Wednesday, 21 August 2013

The North Coast.....

Leaving Loch Eriboll
I had planned to sail the north coast of Scotland in 2 legs, anchoring 15 miles short of John O’Groats and then setting off again at the required tide-time. Rounding John O’Groats involves a passage through Pentland Firth, the piece of water between mainland UK and the Orkney Islands.  The almanac says “This potentially dangerous channel should only be attempted with moderate winds, good visibility, no swell and a fair neap tide.” (I was 2 days before spring tide!)

 For almost an hour I was escorted.........

 As it turned out, I was approaching my planned anchorage early afternoon and realised that the tide was about to turn and this meant conditions were just right to get around the headland and start heading south - so I went for it!

A description on this blog and a few photographs do little to  show just how big the swell was; at times I lost sight of the high cliffs as I was so low down between the waves.  There were areas of water in the Firth that looked like the waves were crashing on rocks, despite being in deep water, it was that turbulent!  I had carefully studied the passage notes detailing the route to follow and the timings to arrive at each turn and I’m pleased to say they were spot on!  As we rounded the most northerly point of the UK mainland the water changed to a millpond, the wind dropped and the world was a calmer place.

The most northerly point of the UK mainland with an obvious lighthouse of the day.
Looking back along the north coast of Scotland.

We rode the tide down to Wick and pulled into the harbour just before 10pm - a hard day’s sailing and I stepped onto land for the first time in 6 days!

It is all south from here and just the most Easterly point of the UK mainland to sail round now, with all the other points of the compass ticked off.
Heading South...
Noss Head Lighthouse just north of Wick.
Brown Eyes in Wick Harbour 

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