An account of our trip round the Small Isles in a Wayfarer

My son Iain and I took up sailing last year (1999). It seemed the logical thing to do since we live in one of the most beautiful cruising areas around. After cruising on keel boats and playing around on club dinghies we decided open boat cruising in a Wayfarer offered simplicity, transportability and adventure.

This is the account of our first cruise around the Small Isles, a group of islands in the Scottish Hebrides comprising of Muck, Eigg, Rum and Canna.

Iain at the helm, passing Eigg

The weather throughout the trip was brilliant. An anticyclone sat over the UK and therefore it was hot and stable. We depended on sea breezes to get us around but they could be fickle and unreliable.

The first day started from Armadale around lunchtime. The wind was very slight and we barely drifted out into the Sound of Sleat. Gradually though, the sea breeze built up until we really tramped past Eigg towards Muck.

Running past Eigg

We ran down from Eigg with the spinnaker flying. Reaching into Muck Harbour was tricky in the gusty conditions, especially avoiding the rocks at the entrance which were covered by the full tide.

Parking for the night was taken care of when we were offered a drying mooring at the pier by a helpful local. We camped above the pier and explored the island, climbing to the highest point. The view was tremendous. Ardnamurchan Light was tantalisingly close.. Had we the time we could have gone to Mull...

Muck Harbour

The following morning, after a super breakfast provided in one of the cottages by the pier, we set off in a light northerly. We only got about half a mile before we were becalmed. We had to wait for a couple of hours, drifting backwards with the tide, until the sea breezes started up. During this time we saw dolphins, porpoises, and a Minke whale which was to accompany us throughout the trip.

Eigg for lunch

Fried Eigg .....becalmed

Once underway, we reached into Eigg harbour for lunch. This we followed with a beat round to the Sound of Rum, hoping to get to Loch Scresort, but the breeze died quickly at around five o'clock and we had to row into the Bay of Laig on Eigg. We arranged a running mooring where the boat only dried out on the low tide and settled to watch an amazing sunset.

A shot of Rum,  from Bay of Laig

The next day we had to make our way back to Skye for a business meeting. The breeze was stronger that day and we had a truly exhilarating beat up into Loch Slapin.

As a climber, I often dreamed about sailing into Loch na Cuilce. On the 4th day of this trip we did it in perfect conditions. After beating down Loch Slapin, we turned the corner at Elgol and had a perfect run into the heart of the Cuillins. We arrived as the last boatload of day-trippers was leaving and only three keel boats were anchored.We were able to moor the boat in a little creek where the landing was good and the boat stayed afloat even at low tide.

Coolin' in Cuilce

Plans for the next day depended on the wind. If there was sufficient breeze, we wanted to reach Canna. If not, then we would put in at Soay Harbour.

Once again we were tricked into leaving on the catabatic breeze which died when we reached the Sound of Soay. Again we drifted, gradually making way through the Sound on any puff of wind that came our way. At the other end we had to make the decision. Would we go for Canna or back into the harbour? It was a good stable forecast, it wouldn't matter if it took all day and night to get there, so we went for Canna. It was so flat and calm we could hear the rafts of guillemots miles away. Our Minke could also be heard sounding in the distance. The sea breeze failed to materialise that day so we drifted across at about one knot arriving in Canna Harbour at eight in the evening. We moored in the bay just outside the harbour in another idyllic setting with few midges.


The trip from Canna to Rum was in patchy breezes. One minute we would be tramping along in a F3 then the next drifting in flat calm. Thankfully the shore-line along Rum was fairly interesting and relieved the boredom during the quiet periods. We were beginning to tire of those light winds.

In Loch Scresort we moored in behind the pier. We expected to lug our camping gear over to the campsite but after a recce we discovered a miniature cove where, once we removed a few boulders we were able to park the boat right next to our pitch. It took four lines ashore and the anchor out to sea to moor the boat in such a way that it would dry out on the cleared sand.

Rum is an interesting island with its Castle, the hills and the conservation studies going on there. But it is also renowned for its fierce midges. That night we were slaughtered by them.

Our last day took us home from Rum to Ord on Skye. Again the winds were light, only just inflating the spinnaker. We just got ashore and Iain was sorting out the boat when the heavens opened with a thunderstorm. Amazingly the only rain the whole week!

Last Scresort .. our last night's camp


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