Don't Believe Everything You Hear...

Day 48 – Lossiemouth to Tarbert Ness – 7h July – 19.2 nm

Today I don’t want to repeat the 2012 stranding on Tarbert Ness; a crossing to Brora is on the cards and the forecast looks favourable – winds below 10 mph for the day, and sunny-spells for the most part – that will do, Brora here I come.

It’s a welcome, lazy 11:30 start, as the plan takes me across tide for the day. There is no wind, the sun is out and it would be peaceful, if it wasn't for the fly-boys from Lossie’ poncing about overhead. I pass through the skerries, clad in dozing seals, before heading towards the Ness. The distant lighthouse is lost in the haze – it’s a compass and GPS trip by the look of things.

By the end of the first hour the wind has picked up a little, from the NE, and the sun has sulked away. Not part of the plan, but it’s not a big deal either.

By the end of the 2nd hour things are starting to get a little choppy, but I am distracted by more squabbling gulls. I head over to take a look and get a rather close-up look of my friends, the Minke whales. One rises a few metres ahead of the boat, it’s quite a large looking beast – hmm...that’s close enough for now.

But suddenly they are gone, the gulls melt away just as quickly. I continue alone into the splashy NE wind. Still the lighthouse is lost in the haze. 

Somewhere along the way it all starts to go a little Pete Tong. Break No.3 is a hectic and splashy affair, the few minutes are grabbed greedily as the boat takes a chunk of downwind drift. Break No. 4 doesn't happen.

By the time No.4 is due I am working hard but the speed is down to 3.5 kts. I've been watching a large rain fall developing down the coast – it’s big and dark, it seems to be drawing winds in. I expect it to fade away, but it doesn't, it sits there stubbornly and then slowly expands up towards the Ness. Things have gone from choppy to beyond chunky and the wind is blowing hard now. I’m starting to get cold in my lightweight cag.

The lighthouse stands obviously now, but it’s not getting any closer. By the time I am 2 miles out I have to accept that I am not going to make it. The combination of tide around the end, with the wind and the swell running through, is too much. Things are getting a touch dodgy now.

But it’s not quite that easy: the landing on the Ness is up-wind and up-tide, after that there is only rock, backed by low cliffs, all the way to Balintore – 7 nm to the south. At least it is down-wind, but even so it won’t be an easy one. I try to weigh up the options, but there aren't any really. I realise I can’t stay here for much longer, but I’ll be buggered if I'm going to give the miles away.
I turn down wind a little and head straight for the low cliffs. If in doubt, get in an eddy. I am hoping that the waves will be running along the rocky shore and if I don’t blow too far down then I can scratch my way back up the eddies to the Tarbert slipway. If that doesn't work, then it will be Balintore - irrespective of what I want...

I can’t get too close in as the swell is running at an angle, but I get enough respite from the tide that I can make ground against the wind. I finally sneak nervously through the reefs to hide in best big-girl fashion by the slipway.
That’s me, I’m all in, there’s no more, not today. Time to get off.

So, where did all that come from? What happened to the 10 mph wind and the sunshine? Who ordered the swell then?
We hang around for a while, as I hope for a chance to continue across towards Brora. It doesn't look good. Once I am changed, the wind drops – bastards.
But just as I am about to get changed once again, it returns – double bastards.

 Let’s not fart around here. I go to watch the increasing swell breaking over the submerged reef at the top the headland, there are a plenty of whitecaps. I’m tired and I realise that the day is over. It’s not what I hoped for, but to be honest it’s a relief.

We can’t find a campsite and head in to Tain for the luxury of a B & B. I am still a little dazed and struggle to answer the B & B man’s questions as we book in – it was a rather long short day. He looks unimpressed, the feeling is that we are not making a good impression.

Yeah, whatever...