Sunday, 14th July: Inverie, Loch Nevis
We left Mallaig midday, and had a very slow waft of a sail up the Sound of Sleat, and in to Loch Nevis. It’s a hot and sunny day, and we are in shorts and t-shirts. How wonderful! We’re heading for Inverie, a small village at the head of the first bay. There is a pub here, The Old Forge, which is the Remotest Pub in Mainland Britain, according to the Guinness Book of Records. ‘With no roads in or out, an 18 mile hike over munros or a 7 mile sea crossing, the pub is the remotest on mainland Britain’. It is famous for its fresh local seafood, so we decide we’ll just go for a drink.
We tried to anchor outside the pub, but the holding was not good enough so we thought we’d catch one of their buoys, that you can use if you eat dinner there. However, we failed to catch the buoy and somehow the pick-up line got caught in the bow thruster under the boat. This is not good news. We got the RIB down very quickly and Dominic donned the wetsuit and goggles and gets into the RIB. The water is choppy and the boat keeps swinging from one side of the buoy to the other. He ties the RIB to the mooring buoy as it needs to be out of the way once we get the rope free. Dominic ends up in the water between the swinging boat, while trying to hold on to the swinging RIB and its sharp propeller, and the big and heavy buoy. And the water is heaving with jellyfish. He dives several times but cannot loosen the rope, we try manoeuvring the boat around, but eventually there’s nothing for it but to cut loose the pick-up buoy. I then have to immediately move the boat out of the way, drive round and get back to Dominic who’s holding on to the RIB. Without squashing him! He clambers on, we steer back to the buoy to loosen the RIB and tie it back on to our boat. Then we moor on to the next mooring buoy, catching it immediately this time. Two things left to do 1. get the rope out of the bow thruster which is now giving a continual error alarm. For this we need the manual which we discover is only available online and there is absolutely no connection here. 2. ‘fess up to the pub owner.
Once Dominic was out of the wetsuit and caught his breath, we got into the RIB, eventually found a place to tie it up and went to the pub. This being a very sunny day there were plenty of people sitting outside with a drink, but the pub is closed for another 40 minutes until the evening session. We try ringing them but there is no mobile reception. A very nice couple who are waiting for their son to come back from his 10-hour run up the 794 meter munro behind us (!) tell us the pub owner has gone off to get mussels for the evening meals. He is apparently a very brusque Belgian bloke. We chat while we wait. Opening time comes and we go in to tell said bloke about what we’ve done. He is indeed very forthright but is grateful we told him. We are apparently nice and honest people! We have a drink, and he says he could fit us in for dinner if we eat early. We know this is absolutely not the place for plant-based eaters, but when we say we don’t eat seafood (you should have seen the look on his face ha ha!) he says he does a daily vegetarian option. We are not about to argue with the man and in the end we have a beautiful three-course meal, with a very good bottle of Chablis.
Back on the boat Dominic looks through the online manual he downloaded with the help of the pub’s wifi, while I put everything back after the sail and the kerfuffle earlier. Dominic managed to re-set the bow thruster, which releases the pick-up buoy, so speedy quick into the RIB, catch the pick-up buoy and tie it back on to its mooring buoy. We check that the bow thruster works. Phew. Enough adventures for one day! I’m very proud of all Dominic’s done today and also quite proud of myself for actually being calm throughout. Which is not like me at all!
Monday, 15th July: Eilean Maol, Loch Nevis
We heard last night that there are plenty of porpoises in Loch Nevis, and that the lady who lives near the pub says she can’t always see them but can hear them. We know now what she means, and the breathy sounds that we’ve heard before are soon confirmed with porpoise sightings. Wonderful!
We motor out towards the loch entrance to catch a bit of connection to the world, then head into the loch proper towards The Narrows. Dominic enjoys steering through the skerries and the shingle spits.
There are a few houses along the way, but not many. We see three people and one dog. There is an abandoned village, lying lonely by the still running burn. We sail very slowly up towards the head of the loch and decide to moor north of the small Eilean Maol. Dominic drives over the intended anchoring spot several times, and is surprised that the ground is about 10 metres deeper than charted. But we’ve got a long chain, so can still put the anchor down. There are some farm buildings and a main house, all very well maintained. And there is a jetty with several boats of various sizes a bit west down the loch. But no one’s about. Deer graze on the manicured lawns, a few more arrive. The very high mountains loom over us, enclosing the loch.
There are more ruined houses on the loch side. It’s a strange place. I know I ought to find it pretty and calm, but it feels almost malevolent. We sit outside having our dinner. The tide turns and we see a strange shape over the water. There’s a thick band of jellyfish with a few strands of seaweed, slowly moving from land out into the bay. It keeps going, and going and going. It’s surreal. Presumably they all go back, once the tide comes back in. The refrain from Hotel California plays in my head… We see and hear porpoises and there’s a very noisy heron and three terns. And a gull. Because of the height of the mountains, the sun sets at 8:30pm, but it is still light for a bit longer. Very late, we see one light turn on in the farm buildings, but not in the main house. Someone is there, after all. This loch is called Heaven. The next one up, Loch Hourn, is called Hell. I think we’ll make that one a day trip.
Tuesday, 16th July: Isleorsay, Skye
We escaped the overpowering drama of the dark mountains early in the morning, a seal poking its head up and looking forlorn watching us leave. It drizzled and the clouds were hanging very heavy on the high mountains along the loch. Motoring through The Narrows, I can see how much Dominic enjoys this sort of challenge.
There was very little wind so we wafted through the remainder of Loch Nevis and once we got out into the Sound of Sleat we could sail properly. We ventured a bit further north, and tucked ourselves into a wonderful anchorage on the Skye side on the Sleat peninsula behind Ornsay Island. There are a few mooring buoys here, but plenty of space left for us who like anchoring. We went over to the head of the bay and tied up on the pier in front of the Eilean Iarmain Hotel. After a walk around the village, getting our bearings, we had a drink at the hotel. This is called the prettiest village on Skye, and on a sunny afternoon like today, it would be hard to beat!
Wednesday, 17th July and Thursday, 18th July: Isleornsay, Skye
Very rainy, so we stayed in and I did a lot of reading and other stuff. We kept thinking, it looks good enough to go outside, and then it started raining again. And it was too choppy to have an enjoyable ride in the RIB. Dominic made bread, and I made a crumble. (And Robin, not even a banana to count!)
Friday, 19th July: Sound of Sleat
Our visit to the Sound of Sleat has been more rainy than we expected and we have an urge for clear skies. We decide we need to get away from the east side of tall mountains. We set off early with the intention of doing a sailby past Sandaig, which is where the naturalist Gavin Maxwell lived for a while, and then making a quick foray into Lake Hourn (ie Hell), but it’s too grey to be worth the extra mileage. Goodbye for now, Sound of Sleat.