It is not that far to Portree; you just have to sail all the way around the West and North side of the Isle of Skye and then descend down again keeping the island on the portside. I had scheduled the ship to arrive very early in the morning, to have sufficient time available to make up my mind whether it was at all possible to call without delaying the start of the tender service if the decision was positive. The problem with Portree is, it offers a sheltered anchorage from any direction except the south east and east. At least, if you have to anchor in the outer part of the bay. If you can anchor all the way inside it is a safe haven for all wind directions at nearly all times. In the outer part it is not. So I had to know how much wind there was exactly blowing, as the mountain ranges to the East should in principle block most of it. Still there was going to be a free wind surface area of about 3 miles. Quite enough of a distance for Wind force 9 to be able to make things interesting. The holding ground in the bay is not that great and if the anchor would drag, the ship would be aground in no time, as the wind would not push it to open waters but towards the rocks inland. Thus we observed the situation and although the mountains shielded the bay from some of the worst of the wind, it was still blowing 25 knots with wind gusts expected of up to 30 knots or even more. Then Portree is not a safe place to be. By 07.30 I had made up my mind and we had to abort the call.
Now what to do next? When we started this cruise, I had been looking at a plan B for each port that we were going to call at. The British Isles can be very windy and some ports are simply not do-able then. With our first week of wind still weather there had not been any reason yet to cancel so Peel and Oban were safe calls, even with the strong winds as their anchorages were sheltered enough. After Oban, we had Portree and Scrabster on the schedule for anchor ports. Both ports that would be a challenge with any wind except from the west. Thus when the South Easterly winds were starting to blow on Peel day, I reviewed the rest of the ports and put a plan B on standby. In this case diverting to Invergordon on the East side of Scotland. Only workable if both Portree and Scrabster were not possible.
Well strong winds in Portree meant even stronger winds in Scrabster as that port is only sheltered if the winds are due West and not from any other direction. One glance at the weather chart and my worst fears were confirmed. Another windy day; another very windy day. 30+ knots of winds with higher gusts forecast over open land and sea area. So I emailed the agent in Invergordon and confirmed the berth. Now the schedule was: to spend the “Portree day” at sea, calling at Invergordon on the “Scrabster day” and then continuing the cruise as planned. In this way, we would only loose one port this cruise. Doing it this way made it also possible that I could sail around the Top of Scotland with a nice slow speed that would make the ride as pleasant as possible for the guests. The guests were duly informed and I think that most guests were quite happy with a sea day, as we now had had 8 ports in 8 days.
So we sailed along the coast, first to the north with the wind and then to the East with the wind slowing us down. It was still blowing 8 to 9 from the South East and the weather forecast from Aberdeen Radio did not have much to cheer us up. “Gale force wind 8 to 9 later on back to 8.” When we passed Scrabster in the late afternoon, we could see that things were not very pretty there at all.
By late evening Aberdeen Radio came back with better news. Late night, early next morning the wind was to abate to wind force 3 to 4 in open waters. That meant that we were in good shape for Invergordon. Indeed the weather forecast for the next day indicated nearly wind still circumstances in the port. Hard to believe after all the turbulence of the past days. After a very windy night it all started to ease off very rapidly once we came closer to Invergordon.
I will be at Invergordon pilot station at 0600 in the morning and be docked just after 7 am. The weather is supposed to be a Scottish mixture of rain, clouds and sunshine all in one go, so we have to see what we get, when we get there.