Saturday, 8 December 2012

Bilderglug Fleet Summer Manoeuvres 2012

In which “looks like light winds for the weekend” joins the pantheon of famous last words.

Today mid-Argyll is dreich and grey and with the boats safely ashore there are only memories of the best moments of Summer. The words above come from the briefing from the Supreme Commander of the Bilderglug Fleet, who had commissioned a force to explore mutually supportive open dinghy sailing in an area of strong tides, rocky shores and unpredictable weather, just for fun.

Thus at the end of July ten mariners in five craft set out on a short morning shake-down to Bagh na h-Aird at the South end of Luing to wait for the South-going stream. 

The target for the first night was the harbour of Kinuachdrachd a couple of miles down the East coast of Jura. Pronounced sort of Kyanooachrach I’ve heard that its English owners call it KiloDelta.

We got a good stiff WNWly wind across the rather neapy tide, by no means the worst you could get but still a bit lumpy in the whirlies near the Corryvreckan. A few minutes after clearing the point I decided that the jib was a bad idea, got it off and made sure that the tent and all the gear and food were safely stowed and covered, then settled down for a wet crossing.

Some took a port tack just North of West towards Scarba and slightly against the tide, to get closer to the Jura shore they would eventually beach on, whereas I decided on a long leg on starboard tack with the tide, but began to worry how I could eventually get across. The tidal stream strengthens as you get further South and runs like a river quite close to the shore. In the end it didn’t seem to make much difference and we all arrived off KD more or less together.

As we closed the shore the Kelpie was swept half a mile or so past her intended landfall, but a quick tack brought her inshore of the tide, then there were a number of short tacks to get back up-tide to the harbour. Just as we were gathering way after one of these we got knocked down in a squall and a good load of solid water came aboard, a bit annoying when everything had stayed dry so far.

The idea behind the excursion was co-operation, so everyone had brought something to the party with no duplication. Thus the Bilderglug Fleet was well provided with plenty of food and drink, as well as our communal rain shelter. The accumulation of outdoor skills meant that we were soon warm and fed and ready for a good night’s rest on the heather.

Next morning I was pleased to find the Jura ticks had not found me wholesome, but others hadn’t been so lucky. Maybe Highland ancestry has some benefits.

On Day Two we had a splendid sail. Some were worried about being carried on the flood into the Corryveckan, which can happen if you don’t have enough wind to drive you across it, so they started Eastwards towards Carsaig Bay. I reckoned there was enough wind and had a fast reach North, although those whirlies and eddies were at it again and you’re very close to them in a wee open boat.

All made it safe and well to a lovely bay under the North-east corner of Shuna. At least the bay itself is lovely; the outlook is ruined by one of a number of gigantic industrial fish farms that Her Majesty’s Commissioners and Argyll & Bute Council have conspired to allow in this area of great tourist potential and scenic amenity.

We were ashore in good time for rest and reflection, also for some to dream of future voyages.

And future ships to do them in.

Once again a good sail was followed by a congenial and warm evening by the fire, although the  Kelpie’s master and commander went to sleep and missed the DIY pyrotechnics.

On the third day the Kelpie had a fast run home before a gathering breeze, while for the rest of the Bilderglugs there was a hill climb above Arduaine followed by a challenging beat back to Luing.

Altogther it was an entertaining and enjoyable weekend, once again proving the seaworthy nature of little traditionally shaped boats and that by sticking together and sharing resources one can safely achieve things that would be tricky and miserable done solo.

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The Wherrymen

The Wherrymen
Two old friends on the water