Traveling to Tobermory

We began this journey with a day of firsts; appropriate on the first day of September.  Our first sail without Stephanie, who was back in the USA and would not return until the same day Bruce & I were scheduled to depart.  Also, Detour’s first sail without Stephanie aboard.  Finally, my first time back on salt water since my first day on the 21st of August.

I really should say motoring versus sailing as there would be no sailing today due to both the wind against us and plenty of miles to cover.

There were a lot of ideas about where to go next and as the weather forecast (particularly the wind) developed over the past few days, some ideas became less possible than others.  The tides are also a factor; we were at the head of a narrow channel with strong tidal currents that could either help or hinder our progress depending on the time we chose to travel.

By about 9:45AM, we were through the final lock from the Caledonia Canal into the sea and headed southwest on Loch Linnhe; against the wind but with the tide.  Besides the wind, it was a bit wet and the waves could be a bit bouncy, so rain gear was the fashion choice.

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We passed an interesting ferry boat near Corran, which docks at a ramp — I’m more used to seeing ferry boats at special terminals.  Also interesting, we’d identified a lighthouse which on the chart was identified with green and red markings. Brian explained that if you see this lighthouse at night and the light displays green, that means you should steer more to the right (starboard). And if the light displays red, you should steer to port (left). And if the light displays white (or was it yellow?), then you are on course to pass the lighthouse safely. This notion is apparently in wide use for European lighthouses, but not used in the USA.  We also passed a beautiful large sailing ship named the “Flying Dutchman” from the Netherlands, though it clearly wasn’t sailing since no sails were raised.

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The channel narrows at Corran, increasing the speed of the ebb tide. For a short time, we were racing along at 10 knots!

10 knots

This page shows the track for the first day.

When you have a lot of ground to cover, the weather isn’t good, and the boat is bouncing around in a decent fashion, there really aren’t many activities to do aside from sailing and navigating. While I don’t think I’m particularly prone to sea sickness, and I wasn’t very close on this trip, I do know which activities to avoid that might initiate sea sickness.  For example; spend lots of time below deck working (lying down for a nap would be fine), or using binoculars excessively, or walking around a lot, or reading. So I stayed warm on deck, enjoyed the passing scenery, despite fairly low cloud cover, and chatted with my fellow crew members. There was usually something to look at, or something approaching distract one’s attention.

We continued down the channel for some time, with the wind not really easing. Gradually, we turned into the Sound of Mull. This increased the motion, though not to a huge degree, but also shortened the trip significantly. Every so often, the motion of a wave would catch me by surprise. We sailed past yet another old castle ruin and rapidly approaching our planned anchorage for the night, Lochaline. This was a small town with a nicely protected anchorage on the south side. We easily picked out a nice spot, set the anchor, and the long day was over — we anchored at 16:02, just over 6 hours and about 40 nautical miles of travel. Dinner was lamb, potatoes, onions, spinach, and Scottish beer of course. It rained a fair amount that evening, the ideal setting for play of the board game “King of Tokyo” — I do not recall who won…

We were surprised to have cellular 3G data coverage while we were in the Lochaline harbor — it’s a small town that’s mostly a ferry connection to the popular Isle of Mull.  The lack of cellular coverage continues to surprise us, and fining 3G is a highlight of any day’s exploration!

The following day, we departed the anchorage at 10:55AM and sailed the Sound of Mull heading towards Tobermory.  The wind was in our favor and we raised the genoa at 12:17PM. We sailed for at least an hour, before having to drop the sail and prepare to enter Tobermory’s harbor.

Brian adjusting the sail

Brian adjusting the Genoa

The Genoa

Sailing to Tobermory with the Genoa

There were several choices at the harbor; we ended chose a mooring ball as a good compromise — much less expensive than the dock and much closer to town than the recommended anchorages. Attaching to a mooring ball was surprisingly easy. While we prepped for our stay, a beautiful and very large aluminum sailboat came in to stay at the dock. Since Detour is aluminum, other aluminum boats always attract attention, much like I tend to notice other fiberglass travel trailers when I’m on the road. We all wished to befriend the owners and get a tour of this fine yacht!

The view of Tobermory from our moorage

The view of Tobermory from our mooring.

We attached the outboard motor to the dinghy (just a bit too far to row, plus we were going to be doing this several times).  We dinghied to the dock and explored the town, mostly looking for lunch spots. Interestingly, while Lochaline was a tiny town yet had great 3G data coverage, Tobermory had only the bare minimum; strange since it’s a bigger town and famous as a yachting and tourist spot.  We’d be lucky to send or receive emails during our stay!  But onward to touring in the meantime…

We walked the entire waterfront, scenic with its multi-colored buildings.  It was maybe a 10-minute walk to the end of the waterfront, where we selected an outdoor lunch spot at The Pier Cafe. Delightful food, including a fish dish enjoyed by Brian of smoked haddock poached in milk with an egg atop, which he later duplicated on board. Marred only by the adjacent diners, a larger family accompanied by their four dogs who were determined to bark loudly and long at anything that walked past.

After picking up some groceries and much needed camping gas (exchangable butane cylinders for cooking), we decided on a coastal hike for the late afternoon, leaving directly from the marina we headed south. A well marked trail led to two waterfalls with great scenery and views of the bay. The trail was a bit muddy and the exact route was a bit uncertain, but in the end our guesses turned out to be just fine and we returned safely, covering about 3.4 miles, and decided that staying in Tobermory for another day would be a good decision.

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The harbormaster was out early in the morning with her boat, collecting fees for the evening prior. We paid for our mooring and also got the codes for the wifi (yay!) and for the bathrooms/showers. Back online, and squeaky clean!

We decided to try a hike to the north of Tobermory that would pass some ruins, out toward the north coast, and fairly near castle ruins if we wanted to expend the extra effort. After doing some online research and map measuring, it looked like it wouldn’t be too bad to hike to the trail head from town and then do the hike.

Except for being a steady uphill this turned out to be a very pleasant hike, 8.5 miles overall, with terrific views of the coastline. We also passed the ruins of old houses, picked up a few good life birds for me, including the Goshawk, and happened upon a fabulous picnic table on the coast for our lunch break. Even better — plentiful blackberries along the way, enough to collect a huge number of them which were a great treat that evening and next, especially when combined with some cream. We quite enjoyed our adventures on the Isle of Mull!

After getting back to town, showers were in order and while they were pay showers, the timing was generous and they were easily some of the nicest we encountered on the entire trip. After that, some “pints for birds” seemed to be in order, and after one of those, it seemed much easier to just order dinner at this pub rather than make it ourselves. I don’t remember exactly what we had, except that it was delicious.

Pints for Birds!

Pints for Birds!

Pints for Birds!

Pints for Birds!

We did not stay up too late that evening, as we had an extremely long day planned for the very next day.