Knoydart to Mallaig under the Skye road bridge, May 2017

It was hot and sunny, with very little wind, poor weather conditions for sailing, but perfect for the end of a wonderful holiday.  Someone used the windlass to pull up the anchor, and I was pleased not to be asked to stand in the dark room with a whiff of diesel, helping to coil the anchor chain so I didn’t get snagged.  Instead I sat on the boat with a cup of tea and some toast, looking at the breathtakingly beautiful scenery.  I have never been to Skye, just around it by boat.  I want to return sometime to walk there.

As we approached the Skye road bridge I wondered if the mast would fit underneath it.

Of course there was plenty of room!  Soon afterwards someone spotted a sea eagle flying from Skye towards the mainland.  It flew high in the sky and fast.  I wouldn’t have known it was a sea eagle, the wing span was huge, but it moved very quickly.  There are far worse things to do than to admire beautiful scenery from a boat on a hot sunny day.

When it was too soon, we were back in Mallaig.

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Mallaig harbour

I went for walks around Mallaig, waved goodbye to new friends who travelled on the Jacobite Express old steam train, and sat on a stony beach to watch the sun set over Eigg and Rhum.

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Sailing from the Shiant Isles to Loch Torridon, Knoydart peninsular walk, May 2017

We left the Shiant Isles in fog and rain.  The basalt cliffs felt even more mysterious and eerie than they had the previous day.  We had to return to Mallaig by the end of the week so sailed around the far side of Skye.  We had seen the island on and off for several days.  The skilful skipper goose winged the sails so they were on either side of the mast, the main sail on one side and the jib on another.  When the sails were no longer goose wing, and there were two reefs in the main sail, I was asked to take the helm.  There was a strong wind and a little turbulence from side to side and I was steering, rather badly, using a combination of a compass bearing and trying to find a dark grey shape on the horizon which was land instead of the lighter grey shapes on the horizon which were cloud formations.  Did I take the boat off course a little?  I think I might have done.  This was only my second time on the helm, soon after my first attempt, several days earlier, we had spotted dolphins swimming across the bow of the boat and someone had kindly taken the helm from me so I could kneel down near the bow and watch the dolphins.  The water was so clear that I could see them swimming under water.  Unfortunately I didn’t have my camera with me that day. Loch Torridon, village with a pub!

We had a long sail to Loch Torridon.  The skipper’s wife is a talented cook and made apple cake for everyone while we were sailing.  It was delicious.  On other days she had made bread and soup while we were sailing.  On one of those days the boat was heeling over a lot so the bread hadn’t fully risen, but it was still very delicious!  After a long sail in oil skins we saw a change of scenery.  Instead of the angular edges of the basalt cliffs of the Shiant Isles, the Torridonian rocks created a much gentler, more rounded landscape.  I was delighted to see that we were anchoring close to a village with a pub, but because of being sea sick on my first long sail, decided not to drink while I was on holiday.  We anchored near a small island, and there was a wonderful sound of birdsong.  I spent a lot of time on deck looking through my binoculars for sea eagles and otters as I was told that they lived near the island, but didn’t see any.  I went ashore in the dinghy to the pub instead!  On shore a tiny canon was pointing at the boat.  I tried to take a photo but the camera on my phone didn’t work.  After several days on the boat I was used to the rocking motion of the sea.  The land felt as if it was moving slightly.

The following morning was hot and sunny.

Loch Torridon, Island

Island in Loch Torridon

There was very little wind and we used the engine.  It was hot and we didn’t need to wear oilskins to protect ourselves from cold wind. We anchored near the Knoydart peninsular agreeing that in the sunshine Scotland is the most beautiful place in the world.  We went ashore by dinghy, up a vertical ladder on a small jetty, divided ourselves into groups of runners and walkers.  I joined the walking group.  I was surprised how much effort I seemed to need to walk up the road, but after a few minutes of walking turned behind to look around and realised how high we were.  My camera battery was flat.  We walked on the very quiet road for three hours, walking slowly because it was so hot, and the views were stunning.  A woman driving a post van passed us twice but we only saw a handful of other vehicles.  Around every corner were more stunning views.  What a gorgeous place the Knoydart peninsular is.  There were small streams which my companions drank from, the water looked clear.  We walked past white houses, passing a jetty to which the boat was moored, and to the busy pub.  The holiday was coming to an end, this was to be our last night on the boat and I had had a wonderful walk. DSCN0391

 

Mallaig Harbour to Soay by boat and on to South Uist, 20th and 21st of May 2017, my bucket list.

Mallaig harbour

I love walking by the coast, walking on a beach and looking out to sea.  I also like to be on a boat looking across the water towards land.  When the sun shines in Mallaig the water at the edge of the harbour is turquoise and transparent.  I boarded the boat, unpacked, drank a cup of tea in the main cabin and met the lovely people who were to be my sailing companions for the next week.

I put on my oilskins and lifejacket and we cast off, setting sail for Soay, a small island near Skye.  I didn’t look very glamerous in my turquoise wellies, red life jacket and yellow waterproofs.  I sang the Skye boat song to myself while we were sailing.  I didn’t do much to help and was mainly taking photographs and talking to people.

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We anchored near Soay, but it was stormy at night time and the boat rocked violently a few times and not many people slept well.  Over a delicious breakfast the skipper agreed to let us anchor in a sheltered loch the following day.  It was on my bucket list to visit the Hebrides, but as I’d only taken one instead of two sea sickness tablets I ended up clutching a bucket!  We had a rough crossing, but it was so exciting to see the beautiful islands from the sea, and although I felt unwell I was also very happy.  It was cold and raining but my oilskins kept me dry.  After a long sail we reached Loch Eynort on South Uist. I was unable to help with anything on the boat, and noticed a dramatic change in how I felt when we moved into calmer water in the loch.  The dinghy was launched and we were able to go ashore.  I didn’t walk far, but it was lovely to walk through ferns and bluebells and to be ashore looking at the lovely scenery.

Loch Eynort, South Uist, HebridesLoch Eynort, South Uist, Hebrides

I ate a delicious meal and felt cosy in my cabin, being gently rocked to sleep by the motion of the waves.