Josephine of Hoo
Josephine of Hoo is a stor Tumlaren designed to the 30 sq m Scandinavian handicap by Knud Reimers in the late 1930s. Tumlaren is Swedish for porpoise; stor is big to distinguish her from the designer’s smaller 20 sq m Tumlaren. She is a distinctive mahogany double ender 32′ LOA, 8′ beam, and 5’6″ draft, with a grown oak rudder stock hung aft of the stern post. The mast is a hollow sitka spruce tapered spar (designers knew about pre-bend in the 1930s) and she is three quarter rigged. She is really designed for racing, with only rudimentary accommodation, but in present ownership has done precious little round the cans in the last ten years, and in recent years even cruising has been increasing curtailed by deck leaks, caused by the failure of a caulking system, applied in 1981, and “guaranteed 10 years”.
Josephine’s summer cruise 2003 really began on a cold and very windy Saturday in October 2002, when Quentin Mitchell and I sailed Josephine to Amble in order that she could have a major winter refit at the Amble Boat Company. As these projects tend to, what started out as a cure for deck leaks ended up taking the whole hull down to wood, re-varnishing and re-painting with the same treatment for the mast. We also fitted an electric anchor windlass, as advancing years have not improved my hauling capability.
By late April she was ready for the water, and relaunched for a decent season’s sailing.
That began with the International Festival of the Sea at the Port of Leith in Edinburgh over the late May Bank Holiday. I was crewed by my sons, Mark and Graham. Exhibitors got free passes to the Festival, but while the boys investigated the beer tents and shanty singing, I marked a mound of exam scripts, which were completed in two of the three days we spent in Edinburgh. The deck leaks were 95% cured, but there was a persistent drip over the foot of the skipper’s bunk, so I left Josephine at Amble for a few days for that too to be cured.
The plan for the summer was to take the Caledonian Canal outward, and leave Josephine on a mooring at Loch Feochan which lies just south of Oban. The next phase was to be two weeks cruising from there, and the final phase to bring Josephine home via the outer Hebrides and the north of Scotland.
Phase I – Blyth to Loch Feochan
The cruise proper started on Friday 11th July with the aim of joining a Clyde Cruising Club muster at Fort Augustus on the Caledonian Canal the following Wednesday. I was joined by Keith McDonald, a member of Derwent Reservoir SC. The wind was westerly F 5 so we hoisted a double reefed main and working jib. Mid afternoon found us off Beadnell reefing to number 2 genoa alone as the wind rose to 6/7, and once past Seahouses it was impossible to keep in-shore without tacking. In the hope conditions might ease, this wind not being forecast, I sailed through Staple Sound, but with wind against tide, the sea conditions were becoming decidely unpleasant so having weathered the Oxcars, I tacked up to the anchorage off the Heugh at Holy Island for the night.
With a moderating forecast, we weighed anchor at 0630 and set off north again. By coffee time, we were once again under full sail, making for Rattray Head. During Saturday night, the wind backed into the southeast, and by 0930 Sunday we brought Rattray Head LH abeam. Off Fraserburgh it was time to reef again, and we made good time in the fresh south easterly, under at first the No 2 Genoa and then the No 1.
In the late afternoon off Lossiemouth the wind suddenly died. We motored for a few hours, finally calling it a day just after dusk, putting the anchor down in Burghead Bay and setting a riding light. At first light on Monday morning we set off to motor the rest of the way through Inverness Firth, under the Kessock Road Bridge, finally entering the canal at 1030. I had obtained my British Waterways license through the Clyde Cruising Club, so the only transaction needed was to sign in, and collect my papers. The skipper of a Dutch yacht who arrived just after us, was impressed how Josephine appeared to be welcomed without her skipper handing over any cash. We stayed in the marina at the Muirtown basin just long enough to refuel and change crews, Keith returning by train to Tyneside, and being replaced by my daughter Helen, fresh from a RYA competent crew course on the Solent. In the afternoon we locked up and motored into Loch Ness staying the night alongside at Foyers.
Next day, we made a leisurely start and beat back to Urquhart Castle, before turning for a spinnaker run, nearly but not all the way, to Fort Augustus. Once stopped and out of the wind we realised it was a very hot day indeed, with temperatures in the high 80°F. Ice creams, showers ashore, and finally a good meal at the Lock Inn completed our endeavours.
In the morning we locked up the Fort Augustus locks alongside a Dutch ketch, and moored alongside Wild Swan. It was Wednesday 16th July, and we had completed our first aim by arriving for the Clyde Cruising Club muster at Fort Augustus on time. I dressed Josephine overall. During the day, we sought shade and cool beers as the temperature soared to near 90°F. Helen and her new-found friends from adjacent yachts went for a dip in the canal.
In the evening we were invited for drinks on board Hugh Morrison’s Aquila en route to our dinner ashore, in a tent.
One hundred guests sat down for a buffet meal and the evening was marked by good cheer which increased in proportion to the consumption of wine, reaching a crescendo over malt whisky in Wild Swan’s saloon. Helen’s task for the evening was to ensure the Dutch crew of the racing yacht Bierkaai felt welcome, which took her until the small wee hours of the morning, and left her somewhat uncommunicative the following day.
We cast off around 08.00 and headed for Corpach, which was reached by 18.00. Another blisteringly hot day, reported to have reached 95°F at Fort William mid afternoon. As we motored down the final canal reach to the Corpach basin we watched a thunderstorm raging on Ben Nevis, and just after we moored alongside, the first giant drops started raining down on us. We retired below and instantly both fell asleep for an hour until the storm passed, leaving everything steaming. We ate ashore.
Next day we joined a large group of yachts leaving the muster and heading south down Loch Linnhe. As far as Corran Narrows we had a gentle run, but then the wind headed us and we finished the day beating into a Force 5/6 from the SW. My plan was to put into Dunstaffnage Marina overnight, but that was frustrated when we called up the marina on VHF only to find they were “full”.
A hastily concocted Plan B was to head towards Connel Bridge and try to find a mooring. The tide runs strongly in the narrows, and not wishing to run the chance of having insufficient clearance for the mast if we were carried into Loch Etive, I decided to take a mooring at the first bay we came to. We ate supper in the cockpit and it was only when we turned in after dark that the unwisdom of my choice became apparent. Every five seconds there was a sound like a cricket scraping its legs across its back. We finally twigged. I had chosen a bay with a fish farm with automatic feeders. What was the faintest of sounds in the open air, was a sleep preventing cacophony when experienced through the water and the hull.
We rested as best we may, but neither of us slept. At 04.00 I glanced outside. There was just enough light to see the rock ends, scarcely a breath of wind, with light rain falling. Just the time to get up and off! An hour and half later we picked up a mooring in Horseshoe Bay off the island of Kerrera, and finally got to sleep at 05.30. Four hours later we were up again for the final couple of miles into Loch Feochan, where we left Josephine for a week on one of Ardoran Marine’s moorings. In eight days we had covered 418 nautical miles.
Phase II – Hebridean Cruising
The second phase of the Summer Cruise was proposed to occupy two weeks of cruising the Inner and Outer Hebrides. It didn’t work out quite as planned. For various reasons, crew cried off or had to be re-organised. There were three short cruises. For the first, Helen re-joined and we completed a circumnavigation of Mull, arriving at Tobermory in a thunderstorm after dark where we anchored in 22m riding to a full scope of chain – no problem for the electric windlass. After a late start, we sailed around the north of Mull, intending to make for Bunessan, but on rounding Caliach Point, the north west corner, we found ourselves beating into a SE Force 4/5, so I had to come up with an alternative destination. Gometra Harbour seemed a good spot.
Next morning was overcast and damp, but the wind had died away, so we motored from Gometra towards Staffa and then on to Iona. Taking the last of the ebb south through Iona Sound in company with several other yachts which arrived from the direction of Bunessan, we alone took the short cut between Erraid and Rhuadh Sgeir. We gained a few cables by this manoeouvre, and south of the Ross of Mull were able to make sail, in a moderate SSE Force 3. Around mid-morning the wind died, rain set in and visibility fell to less than a cable. We motored back to Loch Feochan, arriving at 18.30. The rain continued until nearly midnight. Next day we set off home by road.
We now had just three weeks before Josephine was due back in Blyth. I drove up on Sunday 3 August, and set off single-handed next morning, motoring past Easdale Harbour, through Cuan Sound and then into the anchorage at Ardinamir. It was a beautiful sunny but almost windless day, and when the sea breeze failed to materialise, I decided to stay put overnight.
Tuesday 5 August started overcast, but there was a little wind from the NE. I sailed Josephine south round Luing and then north of Lunga and Eilean Dubh Beag and on to the Garvellachs, anchoring for a couple of hours at Eilaeach an Naoimch, before setting off to sail to Puilladobhrain for the night.
During the evening heavy black cloud crept up from the south, and rain set in, with poor visibility except for occasional illumination by lightning. It was nearly dark when I made the anchorage, and settled down for the night. Thunder and lightning continued through the night, until morning when the cloud cleared. With several hours to go before the tide served for the entrance to Loch Feochan, I started on a clean-up, including swilling out the cockpit.
I was planning to leave at 11.30, but when I came to start the engine, nothing happened. Suspecting I might have doused the electrics when pouring water into the cockpit, I dried the connections and sprayed them with water dispersant. Still nothing. So I opened up the engine box for a closer examination. The cause was not difficult to diagnose. The high tension lead to the starter motor had fractured close to the terminal. The remedy was to heat the terminal over the cooker to melt the solder, and refasten the cable with a jubilee clamp. I finally got underway at 12.10 and took Josephine into Loch Feochan, picking up a mooring just after 13.00.
New crew, Claire Rix and Ali Donald, were due to join on Thursday morning. The forecast included a warning of fog patches. I checked the GPS was working, and we set off from Loch Feochan at 13.00. The visibility was good at first but then fog rolled in so we made our way into Puilladobhrain and set the anchor. Visibility improved, and after an hour we put to sea again, intending to make for Cuan Sound. Luck wasn’t with us and in no time we were enveloped in thick fog again. The GPS choose this moment to give up the ghost. I pulled out the Douglas protractor and laid off a course, and we donned life-jackets. We picked our way slowly south, eventually feeling our way into Easdale Harbour and setting the anchor.
Next day the fog cleared away and we motored through Cuan Sound and into Ardinamir for the second time in a week. Claire cooked a good breakfast, and at 10.30 we set off in bright sunshine and a light SE wind. I checked the tides for the Gulf of Corryvreckan, and provided we were through and clear by 15.00 there was no reason not to tick off that challenge.
Josephine entered Corryvreckan at 14.20. Conditions were calm, in fact absolutely ideal, as the picture below shows. The next logical stop was Eilaeach an Naoimch in the Garvellachs again. Claire and Ali went ashore, while I attended to one or two boat jobs.
At 17.30 we got away, and made for Loch Spelve on Mull, picking up a vacant mooring at Croggan at 20.45.
On Saturday 10 August we had another crew change. Claire and Ali left and Quentin Mitchell joined. We left Loch Spelve as soon as the tide allowed and then sailed up the coast to have a look at Duart Castle before turning to sail across south of Kerrera back to Loch Feochan for the last time. While alongside on Ardoran’s pontoon, Josephine was spotted from the main road by RYA Scotland secretary, Stewart Boyd, his wife Betty, and friend John, who came aboard for tea.
Phase III – Return to Blyth
The final phase of the cruise was the return to Blyth, via Cape Wrath and Duncansby Head. We allowed two weeks for this phase with a crew change planned for Wick. We set out from Loch Feochan at 18.00 and in poor visibility made for Craignure on Mull, where we dropped anchor at 21.00.
Next day we were away by 08.00 and motored north all morning passing Ardamurchan Point at 12.00 and reaching the Island of Eigg around 16.00, sailing through the anchorage between the island and Eilean Chathasail. North of Eigg the wind died, and we motored the remaining distance to the anchorage at Isleornsay on Skye, having covered 57M in the day.
On Monday 11 August we set off at 06.24 (according to the log) and motored north through Kyle Rhea expecting to catch the last of the flood tide. In fact we arrived at the narrows just after slack water, and as the ebb built against us made slow progress over the ground. Eventually we escaped the clutches of the tide and at 12.30 dropped anchor in Arcaseid Mhor, the ‘big anchorage’ on Rona. This is a magical place, as these pictures show.
At 15.00 we departed Arcaseid Mhor and headed northwest, eventually deciding on Staffin Bay on Skye for the night. I slightly underestimated the range, with the consequence we touched bottom a couple of times around LW, but no harm done. At 08.15, on a rather more grey morning than we had experienced over the last few days we set out towards the Shiant Isles, where we arrived at 12.30, dropping the anchor at Mol Mór, at the neck of land between the two main islands of the group. The Shiants are made of spectacular basalt columns, similar to those on Staffa, but much taller, altogether an atmospheric place.
From there we made our way over to Lewis having a brief look into Loch Shell on the way. The forecast was for rain and wind, so we made for Stornoway for the night, arriving in the rain at 21.00 just in time for a quick run ashore to the local hotel. The following day, Wednesday, was bright, although with considerable squalls of rain, carried on a NW wind Force 6. We took on stores, fuel and water. I managed 30 minutes at the local library catching up on e-mails. We set off shortly before noon, heading for Kinlochbervie on the mainland shore 10M south of Cape Wrath, which we reached in just over nine and a half hours. Conditions were rough and windy, with a quartering sea which made steering difficult.
In view of the likely sea conditions around Cape Wrath the decision was made to spend Thursday at Kinlochbervie. I managed to acquire the bolt I needed to repair the heads, which was a job well done.
On Friday we set off north, still in fairly strong conditions – strong enough at any rate to blow my porridge out of its bowl and down my oilskins. We brought Cape Wrath abeam at 10.30. In my experience, Cape Wrath has always lived up to its reputation as a tempestuous place, although Quentin assures me he has rounded it in more benign mood.
The passage to Hoy Sound was uneventful. With good visibility, we sighted the high ground of Hoy at 13.00 but it took another eight hours to enter Hoy Sound. This we did with a strong tide under us, touching 11.6 knots over the ground as measured by GPS.
On entering the harbour at Stromness we headed for the new yacht harbour north of the ferry pier, only to discover its announcement was premature, and although the works have been started they are not expected to be completed until 2004 at the earliest. In consequence we turned back and moored up in the old harbour.
Saturday was declared a lay day so that we could take the bus into Kirkwall for shopping, a visit to the Cathedral and lunch. On returning to Stromness we found a sizeable crowd gathered at the ferry terminal. Puzzled what on earth was going on, we asked some of the locals, who replied: “It’s Big Brother”. Indeed it was Cameron, the winner of Channel 4′s programme, making his triumphal home-coming.
We enjoyed the hospitality of the Stromness Hotel. Quentin introduced me to the delights of the local brew, the ‘Red MacGregor’, very much to our taste. The hotel has a collection of fine photographs of lighthouses.
In the evening a ceildh band started up, using the main street of the town as a makeshift dance floor, and in no time 100s of Cameron’s fans (and a good few who plainly still had no clue in whose honour the party was held) were Dashing White Sergeants, or Gay Gordons. A memorable night.
Early on Sunday morning, we left Stromness to catch the tide through the Pentland Firth and on to Wick. As soon as we experienced the SSE wind Force 4 we realised we needed a Plan B, and altered course to catch the ebb out of Hoy Mouth and head for Scrabster. A French maxi yacht was sailing close hauled into Hoy Mouth against the tide, and we each waved to one another as we passed.
We made good progress over the 25M to Scrabster. Josephine entered the harbour at 13.00 and was directed alongside Barnstormer (Harold Usherwood) from Tees and Hartlepool YC. The forecast wasn’t good and we decided to stay over on Monday and make our crew change in Scrabster rather than Wick as originally planned. I contacted Paul Common from RNYC to let him know to get off the train at Thurso, and he came up to join us. Quentin left very early Tuesday morning to catch the train south.
We departed Scrabster at 09.00 hoisting a double reefed main and working jib, in a SW Force 4/5. In just under an hour we were off Dunnet Head, running in very big breaking seas, doing 9 knots down the wave faces. Visibility was about 3 cables. The plan was to stand out into the Pentland Firth, find a flat, and gybe to pass south of Stroma Island. We gybed in good order, and eventually saw Stroma, and the Point of Mey with the Castle of Mey behind. The wind and seas moderated as we rounded Duncansby Head, but as we headed down the coast we encountered squalls well into Force 6 with driving rain. The squall we encountered just off Wick was so strong we lost visibility to windward, we had to lay off until visibility improved. We made Wick at 14.30. Barnstormer came in half an hour later.
The next day, Wednesday 20 Aug the 06.00 forecast was for W/SW 4/5 locally 6. That would give us a reasonable slant across the Moray Firth, so we set off at 07.00 and for the first seven hours enjoyed some good sailing. Then the wind died and the passage was completed under power arriving at Peterhead Marina at 20.15 in heavy rain. Barnstormer was already in, and so too was the Dutch racing sloop Bierkaai, last seen at the muster at Fort Augustus on July 16.
Thursday’s forecast of winds up to Force 7 was too much for Josephine and her crew, so we stayed put in Peterhead and caught the bus into the town.Bierkaai made an attempt at setting off for the Netherlands, but she was back after less than an hour. We had an early night and with a declining forecast departed at 06.30 on the Friday morning in company with Barnstormer both bound for our home ports, in our case Blyth, and in Barnstormer’sHartlepool. For the first five hours we were close-hauled and bouncing over the waves, but we closed the coast just south of Aberdeen and found some smoother water. We brought Stonehaven abeam mid afternoon, took the rhumb line south to the Farne Islands.
It became necessary to reef down to the number 2 jib, but we were able to lay our course. The problem was not so much the wind, as the underlying swell from the previous three blowy days. It was uncomfortably rough, impossible to cook, and difficult even to boil a kettle, so soup and sandwiches were all that was on the menu. At around 21.30 with Paul off-watch below, Josephine was visited by a 50,000 ton cruise liner Crystal Symphony. She came out of the Forth, turned towards us and slowed down a cable to leeward of us. I doffed my cap, and off she went. I couldn’t see anyone on board through her tinted windows. By dawn, around 06.00, we were approaching the Goldstone Channel into the Farnes. As the sun rose everything to seaward was in daylight, but the coastline and the land remained indistinct, until little by little lights turned into objects, and our position became 100% certain.
At long last, after 24 hours at sea, we found shelter in the lee of the Northumberland coastline. Co-incidentally, the wind dropped to NW Force 3, and we hoisted the spinnaker, which we held for several hours as the wind gradually veered into the east, so that we couldn’t lay Newbiggin point, and had to drop the kite to make Blyth. We came alongside our mooring at 14.30 Saturday 23 August 2003, 144M after leaving Peterhead, and 1,278M for the entire cruise.
After ten years semi-retirement, Josephine is back at sea!