About Us

Welcome to our blog, describing our voyage aboard the two BRAVO's; the first boat a Kelly Peterson 46 with homeport in Seattle, Washington. The second is a Boreal 52, launched in Treguier, France in February 2020.

We headed south from Seattle in 2010, and have been voyaging in one form or another since. Cheers, Adam and Cindi

"As for me, I am tormented by an everlasting itch for things remote. I love to sail forbidden seas, and land on barbarous coasts." -Herman Melville, 1844

Friday, June 11, 2021

North to Scotland!

Scotland - Part 1

Leaving Dartmouth a few weeks ago was a bit like leaving home...after 4 months on the River Dart, we really had developed feelings of nostalgia for the lovely town.  But it was time to move on, and point the bow west to Lands End, before heading north to Scotland.  Our time in the UK has been largely spent in lockdown, and we were eager to see as much as we could before our visas expire.

Passing Dartmouth Castle, as we leave the River Dart, our home for nearly 5 months.

photos of Bravo by Graham Keating
We headed out in company with our good mates Graham and Diane on s/y Maunie of Ardwall, for a 20 mile sail to the River Yealm, near Plymouth.  After a rainy night on the visitors pontoon, we were off in the morning for a fantastic close reach to Falmouth.  One of our best sails yet on new Bravo, we learned a lot about how she handles in a bit of a breeze, as we tried various sail combinations in the building breeze up to around 35kn apparent.  Sustained boat speed was over 9kn, with moments of glory surfing near 11.  Yee hah, she handled the windy flat water conditions beautifully!!!

Maunie handled the winds with ease

Falmouth was a great stop, as we waited for the strong northerly winds to ease and give us a viable window to head north to Scotland.  With it's amazing seafaring history, the town was a great place to explore, and imagine the hundreds of years of ocean going adventures which had been launched here.  And the pubs were open at last, at least to bundled up outdoor drinking (and eating)

How many drunken sailors over the centuries have been dragged to their waiting ships through this alley? 

The weather window wasn't huge, but we decided to jump on it, as to wait could have meant a week spent waiting for the strong cyclonic winds to go back to the south.  The PredictWind models showed the tale...

After a few days in Falmouth, we set our sights on Scotland, and the little town of Kirkcudbright, home to Graham's parents.   The sailing gave us a wide range of conditions, from light and fluky to fine breezes.  We were accompanied by several pods of dolphins, some staying with us for an hour or more at a time.  

We made the 370 mile trip in just over 2 days, anchoring at the mouth of the River Dee after midnight to wait for first light to wind our way 4 miles upstream, where Geoff and Helen were on hand to give us a warm welcome.

The single pontoon marina is amazingly tidal, even so far inland, and we watched the boats all around go high and dry on the ebbs....happily we were in a spot which kept a bit of water under our lifted centerboard!

Geoff with his sweet boat at her mooring.

After a few days of the Keating's hospitality, we headed north to Troon.  The forecast called for brisk winds, in mid 20's, and moderate seas.  Together with Maunie, with Graham's dad Geoff, an avid sailor, on board for the trip, we decided that it would be feasible conditions to round the Mull of Galloway, even with it's reputation for big overfalls and currents, especially in wind against tide conditions.

Mull of Galloway

The "Mull" lived up to it's reputation.  Shortly after leaving the mouth of the River Dee, the winds built up to around 35 knots on the nose, and the confused washing machine seas were around 3 meters, giving us the roughest conditions we'd yet experienced on new Bravo.  We had a #2 reef in, but at that we were still very much overpowered.  We're still learning the sail combinations for the different conditions with this boat, which is very different to sail than old Bravo, with her 11,000 pounds of lead in the deep keel.

Just as we were preparing to put in a 3rd reef, the entire boat "went dark" without warning.  No autopilot, instruments, gps, radio comms, or lights.....all circuits were dead!  And just as we really wanted the autopilot to keep driving as we tucked in another reef.  The boat was on her ear, (we later found seaweed draped over the leeward lifeline!!!).  As we struggled to regain control, all of a sudden the boat "lit up".....all 12 volt circuits started up again!!!  YEE HAH!!!  we did a quick happy dance!!!  But our happiness was short lived, as the cycle of off/on happened 3 more times over the next hour or so.  We dropped the mainsail completely while we tried to figure out the problem with the electrical system.  Visibility was very poor, as the rain got heavier.  We started the motor (it has a dedicated starter battery) and dropped the main sail for the last bit of the overflows.  At last we rounded the Mull of Galloway, out of the tidal race, and gladly headed north.

So what the hell had happened to our electrical system?  After all, having the boat shut down like that at the wrong time could be disastrous.  Had this occurred at night, in shipping lanes, ships tracking us on AIS or visually by our lights would not have known we were out there.  And similarly, we would have been "blind" without radar or AIS to spot ships.  While we still have no definitive answer, at this point all signs point to the Battery Management System (BMS) of the lithium battery installation.  All of the electrical equipment is by Victron, a quality, major manufacturer, and all of the "smart" components, including the batteries themselves, are networked.  The job of the BMS is to protect the batteries, and will shut down all loads on the system if it senses low overall system battery voltage, overheating of the batteries, or cell imbalance between individual cells in the batteries.  Here is where the answer may lie.....given the struggle of the autopilot in these wind/sea conditions, it is possible that the demands on the battery bank may have caused a cell imbalance, even though the overall battery voltage was fine (we'd been hooked to shore power for 3 days in Kirkcudbright, so had been 100% only 2 hours earlier).  This COULD be what caused the boat's loads to be disconnected intermittently.  Basically, the batteries are just too smart!!!  Scary.

Later, after consulting our schematic wiring diagram, reading the manuals for the system components, and emails with Boreal/TEEM back in France, it seems as though we can install an override switch across the terminals of the BatteryProtect relay, which can allow us to disable the protective circuitry in case of emergency, should this event happen again.  Definitely a project for the near future, when we bring the boat back to France for some work (more on that later).    Happily it has not re-ocurred in the past 3 weeks of cruising.

After a nice stop at Troon, and a visit with South Pacific cruising mate Colin from s/y Ithaca, we continued to enjoy our journey north with visits to sweet anchorages and small towns.

Caladh Harbor was one such little anchorage.  Quiet except for the birdsong, we even enjoyed a rare bit of sun!

Enjoying the evening on the "back porch" with Maunie

Harbor of Tarbert.  The manmade island in the middle of the harbour once held a large windlass, used to turn sailing ships around after loading with cargo.

Crinan Canal

We were headed for the Crinan Canal, a 9 mile / 15 lock waterway built in 1801, which opens up Western Scotland without needing to round the south end of the Mull of Kintyre.  It saves many miles, and also presents a unique diversion, as we enjoyed 2 days of meandering around the Scottish countryside, often times way above the road below us.  Nearly all of the locks are manually operated by the boat crews, though we were lucky enough to have help from a few of the canal staff along the way.  We typically squeezed into the locks alongside Maunie, without much room to spare.  Here are a few shots along the canal.....

Maunie enters the first lock

Bike path runs along the entire canal.

Cairnbaan, where we tied up for the night.

Cindi with Shea, our favorite lock tender!

One of the last of the Clyde Puffers, steam driven cargo boats which linked the Scottish Islands.

After transiting the Canal, we continued to work our way north, enjoying the decent weather and great anchorages...

Puilladobhrain anchorage had a good hike to the "Bridge over the Atlantic"

Anchorage at Loch Na Droma Budhe (photo by Graham)

And then we reached Tobermory, at the end of the Isle of Mull.  With a nice little marina, we stopped here for a couple of days, to prepare for the Hebrides.  

Our first Hebridean stop was the Isle of Canna, the westernmost island of the Small Isles archipelago of the Inner Hebrides.  This little harbour turned out to be our favorite stop of the trip so far.  With its old abandoned stone buildings, and pre-history dating back to the Bronze Age in approx 2000 BC, the island holds many secrets waiting to be discovered.  Census numbers go back to the late 1500's, when approx 100 people lived here, rising to 436 in 1821.  Donated in 1981 by it's owner and longtime residents John Lorne Campbell and his wife Margaret Fay Shaw to the National Trust of Scotland, today the island is home to only 15 or so folks, but is a wildlife sanctuary to over 20,000 breeding seabirds.  It is sustainably farmed by the local residents, with 600 sheep and 50 cows.  

The residents also run the well stocked community store, which is open 24/7, and all transactions are by the honor system and the wifi is free!  Lovely!!!

The waitress assured us that we would not be disappointed...she was right!!!
They also run a great little cafe serving local seafood.  We arrived late in the afternoon, and were told apologetically that they could only seat us for dinner if we ordered a simple meal of langoustines (sort of a cross between a prawn and little lobster!). 

While here we took a 2-mile walk out to the end of adjoining Sanday Island.  We had heard that there might be puffins here, and who doesn't like puffins???!!!!!  We followed the signs to the sea stack home of the little rascals, but arrived to find no puffins about.  Ah well, it was a nice walk anyway.....

All of a sudden, the sky filled with hundreds of incoming puffins!!!  They flew in circles around us and their sea stack immediately off shore, and then began to land and get into their burrows.  We stayed for an hour or so, until the threat of impending rain forced us back to the boats.  Great stuff!

The little critters could be surprisingly acrobatic!!!

After Canna, we sailed across the Hebridean Sea to Lochboisdale, on South Uist Island in the Outer Hebrides.  Although not the most attractive harbour in the world, the little port is a natural base to begin to explore these outer, remote Scottish islands.  It was here that we had to turn back though.  Our 6 month UK visas will soon expire, and we need to get Bravo into a safe marina to fly out.  Sadly we said our goodbyes to our good friends Graham and Dianne, who will continue to explore the Outer Hebrides for a while, and pointed our bow back to Canna and then Tobermory, where we are at this point.  Tomorrow we will head toward Ardfern Marina, near Oban, where we will park Bravo for about 3 weeks.

The Plan

Our lives these days have taken on a whole new definition of stress, due to the Covid pandemic.  Even though we are fully vaccinated, more and more countries are closing to travelers, and it feels like a game of musical chairs, as we scurry to grab a chair before the music stops.  

We had hoped to sail to Norway and Svalbard this summer, but it is closed.  The Faeroe islands have just closed to visitors from the UK, due to the "Delta Variant" of the virus.  We need to bring Bravo back to France in September for some final work, but it also is now closed to travelers from the UK.  We hope it will open for us by then.  At this point, the UK is open to only 1 European country without needing to quarantine on entry in a "quarantine hotel"......that is Iceland.  So, in order to leave the UK as required, before our visas expire, and still hopefully be able to return, we now plan to fly to Iceland for a few weeks.  We will rent a 4x4 truck camper to go exploring.  However, there is no guarantee that we will be allowed to return to the UK, as there is no formal way to extend our visas, or even request a hearing and ruling in advance.  We have been informed by the Border Force that it is apparently up to the individual immigration officer to decide that a traveler is not trying to do an end run around the laws prohibiting illegal residency.  We obviously do not plan on residing here after we head to France in September, so we HOPE that we will be able to get only about 6 extra weeks here when we return from Iceland.  If not, we'll be quite screwed, and we will need to get Bravo hauled out and stored here until the summer of next year, while we rent a house somewhere back in the US for the interim.  Very stressful times indeed.  Stay tuned.......

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