The Summer Cruise in Company

 As recounted by Caroline, Tom, Marje, Don and Graham.

It was still dark at 4am on Monday 10th July as Silverjack and Black Pepper slipped out of Campbeltown taking the morning tide to Gigha and a rendezvous with Aquaholic . Breakfast saw a memorable and windless sunrise over Goat Fell. One of those sailing early mornings you’ll never forget.

Indeed a fast and straightforward rounding under engine saw Black Pepper on a mooring and ashore in Ardminish before lunch while Silverjack, with 4 on board, played with the tide and a cruising chute in the light westerly. It was all a welcome break from the storms of the previous week which had prevented the planned cruise-in-company to Ballycastle and Rathlin.

 Aquaholic arrived in the afternoon after an exhilarating sail from Craobh with Tom, Caroline and Norena on board They hosted the evening meal and completed the fleet of 3 yachts and 9 souls.

We all spent a warm and sunny day exploring Achamore Gardens on Tuesday followed by supper in the Boathouse.


                                                    A brief stop at Achamore Gardens TH

Wednesday saw a short and interesting sail to Craighouse. The wind - initially a gentle 10 knot westerly - gusted to 25 knots off Jura as hurried “oilskins over shorts and t-shirts” saw yachts reefing in the rain and hail squalls in plummeting temperatures.

Aquaholic beating to Craighouse GG

It was to be a foretaste of the unstable weather of the next few weeks which meant taking advantage of any weather window whilst looking over our shoulders (and up and down our screens) for the next low pressure system spinning in from the west.

                           The Crews at Craighouse before eating ashore GG

The Fleet set off early on the Thursday to catch the tide north. Black Pepper and Aquaholic sailed for Craobh to allow time to shop in Oban for the barbeque while Silverjack bagged one more anchorage at the lagoon in Loch Craignish. They were rewarded with a very settled evening having walked to Ardfern, where they met our Commodore, Charles with Anne and their family off Lollypop which had been on an Ardfern mooring. 


                                                            Morag Dorward enjoying the peace at the lagoon

In the morning, both Silverjack and Lollypop had a good sail in light conditions catching the tide north as the Dorus Mhor opened for the short passage to Craobh.


The Craobh Muster……………

Unfortunately, the fleet woke up to the now familiar unsettled weather on Saturday morning and the planned race still with only two potential entries was cancelled. The barbeque went ahead in the Boatshed as planned with 19 people from 6 boats in attendance. We were pleased to have the company of new members David & Essie Brice from Belfast who were over with friends cruising their Hanse 341 'Cariad'.  The food was bountiful with many an adventure shared over that and a few glasses of wine. Music and dancing returned courtesy of Stewart who, with Catherine, joined Don and Marje on Black Pepper for the evening.

Boatshed barn dance GG


The weather also impacted on the cruise-in-company to Loch Spelve planned for Sunday. With strong winds forecast overnight and with no desire to repeat the anchor drag race of last year, it was decided to cancel the cruise.  In the afternoon Marcus and Charles departed on Lollypop for the Crinan Canal and enjoyed a fast heavily reefed sail to Crinan where they were met by Anne who had driven down and was able to help them through the first few locks. For the determined cruising souls remaining however Inverlussa Mussel Farm came to the rescue on the Mussel Fest and delivered mussels for collection at Oban. These were gratefully received and the Mussel Fest went ahead in the Boatshed on Sunday evening.  

Fingers crossed the weather gods are kinder to us next year and the full planned programme is able to go ahead.

SYC Craobh Muster Cruise in Company Finale

Following the mussel muster in the Craobh boatshed Monday dawned with lighter winds and slightly less rain. Black Pepper, Cariad and Aquaholic set sail for Lochaline. Although a little bouncy around Easdale a good wind held until Firth of Lorne where boats ground to a halt as if brakes had been applied.

Engines were started and the three boats motored on to Lochaline tying up in the Marina for the night. Silverjack left later that day after a change of crew and managed to pick up more wind before gracing Loch Spelve with their company for the evening.


                                                         BP set for Lochaline under threatening skies. CH

All four boats made their way to Tobermory on Tuesday in very light winds from the aft, Silverjack hoisting her colourful cruising chute to gently sail up the sound. The crews from all boats assembled at the Tobermory Hotel for a great meal and a few libations. 


                                              Settled conditions on arrival at Tobermory GG

On Wednesday morning the fleet split with Cariad heading into a moderate head wind to Muck to continue her cruise further north. Silverjack caught the tide south making their way steadily to Loch Tarbert, Jura for the evening before a planned trip to Port Ellen the next day. Aquaholic and Black Pepper remained in Tobermory heading up to the Street Food Festival beside the Smokery.

Thursday’s weather outlook warned of strong winds due later and Silverjack, having made their way to Port Ellen decided that the planned whisky tour should be abandoned in favour of making their way back to the Clyde the next day via Campbeltown. Black Pepper and Aquaholic headed for Kerrera in preparation for Black Pepper starting their journey back to the Clyde via Gigha the following day. Winds built throughout the day which started light with Aquaholic hoisting the asymmetric and turned into a breezy run down the Sound of Mull with a liberal downpour at the entrance to Oban Bay.

                                  Aquaholic under asymmetric spinnaker TH

Cariad travelled on to Rhum on Thursday hoping to pick up one of the 10 new moorings available, only to find 20 other boats had the same idea, so anchored instead. On Friday they enjoyed a sail to Mallaig to drop off crew and began a sail to Raasay with hopes to walk Callum’s Road.  However, the weather once again had plans revising and after making their way to the Kyle of Lochalsh where they were joined by a pod of dolphins for half an hour, plans were changed and Cariad made their way back to Belfast via Tobermory, Ardfern and Gigha.

Silverjack having foregone their whisky tour and leaving Port Ellen on Friday morning managed to avoid the heavy weather and reach Lochranza with a mixture of sailing and motoring. They then visited Tarbert, dining at the Starfish before concluding their cruise with a sail to St Ninians Bay where they were rewarded with a beautiful sunset.

                                 Settled night at St Ninian’s Bay Bute GG

Aquaholic left Kerrera just before lunch and headed back to Craobh tying up in their berth before the forecast gales arrived.

Friday also saw Black Pepper leave Kerrera quietly before the sun rose, arriving at Gigha early afternoon after spending half an hour with a large Minke whale! Their stay turned into 3 days on a mooring waiting for fresh easterlies to blow through before rounding the Mull. 



Choppy conditions at Ardminish DG  (!)

On Monday, Black Pepper motor sailed to Campbeltown in gentle winds. After a sunny and relaxing day there, the weather gods had one more surprise – on Wednesday, Black Pepper sailed back to Ormidale in an increasingly fresh south-easterly  and on approaching the mooring, it kicked up to 25kn onshore, preventing them from picking up their mooring until it settled a couple of hours later. They packed the car for home in torrential rain with a mixture of relief and joy at surviving the 2023 summer cruise.


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