Log #16f Highland Lochs Part 3

August 19, 2000 in Log Series 11 - 19, Logs by Series, Series 16 Scotland, The Logs

Log #16f Highland Lochs Part 3

Written Aug. 19, 2000
At Port St Mary, Isle of Man
Covers the period June 21 to June 26

After four enjoyable days in Loch Moidart we weighed anchor, June 21, going behind Riska Island this time on our way out and were bid farewell by a few curious seals that watched our exit past their colonies. Three hours later we were wending our way through the “perches” going into Arisaig. “Perches” are more sophisticated forms of “withies”, green or red poles stuck on significant points of land and shoals to guide boats into and out of harbour. “Withies”, if you remember, are sticks and branches stuck in the mud along the shallow English east coast streams to indicate the deeper channels at low tides. Apparently the entrance to Arisaig was quite daunting before these perches were installed. Now, the entrance poses no difficulty in daylight and reasonable visibility, as long as your chart or pilot has the “perches” updated.

We picked up a mooring buoy, then went in to Arisaig Marina in Sprite to get its outboard looked at, and also our anchor windlass which has totally seized up. The people there were quite friendly and gave us a small 3 hp engine to use on Sprite while our old 10 hp Johnson was in for repairs.  Unfortunately the outboard was not worth repairing, as it was so badly corroded that things were breaking off instead of being able to be unscrewed or properly removed. We were not surprised and started asking about used ten horsepower outboards. They had a fifteen Johnson that was too heavy for Sprite , but also had a new 10 hp four stroke Honda at a good price. OK, we tried it, but being a four stroke, it was too heavy for the dinghy. The only choice was to go new! They were able to order a new Mariner 10 hp to be delivered in three days, at what seemed to be a reasonable price. We did not have much choice as we needed a reliable 10 hp outboard. We found, for the few days we used their 3 hp loaner, that it had too little power for the kind of all weather, long distance, and potentially heavy loads and heavy seas in which we use Sprite.

So we left on June 24, using their loaner on Sprite, wending our way out the perches, only to be fouled by a fishing float with a long rope line that caught in our rudder, in a very narrow part of the channel. The stupid fishermen that would let their floats go into restricted channels deserve to lose their lines. We could not free it with a boat hook and did not want to risk drifting out of the channel, so I cut the $#%& …thing free. We are just thankful it did not foul our propeller; then we would have been in big trouble.

Once clear, we motored across the sound past the Isle of Eigg to the Isle of Rum, the largest of the four Small Isles south of the Isle of Skye. The others are Canna and Muck. Rum is now owned by Scottish Natural Heritage. We anchored in Loch Scresort, in the center of the bay, not far from the jetty. However, it was quite rolly there, and we relocated to the north side, a few hundred yards off Kinloch Castle, a well preserved late 19th century castle of “extravagant Edwardian opulence”, and open to the public, complete with all its period furnishings and works of art. The servants’ quarters are now a hostel, in which we were able to get hot showers at very economical prices of £1.00 each, including towels! A laundry was also available and reasonably priced. For you non-sailors, happiness for cruisers is the ability to have hot showers and do laundry. We also arranged to have breakfast the following morning in their dining room, with big game trophies overlooking us. That evening we attended an interesting lecture in the nature lab on the geological, natural, and human history of Rum.

Incidentally the name Rum has nothing to do with the drink, but is of pre-Celtic origin meaning “wide island” or “Isle of the Ridge (mountains)”. In 1794 there were over 400 inhabitants, but over 300 were moved off to Canada in the clearances of the early 1800’s. Today there are only 26 people living there, mostly those who work for Scottish Natural Heritage. It was interesting to go for a hike through the glen over to the remains of the 18th century settlement of Kilmory. En route I saw the shaggy Rum ponies, and a few of the herd of red deer.

That evening we were visited by a chap from a Westerly 38 who was having starter problems, and assumed that since we sailed all the way from Canada we should have some knowledge that might help him get his starter going properly. From his description of the problem, a clicking sound when he tried to start, it sounded like a low battery. He was sure his batteries were up, but checked them out and sure enough it was a faulty battery connection. He was very grateful for the suggestion and had us over for drinks and dessert later that evening.

We left Rum at 1445 on June 25, to arrive three hours later at the most dramatic and spectacular anchorage of our trip, Loch Scavaig on the west coast of Skye in the middle (literally) of the jagged peaks of Cuillin Mountains. As we approached the loch, past the Isle of Soay, known for its shark oil fishery in the late 1940’s, we were intimidated by the gigantic barren hillsides, their immensity highlighted by a solitary house above the tidal flat. As we entered between the islands and shoals, several of which had large seal colonies, we had to crane our necks up to see the 2900 foot peak of Gairsbheinn, and two more mountainous peaks surrounding the pool behind Eilean Glas (Green Island). Here we anchored, a miniscule sail, insignificant below these three 2000 foot peaks. Again, a solitary white mountain climbers’ hut on the rocky shore accentuated the gigantic dimensions of the surrounding peaks. A hundred yards from the hut a stream shimmered across the smooth rocks from Loch Coruisk only a hundred feet higher than the pool in which we were anchored, spilling its freshwater overflow into the glorious Loch Scavaig.

We had the small pool, called Loch na Cuilce, less than 300 yards in diameter, to ourselves for a few hours before two other boats anchored. Our anchor held well, but the others had a difficult time setting theirs. Firm holding was necessary as there were periodic violent downdrafts from the mountains creating mini-squalls to pitch the boats around on their anchors. We took Sprite with its small 3hp motor out to the entrance to get a better view of the seal colonies. The seals were shy and scooted into the water if we came too close. Then they would sporadically surface with an unconcerned manner to check out our intrusion into their waters. We drifted for half an hour with the engine off, enjoying their bobbing up and down as they surfaced, looked at us, and after varying lengths of time silently slid backwards below the surface as if we were not worth bothering about.

There was a constant white noise from the several streams cascading down the mountain sides, shimmering silver laces trailing down to the water’s edge. The sun set early in that chasm, but highlighted the western face of one of the peaks in a hauntingly clear yellowish glow as the shadows crept up the precipice, extinguishing the light of day until just the peak radiated a final clarity before being darkened by the shadow of Gairsbheinn.

The next morning we hiked over to Loch Coruisk, fed by the several mountain peaks surrounding it. The distances in mountains are deceiving as the space just opens up, and a peak a mile away looks like a short hike. Ha! We wandered along the shore, but only for a short distance before returning to Veleda and setting off past the sentinel seals to the fishing port of Mallaig (for money to pay for our new engine as Arisaig Marine did not take VISA). This sail was enjoyable as we were under spinnaker only, for 90 minutes of the four hour journey, only the third or fourth time we have been under sail since landing in Scotland almost four weeks ago.

More about our trip to the most remote pub in the UK and our new outboard in the next log.