June 2008, Small Isles, Knoydart and around Plockton / Torridon / Portree
In retrospect June 2008 was generally a very poor month weather wise, and apart from a few days we seemed to spend most of it hiding from the worst of the winds and associated rain.
During a few days we spent in Tobermory, we caught up again with our friend Johnny in Daphne (Vancouver 34) and we also spotted the harbour's otter. One morning, Tim was most surprised to see an otter's head pop up in the water along side the pontoon while he was walking to the bakery for bread. It had a quick look around and them swam off but not in any panic or hurry. Later, we saw the otter again making a real pest of itself on the fuel pontoon. A fishing boat was alongside and obviously it had a wonderful fishy smell and the otter tried many ways to get aboard before having to be chased off by the fishermen. Apparently, the otter has been around for a few months and is quite fearless when it comes to getting an easy meal. You can pay good money to go on nature watching tours on Mull and not be lucky enough to see an otter!
We left Tobermory in lovely sunny weather, with a light southerly breeze which wafted us north to Muck. That evening there was a lovely pink sunset over Eigg. Eigg is very photogenic from all angles, last year our picture was taken from the west, the view below is from the south, and in "more pictures" is a view from the north, with Eigg impersonating a steam engine.
From Eigg we continued northwards to Skye and after riding out some strong winds in Isle of Ornsay we moved on eventually and spent a few days in the area north of Kyle of Lochalsh. We were struck by the resourcefulness of the locals in remote areas where shops are few and far between. Many things were put to uses for which they were not originally intended - this post box (left) in Toscaig for example.
Portree, the main town on Skye, made a good domestic stop, catching up on the laundry, the e-mails, and shopping; with the added bonus of sights like the gaff rigged cutter under full sail (right) on our passage over from Kyle.
It was then back to Kyle of Lochalsh to pick up our friends Ian and Jan Spalding for a weeks holiday. (Innisfree can be seen on the Lochalsh Hotel pontoon near the Skye Bridge in the picture below.) They were very brave, our boat is the ideal size for two people so it was very cozy with four! Jan was very sporting and volunteered to sleep in the pipe cot above Ian's bunk. This gave Ian very little head room in the berth below but was preferable to sleeping in the cockpit tent (in the rain) or on the floor! (see more pictures).
Thankfully weather was kind to us at the start of their week, and allowed us to get to Inverie in Loch Nevis for a couple of days. Inverie is supposed to be one of the most remote places in the UK as there are no roads to this part of Knoydart and you have to arrive/depart by boat. Saying that there were a surprising number of people around for such a difficult destination. Inverie has an excellent pub (The Old Forge) which is in the Good Beer Guide and a small post office/shop which stocks a very strange selection of goods - it was certainly the first place since we were in Brittany where we found a tin of snails! (Don't worry, at £5.20 per tin we left them on the shelf)
Our trip to Knoydart allowed Ian to bag the three Munroes and associated Tops on the Knoydart Peninsular. He didn't get much rest however, because as soon as he returned on the second day we immediately set off to a better refuge as the south westerly winds came in. This was a wet passage with a rolly sea and our guests soon found how quickly you can start to feel a little unwell in such conditions, but as soon as we were safely anchored behind the Isle of Ornsay (again!) all appetites returned as dinner was served!
This was the end of the favourable weather for the week and we spent the rest of it tucked up in Plockton Harbour (below), venturing out for day sails or walks in the local area. Our final evening with Ian and Jan was spent in the Plockton Inn where we had a delicious meal of local sea food prepared and smoked on the premises.
No sooner had they left than the real nasty weather arrived. We ran to a variety of places in Loch Toscaig, Loch Torridon and eventually back to Portree to find shelter. One night in Shieldaig, Loch Torridon we had to spend the night without sleep on anchor watch as the winds were gusting well into gale force and the strain on the anchor chain was considerable but it held. It gives you a lot of confidence in your ground tackle once you have spent such a night - nothing budged. The downside was that the anchor had buried itself well into the bed of the Loch and required some persuasion when the time came to move on.
While hiding from the weather, we received the wonderful news that Tim's sister, Stephanie had give birth to her first child on 22 June, 'Leo James', 6lb 8oz. So congratulations to her and Chris.
One thing that has struck us this year is the fewer number of yachts and tourists in general. The Scottish school holidays starts at the beginning of July so it will be interesting to see if the activity levels pick up. There is certainly a lot of property for sale and maybe the rising cost of fuel is affecting the tourist trade here in the far north.
The forecast for early July is much improved and we hope to move onto Gairloch and further north up Wester Ross over the next month.