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Saturday, 11 May 2013

Islay and onward

Continued southerly winds led to a fine sail from the rather dull anchorage at Loch Ryan [Stranraer] to the much more pleasant island of Islay.

A verse of a favorite Scottish song "Westering Home" finishes with the line "There I would hie me and there I would rest at home with my ain folk in Islay". It is easy to see why a traveller, having left the island, would long to return.

We met the first of a number of friendly folk when a young lady came to collect our berthing fees. Our first Scot!

Islay hosts no less than 9 distilleries making single-malt whiskies. I recalled that my maternal grandfather once worked for British Customs and Excise travelling from one distillery to another ensuring the applicable revenue was paid to the Crown. A certain amount of alcohol was allowed to evaporation each year - the angels' share. Since less than this quantity ACTUALLY evaporated, my grandfather and the local managers felt a certain duty to "evaporate" the required share through friendly glasses shared in conversation.

I wondered idly if my grandfather had visited this island and these distilleries.

After securing the boat, we walked as far as the first pub and asked if we might sample a local single malt. The Scotch-knowledgeable bartender, actually a young lady from Estonia, indicated a wall covered with bottles and indicated that 90% of them were local single-malts. After a conversation in which our preferences were analyzed, we chose a 18-year-old Bowmore single-malt.

This libation turned out to be a delight! It was warm, smooth as honey and with a hint of the heather and peat that we had smelled earlier from the hillsides.

A ferry boat captain, hearing our conversation with a Swiss cyclist, inferred that we were traveling on a yacht. "Yacht" is not pretentious here but is simply the British term for a sailboat no matter how tiny. He offered that Loch Tarbert on Jura would serve as a fine sheltered wilderness anchorage on the way north so we marked it onto our chart and calendar.

After traveling many days in a row, we were anxious to find a rest place for a few days but with another day of fair winds in the offing, we elected to head onward to Loch Sunart on the mainland shore opposite the Isle of Mull. This travel day, like the others offered the "boisterous" Scottish sailing the cruising guides promised. On the plus side, the boat moves along quite quickly; on the minus side, it is not gentle!

Just beyond the halfway point from Loch Tarbert to Loch Sunart, we entered the Sound of Mull, the passage between Mull and the mainland. Here, near Craignure on Mull, we sighted a quintessential example of a Scottish Castle.

And now we have paused a short while, anchored in a sheltered landlocked pool called Loch Drumbuie [or Loch na Droma Buidhe as our chart calls it].

In the brief periods between the mist and the rain, we have prettified and repainted the results of our recent altercation with the Isle of Man bridge. I wouldn't actually call it a damage repair as the steel itself, being 6mm thick, was totally unaffected by the event. Some pretty shiny paint will follow later on top of the epoxy paint, but for now the steel is once again protected from its archenemies, air and water.

It is very wildernessy here: our mobile phone and our wireless broadband internet both advertise "NO SERVICE" leading us to make do with our SSB radio for email and for this blog.

So for a few more days, we relax, watch a few movies and enjoy the ever changing play of weather on the hillsides until it is time to move onward again.

At 11/05/2013 13:05 (utc) our position was 56°39.22'N 005°56.42'W

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