Change of plan – back to the Outer Hebrides
20 July 2011 | Gairloch to Stornoway; 40nm travelled
Nichola / Overcast and chilly
Image: Colin blending in with the locals.
With a farewell wave from Jackson the friendly harbour master, we joined the mass exodus from Gairloch with the northerly winds having decreased a little. All the other boats were heading south or west; we were the only one sailing towards Longa Island. We sailed for an hour and then needed to turn north - straight into the wind. Despite the wind having decreased there was still a moderate sea and motoring into it for the remaining 25 miles to the Summer Isles didn't appeal, neither did going back to Gairloch. We calculated we could sail to a few miles south of Stornoway; we'd be close hauled on starboard tack (Emerald's second worst point of sail) for 6 hours but that seemed preferable to motoring 5 hours into the wind and waves. So, with hopes of seeing the Lewis Chessmen in Stornoway, the change of plan was made.
Unfortunately this meant doing a bit of chart work below which I spent too long at (should have done it in stages) and ended up a bit queasy. Cup-a-soup and bread helped a little along with some staring at the horizon. It was flipping chilly and I was wishing for my thermals but the thought of being below and rummaging in a locker for them put me off, chilly I would stay.
The trip was pretty uneventful and we managed to sail to within 6 miles of Stornoway before putting the engine on. The sky was flat and grey as we motored into the harbour, past a cruise ship and called up the harbour master on the VHF. Due to our size (over 12m) we were directed to the quay wall rather than the pontoons. The harbour master came out to meet us and help us with lines; Colin had to dig out our super-long lines in order to deal with the 3m tidal range. It was a bit of a haul up the steps at low water, a little noisy from the ice-plant behind us but we had a great view of Lews Castle and everyone was very friendly and helpful. We treated ourselves to fish and chips and expected to sleep well with being worn out from our third crossing of the Minch.
We were sleeping soundly until 1:30am when we were rudely awaken by shouting. My first thought was that it was a fishing boat until I realised the shouting was coming from right over our heads. I don't react well to being unnecessarily woken up and I darted out of bed, out of the hatch and gave the yacht that had come alongside a bit of what for! The female skipper were leaning right over our aft cabin, using a solar panel to hold their boat alongside asking if there was water and discussing their plans with the harbour master onshore. As they weren't in any obvious signs of distress I felt that their discussions could wait until the morning. Ok, so they were tired and had sailed from the Faeroes but that doesn't excuse a bit of respect for other people I think!
We finally got back to bed having had to sort out a line tied incorrectly and woke in the morning feeling like two of the 7 dwarfs - Grumpy (me) and Sleepy (Colin). We roused ourselves with strong coffee, the boat next to us moved off to the pontoons and we headed off to the Lewis Chessmen exhibition.
The chessmen were found in a hole in Lewis and are thought to be around 1200 years old; all the pieces are back together in Lewis for the exhibition as normally many of them reside elsewhere such as the British Museum. The faces of the chessmen are full of character, each one individual; a resigned grumpy expression on many of them with the queens slumped with their head on their hand or slightly gormless for the watch keepers. The museum was free and also had an exhibition on the history of Lewis.
In the afternoon we had a stroll around the Lews Castle gardens where we saw the wicker woman rather than the wicker man that we'd missed by not going to the Summer Isles and bought some fish for tea from the Stornoway Fisherman's co-op. Colin was in heaven browsing around their chandlery. In the evening the sun broke through and we had a walk to Tong sands. We hadn't learnt from the other day and strayed off the path ending up with a nervous dash through a field with some excited bullocks in it and shimmying over a barbed wire fence with cars driving by us -we expected the police to arrive shortly afterwards so legged it!