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You are here: Skip Navigation LinksHome > Articles > From the magazines > 2005 > Saluja goes North (2005/6)

Saluja goes North

By David Holmes (co-owner of Saluja)

This report appeared in the PSSA magazine in 2 parts 2005 and 2006

Part 1

I really ought to be putting a few words to paper about last year’s cruise in Saluja. Round the Brittany Peninsula to the Glenan Isles in one hop and then back through the canals to St Malo, and home by the end of August. However it is our latest project which is fresher in my memory so I will say something about this first. I have also taken a few photos to accompany the article.

Having chartered extensively on the West Cost of Scotland for the past 25 years it had always been in the back of our minds to get Saluja there one day. For those of you who have not sailed on the West Coast it is simply the best! We had in fact purchased a road trailer for a Super Seal before we bought the yacht in 1998 – so convinced we were that the only design we wanted was a Super Seal. Although the trailer had been used for various transportation projects, ranging from taking Jon’s Series 1 Land Rover to the 50th anniversary of Land Rovers, to moving a steam engine cab, it had never been used for Saluja.

Drop plate to raise
the tow height
Drop plate to raise
the tow height

So, towards the end of last season we decided that we would give it a go. In addition to the usual winter maintenance on the yacht, we also took time to completely refurbish the trailer with new wheel bearings, tyres, mudguards, lights and a proper pin and eye tow hitch - the old 50mm ball being rated at 2 tons not the 3.5 tonnes needed! Instead of being craned into the water at the crane-in we (simply) loaded the yacht from her cradle to the road trailer and strapped the mast on top. As is usual with the ESSC crane-in, one is always a bit rushed, and encouraged with plenty of shouting to get it right first time. This was the first time!!! In hindsight, we should have asked for an extra 5 minutes to remove the chocks from the rear support. Along with the Range Rover’s tow hitch being too low, and the yacht sloping forward on the trailer, the whole rig looked positively out of balance! My first firm application of the brakes, to see how quickly it would all stop, resulted in the front wheels locking up and squealing such was the excess weight on the back of the Range Rover. At least we only had to get as far as Chippenham, park the whole lot in Jon’s front garden and make some adjustments to the trailer and tow hitch. Reversing into gateway did involve stopping the traffic both ways, on the A4, with the help of Lee, one of Jon’s pub mates, who had had a few beers by the time we got there!

Equally, the extra time meant we could finish the winter maintenance which hadn’t been done in time for the crane-in. The engine hadn’t run since September and Jon was still re-bushing the folding propeller. Now that we are accomplished at jacking the boat off the cradle, we were able to get the whole thing level by removing the packing under the rear support. With Jon’s help, my son Jonathan used a drop plate, the wrong way up, to raise the tow hitch height on the back of the Range Rover.

Leaving the Lysley Arms
Leaving the Lysley Arms

There is nothing like such a project to catch the interest of others. So much so that my head-teacher allowed me to slip away early on the Friday of the May-Day weekend for the long journey north. We were quite a spectacle as we left ‘The Lysley Arms’ car park which is next door to Jon’s house. One guy even came out to see us off! We had stocked up with sandwiches and flasks so that we could keep moving by taking it in turns while the other one rested. 45 mph is boringly tedious, but if you only stop for fuel it is surprising how much distance can be made. Jon runs the Range Rover on LPG so we did stop whenever it was advertised (37p per litre is quite attractive given a fuel consumption of 12.8mpg for the round trip)

The evening traffic up the M5 and M6 was light but I was surprised at the huge number of parcel lorries. Of course they were faster than us and, when overtaken, their ‘bow wave’ would sometimes make the trailer twitch. All credit to the commercial drivers who would flash their lights and move out in their lane as far as possible to minimise their effect. Keeping up the pace, we were determined to make it north of the border before we stopped for a sleep. Driving into the early hours also meant that there was very little traffic for us to hold up as we climbed Shap and Beattock summits as slow as 25mph at times! At 4am we decided it was time for a few hours sleep so parked up in the lorry park at Annan Water services on the A74(M). The yacht can double up as a caravan on such occasions, but sleep was difficult with lorries coming and going with surprising frequency.

Abington services
in the Borders
Abington services
in the Borders

Onwards north at 9am and the only real hold up for the whole trip was for road works on the A80. Unbelievable but we watched in horror as an impatient driver went the wrong way up a slip road, to get out of the queue, narrowly missing a head on smash with a lorry! Leaving the motorway at Stirling , we were conscious of our speed and the tail back behind us on a single carriageway road. Just 15 minutes until the first lay-by resulted in 51 cars ready to pass. We stopped as often as we could to let other traffic pass and the vast majority of drivers were courteous in waving as they went by. If you have never been to Scotland , then the scenery just gets better and better as you go through Crianlarich, Tyndrum, Bridge of Orchy and onwards over Rannoch Moor, down Glencoe to Fort William . Stopping places are distinctly lacking when crossing Rannoch Moor so the tail back had to wait until the top of Glencoe before we could let them all pass. We took the opportunity of taking a couple of pictures to show Saluja in her new environment while being slightly embarrassed by the queue of traffic stretching behind us as far as the eye could see.

Top of Glencoe
Top of Glencoe

We stopped at Fort William having just made it without switching from LPG to petrol. At least Jon now knows he can do close on 50 miles with the red warning light showing on the LPG gauge. (and that’s at less than 12mpg!) The last part of the journey is the final 50 miles on ‘The Road to the Isles’ which ends at Mallaig. We were booked to have our mast lifted at Arisaig Marine on the Sunday morning and it was great to travel along this road past Glenfinnan and Lochailort in beautiful weather. A couple of hills were steep enough to need 1st gear High Range so for the last section, which is still single track with passing places, the Low Range box was used. We now appreciate what a fantastic tow vehicle the Range Rover is – doing what it is designed to do ie: climb a 1:7 hill in 3rd Low Range, with an all up weight estimated at 5 tons, and still have two lower gears in hand. It is a pity most Range Rovers are used to pose with and do the school run!

Saturday evening saw a quick dash to Mallaig for a couple of beers followed by fish and chips. We stayed overnight with a long standing family friend in Morar and manage to grab a couple of photos of the sun setting over the Cuillin ridge of Skye. Next morning we had the mast lifted by making use of Arisaig Marine’s Hymac digger bucket. It wasn’t really high enough but luckily we are now adept at winching Saluja’s mast up to the vertical using the foresail halyards. It was mid-afternoon before we had finally sorted everything out and Saluja now sits on her trailer, at Arisaig, awaiting her launch in time to join our annual charter trip from Ardvasar, on Skye, at the end of May. This year we have 23 people and 3 Charter yachts in addition to Saluja.

Further plans are to do the Classic Malts Cruise which involves visiting the Oban, Talisker and Lagavulin distilleries and to compete in West Highland Yachting Week. Beyond that we may cruise through the Caledonian Canal and, having gone to all the trouble of getting her up there, we might just want to do next season as well. I’m afraid the Solent and the Folly Inn don’t quite have the attraction of the West Coast of Scotland!

If any of you are contemplating towing a Super Seal and need advice I would say:

  • Even a Range Rover is at top of its weight limit for towing a Super Seal – I wouldn’t entertain it with a car no matter how powerful the engine
  • Make sure it is level on the trailer and check the nose weight with bathroom scales. I did manage to ruin ours by not realising that the dial had gone once round at 120Kg before registering a further 80kg. Our final nose weight was around 80 to 100Kg
  • A 50mm ball hitch is totally inadequate for the weight of a Super Seal
  • Ensure that all the running gear is in perfect condition – I am convinced that the reason we had a trouble free journey was because all the bearings and tyres were in tip top condition. (The tyres were running quite hot even in the coolness of night with pressures of 55psi)
  • Allow yourself plenty of time and do be courteous to the drivers in the tail back behind you – the total mileage of approx. 550 miles took 17 hours ie: an average of just 32mph. The return journey took half the time!
  • Let your insurance company know what you are doing – Navigators and General had no worries about us towing Saluja but they do want to know where she as moored as the season progresses. I have to tell them each and every time she is moved.

Part 2

Now that Saluja has spent all of last season in Scotland, I have finally managed to get time to complete the story. I write this as I sit in the bar at Hayling Island Sailing Club, whilst my son is on the water for training in the National Squad of the RS Feva. It is a bleak, cold and windy February day and one forgets just what it was like with too much sun last August at the HISC Federation week.

Castle Tioram in Loch Moidart
Castle Tioram in Loch Moidart

Anyway, enough of that and back to Scotland. My partner owner, Jon Barron, returned to Arisaig just before the May Whitsun week to launch the boat prior to joining our annual cruise with three further yachts chartered from Isle of Skye Yachts from Ardvasar on Skye. I gather, from Jon, that the launch all went OK apart from a slightly worrying moment as the boat floated off the trailer and was blown inwards towards the beach. I guess it is easy to be wise after the event but, with an onshore wind, rowing a kedge anchor out with the dinghy would have been sensible in hindsight.

For any of you who know, Armadale Bay is open to the North East and I had read the forecast, from the previous Wednesday, suggesting a NE gale 8 for the Saturday. So unusual, at that time of year, that when I ‘phoned the charter company they could hardly believe me! By the Saturday the NE gale had duly arrived so we delayed our arrival by a few hours. When we did finally get there Mark and Charmian, of IoS Yachts, had had a fairly eventful day. So windy, they had problems getting the previous week’s charterers off the yachts, one delayed yacht and cleaning staff suffering from seasickness while on the yachts on their moorings! Saluja was in an altogether better spot at Arisaig. The gale blew itself out as quickly as it arrived, so the early evening saw all four yachts meet at Inverie on the Knoydart peninsula. Sadly, Inverie is about to lose its remote charm now that the various authorities see fit to build an enormous RoRo terminal. For what purpose, one has to wonder, given that the road at Inverie is about 8 miles long and doesn’t connect to the rest of the road network!

Rowing into Fingals Cave
Rowing into Fingals Cave

The beauty of sailing in Scotland is the almost infinite possibilities for anchorages. One can choose to go 5 miles or 50. The next day, dawned bright and sunny and, saw us on the Isle of Eigg for lunch and Loch Moidart, on the mainland, for the evening – an anchorage I had waited 25 years to go to. (see Photo 1) The next morning gave us Scotland at its best. Glorious sunshine with a light offshore wind. A quick row ashore to see Castle Tioram before making the 45 mile passage to Staffa and Fingals Cave. This is always a favourite with the newcomers and, even better this time with a north easterly wind, which allowed dinghies to be rowed directly into the cave. From the south west it is exposed for thousands of miles to the Atlantic. (see Photo 2) The nearest anchorage to Staffa is Gometra Harbour between the Islands of Ulva and Gometra. We made this just as it got dark.

Saluja at anchor
in Treshnish Isles
Saluja at anchor
in Treshnish Isles

Another glorious day allowed us safe temporary anchorage on the island of Lunga, in the Treshnish Isles, which is home to a huge colony of Puffins. (see Photo 3) They seemed almost tame as they posed for the many cameras. In these days of digital photography, I would guess that our group took in excess of 100 photos between them. (see Photo 4) It was obviously the perfect day for Puffin observation and we were thankful that we had arrived early. By 11.00 am the tripper boats were offloading hoards of tourists. With a fairly novice group aboard the four yachts, Tobermory is an absolute must, so we had a slightly lazy 24 hours as the weather had by now broken. With drizzle and moderate winds, enthusiasm for an early start was somewhat less the next morning. However, the disadvantage of chartering means one has to get the boats back by the next Saturday. Most of the day saw the complete opposite with the weather – Force 4/5, very poor visibility and a sloppy sea round the Ardnamurchan peninsula northwards towards Loch Scresort on Rhum. Stuck on the boats in pouring rain, with only one mobile phone giving us an intermittent signal, we ‘phoned the warden of Rhum Castle and arranged a tour. This is probably the most unspoilt and original Edwardian ‘holiday home’ in the country and is certainly one of Scotland’s best kept secrets. (see Photo 5)

The weather improved as quickly as it had deteriorated and we returned to the Old Forge, Inverie for the, now customary, end of cruise dinner. (see Photo 6) The Old Forge is credited in the Guiness Book of Records as being Britain’s remotest pub but, as mentioned earlier, it is now rapidly losing its charm such is the march of progress. Saturday morning was the usual rush of disembarkation from the moorings and the drive to Glasgow for flights home southwards. I had pre-arranged the hire of a mooring from the Ardvasar Mooring Association and it was here that Saluja was to be left, for six weeks, until the middle of July.

A Puffin
A Puffin

If you get the chance, do try to take part in the Classic Malts Cruise organised by the World Cruising Club. Having gone to all the trouble of getting the boat up to Scotland this was on the definite ‘to do’ list. A slight problem was that it starts at the Oban distillery and yet Saluja was on Skye, so we decided to go to Oban by road and booked a B&B on the Island of Kerrera. The Classic Malts cruise is quite an extraordinary event. It is sponsored by Diageo, one of the world’s largest drinks manufacturers and the hospitality is second to none.

On sitting down for the buffet we immediately made friends with Lars and Jan who had come over from Sweden. The Classic Malts Cruise is attended by yachts from all over Europe and we did feel ourselves to be at the slightly poorer end of the spectrum of yachts. We were one of the smallest, with others in 40/50+ ft category and worth several hundreds of thousands. Lars and Jan were real characters and their English probably better than ours. Both new to the West Coast of Scotland, they had little idea about tides given that tides are virtually non-existent in Sweden. They quickly quizzed us on the best anchorages and invited us aboard their yacht, Albi, to discuss the options with a chart in front of us. And wow, what a yacht! – a Sweden Yachts 45 complete with fridge, freezer, icemaker, and dishwasher (yes a dishwasher!) to say nothing of all imaginable electronic navigation aids. We were to meet up with them many more times during the following fortnight.

Rhum Castle
Rhum Castle

We went by road the next day to get Saluja and I can say, in all honesty, I don’t think I have ever been so wet and cold as I was on the short passage to Mallaig, to provision the yacht for the next few days. However, the weather can improve so quickly and the next couple of days gave us glorious sunshine even if it was slightly windy for the passage up to Loch Harport on the SW side of Skye. I had never seen this bit of coastline at close quarters because our last time, in the mid 1980’s, was in thick fog. I am sure that GPS has made us very complacent nowadays – the last time we dead reckoned all the way from Loch Brittle into Loch Harport with visibility down to a few tens of yards! The tiny village of Carbost is home of the world famous Talisker distillery, where we signed up for a tutored tasting and the Celeidh in the evening. (see Photos 7 & 8) The organisation was impeccable and involved an all day rib service to get us ashore and back to the yachts safely at the end of the evening.

Final meal at Old Forge
Final meal at Old Forge

From Loch Harport, the 90 or so Yachts all went their separate ways towards the Lagavulin distillery on Islay. It was quite a spectacle seeing such a plethora of different yachts leaving Loch Harport under spinnaker, with many making for the outer Isles on their way south. We had to make for Mallaig, again!, for a crew change and the next morning I met a friend, Simon, and my son, Jonathan, off the train. They had taken the coach overnight from London to Glasgow and then the first train out in the morning. They had plenty to recall about the journey. We took advantage of the northerly air-stream by getting ourselves down to the Isle of Muck for the first night. (see Photo 9) An evening walk to the highest point on Muck gave us a view right to the Outer Isles as the sun set.

The next day was cloudless again and the continued northerly wind allowed us to sail downwind all the way to West Loch Tarbert on Jura. We had just one stop at Iona for Simon to visit the cathedral. The advantages of a lifting keel again came into their own. The sound of Iona is always a difficult place to anchor at the best of times so, with a rising tide and offshore wind, we pulled the keel right up through the box, nosed her into the beach and Simon jumped off the bow without even getting his feet wet! We only just made West Loch Tarbert before dark, but the 60 mile passage had not seemed particularly arduous because one is always in sight of land and we were, for the greater part, in the lee of the various islands. That’s what makes Scotland so much better than the South Coast!

Talisker
Talisker

We had a lazy day the next day and achieved what I had always wanted to do by getting through the narrows to the inner basin. This involves a narrow winding passage, to be taken just after slack high water, and requires the use of a series of six painted stone transit beacons. (I think I am correct in saying that these were established by the late Blondie Haslar – a lasting legacy to a great yachtsman!) At any other state of tide, the flow through the narrows is a minimum of 5kts. Tarbert means “pass” so, if the reader consults a chart or map, one can see that a short walk across the pass allows one to reach the East side of Jura and see all the way down to the end of The Mull of Kintyre. Simon had never done a night sail so we set off at dusk through the sound of Islay, at times doing 11knots over the ground, and hopped round to Craighouse on Jura. Though not part of the Diageo group we managed an impromptu distillery tour here as well. For the afternoon we set off south to Port Ellen via the slightly challenging passage through the Ardmore Islands. Though the marina was supposedly ‘full’ we managed an inside berth at the bottom of the ramp by lifting the keel up. (The advantages of a lifting keel again!)

Carbost
Carbost

Another lazy day meant we could purchase a ‘roamer’ bus ticket and go right to the end of the road at Portnahaven on the SW tip of Islay. The visibility was incredible and we could see right across to Northern Ireland. In the afternoon we booked our free tour of the Lagavulin distillery and then got ready for the end of cruise buffet. This proved to be an experience I will never forget! The bar and buffet were both free and the seafood was quite the most lavish I have ever experienced. I think our Swedish friend, Lars, managed 17 fresh oysters! This was a truly international event with many from overseas making the most of the traditional Scottish dancing. Having helped them work out times for the two tidal gates it was, sadly, time to say ‘goodbye’ to our Swedish friends who were hoping to make Corpach, at the southern end of the Caledonian Canal, within the next 24 hours.

The leisurely pace of the previous fortnight had to come to an end eventually, so an early start was needed the next day for the 50 miles north to Craobh Haven for the start of West Highland Week. This was another event on the ‘to do’ list. It comprises a series of passage races every other day with ‘round the cans’ races on the intervening days. The passage races being from Craobh to Oban, then Oban to Tobermorey, and finally Tobermorey back to Oban. Our best result was third in class but we can’t help feeling those canny Scots gave us a fairly tough handicap! If entering next time we could always enter the ‘family’ cruiser class in which you opt not to use the spinnaker and it is said that the competition is not quite so tough. The passage back to Oban was the highlight of the week with a spinnaker run down the Sound of Mull attaining an average passage time in excess of the boat’s theoretical waterline speed.

Isle of Muck
Isle of Muck

At the last moment we had managed to make a ‘phone call to Paul Zvegintzov at Linnhe Marine. He has recently placed moorings just inside the Isle of Shuna in the Lynn of Lorn. He runs an excellent little outfit and his prices are very competitive. This was to be Saluja’s base for a few weeks until Jon returned to finish her season in Scotland. He took the final week in September to take a very leisurely trip north through the Caledonian canal as far as Caley Marina which is just south of Inverness. The prevailing wind direction meant that he had a down wind run the whole way through Loch Lochy, Loch Oich and Loch Ness. I gather he didn’t even bend the main on but, instead, opted for simply unfurling the headsail. Helped by the guys at Caley Marina to lift the mast he slipped the yacht himself, using the Range Rover, for the princely sum of £8-00 for the use of the slipway.

We are fortunate in having friends, Gavin and Nicola, who run an independent hostel just east of Roy Bridge. They had offered to winter the yacht in their car park. (see Photo 10) An offer we were keen to take, but for the very narrow and steep track down to their premises. We took a chance and got her safely wrapped up for the winter where it was comforting to know that Gavin was on hand to re-tie the cover when it got blown off in a Force 9 winter’s gale.

Saluja wintered in Scotland
Saluja wintered in Scotland

As the winter months were rapidly receding behind us the difficult decision had to be made as to what to do with the yacht for 2006. We had vague ideas of perhaps sailing her back but, as mentioned earlier, my son has achieved the National Squad in the RS Feva and we have now booked to go out to Lake Garda for the World Championships. Jon’s Dad and Aunt are not in the greatest of health so we had to face the fact that Saluja was simply not going to get the same use as she had last season. It is just not possible to pop down to the boat on the whim of a good forecast when she is moored in Scotland! There seemed little sense in it spending all of May, June and July on a mooring and having no use at all until August so, sadly, we made the pragmatic decision to bring her back. We needn’t have worried about the slope up the track, the Range Rover managing it, with minimal slipping, in low range first and diff lock engaged. (see Photo 11) At the time the 17 hours at 40mph, for the return journey, seems unthinkable but, now it is done, we are happier knowing we will get a sensible amount of use once she is craned back in at the Club’s ‘crane in’ on the first weekend of April.

The narrow Track
The narrow Track

In rounding off these pair of articles, I would be happy to offer anyone advice on undertaking such a project. In our opinion, what we did was very worthwhile. The approximate total cost for the 5 weeks use in Scotland was about £1000-00 but that included the fuel to tow her there and back, a complete renovation of the trailer and the mooring fees in Scotland. Offset that against the costs for moorings etc. on the South Coast and the five weeks at £200-00 per week made the whole venture very viable indeed. However, we were realistic about the amount of use she would get and, to that end, we achieved what we set out to achieve. Another season in Scotland would have been nice but, equally, we did miss the weekends and club races from Chichester Harbour. Would we do it again? Very definitely, “Yes”, and one of the bonuses is that we are now not fearful of doing a one way trip somewhere in the British Isles or France and then trailing her back. Modification of the trailer’s overrun brakes to independent air brakes would take the stress out of stopping the whole outfit but that’s another story and project for the future!