Sunday, 9 June 2013

Diary of a voyage round the Hebrides on the Eda Frandsen

This post is a description of our holiday in May-June 2013 on board the "Eda Frandsen" a 56ft gaff rig cutter built in Denmark in 1938 for fishing. She was rebuilt and refitted as a charter vessel in the 1990s. For more details see

Saturday, 25 May
We sailed out of Mallaig at about 4:30pm and anchored in Kinloch bay Rhum at 8.30pm. There we enjoyed a wonderful meal of fish pie followed by apple crumble. The sailing was fantastic. We had the main,staysail, jib and topsail all up and Caroline helmed the boat. Eda Frandsen sailed along at a good pace. The cabin is compact but the bed is comfortable.

Sunday, 26 May
We left from early at about 8:30 following morning setting sail across the Minch towards South Uist. We had all the sails out and there was a good wind probably four or five. We crossed the Minch without incident and anchored in Loch Scheport at about 5 PM. 
For most the day we had lovely views across the Coolins of sky the weather was fine and dry but there were a few occasional showers. The sun shone on occasions but not enough to make it worthwhile getting out the sunblock. We started the day with lovely scrambled eggs breakfast and then for lunch we had freshly baked bread and home-made tomato soup. In the afternoon tea was served with freshly baked banana cake. 
When we got to South Uist some folks we were able to go ashore and have a walk. There we saw a sea eagle. The evening meal was vegetarian lasagne followed by Lemon cheesecake. The on-board chef, Chloe, is doing a great job! The evening meal was disrupted because of worries about the anchors hold and had to be reset. The wind blew up in the evening and we were set for a very windy night.

Monday, 27 May
The night was rather noisy as the storm blew through our Anchorage. It was a force nine with 45 knot winds. However after 3am it calm down and we all slept peacefully at least some of the night. The captain and mate though took it on terms to be awake all night on anchor watch.
We left the anchorage at 10:30am after sleeping in and not having breakfast until 8.30. 
The later start let the strong winds blow out. We sailed all the way and the sea was bumpy and the wind was still fairly strong we sailed up north until we got to Loch Euphort, a big sheltered bay on North Uist where we anchored at 3pm. We then went ashore and climbed the hill which gave a commanding view over the whole island. North Uist is an island that is reasonably flat and fall of small lakes. 
From our anchorage we enjoyed a tremendous sunset that evening across the loch, when the sun finally set at about 10pm.

Today we had breakfast at eight o’clock and it included porridge. We then left on the high tide at 9.30am. It was another lovely fine day with a good breeze so we set off with two reefs in the sale. The sea state was a medium so our passage was a bit bouncy. 
We sailed until 12 but then then as progress was rather slow we decided to put the engine on and motor sailed as we were not really getting anywhere. The sun shone all day and the wind changed and rose later in the afternoon as we headed south. As a result we managed to sail the last few miles down to Lochboisdale. 
We anchored here and we arrived at the same time as the 19.00 our Calmac ferry from Oban the Lord of the Isles. As we were anchoring in the bay the ferry was about to depart and gave us five blasts on its whistle because he was unsure of our intentions! 
At our anchorage our cook produced haddock, chickpea and cheritos with couscous served with purple sprouting broccoli followed by orange and rosemary cake with an orange sauce. It was all extremely lovely and yummy. We enjoyed another sunset over Lochboisdale.

We left Lochboisdale at 9am after a breakfast of fresh pancakes and maple syrup. The sailing was superb high winds gaining strength and speed until we reached the ship’s maximum of 8 knots. Lunch was served in mid-route of freshly baked Cornish pasties hot and fresh straight out of the oven. We then tacked into Vatttersay Bay to land at 2.30pm and go ashore through a two-hour walk around and across the island to see the Atlantic coast on the other side. The island is only about a quarter of a mile wide at this point. 
Caroline and I then climbed the hill to see the view over to Castlebay and on our way back we saw the monument to a 1944 air crash where a Catalina aircraft crashed into the Cliff and the aluminium fuselage and wings and other wreckage is still there lying beside the monument. We went back onto the boat for our meal where the Cook had worked hard. The skipper has put out our crails in the sea and we are hoping that there will be fresh crab tomorrow. 
The evening meal consisted of freshly made salmon fish cakes potatoes carrots and beans followed by chocolate brownies and cream fraiche with a few blueberries to garnish them. In the evening we went across onto the beach for a sunset walk on the island and watch the Atlantic breakers and the sunset setting over distant horizon. It was a great photo opportunity. 
After returning to the ship the dolphins in the Bay were playing excitedly around Anchorage including doing jumps and backflips right beside the boat. It was a calm night and we slept like logs.

The sun is shining brightly again this morning but the wind had got up and it is “Baltic” so we have to be wrapped up warm for sailing. We were off after breakfast which had been potatoes and sausages and there were very large helpings! We then set sail heading south for our day trip to Mingulay. This took longer than expected and I helmed a part of away. It was rather misty as Mingulay came into view. We anchored in Mingulay Bay, not far out from the sandy beach where we could see a large group of seals lying on the sand; both adults and pups. 
Before we went ashore we had lunch of mixed salads which was an exceptionally enjoyable meal. On Mingulay there were a lot of scientists carrying out research into birds of some sort as there is a puffin colony and many other birds nesting on the island. There was also a deserted village where you land of roofless houses and a ruined chapel. The Roman Catholic village had a chapel was built only in 1895 with a priest’s living accommodation on the ground floor. The chapel was above, accessed by an external stone stair on the gable wall. For something built so recently there was very little left of it except the gable wall and one or two other walls festooned with many notices warning you to keep out because it was a dangerous building. None of the cottages had roofs. 
There was one building that looked watertight but that was being used by the scientific researchers. Their tents were camping all round it. Our walk took us over the cliffs where we were walking through the land where they were puffin burrows and the very large number of seals and pups on the sandy beach. One of the pups had become slightly separated from the rest of the group and I was able to approach it to quite a close distance and get a good photograph of its little furry face. 
It was a beautiful island and a joy to explore it and then we sailed off circumnavigating the island to see the steep vertical cliffs on the Atlantic side. Caroline was steering the boat as we motored around this part and we picked up a lobster pot Iine. This is one of the worst things you can do in a boat. We got the rope caught up in the propeller. Fortunately we were able to cut it with a bread knife with the skipper leaning right over the side of the boat and using a boat hook. The propeller made a bit of a vibrating noise thereafter but we made it safely back to Castlebay where we anchored for the night near to the castle. It was again a lovely sunny evening. James went out in the dinghy and freed the rest of the rope from the propeller without having to get immersed in the cold seawater himself. 
The crab that had been caught in our crail this morning was cooked and served as a starter. The village looked lovely. For dinner there was haggis, neeps and tatties before which I read the appropriate Burns ode. The dessert was a sticky toffee prune cake. Then to finish off a good day we went ashore in the tender to the pub on Castlebay for good craic and watched the Cal Mac ferry come in at 10:30pm to tie up alongside appear to overnight in Castlebay. 
We got back to the boat after our trip to the pub by 11pm. We had a very interesting conversation with a lifeboat man in the bar that evening.

After breakfast we went ashore in Castlebay where we had a couple of hours exploring the small town. We looked into the Catholic chapel “Our Lady of the Isles” and then walked around the settlement buying some chocolate in the Co-op. There was a modern hospital, secondary School, swimming pool and sports centre with sauna and primary school in the town. 
The lifeboat man from last night in the pub was around again and he invited us aboard his lifeboat. He was very proud to show us all around including on the bridge, and the engine room. He was the engineer who always went out with the craft but he was also employed full-time to maintain it in a constant state of seaworthiness. The bridge was full of all the latest electronics and the engine room had two enormous engines that were absolutely spotlessly clean. Our yacht was brought along side the quay and the water tanks were filled from a hose on the pier. We set sail at noon to cross the Minch. 
The wind was fine and we set sail with full sails up: main, staysail, topsail, big jib and jib top sail. Every sail the ship could carry was out. The cook prepared fresh broccoli and Stilton soup for lunch which was excellent. Midcourse, halfway across the Minch, and just after lunch, a meeting between the captain and crew decided that we would actually change course and instead of heading for the island of Canna would head to Skye and anchor by the Talisker distillery so that we could have a tour of the distillery in the morning. 
The distance would be just about the same but the prospect of an interesting trip from the boat to look around the distillery made us all keen on the change. On the long passage the weather was sunny and warm yet there was wind enough to maintain 4 to 5 knots with our full sails set. On the crossing we took advantage of the calm sailing weather and the good winds to launch the dinghy and drive it in circles around the boat to get an opportunity to take photographs of the yacht under full sail. 
The photos have come out really well. Our evening meal was eaten on deck with roast chicken roast potatoes and veg all served at 7:30 PM as we sailed towards Loch Harcourt on Skye. The sail took a long time. It was a beautiful slow passage and the sunset was memorable particularly when the sun was behind Maclouds maidens, the rock stacks off Skye. We anchored outside the Talisker distillery at 9:30pm and went below for our dessert course of cheese and wine. It had been a very good day.

Today we started by visiting the distillery at Talisker. It was very interesting to see how whisky was made. Then, at the end of the tour, after we had seen all the processes, we got to taste the 10-year-old single malt whisky. It was smooth and very pleasant. Caroline and I really liked it though we were not tempted enough to buy a bottle. They had some very old single malt which were expensive: a 30-year-old malt was priced at £500! 
We sailed off after the visit at about 12 o’clock. We had a great sail across to the island of Canna. We had a good wind and reached a speed of 7.1knots. It has been fun finding out how well this gaff rigged cutter sails. Caroline again had a good turn at helping. We came at last to Canna. From the angle we approached it seemed to be all rocky cliffs but as we rounded the headland we were brought into a lush fertile landscape where buildings were set into trees and fields with cows and sheep grazing. It was an unexpected oasis. 
We anchored after having put out to lobster pots down near to the beach. On arrival we had some wine and nibbles on deck until dinner was cooked. Tonight the cook has made pizza served with salad and sweet potatoes. For pudding we had rhubarb and almond crumble which was really good. It had been another wonderful day. 
And nearing the end of a holiday we knew we had just one more full day of sailing left. We will be starting in the morning with an exploration of the island. Canna looked lovely from the boat and as we stared out as we finished the last of our wine from dinner we were all looking forward to getting ashore and exploring properly in the morning.

Our last full day. We had breakfast at eight which consisted of eggy bread with maple syrup and fried bananas which was something that I never tasted before but turned out to be excellent. Then we had two hours ashore to explore the island of Canna. 
The island is really beautiful; hills with cliffs and trees on the sheltered sid. There were some churches and chapels indicating the religious history. There were many cottages and a few more substantial houses. The silence was broken by birdsong tweeting loudly in the trees. There were Highland cows and sheep as well as loads of rabbits. The island is owned by the National trust and caters the tourists as well as providing a vibrant local community depending on agriculture and tourism. 
We went back to our ship Eda after two hours exploration and after a cup of tea we set sail from the Anchorage heading back towards Mallaig. It was a good sail. There were fairly light winds that blew us along from behind nicely. I took the helm for the last part of the sail. As we came to Mallaig we dropped the tender to drop off one of our party. Victor, from Bulgaria/Angola, had a meeting to attend first thing in Aberdeen the following morning so he had to head back to the real world late that evening. 
Then we headed off in Loch Nevis to anchored just off Knoydart in Inverie bay where there was a pub which advertises itself as the remotest pub on mainland Britain. We went ashore for a pint or three before the evening meal. It had a very good day and then the meal of fresh crab caught on the beach in Canna that morning was followed by curried prawns and then to dessert there was short bread and biscotti. The cook had really done well again. Another good end to a good day.


This was our last day we were woken at 7.30 and as we ate breakfast the captain and mate motored the boat down to Mallaig. We made a pier in the marina where we had left nine days before at about 9am. The Harbourmaster arrived alongside almost immediately with a parcel of clothing for the cook that had been sent to her by her mum!. Our car was left parked in the harbour and getting on board we drove home arriving back in Stirling at about one o’clock. This had been a really good holiday.

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