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Archive of entries posted on May 2012

Scapa Flow

Longhope Lifeboat Museum

Longhope Lifeboat Museum

Robin of Longhope

Robin of Longhope

It was a relief to get away from the din in Scrabster harbour. Yachts are apparently tolerated rather than welcomed – in a virtually empty fish dock we and another yacht were instructed to raft up together immediately astern of a rather dilapidated fishing boat, whose engine hammered away constantly during our stay. There are also extensive development works underway, including dredging at the harbour entrance with a huge grab crane dumping spoil into hopper barges round the clock. After clearing Dunnet Head we could see a fog bank in the east of the Pentland Firth, but this dispersed over Scapa Flow before our arrival at Longhope, where we tied up in the corner of the small harbour. The lush greens of Orkney glowed in the hot sunshine, which prompted the first venture into shorts this trip. Longhope is on South Walls, which was an island until joined to Hoy by a causeway separating Aith Hope and Long Hope. This afternoon we walked the seven miles to Lyness, an abandoned wartime naval base, and took the the ‘last’ ferry back. This involved return trips to Houton on the Mainland (of Orkney) and Flotta (with massive oil terminal) before the ferry returned to its overnight berth at Longhope. We certainly got our money’s worth!

Round Cape Wrath

Old Man of Stoer

Old Man of Stoer

Foinaven from Kinlochbervie

Foinaven from Kinlochbervie

Cape Wrath

Cape Wrath

After the break, we returned to Lochinver by a long but enjoyable bus journey via Inverness and Ullapool. The sun shone, the hills stood out sharp against a blue sky and the scenery was magnificent. An early start saw us up past Stoer Head and Handa and into Kinlochbervie by early afternoon. Later we had a chance encounter with Elaine and Mark, who had kayaked up from Handa. They are great adventurers, and the Skipper knew Elaine from the Everest trek in Nepal four years ago. We enjoyed their company over a drink and blether in the cockpit in warm evening sunshine. The following day we rounded Cape Wrath, passing Sandwood Bay with its sea stack Am Buachaille, and close under the lighthouse on the Cape. It is one of the main turning points on the West Coast along with the Mull of Kintyre and Ardnamurchan Point. We had intended stopping at Talmine at the mouth of the Kyle of Tongue, but the fine weather induced us to continue to Scrabster, ready for a short crossing to Scapa Flow in Orkney.

Wester Ross

Low Water - Strath, Gairloch

Low Water – Strath, Gairloch

Coigach Hills

Coigach Hills

On a bright morning, with heavy frost covering the deck, we left Loch Shell to cross the Minch to Gairloch – an uneventful trip apart from sighting a minke whale. We tied up at the Flowerdale pontoon and walked along to Strath, visiting the excellent book/coffee shop. A walk up Flowerdale to the waterfall – reduced to a trickle after weeks of dry weather – sharpened the appetite for dinner at The Old Inn. Before leaving Gairloch we discovered that the spare diesel drums had not been filled before leaving Dumbarton, so what was left in the tank would probably be enough to just get us to Lochinver, but without any margin for safety. With the harbour now unmanned we had to make a sortie to the filling station to buy road fuel – and at a price! It was a long, lumpy trip up to Lochinver against a swell kicked up by the persistent northerlies but we got there in late afternoon – the first visitors of 2012 to the pontoons. There will now be a break in blogging while we go home for two weeks to pursue other activities.

Summer vs Winter

The Shiants

The Shiants

Summer Hailstones!

Summer Hailstones!

After spending a night at Loch Maaruig, off Loch Seaforth, we went up the latter as far as navigable to climb Guainemol and Muithabhal. Back aboard, we were suddenly closely overflown by a tight group of vintage aeroplanes, three from WWII and a WW1 biplane. In response to our waves we got a waggle of wings and a burst of coloured smoke. That night was spent behind Eilean Hingerstay in Loch Claidh. Today, in beautiful weather, we went further north, passing the Shiants on the way to Loch Shell, where we met an extended wintery shower. Back in sunshine, we dropped the hook in Tob Eisken – a nice spot with with well-maintained lodge, grounds, estate houses and cottages. Short wintery showers persisted, but did not prevent the ascent of Feirihisval. During dinner a sudden blatter of large hailstones allowed a wintery photo to contrast with the morning’s summery one. We will not go up to Stornoway on this occasion, as the inner harbour is closed for dredging, and will probably cross the Minch to Wester Ross from here.

Chance Encounters

Primroses

Primroses

In continuing excellent weather we returned through the Sound of Harris to the east coast by way of the Stanton Channel off Leverburgh – much more straightforward than the Cope Passage. Off Loch Finsbay we saw a lifeboat inshore of us, and later learned it was taking up station at Leverburgh that day, welcomed by much local celebration. We anchored in sheltered Scalpay north harbour in mid-afternoon and basked in the cockpit as the temperature rose to reach 86F at 7pm! We then had a surprise visitor – friend Angus from home (of musical and sailing connections) who was staying with relatives in the village, and took us to visit them. Another surprise awaited us next morning in Tarbert as we transferred on to the bus for Stornoway. We bumped into lifelong hillwalking friend Andrew, who was returning to Inverness from a visit to Harris and a trip out to St Kilda. In the evening we had Chrissie (nursing friend of the Mate) and Bob aboard for a drink. They divide their time between houses in Glasgow and Scalpay.

West Coast of Lewis

Loch Tamanavay

Loch Tamanavay

Tahaval from the bealach

Tahaval from the bealach

We passed westwards through the twisting Cope Passage of the Sound of Harris, finding all the buoyage missing from half way through – not sure whether the change is temporary or if an alternative route has been buoyed instead. We were well prepared, with the full route already set up on the chart plotter. After rounding Toe Head we passed Taransay then through Caolas Scarp – only 5ft clearance at HW Neaps. We anchored at the head of Loch Tamanavay (english corruption of gaelic corruption of original norse) where the Skipper nipped up Griomaval 1631ft before dinner. There followed a big day, climbing Cracaval, Mealisval and Tahaval under a hot sun, but rewarded by great views all round. Bare rock abounds with intervening springy turf and moss, tussocky lower down but thankfully not much heather.