Its funny how things have changed in such a short amount of time. In times past we would have gone to a fishmongers for seafood, now we go to the shoreline; we used to just download maps of the internet to find out where to go, now we beg and borrow charts from unusual places; we used to go where we were told or needed to, now we literally go where the wind blows us; we used to turn up the heating if we were cold, now we put on more clothes and simply laugh it away. Life is good on Ruffian and we are coming to appreciate both the things we have now and the things we had then.
When we left Southampton all those weeks ago the port of Arisaig marked our most northerly goal. Once here we would simply start heading south and exploring the places we missed on our way up. We therefore wanted to make the most of our time at Arisaig; the sun was shining and the tide was out, so off we went off in Thug for a mammoth dingy safari and a shoreline scavenge around the rocks and skerries that we avoided on our way in.
The skerries off Arisaig are amazing, it feels like you are on the moon when you get off your dingy, with rocks and beaches that are only uncovered for a couple of hours a day and which have hardly felt the touch of man. Only this is a moon where there is seafood everywhere, we picked up clams, muscles, scallops and oysters at every turn. What was the food of kings was literally being handed to us on a plate. We took just what we needed and no more and headed home, once we'd managed to relocate Thug as we'd lost him in the myriad of inlets and only after the tide had started to flood.
Whilst out in the islands we spied a very brave yacht expertly navigating through the shallows and making an early entrance into the harbour. The camera clicked away as we felt this bravery deserved some recognition. When we returned just next to Ruffian, was a local boat called 'Cluaran Dubh', over we went and introduced ourselves and told our story. This was going to be another remarkable Arisaig meeting. As we outlined that this was our most northing and we had no more charts, Euan, simply offered to loan us his that he'd not be using for a couple of weeks. It is this sort of unwanting generosity that we are finding abound in Scotland and is quickly returning our faith in humanity. Many thanks Euan and Julia for your advice, trust and generosity.
Now loaded with both seafood and charts we had decisions to make, how to cook our seafood and where to go. Neither were easy decisions but both were to be excellent in the results. The seafood went into tremendous paella and the charts are enabling us to visit Rum, then maybe Skye or Canna and with a push maybe even some on the outer isles if we are brave enough and have the right weather.
Off to Rum it was then. Rum had been recommended by Both Isobel and John as a good anchorage and with an amazing house. The anchoring was indeed amazing, good holding and deserted, the house however was in the middle of a much needed refurbishment. We are sure in it's heyday, with live turtles and crocodiles in heated tanks and birds of paradise and humming birds flying around it would have been a sight to behold. It is a monument to Edwardian opulence with all the stone, workers and even the soil transported from the mainland.
Our time on Rum has had to be short as the forecast for the following day was for light rain followed by heavy rain with an easterly wind. With the new charts we had choices galore and opted to go further north seeking shelter in Skye, or more specifically a distillery with shelter in Skye.
An early start ensued and we wrapped up warm, but things are clearly warming up underwater as we were joined by a school of Dolphins jumping and playing in our bow wave, our first sighting of Common Dolphins since the Celtic Sea. Things slowly warmed up on deck as layer upon layer was peeled off as the warm sun thawed us out. We do have the luck of old Harry on Ruffian as at one point there was rain over the mainland, rain over Rum, rain over Canna and Rain over Skye whilst we basked in the sunshine on Ruffian yet again.
Euan & Julia coming into Arisaig through the rocks. Many thanks for the charts, trust and generosity.
The moonscape of the outer islands at Arisaig.
Fiona steaming the clams and muscles. Pink job.
Whilst Iain dispatches the scallops. Blue job.
Sailing in the sun towards Rum.
Princess Fiona at the entrance to her castle. Does that make Iain shrek?
The height of Edwardian opulence.
An early start on Riffian. Beats the 5.15 to Waterloo.
Happy, dry, non windy weather spotted on board Ruffian. NOT.
Dolpins at 11 o'clock, and 10 and 9 and 4. They're everywhere.
Porridge is the answer after you've been chilled to your bones.
We go to bed on Ruffian every day having had the most amazing experiences and thinking, will tomorrow be any better. Each day we then wake up and the day is always better than the previous. The past few days have proved that to us time upon time.
Having journeyed down Fiona's memory lane it was time to up anchor and join the road to adventures new. We made the short journey down the loch to Druimindarroch at the head of the Borrodale islands. En route we marvelled at the scenery which was only enhanced by the majestic architecture at it's feet and most specifically that of Arisaig House.
Having identified and bravely nosed our way into the anchorage at Druimindarroch we found that there was another boat in there. This is a tight anchorage for one at the best of times, but with two boats we would become intimate. Like magic, Sanderling lifted her hook and gave us the anchorage. She stopped and chatted on her way out, where we spoke of our worries of the entrance to Arisaig, our plans and the illusive sandy white beaches we have been hunting.
The usual activities of dinghy safaris and walking in the sun continued as usual but things were about to take quite an extraordinary turn when we made a visit to Arisaig House looking for some internet access. Knocking upon the door we gave the owner quite a fright as they are no longer a hotel in the classic sense of the word. They are more of an exclusive guest house that caters for your every need and whim. Once we explained we were on a boat and just looking for some internet they made us very welcome on their terrace with views of manicured gardens and grazing livestock in the near distance. This is when things were about to change. The owner asked if she could exchange the free wifi for a sail to Arisaig the next day. We, wanting the company, jumped and the opportunity to have Sarah and her daughter Kitty accompany us on the sail to Arisaig. It would be as big a treat for us as it would for them.
So the next day dawned and it was time to make Ruffian ship shape for her important guests. At the allotted time Sarah and Kitty, appeared on the shoreline and Thug was dispatched to pick up our honoured guests. What followed was the most remarkable sail; good entertaining company with the inside track on every sandy beach within miles and remarkable stories of the storms of past and local wildlife. The 15 knots of wind, clear blue skies and fair tide just put the icing on the cake. A truly memorable experience.
The entrance to Arisaig is described in our pilot book as 'One of the most challenging entrances of any anchorage on the West Coast of Scotland' and this is why we spoke of our trepidation the previous day to Sanderling. Who did we then find patiently waiting at the entrance to guide us safely in? None other but Sanderling. We followed in her wake leaving rocks with sharp teeth on either side. We were then enveloped in the safe warm comforting arms of Arisaig harbour with her flat waters and good holding.
The sun, or was it our smell, then got to Sarah, she invited us to come to her home of Arisaig House for the evening. Here we would be able to enjoy the use of some of the luxuries we miss on a boat such as showers and washing machines. Arisaig House is a remarkable property run by some amazing people. We were showed to an exquisite bedroom suite and showered and bathed in opulent surroundings. It's funny some of the things you notice when you haven't had them for such a long time, such as the feeling of bare feet on soft thick carpet, the feeling that freshly laundered towels give you, and how pink your skin can go when the water is that little bit too hot. Freshly laundered and scrubbed our evening continued with a slap up dinner of scallops and fresh fish caught from the foreshore in front of the house. Sarah thank you so much for your hospitality. You will be in our thoughts often.
As the forecast was for strong Northerly winds and our charts only go as far as Arisaig (anther story in the next blog) we felt that it was only prudent to take the train to the white sands of Morar and then walk the 8 miles along the coast back to Arisaig. Fiona had seen the sands and coastline before so knew what to expect, it was all new however to Iain. Again and again, as we rounded each headland, he repeated 'Oh Wow.', 'Look at the colours.', 'Why bother with the Caribbean.', 'Look there's anther perfect beach'. The bays with pure white sandy beaches went on for miles and miles, the colour of the water was everything from a deep translucent turquoise to a sheer sky blue. Our time here was just like a perfect dream, when would we wake up?
The dream was going to come to an end as the walk turned inland. We now had 2 miles of uphill along a hot and deserted road through the Back of Keppoch with no water or food left. Then the only car we saw all day stopped and we happily accepted a lift all the way home, not only to Arisaig, but to the jetty with Ruffian in front of us. The dream had continued just long enough.
Dinghy safaris will continue until we find a white sandy beach.
Fiona finds a white stoney beach. Close but no banana.
The Borrodale Islands in a calm loch.
The morning mist in the Borrodale Islands.
The end of a great sail. Thanks Sarah and Kitty
Arisaig House from the terrace.
And again from the grounds.
We found Bonnie Prince Charlies cave.
Sighted. White sandy beaches.
The beaches are everywhere and we were the only people on them.
They go on for miles and miles and miles.
When we think of our childhoods we think of sunny summers, snowy winters, sandy beaches and laughter at every turn. Was it really like this or does your mind just play tricks us as we get older? This is why it can be really dangerous to relive your memories as the reality is never as good as the warm fuzzy feeling that you get when you look back. We like living dangerously on Ruffian and so it was down the dangerous twists and turns memory lane that we were going, with Fiona, with a visit to Ard Nam Buth in Loch nan Uamh, the sound or Arisaig.
The sun shone as it always seems to for us in Scotland and we had a blistering, in more ways than one, sail around Ardnamurchan point into the sound of Arisaig. At the top of the loch was a holiday home where Fiona spent many a happy summer. As we headed towards its location where a viaduct crowns the loch head there was no stirrings in Fiona's mind. Then like a rising sun in the morning mist into view came her old holiday home and the memories flooded back as if a dam had just been opened.
To the side of the house, under the trees was where Fiona cooked mackerel caught by her and her father John in their Wayfarer (they weren't allowed in the house for fear of making the kitchen smell fishy). The steps to the foreshore, the fairysteps, were still in place and even the old nettie, with it's throne, were all just as she remembered. Memory Lane was proving not to be a dangerous scary place but one full of delight. What would it be like inside and could we even get a glimpse? A tentative knock at the door and we would know the answer.
The door was answered by Willie, the 'new' owner and in a flash he had us inside. Again everything was as Fiona's mind remembered. The meathooks in the porch, where John threatened to hang her and her sisters if they were naughty, ancient cupboards in the dining room, the old keys hanging in the closet, the quaker library and the smell of old books. The torrent of memories came flooding back. This was turning out to be less of a trip down memory lane and more of the entrance to a time machine. The trip to Ard Nan Buth has quite simply been the most worthwhile experience we have had on Ruffian and if you saw the smile on Fiona's face and the glint of a tear in her eye you would agree wholeheartedly.
That evening we sat at anchor by the viaduct, watching the sun set over the sea and after dining outside, chatted into the warm night, about all her fond memories and of how some places change for the better or worse and how some are just perfect as they are.
A blistering sail into the Sound of Arisaig. Surrounded on all sides by mountains and islands.
Sailing in the sun has got to put a big smile on your face.
We were 'bombed' by a tornado. Yes it was that close and that low and that noisy and that awesome.
Fiona at the door of her holiday home. Remaking a picture from 25 years ago.
The house of memories.
A view Fiona remembers so very well.
Sundowners and living the outdoors lifestyle.
Contrast. That's the control on your TV that makes the very so made up presenters look like something out of a 1970's sit com if you turn it up too much, alternatively it's the difference between Loch Aline, where we started, Tobermory, where we stopped and Loch Na Droma Budha, or more easily remembered, Loch Drambuie, where we finished proceedings and stopped for a couple of days.
In our time in Loch Aline we managed to see all of 2 people, the chef in the White House Restaurant, and the shopkeeper. Heaving it was not, idyllic and ideal for our needs it was. This was an unreal contrast to what we found in Tobermory, of Balamory (kiddies TV program apparently) fame. Tobermory had its annual music festival on and had 1000's of people on every street and in every pub. The music sounded great but unfortunately the festival seems to have been renamed by the locals to 'Lets get bladdered on the street and shout and fight with people." Surprisingly we decided not to join in with the shouting and fighting and made haste around the corner to Loch Drambuie.
In Loch Drambuie we found a huge anchorage with only one other boat in, high hills to every side and an entrance that happened to line up with the setting sun. The company of the yacht was a nice addition, not because of the socialising, but because they had unsecured mobile wireless internet that we unwittingly managed to 'use' to download weather and surf the web on. The hills provided good walking and the setting sun every evening gave a nice backdrop for the sundowners that we have been craving for the past 2 months and 1000 miles at sea.
It's not all sun sun sun up here in Scotland. We have now actually seen a whole day of rain since we arrived, ½ a day in Puilladobhrain, and now ½ a day in Loch Drambuie. Instead of our usual activities of hill walking and dinghy safaris, which would come later, we opted for a duvet morning which has been marineified (if there is such a word), to a musto middle layer snug day. We have heard that it is so wet 'down south' that people are going brown not through the sun but because they are going rusty (thanks Chris/Dad), we know how you feel with our ½ day. Once the rain passed we were greeted with empty blue skies and views from ahigh all the way over to Coll and Tiree in the west and Skye in the north.
We have tentative plans, assuming that the weather is good, to walk down memory lane for Fiona by visiting her old holiday home 30 miles around the peninsula at Ard Nan Buth. The only issue with getting a detailed weather forecast, is that we'll be spending the evening walking for an hour to the top of the nearest hill where we should be able to have some phone reception to download it. This isn't too much of a chore however as the sun is still shining and we should find another amazing sunset over the Scottish Isles. Now where's that bottle of wine to take with us?
A supersonically soft sail from Loch Aline to Tobermory.
Tobermory. Pretty from afar.
Can you spot ruffian down there somewhere.
Images of Barbuda.
Larry decides it just too hot and sunny up here and thinks it's a good idea to go for a swim.
Iain then has to carry the damp llama home. BAD larry.
The office furniture is somewhat lacking but the view is amazing.
Ruffian quietly falling asleep.