‘Bessie Ellen’ 4/10 – weather and tide

We join ‘Bessie Ellen’ after lunch. In the morning she came into Oban, rafted to VIC32


and took on fuel before going round to the pontoon to offload guests and prepare for new ones.


Loaded and instructed in safety measures, we leave the berth and the skipper pilots us out of Oban and down the Sound of Kerrera.

The weather forecast is ominous. The hurricanes on the other side of the Atlantic are sending spin-offs eastward. The prospect is for southerly gales in the Irish Sea in four days time. This would try a large cargo ship but would be an insuperable problem for a 110 year old wooden ketch. We would be tacking to and fro across the water, unable to go south and concerned about where to run for safety. Therefore, the decision is to head south with all haste, meaning motor-sailing most of the way. We are due to stop at Craighouse on Jura to pick up another guest. The original plan was to anchor for the night but we will now stop briefly and push on.

We are divided into three easy watches – four hours on, eight off, and navigate south. The Corryvreckan is passed on the tide – the surface covered in swirls and upwellings, the currents unpredictable but manageable. At 2300, in the dark, we pick up the East Cardinal buoy off Goat Rock, then the flashing light at the south end of Eilean nan Gabhar and the red flashing port hand light on the end of the rocky peninsular at the entrance to Craighouse. We drop below the entrance and then turn North West to enter the Bay of Small Isles and to quietly stand off Craighouse, while Pete and Karina take the tender ashore for Fiona. She is not in the pub because everyone knows she is not due to leave til the morning. This change of plan causes a stir, but she soon appears. In the meantime we are inching across the bay in pitch black but for the lights ashore.

Craighouse 2

The tender appears, everyone is on board, and we turn North North East to pick our way out between the islands. Eastward until well past the flashing light marking rocks South South West of the entrance and then a course South. We will have the tides at critical points and sail some 430 nautical miles by the time we get to Newlyn.

Milford Haven was considered as a stop, as were the Isles of Scilly. The harbourmaster at St Mary’s confirmed the thought that attempting to ride out the storm on these low-lying islands would put us in difficulties should the wind go around.

I have joined the ship for first-hand experience. Pretty good so far.

(To be continued)

Images by Bill Whateley




One thought on “‘Bessie Ellen’ 4/10 – weather and tide

  1. Bill, So enjoyed reading your “Bessie Ellen” blog. Quite the adventure – would appear Peggy took a more sensible option! Loved and empathized with your comment about the frailties of being close to three score years and ten. My boat will be 50 yrs old next year. Find getting into the crevices of the engine room far easier than getting out … have to do the latter quite frequently as I’m always short of something to complete the task at hand! Regards, Martin.

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