Theo and I had originally planned to sail to Iceland in June, but in the end, he was not able to go for the full month the trip would take, so we compromised and just headed for Scotland.
I had very happy memories of sailing in the outer Hebrides on a previous trip to Scotland many years ago, and so we left Clare Island late in the evening on the 19th of June heading for Bara, with a fair tide and a moderate Southerly wind. We decided to leave everything to port and spent the (short) night tacking downwind off the Mullet peninsula, a rather pleasant sail. But the forecast for the following day was for SE gales moving in from the South. I wasn’t too worried however, as this was going to be an offshore wind, and I was in any case hoping to find shelter somewhere in Donegal before the worse of the weather.
By dawn, we were off Donegal bay, and already reefing. We spent the morning close reaching with two reefs in the main, and by mid afternoon, we were in the lee of Aranmore in a good force 6. We took the third reef before rounding Bloody Foreland . Luckily, we had the tide with us in Tory sound, and we eventually made it to Sheephaven for dinner, after a hard slug upwind to round Hornhead against a Southeasterly which by then was blowing a full gale.
The following day was spent at anchor in Sheephaven, a beautiful harbour offering excellent shelter, with the wind still blowing hard from the South. We didn’t leave for the Outer Hebrides until late morning on the 22nd. The wind had blown out so much by then that we ended up motoring some of the way, as there was still some swell, but little wind left ! We landed on Bara Head mid morning on the 23rd, and as the wind picked up from the South, had a pleasant day sailing up the Minch to Loch Eynort, on South Uist. We didn’t see a single soul, only a few sheep.
The following two days were spent exploring various anchorages on South Uist and Benbeculla, an area of outstanding natural beauty. We did toy with the idea of going home through the Sound of Harris, which has very unusual tidal stream patterns, and calling in St Kilda on the way home. But in the end we just sailed back down the Minch under spinnaker, rounded Bara Head again on the evening of the 25th, and headed straight back home, hoping to get there before the next gale hit.
The 26th was spend sailing back slowly toward Eagle island in mostly light winds, but the forecast was for a Southwesterly gale, and indeed, as we landed on the Mullet peninsula on the morning of the 27th, the wind picked up rather quickly. I really didn’t like the prospect of being West of the Inishkeas, a lee shore with no shelter whatsoever, in a rising gale, and quickly made the decision to run for shelter in Broadhaven before the worst of the weather. Another day was spent at anchor in a gale, waiting for fairer weather. It wasn’t until the Monday evening that we were able to leave Broadhaven, and slowly tack around Erris head through the night, passing just a few hundred yards East of Blackrock lighthouse in the early morning of the 30th, before rounding Achil head, on our way back home.