Log #16g Highland Lochs Part 4

August 25, 2000 in Log Series 11 - 19, Logs by Series, Series 16 Scotland, The Logs

Log #16g Highland Lochs Part 4

Written at Holyhead, Anglesey, Wales
Aug. 25, 2000
Covers the period June 26 to June 30

We left the beautiful Loch Scavaig at noon hour, under the indifferent eyes of many seals that surfaced to casually watch our exit from that mountainous encircled loch. We had a good sail for a couple of hours of the four hour journey to the fishing port of Mallaig. After doing a bit of shopping, and getting some money from a bank machine, we motored for an hour up into Loch Nevis where we secured to a mooring buoy off the Old Forge Pub near Inverie. It is reputed to be the most remote pub in the UK, as there are no roads coming into the isolated Knoydart  Peninsula, and water is the only access to this area. Along the shore were a half dozen homes, B & B’s, hiking and mountaineering outfitters, the pub, a community center, and the local manor, Inverie House, along about a one mile stretch of partly paved, partly dirt road, fringed with wild rhododendrons and infested with midges. Actually, we have been fortunate in avoiding the midges, which apparently are as bad if not worse than the mosquitoes and blackflies of Canada. They do not fly far, and boats at anchor or on mooring buoys do not get them. It is only when on land near bush that they are a problem. I think they are probably “wimps” compared to our blackflies in Northern Ontario.

The mooring buoys were free of charge if the crew was eating at the Old Forge. The food was good and the atmosphere friendly, including the occasional dog mooching around the tables. Down from the pub was a cairn commemorating the Seven Men of Knoydart, and recognizing the recent death of Archie MacDougal, the last survivor. (He wrote a booklet called “Knoydart The Last Scottish Land Raid”, published by Lyndhurst Publications.)

These are the men who made a land raid in 1948 to attempt to claim their crofting rights in Knoydart. The entire peninsula was then owned by a Lord Brocket, an admirer of Hitler. In the mid 1800’s there had been 1500 people in Knoydart, most of whom were shipped off to Canada in the “Clearances”. In 1948, after WW II, there were only 80 left. In an attempt to keep a viable community, these seven men staked claims, equivalent to crofters’ or squatters’ rights, on 65 acres each of unused arable land above Inverie. This was an attempt to draw the attention of the Secretary of State for Scotland to a proposed development plan, which would increase the population of Knoydart to 500 and help domestic food production for a hungry and rationed post-war Britain in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland. It was opposed by Lord Brocket, who wanted his large feudal fiefdom left fallow for deer hunting. Unfortunately the men caved in, hoping for a legal remedy through the courts rather than risking defying a court injunction obtained by Lord Brocket against them. The courts let them down, and nothing has been done for the development of this remote area for the people of Scotland. I find myself sympathetic to their plight, and can appreciate their dislike of the absentee English lords who depopulated this land, and still today resist its development for the disenfranchised successors of those Scottish crofters mercilessly displaced in the clearances of the mid 1800’s. Normally, I do not support defiance of government authority, but in this case I wish those men had continued their defiance for the sake of the Highlanders! I salute those men, and remembered their story as I looked at the cairn outside the community center, dedicated to them!

The moorings were quite comfortable, but I imagine they could be bouncy in a southeasterly wind, as there is a long fetch from that direction. An interesting phenomenon we noticed was the fantastic number of jellyfish. They dotted the water like a bad case of acne, thousands of round floating blobs saturating the water with their pale blue orbs. Fortunately we did not inhale any of them into our water filter. We have had one situation where our filter was blocked with jellyfish remains, and we had to blow them out of the intake and clean out the filter. Ugh! Some fishermen have commented on them as a hazard they face in pulling their lines and nets.

The next day, June 27, we left for Arisaig to pick up our new 10 hp Mariner outboard. It was there, but the gas tank had not been sent. We modified the hose connectors to use our old tank, and gave them an address in Stornoway in the Hebrides where we would be in a few days time. The engine seemed to work OK, except when I took it across the bay, it conked out. I exhausted myself pulling on the #x&#.. thing, until I realized I had accidentally pulled the emergency kill switch to “off”. This is a safety switch that can be linked by a long coiled cord to the operator, so that if he falls overboard the engine will shut off. I do not use this device, as it does not give enough freedom of movement in the boat, and I have never fallen out of an outboard motorboat in my life.

The new fuel tank arrived in Stornoway and I connected it up, discarding the old tank. However, starting the motor has been a major problem to the extent that at present I have to take the cowling off the engine and manually pull the throttle cable to get enough fuel to start it. This difficulty was not evident until after we had left Arisaig. Apparently the choke/idle switch is faulty and has to be replaced. I do not like the starting procedure anyway, as this switch is the only way to increase the fuel. The handle controls gearshift and throttle together, and will only permit starting in neutral. I cannot twist the handle to increase the amount of gas to start it, and if it does not start, I just have to keep pulling and hoping it starts. I have arranged for a Mariner dealer/mechanic to meet us when we go through the Menai Straits in a few days, to whom the only replacement switch in all of Britain has been sent via the US, to the Isle of Man (where we were last week), to the dealer in Wales, on the recommendation of a mechanic in Kip Marina in Scotland. Not too convoluted, eh? The engine itself, once going, performs well.

In Arisaig we had a chance to talk to several other boaters, including one gentleman from “Solitaire” who had lived in Vancouver for several years. He talked with us the first night, and the next day before we left he rowed over again in his dinghy to give us three or four large Canadian flags. He has had them since 1995, when Canada was in a fishing dispute with Spain. For a change, Canada took some direct action, seizing a Spanish fishing trawler, and created a bit of an international incident. During the dispute, many UK fishermen, opposing Spain and therefore supporting Canada, flew our Maple Leaf flag from their vessels. Some Canadian officials, seeing this, made Canadian flags available, and this gentleman was given several to distribute, and had a few left over. So Veleda is the beneficiary of Brian Tobin’s direct action against Spanish fishermen. Most un-Canadian, but then again, he is a Newfie. Well done, Brian Tobin! Thank you, “Solitaire”.

We left Arisaig in the early afternoon of June 29, and again, thanks to Murphy’s (Sod’s) Law the wind was against us as we went north towards the Isle of Skye and we had to motor into a force 5 to force 6 wind. We put in at Armadale Bay (actually only a slight indentation of the shoreline), carefully making our way in a beam sea through one meter high waves, to pick up a buoy only 50 yards off shore. There was no one around to advise us if this buoy was heavy enough, or if there was an owner who would need it, or if it was an acceptable visitor’s buoy. We spent a very uneasy, rolly night there. We were considering going ashore the next day to Armadale Castle, but were so unsettled by the continuing heavy waves that we left and continued our motoring into the wind, up the Sound of Sleat, past Mallaig and Knoydart, under the Skye Bridge to anchor in Loch Toscaig, across the channel from Skye. At least this loch was well sheltered against the north wind that continued to blow as we made our way northward, heading NNW toward Stornoway in the Outer Hebrides. ( A few weeks later as we were coming south, guess what? – We had to motor into a SW wind) We didn’t even launch Sprite here, but just stayed on board enjoying the quieter waters of this sheltered loch.