A couple of boats packed with tourists watched us ride the current through Corryverkan without a mishap. Two whales were feeding on the other side. A gale forced us into narrow Tinker's Hole at the bottom of Mull. We carry a 300 foot spool of half inch spectra line on a spool that is lashed to our swim platform hand rails. We used it to run a line to shore to keep us from swinging into the rocks and sat out the blow in comfort. Loch Scavaig was our next stop. It is on the southern shore of Skye is one of our favorite anchorages. It is well protected behind a barrier island, abuts soaring peaks and has a hiking and rock climbing in the loch just behind the first mountain. We stayed two days and must go back.
Today we visited Talasker Distillery in Loch Coruisk. It is possible to sail to fourteen distilleries in the Highlands. Our tour guide told us Talasker won the 'best whiskey in the world' award last year. I assume this is like our visit to the 'Fortune of War' pub in Sydney which bills itself, along with three other pubs, as the 'oldest pub in Sydney'. We did not buy the particular $ 90 vintage that won the prize. We settled for the entry level bottle at $52 and will sip it.
We are in Scabster, a fishing port at the top of the mainland. We have just returned from dinner on shore at the "Upper Deck", a typical Scottish place serving steak and fried fish and chips. After leaving the Isle of Skye we moved back to the east coasts of Harris and Lewis in the Outer Hebrides. These are rocky barren treeless islands. People get by on fishing and tourism. Clan gatherings are a constant draw as we saw for the MacNeil's.
We were the only rider on a bus in Harris, the home of Harris Tweed. The driver told us it costs more to shear the sheep than the wool will fetch. The population of the island is shirking and aging.
We left Scabster early so we could cross the 50 miles to arrive at the Eynhallow Sound at slack water. We just missed it but sailed on as the current built against us. We were soon sailing backwards. Worse yet, the swell from the ocean was bucking against the outgoing current and a wall of breaking seas was growing behind us. We powered up the engine and at full throttle were able to go through the water as fast as it was running against us. Jean readied the anchor and was ready to drop it to keep us from being swept into the breakers. Finally we were able to inch forward and eventually got out. The Westray harbormaster told us that another boat had been caught earlier in the year and had dropped the anchor. The waves flooded the boat and sunk. The sailor had drowned.
Unlike the Hebrides, these fertile islands can support an agricultural economy. Their history was been as much tied to the Vikings as to the Scots resulting in an independent spirit. The largest island is called the Mainland. The islands have been continuously occupied since before history and excavated dwellings and tombs go back to the Stone Age.
There are few sailboats here and the local people are as interested in us as we are of them.
Stromness' cobblestone streets and brownstones house a large artist community for such a small town. They come for the light. A photographer told us he does all of his work in the winter. He can sleep late and still get up to capture the warm glow of the dawn. He has lunch and captures the stunning sunset and then settles down in his darkroom.
Stromness is a Mecca for divers. At the end of WWI the captured German Fleet was scuttled in Scappa Flow, the body of water ringed by the southern Orkneys.
Our plan to return to Oban by the Caledonian Canal was ruined by the weather. A contrary wind out of the east was upgraded to a gale. It is late in the season and so we retraced our path around Cape Wrath, the north west mainland of Scotland. Getting a weather forecast has been a challenge. The Coast Guard has been on 'industrial action' as pressure for a wage increase. The broadcast includes gunnery activity by the Navy practice range at Cape Wrath. We used binoculars to scan for red warning flags. We did not see any and dashed across the fifteen mile long blast area.
Onora sits on a cradle between a large storage area and a steep hill. It is a relief to have her out of the water. Getting her out was a bit tricky. The travel lift must go down a ramp and into the water to lift boats. Our was concern about the depth of the water and the strength of the wind. When we first visited Oban in July we met with Neal, the operations manager. We needed a high tide late in September. The tide tables showed that the spring tide on September 29th at 7:00PM would be high enough to allow the travel lift to slip under Onora's still floating keel.
A front came through late yesterday afternoon with rain and cold storng winds. Neal drove the goal posts of the lift into the water as Jim aimed Onora through the cross winds. The first pass was aborted but the second scored and out she came.
We are heading home. We have left four projects for Neal to do over the winter.