Tuesday, 6 August 2013

I'm anchored in 5m or so a little East of Longhope pier.  I haven't blogged this trip very assiduously - first I had communications problems, being with t-mobile rather than with either 02 or Vodaphone, both of whom seem to have better coverage in the Northern Isles.

Also, I kept thinking I would wait until I had some photos to post.  I've got loads, but had no real chance to upload them to Flickr.  I'll post them later.

So far, the outline of the trip:

Last Tuesday morning at around 6:00 am I motored out over Findhorn bar with a boat load of bags, equipment, tools, and food, and anchored for a few hours to get tidied up.  I don't know where all of the stuff has gone - I suppose I've eaten some of it - but the boat is tidier now than it's been since I collected it.  And it has some things sorted.

I set sail properly at 2:00 pm on Tuesday and got into Fair Isle North Haven about 3pm the following day, having logged 135 miles.  I was tired:  I'd slept on the boat the previous night (Monday/Tuesday), arriving late an arising early, so I wasn't in good shape for an overnight passage.

Fair Isle was interesting.  I stayed two nights and walked the length of it, with some detours.  I didn't visit the northern coast, which I thought I would get a chance to sail down - this didn't happen.  It's a long way from any other land, for a coastal island.  I won't list what I saw - the photos will do that when I get them up.

On Friday I  cleared Fair Isle about 10:30 am and headed for Pierowall in Westray (Orkney Islands).  I had an autohelm problem at the beginning, and slopped around in the fog for half an hour or so trying to figure out what had happened.  There was wind, but not quite enough to keep the boat comfortable in the muddled seas.  The fog was scary - down to about a couple of hundred metres visibility quite quickly.

After some motoring, the wind picked up and the sun cleared the fog.  Then I had a fast close reach most of the way to Pierowall (port tack) arriving about 7pm.

I wasn't going to spend long in Pierowall, but the wind strengthened from the South and I stayed until Sunday afternoon when it began to drop.  At about 5pm I sailed towards Otterswick, Sanday, where I anchored later in the evening.

Coming out of Pierowall was awkward and thought-provoking. The wind was southerly, and I headed across the bay to hoist the mainsail.  It hoisted badly and it took me a few minutes to figure out what had happened - I wanted to hoist with a reef in, and I hooked in the second reef eye rather than the first.  Anyhow, I put the boat on a safe course and tried to sort it out.  Or so I thought, until I felt the keel bump the rocky ledge projecting from Scarfhall Point.  I should have taken a few minutes to check that the autohelm was keeping the boat on the course I thought I'd set it on.  Very scary.

Further, though, I thought later:

(1) Why was I hoisting the mainsail?  A large dutch yacht had gone out ahead of me and hoisted it's main in the same was I'd intended to.  It just seemed like the thing to do.  In fact, I knew the wind was going to the West, and that I'd be running most of the way across to Sanday.  I didn't need the main - in fact it was a pain in the neck.  I'd have been better off running under the genoa alone.  I did a little experiment coming out of Stromness a day or two later which really reinforced this.

(2) When it hoisted badly, was there actually any danger of harm, or was I just embarrassed about how silly it looked?  I could have got well clear of the bay before risking everything by trying to sort it out ... and I looked a good deal sillier trying to sail across the land.

Otterswick is a sheltered bay (in Southerly weather) in Sanday.  Sanday is very low lying and, well, sandy.  You can't get very near the shore, so I was anchored about half a mile off with a thin line of land topped with houses, telegraph poles and wind generators surrounding me on three sides.

About 8 am Sunday, I sailed for Kirkwall.  Well, I motored.  There was no wind and when it came it was brief and flaky.  As I was turning for Eday Sound I had a look through the tides again, and realised that while I had to do some stopping and starting to get to Kirkwall I could have fair tides the whole way to Stromness via Weatherness Sound.

I got into Stromness about 6:30 pm.  I got diesel and water the following morning, that's today, and sailed about 11:00 so that I wouldn't be trapped by the outgoing tide through Hoy Sound.  Unfortunately, I can't start crossing the Pentland Firth until about 7pm, so here I am anchored off Longhope.

I sailed all the way here under the genoa.  There was a fresh breeze from South West, and I was in no hurry.  Although, if I had been in a hurry the mainsail wouldn't have added much - I spent most of the time doing about five knots.  First on a very broad reach, then a beam reach, then close reaching towards the Martello Tower at the entrance to Longhop, and, finally, hard on the wind up Longhope ...  I watched the authohelm carefully, and there was just a touch of lee helm.  I guess there were times when the mainsail might have given me another half knot or a knot.  I could also have got the Windex right on the indicator rather than just outside it.

It's such a pest putting the main up and down that I guess I tend to put it up and leave it up.  Now I think it would be worth the effort of getting rid of it now and again.  The genoa can easily drive the boat down wind instead of flapping around uselessly.  And I don't have to worry about an unexpected gybe when I'm a the chart table.  Or when I'm climbing back into the cockpit over the mainsheet track ...


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