Voltair to Norway (2), Skye to Stornoway
Firmly committed by the adverse weather forecast to the passage up the Sound of Sleat leaving Skye to port, the crew were amused by the updated forecast six hours later changing easterlies to northwesterlies and force 7s to force 4s. We could have gone to the outer islands after all! By Sunday night we had passed through Loch Alsh and under the bridge to Skye, a rainbow playing around the castle in the Kyle.
We made a further 15 miles to the north and stayed at a small anchorage on the mainland called Poll Creadha - another interesting entrance marked by perches on the reefs that surrounded it. We crept in as the sun was setting and anchored in the pool with a lone seal for company.
Yesterday morning we motored past the northeast coast of Skye, all basalt columns and spikes sticking up into the low clouds over the Cuillins. We carried on across the Little Minch and made a short stop for lunch in the Shiant Islands between Skye and Lewis.
These are spectacular uninhabited basalt islands with puffins, auks and gulls by the thousand. The sea was really clear, the sun was out and we had a lovely cockpit lunch anchored close to leeward of a rocky spur which had a tunnel right through it. Puffins, wings whirring, practically flew through the rigging on their way back and forth between their burrows and their local take-aways. JK had a go at fishing with his new rod, and quickly hooked a 3 Lb pollack, which was brought to the surface relatively easily and landed. Back in the water with the fluorescent pink squids, with a ring spanner on the end to weight them, and another big fish got on the hook immediately, but scrambled off it again. Fish supper for Tuesday night!
We up-anchored around 17:00 and motored across quite a rough patch of sea for another couple of hours towards Stornoway, feeling our way through a narrow and tortuous channel into Loch Mharabhig using GPS, radar, echo sounder laptop and pilot book, as well as mark-1 eyeball. We found ourselves in a secluded anchorage locally called Witches Pool, entirely alone except for plaintive cries from some lambs, the slow beat of a heron's wings, and the rhythmic pulsation of the pink jellyfish in the limpid water. The aberdeen angus in the oven cooked to perfection as Suzi propelled us in the dinghy around the islands and inlets nearby and semi-darkness fell around us. We felt there must be sea otters around, it was such a typical place to find them, but we didn't see any. JS Bach accompanied us at dinner, wine flowed, Robin snored for a bit, but managed to work up enough energy to struggle out of Dick's bunk eventually. We were not late to bed.
A crystal clear blue dawn sky greeted us at 7am, as we had morning cereals and coffee on deck, admiring the surrounding hills and rocks mirrored in the glasslike water. It really was a marvellous place to wake up! Then we motored the few remaining miles to Stornoway for fuel, water, supplies and lunch, which we took at the Caledonian Hotel. Stornoway is an interesting town and the kind we liked, with lots of shops selling hardware, fishing tackle, gas bottles, alternator belts and second-hand crockery (to replace the mugs and glasses we keep breaking), as well as smoked local fish, unsmoked local fish, local shellfish and WD40. We didn't see one shop selling designer jeans, belgian chocolates or exorbitantly priced greetings cards (but, it has to be said, we weren't looking for one).
Lunch was served along with an interesting helping of the local lingua franca: with the aid of the barmaids Morag and Jane we learned the following new words and phrases:-
'Blether' (babble on and on), syntax: "Ah met yer granny doon the toun, we hud a richt guid blether the gither"
'Crabbit' (in a bad mood, esp in mornings), syntax: "Ken this, yer a crabbit get, so ye are"
'Glaikit' (silly), syntax: "He stood there wi a glaikit look oan his fizzog"
'Scunner' (an object of dislike), syntax: "Git oot o' ma face, ya wee scunner"
'Fankle' (an entanglement), syntax: "Dinnae get yersel' in a fangle"
and, hardly recognised by our crew of course, 'Steamin' (in a state of having imbibed excessively), see also "guttered, pissed, gassed, blootered, stoned, miraculous, legless, smashed, minced, wrecked, mingin', welly'd, blitzed, arsed, blazin', hingin' buckled"
It must be true, it was all on the place-mats!
After lunch and more shopping (we were a bit short on the liquids front), we went to see the Coastguards in their splendid new building and pass on our thanks and regards, and meet Annie, the owner of the delightful female voice that reads us the weather forecast daily on channel 23. She, along with many of the natives, adds a gratuitous 'h' onto many of her 's's, so we get, for example, "showersh in mosht areash". On the way back to the yacht we paused at Island Radio 103FM. There, the lady who greeted us said she didn't really have a slot to interview Mr Sykes, but that she would give Voltair a mention when she went on air at 5pm. The station is heard over several transmitters and is a community enterprise assisted by some public funding.
We met back at the boat, arriving from three different directions. Each small group had a bag with fish in it! Looks like we don't only have fish for dinner tonight, but for the next 2 days as well!
The spring tide having well and truly gone out, the crosstrees were now level with the dock, so we lowered the heavier items down to the deck on the spinnaker halyard. All was going well until Frank tried to emulate the builder, subject of Gerard Hoffnung's famous anecdote. The goods arrived on deck, Frank detached them, the weight of the halyard took over and the shackle on the halyard end zoomed skywards, stopping only when it reached the top of the mast. So Frank himself was despatched in a bucket to recover the lost end, the large harbour seals that were surfacing at the side of the yacht chortling at the entertainment.
Just as we were ready to cast off, Radio 103 FM wished us bon voyage and played us Abba's "So long, see you honey". Well, they were not to know Robin can't stand Abba, and Sweden is pretty close to Norway isn't it?
Love to you all - from Dick, Frank, John, Robin and Vaughan.