Saturday, 9 May 2020

The Log of the Stroma

Summer Cruise 1977
Note: Stroma is a twenty eight foot racing yacht built in 1929, number 4 of the first group of Islanders, designed by Alfred Mylne and incredibly fast as well as seaworthy. They were intended to be sailed by a crew of three, originally had an engine, but Stroma had none. I had bought her the previous September and this was my first serious cruise, also the longest trip I ever made in her and the longest holiday I ever took. I found her log when clearing papers during lockdown. The photo is from 1930.

Crew Ewan and Peter
Day One, 16th July 1977
Wind NNW 2-3, cloudy, showers
Departure delayed due to theft of dinghy from Donald Currie’s shed, reported to Police and new one purchased. Left the Brandystone at 15.45
Passed between Maiden Island and Ganavan, tacked to Lismore,
Passed the Lismore light at 17.10, wind dropped, slow progress up the Sound of Mull.
Ardtornish light at 19.00, wind died away, ghosted to Salen, anchored at 22.25. In hotel by 22.55
22 miles, 7 hrs 10 mins
Day Two
Wind fresh SE. Rain
Left Salen 09.45, rann before freshening breeze up the Sound, past Tobermory Bay at 11.00, wind backing ESE,
Ardnamurchan Light 12.15. Severe squalls and wind strengthening, ran under full sail for a time, then dropped main and doing 3 knots under jib alone
15.00 wind moderated, reefed main, good progress to Mallaig, passing entrance at 17.00, heavy rain, poor visibility.
Wind dropped and went NW. Arrived Isleornsay at 19.30.
Spent evening chatting with Black Angus Nicolson (Aonghas MacNeacail) in the Inn
51 miles, 9 hrs 45 mins
Day Three
Wind light, N, dry, cold
Spent morning checking rigging and repairing various fittings, halliard cleats etc, that had been damaged the previous day.
Left 15.00 wind now NNW 2 - 3.
Passed Kyle Rhea 17.30, Kyle Akin Light 18.45, got forecast of fresh N - NE so decided to go to Plockton rather than Broadford, anchored 20.45
20.3 miles, 5 hrs 45 mins
Day Four
Wind light, NE, heavy rain, poor visibility
Left 10.45, close reach past oil platform, Crowlin Islands passed at 12.25
At Sound of Raasay wind went North, rain squalls for one hour. Porpoises in shoals of fish, gannets diving.
Passed An Tom Point in extraordinary winds, light and all directions, anchored Portree 16.05
21.6 miles, 5 hrs 20 mins
Called on Peggy (my then wife’s sister and a nicer person) and Harry (married to another sister)
Day Five
Very heavy rain all day, wind moderate.
Boat very wet inside, decks leaking. Spent day trying to keep dry.
Met Dick Ede and Jean Inman, dined with them and Peggy aboard off mackerel Dick had caught.
Note about Dick: He was a fisherman who had been working single-handed out of Newlyn, hunting bass in the English Channel, a robust activity, who was up on holiday with his then partner Jean. He had moved up to London and was missing the sea. I haven’t seen him for many years and hope that he’s fine.
Day Six
Very heavy rain all day. Wind strong S to SE
Spent day in Portree, then Dick wanted to go sailing. Went out with him, while Peter and Jean headed off to Tianavaig to visit Danny Sleigh, with intention we would all meet up there. Savage squalls off the Point, turned back, re-anchored and hiked six miles over to Tianavaig. Made fire on shore, ate sausages.
Note: Those squalls still haunt me a bit. They came down over the tall cliffs and pinned the boat down, so that easing the sails didn’t help.
Day Seven
Very heavy rain, light wind.
Dick wanted to go fishing and turned up with two lines, with about two dozen hooks on each. Spent day drifting around while he caught mackerel.
Note: Dick worked the two lines together, hauling them over his shoulders and all the while calling to the fish “come fill up me lines, fill up me lines”. He could tell when all the hooks were taken and quickly stripped off the struggling mackerel. They soon had filled the cockpit, then, as I wouldn't allow them into the cabin, the dinghy and he only stopped when we were knee deep in fish and had no space left to put them. We ferried them ashore and found some fish boxes, gave a lot away to tourists, then took residue to the Fishselling Company at the pier, where the manager weighed them at eleven stone, deducted one stone for “water” and paid us £5. We were being watched by local fishermen and considered it wise to go to the Taigh-osta a Cidhe, put the money on the counter and got out alive.
Day Eight
Wind SW 3, heavy rain
Left Portree 12.25, reached out of bay, wind freshened in the Sound of Raasay, fast run to North of Rona, passed at 14.45, weather cleared and had great broad reach in force 4-5, passed Carra point at 16.15. Anchored in Shieldaig, Loch Gairloch at 17.15
Evening in the Badachro Inn
29 miles, 4 hrs 50 mins
Day Nine
No wind, heavy rain
Went to hotel for breakfast, spent day drying out.
Dick and Jean turned up, having watched us leave Portree and driven round. Dick had found a broken creel and fixed it, also had caught some whiting and cod, which we cooked aboard and ate with them. After dinner baited pot with a Gurnard Peter had caught and set it.
Gale warning.
Day Ten
Gale from North, heavy rain. Recovered pot, got two large crabs and ate them. Evening in hotel.
Note: That pot had been set over a mile from where we were anchored and was a hard upwind against the gale, which Dick enjoyed.
Day Eleven
Wind NW 3 - 4 heavy rain
Left Loch Shieldaig 10.05, tacked down loch, passed Port Henderson at 11.00. The Ballad “Scalliwag” motored up to join us and set sail. Wind veered North, freshened and day cleared. Raced Scalliwag South, Passed Applecross 1.20, Lonbain 13.20. North end of Crowlin abeam at 15.15, gybed onto Port tack and reached down to Kyle Akin, passed light at 15.47, seven minutes ahead of the Ballad, arrived at top of flood tide, then South going stream carried us down, severe squalls between Glenelg and Isleornsay, anchored there at 18.10 just in front of the Scalliwag.
Evening in the Inn
48 miles, 8 hrs, 5 mins
Note: This was surely sailing at its very best, hour after hour at maximum speed before a following breeze, with a strong tide the entire distance.
Day Twelve
Wind light, variable, sunshine
Left Isleornsay 10.20, ghosted down Sound of Sleat, passed Armadale 13.00, wind died and caught mackerel on way into Eigg, where anchor down at 17.15
21.5 miles, 6 hrs 55 mins
Note: We anchored in about two fathoms inside the island that protects the bay. Our efforts at fishing were just as pathetic as our day's sail had been. The fish that swam about under our keel were so small that they had no difficulty in nibbling the bait from our hooks without any risk to themselves. After a walk ashore, when after we discovered that at that time there seemed to be no facilities whatsoever on Eigg we turned in for an early night.
Day Thirteen
Wind fresh NW, bright
Note: At about five in the morning I was woken by Stroma rolling on an Atlantic swell which seemed to be setting in. I took a look outside and noticed that there had been a definite change in the weather. We now had a very clear dry summer morning and there was a breeze. By this time Peter was also awake and after some discussion he agreed to assist with getting the anchor and setting sail, provided he could then return to his bunk to complete his night's repose.
Thus at about 5.45 am Stroma was underway. We slipped out Southwards from the bay and were soon on a close reach in a fresh Northwesterly breeze. I was pleased that I was alone in the cockpit and could treat the bright, sparkling morning as my very own. Actually I was sharing it with various seabirds and the occasional fishing boat could be spotted far off when we rose on the big Atlantic swell.
The Islanders are wonderful boats on a reach, when you really feel the power of the mainsail. Soon the Cairns of Coll started to appear on the horizon and then we were in flatter water as we sailed down the East side of the island to Arinagour.
If you are engineless it is always better to pick a safe spot to anchor where if necessary you won't have difficulty getting underway during the night. I was glad that Peter was now awake as we had some tight tacking to get into the chosen spot some distance from the steamer pier. By nine thirty we were anchored and ready to spend the rest of a lovely summer day ashore. It would have been fun to carry on, but we only had a couple of days left.
20 miles 3 hrs 50 mins
Day Fourteen
Wind SW 3, bright
Left Arinagour 11.10, broad reach to Ardmore Point, wind dropped and caught five mackerel before it returned. Close reach to Tobermory Bay, sailed round the bay to see if any boats we knew were in, left again at 15.30, fast reach to Salen, anchored at 17.10
15 miles, 6 hrs
Back to hotel.
Day Fifteen Wind N 3-4, cloudy, slight rain.
Left Salen 09.15, got spinnaker up and had fast run down the Sound, passed Lismore Light at 11.30, moored at Brandystone at 12.30.
15 miles, 3 hrs 15 mins
We had sailed on ten days out of fifteen and covered about 240 sea miles at an average speed of about four and a half knots.

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The Wherrymen
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