We headed round the west side of the islands and up to anchor on the more sheltered side away from the north-easterly.
Love the rock formation to the south. Looks like a witch waiting patiently on the rocks.After lunch it was off ashore for an hour or so. Headed to the north where I had hoped to get up to the puffin burrows but decided against it as it was teeming down and I am not the best of climbers. Went south instead and came across one of the settlements where you just let your imagination run riot as you sit on one of the walls. The fire-place and the entrance are still well-defined and you just sit there and think what a harsh but maybe fulfilling life they had.
There were birds around all the time and after going past the ruins I must have been too close to a skuas’ nest as I had to duck from a couple of fly overs. I do like them, maybe because they keep the black backs in check, but they seem fiercely independent and don’t mess around.
Walking past the bothy on the way back to the boat we past the rat traps lying on the table. Seems the black rats are so bad the bird conservationists cannot stay there but have to camp in tents as they would have no peace from the rats at night. They are suspected of starting to damage the bird colonies so action may be taken against them even although they are a rare species themselves. Because feeding during the winter is very poor, up till now this has been a limiting factor in the rat breeding cycle but this seems to be out of balance now. It was back on board and off home.
Still surrounded by birds its the puffins antics that always catches the eye.
On the way back over the Staffin Bank we had another minke whale spotting and the only down side of the day three prawn trawler tearing up the bottom. Only three boats on the whole of the Minch all the time we were there…..speaks volumes and Kenny says often they see no trawlers. If the Minch was healthy they would be there. Stories were told and the one I really liked was about the charismatic minister who was in Applecross and his love of ling’s liver. Kenny would phone him up to say he had some and did so this Sunday in the off-chance he would come for them. And the response was immediate saying it was many a mile a Lewis man would travel for a ling’s liver even on the sabbath.
After coming ashore it was straight back to the Inn for a late start to a shift. Seems it is only half an hour from Shieldaig pier to the Inn. One has to assume every one is already there and they were. As usual good shift, good food, good craic and good people. Judith brother Chris is up for his annual trip so she is trying to take a few hours off over the next few days. Going home after hours, heading towards Milton I had to stop and gaze seawards at the moon shining through the trees at 11.40pm.
It was a good day.
Was up early this morning to sort out hens, dogs and prawns before I headed of to Sheildaig to tag along with Torridon Tours trip to the Shiants, a group of islands of the Outer Hebrides. Made it with five minutes to spare but all on board and away we went. Passed Shieldaig Island with its resident sea eagle. Unfortunately this year they lost their chick, fallen from the nest, and their activities have been different. They are not seen going back and fore to the nest as in previous years. The island has changed from being a busy heron residency to the home of an eagle.
Shieldaig has a history going back to when the herring industry was booming and there still is a legacy from that are in the front gardens of the houses built on the shore. They are made up of Irish soil brought in as ballast in the barrels, which were emptied out and then filled with Torridon salted herring. We were not out of Shieldaig more than 15 minutes when we came across a pod of about 50 dolphins.
They were magnificent. Its great when they come to you so you know you are not disturbing them if they are feeding or just chilling.
After a brief stop it was off out to Rona where we saw our first minke whales lazily feeding , coming up for air and then disappearing on dives for about four or five minutes. The next land mark were the cliffs of Staffin and although the weather had closed in they still looked spectacular. Interesting to see the geology so clear, the basalt sitting on top of the Jurassic.
From Staffin it was round the north end of Skye and across The Minch to The Shiants, stopping only for another minke spotting.
As we approached the Islands from the south-east we went over some tidal rips and even in slack water and a gentle north-easterly breeze you could see and feel the boat being tugged about. No wonder there has emerged stories in Celtic folk-lore about the Blue Men of the Minch. You can imagine in severe weather sailors under dire stress seeing apperitions such as The Blue Men. Some say that they originated from fallen angels who were not quite guilty enough to go to Hell. They lived in underwater caves inhabiting the waters around The Shiants. There is a channel to the west of the islands called The stream of the Blue Men, in gaelic Sruth nam Fear Gorm. They had glossy blue skin, long grey faces, long arms and were very strong. Sailors who were abusive to Selkie Folk were in pretty serious trouble if they encountered the Blue Men. Their appearance portended storms but you managed to escape their clutches if you could recite poetry to them. On to the islands and the birds.
We steamed round the islands anti clockwise going through the two main islands and stopping to see the numerous bird colonies both ashore and on land. The weather closed in a bit and it added to the atmosphere, misty and ethereal. Birds did not seem to mind our presence and carried on their own activities.
Passing rafts of guillemots, razorbills, puffins with kittiwakes and gulls flying over us we made our way slowly round the islands to anchor on the more sheltered west side and lunch of smoked salmon and prawns.