We had to enter Loch Leven under the Ballachulish bridge by 10:30am to avoid having strong tidal flows against us. Combine this with winds rising to force 6 and the tidal stream up Loch Linnhe turning at 9:30 meant that we had to be away by 7am. I checked the height of Milo’s mast (13m) as the bridge has a low clearance (16m) – should be OK.
We raised the main while still on the mooring as she was pointing into wind and soon had the engine off as we slipped the mooring and sailed away northward through the Lynn of Lorn toward Loch Linnhe. The Lynn of Lorn was quite narrow so you had to concentrate to keep on course, particularly approaching Shuna Island as it is confusing to begin with whether to pass it to port or starboard, but a quick check of the chart convinces you that doing a dogleg into Loch Linnhe was by far the safer course. As we were approaching the main loch we were goose-winged but then as we headed more NE we slowly moved towards a broad reach.
The weather forecasts (Windfinder and XCWeather) were both predicting force 4 but gusting to 5 at first then 6 later. I wondered how they could predict this so precisely, but found later that this was accurate. On my chartplotter I have set up true ground wind speed and on a separate gauge have apparent windspeed. This is useful as it helps me keep a track of how strong the gusts are. Also, I noticed a pattern on this trip – at force 4 we were going at about 4 knots, at force 5, 5 knots and gusting force 6 we reached 6 to 6.3 knots. Once we had a force 7 gust and she reached 7knots – so Milo seems to have a relationship with the Beaufort wind scale. The Force 6-7 wind gusts were difficult to hold with full sail and she tended to head up into wind taking all my strength to get her back on course. She healed over a lot in the gusts, even on a broad reach, causing items below to crash across the cabin.
Our track from Marine traffic and our waypoints from the chart recorder
We had such a brilliant sail that we reached Ballachulish bridge one hour ahead of schedule so had the tide still with us when passing under the bridge. The mast did look as though it would hit the bridge, but this was probably an optical illusion. But arriving at Ballachulish Marina pier was a bit of a mystery as we could not get hold of anyone. We picked up a visitor’s mooring and then I took the tender ashore. The gate had a combination lock and I could not get out. Luckily Simon was there – he was about to take out a boat trip. Sadly, he said the owner of the Marina had died last month, so things were rather chaotic at the moment. I had noticed signs of neglect – the visitor’s mooring chain had nearly corroded through and some of the wooden pier boards were rotten with some broken.
Milo’s mast just clearing the Ballachulish Bridge entering Loch Lever
Leaving early meant that we’d arrived very early in Ballachulish – mid morning. The Marina had an arrangement with the local Isles of Glencoe Hotel so we could use their pool and sauna. We arrived early afternoon to find that we’d coincided with a children’s swimming lesson and only half of quite a small pool was available, but it was still good to freshen up and have a shower. The hotel also had a good internet connection and a lovely view across Loch Leven. One drawback of the marina was its proximity to a main road, so there was occasionally some traffic noise, but within a short walk under the road bridge there was a well-stocked Co-operative store open 7am-10pm, a visitors’ Centre and café for lunches and afternoon teas and a hardware store. Also, just round the corner was Quarrier’s fish and chip shop and the Laroch Restaurant and Bar where we booked and ate later in the evening and were delighted with the food.
Quarries and the Laroch Restaurant and Bar where we ate the night we arrived
The next day was sunny and we should have explored Loch Lever, but Ian discovered a serious leak from the engine water pump, which became apparent when the automatic bilge pump suddenly started pumping water overboard at 8am in the morning. Apart from the bilges being flooded, the well under the engine was full and water was continuously dripping from the water pump. This was the pump that (we thought) had been successfully repaired in Tobermory by Philippe – clearly a new pump was called for. It took 8 bucket loads to clear the bilges – 2 of which came from the engine well. From now on, if we were to limp to Findhorn with this engine problem, we had to use our 2 bucket engine well capacity wisely and empty it regularly and remember to turn off the engine stop-cock after switching off the engine. Ian had worked out that the water pump was under the water line, which is why it was dripping continuously.
The main part of the day though was getting Milo shipshape for the arrival of Andrew, Adam and the four children the next day. Normally we use the front cabin as a dumping ground and general store. Now we had to be creative with where we put things and were surprised how quickly we could stow luggage so that the front cabin became usable. The plan was to eat at the Seafood restaurant down Loch Leven on the north side, for them all to stay the night on the boat and then for them to leave the next day to climb Ben Nevis, but the weather forecast was so bad that we were suggesting to Andrew that we should drive to the restaurant rather than sail as it would be pouring with rain with winds gusting to force 7.
View from our mooring in Ballachulish after a night of rain