By mid June, 2013 the OGA50 Round Britain Challenge fleet was scattered from the Crinan Canal up to the Shetland Islands, each skipper making their plans according to the weather, their vessel and crew capabilities. Keeping track as the boats move further north has been less reliable, but with a network of mobile phones, AIS and various wi-fi hotspots we’re keeping in touch with almost everyone.
Several boats are exploring the Western Isles as they plan their passage either ‘over the top’ or through the Caledonian Canal. Our tracking map shows the fleet scattered from south of Oban up to the Orkneys and Outer Hebrides on passage to Shetland. Approaching the longest day, the boats have been enjoying more and more daylight hours as they travel northwards through the Hebrides and round Cape Wrath to Orkney.
Posting from Mull, ‘Toucando’ provides an insight into sailing the west coast of Scotland, taking in the spectacular scenery whilst baking great cakes on board and enjoying Scottish soft fruits and venison. ‘Naiad’, sails in company with ‘Tantina II’ reaching Gairloch, as they head ’round the top’, next scheduled stopping place, Stornoway, Isle of Lewis. ‘Bonita’ leaves Tobermory, Isle of Mull, sailing past Ardnamurchan Point, well-known to BBC Radio 4 shipping forecast listeners as furthest west on the British mainland. ‘Bonita’ continues past the truly spectacular mountainous ‘Small Isles’ of Mull, Rhum and Eigg, slipping into Mallaig Harbour before sailing on to Portree, Isle of Skye.
Local boats ‘Ammonite’, a Heard 23, ‘Jubilee’ and ‘El Vigo’ from ‘Sail Stornoway’ give the visiting members of the OGA50 Round Britain Challenge fleet a warm welcome as they arrive at Stornoway, Isle of Lewis. Five members of the fleet intending to travel ’round the top’ arrive for the weekend celebrations: ‘Minstrel’, ‘Bonita’, ‘Naiad’, ‘Windbreker’ and ‘Tantina II’. Despite the stormy weather, there’s a chance for the visiting boats to have a fine sail with the locals, including ‘Jubilee’, SY233, an open lugger, captured here on video by ‘Bonita’. This 28 foot boat is the last surviving example of a ‘sgoth Niseach’ or Ness-type skiff, originally built for line fishing in the Outer Hebrides.
‘Naiad’ and ‘Tantina II’ drag themselves away from the party and sailing exploits on Stornoway, to continue their passage northwards, spending the night at Kinlochbervie, Loch Inchard before rounding Cape Wrath and enjoying the sail to historic Stromness, Orkney, where vessels have sheltered awaiting favourable winds for centuries. ‘Bonita’ spends some time ashore at the most northerly point of her Round Britain Challenge, taking in the spectacular scenery and exploring some of the evidence from 5,000 years of history on Orkney, where we hear she’s currently stormbound in Kirkwall. The Sunday night entry on her blog reads ‘the wind is howling in the rigging, the rain is horizontal and the boats are rolling around in the marina. This makes us grateful we decided to stay put for a bit.’
‘Annabel J’, the 54 foot Bristol Channel Pilot Cutter is one of the larger boats in the fleet. Built by the Appledore Shipyard in 1995 with ‘a powerful but slippery hull shape . . . fast, safe and easy to handle in any weather, even if she is not chasing business in the Western Approaches [Bristol Channel]’, she’s also at home in the Atlantic coasts of Scotland and after spending a few days exploring Jura and Oronsay, she’s departing Oban, headed for Shetland to join the fleet going ’round the top’.
Four members of the fleet, ‘Windbreker’ from the Netherlands, ‘Minstrel’, ‘Tantina II’ and ‘Naiad’ have all reached Shetland. Other boats approaching, or already travelling through the Caledonian Canal include: ‘Bonify’, ‘Morgaine’, ‘Raven’ and ‘Cine Mara’. ‘Vlieter’, ‘Capraia’, ‘High Barbaree’ and ‘Greensleeves’ all heading into the depths of Loch Ness, approaching the sea lock at Inverness. ‘Syene’ has left Inverness to sail round to Aberdeen to rendezvous with new crew. Browsing through the usual culinary delights illustrated on her blog, we find ‘Toudanco’ is also making good progress along the Canal, having ascended the eight-lock Neptune’s Staircase to rest in the shadow of Ben Nevis, arriving in Inverness on Sunday evening.