“All ye need to know”

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From the Shiant Islands I sailed Coral to Loch Seaforth and then on to the North Harbour at Scalpay. I arrived there on Sunday afternoon and, on taking the dinghy ashore, found the usual noticeboard telling the visitor of the local attractions, but in this case also asking that you ‘respect the Sabbath’. And indeed, the houses of the community, lying between the north and south harbours, seemed effused with a silence and respect, so that I felt out of place even to be walking around. But this is a prosperous and hard working community, as was evident with the fishermen on the quay waking me at half past four in the morning, clearly well rested and ready to get to the week’s work.

I was ambivalent about where to take my meandering next. Part of me was called to the southern islands of the Outer Hebrides, the Uists, but more to the far southern islands like Barra and Mingulay; another part was called back to Skye and to the northwest corner I had not explored. I was also feeling I had been away from home long enough, seen more than I could digest. And I felt I should be at home, since Elizabeth’s aged mother was in hospital with an uncertain prognosis. Slightly grumpy and a bit confused, I decided to allow the wind to make the decision for me.

It seemed more of a performance the usual, getting going that morning. Maybe it was the comparison with the six, or was it eight, young French people on the neighbouring boat, who had more hands to do the work than was needed and were soon sailing away. As I hauled the anchor chain in it spread a very black and sticky mud all over the foredeck, and I had to leave the anchor itself hanging while I found the deck brush and cleaned it off. Then the dinghy had to be hauled on board–I had left if afloat in case I needed to deal with a snagged anchor–and various rocks and reefs to negotiate. And once I had done all that, the mainsail up and was ready to start sailing, it was clear that what wind there was was very light, and I needed rig the inner forestay and hoist the big No.1 genoa rather than just unfurl the working genoa. I seemed to be constantly on the go from cockpit to foredeck and back again.

For a while, Coral sailed elegantly across the unusually smooth waters of the Little Minch, making well over three knots toward the northern end of Skye. After all the struggle of getting things going this was delightful. And the decision about destination seemed to be made for me. But then the speed dropped to three knots, then two, and after creeping along for half and hour or so, none at all. Let it be, I told myself, there is plenty of daylight, we are not unsafe or uncomfortable. And so I allowed Coral to just sit there, out in the middle of the sea. No longer engaged in trying to get Coral to sail, I started to look around me.

The day was pleasantly warm with the southerly wind. Loose cloud covered much of the sky, with the sun shining fitfully through the gaps. The wind was even more fitful, ruffles on the surface promising some action but fading into nothing very much. Ahead, Skye was a dark silhouette; behind, bright sunshine picked out the outcrops of gneiss on Harris. Fair weather cumulus, maybe holding a touch of rain, was rising over the mainland and all the islands, showing the line of the Outer Hebrides from Barra to Stornaway, the tops of the mountains. The sea was quiet, but with undulations on the surface, like a dimpled mirror, throwing shallow reflections this way and that. In the far distances north and south the horizon where sea met the sky was not a razor sharp line, as I have described in an earlier blog, but diffuse and uncertain. Sea and sky were both an exquisite silvery grey so closely matched in tone so that the one merged into the other.

Gary Snyder writes of the ‘sacred’ as that which takes on away from one’s little self into the wider whole. This sense of the sea merging into the sky, the sky into the sea, of being held between two lands, did just that for me. This was all it took to drop my disappointment that the wind had faded and my wider concerns about what I was up to, and for a few moments to open my heart to a simple sense of wonder, a kind of ordinary ecstasy.

If I have learned anything in three long seasons of sailing ‘on the western edge’, of pilgrimage in search of a different kind of relation to the earth on which we live, it is that these sacred moments arise, often quite spontaneously and unexpectedly. And at these moments, ego concerns drop away and the boundary between self and world becomes as diffuse and uncertain as that horizon between sea and sky. The challenge, the creative opportunity, is quite simply to be open to these moments when they arise. If we can catch 10%, then maybe we are doing well.

That is what I now know, and, to add Keat’s insight to Snyder’s, maybe that really is ‘all ye need to know’.

However, and in case all this may seem to be too sweet and lovely, the rest of the day did not go so well. I did need to get somewhere by nightfall, and so I determined to motor on to Loch Dunvegan on northwest Skye. But I allowed myself to be deceived by the charming quality of the day, I didn’t do my pilotage calculations carefully, it was further than it seemed and the tide turned against me round the headlands. Silly and definitely unseamanlike, I ended up pushing for hours against the tide round a headland and anchoring very tired and cross with myself. I am sure the world around me still carried that sacred quality, but I became too wrapped up in my irritation and disappointment to notice.

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Puffins at the Shiant Islands

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In Spindrift I tell of my first encounter with a puffin off Bolus Head, my childlike response calling out “it’s a puffin! It’s a puffin!” As I steered Coral through the tidal popple at the north entrance to the bay at the Shiant Islands, my response was similar: I could see dots of white everywhere, and those wonderful beaks: as I wrote in texts to several people, it was as if the sea surface was littered with puffins. Very soon after I realized that the air was full of puffins too. Most of those afloat seemed to be juveniles, pufflets (puffins live up to forty years but do not mate for the first five years) while those airborne were clearly adults, tirelessly flying too and from to the fishing grounds to bring sand-eels to feed their chicks. These adults seemed so intent on their business that they often seemed not to see Coral, flying toward the mast and only diverting at the last moment and passing within feet. If the sea was littered with puffins, the air was full as if with a cloud of mosquitoes (If you look very closely in the picture you can see the dots in the air; otherwise, please imagine).

It is very difficult not to anthropomorphise puffins. They do look like well turned out but rather insecure and yet self-important people. As I took Coral slowly toward the anchorage, steering through the floating flocks, the pufflets would swim energetically ahead, looking anxiously from side to side as if to say, “I am not really bothered by this great white creature”, until we get too close. They can then either dive underwater or take off. The former is the more elegant choice, a neat flip takes them underwater leaving a patterns of ripples behind. The latter is a bit of a mess, because puffins, with their wings more suited for flying underwater, have huge difficulty in taking off. so they usually splashing frantically along with water, wings and feet flapping away, until they crash inelegantly into a wave.

Once I had Coral safely anchored and looked around, I soon realized that there were nearly as many razorbills as puffins. These are a slightly bigger bird, an auk, distinguished by a black beak with a white line across it, joining a similar line across the face to the eye. The razorbills seem on the whole less nervous than the puffins: I saw one swimming quite happily within a couple of yards of Coral, it seemed quite unfazed as I moved about the deck. When it decided to dive I was able to watch it turn tail up and one underwater open its wings to fly down beneath Coral’s keel.

There are, of course, other birds: shags, various gulls, kittiwakes, fulmars, guillemots, the odd gannet, and for me the most impressive, the skuas, big, heavily built seabirds, brown, with two white stripes on their wing. Again, my first encounter with a skua is recounted in Spindrift, when I watched one attack a gull and make it regurgitate its meal. Skuas are known as ‘kleptoparasites’ because of their habit is stealing food this way. I climbed the heights of Eilean an Tighe, and watched the skuas cruising above the flocks of puffins and razorbills looking for opportunities to pounce. I am sure they would quickly steal a puffin chick if given half a chance. I felt I could see a section of a food chain: sand-eels feeding baby birds and baby birds feeding skuas.

The Shiants are columnar basalt, the most northern remnants of the volcanic chain that stretches all the way south, through southern Skye, the Small Isles, Staffa, Mull to the Giants Causeway off northeast Ireland. These rocks, still looking as if recently thrust out of the earth, as so different from the ancient worn down gneiss of the Outer Hebrides and the Torridonean sandstone of the northwest mainland. The islands belong to the Nicholson family, and I enjoyed reading Adam Nicholson’s account of his life on the island in Sea Room: An Island Life. I spent almost two full days and one night at the Shiants, enjoying the spectacular scenery. But really just watching the puffins.

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Tourist or Pilgrim?

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I have been challenged to articulate more clearly the difference between the pilgrim and the tourist.

I think I articulated some of the yearning that I see as part of pilgrimage in my last blog: There is something about the mountains and rocks of northwest Scotland, seen from the sea, which pulled me strongly. I wanted, at least for a while, to bathe in their presence (‘dwell’, that good Heideggerian word, also comes to mind). I had the same kind of feeling with the mountains of Connemara rising out of the bogland last year. The mountains resonate with a sense of eternity, and evoke that good deep ecology maxim, “thinking like a mountain’.

I had a truly wonderful night in Loch Awe. The water was deep and calm, rising to a very high spring tide late in the evening. The seals lay on the rocks looking at me from time to time until the high water drove them away. In the far distance the Quinage ridge showed its different faces with the changing light. Late in the evening, the evening sunlight lit up the rocks so that they shone a deep gold, finally leaving black sillouettes against the twilight sky.

Next morning I left for Stornaway, 30 miles west across the North Minch. The wind was disappointingly patchy, despite the forecast. I arrived in heavy rain with poor visibility, got a bit lost at the entrance because I couldn’t see the markers but soon settled on a pontoon in the marina. Everything was soaked, the rain had even penetrated right through my waterproof trousers.

The following day, after dropping off two bags at the laundry I picked up a little hire car and made my way to the west coast. I wanted to see the Atlantic, I wanted to see the standing stones at Callanish, I wanted to see the golden sands at Uig. And so I did!

Elizabeth and I have always visited stone circles when we can, especially since were were introduced to the Merry Maidens near the tip of Cornwall. These circles carry a reminder, both physically and spiritually, of the ancient ways of being on these islands. We have participated in moving ceremonies at stone circles where we feel we have touched the Earth in a special way. Yet stone circles, especially the famous ones like Stonehenge and Averbury, are also magnets for tourism, so that any sense of the numinous buried, just as in an over-visited cathedral.

I found the Callanish stones particularly strange. The pictures I had seen showed tall, gaunt stones standing lonely against the sky, and I imagined them as being in a wild and remote place. Actually, they are set almost in the middle of a Hebridean settlement, modern houses of no particular beauty straggling across the landscape.

My visit was definitely a tourist experience. Go and see the stones, and marvel at them in a rather superficial way. Take some pictures. If you are with family, take pictures of your family against stone background. Otherwise, try not to get strangers into your pictures, try to take pictures that make the stones look appropriately lonely and wild. Wonder, again rather superficially, why they were put there. Then go to visitor centre for coffee and rather dry cake, wander round the shop and decide there is nothing you could possibly want to buy. Return to car and drive on to next place. This kind of visit doesn’t honour the old stones and it doesn’t honour oneself.

That is a slight exaggeration. I did spend time touching some of the stones, taking in the crystalline qualities of the gneiss rock; I did visit the other two, smaller, circles nearby and spend some quiet time. But there was nothing in the experience that ‘caught me’, and so I moved on, driving my tiny Nissan car like a rolling skate along the single track roads. I drove to the end of Great Bernera–done that; I drove to the Uig Sands–done that!

What I did see, and what I don’t think one would get a sense of without actually being there, was the extraordinary quality of this island, especially of the mountains rising in the south. I am tempted to use the term ‘bleak’ to describe them, but that feels to pejorative; ‘forbidding’ might be a better word–and indeed they do lie across between Lewis and Harris to the south traditionally preventing contact between the two communities. And yet, when I picked up a fragment to take home with me, I was delighted to see the contrasting bands of pink, grey, and white, and the glistening golden glow of embedded mica or quartz.

On the way back, just as I was fretting about too much driving, needing a cup of tea, feeling that my visit had left a sour taste in my mouth, I was struck by the enormous difference between such fragile, short-term, almost pathetic human sentiments and the immense endurance of these rocks, among the oldest anywhere in the world. I had to pull off the road and scribble something in my notebook in case I lost that fleeting insight–again, maybe, into a sense of eternity.

So it was a funny day. I was really pleased with myself when I got back to Stornaway and picked up my two bags of clean laundry.

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Rocks and Mountains

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It took all morning to get round the Point of Stoer. I foolishly congratulated myself, as Coral worked to windward at over 5 knots coming out of the Eddrachallis Bay, thinking we would be round in no time. But the wind dropped and soon we were scarcely moving, and when it did pick up again it had backed and headed us, so all the hard work we had put in getting to windward of the point was to no avail. In the end we passed closer inshore than I intended, so Coral had to fight her way through the choppy waters that swirled round the headland.

Once we were south of Stoer it was evident that my plans for a long leg south were over-ambitious: it was now late, and the wind was against us. I didn’t really want to go into the fishing port in Loch Inver again, convenient though that might be. But I remembered that the sailing directions mentioned a ‘small loch’, Loch Roe, just a mile north of the entrance to Loch Inver. There was a sheltered pool there where we might anchor. I checked the chart and turned Coral inshore.

The sailing directions refer to a high bluff which distinguishes the entrance; as far as I could see, the coast was full of high bluffs, and it is almost impossible to distinguish the entrance to a small loch against the background of grey rocks, which all merge into each other until you are really close in. I sailed past the entrance, nearly into Loch Inver, before I realized my mistake. Turning Coral round, and with the sails down approaching closer to the shore, I saw what I thought must be the entrance. There was the bluff of rock; there were the offshore rocks marked on the chart. Closer in, carefully motoring ahead ready to turn around at a moment’s notice, a little bay ahead opened up, a dead end, then a narrow gap opened to starboard between a tidal island and floating seaweed showing where there was an underwater a reef; and, of course, a litter of fishing buoys in the way across the surface.

So here we are, anchored in a deep pool with an almost vertical cliff rising above the cockpit to one side, and a line of rocks and islands sheltering on the other. But most important for me is that the ridge of mountains called Quinag is clearly visible across the top of the loch.

I have for the past few days been on a quest to get a good view of these mountains. I could see them in the distance from the Summer Islands; they loomed closer when I entered Enard Bay; I could clearly see Stac Pollaidh from Polly Bay; I got a good look at the cone of Suilven when I entered Lock Inver, but once I was on the pontoon the high pilings of the fish harbour got in the way of my view. I think I really sailed north around the Point of Stoer to get a closer look at Quinag, but by the time I got there they were covered in low cloud.

So here I am now, watching the pattern of clouds pass across Quinag as the sun drops down behind me. They are quite clear for a while; then, as the shadows lengthen, dark cloud obscures the line of the ridge. This range is of Torridonean sandstone, billions of years old and resting on Lewisian gneiss that is even older. I think I have got it right that the gneiss is along the foreshore, the tortured and bent grey cliffs, the lower rocks where the seals are resting polished by the passing of ice. The sandstone in the distance is clearly different, holding a distinct red tone.

Just what is it about these rocks and mountains that I find it so satisfying to see, to be in the presence of? Is it their size, their shape, rising as they do so directly from the basement rock? Is it that I know something of their age, how they were formed? Does this put me in touch with some notion of eternity? Are these mountains representations of archetypes in the same way I felt the Skellig Rocks of County Kerry carried an archetypal quality (although the Skellig Rocks are so much ‘younger’?). And if so, what do I really mean by archetype?

Beyond all that, is there something simply inconceivable about their age, their origins, their history. Maybe witnessing these mountains gives me some sense of eternity in the same way as looking at the stars takes me back to the origins of the universe? Or maybe I make too much of all this, and should be content to look at a beautiful landscape.

After a wonderful night in this wild place, I have crossed the North Minch to Stornaway on Lewis. I got very wet on the way across. Now on a pontoon, enjoying the prospect of civilization and fish and chips again!

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Sundown

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Sundown

Nine thirty in the evening I put aside my book and come on deck. The sun is just going down behind the peak of the island to the northwest, throwing a rich golden light onto the sandstone rocks that circle the anchorage. In the dark shadow below a heron stands motionless, poised to strike.

In the opposite direction the three-quarter moon is rising into a just-blue sky over the line of mountains on the mainland. The low sun highlights the ridges and casts the valleys into shadow, giving the mountains a dimensionality and body even though they are in the far distance.

The sky is clear apart from a few wisps of dark cloud over the peaks. The sea reaches calm all the way to the mainland shore, its tiny ripples casting a repeating pattern of dark shadows across the surface. The tide is falling, revealing the reefs at the entrance to this pool and uncovering the pale yellow coral beach, where an oystercatcher is hunting along the water’s edge.

A few gulls cry harshly; there is a twittering of land birds from the shore. The flag halliard rattles lightly against the backstay. Otherwise silence.

Night is coming, and yet at this time of year and at this latitude it will be scarcely dark, especially now with the near-full moon high in the sky.

And in the time it has taken me to scribble in my notebook and then type out these words, the sun has disappeared, the distant mountains seem to be in a greater light, the moon has risen higher and is more clearly defined in a darkening sky.

I am here on my own, floating on the sea as I have done nearly every night since late May. All that connects Coral to the sea bottom is 30 metres of chain. I am not far from the human world, but have few human distractions away from this closing of the day.

Summer Isles

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Summer Isles

I dropped the lines from the mooring buoy in Ullapool late morning, having replenished Coral’s water and fuel and topped up my supply of food. It was a bright day with a northerly wind, so I took Coral down Loch Broom in a series of short tacks from shore to shore. Once out in the broader waters of the bay making longer tacks, I began to study the islands to the northwest and work out out my route through them.

I was making for the Summer Isles of Tanera Mor and Tanera Beg–known as the ‘summer’ isles because this was where cattle were taken for summer grazing, just like Somerset in the south of England. Tanera is also derived from the Norse for ‘anchorage’ or ‘haven”–and of course these islands that appear so remote to a southerner have been the centre of much activity, both peaceful and violent, for thousands of years.

As I took Coral in now longer tacks across the bay, from the steep cliffs of Ben Mor Coigach to the north to the cone of Beinn Ghoblach in the south, I watched the islands changing shape, seeming to merge, then separating as the passage between them opened up. At the north end of each tack I could see south of Priest Island all the way to the headland Rubhar Reidh which I rounded in strong winds a week ago. Beyond the headland a long line of fair weather cloud marked the position of the Outer Hebrides–I remembered how it is said that the Vikings use the position of clouds to show where land lay. Underneath the cloud, misty blue in the far distance, I could make out the mountains of Lewis.

But more important was to learn the shapes of the islands in the bay and their relation to each other. Isle Martin was much more tucked into the mainland than I had imagined; I was confused for a while as Priest Island, Eilean Dubh and the skerries between them merged into one long mass of land; but that surely must be Horse Island on the starboard bow? I took the passage outside Horse Island but inside the Carn Skerries, tacking up the latter close enough to see the golden sands that join two of the skerries to each other. Once past Horse Island, I would be in the bay called The Anchorage on the east side of Tamera Mor…. but no, on the final approach the wind headed Coral and as I tacked to avoid the north end of the Horse Island I found Coral sailing now due west along the south side of Tamera Mor.

I was reminded of my theme of meandering; it suggested I might chose a different anchorage. Through the passage between Tamera Mor and Tamera Beg? Round the west of Tamera Beg and into the pool to its north and west? But the southern passage into the pool was on the port bow. It is shoal, with only half a metre of charted water, but at nearly high tide and a rise of over four metres there should be plenty of depth. Cautiously, with chart and sailing directions close to hand, I motored Coral toward what seemed like a very narrow gap. The leading line was clear–two headlands just touching–but it took us very close to the little peninsula of rock on the starboard side into order to clear the sunken rock to port. We crept forward, my eye flicking between the leading line and the depth sounder, but the passage was actually straightforward: never less than fifteen feet of water. After exploring several options I dropped the anchor just inside the pool in a little bay to the south of Eilean Fada Mor.

This islands are low, Torridonean sandstone showing pinkish in places, covered in peat with heather and bracken. It is their lowness that makes this a good anchorage–there is no danger of wind gusting dangerously down the side of a mountain. It is almost silent in this quiet weather, although there is a background hum from time to time which I assume comes from the fish farms nearby.

Is this wilderness? Of course not. These islands are visited frequently by fishermen and yachts; there is a regular tourist service on the Summer Queen from Ullapool; and just this morning two RIBs landed on the beach across from Coral. On the other hand, it is a place without facilities: no marker buoys, no moorings, nothing but the chart and the sailing directions. But it is not a place that is handed to you without skill, effort, and attention on your part. This is a place that needs to be learned, that one has to meet physically to learn the contours.

Waiting for the storm

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Waiting…. and then it comes!

I am anchored at the top of Loch Sheildaig, which is an extension of Loch Torridon. The sky has been deep blue all day and for the first time this summer I have been hot! The landscape round the loch has a magical quality to it, like one might expect to find in illustrations of fantasy adventure book by Tolkein. Huge rounded hills, great masses of rock, rise abruptly from a small strip of land by the water’s edge. At Sheildaig village a row of homely white houses are strung along the shore, utterly dwarfed by the hillside. Everywhere foreground hills overlap those behind which again overlap the misty ones in the far distance. A low finger of rock separates Loch Sheldaig from Upper Loch Torridon, so that as Coral passes at water level that low foreground and the higher background move past each other, revealing new perspectives moment by moment.

The hills–I learn from my geology book The Hidden Lndscape–are of an ancient sandstone that overlays the even more ancient Lewisian gneiss. At last I have learned where the phrase ‘Torridonean sandstone’, which is used a lot in my guidebooks, comes from: The Hidden Landscape tells me “the Torridonean sediments covered a Precambrian landscape floored by the Lewisian that was already ancient and eroded”. I am ever so slowly getting the hang of geological terms, wondering yet again why I did not learn any of this at school.

I am here partly because of the landscape, partly because I am seeking shelter and waiting…. while England is (I imagine) sweltering in sunshine, what the Met Office calls “a deep area of low pressure” is out in the North Atlantic near Iceland, and strong winds (gusting to Force 9) are forecast to sweep across the northwest tonight and tomorrow. I need to be in a secure anchorage on Wednesday to sit out the gale.

I spent last night in the upper loch but have moved. Partly because I was tired of the noise coming from a large fish farm in the middle of the loch; they really do industrialize an otherwise remote landscape. But I mainly moved to a bay where the sailing directions say offer good shelter and good holding for the anchor. And I am waiting. I can get hourly updates from the Met Office on my phone, but strangely enough, even now in the late afternoon there is little sign of a change of weather. The sky has been blue from horizon to horizon all day, apart from the clustering of fair weather cumulus around the tops of the hills. Now, when I look to the west, I can see what may be the high stratus clouds that would suggest a warm front is coming in and heralding the depression But the barometer remains high, even rising slightly through the day.

I have done what I can to prepare: I have made sure the anchor is well dug in, with plenty of chain; I have made sure there is nothing loose on the deck. But the sun still shines strongly, the wind is light, and so the waiting is a little surreal. Doubtless I will not think so in the middle of the night.

Wednesday morning

I was right. It wasn’t until about four in the morning that the strong winds came, gusting fiercely between the hills, throwing Coral one way then the other. I managed to keep dozing for a while, every now and the checking the transit I had noted–a telephone pole in line with the corner of the white house. The anchor seemed to be holding… and then around 5.30 I realized it wasn’t. The transit moved out of alignment, features on the shoreline began to move past each other. Coral was drifting sideways toward the middle of the loch.

After dragging warm clothes over pyjamas, I went on deck to sort things out. Once I got the anchor out of the water I found it had picked up an enormous bundle of weed, such I could hardly lift it even with the windlass. Once I had cleared this–lying on my belly with my arms over the bows pulling at stalks of slimy seaweed–I motored back into the bay and re-anchored. I tried with one anchor, then with two anchors, dragging out the huge cqr that I had never needed to use before from the bottom of the cockpit locker. Each time I hauled up the anchor–careful to wear rigger gloves and to pull with my legs rather than my back–I felt myself near the limit of my strength. Two or three times I reset the anchor, sometimes one, sometimes two. Nothing seemed to work, the big cqr seemed more of a nuisance than a help. Eventually I must have hit lucky and found a place on the bottom where there was no weed and some stiff mud. With extra scope from a rope anchor line shackled to the end of 30 metres of chain, we seemed not to be moving. All this was tough work, and each time I had to struggle with the anchor, a little voice in the back of my head said, “you can’t do this on your own”. And each time I found that, once I started, my head was clear, my body ready, and I did what is needed. The challenge was both alarming and satisfying.

Once settled, I sat in the cockpit and stared at my new transit–now lining the telephone pole with the second window on the house–as it moved this way then that, sometimes losing a sense of which way was which. In the gusts Coral was blown downwind of the transit so that I worried we were dragging again; but then in the lulls she moved back sedately into position.

In the lulls between the gusts, Coral lay still and the loch seemed quiet.There was a sudden stillness in our little bay, just the sound of the wind blowing the trees on the hillsides and the waves further out in the loch. Then, as if the wind was preparing itself, a noise started from afar, a kind of forewarning that another gust was on its way. When it came, it hit Coral with a wild shriek, shaking the rigging, heeling her over and blowing the bows round. I could not believe it would not pull the anchor out, or break the anchor line. But each time everything held and she swung back into line. Then another lull came.

Sometimes I found myself talking to the wind, saying, “That’s enough, please stop now”. Other times I tred to find a way to enjoy the wind, to be in tune with it, rather than fight it. If I tensed my body with each gust I was using energy I might need for real work. And of course the wind was just doing what it does, howling through the pressure difference between the low to the north and the high to the south.

Then the rain came: sheets of wetness blowing down the loch, soaking everything, reducing the visibility to a few hundred yards and forcing me into the cabin. But the rain was also a sign that the worse was over. Gradually the wind eased, the gusts faded away–not without a last few shrieks, but shorter, less intense. I found I had dozed off for a bit, and then, quite suddenly, it was calm, with even a few patches of blue sky.

That evening
The sea that was a turmoil of white water is now calm, stretching through the loch north west out to sea. The hills have reappeared from behind the low cloud, and once again give the place the appearance of an illustration from an adventure book. I am very tired and will go to bed early.

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