The skipper wanted to ‘sprong’ out but it was completely unnecessary; just a tug on the bow line and gentle reverse was all that was necessary to prise A-Jay from the pontoon.
Lief in his svelte Swedish lady led us out but soon fell behind as the physics of too few horsepower, heavy boat and wind on the nose took its toll. The RAF kindly scrambled several fighters to see us off and soon Team A-Jay’s geriatrics settled down to coffee and books in the run up to elevenses.
It was critical that we arrived at the 2 choke points into Inverness, the Chanonry narrows and Kessock Bridge with the tide but we had a reasonable time window and hoped Lief, following behind, would manage – he did, in his unflappable laid back way.
The coastline was low lying and in places slices of sedimentary rock layers were sandwiched between harder metamorphic. Time and the elements had blasted caves out of these softer sedimentary layers, the sight of which had the Second Mate in raptures. Far out to sea the pencil thin red racing machine that had also left with us, powered back and forth on long tacks, lee gun’l awash despite the light wind.
Long sandy beaches lined our route, the sun joined us and far ahead Meccano like oil installations squatted in the Cromarty Firth and the last of the snow streaked the mountains, like a fading comb-over. Margo puttered past, no visible sign of human life aboard followed by a neat Halberg Rassey, whose skipper’s thoughts also seemed focused on elevenses. Astern Lief seemed to be going backwards.
Crossing North of the Riff Bank and then on to Chanonry, the depth hovered scarily between 3.5 and 8 metres, which felt wrong in the middle of what appeared to be a typical bottomless Firth.
At Chanonry a crowd had gathered excitedly to watch feeding dolphins and a little later, Team A-Jay popped out from under the Kessock Road Bridge at 8 knots and swung hard to port for Inverness Marina, where the skipper became geographically embarrassed, missing the marina completely.
Lief arrived later in the middle of a rain storm and we joined him and Rose aboard their trim Swedish lady that evening, to help them consume the mackerel they had caught. Outside the rain came down and the wind keened in the rigging, but neither could drown the sound of laughter from the cosy warm cabin. We bid them farewell next morning.
Why is it that sausages ALWAYS lie in the pan burnt side down, toast lands marmalade side over and, no matter how hard I try, plugging in the tablet charger always fails first time. Pondering such matters as the breakfast cooked, prior to introducing the Second Mate to the delights of crispy bacon with a dash of marmalade, the skipper realised that several other ‘doh’ moments could be added to the list.
Indeed, this list seemed to grow almost daily at times; showering 400 metres from the boat and discovering no towel and heading out to buy bread and milk, returning instead with Practical Boat Owner; I could go on. The second mate muttered something about age, which the skipper took as a compliment.
It was a long hike to Tesco and back, which set the skipper thinking, as he eyed the river. Perhaps a trip to town in the dinghy would be an idea… except for the rapids. Picture upturned dinghy, pack of softies floating upstream, whilst the skipper dived frantically to retrieve the hair restorer from the river bed.
The second mate jumped ship today, much to his relief no doubt though Team A-Jay will miss his presence. A-Jay will remain at her ease for a week or so, whilst the skipper attends the wedding of his niece. In the meantime the skipper has work to do to ensure the boat is ready for a ‘Royal’ visit after the wedding.