Up the Sound of Islay
Up the Sound of Islay to Loch Tarbert
VIC 32 led the way out of Craighouse and we caught the last of the ebb and as we rounded into the Sound of Islay the chartplotter showed the tide was already flooding the way we were going; always desirable in waters where it can run harder against one the narrower the channel, up to 8 knots in places.
The Calmac (Caledonian MacBrayne) ferry had just docked at Askaig on Islay so we knew that as Zoonie was speeding along at 8.7 knots we would be past her before she moved away from the dock.
Our friend The Lady of Avenel was on the left, anchored in one of the bays of the outer loch, but we planned to go through some interesting narrows, Cumhann Mor, heading 090°, due East, with rocks all around, using transit lines set up by ‘Blondie’ Hasler (of WWII Cockleshell heroes fame) in 1960. I peered through the binoculars to try and see them, out of interest more than anything else since the transits are marked on the chartplotter, so it is just a case of eyeball navigation, looking all around us and double-checking we are tracing the line correctly. Rob favours more attention to the chartplotter, but I like to see the real situation most of the time and then double check with the digital chart. At last, I spied the tiny white painted rock pyramids set by the hands of the war hero. The upper one was in shade so the face was more grey than white and they could both do with a lick of paint, but they were accurate for a safe passage.
As we passed through to the inner lock the expanse of water opened up like North Minerva Reef in the South Pacific and 1000 yachts could anchor in there, but the entire area remined me of Bathurst Harbour, a remote part of SW Tasmania, where we spent a few fine days with our friends Bron and Ken, exploring the shoreline, Bron and me photographing just about everything that moved in the gentle breeze.
The far north east corner near a pier and bothy we felt was just too shallow, so we favoured the marked anchorage in the south west corner and the hook went into nice thick mud, making us feel secure for the expected blow.
Five other yachts came in within a few hours of our arrival and dotted themselves along the south shore in line with us as the wind was due from the south and we would be sheltered from the fetch of wind belting across the loch.
That evening I could feel the ancient beauty, the silence broken only by the gentle lapping of water on Zoonie’s hull, the colours and the smell of the heather seeping through my skin, taking over my presence and engulfing my spirits. Considered to be the most remote Scottish loch south of Ardnamurchan Point, another link to my intensely happy memories of Bathurst around the other side of the world.
On the rocky skyline red deer grazed while the sun made its downward passage to the western horizon. A thin place, connected through veiled boundaries to the past and future.
The dawn spread golden light across the sky and held the promise of a walk ashore. I saw a big bird on the top of the middle-distance crag. I looked through the bins and my hopes were raised. Furry thighs and the right shaped body and leg position, could it be an eagle? It took off and swooped downhill almost in an act of defiance, “No I’m the best jackdaw around!”
By way of compensation seven red deer were soaking up the warmth of the sun not far from the boat; four grazing and the others not ready for breakfast yet.
Clad in walking boots with gaiters in case of ticks and armed with cameras, water and unbounded enthusiasm we set off ashore. Estate workers had mowed a wide path around the shore leading to a boatshed, small clinker boat on the concrete ramp. A rock dam created a small lake for salmon and I wondered if the complexities of a salmon run were still used by any salmon, or if they had, as some put the effects of habitat destruction and loss of fauna for all the reason we know so well, simply ‘gone away’.
We had seen vehicle tracks going up over the nearby hills and decided the shorter grass would not only show a safe route clear of bog but also reduce the risk of ticks.
The views were as you see in the photos, I leave you to your own words for them.
Down by the lake again we followed the grass path around the shore and over a bridge and saw one good sized fish jump. If we saw one maybe there were more. There were also deer poo and tracks and oyster catchers calling to each other along the shore. What a place, we were so fortunate to bear witness to its beauty.
Later in the afternoon the wind and grey skies arrived engulfing us in rain and fog and our planned departure the next morning was in some doubt.
It blew hard all night and the morning brought more of the same. Rob raised the anchor while I lined Zoons up for the 270° bearing to get us out of there. The water swirled in pulsing masses of smoothness around Zoonie, playing games with the rudder and sucking around the rocks and ledges as it has for millenia, and in one of those unpredictable transformations as we moved out of the gloom patches of blue sky appeared and with a few minutes Zoonie was ploughing north westwards towards the south west corner of Mull and a tiny sound called Tinker’s Hole.
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