Round Britain – Harris and a storm in Plockton

It was a motor across to the Outer Hebrides, past the tiny Shiant Islands.

This pic is of rocks just to the west of the islands themselves, with Harris behind.

We saw a lot of puffins on the water, and when we approached they would do a panicky flap of their rather undersized wings and scoot off across the water showing orange feet like spoilers behind. Flying is clearly quite a challenge for some of them. Andy saw one mess up its landing and bounce across the water like something out of the Dam Busters! No harm done, fortunately.
We have seen several Minke whales, their long backs, languid motion and small dorsal fins distinguishing them very clearly from dolphins or the little porpoises. And grey seals are much in evidence this far north.
We pass under the bridge linking Harris with Scalpay and head among the islands right up to Tarbert.

It feels like we have come such a long way to get here. The little harbour has some brand new pontoons, but the showers haven’t been plumbed in yet. In fact the pontoons are so new that we only heard about them from some returning yotties; they are not yet in the Sailing Directions. And the Calmac ferry docks alarmingly close…

Because the weather was due to bring a big blow, we couldn’t stay more than a night. A pity, as Harris looks so beautiful.

The rounded granite is quite a contrast to Skye. So we retraced our path, sailing gently across the Minch towards the distant hills of Torridon, this time able to keep the wind until we were within a mile of our destination, Kenmore in Loch Torridon.

This is a little hamlet in an enclosed bay with a fish farm across the way. I sometimes wonder what the holidaymakers make of these yachts coming quietly in to anchor and departing again in the morning.
We had to press on to a safe harbour. The forecast did not look good – a steady force 10 in the Minch and a severe gale across most of the area. So we made it to the shelter of Plockton in Loch Carron. Apart from sounding as if it should be in Yorkshire, this is a delightful village with some great restaurants, and , for us, a mooring buoy. We took up one of the last available and set about lashing everything down securely. The storm – Storm Hector – was only due the second night we were there, so there was some time to prepare. Stories among the yachtsmen were that Mallaig was full to bursting with people seeking shelter.
My friends Bill and Kate brought their catamaran – a Catana 42 – into Plockton as well, but had to anchor as all the mooring buoys were taken.

It is possible that we two are the only visiting catamarans in Scotland just now….They kindly gave us coffee and then lunch, but we had to postpone our dinner booking at the restaurant as by 6pm it was too risky to go ashore. We lashed the dinghy down, put on the sailcover, tied up the furler, and waited as the wind rose….and rose. Really big gusts were coming from the south, at least force 8. By 0300 it was up to 47 knots, the bottom of force 10 – and that was in a protected anchorage! At about 0430 I looked out and saw that Bill had moved, so some of the anchored boats had been dragging. They didn’t get a lot of sleep!
I saw a tethered dinghy flying in the air and flipping over numerous times, and incredibly, one chap on his boat going on deck to tie things down – when it was already roaring! Here are some pics taken very early in the morning.

The wind did not die down quickly but continued through the following day, going round to the west but hardly abating. At last, though, it dropped and we were able to get ashore for that meal we had booked and re-booked. Bill and Kate departed the next day, but we decided to wait one more, just to let it settle down even further. We motored gently down to Kyle of Lochalsh, and did a lot of shopping and refuelling. Tomorrow into Loch Duich….