More than one kind of Warm

From Back in the North

We are sitting moored to a buoy in the picturesque and wonderfully sheltered Tobermory Bay on the island of Mull. Outside it is howling and chucking it down, but inside the cabin all is warm and cosy thanks to the heater, with plenty of energy coming from the wind generator whizzing away, powered by the gusts coming down off the hills. The radio is on and Lynda is both reading and knitting whilst I divide my time between charts, forecasts, Patrick O Brian and a ukulele. Apparently 2 days ago the bay was deserted but this nasty little low has brought a large collection of boats to sit out the gale before venturing out into the cruising wonderland that is the Hebrides. Most boats are crewed by a similar greybeard and his wife (at least I assume they are wives!) with a smattering of intrepid Dutch and French crews, and out in the bay , a large 3 masted Dutch schooner.
Ardnamurchan is just a few miles to the North , and in days gone by cruising boats that managed to get North of this headland came back with a sprig of heather at the masthead as a matter of pride . I don’t think we will adopt this practice ( it would play havoc with the wind instruments !) , but like the cruisers of old , it marks the start of a multitude of possible places to explore , from the romantically named Rhum , Muck, Eigg and Canna to the myriad anchorages of the Outer Hebrides. Should the weather remain harsh, we can explore in the sheltered waters behind Skye, and if we get the right combination of settled weather and Westerly winds , there is the intriguing possibility of a visit to St Kilda , sitting lonely out there in the Atlantic. Whatever happens, we have reached the changeover point from urgent passage making between weather systems to pottering in our chosen cruising ground.
The weather is still all important, but the indications are that we are in for a spell of more settled weather, albeit still cold, as polar maritime air continues round the top of the high that is forecast to build to our South. However there is more than one kind of warmth. Back down South in the Scillies we had a most unpleasant experience. We were motoring slowly across the tidal passage to the anchorage between Tresco and Bryher when one of the big passenger boats approached from astern doing 12 knots to our 3. She was aiming straight for our stern and only sheered off at the very last minute, passing mere feet from us, the launch driver wearing what I can only describe as a malicious sneer. There was no reason for this act of aggression, we drew 6 feet to her 3, and we had a couple of feet under us so he had plenty of room to give us a more seamanlike clearance (as indeed did all subsequent ferries), and I can only surmise that it came from antipathy of a local boatman to the “yachties” who come each year to the Scillies in increasing numbers.
In contrast, up in Northern Ireland everyone we met seemed genuinely pleased that we had come to visit their country, and here in Scotland we had a striking example of the total opposite of our Scilly experience. Our first night in Scottish waters was spent anchored in a tiny hole behind the Ardmore islands (little more than rocks in truth) off the South coast of Islay. It was so full of wildlife (seals galore, eiders, divers, mergansers, terns and gannets ) that we spent the next day there as well , sharing the anchorage with a fishing boat. Next morning as we were threading the intricate channel to the open sea, there was the fishing boat athwart the tiny channel. He contacted us on the radio saying he had a diver down, and could we wait a while. This we gladly did until between us we identified the diver’s buoy and bubbles moving away to one side of the channel , and we slipped by. “Do you like scallops?” asked the fisherman. Is the Pope a catholic? He flung a bag with a good meals worth and we left feeling that perhaps yachts and yachties had not reached that critical concentration up here where they stop contributing and become a nuisance. It was raining, and damply cold, but I swear this act of friendliness was as warming as a sunny afternoon.
Greetings from (soon to be?) even sunnier Scotland.

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