Going Backwards

We’d planned to go west through the Corryvreckan at 11:15am on Wednesday 20th September just as the tide was slack and the westerly flood was beginning, but we wanted to check the forecast first.  We had no phone link so called Belfast Coastguard on the VHF who gave us a strong wind warning of up to force 7.  As the wind was southerly and meeting the spring flood tide coming through the Corryvreckan, this did not look good for going through that day, so we decided to wait and try again the next day when the winds had moderated.  But later Ian did get a phone signal and was able to update his wind predictions for Tiree and they did not look good – in other words, we could head west the next day but there was not a weather window to get us back on time to get to Tighnabruaich the next week.  Also, the tides were not right for us to head south and go around the Mull of Kintyre, so we made the decision to cut our losses and head back to Crinan to take the canal back through to the Firth of Clyde.

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Our anchorage at Port an Tiobart.  The entrance to the Corryvreckan is just behind the dark headland on the left.  The sunny headland is the other side.

So, at 2:45pm after radioing Crinan Sea Lock to expect us about 4:30pm to get into the Crinan basin, we raised anchor and set off.  Ian had anticipated that the tides would try to sweep us north but was not expecting from the tide tables that this would be at a speed of more than 2 knots.  But when he set a track toward Crinan the boat was crabbing and only making what appeared to be 0.8 knots toward Crinan despite the engine on full speed and the jib up to give us an extra knot.  Ian soon realised we would not make the deadline for the lock at that speed and so decided to return to our original anchorage – he only needed to change the heading slightly and we were crabbing towards the coast instead of towards Crinan.  Then looking at the track he discovered that the 0.8 knots was actually backwards towards the Corryvreckan.  The tidal stream, where we were, was at least 7 knots and poor Milo was only doing 6 knots through the water.  Ian then did something he’d never done before – he set the engine to 2500rpm (he’d been advised by the previous owner to keep the revs at 2100rpm or lower). This helped speed our crabbing towards the shore and stop us being sucked further back towards the entrance of the Corryvreckan.  Eventually as we almost reached the rocky coastline we picked up an eddy which led us safely south again making progress towards our anchorage – at a rough estimate it was 1.4nm to the entrance of the Corryvreckan and we’d been swept backwards about half way there – a close call.  Interestingly, when we’d anchored, Ros said “will we be safe in this anchorage?”  and when I told her, “of course we will, it is the same one as last night” – she didn’t believe it, as we’d been motoring so fast south that she thought we’d arrived at the next anchorage.

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The meal that cheered Ian up – Duck à l’Orange

Rosamund then prepared the most amazing meal – Duck à l’Orange which was delicious and helped Ian forget the earlier traumas.  Ros then admitted she would have been much more worried if she’d realised what was actually happening.

Top left: the triangular track in the top left hand corner of the chart shows our aborted attempt on Wednesday which swept us to within 0.7nm of the Corryvreckan entrance. The bottom track is the one we took with the family when we came across a few days earlier.  The track set is toward the waypoint south of the Garbh Reisa islands.  Top right: shows the actual track pushing us way south of our intended track. Bottom: the black line is our set track to Crinan Lock after the waypoint, the red loop below shows how far south we were swept by the tide even when the boat was on auto helm continuously tracking toward Crinan

The next morning, after the usual wild swimming and a short shore trip by Ian to see if he could walk to the Corryvreckan (he couldn’t and soon gave up), we left for Crinan – this time at 9:45am 2 hours into an easterly ebb tide flowing through the Corryvreckan.  In no time at all we were tracking toward Crinan – this time at 9.5 knots and in the right direction.  Again, the tide was so strong that the autohelm could not hold the track until we approached much closer to Crinan.  We were in the lock within the hour, the same time it took us to go there and back the day before hardly leaving our anchorage more than 0.7nm away!

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Return to our berth in the Crinan Basin near The Coffee Shop

It was delightful to return to the peace of Crinan Basin.  How we both love that place.  This time we were in time for coffee and bacon butties at The Coffee Shop and had a lazy afternoon doing the washing at the Crinan Boatyard and Ian amused himself trying to change some of the inside lights to LEDs to save power when only using the batteries.  We signed up to go through the Crinan canal over the next 4 days.  As we did not have any spare crew to operate the lock gates,we asked if we could pay for help.  The normal company Yot Shop could not do anything until the weekend and so we were put in contact with Hugh Kirk who could take us through with another yacht he was managing called Viking.  So, with everything organised for the next day we had a leisurely walk to Crinan Harbour and then returned to the Crinan Hotel for our evening meal.

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View back toward the entrance to the Corryvreckan – the “V” in the distance, as the sun is near to setting at the equinox

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