From St Kilda to Stuttgart – part two
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.