Thursday, 13 June 2013

Passage to Stornoway (by Tim)

By 3pm yesterday the weather in Rona seemed to have lifted a bit and while there was little
About to leave Rona
wind we thought we would give it a go, we eased our way out of the anchorage as gingerly as we had entered as the notable rock in the entrance channel was now covered. We remain very much East Coast sailors - more at home with sand and mud banks than rocks. The rapidity that the water depth can change here is so dramatic that our, usually trusty, echo sounder gets confused. Failing to get an echo in over 50m of water it will tell us there is only 2 or 3m below us. As these deep areas are often marked as submarine exercise areas these unexpectedly shallow readings get us wondering. We see no periscopes but do spot some young puffins fishing.

After an hour or so the light westerly wind freshened, we stopped the engine and with all plain sail set laid a course for Stornoway. 40 miles and nine hours later, all on the port tack, we entered Stornoway harbour; only slightly perturbed by the quick flashing port hand buoy that marks the entrance having no light on it. We perhaps place an unrealistic expectation of reliability on navigational marks in UK waters, in many countries it is no surprise when they are not working or have been swept away by a tropical storm.

The pilot book tells us that the Minch is a busy shipping channel but apart from half a dozen fishing boats the only ship we saw was an 80,000t bulk carrier heading for the Glensanda quarry. We conclude that the pilot book's author can't be familiar with sailing the English Channel.

Stornaway is a fine natural harbour although more geared up for the needs of ferry operations and fishing than yachts. There is a small marina but it has no room for the gaffers so we are rafted up on a commercial quay. Naiad and Tantina II are already here together with local boat Ammonite who gave us a warm welcome despite it being nearly midnight.