Pentland Firth

Great campsite at Crosskirk - just East of Thurso
Dunnet Head
Making good the rounding: wind to beat the north going countercurrent on the east side of Duncansby Head

Once again, the weather charts are showing the Northwest corner of Scotland swathed in pink, as that corner gets another battering from another Atlantic low. Today is the first day that doesn't cause me concern. I'm now off the north coast and heading south.

Pentland Firth was probably the corner that I most feared. With spring tides at 12 knots (measured at 17 knots on bad days!) it is a place to be avoided unless conditons are just right. Almost everyone I have met who has experience of the Pentland has advised extreme caution. I'd been worrying about this corner since the planning stages of the expedition.

In the end - I got lucky. Neap (small) tides combined with a wind from the south (small seas) of sufficient but not excessive strength and I breezed through the various bottlenecks on the stretch between Thurso and Duncansby Head. It might also just be I'm getting used to this.

Dunnet (they drop a T up here) Head was lumpy but benign, the Merry Men of Mey had a section of white water (but as soon as you realise this is just water and not rocks the ride is not overly concerning), inside Stroma I was sailing upwind at 15 knots (9 knots is more usual), Duncansby Head has a beach before it that I could easily have landed at (very unusual for an 'iconic' headland), I had enough wind to beat the countercurrent running up the east side of the head and safely make Freswick Bay.

I am sure it has its days and on spring tides I would have been more cautious, but with the forecast showing pink and the sky suggesting imminent wind I decided to go early and sailed through around mid tide.

That is Cape Wrath and Pentland Firth done in 3 days. Definitely relief at having got round those. But I'll miss the ruggedness of the North of Scotland, and in some ways it makes me sad to be heading south.