Skye’s the limit for the East Antrim crew

SAILORS from East Antrim Boat Club have fulfilled a long-held ambition by completing the difficult voyage to the Isle of Skye.

For the past five years, members of the club have attempted the journey but have been frustrated time and time again by unfavourable weather.

But this year, after enduring torrential rain, thunder and lightening and pounding waves, they successfully completed the crossing and returned to safely to Glenarm to recount their tale.

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Setting sail from Glenarm on the yacht Five K, the crew travelled north to Rathlin Island, then made the crossing for the North Channel towards the islands of Islay and Jura. In no time at all they were sailing up the Sound of Islay past Port Ascaig, home to the famous Islay single malt.

Buoyed by their smooth progress, the crew pushed on past the island of Colonsay into the Firth of Lorne, eventually reaching the island of Iona with its Abbey founded by St Columba in 563AD.

From there, the Five K sailed on past the islands of Staffa, Coll and Tiree, past Ardnamurchan Point and eventually dropped anchor in Canna, after nearly going aground in the small harbour by getting the tide heights wrong.

Much to their disappointment, the adventurers discovered that the pub on the island was closed, but they found some consolation by being able to pick some fresh heather to place on the pulpit rail at the bow of the boat. This long-standing tradition indicates that a boat has sailed past Ardnamurchan Point - the most westerly part of Great Britain.

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Leaving behind the hospitality of Canna, the crew ventured on into the narrow passage between Skye and the Scottish mainland called Kyle Rhea. This passage is renowned for extreme currents, so tide times have to be calculated very carefully - which the crew candidly admitted was not their strong point.

After being swept through the passage at about 10 knots - which is fast for a yacht - they eventually found themselves in the Sound of Raasay, a long strip of sea where the Royal Navy’s newest and largest attack submarine HMS Astute ran aground back in 2010.

Luckily the test ranges were closed during their visit, and the Five K made its way north to Gairloch on the mainland to collect new crew members, who had travelled all the way from Edinburgh.

It was now time for the final leg of the final leg of the voyage. From Gairloch, Five K sailed over the top of Skye across the Minch, frequently accompanied by pods of dolphins, past the remote and uninhabited Shiant Isles, dropping anchor at the barren and rocky island of Scalpay.

The crew enjoyed an idyllic sail back across the Irish Sea to Glenarm, and are hoping to repeat their successful journey next year.