" 5. A Cruise round the Inner Hebrides ~ Days 5 and 6 "
Date & Time: Thursday 25th / Friday 26th September 2014.
Locations : The Inner Hebrides islands, north of the Great Glen, south of Ardnamurchan.
Places visited : Tobermory to Oban via Loch Aline and Kerrera island.
Accommodation : The live-aboard motor yacht Zuza, of Northern Light Charters.
With : Ann and myself, fellow guests Martyn and Sian, skipper Tim and chef Steve.
Weather : A damp day with weather brightening as the weather system moves away north.
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Day 5 of our cruise and the weather has taken a turn for the worse.
Gone are the sun and the dolphins of yesterday and autumn rolls in with low cloud and slight drizzle.
Here's the same view of Zuza at the pontoon as before.
It looks a bit different now without the sunshine or the harbour lights of last night.
Tobermory's three church buildings, the grey stone reflecting the weather.
One last look back as we round Calve Island,
leaving the harbour and entering the Sound of Mull once more.
The Clansman off to Coll and Tiree again.
The people on board will have a rougher crossing today compared to the last time we saw them out at Coll harbour.
Eilean Glassa islands in the Sound as a smaller yacht motor-sails down channel against the tide.
We head for Loch Aline but have to change course temporarily for a fishing boat ahead.
The Ballantrae is a scallop dredger, full nets can be seen hanging over the gunwales
The X shaped fishing net on the forward mast (and the activity on board) means they are actively fishing
and it is our boat that has to alter course for them.
The Lochaline Ferry leaves their ferry port and heads out across the Sound towards the Fishnish Point on Mull.
This ferry has the shortest sea crossing to Mull of the three boats that service the island
but involved 50 miles of extra road driving plus the use of the Corran Ferry across Loch Linnhe to catch it.
We enter the sheltered entrance to Loch Aline and head up past the old jetty (seen here later in the day).
We pass a seemingly new industrial site with a stone crushing plant and large timber framed shelter.
Scottish government money has subsidised the building of a new marina a few years back
in order to encourage visitors to this delightful small sea loch.
There is facility to moor up, take on water and go ashore for walks if you wish . . .
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. . . so after lunch that's just what we did !
Our skipper Tim promised lots of opportunities for sea eagles, golden eagles, otters, who know what if the weather is good.
Unfortunately it isn't as you can see. All good sea eagles are probably tucked up warmly in their nests in this weather !
At least the wild flowers on the bank of the visitor centre are trying to make the day as colourful as possible.
We check out the information board
which tells of the silica mine and of the chance to search for fossils on the beach.
Someone has very kindly left a few next to the picture in the centre in case we didn't find any ourselves.
Ann and I head off along the old road that skirts the loch.
It was a bit muddy and the poor weather didn't make it any more attractive.
Ann decided to head back to read her book on the boat . . . but I fancied a slightly longer stroll and continued onward.
At the head of the loch was my first significant wildlife sighting . . . a heron sitting on the mid-channel rock.
. . . and the view down river to the loch.
Our boat is moored up about two miles down, somewhere in the mist !
A damp ferry terminal, the electronic sign changing just as I press the shutter !
It has been a wet day but I can't complain too much . . . this is the first time I've used the waterproofs all holiday.
A workman's barge is moored behind the jetty.
Just the short walk across the beach and back up the loch to the boats, with chance to view the mine buildings along the way.
The mine is here because of these white stones I passed on the beach.
They are quartz stones which when crushed become high quality silica sand.
This was presumably the railway entrance seen on the information board earlier.
There are apparently upward of 48km of mined tunnels within the hill.
My track takes a right turn here rather than go into the site.
The large shed is covered in a huge single piece of green plastic . . . a very practical and interestingly engineered building.
The mine was opened in 1940 to produce optical quality glass for the military instruments and gun sights.
It closed in 2008 but re-opened two years later under new management and now supplies silica to Pilkintons amongst others
for use in the building industry and making the glass for solar panels.
The crusher, conveyors and general site architecture.
The conveyor feeds sand out to the jetty where large boats can moor alongside . . . average load 2000 tons of sand.
Back to the boat for a nice cup of tea.
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With the forecast for a westerly force 5 or 6 wind (force 8 is classed as a gale) Tim decides on Kerrera
as a safe harbour for tonight. Time then to move on.
Ardtornish Castle on the headland of the same name.
It was famous as a place where the local Clan Chief agreed an alliance with England, much to the consternation of some of his fellow Scots.
Where have I heard that before ?
Heading down the Sound towards Oban.
It looks like the Majestic boat has the same idea.
Duart Castle, ancestral home of the Clan Mclean.
[ Don't want to show my age but Charles McLean was Chief Scout when I was a lad.]
The sky seems to be brightening at the head of Loch Linnhe.
The low land to the right is Lismore Island with the classic lighthouse at the south western end.
The 26m high Lismore Light dates from the 1833 and protects shipping using the Sound
" The report at the time stated the light will doubtless be of great service to numerous vessels
which frequent the sounds of Islay, Luing and Mull. It also opened up the firth of Lorne
and Loch Linnhe for the western entrance to the Caledonian Canal. " (Northern Lighthouse Board)
A fishing support vessel makes passage between the lighthouse and the marker on Lady's Rock.
Rumour has it that the clan chief left didn't like his wife and so abandoned her on the rocks to die.
Fortunately for her (but not for him) she was rescued by a passing fisherman
and subsequent relations between the two families were never the same again !
This is tricky water. This and the last photo show the tide race between the islands.
The sun has appeared just in time to illuminate the light against the stormy background.
Tim turns the throttle up another notch in order to make headway against the tide.
Clear of the shoals of disturbed water as the weather shows signs of improvement.
We leave the rain behind in the Sound of Mull and head out across the bay towards Oban.
Ahead the sunshine is missing and the cloud is down low enough to obscure any view from the bridge of the super tanker.
This is one of the two boats used to transport stone from the Ardnamurchan super-quarry.
On the radio we hear the warning about two large vessels leaving the port of Oban.
The first is the Isle of Mull, the CalMac ferry to Craignure.
The second was the Lighthouse Board support vessel which services the lights and buoys around the coast of Scotland.
Note the heli-pad on the front deck and the large crane for lifting the channel buoys on the rear deck for servicing.
Kerrera Marina will provide a safe haven for tonight.
We pick up a mooring buoy offshore from the pontoon and settle back to enjoy an evening on board.
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What has Steve prepared for supper . . . more of his lovely cuisine.
Starters of mackerel pate with toasted brown bread, home made chutney and a balsamic glaze.
For our main course we were served stuffed peppers with tomato coulis potatoes.
For dessert, a delightful crème brûlée . . . all prepared on board.
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A quiet night followed, apart from the sound of the wind in the rigging, the water lapping the hull
and the occasional clunk of the mooring line in the forward cleats as the boat turned back and fore in the wind.
In the morning the storm had blown through
and all was peace and tranquillity as the sun rose over the town of Oban.
Time for a look around on our last morning.
We are sheltered in Ardantrive Bay.
The tower in the distance is the ruined Dunollie Castle on the Scottish mainland.
The table is set for the final time.
Bags packed and it is time to catch the marina's ferry boat across the harbour, back to the north pier.
This is the simpler option for us and allows Tim and Steve time to check the boat through once we have left.
We say our last goodbyes and thanks for a great six days aboard.
A last view of Zuza at the end of her last voyage with Northern Light this season.
Oban ahead with McCain's Tower on the hill above the town.
All that remains to do is to go ashore, fetch the car, load the bags and we'll be away south,
back home to Loweswater.
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