Sunday, September 1, 2013

Aleria's Jaunt to Scotland: 26 July 2013, Port Ellen, Islay, Scotland to Mulroy Bay, Ireland

Fog in Port Ellen, Islay

Across the North Channel, Heading Home

Seal wishes us farewell
There was heavy rain overnight, but it was generally calm and a gentle swell brought a sweet night of rest.  The ferry boomed us awake in the morning. Thick fog had wiped the world away. We were very glad to be anchored here away from town, rather than closer inside where the ferry turned.  You couldn’t see the boats we knew were anchored there…at least they had been there attached to the bottom the night before.

Typically, you shouldn't be starting a voyage on a Friday.  But this wasn't really starting a voyage; we were completing a circle. And we weren't really sure it was Friday. When you are cruising, you don't always know what day of the week it is. You know the date because you make log entries daily, but the day of the week can be elusive. Sometimes, they include it in the forecast on the VHF radio. Usually, I jot it down then. This time, we thought we might be off by a day or so. The days of the week all soon merge together when there's no scheduled activity to differentiate them. And aboard a boat, every day's routine is pretty much the same as every other. Daily checks of batteries, oil, fuel, water, rigging, and daily maintenance tasks. There's no weekend per se. So, let's assume it's Friday and we're heading home. We have four days to get there before our friend has to leave and we have to resume the feeding of the cats. 
Fog hugs the land

The sun was trying and the fog kept lifting and settling all morning. We needed to leave around 1330 to catch the southbound current past the Mull of Kintyre and across the North Channel to Ireland.  Once again, the forecast was: ‘Wind S-SE, variable F2-3, seas slight, fog patches, visibility moderate to good, occasionally poor in fog.’ It was like a broken record. The direction varied but everything else stayed the same. This had been the forecast daily since we arrived in Scotland. Maybe at least in Ireland they would break it up a bit.

Onyx taking a break on deck
We were down to 8 inches of fuel in the starboard tank, which we had filled in Craobh. Alex changed the Racor filter, which was totally gunked up.  He also drained the housing, in which the diesel turned out to be quite dirty and cloudy.  Dipping low into the tank and mixing up the fuel the couple of days we had raucous conditions must have stirred up all the dirt. We will be motoring home on the still-full port tank. 

One thing we’d been disappointed with was the relative absence of sea life in Scotland. Lots of birds and seals, but no whales and few dolphins. We saw one dolphin off in the distance yesterday, but no scores of playful dolphins or monstrous basking sharks.  There was too much traffic in the Inner Hebrides I suppose. Lots of fishing trawlers, lots of export, very little seafood to be had locally.

Submarine crosses our bow
As we exited Port Ellen, a seal floated by and said farewell.  Then dolphins surfaced behind us, clearly feeding on a school of fish.  Just to prove us wrong.

Flat calm sea. There were fog patches all around but our way ahead stayed clear. About half way across, I spotted a submarine on the surface crossing ahead of us from starboard to port. It was huge. That was the most excitement we had until we got to Ireland. 

Two sharks circling near Malin Head gave us pause – it could have been a basking shark but it looked more like two single fins swimming in a circle than a single shark with two fins.  The currents were with us all the way, giving us at times a 3-knot push.  Around Malin Head, the current reversed, then reversed again within a short span.  It is reported to do that around here, but apparently no one has studied it enough to define it precisely.  How surprising.  
Squall coming up from behind

Alex yelled, "Sharks to port," just as I called out, "sharks to starboard."  They were everywhere.  We couldn't tell if they were plain sharks or basking sharks for sure, but in this case we thought basking sharks as we could often pick out two fins travelling together. The water was not clear enough to see into it though, so we could not confirm.  It was rather eerie being surrounded by sharks. The theme from Jaws kept reverberating through my mind. Very different feeling from dolphins or whales.  After all, we speak dolphin and whale. We've never heard a shark speak, except Land Shark. Oh well. At least we'd had a wildlife experience. 

We spotted a rainbow inshore, which of course means rain between here and there, then got hit by a sudden squall of 23 knots. Not a big deal. We decided to stop in beautiful Mulroy Bay. We anchored near the entrance and dolphins surfaced right next to Aleria.  Sweet!  Like a welcome home.  We had made it into the harbour after sunset but while still light, which was stunning.  A French boat came in after dark and anchored closer to the cardinal mark. All was at peace.

Rainbow shows the way in

Squalls all around

Darkness in the distance

Sun setting beneath heavy cloud cover

Flat sea, pretty light

Bye-bye sun! But no green flash. 

And peace comes over Mulroy Bay. 

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