Mallaig and Beyond

The little Mallaig Co-op was thronging with soggy hikers and lobster faced yachties, all  scooping up what remained of the Sunday stock though we managed to retrieve the essentials from the mele. Mr Delightful Border Collie popped over when he saw Team A-Jay preparing to depart & asked hopefully if we knew something he didn’t. No but if we were to remain to await good weather we would grow roots.

An hour later we were rocking and rolling North over a lumpy grey sea, so probably more comfortable than Dom bashing South into the wind to RV with Team A-Jay. Soon we spotted a sail tacking smartly back and forth across the loch & shortly Dom skidded to a halt like a greyhound visiting a bulldog, to swap shouted greetings & photographs.

I have a sketching set but have done very little – I would have run out of black and grey had I been busy so uniformly awful has the weather been. Rhum was barely visible in the murk & Skye, so beautiful I am told, hunched darkly under a grey blanket, its ferry bringing defeated campers back to Mallaig. Up a ahead it might as well have been sleeting in the Sound of Sleat for it too dissolved into the grey murk.

We shot under Skye Bridge and celebrated with smoked salmon on mixed seed brown, the Red Leicester & pickle having been consumed at’in-betweenses’. Time to settle Team A-Jay & set sail for Gairloch 26 miles North & soon we were off straight for the submarine range. Sadly at this point I put Smiley on sick leave with a broken hinge. As we exited Calos Mor an official vessel towing a target array passed slowly by & a Range Control boat wandered over for a polite VHF exchange and we agreed I would stay within a mile of the coast.

It was so dark by evening it felt like sunset, no other boats were visible in any direction & Skye remained hidden in the murk. The bare straight backed mainland a mile to starboard had nothing to say; empty. Bleak towering, sinister dark mountains loomed behind – best left to themselves I felt. At least Longa Island spoke of journey’s end.

The rain joined us as we nosed into Bacharo, the anchorage nearest the mouth of Gairloch 10.5 hours out. Holiday boats don’t get this far North and I felt proud to be at rest with 2 other adventurers, though humbled as one armour plated dreadnought hailed from Canada and the other, a svelte, black hulled seductress from Germany; still I doubted they would be enjoying rhubarb pie and custard!

It hadn’t been a perfect trip; Smiley was out through injury, the mainsail had ripped and the laptop smashed in a crash gybe. Otherwise Team A-Jay was in good nick☺

I am still amazed that a boisterous sail can end in a silent, still anchorage, so different fromopen sea sailing though deep in a loch you can be out of all communications. Barry was sulking having dropped during the night, it was raining and the sky – well it was the same as almost every other morning. Fortunately Tranny, £4.50 from Aldi, piped up and delivered 2 charming ladies on 2 Lochs Radio, who fortunately seemed obsessed by the inshore waters forecast which promised F 5/6, rain then thundery showers for starters.

A-Jay skipped down the loch propelled by 23 knots for a while to play with white horses in the big sea; actually they were more like Shetland Ponies but just as lively.

As we swung North up Longa Isle a large air sea rescue helicopter hovered like a dragonfly exploring the cliffs as weswept round the headland with gusts of 26 knots swooping off the cliffs to entertain us. It was rough with breaking waves hissing alongside and the Genoa was pulling like a train. To the West the Hebrides refused to give up their secrets this morning, though pale blue rips in the sky cloth joined us and the air got warmer.

Yanny was engaged at tickover to keep the pies to temperature in the fridge; opposite Priest Isle corned beef on seeded brown with the ubiquitous Red Leicester with pickle went down well as a small cruise liner nosed out of Ullapool and ahead lay the cheerfully named Summer Isles!

The wind was now a baby of 9 knots, the seas no longer breaking and the air was warm as the headland before Enard Bay drew nearer, hunched low more crocodile than battering ram. The mountains towered imposingly in the East, Cal Beat ‘daddy of the pack’ illuminated in sunlight.

Team A-Jay found the hidden entrance to Lochinver, pushed in by the dying gasps of the evening breeze  The marina attendant asked why we hadn’t called – check your answer phone and listen on VHF I said. The haggis with whisky marmalade followed by venison went down a treat.  The waitress claimed to be unaffected by midges, something she put down to garlic and red wine – funny that! Kindred spirit.n

By ajay290

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