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Leg 6, 2015

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Leg 7 - Update 1

August 28, 2015, 2200 hrs, 58.14 N, 05.36 W, Log: 191,030 miles
Baro: 1005.5, Cabin Temp: 66 F, Cockpit: 56 F, Sea Water: 57F
Broad reaching at 6.8 kts in 23 kt SW winds, main and genoa double-reefed
28 miles SSW of Cape Wrath, the NW tip of Scotland


As Scotland is one of our most favorite countries, we purposely planned a few extra days off between Legs 6 & 7. Years ago writer/cruiser Beth Leonard wrote about anchoring in front of Dunvegan Castle on the Isle of Skye and enjoying a classical music concert on the lawn in front of the castle. That stuck with me and after several friends mentioned what great times they'd had hiking and climbing on Skye, I Googled Dunvegan Castle and happily learned that the castle rents out three cottages on the grounds by the week. I chose the Laundry Cottage on the loch right in front of the castle and next to the boat house and had been looking forward to using it as a base for daily hikes. We'd both packed our traveling duffels but on the morning Leg 6 crew were leaving we received what we thought was a joke email from Amanda's parents, Robert and Lesley Swan saying, "Surprise! We've just flown in from Auckland and are in Oban - when can we get together?"

John & Amanda enjoying exploring Scotland with Amanda's parents, Robert & Lesley Swan

Needless to say we ended up cancelling our rental car reservation and travelled to Skye with Robert and Lesley in the car they had rented for a month of exploring Scotland. Fortunately there was plenty of room in the laundry cottage which sleeps five, and we all enjoyed the well-equipped cottage and the free range of the castle grounds and numerous gardens. Although nearly everyone in the UK was complaining about one of the wettest and coldest summers on record we experienced a virtual heat wave and took daily excursions to explore Skye's numerous peninsulas with a combination of hikes, picnics and visits to the vast collection of artist studios. Amanda and Lesley had a great time learning to knit socks with sourcing locally spun and dyed wool for future projects so thankfully their studio visits were just focused on textile and wool artists.

Although Dunvegan was rather remote we happened on a live concert in the Red Roof Café, a tiny isolated coffee house/art gallery called the nearby village of Glenvale. The young singer Robyn Stapleton had recently won Scotland's Young Singer of the Year contest and was accompanied by an equally talented young guitarist.

A highlight of touring Dunvegan Castle was the discovery of a picture of Finlay McQueen who lived on St. Kilda, an isolated island formerly owned by the same family that owned Dunvegan. As Robert and Amanda's family clan is McQueen, perhaps Finlay is a relative. For many years St. Kilda has been on our list of islands we'd really love to visit and weather permitting, we hope to visit it next year on our return from Iceland and the Faroe Islands. St Kilda was inhabited by 50-200 people for about 2000 years until 1930 when the islanders were evacuated to Scotland. Some of the inhabitants came from Harris, in the nearby Outer Hebrides where Robert and Amanda's relatives hail from.

Our five days at the cottage came to an end too soon, but we came back a different way, stopping to see yachts transiting Neptune's Staircase at the Caledonian Canal. Mahina Tiare base at Oban Marina on the island of Kerrera provided us with a tranquil country fix and we enjoyed our morning runs through paddocks of friendly highland cattle and sheep before catching the ferry to Oban for provisioning and errands.

Hiking Skye's Black Cullin mountains

Wednesday morning, the day our Leg 7 crew were coming for safety orientation, I got a shocker when checking the GRIB forecast files for Monday, the day we'd planned to arrive in the Orkney Islands ( Instead of the predicted 25-20 broad reaching conditions in SW winds the new forecast stated 35-40 kt northerly headwinds. This would make the passage from Cape Wrath on the NW tip of Scotland to the Orkney Islands difficult to impossible. My reaction was to tell Amanda, "Looks like we'll be going through the Caledonian Canal (which runs from Oban, through the Highlands to Inverness). Amanda groaned. As beautiful and bucolic as the Canal is, it's a lot of motoring and we prefer sailing the wild NW coast.

Leg 7-2015 crew: Steve, Billy, Peter, Sue, Mike and Bob

Thankfully Amanda had been running through weather scenarios and instantly came up with an alternative. "If we skip two of the three overnight coastal stops along and sail straight for the Orkney we could arrive before the gale”. I re-worked the route timing using Rose Point Coastal Explorer with C-Map charts and the GRIB files and determined that by eliminating all but our first night planned anchorage, we should make it to Kirkwall Marina, the capital of the Orkney, with at least 12 hrs to spare. I mentioned to Amanda, and to our crew that afternoon during safety briefing that frequently the weather doesn't turn out to be as horrible as forecasted, particularly when it is more than four days ahead. That turned out to be true when future forecast predicted less strong winds arriving Monday night instead of Sunday night.

Crew arrived early on Thursday and by noon we'd set sail from Oban Marina for a tiny new (to us) anchorage at Kilchoan, just a few miles past the famous tourist port of Tobermory. After a little motoring to start with, winds filled in and we had a great sail into a very small bay just inland from Ardnamurchan Point ( where we found a small and very friendly village with a craft store, small grocery and a great hike to a view of an abandoned castle.

Croft at Kilchoan Anchorage

The boat ramp landing at Kilchoan

This morning we weighed anchor and were under way by 0530 and since then we've had 20-35 kt following winds providing some great surfing action and LOTS of reefing practice. We've played dodge-em all day avoiding floats marking prawn traps and this evening have been dodging a steady stream of fishing boats, freighters and ferries. The rugged coastline of Skye and the area to the north have been gorgeous, alternately bathed in sun and partially hidden by passing squalls. A pod of very inquisitive Atlantic dolphins kept pace with us off and on all afternoon and our crew have rarely gone below when off watch, not wanting to miss any action.

Bob and Sue enjoying their scenic watch

Bob and Steve tuck in another reef

One of the many impressive fishing vessels working near Cape Wrath

Originally the plan was to try and reach Stromness, the first protected port in the Orkney before dark on Saturday, but we've been sailing so fast that now we only need to average 5.1 kts to make it all the way to Kirkwall, ( 25 miles further, by dark tomorrow. It's been nine years since our last visit to Kirkwall and we've not forgotten the amazing Wrigley sisters, Orcadian folk singers/music teachers and their coffee house/music venue called The Reel plus exploring Scara Brae,( the Neolithic village site. So very much to look forward to!

September 4, 2015, 1300 hrs, 58.53 N, 02.53 W, Log: 191,197 miles
Baro: 1005.5, Cabin Temp: 65 F, Cockpit: 58 F, Sea Water: 57F
At anchor, Holm Sound, 10 mi S of Kirkwall, Orkney Islands, Scotland

Orkney landfall

Sue takes the helm as we battle eight knots of tidal current

We reached Kirkwall Saturday afternoon, enjoyed a wonderful casual session of traditional Orkney fiddle, concertina, piano, bodrum and singing that night at The Reel (

Crew at one of the many standing stone sites
The northerly gale force winds arrived as expected Monday, and now on Friday, they still have not let up! Our crew had a great time exploring Scara Brae plus WWII Scapa Flow harbor on Sunday while Amanda and I took the bus to check out Stromness.

Monday we covered Diesel Maintenance and Anchoring and we all caught up on laundry and exploring Kirkwall. Tuesday with gale force winds covering the North Sea, our crew came up with the alternative of sailing 14 miles to Stronsay, an H shaped island with a small population. We had some great sailing and the anchorage at Holland Bay was protected but the beach was very shallow due to the large tidal range which made landing difficult, so we focused on teaching.

Billy, Peter and Bob suit up in preparation to go sailing

Full tilt action as we surf south from Stronsay

Wednesday crew were keen to go sailing again, and chose Holm, the only anchorage downwind of us providing protection from northerly gales. As the course was nearly directly downwind and the winds were strong and gusty, we ended up surfing downwind touching 10 kts under just a scrap of genoa. Holm Bay is bordered by one of several Churchill Barriers, (, causeways ordered by Winston Churchill in 1939 after a German submarine torpedoed the destroyer HMS Royal Oak with a huge loss of life.

MT storm bound anchorage at Holm Bay

The Italian Chapel

Also visible half a mile to the south is the Italian Chapel. It was built near the end of WWI by Italian POW's who were constructing the Churchill Barriers. Every few years some of the original builders and now their children visit the chapel from their small Italian Dolomite village of Moena. They've repainted some of the intricate religious scenes that cover the inside of the converted Quonset hut turned chapel and a strong bond has resulted between the Orkney people and these Italians. Click here to read our Leg 7 forecast.

Twice daily we receive weatherfax charts from England, four times daily we receive updated GRIB forecasts and once a day we've been checking in with, all the time waiting for a break in the gale force northerlies. It looks like a lessening of wind if we leave at noon tomorrow, so that is presently our plan. Mandal, Norway is 345 miles slightly south of east, but mid-passage we have a gauntlet of oil platforms to wind through so hopefully the winds will have eased by then.

Leg 7 - Update 2

September 7, 2015, 2015, 0700 hrs, 58.04 N, 06.09 E, Log: 191,508 miles
Baro: 1023.7, Cabin Temp: 66 F, Cockpit: 58 F, Sea Water: 63F
Broad reaching at 7.3 kts in 23 kt NW winds, one reef in main and full genoa
58 miles from Mandal, the southernmost tip and town in Norway


It took five days before gales in the North Sea abated slightly and we could make a dash for Norway. In the meantime we held class each morning and went exploring in the afternoons.

Crew exploring historic Stromness

Amanda showing crew how to service our spinnaker winch

Here's our very hearty Leg 7 crew:

Peter, 51, from Israel
I live in the Galilee in the north of Israel with my wife and three daughters where I work as an ENT surgeon. I was born in London, and learned to sail with my father on England's South Coast and later in the Eastern Med. We moved to Israel when I was 12 and I later went through naval officers training becoming a submarine officer. Since then I have chartered in the Med, but we still do not own a boat.

Bob, 57 originally from Portland but now happily living in Port Townsend, WA.
I've been a USAF Pararescueman, and recently retired as a fireman and fireboat captain in Portland. I own a Baba 30 on which I have cruised the west coast but my real goal is to sail to Sweden to visit my relatives.

Steve, 59 from Winnipeg, Manitoba
My love of sailing started when I was 14 and has continued for 45 years. First dinghies, then go-fast catamarans and now Chapter 3 of my sailing life is now open and I have aspirations of further reaches, health and nerve permitting. I currently sail on inland lakes in Canada but following this expedition I plan on chartering and seeing where that leads.

Billy, 54
I've lived in Mississippi most of my life and have enjoyed boating and sport fishing in the Gulf of Mexico. When we moved to Malibu, CA four years ago we took up sailing which my wife and three daughters fell in love with. This North Sea passage was my first ocean passage, but I plan many more in the future.

Sue, 59
Hey! I grew up sailing, fishing, camping and cruising with my four siblings and mom & dad in the Pacific Northwest. Our first sailboat was a Bluejay that my dad built. Our family still owns and cherishes the last two boats my dad built, a Lightning and a 26' powerboat. My husband Mike and I own a Gulf 32 which we sail in Puget Sound and BC waters. I am a freelance editor and writer and this trip will inspire some lofty words!

Mike, 59
My wife Sue and I live on a houseboat in Seattle and enjoy sailing the Salish Sea. I've been a forester through a long career and am now considering what I want to be when I grow up. Upgrading to a better boat and extending our travels by water is certainly central to the plan!

What a wild and wet passage we've had from Orkney Islands to Norway! Commanders Weather and the GRIB forecast called the forecast exactly with NW winds fairly consistently running 25-30 and occasionally gusting to 35 in squalls. We've seen far more oil rigs and support ships than in our previous two North Sea crossings and plenty of fishing boats but the great news is every single target we've seen is transmitting full AIS information, even the oil platforms. This makes collision avoidance much, much easier.

A distant squally view of one of the many oil rigs we passed

Peter, Billy and Steve savoring their smorgasbord lunch that included a sampling of Orkney cheese purchased by Billy

September 10, 2015, 1500 hrs, 58.10 N, 11.27 E, Log: 191,718 miles
Tied up in Hallberg Rassy's marina

Sue and Mike on the high granite hilltop behind the town of Mandal that offers wonderful views over the town and coastine.
We arrived in sunny Mandal,  (the southernmost and sunniest place in Norway) at 1500 and were surprised to find many new waterfront apartment buildings, but few boats. We enjoyed exploring town on the sunny afternoon before having a cockpit dinner and setting sail at 1915 for the 110 mile passage across the Skagerrak to Sweden. Although there wasn't much wind, we had a busy night dodging traffic and were happy to witness an amazing show of the Northern Lights throughout the night.

John, Bob and Steve work out the noon site
Tuesday mid-day everyone took celestial navigation sextant shots capturing local apparent noon and an hour before our

Shortly after our arrival, our friend Leon Schulz aboard his sistership, Regina Laska rafted alongside with two good friends as crew.
1540 landfall at Smogen a fighter jet came roaring past at mast level and repeatedly entertained us with aerobatics.

Smogen, a popular summer harbor for Swedish and Norwegian sailors, was nearly deserted.

We instantly all ventured off to the fish market for fresh cooked shrimp, salmon and baguettes for a joint seafood cockpit dinner to accompany Amanda seafood pasta.



Shrimp and crayfish accompany Leon's baked salmon, spinach and feta and Amanda's salad

After dinner Leon pulled out his guitar and a night of music, laughter and friendship began! We invited the neighboring Norwegians off the next two boats along the dock.

When a Dutch yacht arrived they also joined in. Fortunately many of us knew the words to the same songs and anchored by the sturdy voices of Sue and Mike who have long performed in an Irish folk group (between them they play the fiddle, guitar, concertina and harmonica) we all followed along.

Hoo-ray up Mike rises ear-lie in the morning! Crew line up to pull Mike aloft

Mahina Tiare leaving Smogen

Regina Laska and Mahina Tiare in company as they depart Smogen

Bob about to be hoisted aboard whilst in the Lifesling

Wednesday morning before a hearty pancake breakfast Amanda taught going aloft for rig inspection and once under way there was just enough breeze to practice a Lifesling overboard to make the rescue more realistic rescue with USAF para-rescue swimmer Bob keenly volunteering to jump into the 60F water. Once in the water it was under one minute until retrieval: Bob was in the Lifesling, MT was stopped in a hove-to position and our crew were pulling Bob toward the swim step.

We couldn't resist pulling into tiny Gullholmen the oldest fishing village on Sweden's west coast, just a couple miles W of Hallberg-Rassy's marina for a walk around the village and ice creams on this sunny afternoon.

By 1530 we'd tied up at Hallberg-Rassy and were greeted by Magnus Rassy.

Thursday morning Magnus had organized a boatyard tour for us. We were amazed at huge new sanding and varnishing machines and pleased to learn that HR had a nine-month order book for most models. They've increased staff to over 120 are still hiring more.

Amanda points the detailing on a galley cabinet front in the woodshop

Sunset over the HR marina

Our crew caught the bus to Gothenberg and now we are catching our breath. What a good and busy season we've had - excellent expedition members, great sailing, exceptionally good weather, a new country (Dominican Republic) and several new anchorages.

Thank you time!

The crew at Hallberg-Rassy for building an exceptionally strong and fast boat - still looking and sailing great after 191,718 miles, the equivalent of 7.5 world circumnavigations.

Tracy McClintock, our deeply-appreciated office manager who has kept everything on track for over 25 years.

Our expedition members who have joined us for amazing adventures and learning.

Shortly Mahina Tiare will go inside Adams Boat Care shop for new decks, new thru-hulls and ball valves, new LED nav lights, new foam in all berths and cushions, some additional storage lockers, a new Seagull water purification system, new lenses and seals on all opening ports. Although we'd planned on replacing our original Volvo TMD31LA engine years ago, it is still running perfectly with 14,400 hrs so we'll postpone repowering until next year.

We're looking forward to the end of the month when we'll join friends Vickie Vance (founder of HR Parts and former expedition member, and Roland Olsson (long-time HR sales manager) aboard Bella Luna, their HR 43 in Malta, for a little taste of Mediterranean sailing before heading home to San Juan Island Oct. 13th.


Leg 7 Itinerary

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