Loch Laxford

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We very much enjoyed our month in Stornoway. It was wonderful to be fully fueled and provisioned again, with the bottom painted, the zincs replaced and the insurance survey complete, and we were looking forward to some relaxing cruising with our generator now back in full operating condition after replacing the cylinder head.

Our first stop was tranquil Loch Laxford in the northwest corner of mainland Scotland, where we spent three nights waiting for calmer weather before continuing north to cruise the Orkney and Shetland Islands. Just outside the entrance to Loch Laxford is the Isle of Handa, a bird sanctuary full of seabirds and with dramatic scenery. Most impressive is the Great Stack, a massive 375ft (115m) rock that stands on three legs.

Below are highlights from July 12th through 14th, 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.

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Lews Castle
A final view to Lews Castle as we depart Stornoway for places north. As usual, Stornoway was a great stop and the Stornoway Port Authority took wonderful care of us. We really appreciate their allowing us to land during the lockdown to refuel and reprovision, accepting the shipment so we could replace our generator cylinder head, and finding space for us in the slipway so we could get our bottom paint and insurance survey done.
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The winds are barely 20 knots behind us as we cross the North Minch for Loch Laxford. But with a slightly opposing current, the waves are tight and the stabilizers are frequently at their limit to keep the boat from rolling too much.
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Point of Stoer
The headland Point of Stoer about five miles to our southeast. The point is known for a striking 200ft (60m) sea stack, not discernable in the photo.
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Spectacular cliffs off the east side of the Isle of Handa.
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The isle of Handa is a bird sanctuary. The sky was full of wheeling birds and every crevice along the walls was packed with seabirds such as fulmar, guillemos and kittiwake. These are hundreds of razorbills, or lesser auk, an upright bird resembling but not closely related to the penguin. Handa also is a breeding ground for our favourite bird, puffins, but we didn’t see any today.
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Am Bonair
The dramatic amphitheater Am Bonair on Handa’s northeast tip.
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Great Stack
The Isle of Handa has a lot of spectacular scenery, but most impressive is the Great Stack, a massive rock 375ft (115m) tall that stands on three legs. All the white specks visible in the picture are seabirds, and every crevice on the stack is full of nesting birds. It’s really an amazing place.
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Stone Wall
One of many stone wall snaking down the shore in Loch Laxford.
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Ben Hope
The triangular-shaped peak of 3,050ft (927m) Ben Hope to our east as we enter Loch Laxford.
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Fish Farm
Several fish farms are in Loch Laxford.
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An Annait
The small settlement of An Annait on a grassy slope along the north shore of Loch Laxford.
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Eilean A’ Chadh-Fi
Approaching Eilean A’ Chadh-Fi, the island at the entrance to Loch A’ Chadh-Fi where we plan to anchor for a few nights while a weather system passes. We’ll pass west of the island through the channel visible on the left and anchor on the other side.
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Loch A’ Chadh-Fi
The hills above Loch A’ Chadh-Fi remind us of Newfoundland. We keep looking for moose.
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Hydraulics at 130F
While we were anchoring, our control systems warned us that the hydaulics system reached 130°F (54C), likely an impeller problem. This is 30° below the manufacturer alarm point and 50° below the shutoff point, but we warn at 130 to catch problems early. Here we have accessed the raw water pump to have a look.
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Pump Access
The raw water cooling pump for the hydraulics is a bit of pain to access. This starboard-side alcove normally is packed with 6 20L pails of spare engine and transmission oil and other fluids that all must be transferred out to reach the pump.
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Impeller Fins
As we expected, the hydraulics raw water pump impeller was toast and had thrown all its fins. We readily found the first six of the twelve at the pump, but the rest were gone. The job was starting to get much bigger as we expected we might have to disassemble the heat exchanger to find the missing fins. But using a wet-dry vacuum at the pump, James was able to recover the six remaining fins.
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Peri-peri chicken for dinner in the cockpit. Although we really enjoyed our stay in Stornoway, it’s great to be back out in the wilds at anchor again.
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View over the head of Loch A’ Chadh-Fi to the 2989ft (911m) mountain Foinaven.
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39 Amps
After replacing the cylinder head, it’s wonderful to see the generator holding the load at 39 amps and 1779 RPM. And it seems to be running much quieter now as well.
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Classic 1960 Dutch trawler Monara of Belgium arrived into Loch A’ Chadh-Fi today. Monara was moored at Willemdok with us, and we’d just missed meeting owner and blog reader Jan Legein, who contacted us the day we left for the UK. What a coincidence we’d end up in the same remote Scottish anchorage four months later.
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Topspot Too
We weren’t expecting any other boats in this rather remote anchorage, but Topspot Too made a pass through, although not stopping.
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Dirona moored at Loch A’ Chadh-Fi in Loch Laxford, courtesy of Monara owner Jan Legein.
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Jan Legein making a pass around Dirona as Monara departed Loch A’ Chadh-Fi this morning.
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HVAC Failure
This morning we noticed that our pilot house and master stateroom HVAC units were inoperative. Since we just got out of the yard, it’s just about 100% certain that it’s caused by air in the system. We bled the pump and there was air. We tested the system and again these two units were not working. It seems very unlikely that we would have two independent systems fail at exactly the same time.

These systems are very independent where each HVAC unit shares only the central water pump providing cooling water. Other than that, they have no components in common. Since two failures at the same time seems unlikely, we took the cooling hose off the pilot house to ensure it wasn’t air locked. It wasn’t and the outlet hose is free flowing. We checked the MSR and found it was fine as well. The water temperature is 58F so that isn’t a problem either.These systems normally operate well down below 50F. We did one last full system test and found the PH had begun working but the GSR has stopped.

So we still have two faulty units but it’s a different two. Work is super busy right now, so we don’t have time to further investigate this problem but it’s been baffling so far.

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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2 comments on “Loch Laxford
  1. Doug Bakker says:

    Nice to see you on the Move again. Hope you can solve the problem with your HVAC.

    • It’s great to be back enjoying nature in Norway. It’s an incredibly country to boat.

      On the HVAC, we have a stuck reversing valve. It could be a faulty valve or just no pressure differential (bad compressor or low charge). I don’t have gauges but could have a technician look at it. But, given they are more than 10 years old, we’ll just replace them. The biggest hassle in doing that is shipping the units from the US.

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