Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Loch Harport

Sunday I awoke early when a huge wave sloshed against the side of the boat - twice. I thought perhaps a dolphin or Minke whale had swum up to have a look at Traversay. By the time I got outside all signs of a visitation were gone. Sitting outside listening, I heard the sounds of a lamb high up on the Southern hills belligerently calling its mother, and the much more subtle sounds of a cuckoo. Listening longer, I heard an answering call from a bird far across on the equally high Northern hillside of the wide and lengthy inlet.

Huge winds which had kept us boat-bound all day Saturday calmed during the night, and we were now turned around completely, and facing downstream.
We went ashore in glorious sunshine to walk the length of the pretty little village backed by the mountains of Cuillin. During our wanderings we met an Old Car Club aficionado with his stable of Bentley convertibles and heard about the Club's drive through Russia, and across Australia (all in aid of a charity). We met a faith healer - John - who had lost his leg in a motorcycle accident and we met a lobster fisherman anchored near us. He comes up here and takes tourists around the Loch in summer.

On Monday we made the welcome discovery that the Talisker Distillery takes credit cards. Our last £ had been spent on chocolate, cards and stamps (there have been no banks, useful cash machines, useful internet or phone service for most of our trip so far).

There's much to be said for the ingenuity of human-kind to have come up with such a specialized and technology-intensive product as Scotch whiskey. It seems the perfect business - possibly the ONLY business - that could take root in a Scotland de-populated by the Highland Clearances of the 18th and early 19th Century. Some of the essential ingredients are freely available (thus again justifying the rest of the world's impression that the Scots are "cheap"!) It features spring water near its source, steam fired by locally-acquired peat-set fires and barley and yeast from the interior of Scotland. These flavours still permeate the final product after the numerous steps and stages of its manufacture. The only part of the process which is imported are the oak bourbon casks (from the U.S.) used for the ageing process. These are re-built after being purchased 2ndhand from the American distillers where the casks are destroyed by law after only one season (to provide employment for American cask makers!) These casks provide some of the flavour and the distinctive golden colour to the finished product. Transport of all needed items in the manufacturing process was (in times past) by sea as was the distribution of outgoing product. So all the great distilleries of Scotland are on the ocean. Most are on the Isles of Islay, Jura and Talisker on the Isle of Skye.
Landlords had found that filling the countryside with sheep was more cost-effective than a human population - so they cleared them off the land. Since many of the Cleared people came to the New World, Scotland's loss was our gain!

Single malt Scotch whiskey is an acquired taste, and a little can go a long way. We were given a taste of 10-yr-old Talisker at the end of the tour, and its warm glow and soporific effect persisted throughout the day. And yes - we bought a bottle and I got the T-shirt!

During our time at anchor the usual domestic preoccupations took up part of our time. There are the regular tasks - like endless thought and preparation of meals with diminishing stores of fresh food for me, Larry's chart-reading, weather and routing concerns … there are the quarterly jobs like cleaning all exterior stainless for me, oil changes for Larry and there are the unexpected tasks - like repairing the shorted-out wires on the generator starter. This lead to a sudden breakdown of our generator on Monday. Larry fixed it, we got the dinghy aboard, and we went to bed early so we could start for the Western Hebrides early this morning.
On our way over, we saw a number of guillemots, auks and my favourite bird - the puffin. I would like to have the personality of this bird - they seem as if they're in a permanent Scotch-induced haze. They appear lazy, they fly with ungainly wind-mill-type wing-movements, and they move slowly on the water. I raced up with my new camera to try to get a photo. They're a "canny" bird - not really lazy - at the last moment I was foiled when they dived. I have yet to get a decent photo.

Here we are in "Little Kettle Pool" - another large loch with a key-hole entrance. This will keep us safe from the heavy North winds predicted for the next few days.

Caolas Mor (Little Kettle Pool) Western Hebrides

At 21/05/2013 14:14 (utc) our position was 57°19.54'N 007°14.83'W

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