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Sailing in the Hebrides

I’m sailing in the Hebrides with my sketchbook. I’m part of the crew, with Debbie (Skipper), Paul, Sue, Rob and myself (Cabin Boy) – on the good ship ‘Algol’.
We have driven up from Debbie’s house to Ardfern on the West Coast of Scotland for adventure and exploring. Debbie also likes anchoring in remote, little, out of the way places. So I’m looking forward to seeing places that are not on the usual tourist map.

Featured sketch above:

Anchored in Castle Bay

Watercolour sketch ~ A4
Bound westwards and dropped anchor in Castle Bay, on the Island of Barra. On the way over I spotted a Minke Whale. It’s back, breaking the water and heading in our direction, but it was, unfortunately, a very brief sighting.
It is beautiful here sitting onboard ‘Algol’ watching the sunset.

Materials Used

On this trip, I am using a Daler Rowney, Langton 5 x 7”, ‘Not’ watercolour pad and an Arboreta sketchbook with coloured pastel paper 140g/m. (Which I bought by mistake, thinking it was cartridge paper. Note to self, ‘more haste, less speed!’ However, I quite like the different feel that the coloured paper gives to the drawing.)
I also have my usual 6B pencil, a biro and waterproof fineliner pen. Plus my Winsor & Newton, watercolour field paint box, a large Pro Art no.20 and two smaller round brushes – sable no.6 & a no.1


We were up at 5.30, ‘with much work from the cat’, to catch the tide. The recently pressed crew were sent out for sea trials in Craignish Loch and then headed for Loch Aline. Where we anchored for the night. From here we headed for Tobermory for vittles​ an’ grog.

Watercolour and pen sketch of Tobermory, on the island of Mull.
Pen and watercolour wash ~ A4
Pencil sketch of Rudha Nan Gall Lighthouse on Mull
Pencil Sketch ~ A4
We had a stroll around the harbour and out to the very romantic Rudha Nan Gall Lighthouse.
Pen sketch of the yachts mizzen mast.

Pen sketch looking at our mizzen and stern as we sailed along ~ A4

From ‘Tober’ we headed west for the Outer Isles, stopping overnight at Barra (see featured sketch above).

At Mingulay we anchored and went ashore. Looking around the ruined crofts, up to the cliffs on the western side. Also, we had a very quick, cold, swim in the bay. I was jumping around afterwards to get warm again – Brrr!!
All the time I had the ‘Mingulay boat song‘ going around in my head.
From there we headed south. Sailing around the island of Berneray, the most southerly of the Outer Isles archipelago. Again anchoring for a ‘bag’ of the island and a stroll ashore.

Vatersay Bay

Pencil sketch of Vatersay Bay
Pencil Sketch ~ A4
We ended the day back at Vatersay Bay to anchor for the night.
“Lands there are to West of West.” – Tolkien
Pen sketch of Vatersay Bay.
And this pen (Biro) sketch is looking the other way from our Vatersay anchorage ~ A4.

Eriskay harbour

Watercolour sketch of an Eriskay Croft from the harbour
Watercolour sketch ~ A4
With talk of whiskey galore,​ we nosed our way into the natural Eriskay harbour. However, there was no sign of any Whisky!
We were holed up here for two days while bad weather blew through. While there we had a pleasant stroll up Ben Scien the highest point of the island, which was bathed in the evening’s​ sun, before heading back to our berths and working out where we were off to next….

Canna & Sanday

Pen sketch of Sanday Crofts

Pen sketch ~ A4 ‘ish
Sanday Crofts

Setting sail for Canna & Sanday and the fine harbour that links the two with its​ sand bar.
The smaller of the two, Sanday, is a catholic island and Canna is a protestant island. There is a little catholic shrine to the Virgin Mary as you cross the sand bar.
Debbie & I clambered up to the little castle – ignoring the ‘Do Not Climb’ sign. It was a little precipitous at times, but all was well and we had a fine view from there. More supplies for obtained from the little shop and we were off with the tide bound for Coll.

Pencil sketch of Cann Kirk
Pencil sketch ~ A5
The little Cann Kirk on the Island of Canna.


Pencil sketch of Arinagour, Coll
Pencil sketch of Arinagour on Coll ~ A4 ‘ish

Sailing from Canna we ran past Rhum and headed south for Coll. Anchoring in loch Eathearna. We paddled over to Arinagour, Coll’s main village, for a pint in the pub.
With worsening weather, we stayed here for an extra day. With a fair amount of pitching & rolling on our mooring.

Pen sketch of life Aboard Algol - at anchor - drinking tea and eating biscuits!
Pen sketch of the crew waiting out the bad weather in Coll harbour ~ A4.
Here’s Rob lounging by the table eating chocolate biscuits and reading aboard ‘Algol’.

The Garvellachs

Pencil sketch of Garvellachs Bothy
Pencil ~ A4
Bothy at Garbh Eileach

After the bad weather had blown through we sailed back to the Sound of Mull. Stopped for the night anchored in Loch Aline. Then in the morning headed around​ Mull to the small Garvellachs islands.
After anchoring we landed and had lunch before exploring the island.
I sketched the little Bothy at Garbh Eileach, which looked lovely. But was perhaps a little too midgey? The midges on the island started to wake up as soon as the breeze dropped, so we retreated back to Algol.

Eileach an Naoimh Chapel

Pencil sketch of Eileach an Naoimh Chapel
Pencil sketch ~ A4 ‘ish

While we were at the Garvellachs archipelago we also ‘bagged’ Eileach an Naoimh, also known as the Holy Isle. The name is Gaelic for “rocky place of the saint”.
About 542, St. Brendan the Navigator founded a monastery on Eilach, presumed to be the island. Columba is believed to have visited the island and it is one of the proposed locations of the Columban retreat isle of Hinba.
The little monastery was destroyed around 800 by Viking raiders. The oldest chapel is rectangular and may date from the 11th or 12th centuries. The monastic ruins are the oldest ecclesiastical buildings in Scotland. Though if the ruins date from the time of Brendan this would potentially make them the oldest church buildings in Britain.

For more about St Columba see my Sketches on the Isle of Mull post.

We then upped anchor and sailed through the Black Isles, now on the last leg of our voyage.

Crinan Canal and Lighthouse

Pencil sketch of Crinan Canal & Lighthouse
Pencil sketch of the lighthouse on the outer harbour wall at Crinan~ A4

Final Leg

We are now on our final leg of our voyage around the Hebrides. We have sailed down the Sound of Jura to the entrance to the Crinan Canal. Which is a shortcut to Ardrishaig on Loch Gilp.
We have our lunch and a stroll around the canal basin, which has some lovely old ‘Puffers’ in it. I can just see Para Handy chugging up here with his crew!
Back on the boat and on the return leg to it’s mooring at Ardfern.

It’s been a very special and beautiful voyage – very many thanks skipper Debbie for all the memories!

Pen cartoon of the crew of the good ship Algol.
My biro cartoon of the crew of the good ship ‘Algol’ left in the logbook.

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