Finally the good to go, after almost two months of waiting for the reopening of the borders. As soon as the Scottish government announced the lifting of the two-week-quarantine, we loaded our car to within the last inch with all the new and spare parts we had prepared during the winter and took off on the long drive to Scottland. As much as we looked forward to being on our Happy Day again, we were worried about what we would find in Inverness; will the boat be ok after such a long time on land. The batteries and the engine especially could have become damaged.
First thing upon arriving in Inverness, we went to the ship to check all the systems. Luckily, there was only little damage. Since we had a long to-do-list of work on just about every part on the boat (including the toxic two compound epoxy painting), we had decided on renting a small apartment. That way we could leave the mess in the evenings behind and sleep in a clean and restful place.
The next days, respectively two weeks were all the same. Getting up around seven, eating a hearty breakfast (hashbrowns, bacon and eggs), driving to the marina and starting work until six in the evening. Besides removing some smaller rusty spots and exchanging the prop as well the reeling, it was necessary to adjust and paint the freshwater containers. But the biggest challenge was the replacement of the hydraulic steering system and the autopilot. The old hydraulic ram was leaking and there were no more spare parts for the autopilot. Without these components it's just not possible to steer the vessel. It took longer than expected to get all the new hydraulic tight and to connect the electonical parts to the correct cables. But now we can take off again on the water with a reassured feeling.
With all this work, the days passed incredibly quickly. Usually, even the lunch brake was foregone but around 3pm, we stopped for a coffee and a piece of homemade cake in one of the nearby coffee shops. The town of Inverness was still lacking the usual throng of tourists and thus it was quite nice to be around locals only. They often took the time to tell their fascinating storys and more than once we had to stop them, so we could go back to work.
The next unpopular work consisted of painting and fiberglass work inside the small water tanks. In addition to the narrow space, the paint as well the fiberglass contains toxic and highly flammable epoxy fumes. It's important to keep the space vented at a high rate and to breathe only from the diving bottles.
Fortunately, the weather was on our side and we were spared from the famous storms and heavy rains and after the repairs we were able to speed up the preparations needed, to go back on the water. On a quiet morning the huge travel lift picked up the 20 ton steel boat as if it were weightless. Always a moment of excitement - which is also accompanied by some doubt - are all the valves closed and the logs put pack in place? As soon the boat touches the water one is allowed on board to check if there is any water breach. Everything looked good and even the 60 year old engine jumped back to life on the first turn.
Back in the harbor it was time to fasten the sails and check the rigg (wires, masts, connections) form the masttop down to the deck. The next two days were spent with stocking our supplies and planning the trip up to the Orkney Islands. Due to the fast changing weather and very strong currents (up to 9knots) the leaving and arriving in the harbors / anchoring places must be calculated down to the hour. As was to be expected, the tide was not in our favor and we had to leave at 2am. As it turned out, it wasn't that bad (except for the early wake-up after the evening in the pub). Dawn started just as we cast off the lines and headed down into the river of Loch Ness and to the open ocean, followed by a group of dolphins. What a moment, when you feel the wind in the sails and the waves under your feet – all the work is forgotten in a second.
We wish you all a nice and healthy summer!