Saturday, August 31, 2013

Aleria's Jaunt to Scotland: 25 July 2013, Oronsay and Sound of Islay, Scotland

Aleria at anchor in Oronsay

Gorgeous scenery, wildlife galore, and a lovely passage under a painted sky

We had to rise early to catch the south flowing current in the Sound of Islay. It would be a long day and once again there was no wind.

The Paps of Jura in the distance
We headed out by 0800 and picked up a favourable flow past the Treshnish Isles towards Colonsay.  We passed close to the basaltic stacks off Iona and we realized we were early – at least 2 hours early and we now had a 1 knot current against us.  So why fight it?  We pulled into Oronsay for a visit.  Dropped anchor between the rocks and the island in the most beautiful spot yet. We thought we might have time to get to the priory but it was too far to walk in the time we had before the tide turned.

Geese on the beach

The anchorage was too exposed for an overnight but it was perfect for a lunch stop and to await the change in tide.  The views of the Paps of Jura were spectacular.  Snap snap snap went the cameras.  There were white sand beaches between short stacks of rock – probably basaltic like the much larger stacks we just saw off Iona and like the giant ones at Staffa.  The pools among the rocks were teeming with birds. Flocks of geese, oystercatchers, little black and white birds en masse.

Boat house cottage 
We walked toward the priory across the fields and dunes which looked like machair, along dirt roads used by 4WD vehicles.  There was a little boat house cottage at the head of the white sand beach. It had a most impressive collection of flotsam and jetsam, including giant metal balls and a cardinal mark buoy.  Neptune hung over the door and a huge curved casement window faced Jura. We peered inside into the magical cottage, beautifully and simply appointed with ‘distressed’ furniture and shell decorated accoutrements.  What a spot. Lucky folks. Jealousy raged.

Beautiful aqua waters
As we pulled up anchor and headed for the Sound of Islay, the RIB Thalassa anchored close to shore on Oronsay called the Coast Guard and reported taking on water and evacuating their crew to shore. The Islay RNLI boat was dispatched and there was no danger. Alex thought they might have hit a rock when they went to pick up their guests ashore.  We wondered why they hadn’t flagged us down to assist as we had been right there with our dinghy in the water.  Oh well, the RNLI boat, which sped past us at a breakneck pace, had some action on that day. 

Approaching Islay
We caught slack water at the north end of the Sound of Islay.  It’s not quite as bad as the Corryvreckan but it’s still a passage between two islands, Islay and Jura, which narrows to one tight gap that all the water has to flow through.  We motored in flat calm past the distilleries. The current picked up at Askaig and we were doing 10.5 knots SOG, 6.1 through the water in the narrows. A sailboat joined us at the last distillery where they had been anchored and we were the only two boats transiting that day.  Very pretty, high green hills surrounded the passage.  The ferry crossed from Askaig on Islay to Jura, where there really is nothing except one little house on the water and dirt paths leading up and over the hills. 

The Minna
Today was a Spring Tide and we thought it might get raucous but it wasn’t bad. Just a few areas of eddies and disturbed water.  Then a strange ship entered from the other end.  Mint green with a Scottish flag painted on the wheel house and blue and yellow rectangle flag painted on the bows, she was perhaps a research vessel named Minna.  Her aft deck was loaded with gear. Perhaps a NUMA cousin?
The clouds in the sky took on amazing shapes. The sea was a glass reflection. The air was cool and fresh.  

As it was now approaching dinner time, I brought out crab claws that we dipped into thousand island dressing and munched with gusto and sipped Sauvignon Blanc while we watched the sun set behind the hills.
Toasting the day
Two hours later, we dropped anchor in Port Ellen, our first and final destination in Scotland. It was still light enough to see at 2230 (10:30 PM).  There is something very comforting about coming in after dark to a harbour you know and dropping anchor in a familiar spot.  Especially when you are dog tired and hungry.

We’d travelled 77miles in 12 hours with stopover, and this was our last night in Scotland. We lamented not having the opportunity to go ashore and see the old locals in the bar, but we felt good about our last day … it had been a memorable one. We ate leftover spaghetti and went into a deep dream state by 2330.

Magnificent spot

Spectacular spot

Ruin on the shore

The local residents

Development in the distance 

Inviting entrance

Amazing collection

Sweet interior

Tide's coming in

Storm clouds on the horizon

Flat calm in the Sound of Islay

The Jura side of the Sound

The distillery

Askaig on Islay

Chasm on Jura

10.3 knots in relatively slack water

Sailboat ahead of us and another caldera on shore

Crab claw snack to tide us over

Interesting lighthouse on Islay

Flat calm, sunset approaching 

Thumbs up on the day.

Bye bye sun!

Hello Port Ellen

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