Tuesday, 22 July 2014
Yesterday was a day without wind, white wine or wifi. In fact, there was no weather at all to speak of, just quite chilly stillness through which we motored on one engine for the entire day. One would think it would be dull and frustrating as we are supposed to be sailing round Britain, but in fact it was supremely relaxing. David and Vincent slept for bits of the day, I even had a nap, and the stonkingly beautiful scenery just slipped by for the whole day. It was like being in the middle of a commercial shoot for the Hebrides tourist authority, if such a quango exists, where the sort of image one sees on biscuit tins and shortcake lids was around us the entire day. But without the bagpipes, fortunately. There were several dolphins, large numbers of sea birds having a laugh, sitting just ahead of us to make it look like we are about to go over a fishing net and be snared for ever more. Sadly no whales. Or submarines yet.We did encounter a large orange fishing buoy which we gave a wide berth and then discovered it was untethered and its long 30 foot line was about to be wrapped around our props, but quick thinking from David stopped the engine just in time and we drifted over it. A quick (DSC) VHF call to Stornaway coastguard, our current guardians, to report the presence of the untethered buoy, resulted in a 'all ships alert' complete with Mayday beeping alerts, a few minutes later to warn the world of the grave danger to shipping. We felt very grown up. They must have felt a bit bored.
Our R&R diversion the day before had taken us to the fleshpots of the island of Canna, population 18 plus an impressive catalogue of wildlife. So yesterday, we left Loch Harport, Skye, (photo attached) and around the amazing and wild mountainous western coast of Skye and into Loch Gairloch for the night, which is back on the Scottish mainland. We are seriously north! Communications are becoming problematic both signal and for travelling. Les joined us at Loch Gairloch for his second coming, and David will leave in the same hire car that Les brought with him. We have enjoyed his company, and I have valued his technical skills. During the day, I set about doing some boaty jobs. One was to find the source of a leak which kept causing the accumulator to lose pressure in the cold water system, and then the water pump would activate every 30 seconds under Vincent's otherwise sleeping head. An adjustment to the pump has made it much less sensitive, and having searched the boat in every crevice, of which there are many, there seems to be no leak. Then, as we were motoring on just one engine across the glassy sea, I took the oil levels in the starboard engine, and found little oil in the sump and no oil in the transmission. Serviced before we came, and no leaks. We had spare oil on board so I added a small quantity to the transmission system mindful of the DO NOT OVERFILL BEYOND THE MAX MARK warning. No movement in the oil level, so I added another 100 ml. No movement, then another, no movement. We waited for a few minutes to let it settle, and since there was still no increase, I added a further amount. Grossly overfilled!! Aaargh! Now I heeded to get it out. We took a short length of tube off the dehumidifier and repeatedly dipped the tube into the oil in the transmission sump, then with my finger over the end quickly took the oil out one small dose at a time into a waiting container. It was a long and messy process, as was the cleanup, but fortunately the sea was utterly glassy and it allowed me to stand or crouch for long periods of time in the engine bay doing my engine maintenance. Of course, if the book had said how much to add between min and max, I would have seen an hour more of the splendid Skye scenery.
So, last night we were on the end of a quite small pontoon, where the harbourmaster stayed behind rather than going home to welcome us and take our lines. Really friendly. We have had AC power, which is becoming a luxury as we now have to take care of ourselves, we have topped up with 450 litres of fresh water, we have oil for the engines which Les brought with him, and we have food. We also have a good forecast to go further north to Kinlochbervie tonight, the last possible port before we reach Cape Wrath and turn East at the top of Scotland, possibly tomorrow.
So, it's official, the circumnavigation of mainland Britain has become greater, and is now the circumnavigation of Britain, which includes the top bit rather than the Caledonian canal.