An Evening with family on Iona
Alan and Liz’s front garden lay across the narrow track from their modernised crofters’ cottage and its grassy slopes faced the Sound of Iona and so gave a perfect viewing point for all the goings on and comings and goings in the Sound.
It was a buzzing hive of activity when we wandered in from our visit to the abbey not only with bees busy on the many blossoms including fuchsia and montbretia but also with the final details being attended to for the week of family camping.
We sat on a wooden pew and plastic chairs to pass the time in the sun, getting to know everyone, little Ed making his discoveries of new found toys in the summer house and Joe planning a career in farming, and Thea thinking about and eventually going for a swim off their rocky beach.
We could see Zoonie’s mast on the other side of the concrete ramp, so we were keeping a watch over her of sorts.
Supper was soon brought out and laid on the folding tables and the evening continued, bathed in the warmth of the sun and of a family from far and wide relaxing together.
At a moment that presented itself in the form of people leaving their seats and moving indoors away from a host of midges, we took our leave and returned to our floating home full with the sense of happiness of having met with Liz, Alan and their lovely family.
The next morning, I stood in the cockpit doing my usual search of the horizon, looking back towards Tinker’s Hole and thought about our plan B, had we found the anchorage to be full. We would have had a look at a tiny south facing bay called David Balfour’s Bay (after Robert Louis Stevenson’s book ‘Kidnapped’). Its Gaelic name is Traigh Gheal and it would have sufficed for the night.
Robert Louis spent three weeks there in 1870, on the island of Erraid where the anchorages are located, inspecting the lighthouse engineering works of his senior family members and he used the bay as inspiration in his famous book. Just as an aside he wrote Treasure Island while living in Westbourne near Bournemouth, just a short distance from our southern family and a few miles from our new home in Wimborne, Dorset.
Another blow was on its way towards our cruising area from the Atlantic so we needed to move on from this exposed spot. We planned to anchor in Loch na Laithaich just around the corner on the north shore of the Ross of Mull. The road ran close by and we hoped to catch the bus to Fionnphort and the ferry back to Iona for more time with Liz and Alan.
I photographed camp Foulkes in the front garden as we passed but there was no sign of anyone. The loch opened up with the promise of shelter but Zoonie’s anchor would not grip and the thin mud dripped off the flukes like blood from a sword. We tried countless times and no doubt the hook would have gripped sufficiently in light or windless conditions, but that was not what we expected. Believe it or not, in the convoluted coastline with all its inlets right the way around to the Sound of Mull and Ardnamurchan Lighthouse, there were no places for us to hide. Either they faced the wrong way for the wind, or the bottom was poor holding or foul ground or there was insufficient shelter, so our only choice was to head for Tobermory on the north east tip of Mull.
On to Tobermory
The scenery was spectacular, the long dead level grassy terraces of the mountainsides, green and moist brown, stretched for miles, layered upon each other, easy grazing for the sheep and to our left the Island of Staffa with its basalt columns the Vikings likened to their homes built of vertical logs, was speckled with tourists wanting to hear the impressive acoustics from within Fingal’s Cave, its biggest sea cavern named by Sir Joseph Banks and made famous in Felix Mendelssohn’s Hebrides Overture. As we passed seven tripper boats hovered around the island while their passengers explored. Make hay while the sun shines, I thought.
very flat island with the hat in the middle is Bac Mor, one of
the Treshnish Group and otherwise known as Dutchman's Cap, I'll
leave that to your imagination.
Near the top west of the island of Mull is a pretty bay with a white sand beach and plenty of green pasture and native woodland. Clyde Puffers used to land here but as we passed a few folk enjoyed the beach and it looked like a place to return to; it was called Calgary Bay. It gave its name to Fort Calgary and then the city of the same name in Canada and David Tennant, of Dr Who fame and much more, traces his family roots back to the now ruined village of Inivea nearby, emptied during the Highland Clearances.
Sailing well and then motoring down the Sound of Mull as we turned Zoonie towards her destination and into the wind, it was apparent that many yachts like us were heading for shelter and by the time we reached the harbour the last buoy was taken up right in front of us. So we headed south east down Tobermory Bay to where I knew there was a delightful anchorage in Aros Bay from when I was last there as paying crew/passenger on the Jean de la Lune square rigger around twenty years ago, coincidentally at nearly the same time Rob was visiting on his motorbike holiday.
We found what looked like a visitor buoy and so picked up its chain. Within a few minutes five more yachts joined us, one on another buoy and the others anchoring in deep water close in to the shore. We were perfectly sheltered by lush native woodland all around us and had a fine view of the town about a mile away.
We were back in a familiar place to both of us, safe from the frontal system storming towards us and with the warm thought that we would return to see Liz and Alan again, once Zoonie is safely tucked up on Kerrera Marina, Oban. So it’s all good.
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