From St Kilda to Stuttgart – part two

The Oban Times - - Letters - AN­GUS MACPHAIL an­gus­macphail@ya­

AS THE whole of the last piece only got us as far as Eriskay, I’ll need to ramp up the pace of travel a bit or I’ll be writ­ing till Septem­ber get­ting us all the way from St Kilda to Stuttgart.

Be­cause the ferry from Mal­laig to Lochbois­dale was late, the rest of the St Kilda voy­agers didn’t ar­rive at the har­bour in Eriskay till well after 11pm. A mix­ture of cups of tea and night­caps were had and, as we were stay­ing aboard the St Olave, sleep­ing ar­range­ments were made.

I won’t men­tion names in­volved in the fol­low­ing ex­cept that the main in­sti­ga­tor is the fa­ther of a well-known piper who plays in a Scot­tish band I also hap­pen to play in and is part owner of the boat. Any­way, as there was a short­age of bunks for the five of us, some­one was go­ing to have to sleep out­side. As my four com­pan­ions were all on the wrong side of 60, I bravely vol­un­teered, but in no un­cer­tain terms was told by the gen­tle­man de­scribed above that I was to sleep be­low, and he, along with an­other of the crew, would sleep on the fore­deck.

I had vi­sions of these poor old fel­lows shiv­er­ing and shak­ing, maybe be­com­ing hy­pother­mic and catch­ing pneu­mo­nia, or at best, be­ing se­verely un­com­fort­able.

How wrong I was! As I tried to sleep in the very com­fort­able dou­ble bunk, I was kept awake for hours by the two on the deck above me laugh­ing, gig­gling and car­ry­ing on like teenagers on a school trip. Even­tu­ally after the ex­cite­ment set­tled down I got to sleep. A few hours later, about 5am, I was wo­ken by the said fel­low, fresh as a daisy and well rested, say­ing: ‘Come on, MacPhail, this is no time for a lie-in.’

Wor­ry­ing about their safety and com­fort was akin to wor­ry­ing about two bat­tle-hard­ened Ach­nacarry-trained com­man­dos. So up I got and we headed out of the Acair­said Mhòr, through the Sound of Barra in the early morn­ing sun and, once clear of the many rocks and reefs, set course for St Kilda.

The loom­ing majesty of this re­mote, rugged out­crop of rock grew steadily on our hori­zon and around 10.30am we dropped the an­chor in the clear, calm shal­low waters of Vil­lage Bay. I had never been to St Kilda be­fore and it had al­ways held a cer­tain magic and mys­tery for me. My fa­ther fished for lob­sters there in the years just be­fore I was born so I had heard a lot about it. I have been told many sto­ries in more re­cent years about his fish­ing trips there, and that, cou­pled with the rich and fas­ci­nat­ing his­tory of the is­land and its hardy pop­u­la­tion cre­ated a strong feel­ing of fa­mil­iar­ity and déjà vu. We were made very wel­come by the war­den and, after a very in­ter­est­ing and en­joy­able few hours ashore ex­plor­ing the vil­lage and vis­it­ing the mu­seum, we weighed an­chor and re­traced our course to Eriskay to re­fuel be­fore re­turn­ing with all on board to Dun­staffan­age.

A close sight­ing of a large and beau­ti­ful bask­ing shark and again the ap­pear­ance of the happy har­bour dol­phins gave good omens as we re­turned across the Sea of the He­brides.

We tied up at the ma­rina around 1am with a very sat­is­fied feel­ing and, for me, the de­sire to re­turn to St Kilda soon to spend more time ex­plor­ing and soak­ing in the pow­er­ful at­mos­phere.

A few hours in the bunk again, then a re­fresh­ing shower, a drive to Achn­aba by Lochgilp­head and then off to Ire­land on a much newer faster boat.

To be con­tin­ued.

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