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A photographic commission

Oban to Oban

Chief photographer
Chief photographer

In my first trip on Brighton Belle sailing as skipper I prepared two passages one to do an anti-clockwise circumnavigation of Mull in settled weather and one for bad weather in the event of multiple south-westerly fronts coming over. The reality in the words of the Met-Office was "changeable" and with two fronts expected 4 days apart, the around Mull passage was not suitable because of the lack of shelter on the south-west corner of the island. I was not over-disappointed since the totally sheltered anchorages I had found looked extremely attractive from the pilot book, even if they were not strictly required on our week's weather.

We had a request from Stewart to see if we could get some good photos on Brighton Belle under sail and that made a nice week's project. Our crew was me, Judith Hankey as skipper, Richard Ash (my husband) as mate, David Roberts (chief photographer), Pascale Labourel, Allan Seagroatt and Robert Kingsbury.

Our planned departure from Oban transit marina was with the rising tide on Sunday morning but on the day we could not see Kerrera the island just opposite in the bay. I set the criterion of seeing the island for 30minutes before we left but in fact the visibility never managed that. Google provided the definition of thick fog, which was a visibility of 180m and at times it was that bad as the many low clouds moved over us. At 2pm the crew all agreed to give up on watching the fog and to do other things such as go for various walks.

On Monday we sailed northward alongside the west of Lismore in some light winds but had to motor upwind back south since the channel was too narrow to tack amongst the rocks. We crept into the complete shelter of South Shian just inside the entrance of Loch Creran, where we anchored for the night.

We attempted to complete our photographic commission on Tuesday but we were hampered by the very low level of petrol in the outboard tank and so had a minor change of plan and we went into Tobermory for the night. Suitably refilled we restarted our task. None of our overnight stops were suitable for a sail past from land since they were all so enclosed, and Oban is full of ferries with a new guidance for small boats to keep clear and stay under motor. Loch Sunart provided the venue and we had to heave-to in order to lower the dinghy in the open waters of the loch. Going along slowly under sail the dinghy was fairly easily lowered and Richard and David became driver and photographer respectively. We had to drop the mizzen to lower the dinghy and so we did not re-raise the mizzen for our sail past the dinghy as David took photos.

Entrance into Loch Drumbuie becomes easy

Antares charts worked well on the IPad allowing close quarters real time pilotage through the narrow entrances into our anchorages. The attached screen grab shows our planned waypoints going into Loch Drumbuie, which made it all rather easy. Back up notes and plotter waypoints were available too in case of screen lock-up. The pilot book also has chartlets with plenty of detail to clear the identified shallow patches and rocks.

I had decided on a later departure from Loch Drumbuie, so unfortunately after tacking for some time in the Sound of Mull we had in the end to motor to get in at the time that I had agreed with the harbourmaster in Loch Aline. The harbourmaster had helpfully cleared the smaller boats away from the hammerhead, but we had a 45footer arrive two minutes in front of us and they moored there instead whilst the harbourmaster had a 10 minute break. However, he then moved the 40 footer on the other hammerhead so that we could go alongside the pontoon and the 40 foot boat then rafted up alongside us. We finished our cruise in Dunstaffnage as planned and arrived as the only real rain of our week happened, getting us and Stephen Benham, the next skipper who had offered to handle lines, thoroughly wet. A combination of de-humidifier and hot sun soon dried everything out thoroughly. Our maximum wind was gusts of 40 knots (on the nose obviously) on the Friday afternoon but mostly we had much lighter winds in the week, and some sunshine.

Such a great crew

Eating?, well we ate too much really, powered by Pascale and David's enthusiasm for food. The week started with Pascale's demand on our arrival that we choose how many scallops we wanted for lunch because the fishmonger would close in 15 minutes, and it continued in the same indulgent manner. We ate out twice in Oban at the railway pier's once on the early diner menu and once on the full menu. In Tobermory we tromped slowly up the hill to eat at the Hebridean Lodge whose food is excellent, but they need a much better wine list to match it. Suitably encouraged by the wee dram instead of pudding on our first Saturday meal Richard led the 'let's try some whiskies on board too' for after the meal, when the gin was available beforehand. No wonder we had wine over!

Sunset over our baby sister ship an Oyster 43 in Loch Brumbuie

We found everyone we met in the various ports of call very helpful but a special thanks should go to Alba Yachting at Dunstaffnage Marina who made up a replacement safety guard rail and ordered a gooseneck part for the mizzen for us.

About the author

Judith Hankey

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