Vikings , Rocks and Hard Places

From Views of the Hebrides

Its now over two weeks since we started exploring the inshore waters of NW Scotland and we would need another 6 months to do them justice. I hadn’t realised just how sheltered these waters are. For just about any wind direction there are numerous sheltered bays and little island anchorages , and as long as one is happy not to have civilisation to hand and pontoons to moor up to ( and we are VERY happy!) it is pretty special. We pottered down inside Skye and popped in to a tiny bay that looked like it might be sheltered from a SE ‘ly blow that was due. Unusually there were several new looking houses and a slip in good condition ( and this on a peninsular with no road access!) so we dropped anchor and went to investigate.
It seemed that some 20 years ago a family passed by here on a yacht , fell in love with the deserted place , rebuilt one of the old ruined houses and then set about building boats to connect themselves with the rest of the world. One of these ( a Danish fishing smack that they beautifully restored ) provides an income from sailing charters around the Hebrides. They run diving and walking weeks and a small restaurant attracts custom in the season from passing yachts and tourists who walk over the hills. All of these are run by 3 generations of the family who arrived and had a dream all those years ago and are succeeding in once more carving out a living from this beautiful but harsh environment.
We had a small taste of how harsh a place it can be. On the south side of Skye , the Cuillin mountains fall almost sheer into the sea , and nestling beneath these slopes is the spectacular anchorage of Loch Scavaig. The pilot books warn of savage katabatic gusts that threaten to tear the anchor out , but we decided to risk it. A low was sitting over the top of us , intermittently dumping huge amounts of rain , but with relatively light winds which made the anchorage just about safe. The scenery ashore was stunning , even through the rain and mist , so at the first sign of an ease in the downpour we slipped ashore and scrambled up to a saddle overlooking the anchorage. I was leading and to my horror saw Lynda loose her footing and fall heavily down a rock face and into a stream. She gave a single , horrible , cry and lay still.

From Views of the Hebrides

We can laugh about it now but it was a difficult moment. We were half an hours scramble from the boat – and 2 hours sail from the nearest civilisation . Lynda tried to move – obviously in a lot of pain. “Stay still!” I cried , thinking head or spine injury – but eventually she managed to explain that the stream was pouring in to her sleeve and filling up her clothes- so could I please move her! To cut a long story short she was winded – had a small head injury , superficial grazes to her hands and a couple of fractured ribs and she bravely got back to the boat under her own steam.
The weather has made amends by being very gentle. We spent a couple of days on the Island of Canna where Lynda rested whilst I “Tiggered” around the island accompanied by an old dog with nearly as much grey on her muzzle as me . I was just walking by the old post office ( a garden shed!) when she quietly joined me , stopping at each gate until I opened it , then leading me to the next. Once we got to the open moorland her reasoning became clear – she loved hunting rabbits – but always came trotting back and led me on a wonderful 4 hour walk around the island. Needless to say on the way home ,neither of us was chasing many rabbits !

From Views of the Hebrides

The light winds have allowed us to revisit the puffins on the Treshnish islands , explore the mad architectural perfection that is Fingals cave and thrill to the aerobatics of a familly of bottle nose dolphins in Iona sound – what a day that was , before settling down in the picture perfect anchorage of Davy Balfours bay ( RLS’s father built lighthouses hereabout) We have been very priveleged.

Now however we are in Oban Bay , tied up to a marina for the first time since Dingle all those weeks ago. The place is full of Danish boats on a whisky cruise ( sounds an explosive mixture to me!) and they keep talking to me in their mother tongue. “But I’m not a Viking !” I explain. “But you loook like a Wiking” say they. I take this to be a compliment , but it probably means I need to trim my beard before we get back to civilisation. Until then greetings from the Viking and his rapidly improving mate!

One Comments

  1. So glad Linda is OK. Scary moment, even to read about.

    We are following your stories with envy and saving every word to follow in your wake some day.


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