A heavy winter programme preceded what was planned to be a major expedition to Orkney, with the return leg being down the east coast to keep under the lee of England during the normal July westerlies.
A new fridge,and weatherfax were the major structural projects, but niggles related to the gas kicker, rebuilding a laptop operating system, and teething problems with the weatherfax delayed our departure till 7th May.
The boat worked well, except for a 3 week delay in Milford Haven while the Eberspacher cabin heater was rebuilt - twice! And later we thought we may have a bent prop shaft and had to limit engine revs for the second half of the trip (It later turned out to be an alignment problem caused by sagging of the rubber engine mounts).
The Northbound highlights were the welcome received at Down Cruising Club in Strangfrord Lough and in Carrickfergus; the clarity of the water at Gigha; Acarseid Mor in South Rona (which is still our all-time favourite anchorage); and, above all, visiting the Shiant Islands, about which we had read in a book by Adam Nicholson, who owns the islands.
After an enforced 3 day stay in Loch Laxford waiting for weather (where weatherfax from the German Offenbach station was the only way we could get weather maps), we crossed to Orkney, passing the Old Man of Hoy on our way to Stromness. There we hired a car in association with Edi and Horst who had sailed from Hamburg. Together we explored Orkney Mainland visiting many of the historic sights, including the incredible Skara Brae, St Magnus Cathedral and a number of museums. The spirit of Scapa Flow is never far from you here.
After a fascinating trip to Westray, where the harbourmaster cooked 2 lobsters for us (£11.50!), we made our way south. The highlights southbound were calling out the Wick lifeboat after we collected some unmarked fishing gear round the prop (the subsequent drying out to check the sterngear was more alarming); entering Lossiemouth with an onshore swell; visiting friends near Inverness; and the trip down the Caledonian Canal - we had abandoned the East coast because a cold grey NE wind persisted and looked likely to remain.