Delivery Trip Ipswich to Gairloch, Wester Ross

Karavee – Prior’s Passage Maker 33

In May 2018, I decided to have a complete change of life and move to Gairloch in Wester Ross. To do this, I need to deliver my boat, Karavee from Ipswich Haven Marina to a swinging mooring on Loch Sheildaig, Gairloch.

This is how the trip unfolded….

The Boat.

Karavee of Fowey is one of 2 Prior’s Passage Makers built in the mid 80’s. She is a sloop rigged motor sailer with a Mercedes OM636, an ancient design that proved completely reliable and trustworthy. I got to know the boat well, and have really grown to love her. She sails well for something of this type, with 7 knots seen regularly in F4 or above on a broad reach, and although I didn’t have any seriously bad weather to cope with, I did see F6-7 for a couple of hours and with reefs in she was secure, stable and felt very safe.

A good boat – I wonder why they weren’t more popular?

Stage One – Ipswich to Spurn Point

On May 5th, I left Ipswich Haven Marina after a snap decision to just go once a gale had blown through. They say the hardest manoeuvre in sailing is letting go the lines! I said a hasty ta-ta to Jon, Kev, Moira and David from IHM and set off down the Orwell. Made a complete cods of it in the lock, naturally, and resolved to sort fenders and lines earlier in future!

First leg was a long one as I didn’t fancy having to go through the bridge at Lowestoft, so as the weather was good I anchored off mum and dad’s in Gorleston for a couple of hours then ran on to Spurn Point to anchor up on a beautiful evening just behind the point itself. Slept well!

Spurn Point – Scarborough

Easy day in light winds took me up to Scarborough for a pint. Rafted up with no electricity, fresh water or loos available. Told to fuel up in the morning to be told there wasn’t any. And this was the most expensive overnight berth on the trip! Rip off…

But the beer was nice, the weather was awesome and Karavee was champion.

Scarborough to Hartlepool

Cracking day, with good wind keeping a 5.5kt average, with dolphins and the first Puffin of the trip.

Had an impromptu man overboard exercise to collect a radio controlled ‘plane out of the sea.

Met some lovely people who invited me for wine and nibbles in Hartlepool Marina on their big Westerly, in which they are off around the world soon – fair winds!

Fuelled up , did a grocery run and headed for the next port.

Hartlepool to Amble

This weather can’t hold – surely?

Longer leg today with light and variable winds keeping progress slow, so arrived at sunset. I was anchored for a while but there was a sloppy swell making thing uncomfortable so I headed in and headed for a pub which was a shrine to the Toon Army – His Royal Highness Alan Shearer and everything with vertical black and white stripes. Way aye man! More Puffins, especially off Lindisfarne and the Holy Islands. And they were black and white too come to think of it.

Amble to Eyemouth

Another hot day, and a big pod of dolphins were off the entrance at Amble.

Been wanting to get to Eyemouth by boat for years. I’d been here with Gill whilst taking a break in Northumberland, and it was just as interesting as I remember. Proper working harbour, helpful Harbour Master and massive seals coming to see if there were fish to be had. Stayed a couple of days and recharged batteries literally and metaphorically.

Recommended stopover. And in Scotland!

Eyemouth to Stonehaven

Weather forecast SE 5-6 and my intended stop in Arbroath out of bounds because its a drying harbour and the tides were wrong to be there when the harbourmaster was on duty, so decided to head for Stonehaven, something like 60nm (?)

Winds were as forecast with one spell of F7 of a couple of hours, but with a couple of rolls in the main and on a very broad reach, Karavee was flying. Fastest I saw was 8.2 kt but she averaged over 6 overall. Best days sail yet. Interesting docking against the wall in the middle of the night as my steering failed (low on fluid) but it was a big, sheltered wall with loads of space, so it was fine. Really excellent harbourmaster who advised me to bring Karavee into the drying harbour as the SE7 was increasing to  F8 Southerly, and it did. Karavee took the ground fine against a big work cat, although kilted over too far on the first tide. I’ve now seen her bum!

Shopping, cooking, tidying up. Champion. Nice wee town too…Claims to have invented the deep fried Mars bar. Welcome to Scotland, pass the Buckfast. 😉

Stonehaven to Peterhead

Lumpy seas left over from the gale, just uncomfortable and a bit tedious. But Peterhead, what a place!
(If you’ve been there, you’ll recognise the sarcasm…)

But I did meet Paul from Germany via Norway on his 30′ steel yacht, Bleau Peter.

Peterhead to Whitehills

Still a bit messy until I rounded the point at Rattray Head with long swells that Karavee doesn’t like much, but once around the point and heading along the North Aberdeenshire coast, sanity was resumed. And tea. Lots of tea. Engine fluffed a little coming into Whitehills which has a really tight entrance, but again, a lovely working harbour with incredibly pretty, well maintained fishing boats. The HM, Bertie, was again, really helpful. Some of you know I used to work in an expensive marina, and it was never like this, sadly.

Whitehills to Inverness

The end of the first leg was ‘interesting’ as Karavee fluttered and died when off the village where they filmed a lot of Local Hero, Pennan. No wind, so I drifted up and down while fitting a new fuel filter. Took ages to bleed through, but quite a relief when she fired up again. Hasn’t missed a beat since, but I may put an additional in-line filter in to head that one off. For anyone interested (?) the engine ran consistently at 2.65 l/p/h. No tacho but I’d guess 4.5kn at 1200 rpm.

The Moray Firth is interesting. You go from 400′ near Cromarty to 12′ on the Inverness approaches, and there’s understandably quite a confused tide rip. Great to sail under the bridge I’ve driven over so many times and get in, turn the engine off and get to a Wetherspoons at £2.25 a pint for Doom Bar! First one didn’t touch the sides.

My great friend, Gerry came and picked me up and took me back to Gairloch for a couple of days r+r. He kept inviting me to use the sauna and shower I fitted. Wash, basically.

End of Leg one. Loved it.

Leg 2 – The Caledonian Canal

I was concerned about being single handed but I shouldn’t have been. Still quite early in the season, so not too busy and every lock-keeper took lines for me. The only niggle is that Karavee kicks to port astern quite hard and all the locks use starboard side to going south, so every lock needed a bit of jiggling to stop her wandering off.
If you haven’t, but get the chance, the Caledonian is brilliant, stress free, slow motion sailing.

The first sea lock, Clacknaharry puts you through the paces as its a big un, but after that it just stunning scenery all the way  – except I didn’t see Loch Ness at all in first heavy rain and then fog, but when it cleared, the other lochs were superb. I did see over 700′ on the depth sounder but no Nessie.

You pay a single transit fee of £205 for Karavee, (10mtr) but you can use all their facilities, loos, pontoon berth, showers and so on for free. I took most of the 8 days and really slowed down the pace just to make the most of it. Neptunes staircase is great, but I decided to walk her through the 8 locks – wont be doing that again.

The gallery is just a selection of typical images.

Leg 3 – The Western Isles

The final run took me from Loch Linnhe, around to Mull, then Canna in the Small Isles, Skye and then finally home to Gairloch.

Loch Linnhe is lovely, and managed to time it right through the Corran Narrows at full ebb, which can be 7 knots. Overnight stop at an anchorage in Loch a’ Choire bay. Stunning scenery. Just a perfect end to the day.

Leg 3 – The Western Isles: Isle of Mull, Tobermory

The Isle of Mull is somewhere I know well, and it was lovely to be back. Dear, but lovely! (£5 a pint, £9 for fish and chips. Even red diesel is £1.49!) But it is pretty, quirky and great fun. I did a walk through Aros Park again to the waterfall, and bought one of Gill’s cards from Tackle and Books!

Tick in the box, as my mum says 😉

Leg 3 – The Western Isles: Canna, the best til last…

They could have filmed Local Hero here. No phone signal, breathtaking scenery, white tailed eagles, dolphins, minke whale, seals, more puffins, guillemots, razorbill, black guillemot and clear, deep water. One shop, open 24 hours a day on an honesty box. Absolutely perfect.

Canna is one of the 4 Small Isles, the others being Rum, Muck and Eigg, and lie south and west of Skye on the route to the Outer Hebrides.

Had to pinch myself sometimes.  loved every moment.

Leg 3 – Skye, with wildlife on show everywhere

Minke Whale in groups of 3 or 4 at a time, with big pods of dolphin. Glassy seas, so I switched everything off and just drifted with them for an hour or two. Gannet, and auks everywhere making a real racket. An amazing experience, then anchored in North Skye in a bay, but dragged the anchor in kelp so a bit fraught for a while trying to get my bearings at 3a.m.!

Leg 3 – Badachro, Gairloch and home

Here is Karavee sitting on her mahoosive mooring!

She sits in Loch Sheildaig, which is part of Loch Gairloch, and is a bit of a row ashore. I knew I should have had David’s Walker Bay! Outboard next I think…