Cruise of ‘Joybird’, west coast of Scotland: 1911

In this first part of an extract from the 1911 cruising log of W. F. Thompson, we find him sailing with his wife on their six-ton yawl, ‘Joybird’ without auxiliary power. Starting at Tarbert, they ‘engaged a man to help us on deck going through the Crinan Canal’ and sail north to Oban, cross to Tobermory, Isle of Mull and continue up the coast to reach Loch Torridon and Gairloch. Having set out for Stornoway, they’re forced back by gales and take shelter in Portree. After sailing south to Howth, Dublin Bay, they return to Tarbert where, ‘Joybird’ is ‘hauled up on to her winter perch in Dickie’s Yard’ after sailing 860 miles.

'Joybird' Illustration: Clyde Cruising Club Yearbook, 1911
‘Joybird’ Illustration: Clyde Cruising Club Yearbook, 1911

North from Crinan, and back to Portree

‘Joybird’, a six-ton yawl without auxiliary power overwinters at Dickie’s Yard, Tarbert. W. F. Thompson and his wife ‘engaged a man to help us on deck going through the Crinan Canal’ and, in this first of two extracts, start their summer cruise around the west coast of Scotland, hoping to reach the Outer Hebrides and Ireland. Read the second part of the cruising log, Portree to Howth, Dublin Bay.

Tuesday, 30th May. Last night we had a visitation of rats, and I was aroused during the early hours to repel boarders. Next time I tie up in the Crinan Canal basin I must guard against such an invasion. A light air from NE decided us to make a start, so away we went, very leisurely, under jib, foresail. and mizzen. The Dorus Mhor was in a kindly mood and quite calm. Passed through at 10.40 a.m. and had a wind as far as Pladda, when it became calm, and I set the wooden topsail to make the most of the tide, the flood setting to the North one hour before low water at Crinan.

From Pladda, until we got into Kerrera Sound, it was calm and very hot, with occasional light airs from all quarters. After entering Kerrera Sound, the wind freshened and was nearly ahead. Some heavy puffs came down, and one of them burst the wire luff rope of the Wykeham Martin roller of the jib, and, of course, the sail came down and was badly torn. I got it in with some difficulty, and sailed her up to the anchorage off Brandy Stone, Oban, under foresail and mainsail, and let go in eight fthms, but afterwards got my anchor and made fast to a mooring buoy. It was nearly 9 p.m. before we got properly fixed up and had dinner, for which we were both very ready. Distance, 24 miles. Bar., 30.

Oban, 31st May. Calm, cloudy and dull, looked like thunder. Away at 1 p.m. Very light air, so got out the sweep and kept it going occasionally all the way to Loch Aline, where l’ve brought up in the old berth, halfway between the two leading marks close in, 3.5 to 4 fthms. This is, I am told, the best anchorage in the loch, and good holding ground – as I found when I came to get the anchor. Distance, 14 miles. Bar., 30-5.

Tobermory, Friday 2nd June. Blowing fresh from ESE. It was 11 o’clock before I began to get the anchor, but found it too much for me with the fresh wind that was blowing, so I asked the help of two fishermen who were passing, and one came aboard and very soon had the anchor on the rail. We made short miles of it to Ardnamurchan, and passed to E. of Askadil Buoy and Elizabeth Rocks. It was then too hazy to see Skye, and for a time we did not know where we were. Kept over towards Eigg, thinking of going in there as the wind was light, but the mist cleared and we sighted Mallaig and decided to keep on. Going in, it was very difficult to make out the lights, as there was a lot of smoke from some steam drifters. Left Red Rock to port, and let go well inside the pier in 3 fthms. It was then 11.15 p.m., and so ended a day in which there was a great deal of trouble and worry. Distance, 39 miles. Bar., 29-80.

Isle Ornsay, Tuesday, 6th June. A misty morning, but soon cleared up and was a beautiful day, though very cold. Sailed, 8.45 a.m. Wind about E., variable, right ahead coming through Kyle Rhea, but the tide swept us along at a tremendous rate. There is only about 3 ft. of water over the bar at Kyle Akin harbour, and you anchor in a hole on the port side in 2,5 to 5 fthms. There you can stay in all weathers in calm water and out of the tide, but it is better not to go over the bar if you are bound North, as you are unable to avail yourself of the first flood. Distance, 12 mile. Bar., 30-25.

Thursday, 8th June. Very fine, calm. Turned out 6 a.m. to make ready for a start, intending to tow out of the bar if necessary and bring up outside. At 7.45, over the bar if necessary and bring up outside. At 7.45, a light wind from NNW. enabled us to creep out, and by keeping close in to the Skye shore, managed to get over the tide and past the lighthouse. Had a long and tiresome beat all the way to Loch Torridon. After opening the Little Minch, the wind freshened, and we had quite enough with all plain sail, as there was a nasty sea making. It came on very thick with rain at 4 o’clock, and we had a good deal of trouble and much anxiety in finding our way up to Loch Shieldaig. The glass had tallen to 30, and it looked a very dour and dirty evening; however, at 7.15, we brought up in 4,5 fthms., had a good holding ground in to S, side of Shieldaig Island. Distance, 31 miles.

Loch Shieldraig, Saturday, 10th June, Bar., 29-90. Light air right up the loch. Got anchor at 10 o’clock. Although this is a place of very grand scenery and some fine walks, I was not sorry to leave it, for there seems no possibility of getting things. The nearest station is 16 miles away. Had a very bad beat out of the loch. When clear, we eased sheets and ran up the Gairloch and let go in Flowerdale in 5 fthms. at 4 o’clock. The best anchorage here is in a little bay SW. of the pier in 3 to 4 fthms. good holding ground. Distance, r 6 miles. Bar. steady. Spent a quiet Sunday at Flowerdale.

Gairloch, Monday, 12th June. Light wind from N. and some rain squalls. Got anchor at 9.30 a.m., and when outside gave her the mizzen. The wind was right ahead for Stornoway, and there was too much sea to beat, so we laid a course for Loch Snizort, but at 12.30 the wind had freshened, and there was a big sea making, so we bore up for Portree. I took in the mizzen and foresail, and she had all she could drag with a whole mainsail and second jib, but took no heavy water aboard. Luckily I had taken the berthon aboard and stowed her below. My wife steered, while I had my lunch, but it was all she could do, and was the biggest sea she had yet been out in, as by this time it was blowing about half a gale with a tremendous following sea. Got in to Portree at 3.30 and let go in 2 fthms., a little ahead and inside the yacht ‘Mayflower’, 24 tons, which I afterwards learned had sailed that morning for Stornorvay, but had to run back. Gave her 15 fthms. Wind increasing to a gale, and most bitteriy cold. Turned in early after a very hard day. Distance, 36 miles. Bar. steady.

Read the second part of the cruising log, Portree to Howth, Dublin Bay.

Published with permission: Clyde Cruising Club Yearbook, 1911
Clyde Cruising Club