Earlier this summer we wrote about the Three Peaks Race - From Barmouth to Fort William via Isle of Eriska, and Mr Gayle and his crew had to seek shelter at Eriska at the end of June 2013 as a storm was building up and the race had to be aborted. Driac was left in Eriska's care until now. Mr Gayle has been so nice to write about Driac's beautiful journey back to its permanent home to Milford Haven:
As a Edinburgh resident, it is noticable that the Edinburgh festival is over, children are back at school, and in a few weeks time the autumn breeze will blow summer leaves.
On reflection 2013 proved to be a great summer to visit the west coast. We had an almost unprecedented long spell of sunny days and very little rain. My summer ended with a memorable sailing trip departing from Eriska.
It was starting to get dark and a greyish light began to bathe Lismore. We had finished our supper and the tide had begun to go south. Visitors to the Island earlier in the summer might have noticed Driac, a pre-War wooden yacht, on one of the hotel's moorings. I was tasked with skippering the delivery passage back to her permanent home in Milford Haven.
As we let go of the mooring a thought crossed my mind. There was a chance that I could become remembered as 'that fella who ran aground in that old wooden boat'. There are a line of rocks between the shore and Airds Point that are a submerged banana skin which I could easily slip on. I knew that there was plenty of water underneath the yacht's keel and I kept a nervous eye on the depth sounder. What could possibly go wrong?
We motored out past the familiar outline of Glas Eilean. I breathed a sigh of relief that we had not gone aground, and then in a few moments we got the sails up and we were on our way. My plan was to get as far south in one chunk as possible. We had plenty of fuel and were relatively well victualled. Mrs B had kindly slipped us a parcel containing some homemade provisions (a large shepherd's pie, a tarte, a fruit cake, and a marmalade sponge). Aunts are definitely the Patron Saints of nephews!
We gently passaged south, soon passing Oban and then Kerrera. Before too long we were down at Insh Island, and as we passed down the coast of Seil I went below to put the kettle on. Shortly after we could make out the profile of Easdale. I remembered having dinner at the hotel with dear old Mr B one December. The next day we took the wee ferry over to Easdale along with the islander's giant Christmas tree! I understand that Easdale was once owned by a former Chairman of the philately company Stanley Gibbons, and that they produced Easdale stamps.
The lighthouse on Fladda and its slightly lower yeoman on Dubh Sgeir, stood like dutiful sentries guarding the entry to the Sound of Luing. With the lights behind us we passaged down the eastern coastlines of Lunga and Scarba, with Luing on our port side. Two flashes from the light on Reisa an t-Struith suddenly popped out over the dark horizon with the crystal clarity of a pair of diamond earrings. When the north end of Jura was on our beam we had the first thirty odd miles in the bag. I decided that it was time for me to go below and get my head down.
We were able to undertake the complete passage in three large chunks. The first leg ended when we put in at Rathlin Island (just off the Northern Irish coast). After a night alongside we went a little way down the Irish coast before crossing over to Holyhead, where wesheltered from a southerly gale for twenty four hours. We then reached Milford Haven on the third and final push, having logged a total of 432 miles.
The autumn is a good time to start planning the next year's adventures and holidays. I hope to do a little more background reading, as what little I do always uncovers something interesting. For example I have only just discovered that Eriska is the Gaelic for water-nymph island. Here are some ideas for Eriska guests with yachting and outdoor tendencies.
The Firth of Lorn is often overlooked as a cruising ground. I highly recommend visiting the Cuan Sound. The Loch Melfort area is definitely worthy of a visit, and both Loch Spelve on Mull and Loch Aline on the Morven peninsula provide picturesque anchorages. I frequently fantasise about undertaking a malt whisky cruise. After sampling the many delights of Islay, and the distilleries on Jura and Mull, the hotel and spa would make an ideal location for a spot of pampering and recovery. Ben More and the Paps of Jura provide possibilities for combining yachting and hillwalking and can easily be visited within a loop that includes a visit to the hotel. The more spiritually minded might like a trip to Iona, or even the more local site of the monastery on Lismore that was established in 564AD.
Some years ago I was on a sailing trip in the US, up in New England. A friendly group of locals told me that their buddy was planning a transatlantic trip from Portland Maine to Portland in England. Another of their friends had sailed from Yarmouth Maine to Yarmouth on the Isle of Wight. I knew that there are also towns called Belfast, Bangor and Portsmouth in Maine, but a quick look at my atlas revealed that there is also a coastal town called Port Clyde. They also have a North Berwick, but it is inland and therefore would be an impractical departure point. I wonder if a cacographic lager enthusiast might enjoy a passage starting in Tenants Harbour Maine, on a quest to get home for some Caledonian amber nectar?
These thoughts of transatlantic adventures aside, more realistically I fancy trying Eriskay to Eriska. I suspect that it would be about seventy miles, and in the prevailing south-westerly winds it would be ideal for an old boat like Driac that sails best with the wind on her beam.
My final idea for an adventure came to me during a vivid dream on that first night when I went below for a snooze. As I dozed I must have had a few things rumbling around my mind. The week before I had re-read Roger Oliver's book on his voyage around Britain and Eire. In the dream we had sailed around Britain, starting and ending at Eriska. We picked up the hotel's mooring and then rowed ashore. Beppo was on the beach with Dibley, his trusty labrador. As we stepped ashore Beppo said "good evening Gentlemen, I have had your dinner jackets cleaned". That would have been a most stylish end to a great voyage!
Happy adventuring in 2014, Vernon Gayle