise, Part Two




On arrival at Whitehaven Beach we were amazed at not only its length but also its shinning white sand.

Whitehaven Beach runs a staggering four nautical miles and draws tourists and boaters like bees to honey.

That being said, at three plus nautical miles in length there is plenty of room for everyone and everyone can have their own little piece of paradise for the day, week, month or year!

Whitehaven Beach claims to have the whitest sands of any beach in the world and while a claim that is held to be true I am not sure that there aren’t many more beaches in the world with white sand (the very beautiful Hyams Beach on the south coast of New South Wales with its pristine white sand springs easily to mind, for example), after-all surely white is white? In fact, the sand at Whitehaven is not really sand but rather silica (quartz sand). Silica doesn’t retain heat which makes walking on it a pleasurable experience.

It is thought the incredibly fine silica sand on Whitehaven was brought to the beach via prevailing currents over millions of years as there is no silica present in any rocks which surround it.

Bianca and Abi on Whitehaven beach!

During our time in the Whitsundays we decided to take on some fuel in preparation for our return trip. I can attest that Shute Harbour has the cheapest fuel on the Whitsundays being almost $1.00 per gallon / 26 cents per litre cheaper than the rather pricey Abel Point Marina.

After plenty of relaxing at anchor we decided to move once more and head for a place called Nara Inlet.

Nara Inlet is described as being like the Fiords in Norway and while I see some resemblance we were missing the snow-capped mountains. Nara Inlet on Hook Island in the Whitsundays boasts some very old Aboriginal cave paintings.

In the steep wooded hills around the inlet there are a number of 'caves', really rock overhangs, which show signs of Aboriginal habitation going back some eight thousand years and in one of these at the northern end of the inlet there are Aboriginal paintings. While there are locals who say these were painted as a hoax by early tourist operators, experts from the National Parks and Wildlife Service and the Office of Heritage and the Arts are satisfied they are genuine, though it is possible some touching-up has been done. In 1987 the National Parks and Wildlife Service erected a fence and boardwalk to protect this particular cave and the paintings as much from the local goat population as well as human interference.

Once anchored safely in Nara Inlet we decided that it was time to tender to the site where these cave painting were. As we motored towards the small beach which led to the caves we were in awe of the scenery we saw along the way, truly beautiful.

Once at the beach we secured our tender and headed up towards the steps which led to the cave. Once we had climbed the 44 million steps (well, that is what it felt like!) the art was very impressive and made the journey well worth it. With story boards and audio telling the story of the Ngaro people from long ago, we all felt as if we had stepped back in time.

Truly amazed at how well preserved the art was.

The rock formations were extraordinary
With time ever marching on we decided to head for Hamilton Island. Hamilton Island is a truly remarkable place and as Pendana arrived at Dent Passage and turned to Port to line up with the entrance markers of the marina we were through the entrance and tied up on the end of “D” arm in what seemed like seconds. Orange juice and fresh coffee on the brew and helloooo Hamilton Island!!!



Link above is a 360 degree of Pendana at Hamilton Island Marina.

Pendana heading south towards Hamilton Island early in the morning.


After relaxing a little it was time to collect our electric buggy that we had leased for our stay. Basically, all of Hamilton Island is car free and other than the odd bus ferrying tourists around and/or council vehicles, the only other mode of transport is by foot or golf buggy and while I thought of these two alternatives seriously (for about a millisecond) I decided the buggy would be best!!

Rush hour on Hamilton Island.


After we had spent enough time on Hamilton Island we decided to try our luck and head south for Shaw Island in the morning as we were all very keen to truly get away from it all after the high tourist numbers on Hamilton Island.

Shaw Island is well south of Hamilton Island and outside the area where hire yachts can travel so I for one was looking forward to a little less crowded anchorage. After a pleasant three hour run south we arrived at what was a truly magnificent island which was away from it all.

Beautiful Shaw Island.

Shaw Island lies south of the famous Lindeman Island and is once again paradise on earth. Deserted beaches, fine white sand, calm crystal clear waters and a peacefulness that is hard to put into words. It reminded me of that lovely feeling I had as a child, wrapped up in bed all snug as a bug in a rug, listening the rain fall on our roof. The feeling of calm, safety and tranquillity was overwhelming and Shaw Island delivered in spades.

The beautiful Whitsundays is truly a place that all boaters should visit. It’s a remarkable place with words and photos only being able to convey a fraction of its beauty and sense of serenity. Pendana is now home in Sydney waters after a six month trip away, covering some 2,500nms/4,689klms or in other words the same distance as Sydney to Samoa, London to Nova Scotia (Canada) or New York to French Guiana (South America). I must say that the overall journey was a wonderful experience and one that we all enjoyed and other than 24 hours of some pretty nasty weather off the Fraser Island coast (+5 metre seas) we did in the main have perfect conditions for the entire time we were away.

If you decide to head for the Whitsundays then I can highly recommend Hamilton Island Marina as it is the best marina for long or short stays without doubt. Shute Harbour is by far the cheapest for fuel and however much time you plan to spend in this part of the world, it won’t be long enough. Both Claire and I commented that we could easily spend a few years in this area and not see it all.

More information on Pendana can be found at www.pendanablog.com


The Wherrymen

The Wherrymen
Two old friends on the water