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“A day in the season”

It was a Sunday evening when as usual we all met in the bar of the ‘Frog’, the excellent marina bar and restaurant at Dunstaffnage. First meetings can be a bit fraught, not only for the clients, but also for me, but I suppose because the people I get are with very few exceptions really nice, then the trip normally ends with everyone great friends and often coming back for another trip in later years.

We left to a stunning sunset, motoring slowly up the Sound of Mull in light winds. The skies were so clear that it seemed possible to fall into the deep pool of stars and drink of the heavens. Occasionally a bright streak would flash across as a meteor ended its’ long journey in a blaze of fiery light, a common sight in the clear air of the isles.

In the very early hours we dropped anchor at Dorlinn at the mouth to Loch Sunart, and later awoke surrounded by a quiet panorama of sea and hills. Near the yacht, a bustling otter searched out a morning meal, grubbing amongst the shore line weeds, while overhead a golden eagle patrolled on the lookout for unwary rabbits. A hind stood proud against the morning skies, her profile majestic and fitting, with no need for antlers to prove any machismo. Meanwhile the resonant croak of the local ravens echoed around the quiet bay.

After breakfast we decided to head for Canna via Muck and so made our way past Ardnamurchan Point, looking forward to seeing the fantastic rock folding of the extinct volcano that makes up that most westerly part of mainland Great Britain. Occasionally we would see the elusive shapes of harbour porpoise busily searching for food. These shy creatures rarely come near the boat except by accident. We expected to see the more friendly dolphin species later in the cruise.

Guillemots and razorbills were swimming all around the boat while kittiwakes fulmars and assorted gulls kept us company from the air. Large rafts of manx shearwaters were bobbing up and down in the waves, and occasionally we would see the odd storm petrel cruising the wave tops. Off Ardnamurchan the seas were a little choppy but nothing to worry us aboard Guideliner.

Soon we could see the low but hilly profile of Muck, the island of the sea pig or porpoise. A wonderful place with two sheltered harbours, we made for the north one where we stopped for lunch and to explore. Like all the Small Isles, Muck has a varied and interesting history; from the Vikings and before, through to the Jacobite rebellion and the clearances, to the present caring landowner and laird. Across the water, the Sgurr or tooth of Eigg rises proudly over that recently liberated island, where at last the people can lead their own lives free of the influence of sadly misguided and often absent landlords. To the north, the cloud shrouded hills of Rum made an imposing backdrop for the few boats sheltering in the harbour.

We set off later in the day. By the time we rounded the point and faced the entrance to Canna, the evening light was reflected back to us by the sparkling water. The swell which had come in from the Atlantic ocean was beginning to rise, yet we knew from the weather forecast it was fated to fall away again under light evening airs. We dropped anchor amongst a collection of other boats, many friends of years past, all there to share the joys and pleasures of the Hebrides,. Soon we were to continue our journey, cruising into quiet anchorages, undisturbed by nothing louder than the calls of the oystercatchers and the cries of the gulls.  

The next day we headed for Coll, hoping to see the splendid minke whales, to have dolphins chase us through the spray and to watch basking sharks feeding on the plankton in the swirling tide. We would see gannets diving – white arrows darting into the sea, landing with a splash and then popping back up like corks.

Different islands would show us the delights of nesting puffins, shags, guillemots and lots of other birds. The walks we would take among the machair flowers would be a treat to our senses, the fragrances would rise to envelope us, the colours would lift our spirits -we would be in the Hebrides!!