So we bought another night in Lochinver which of course entitled us to yet another night free. However the resurgent windy weather was only expected to be with us for a while and therefore we should be able to continue on our journey south after one extra day in port.
The plan was to get to Loch Alsh and stay the night in the Kyle of Loch Alsh. There were seasonal pontoons there and somewhere to eat. It was also a good place to plan your passage through Kyle Rhea , a spectacularly picturesque but tricky ‘S’ bend of a few miles, a half mile wide at its slimmest with very fast tides which you would not want to catch in the wrong direction with strong wind over them. Going through Rhea however meant you didn’t have to go all the way around the west side of the Isle of Skye with very much more potential unpleasant sea conditions.
The Kyle of Loch Alsh was just on the south side of the bridge between the mainland and the Isle of Skye where there was another council run pontoon at Kyleakin.
This was a 65 mile run where the first 35 miles or so would again be into the wind with promised slight sea states. This was mostly the case other than it always picked around the headlands and ahead of the cloudy unsettled conditions we had been experiencing more or less since we left Peterhead, After 35 miles we would turn down past Gairloch where a neighbour in Lochinver told us that the sea states would noticeably reduce as we increasingly came into the shelter of the Isle of Skye.
This turned out to be the case as we came down the east side of Rona and picked up to full cruising knots for the last 20 or so miles to Loch Alsh.
Nigel phones ahead to let them know of our imminent arrival. We had gotten used to these calls not being answered and there was also VHF communication which generally wasn’t responded to either. On this occasion the Berthing Master returned our call from his car as he was travelling to Sterling. There was nobody there (obviously) and in any event nor were the pontoons!! They had not had a chance, with the weather, to put them out yet. We’ll have to either pick up one of three buoys, if they were available, or find a berth in Kyleakin which however was very unlikely, or anchor somewhere, good luck.
The buoys were occupied and when we tried to raft up alongside a sailing boat in Kyleakin, the “Billy No Mates’ sailor emerged from beneath decks to let us know we couldn’t stay there as the local fishing boats had priority. He suggested going on the inside of the pontoon which however dried out over what looked like rocks. We weren’t doing that.
Back out into the very pretty Loch Alsh to read up the tide times to see if it was going to be alright to go through Kyle Rhea and onto Mallaig some 15 miles distant, a proper town with a proper harbour which has a proper marina and which wasn’t seasonal.
It was half tide(ish) with a light wind in the right direction so off we go. Not unlike the Pentland Firth there is much written about this short ( a few miles) stretch of sea. With the potential for eight knot tides and katabatic winds again, the sailing brigade with their little engines might find themselves going backwards or worse round and round in circles in the whirlpools!!
We enter the spectacularly beautiful Rhea and yet again see nothing to worry about, the sea is flat with ripples where the race was most evident. Start Me Up DID loose 5 knots of speed overground however but after minutes we were through it and on our way to Mallaig.
Forty five minutes later we are entering Mallaig harbour and phoning the young lady responsible for berthing on that late afternoon, we eventually get her on the published mobile phone number, and she was there to point us in the direction of our very fine berth for the night.
Mallaig town was 300 yards away with several pubs and restaurants to choose from and the marina had excellent facilities for yachties and motorboaters alike.
We celebrated our good luck with our arrival in this unscheduled harbour with a couple of cold beers. Later that evening I had Cullen Skink, the local smoked haddock and potato soup, delicious.
We liked Mallaig.