Whisky Run

An account of the Whisky Run.

This was to be the first extended sail for Pakwâci. How far could I sail in home waters taking into account tide and wind, comfortably or not in one day..? With Westerlies of some direction forecast I would be able to reach both up and down the Sound of Sleat once out of Loch Nevis. As it was the wind in my home loch allowed me to be close hauled right up to the entrance then turn to a beam reach and head North.

Exploring the Green Island and its seal colony in Sandaig Bay I was aiming to pass through the small gap of the last island and the mainland. Watching a local fisherman at work from his boat I saw that the swell in and around the gap would be too much to deal with so a quick last minute tack or two had me heading back for a better angle at rounding the island. Once around it was back to a beam reach up past Doune and into Airor Bay where I dropped the anchor and had some lunch. Two hours of sailing from home. I gauged that I could indeed make the Whisky Run across the Sound of Sleat to Eilean Iarmain on the Isle of Skye.

Just over 6km to the NW. Close hauled I set course and committed to the crossing. Keeping an eye out for the regular yacht and commercial traffic. I was surprised at how many yachts were under engine and not sailing..!

On rounding the lighthouse at Isle Ornsay I had to beat up the small bay to land on the beach by the old stone pier next to the Hotel and Distillery. Walking up the beach after dropping sail I put the anchor out. And, heading up to the hotel to see if I could find food. One of the few places nowadays that don't serve food all day. I made do with a hot chocolate and a bag of crisps.

A visit to the distillery shop to have a tasting, talk to the employee who turned out to be the daughter of someone our family knows quite well. A bottle of Poit Dhubh 8 yr old and a bottle of Uisaig Lusach Gin later a left the shop to one of the many coach tours that now frequent the Isle of Skye.

The distillery here at Eilean Iarmain is very rare, in that it is still in private hands and is descended from an original Illicit Still at this place since the 1500's.

With my illicit cargo on board I rowed off the beach and set the sails to run out of the bay. This should have been a warning..! The wind had turned from the West to the South. Once out into the Sound I was able to reach across to the far side, my home side of the water, but than had a LONG way to beat back down the way to get home. I had the wind against me, I also had the last of the flood tide against me. I didn't really make any way for at least an hour and than when the slack water appeared the wind dropped and I made little headway. In with all this was a swell of around 1.5m which made life adventurous.

I slowly made my way South and it was going to be a close call with darkness when I got home. I made a few phone-calls to home to keep folks abreast of progress. The wind picked up a little to around 6kts, but with the swell and confused waves close in it was still slow progress. The day then decided to end on a wet note with some heavy squally rain passing through. With this, the sea state and the time running out I decided to turn and run back north to Doune Bay.

Doune is a small community of 6 or so folks, they are cut off other than by sea. I could beach Pakwâci here in the confidence that it would be safe to leave. So after almost 45km of sailing I then, after making arrangements, walked up the hill to meet with a track I could follow for 6km back to my house. I eventually reached home, a little like a drowned rat with sore feet from walking in rubber boots at 2300.

I opened the whisky, had a shower and crashed.

Here is a link to the map of my sail: https://umap.openstreetmap.fr/en/map/whisky-run_355873#12/57.0911/-5.8375

Whisky: https://www.gaelicwhisky.com

Youtube: https://youtu.be/81SFvBzgNDM

PuffinInTegel's picture

Thanks for the account. I, too have often experienced bigger yachts motoring in a stiff breeze while I was comfortably sailing the Mirror on a similar course. It's probably because everyone is trying to keep to some sort of schedule. Probably even worse in tidal waters. Getting home before dark is, of course, an understandable reason.
A six-mile hike after sailing for hours is definitely a challenge. It always takes me a while to regain my "land legs" even after an afternoon's sailing, but perhaps that's an age-related issue.
Hope you were able to recover the boat without too much hassle.
Gernot H.

Matt-LonghouseLife's picture

Yes, the walk was a long end to my 13 hour day... I didn't notice any 'sea-leg' syndrome until I actually stood still once back in the house funnily enough. The dram of whisky helped I'm sure...

I'm hoping to go and recover the boat on Sunday, as the adventure only happened yesterday. Weather and tides are reasonable then with an early start from home to get the boat floating at the top of the tide, I don't really want to have to drag it down the cobble beach very far..!

Matt-LonghouseLife's picture

Pakwâci is now safely back in the shed at home.

I walked over the hill back to the beach at Doune today. The weekend has been very stormy here with wind in excess of a constant 30kts, and today was the first opportunity to fetch her back.

Some intense rain downpours on the walk to Doune, but brighter and dryer when I arrived.

After bailing out the weekends rain collection and re-rigging the boat I dragged her down the pebble and boulder beach back to the water, leaving some unusual geological rocks behind (they all seemed to have Blue streaks on them..!)

Just as I was beginning to leave the beach the wave height increased, making the launch quite exciting. I was so focussed on leaving the beach that I had not noticed the wave height out in the bay and beyond in the Sound of Sleat... With Main and Jib set I Close Hauled out into the breaking maelstrom, I almost had second thoughts about trying to get home... Anyway I persevered and watching the gaps between breaking waves made a couple of tacks to escape the bay. Once out far enough to Beam Reach on Port tack and not be in the zone where the waves were either breaking or rebounding from the rocky cliffs and shoreline, I made way South towards Mallaig. This was an interesting experience to say the least. I was now on a course that generally had me beam on to the rollers and surf. A constant lookout was needed to steer over some of the larger or breaking waves, otherwise the roll of the boat and the wind in the sails made keeping balance a rather fine exercise.

Aiming for the gap and small area of shelter behind Green Island I was MORE than happy to be able to Hove-To. I dropped the Main and Jib, sorted myself out (mostly getting the boom up and the main tied away, re-hoisted the Jib alone and now on a dead run surfed my way into the entrance of Loch Nevis. Again I was happy and could relax slightly once into the inner loch where the wave height reduced from 2+m to around 1m or less and I sailed the remaining 4km back to the slip under Jib and Bare Poles. Arriving approx 1.75 hours after leaving the beach. 13km in total.

Around 15 minutes after getting in to the house, the rain began again and has not stopped since!

I think that for me today this was enough Adventure.

Map: https://umap.openstreetmap.fr/en/map/untitled-map_356546

62816inBerlin's picture

That sounds very exciting. I remember beating out of a narrow entrance between shallows with breaking waves in very strong wind but had the comfort that if I should come a cropper, I could always wade ashore through the breakers. A rocky coastline in those conditions sounds frightening.
You must explain how those maps were generated. I've use a car navi log and google Earth for similar purposes but the open maps are clearer than a sattelite picture.
The weather shown in the video is what I'd classify as near-perfect!
Gernot H.

Matt-LonghouseLife's picture

Yes, I was very aware of the shoreline. Always imagining being dashed to pieces..!

Once out nd away by a couple of hundred metres I felt happier, but the waves yesterday were quite something. Less their size but the fact that I had to sail parallel to them. I am very used to wild water as a Whitewater guide in both Kayak and Canoe I have spent the last two and a bit decades Guiding and teaching in very dynamic environments around rivers, rapids and water.

My technique here in a small boat at sea though was to try and steer up and over the waves if I felt they were about to either break or if they were particularly BIG. Otherwise I was balancing the boat against the strong winds (15+ Knt) and in heading over the crest of a wave and down its rear it felt like I was about to fall backwards out of the boat and naturally moved my weight inboard only for the wind to take the hull over and dip the gunnel..!

I was also under a non-reefed rig (its all I have) and felt that without the jib up there would not be enough drive to take me forwards..? I really think that Curlew has the right rig in his true Gaff set-up.

I was super happy to get in behind the island where I could drop sail and hove-to. I seriously relaxed at that point... The only excitement then was surfing down the waves as I entered the loch.

The maps are drawn directly here: https://umap.openstreetmap.fr/en/ It's pretty self explanatory if you explore the icons by clicking them and play a little, try all the menu items etc.

PuffinInTegel's picture

Thanks for the link.
I managed to import a gpx track from my car navi into the demonstration map. It was also possible to see every single track point (recorded at one-second intervals) on the map. I couldn't find a function to see the data for a particular point, however, but I suppose that should be possible too. Those data are interesting in a way as they allow you to come to a realistic feeling for your boat speed over ground. In my test track, I seemed to be going at around 5 knots beating upwind in quite a chop at most times, but taking only start and destination points and a bee-line into consideration, I found that you don't get much better than 2 knots. No current involved as the course was on the Schlei (North Germany) from Borgwedel to Schleswig and back* and these data were taken on the way back beating to windward.
I'd left the navi on to experiment with the results.
Gernot H.

*http://forum.woodenboat.com/showthread.php?239016-3-wooden-Mirror-Dinghi... .