Sunday, 30 June 2013

New Crew and Fat Seals

There is now a substantial gathering of Round Britain gaffers at Eyemouth with 7 or 8 boats including Minstrel and Windbreker who we last saw in Stornoway. Bonita also has the benefit of new crew, full of energy and enthusiasm and keen to go. Geoff and Guy were both with me at medical school, so whatever else we may be lacking we are able to offer a variety of opinions on any medical subject.

Many harbours have their resident seals but the Eyemouth inhabitants seem fatter than most. They follow the fishing boats and get regularly rewarded. Visiting children can buy fish scraps from the fisherman and throw them to the seals who always play their part and can be relied on to put on a good display. Everyone benefits from this neat arrangement. Though the seals  may be obese they are pretty agile and when thrown a fragment of fish can usually intercept it before the seagulls swoop.

There are rumours of some kind of organised activity tomorrow, but we will wait to see what the weather looks like.

Saturday, 29 June 2013

A New Zulu?

In Eyemouth we talked to Johnny Johnston who is organising the OGA gathering
Good Hope
here. Johnny is a fisherman, ex harbourmaster and much else, with many stories of the harbour and coast. He is the owner and restorer of the Fifie 'Good Hope', built 1923. She has fished all her life and is fitted out with a dipping lug rig.  Fifies were the traditional design that evolved to work on the Scottish East coast. Johnny is working on plans to build a 70 ft replica fishing boat, a Zulu and use her for sail training, and enter the Tall Ships races. With fishing in decline many small traditional harbours need people with his energy and vision.

Inevitably on this trip we have been thinking about the accounts of people who visited the same places in boats similar to Bonita. In some ways things were harder: the hours of rowing a yacht in the days before engines for example. On the other hand there were plenty of small fishing boats in the inshore waters and they often hailed a fisherman for directions and local knowledge.

E E Middleton was, it seems, one of the first to sail single handed round England in the 1860s (he went through the Forth to Clyde canal). His adventures are described in 'The Cruise of the Kate' - he named his boat after his sister, Kate Middleton. He used to enter harbour and drop anchor in the entrance, confident that before long someone would come and help him to a berth. No doubt they did, but his book gives no insight as to whether this was considered as reasonable practice by those who came out to tow him in.

There are many stories of the dirt, grime and inconvenience of sharing harbours with fishermen, but people were more tolerent of minor bumps and scrapes than they are now. It didn't seem to be so important to keep the the topsides in Boat Show condition, and much could be covered up with putty and paint.  I remember talking to an old yachtsman - the indomitable Cyril Monk of Erith Yacht Club - who sailed a lot before engines were common in small boats.  He used to keep a stock of printed cards on board: these contained a short apology, and the name of his insurance company. If they had a minor collision with another yacht, they would throw one of these cards onto the deck before setting off on the other tack. This was apparently common practice and considered good manners. I regret not asking how many cards he got through in a summer. Less scrupulous accident prone yachtsmen used to shout out 'no damage' even if there was abundant evidence to the contrary.

Yesterday evening Tim returned home having nobly seen Bonita all the way through the difficult waters between Tobermory and Eyemouth. He has also provided the generous sponsorship of the Beckett Rankine - Bonita rugby shirts. Fresh crew are expected tomorrow!

Friday, 28 June 2013

The Oldest Boat in port

Today we are in Eyemouth which proudly promotes itself as Scotland's first port of call (it is also of course Scotland's last, depending on your point of view).

The locals are friendly
I'm sorry to say I had never heard of Eyemouth before we started planning this trip but it is an interesting place with a lot to see. As well as an active fishing port there is a collection of interesting boats and a museum of smuggling and smugglers. The Eyemouth folk seem quite unashamed of the town's criminal past: there are many exhibits in this museum of tax evasion designed specifically to appeal to the impressionable young. As so often it seems it wasn't the smugglers themselves who came off best, but the people who dealt in smuggled goods.

Brunel's Bertha

The picture on the right is of the of the oldest boat in the harbour. She is Bertha, a steam dredger designed by I K Brunel and built in 1844 which probably makes her the world's oldest surviving steam powered vessel. Built to keep the port of Bridgewater in Somerset navigable she did not lift the mud from the bed but just moved it with a plough out of the harbour into the river Parrett where the ebb tide would carry it out to sea.

Bertha has no propeller or paddles - she moved herself under steam power by winching along a rope or chain attached to shore bollards. We were fascinated to see this ancient reminder of one of the world's most famous engineers. Bertha deserves to be better known and to be conserved and exhibited under cover where it can be better appreciated.

In the afternoon we had tea with Chris and Martin who we last saw in Tobermoray and discussed the ports and harbours of the north east English coast.

Thursday, 27 June 2013

Dolphins frollicking in the Firth of Forth

As we crossed the Firth of Forth we were greeted by a pod of dolphins; my attempt at getting a still photo of them was unrewarding but Tim was more successful with this video on his phone.

Wednesday, 26 June 2013


We were tempted to take a big step south by persistent forecasts predicting strong northerly winds. In reality these never showed up and we  motored in calm seas so much I was seriously worried we might run out of fuel.

The picture shows Bell Rock lighthouse, located on a low drying rock in the river Tay approaches outside Dundee. This is the oldest lighthouse exposed to the sea in the UK and was built between 1807 and 1811 by Robert Stephenson, a famous builder of lighthouses. It's hard to appreciate the problems of lighthouse building before the age of steam. Every piece of the structure would have to be taken out by rowing boat or small sailing boat, with work only possible at low tide and in calm conditions. The lighthouse is now automated and we saw a team servicing it from a launch.

We eventually crossed the Firth of Forth to Eyemouth. This has an approach channel surrounded on both sides by rocks looking like dragons' teeth. It is a picturesque little town and still very much an active fishing port. Here I hope to be able to get some supplies for the boat and another crew change.

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Southward Bound

The wind had eased a little by 6pm in Kirkwall and we managed to get Bonita off the pontoon by motoring astern at full throttle. We had some help from the concerned couple in the boat astern, and the manoeuvre was completed without damage to paint, gel coat or dignity. We then had a fine sail with a brisk NW wind through the String channel, and safely past the dreaded Pentland Firth with its tides and eddies that in places are rumoured to reach 16 knots.

We were sorry to be leaving the Orkneys and their marvellous island scenery, but pleased to be able to take advantage of a Northerly wind for once.

The picture shows the view from the cockpit looking due north at midnight. with the sun waiting just below the horizon.

It seemed easier to sail right across the Moray Firth rather than sticking to the coast, and as this blog is written we are off Peterhead heading south with a fair tide.

Monday, 24 June 2013


This morning at 6 am the visability had cleared a lot and we would have liked to leave harbour for the open sea. The wind would have been on the beam after the first mile or two. However it was blowing so hard that we did not see how we could get Bonita off the pontoon without risking damage to herself or the boats ahead and astern or possibly all three.  I wondered about joining up all our warps and taking a line to the fishing boat wharf on the other side of the harbour to haul her off, but this too could have gone wrong.  We decided that if it was too windy to leave the pontoon then it was probably too windy to leave the harbour. Lighter winds are forecast and we may have another try on this evening's tide.

The pictures show a magnificent tall ship that came in under bare poles while we were wondering about how to get out. She is a Norwegian sail training ship, the Statsraad Lehmkuhl.  She seemed to be in immaculate condition with even the paint on the anchor looking perfect. She was  built in 1914 by the Germans as a sail training ship, but passed to British ownership after the First World War. So like the Overlord after the Second World War, The Statsraad probably owes her survival to the fact that as a prize of war that fell into the hands of people who could afford to look after her. She was later bought by the Norwegian navy, but was transiently back in German hands during World War 2.

She dominates the skyline of the town, the second oldest vessel in port.

Sunday, 23 June 2013

Fog and wind in the Orkneys

We woke at 5am with every intention of making an early start and catching the tide.  However it was blowing a brisk N wind and there was fog so thick you could hardly see across the harbour. We decided to wait a few hours but both the forecast and the conditions on the ground deteriorated through the day so we decided to be sensible and await better weather.  Readers of previous blogs may recognise a familiar pattern. 

We went to the Music Festival service in St Magnus cathedral.  The Festival has bought many visitors to Kirkwall. The magnificent 12th century building was packed and the choir were no doubt well rehearsed for the occasion.

Mum and Emma had to fly back home in the afternoon, but were able to visit Bonita’s cosy cabin before they left. The picture shows Tim, Mum and Emma around the cabin table. Mum has been putting up with Bonita’s discomforts (intermittently) since 1946 although there have undoubtedly been a few improvements over the years.

The second photo gives an  insight into Captain Cook's voyages of discovery.  It is a set
of high quality china plates and bowls which were taken on the voyage and were given, or perhaps more likely sold, to the Laird of Skaill House near Stromness at the end of the 1780 expedition. This was Cook's third voyage during which he died.  His ship, the Resolution, put into Stromness harbour at the end of the trip.  Cook was a no-nonsense Yorkshireman, one of the greatest and most experienced seaman that ever lived who sailed all round the world in small converted collier ships. We found it surprising that he had not only taken a complete set of high quality chinaware with him, but also that they are decorated with a most unseamanlike pink floral pattern. Also remarkable is that so much has survived the long and difficult voyage to be bought back safely in good condition.

We wondered when these dishes were used, or perhaps they never were, which might explain why they survived.  Cook would surely have had little opportunity to entertain senior European visitors or other Naval officers. Was it so important that they had to carry high quality crockery just in case?  Did they bring out the china if they invited native chieftains aboard?  Did Cook and his officers maybe eat off the best pink floral crockery when dining in some sheltered anchorage after a successful day charting the unknown?  For whatever reason, Cook, the rational pragmatist, thought these pieces were worth the space they took up when preparing for a long and dangerous voyage on his overcrowded little ship.

As this blog is written the wind is howling in the rigging, the rain is horizontal and the boats are rolling around in the marina. This makes us grateful we decided to stay put for a bit.

Saturday, 22 June 2013

Old stones on Orkney

Today with Mum and Emma we hired a car and visited a good proportion of the many neolithic
Emma and Mike at Brodgar
remains on the Mainland (main island of the Orkneys) and various other sites of interest. There are a remarkable number of neolithic structures, some of surprising sophistication and there was clearly a flourishing culture here 5,000 years ago. We found it thought provoking that their society was sufficiently well developed to enable these complex and durable structures to be designed and built.

What to do when a much loved old boat is no longer seaworthy? Here is a constructive idea that means you don't have to part with your pride and joy. We don't know if she was a gaffer, but clearly there are advantages in having a deep draught long keel boat for keeping you dry. This house reminded us of Beckett Rankine's proposal for preserving the clipper ship City of Adelaide by turning her upside down and converting her into a building; that proposal can be seen at

This stone is part of the famous stone ring of Brodgar. It had been damaged and split by being struck by lightening. Here is Tim, our own (visiting) Professor of civil engineering, testing the stability of the damaged structure in traditional fashion. 

Three of the six Ts
'You can't get to heaven in an old Ford car'  but we ran into this group of 6 ancient Model Ts and their enthusiastic owners. The youngest car was built in 1928, the owners mostly not too far behind. The cars were over from Scotland touring Orkney and seemed to be well cared for and in excellent condition.

After a couple of days on these lovely island we are  now hoping for northerly winds to keep us clear of the dreaded Pentland Firth.

Longest day in Kirkwall

A day spent exploring Kirkwall and its surroundings, and welcoming Mum and Mem who flew up from London to be with us on the midsummer weekend.

The photo shows another old boat in harbour - a  magnificent 58 ft 100 square metre yacht built by Abeking and Rasmussen in Germany in 1936. Originally named 'Pelikan' she was built for the Luftwaffe who used her for training navigators. After the war she was one of the 'windfall' yachts acquired by the British after the fall of Nazi Germany and which needed new owners who were in a position to be able to look after them; for a while she was owned by the Royal Engineers who renamed her 'Overlord'. She has been very well looked after by a syndicate of owners. We were shown over her and were impressed by the high quality of all the work, although with six to ten people aboard living would be cosy. She had come to Orkney in a single hop, four and a half days up the North Sea from the Hamble.

The second picture shows the festival all girl folk group Gria playing under a marquee to an appreciative audience. They seemed very young but we were impressed by their skill and musicianship and the delicacy of some of their songs. Personally I was a little disappointed to see one of them enjoying a cigarette outside during the interval, which seemed a sad contrast to the image they wanted to convey.
In the evening we had supper with our friend Daniel who plays in a large orchestra and is here for the festival and has many entertaining stories about life behind the polished professional performances.

In the harbour as always Bonita has been much admired, and I am often asked what she is made of. This always presents a dilemma. If I reply 'wood' I cause offence to anyone with any knowledge of old boats. If I say ' pitch pine on oak sawn frames with  rock elm steamed frames'  the casual enquirer thinks I am being too clever and loses interest.  I felt on safer ground today with the admirer who just said  'shes made of concrete, isnt she?' .

Thursday, 20 June 2013


A day spent in Kirkwall, the capital of the Orkneys. This small but lively city is dominated by St Magnus' cathedral, a fine Norman building in massive red sandstone.

The first picture
shows a rowing boat in which four Icelanders are attempting to row from Norway to America.  She is in the harbour next to Bonita.  The rowers left Norway and arrived at Orkney after a week at sea. Next stop the Faroes. This will be the first time this trip has ever been done in a rowing boat. The Vikings don't count as they very sensibly hoisted sail whenever they had a fair wind. We talked to the captain of this little vessel and his wife who manages the shore operation. We felt their experiences were admirable but not enviable. They may well have thought the same about us. The rowers have to eat 7,000 calories a day even when seasick: they seem to live mostly on chocolate bars to achieve this.
The second picture shows what might be the Kirkwall fringe. An accordion and fiddle group in full flow in Reels pub.

We are expecting visitors tomorrow so called in at the launderette. I also went up the mast in the bosun's chair to check all was well after about a thousand miles of sailing.

Wednesday, 19 June 2013


Sadly on Monday Trevor ran out of time and had to leave us so at a stroke we were deprived of our IT expert, cabin boy, logistics expert and master salesman. Bonita seemed much quieter and a little higher in the water without Trev and his luggage.

We woke up in Stornoway on Tuesday morning to find that our long promised southwesterly wind had arrived so we quietly slipped out at 4am before anyone else was up (apart from the fishermen). We then had an excellent fair wind sail covering about 140 miles in 25 hours. This may not seem very fast (it is about the speed at which, if you are on a bicycle, you wobble and fall off) but for a small sailing boat it is a good passage making speed, rolling along and surfing down the waves.

Cape Wrath
Much of the morning was misty with poor visibility and the photo shows the notorious Cape Wrath visible through the murk at a distance of about 4 miles. Cape Wrath is the most northwesterly point of the British mainland, and though its name comes from a mistranslation of the original Norse, it still has a reputation for being bad tempered especially if there is a heavy swell rolling in from the Atlantic. As with other large and bad tempered objects its best to keep a safe distance away.

The cliffs on Hoy in Orkney can be seen many miles away, and after admiring them for a few hours we entered  Eynhallow Sound about 10 miles north of Kirkwall  at 2am, and with a fair tide were soon speeding over the hidden rocks at a frightening 10 knots - and this was on a neap tide!
Orkney landfall
The second photo shows the sunrise this morning. As we are virtually at the longest day there is really very little difference between the sunset and sunrise at this latitude. They just sort of merge together in a continuous display on the northern horizon.

After what seemed like a lot of weaving through narrow rock filled channels we finally reached the welcoming harbour at Kirkwall at 5 am. The music festival is being held this weekend and we feel this is a suitable place to celebrate midsummer's day and the farthest north point of Bonita's cruise.

Monday, 17 June 2013

Two boat videos

The video above is of the Sgoh being well sailed in Stornoway bay

This video is from the lee rail of Bonita as she approaches Stornoway on her trip North from the island of Rona.

The Cabin Boy's view of life on board - by Trev

As I leave to sadly fly south to the madness of normal life, my mind is filled with many impressions. But one the strongest is how well we all live together in such a small space. Bonita is a beautiful old lady that can pack a punch in a good breeze and stay with or ahead of the best of them. But she also packs a huge amount into such a small space. With respect for each other, and a flexible spine, life progresses pretty well.

Starting in the forecastle (pronounced folk-saul), we have a multi purpose space tucked far up inside Bonita's bow. The first picture shows Skipper Mike using it as his cabin after having tea and biscuits delivered by the cabin boy/IT Director. He assures us that the en-suite toilet and lack of light make it ideal for him. The latter point, this far North where it never gets dark, is key to getting a good sleep in the Outer Hebrides in the summer. But I suspect he will be back in the main cabin with his brother Tim the moment I've left!
The next picture shows the 'daytime' layout when the fo'c's'le is used as a sail locker and as the 'head' (toilet). When the alternative is a rubber bucket or hanging in the shrouds (rigging), this tiny, cramped space can seem very welcoming indeed.

Above is the main cabin. This has a folding table which we seldom use, lots of storage and two more bunks. It also has an excellent and smell-free paraffin heater and a rather less odour-free paraffin lamp. 

Tim can be seen relaxing after a long watch - again with the obligatory tea. All our sleeping bags are securely  put away each day and we end up with these two low, comfortable settees.

You leave Bonita through a multipurpose space. On the starboard (right) side is the galley. Here we have more storage, an excellent two ring gas burner & grill, a sink with a beautiful brass fresh water pump, and a massive store of the skipper's digestive biscuits. The chef sits on the battery box and keeps out of the companion way when things get busy. Cold storage is supplied by the bilge (the coldest place on board). This also luckily allows the chef to grease the propellor drive shaft at the same time. Battened and reefed down during a night passage, this 'fuelling station' produces a continuous flow of tea and piping hot ravioli. In a quiet, well protected berth, the same galley can produce 3 course cordon bleu meals.

Directly across from the galley (and sitting directly on top of the engine box) is the navigation table. In the shelf below is a massive collection of charts. These are still very necessary since the electronic chart plotter can often omit important information - like the port name! On the shelf above are all the bits and pieces needed for this demanding job - including a bottle sherry for difficult decisions...and an EPIRB emergency distress beacon.
On the right hand side, the picture shows the depth gauge (always on), electronic chart plotter, engine controls, cellhone for transmitting our position and receiving weather forecasts, and the VHF radio.

The picture at the end shows the whole crew gathered wearing their Beckett Rankine sailing shirts gathered round the statue of a Stornoway Herring Girl. These tough, independent women followed the fishing fleet as it followed the herring migration round the top of Scotland, following the same route as Bonita. They contributed hugely by packing the salted fish for export - which the statue depicts. See here for more.
In summary, life in Bonita is not as tough as it was for the herring girls. But it does demand mutual respect, a flexible body and good forward planning. Get those right and you will always be rewarded with harmonious companionship and an enjoyable trip to places that very few people visit (and I don't mean just the fo'c's'le)

Sunday, 16 June 2013

Sunday in Stornoway

Sunday is rather diffferent in Stornoway. There are no shops open at all and the only places where there is any activity seem to be the hotels (a loophole in the regulations since they are also open to non-residents) and of course the churches.  There is hardly anyone out on the streets.

Tim and Trev spent the morning busily accessing the internet and I worked on a couple of minor deck leaks over the crews sleeping quarters. These had become evident during the recent rain and the crew had very kindly lost no time in bringing the matter to my attention.

We had a proper Sunday lunch at the Royal Hotel in the excellent company of Barry Healas who in his quiet diplomatic way has done so much to make the OGA Round Britain cruise happen.
View of Stornoway from the castle grounds: gaffers against the quay.

We feel ready to move on and have been reading up about the hazards around Cape Wrath and the Orkney islands. There seem to be very many of these hazards. The OGA fleet is supposed to be going to Shetland but we think that the shorter trip to Orkney would be more sensible for an elderly lady like Bonita with her low freeboard and open cockpit. However the wind has been NE for the last few days which is unhelpful. We have been promised a change soon but quite when, no-one knows.

Saturday, 15 June 2013

A trip round the bay

Today the gaffers at Stornoway were ably organised by Gerald Hales for an outing in open water outside the harbour. It was blowing quite hard from the NE, but there was a good turnout and everyone had a fine sail with plenty of spray and water on deck. The photos give an impression of the day with all the boats sailing well. 

The sgoth Jubilee

We were very interested to see the little open lugger (a Sgoth) with her crew mastering the intricacies of sailing with a dipping lug. Non-sailing readers only need to know that the dipping lug rig is fast but sadly is almost obsolete as the rig is difficult to handle and needs a large skilled crew. For this reason in the days of sail the lug rig used to be popular with smugglers and pirates and with those whose job it was to catch them.  The picture shows the little lugger going well and we also took some video of her which can be seen on Bonita's YouTube channel here.

Bonita photographed by Edgar on the Lugger

In the evening there was prize giving in Lewis’ Bar (Bonita got an elegant locally made bowl as the prize for ‘style and grace’) and progressed to further festivities in Windbreker's commodious and welcoming cabin.

El Vigo

Gerald had been very efficient in organising our stay in Stornoway and we were particularly pleased as we were all presented with elegant burgees made of Harris Tweed and inscribed ‘OGA 50  Stornoway 2013’. Harris Tweed is very durable but does tend to be a little heavy when wet.


It needs a good breeze to get the burgee fluttering properly.  Coincidentally during our stay we have had no shortage of wind.

Tantina 2

Friday, 14 June 2013

Lewis and Harris

Today  was a rest day so we hired a car and set off on a tour of the island; first stop
The Black House
was a traditional 'Black House' so called because it was built of dry stone walling . These houses have no windows, the roofs are of peat and there is an open peat fire in the middle with no chimney. The whole house was full of smoke which cannot have been very good for the inhabitants' health. People were living in these houses until the 1970s. The picture gives an impression of the inside of the house which was warm and cosy but lacking even the few amenities that we take for granted on Bonita.
The Iron Age house is very dark
We later visited a reconstruction of an iron age house based on archeological excavations of remains from about 800 BC. This too had a open peat fire with the smoke somehow finding its way out through the peat roof. There didn't seem to have been much progress between the iron age house and the Black houses which were common in the 19th century so far as living standards were concerned. In the iron age house we were fortunate to talk to a genuine inhabitant (Elizabeth) who was extremely well informed about how life was lived here almost 3,000 years ago. Elizabeth spends all her day in the peat smoke, and then goes home on the bus. We worried about the state of her lungs and speculated about health and safety at work.

Tim and Mike discussing stone alignment
Other highlights of our tour included a visit to the standing stones at Callanish. These are stone circles of massive upright stones about 5,000 years old. This is about the same age as Stonehenge, and presumably the stones served some kind of ritual or astronomical purpose, but no one really knows. They were in use for about a thousand years: there are few structures built today which are likely to be still serving their designed purpose in a thousand years time.
The final highlights of the day were the spectacular views over the rugged landscape, and the wild Atlantic waters beyond. After a day contemplating the mysteries of prehistory we returned to Stornoway and spent a jovial evening in the Royal Hotel with Barry Healas who has done so much to make the OGA50 Round Britain rally a success, and Mike and Marian Shaw paying a presidential visit to the gaffers gathering.
The Iron Age house is a reconstruction of one of these original houses nearby

Thursday, 13 June 2013

Passage to Stornoway (by Tim)

By 3pm yesterday the weather in Rona seemed to have lifted a bit and while there was little
About to leave Rona
wind we thought we would give it a go, we eased our way out of the anchorage as gingerly as we had entered as the notable rock in the entrance channel was now covered. We remain very much East Coast sailors - more at home with sand and mud banks than rocks. The rapidity that the water depth can change here is so dramatic that our, usually trusty, echo sounder gets confused. Failing to get an echo in over 50m of water it will tell us there is only 2 or 3m below us. As these deep areas are often marked as submarine exercise areas these unexpectedly shallow readings get us wondering. We see no periscopes but do spot some young puffins fishing.

After an hour or so the light westerly wind freshened, we stopped the engine and with all plain sail set laid a course for Stornoway. 40 miles and nine hours later, all on the port tack, we entered Stornoway harbour; only slightly perturbed by the quick flashing port hand buoy that marks the entrance having no light on it. We perhaps place an unrealistic expectation of reliability on navigational marks in UK waters, in many countries it is no surprise when they are not working or have been swept away by a tropical storm.

The pilot book tells us that the Minch is a busy shipping channel but apart from half a dozen fishing boats the only ship we saw was an 80,000t bulk carrier heading for the Glensanda quarry. We conclude that the pilot book's author can't be familiar with sailing the English Channel.

Stornaway is a fine natural harbour although more geared up for the needs of ferry operations and fishing than yachts. There is a small marina but it has no room for the gaffers so we are rafted up on a commercial quay. Naiad and Tantina II are already here together with local boat Ammonite who gave us a warm welcome despite it being nearly midnight.

In Rona

Wednesday, 12 June 2013


We left Portree at 3am planning to go towards Stornoway. Contrary to the comments in previous blogs it was dark and overcast at 3am. However we were tempted out by an apparant Easterly wind and a reasonably favourable forecast. However once out of Portree things didn't look so good. The wind was north and the visability down to a few hundred yards at time.  More daylight and things were Not much better. We didn't want to go back to Portree partly because the visitor moorings there are very congested, and we felt we had seen pretty much all of it yesterday. We therefore went about 8 miles north to the very small natural harbour on the south end of Rona. The entrance to this rocky harbour looks completely impossible until you see the white arrow helpfully painted on one of the rocks to indicate the entrance. After that its relatively easy apart from the unmarked rocks in the middle of the channel. Not an entrance we would have attempted without the chart plotter! Once in we anchored, went ashore and, in the pouring rain, climbed up the biggest hill we could see to get mobile phone contact for posting this blog entry. Better weather soon we hope.
Extreme blogging. Bonita can just be seen behind.

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

ITOB by Trevor

ITOB (Information Technology On Bonita) update

When she first sailed, Bonita's most technical equipment was a brass spinner that she dragged behind her on a line. Its rotation was transferred to a set of gears and an analogue (i.e. clockface) that showed her speed in knots. On this circumnavigation, Bonita contains ~50 times the computing power used by Apollo 11. But we have discovered that power without communication is useless - the maps of data coverage from our 3 mobile providers seem to be founded on fantasy.

The Western Isles are, however full of wonderfully friendly & helpful people and none more so than lovely Portree. Gregor & Kirsty at where we showered gave us the lowdown on local wifi spots. Pick of the bunch was at where Eilidh & Elena supplied us with faster internet than some of us have at home!

Once we had connectivity, we were able to use all of the capabilities - poor rivals to a reefed beam reach in a sunny Force 4 like yesterday - but useful when you're stuck in port with a bad weather forecast like we are today...

We are using:
- Dropbox - a totally reliable of saving data 'in the cloud' (and off the high seas!)
- - whatever the data coverage, the skipper's blogposts get through...
- Android - the operating and data sharing system used by all 5 of our computers
- - position reporting which, like Pony Express, almost always gets through
- SkypeOut - a local charge call to ring in Canada, Saudi, London or anywhere

Even with the great knowledge and experience we have on board, it is mind boggling to step back 60 years and see what we can do now. Go back twice that time and it would have seemed like magic!

The picture below shows Tim checking that it really is Ardnamurchan Point on our starboard beam:

Passage to Portree

We approached Portree in company with Te Beagh. On arrival, a young sea dog
named Angus approached us with his fellow crew member John. They kindly provided these excellent pictures of Bonita in surroundings very different from the landscape of the Thames estuary, the photos were taken by John's wife Sue. Click each image to download a higher resolution image.