The voyages of the Fulmar – part 10

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The serialisation of a log book from the yacht ‘Fulmar’, recording her 1956 voyages and the adventures of her crew.
The ‘Fulmar’, a 41-foot gaff cutter built in 1901, was owned by Commander Ralph G Mowat, RN (Rtd).
The yacht won her class in the 1956 ‘Tobermory Race’ from Bute to Tobermory, via the Crinan Canal, before setting off on a cruise from Crinan up the west coast, around Mull and back home.
Crew of the Fulmar and their nicknames: RG Mowat, ‘Skipper’; Mary R Mowat, ‘Mate’; G Paterson, ‘Pilot’; S Stanger, ‘Doctor’; JM Mowat, ‘Bosun’; Chris Paterson, ‘Tanky’; Robin G Mowat, ‘Tar’; Shena R Mowat, ‘Purser’ and dachshund Ruddiger von Stoer, ‘Major of Marines’.

Friday August 3

What a night! All of us were agreed that never had we experienced anywhere a worse one and we were glad we had been in Loch Aline on Sunday night not in Tobermory as intended as, from what we heard, that night had been similar but twice as bad.

It was a wild night lashing with rain and a big swell was rolling in from the north-east causing us to pitch and roll horribly. Everything banged and rattled and the ropes, despite their lashings, slapped on the mast, the chain rugged continuously on the bobstay, and there was one most annoying thump that kept everyone awake (except of course the Bosun and Tar who could sleep happily on even if the ship blew up).

We could not trace its origin until in desperation the Pilot donned oilskins, sou’wester and seaboots, and went on deck and found it was the tiller end bumping on the bulwarks. The Pilot had a very justifiable grouse about this as he had suggested lashing the tiller, but the Skipper had said that he did not think it necessary and that we would lie easier if it was allowed to go free.

About six we heard Murdoch in Venture hailing us and the Skipper and Pilot hurried on deck. The yachts in the harbour were all lying higgledy-piggledy owing to the swell, to there being little or not wind, to the strong surface current from the swollen river, and to it being about the turn of the tide.

Venture and Fulmar were lying stern to stern and what had aroused Murdoch was that the Venture had got her mizzen boom over our main boom and as we pitched we had lifted it up crutch and all – how nothing was broken was a miracle. She had then swung round and her now free boom had knocked the cap off our jackstay. As the Skipper came on deck Venture again surged towards us and started pitching and her counter came down with a terrific slam not six inches from our bulwarks. We put our helm over and swung clear.

Murdoch and Barclay were both in their dog-house and the Pilot and Skipper stayed in ours until the new tide took charge and the boats began to swing in normal fashion and all were able to retire once more to their bunks. Luckily the rain had cleared off shortly before this episode took place.

At a quarter to eight we heard the usual poor forecast but for the first time since the cruise began there was not a gale warning for any area. The glass had risen well during the night. What wind there was was from the north-west.

The Skipper went ashore for the milk and rolls. The dinghy had a lot of water in it and owing to the rolling it was impossible to get into it and balance on the thwarts till it was baled so the Skipper got his feet thoroughly soaked – the simple remedy of wearing seaboots had never occurred to him. Again the rolls were sold out and again he had to take porter biscuits.

On board the Pilot lit the fire then started in to get our breakfast of bacon and egg. After our meal the sky cleared and it became a beautiful sunny day, and everything we had was up on deck drying off or airing. The owner of Rose came alongside and for a good time tried to get us to persuade him to go north against his better judgement, but when we heard he had the lady member of his crew of three sick in her bunk our advice was that he go south and that immediately and reluctantly he was forced to agree and half an hour later he sailed. Hervor also went out about the same time and she turned north and we were to meet her later in Iona.