Well, here she is: not sailing the Minch, not riding to anchor, but tucked up in Dunstaffnage Marina at the end of the voyage. Phoebe, who joined me for the last week, and I were very lucky to get onto the mooring before the worst of the tail end of Bertha hit Scotland.
I met Phoebe on Sunday evening at Mallaig and together we took Coral back to Dunstaffnage near Oban where the voyage began in May. Highlights of the week were an exhilarating sail down to and past Ardnamuchan point; seals, jumping fish, porpoises; and above all two close sightings of white tailed eagle in Loch Sunart. Phoebe and I scarcely knew each other, and so had to negotiate space and mutuality within the narrow confines of Coral’s cabin and cockpit. I think we did this well. We talked about sailing and travel and illustrated children’s books (Phoebe is about to start a Masters in illustration). And while we didn’t rush, the focus of the week for me was getting Coral back to Dunstaffnage. We motored the last leg from Loch Aline to Dunstaffnage in pouring rain, and moored Coral safely alongside a pontoon.
So now the voyage is over, although the pilgrimage continues. I have been away a long time, too long in many ways, and although I am sure that as the weeks and months pass I will get a more balanced perspective, just now I really want to get home.
What stays in my mind? It is too early to be definitive, but forefront in my mind is my greater understanding and appreciation of the rocks which form this part of the British Isles; I realize more clearly that while we tend to see rocks and mountains as fixed structures in our world, that they are always themselves in process. The ecological phrase “Thinking like a mountain” does not mean that nothing changes but that the whole of creation is in process. Another important theme is my deeper appreciation of the silence of the world that underlies its noisiness. And I have been blessed with a few occasions when the boundary between me and the wider world has seemed permeable, even if momentarily. Not that much, maybe. Or from another perspective, a very great deal.
For the moment, I rest with feelings of sadness that this, probably my last voyage in Coral, is over. And of relief that I can now go home, that I no longer have to worry about the wind and the weather, whether the anchor is holding, and whether I have enough fresh milk for tea in the morning.
With thanks to everyone who has followed our adventures, ‘liked’ and ‘retweeted’ the blog announcements; to Steve and Phoebe for their companionship; and to Elizabeth for so gracefully accepting my absence from home at a difficult time.