Friday 12th May. Many of the crews of the TOG 2017 two week sailex in Scotland will be making their way north today, some part way to overnight in Scotland, some all the way to Dunstaffnage Marina, Oban, where they will overnight on a yacht before taking over Eloise and Highland Sealord. A few will travel north by train.
The yachts were handed over Saturday afternoon and at 20:00 hours both were on course for Tobermory with the intention of pressing on to Stornoway. All on board safe and well.
Sunday 14th May. 16:58 Both yachts safely tied up in Stornoway after a cracking sail across the Minch F4/7 a 142nm passage from Dunstaffnage overnight. Alan reports that he is not sure what tomorrow will bring as forecast is for strong gale force winds. No reports from Andy McWilliam just yet.
Monday 15th May. Heading for a safe haven before gale force winds go through. Neil reports plan to set off from Stornoway for Cape Wrath and the Orkneys this afternoon. Pic shows Eloise on the right with Highland Sealord in background on a finger pontoon.
The Orkneys beckon ! At 21:00 hours Alan reports that the yachts are now 3 hours from Cape Wrath on passage to Pierowall. Mainly F5/7 SSE so able to make good progress with the third reef in.
Tuesday 16th May. Neil reports great sunrise on route for Orkney. At 14:45 hours both yachts are in Pierowall Orkney after a second O/N passage, this time 127nm from Stornaway. The yachts are reported to be fine after instrument failure on Eloise - now sorted. Steering on both yachts holding up (but then they are not on board a Beneteau Oceanis). Your shore contact has just re-provisioned at Charnwood Brewery so stay safe tonight!
Wednesday 17th May. Neil reports that today will be a day of rest with the crews off to explore Westray.
Thursday 18th May. Alan reports at 16:00 hours both yachts safely on moorings at Stromness marina. Neil reported that a pod of four killer whales passed close by this morning but no one was quick enough with the camera. A mini bus has been hired to tour the main island tomorrow (Friday 19th May). Photo left showing the brothers McWilliam taking lunch at Kirkwall, although your friendly UKIP representative appears to be following in the steps of his past leader and partaking of a liquid lunch. Plan is now to leave Saturday morning for Wick, then depart Wick Sunday evening and O/N to Inverness arriving early Monday morning, for entry to the Caledonian Canal. and meet up with Graham Wassall.
Friday 19th May. The crew of both yachts enjoyed a mini bus tour of the main island today as the end of the first week approached. Pic shows Ruth at the Ring of Brogdar.
Saturday 20th May. The yachts will be setting off mid morning to pass islands within Scapa Flow to cross the Pentland Firth round Duncansby Head for Wick - home of Old Pilteney ! Stewart and Neil hope to introduce themselves as Maritime Heroes and maybe, just maybe, get a free drink. Meanwhile the lead skipper takes a rest.
At 15:00 hours Alan reports that they have rounded Duncansby Head and are heading for Wick. They should be in Wick within two hours.
At 17:15 Neil reports both yachts moored up in Wick Marina after a 40nm passage from Stromness leaving at 10:30 They sailed down Scapa Flow by the smaller islands - leaving Graemsay to the south, Cave to port, Fara to port, Flotta to port, and into the Pentland Forth leaving Switha to port. Tides were later and less than expected but the flood helped down to Duncansby Head avoiding the Pentland Skerries to the east. Weather was fairly damp most of the trip with a F3/4 SE which enabled them to sail in poor viability. Update at 18:22- just getting the G&T's planning to eat ashore tonight.
Sunday 21st May. The crews had a relaxing night in Wick Marina and woke this morning to a bright and sunny day which contrasted with yesterdays wet and mist. This morning saw the yachts festooned with wet weather gear and towels now drying out. Neil reports that Wick is an interesting place, particular;y Telford's 19C Pulteney Town which is in some decay but with signs of restoration. It is reported that Wetherspoon's was very lively last night with some sights! - no further details for the web! Neil and Stewart were disappointed to find the distillery closed for the Sabbath. The yachts will set of later this evening for an overnight passage to Inverness to arrive on the right tide.
Alan reports both yachts slipped their moorings from Wick at 16:35 and are now heading for Tarbat Ness and on to Inverness. The yachts tracked down the NE coast on 210 degrees under sail for several hours in mainly a south east F2/4 in fine weather. At 05:00 hours Neil caught sunrise and Highland Sealord (in the distance) on the Moray Firth.
At 06:00 well down the Moray Firth near Fort George they were met by a pod of bottlenose dolphins which swam alongside for about ten minutes.
Monday 22nd May. Entered Inverness Firth, under the bridge, and entered Clachnaharry Sea Lock at 08:00 hours. Graham Wassall joined the Sailex at this location. The yachts then progressed through a swing bridge and up a flight of locks, through the small Loch Dochfour and into Loch Ness. The yachts motored down Loch Ness with the wind on the nose and later into heavy rain. At 16:35 they moored up at Fort Augustus at the south west end of the Lock having completed a 24 hour passage.
Tuesday 23rd May. So Loch Ness now behind them and the long decent through the canal section, Lock Oich, and Loch Lochy down through the locks towards Fort William. At 19:16 both yachts were moored up at Banavie, above Neptune's Staircase. The plan being to get into Loch Linney tomorrow and catch the evening tide to anchor off Shuna Island.
Wednesday 24th May. This morning saw the crews up early to decend eight locks in quick succession, Neptune's Staircase. At the bottom they had to wait for the road and rail swing bridges to open, the latter giving priority to a steam powered Harry Potter special! Through a further two locks into the sea basin at Fort William, then in the sea lock both yachts rafted up to a large dutch barge. The lock gates opened and they "escaped" the confines of the canal and out into Loch Linnhe - back on the west coast! (Neil sounds very relieved to be back at sea). Highland Sealord released Robert McW for 90th birthday duties and drafted in Graham. Both yachts then tacked down Loch Linnhe for a time then under engine to pick up buoys for the night in the anchorage east of Shuna Island.
Thursday 25th May. Highland Sealord left Shuna and put into Dunstaffnage to put skipper Andy McW ashore to pursue mother's birthday and electioneering. Highland Sealord then sailed off Mull before mooring up in Kerrera for the night. Eloise sailed down the Firth of Lorne, NW up the Sound of Mull and into Lochaline for lunch. The crews enjoyed blue skies, sun and F3/4 from the SW, the west coast at its best. On extra low springs the depth gauge read ZERO for a cable or so but they did not touch bottom.! Then back into the Sound on a rising tide down SW to the island of Seil to a beautiful anchorage for the night.
Friday 26th May. After a night out in Oban Highland Sealord's crew blew away the cobwebs by sailing off Mull in the Firth of Lorne in glorious sunshine, then into Dunstaffnage for mid pm. Eloise left Seil and sailed down to the Garvellochs in search of wild life. Neil report they saw seals basking in the Skerries but that was all. In a F4/5 Eloise touched 9 knots before they put in a reef. Back up the Firth of Lorne running before the wind, under genoa alone, via Kerrera Sound passed Oban and into Dunstaffnage for 16:00 hours. Cleaned the boats and into the marina restaurant for beers and a meal. Approx 580 nautical miles.