Gometra Harbour


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More than two months after we dropped anchor off the Isle of Gigha, we departed north for Stornoway to refuel and replenish our deep stores. The anchorage had worked out well and the islanders had taken good care of us, but this was by far the longest we’d ever been at anchor in any one place and we were excited for a change of surroundings. We enjoyed the spectacular Scottish scenery through the Sound of Islay and retraced some of our 2017 British Isles cruise on a 68nm, 8-hour run to beautiful Gometra Harbour near the Isle of Mull in the Inner Hebrides. It was great to be underway again after so long.

Below are trip highlights from June 1st through 3rd, 2020. Click any image for a larger view, or click the position to view the location on a map. And a live map of our current route and most recent log entries always is available at mvdirona.com/maps.

6/1/2020
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Sunrise
Our last sunrise from the Isle of Gigha as we get underway after nearly ten weeks here. It’s time for us to get a load of fuel and do a deep provisioning. The days are getting long here at latitude 55° north as we approach the June 20th summer solstice. Today the sun rises at 4:40am and sets at 9:59.
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Gigha Fish Farm
After seeing the fish farm building at Gigha from a distance for weeks, we finally got a closer look.
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Islay & Jura
Looking west to the Sound of Islay between the isles of Islay (left) and Jura with the white fence of McArthur’s Head Lighthouse prominent on Islay. George Orwell spent time on Jura, hoping to cure his tuberculosis, and while there penned his masterpiece novel 1984.
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Jura House
Jura House, on the Ardfin Estate, is a heritage-listed manor built in the 1800s for the laird Colin Campbell. The grounds included an impressive Victorian garden that was open to the public until the property was purchased in 2010 and transformed into an exclusive golf course and resort.
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Ireland
Ireland visible in the distance, 25 miles to our south.
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McArthur’s Head Lighthouse
The dramatic McArthur’s Head Lighthouse, built in 1861, is perched on a bluff along the east side of Islay with a long flight of stairs leading down to water level.
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Sound of Islay
Spectacular scenery on Islay to our south as we pass through the eleven-mile Sound of Islay separating the isles of Islay and Jura.
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Dunlossit House
Dunlossit House, part of the 18,500-acre Dunlossit Estate on the Isle of Islay, was completed in 1905.
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Carraig Mor
Flowers in bloom near the Carraig Mor light just south of Port Askaig on Islay.
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Helmut Schroder of Dunlossit II
Helmut Schroder of Dunlossit II moored at its home base of the Islay Lifeboat Station at Port Askaig. The station building is on the left, and the large white building on the right is the Port Askaig store and post office.

We always enjoy seeing the capable RNLI (Royal National Lifeboat Institute) vessels and posted many pictures of them during our 2017 cruise through the British Isles. The RNLI is the largest lifesaving organization in the UK and Ireland, and receives no government support. All funding comes from membership and the staff is almost entirely voluntary. The Helmut Schroder of Dunlossit II at Islay is a Severn-class vessel, the largest in the RNLI fleet, with a top speed of 25 knots, a 250-mile range, and self-righting capability.

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Eilean Dhiura
The ferry Eilean Dhiura runs from the Feolin ferry dock on Jura, pictured, across the Sound of Islay to Port Askaig on Islay.
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Caol Ila Distillery
Caol Ila, established in 1846, is the largest of eight whisky distilleries on the small isle of Islay.
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10.3 knots
On large tides, the current can run at five knots through the Sound of Islay. We’re getting a nice 2-knot push as we pass through at the start of the turn to ebb.
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Bunnahabhain Distillery
The Bunnahabhain Distillery on Islay was established in 1881.
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Paps of Jura
The Paps of Jura are three conical-shaped mountains with a highest point of 2,575 feet (785 m). Paps is an old norse word for breast, reflecting their shape.
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Rubha A Mhail
The Rubha A Mhail light station on the northern tip of Islay, first lit in 1859.
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Fish Farm
Working boats at a fish farm off the northeast side the Isle of Colonsay.
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Sheep
Sheep grazing in rugged terrain off the northern tip of the Colonsay. The Scottish scenery is really impressive.
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Buffers & Rags
Milky-colored water when washing the buffer pads and rags we used for waxing the topsides.
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OB14
Fishing vessel OB14 working south of the Sound of Iona.
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Iona Abbey
Iona Abbey viewed as we pass through the Sound of Iona. St. Columba landed at Iona from Ireland in 563 and established a monastic community with a goal of Christianizing Scotland. The lavishly illustrated Gospel manuscript The Book of Kells was transcribed at Iona and later taken to Ireland for safekeeping from 9th-century raiding Vikings. On our 2017 cruise through Scotland, we anchored in Iona Sound and toured the abbey. Later that year, we viewed the original The Book of Kells at Trinity College in Dublin.
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Loch Buie
The Caledonian MacBrayne ferry Loch Buie moored at Fionnphort on the Isle of Mull from where it runs across Iona Sound to the Isle of Iona.
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Military Ship
What looks to be a military vessel patrolling the area. The ship was too far away to read its name, and we couldn’t find any on-line references to the distinctive yellow and black chequered pattern on the bow.

Update 06/04: Blog reader Reed McGuire gave us the answer. It’s the Marine Protection Vessel MPV Minna, one of Marine Scotland’s three fisheries patrol vessels.

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Staffa
The remarkable Isle of Staffa that we visited on our 2017 Scotland cruise. Staffa is Norse for ‘Pillar Island’—the cliffs around Staffa are composed of vertical, hexagonal basalt columns similar to those at the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland. The cliffs themselves are a sight, but an additional attraction is cathedral-like Fingal’s Cave, its opening visible at far right.
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Spinnaker
We’ve seen a few commercial boats and small fish boats underway, but this is the only pleasure craft we’ve seen today.
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Ilse of Mull
The fabulous view east across the Isle of Mull to the mountains on the Scottish mainland. We initially were planning to anchor for the night in the Treshnish Isles to our west, but the anchorage looked rather exposed and another recreational boat was already there.
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Ulva
Dramatic slopes on the southwest shore of Ulva.
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Gometra Harbour
Anchored for the night in Gometra Harbour between the isles of Gometra and Ulva with a view south. This view does expose the anchorage to southerly weather, but we’re not expecting any winds in that direction.
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Oil Sep Filter Change
Changing the RACOR Oil Sep (Oil Separating) filter. This filter is specified to be changed at 750 hours, but they only rarely can go that long before causing excess crankcase pressure so we change ours at 500 hours. This one is being changed even earlier at 350 hours.

Here’s some background on these filters: for emissions reasons, engine manufactures have to redirect the crankcase vapors back down the engine intake to be burned. But burning the oily mist can itself cause emissions problems. To the ease the difficulty of getting an engine emissions certified, the manufacturers all use the finest filter possible. This eases emission certification, but the filters plug quickly and a plugged-up filter shows no signs (unless you measure the crankcase pressure), other than causing external oil leaks. The correct solution is to move to a coarser filter element. We’ll do that once we use up these fine filters.

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Fluff
A big layer of fluff in the dryer lint catcher after we washed the rags and power buffer pads we used for waxing the topsides. We didn’t put the buffer pads in the dryer, but they likely dropped enough fluff into the rags to produce this.
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Evening Calm
A wonderfully calm evening in beautiful Gometra Harbour looking east towards the Ulva shore.
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Deer
The deer on the Gometra hills above the anchorage reminded us of the first moose sighting on our trip to Newfoundland, Canada.
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SSCA Burgee
Replacing our Seven Seas Cruising Association (SSCA) burgee that we fly from the bow. They are well-made and usually last a year or so, but eventually succumb to the conditions.
6/2/2020
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Charging Profile
Our charging profile for the past three days, showing our time on batteries and on the charging source. At 04:47 on June 1st we started the main for the 8:34 run from Gigha to Gometra Harbour, but the rest are all auto-starting the main to charge the batteries, with a few small runs for some control system testing. When at anchor, we’d normally see ‘Gen’ interspersed with ‘Battery’ instead of ‘Main’. But now that the generator is disabled, it’s all Main. We’re heavy consumers of power, but even for us the time between needing to charge the batteries is shortening up as the batteries age.

Hearing the main starting in the middle of the night when we are sleeping is definitely a little unusual, but we’re expecting it, so it doesn’t startle us awake. And while the main is certainly louder than the generator when it’s running, the stateroom is much quieter than when we are on passage and we sleep just fine, particularly knowing that the batteries are being kept healthy. Having autostart on the main combined with 9kW of charging power and a 240V inverter means we still can make water, do laundry and run the oven. Without this setup, the generator being down would be an emergency requiring immediate attention instead of a problem we need to resolve soon.

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Seals
Seals sunning on the rocks north of our anchorage.
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Propane
We just emptied the first of the four propane tanks we installed in Portland to supply our cooktop and barbecue, and are switching over to the second tank. The leftmost two are plumbed into the house system with a valve between so we can quickly switch the house from an empty to a full tank. We’ll swap a full tank for the empty one so that when we consume the second tank we can just turn the valve again and be quickly back up and cooking on the third tank.

We’re very grateful to Mechanical Services Ltd. in Portland, UK for sourcing the tanks and parts for us so that we could have a full load of propane. Filling propane tanks on foreign countries is never easy.

6/3/2020
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KVH
The cellular coverage in Scotland is rather spotty in places. We had good coverage until we entered the anchorage, but tucked behind the hills we were without signal. As usual, our KVH V7-HTS satellite system works great here, so we’re connected up just fine as usual.
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Gometra
Looking west from the anchorage to the rugged and beautiful Isle of Gometra.
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Wind
A small system is passing through and we’ve seen gusts up to 32 knots from the north. We have good protection from that direction, so it’s hard to even tell on board except for the anemometer readings.
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Control System
We recently simplified the wiring of the digital outputs on the Raspberry Pi by moving 16 of the m to a i2c to Digital I/O chip (Philips PCF8574). It’s a nicer and cleaner design, but we’re at least temporarily regretting it. When the PCF8574 is used as an output device and a pin is set back to 1 (off), it can cause the device to reset and return all 8 pins to 1. We suspect it’s an i2c bus voltage problem causing a device reset, but can’t prove it and haven’t yet put an oscilloscope on the problem.

For now, we’ve worked around the problem by doing a write verify and re-write cycle to ensure that the state of the chip is correct when done, even if it does reset during the update.

Show locations on map Click the travel log icon on the left to see these locations on a map, with the complete log of our cruise.

On the map page, clicking on a camera or text icon will display a picture and/or log entry for that location, and clicking on the smaller icons along the route will display latitude, longitude and other navigation data for that location. And a live map of our current route and most recent log entries always is available at mvdirona.com/maps.

 
 


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4 comments on “Gometra Harbour
  1. Jerald Collman says:

    Thank you James.
    It Looks like you have reduced the risks considerably . I only asked the question because I have a good friend who lost two of his sons some 30 years ago on one of his Shrimp Trawlers when a propane cylinder leak caused an explosion and blew the boat up, and unfortunately his sons. They were much bigger cylinders than you have, and were attached outside behind the pilot house. I wished they had something like what you have, as to alarms, back then. Thanks again.
    Jerry

    • The alarms are good but setting the tanks up in an closed area where the propane is drained off the bottom overboard also ensures that build up is minimal on a fault (propane is heavier than air). However, the best possible solution is “don’t” when it comes to propane and boats. If we did a new build, we would go with an electric induction cook top and BBQ.

  2. Jerry says:

    James,

    First time for me with a Reply. Love all the information you are providing. I’m an old Honeywell Aerospace Production Control guy who worked with many types of Engineers, and I do appreciate how methodical your explaining of everything.

    These questions may have been asked before:
    As to the propane gas cylinders; where do you store them? I’ve got to believe that’s a huge safety issue, as you know what can happens if one starts leaking. Do you have a monitor close by, and some type of automatic engine cut offs, if detected? Do you test the tanks for leakage? I’m probably being over cautious, but why didn’t you separate half the tanks to a different location?

    Jerry

    • Thanks for the feedback and, wow, lots of good questions. Our gas storage does have a leak detector with audible alarm. We have an electronic valve that allows us to turn the propane off at the tanks so the house system is not pressurized. We use it and, to ensure we remember, if left on for more than 60 min there is an warning light in several locations throughout the house and we both get sent email. If on for more than 90 min, there is an audible alarm. The propane storage area is designed to seal with one opening in the bottom that drains directly out a through hull at the water line. Designing a safe storage system that seals up with a direct drain overboard is work and takes space so we only have 1 and keep all the propane there.

      We feel like we have covered the basis from a safety perspective but, even with all that care, were to do it again, we would take an induction cooktop and electric BBQ and not equip the boat with propane at all. In fairness propane, we have had propane on boats for 21 years and never had a leak or slipped up in safe handling but still, we would go electric if building a new boat today.

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