The Offshore Voyaging Reference Site

Yes, You Can Have an Offshore Sailboat For Less Than $US100,000

We rejoin Colin and his new-to-him but fast becoming well-loved She 36 Sherpa for the last leg of their long delivery passage home to Scotland, and conclude with how much money and time he and Louise have in the boat, as well as future expenditures and time budgets.

After a forced two-week pit stop caused when our ancient and worn Gori folding propeller shed a blade, our new Featherstream feathering prop arrived.

New Prop

These are beautifully engineered propellers. We had one on our Ovni 435 for ten years that never needed any servicing apart from annual cleaning and greasing, so it was a no-brainer to order one for Sherpa.

Darglow Engineering is one of those firms that really try hard, and bless them, they pulled out all the stops to get us back in action. Excellent value for money, beautifully packed, with everything in the box—spare grease, thread lock, etc, that’s required to fit the new prop.

I was off the very next day to fit it in Largs, 100 miles away. 

On a soggy Sunday afternoon, it took only a few hours before I was happy with the installation. The following morning, she was back in the water, fuel and water tanks topped off, and lockers crammed with food—we were ready to roll.

The prop was as smooth as silk, pitch spot on and, hallelujah, loads of grip astern—perfect. Thank you, Darglow!

Ronnie Returns

Lou was away on a long-planned conservation holiday, so I turned to our trusty crew member Ronnie Mackie. Ronnie has sailed extensively with us, including our trans-Atlantic crossing from Cape Verde to Brazil (as well as many other adventures), and is our ‘go-to’ guy for such passages.

The best crew are the ones you know, trust and are compatible with. If they are also first-class sailors, tireless and endlessly upbeat like Ronnie, they are pure gold.

Knowing that this passage (spring tides, Mull of Kintyre, Ardnamurchan Point, etc.) was not for the faint-hearted, especially a ‘pedal to the metal’ run between weather systems, he was the ideal companion.

Departing Largs on a Monday lunchtime, we knew we had only until Thursday evening to reach home before the next vigorous frontal system whacked into the west coast of Scotland.

In terms of mileage alone this should be straightforward, but with spring tides to face, at times it would be a challenge. But there it was, we were determined to make it, and we had the boat to do it.

Light winds on the first day took us around the north end of Arran, then down through Kilbrannan Sound to Campbelltown, arriving after dark and going alongside at the small marina.

A quick supper, then off to bed with the alarm set for 04:20, as I knew (from previous experience) the run down to the Mull of Kintyre is slow going against a foul tide so vital to start early if you’re to arrive at the right time to pick up the ebb tide north off the Mull.

A fresh northerly wind hustled us south and we sped around the inshore route in fine style, which was when I started to think we were going to be very early at the Mull. Suspiciously early, in fact.


I had misread the tide tables. We could kill time by heaving-to or go inshore and drop our hook for a few hours.

Or we could go on and take a peek at the conditions off the Mull and see whether it was doable. The logic behind this being that, with the now stiff northerly funnelling through the North Channel, once the spring tide turned in our favour the overfalls inshore would be pretty hideous, but for now, with wind and tide together, the worst that could happen would be that we would slowly skirt the worst area of the race and claw slowly north in ‘relatively’ smooth conditions.

Fortune favours the brave, apparently, so off we went.

Which turned out to be absolutely the right thing to do. We rounded the Mull a couple of miles offshore; the sea wasn’t at all bad and we were able to march upwind as far as the inconveniently sited Traffic Separation Scheme before tacking back to stay out of it.

Best of all, the wind kept steadily shifting in our favour, and now into the last two hours of the foul tide, we were moving along very well, indeed.

It was a model rounding, with the tide eventually turning in our favour as we beat north in fine style, exceeding our wildest expectations of the day’s run before we gave in to the new foul tide halfway up the Sound of Jura and found perfect shelter from the northerly wind in Loch Na Cille, where we came to anchor for the night.

Just the best day’s sailing, if wearing, and we slept like logs.

Up and away on a cloudy morning with the Sound of Jura like a millpond. So we kept as close in on the western shore as we dared to cheat the foul tide.

Slow going it was, but every mile gained would be a plus further on, when we could expect to have up to nine hours of tide in our favour.

The tide turned at last in the tidal bottleneck in the north end of the Sound of Luing and we raced through at ten knots.

Still, no wind for the rest of the day, so we motored the length of the Sound of Mull with the tide under us all the way, gaining many valuable free miles. We celebrated with an early night at Tobermory.

The first signs of the forthcoming change in the weather were in the morning sky, but the worst looked to be arriving overnight when we should be safely tucked up somewhere.

As so often this year, the weather was coming from the east, which should mean less sea running but possibly strong katabatic squalls in the mountainous region we live in.

To make sure we were well ahead of the change, we were up and away early and rounded Ardnamurchan Point in a strong southeasterly, and flew across towards Arisaig, the breeze strengthening all the way and (once again) we arrived far earlier than we had anticipated.

We spent a happy couple of hours tacking and gybing around, watching a variety of whales and dolphins, a common scene in this wild and beautiful area.

Two hours after low water we crept over the shallow patch into Arisaig. What a passage. A good meal and then off to bed early, only to be woken during the night by the first of the squalls off the hills. It was good to be so close to home.

The Final Leg

Two weeks later, Lou returned, and we boarded Sherpa on a cool morning to sail her around the last few miles to our newly laid mooring in Loch Ailort.

Summer seemed a distant memory as yet another strong northerly hustled us around the coast and Sherpa finally entered her new home, winding through the rocks and islets before coming to rest under the looming presence of Roshven, high above her. Home at last!

Some Thoughts About The Passage

The Boat