Keeping with current trends (gales) it seems we were to be in Mallaig the best part of 4-5 days waiting for the correct conditions to passage around Ardnamurchan point, a major tidal gate (and navigation nightmare). Turns out we were not the only ones in this position however as we soon became a small community at the Mallaig Marina with 4 other boats in the same boat! (ha ha ha).
One of these yachts were three people who hired a yacht for 10 days to sail and holiday, and in those ten days had only managed the one sail to Mallaig and were now waiting to sail it back to point of hire – that’s yachting and the weather for you!
Another boat contained Dylan who is very well known in the yachting world as the man behind “Keep Turning Left” sailing blog, website and videos. He single hand sails in his small yacht around the UK posting his experiences – we had read several of his stories previously and of course having the smallest yacht out of the group we (8 of us) all thought it fit to gather on board his boat (5.5 meter long boat, with the cabin being at least a roomy 3 meters) for drinks . . . and yes we did fit and it was a good way of getting to know your neighbours. Huge praise for Dylans posts and he a most entertaining character and tells it like it is, one of my favourites quotes on his web page is …“A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving.” we love that, as we never have fixed plans – maybe a little nervous about the not arriving part tho!
Also in our little collective was Ian “the bird man” whom was the only one in Mallaig for a few weeks not waiting on weather to leave, he was part of an ecological team saving manx shearwaters in the area. Manx Shearwater birds were currently hatching and these birds can’t walk as chicks (so fly and swim only) and when hatching off the cliffs are unfortunately attracted to the artificial lights in the town and end up scattered through the town usually under car’s or in darker corners. Ian and the other volunteers go out each night with a torch and pillow slip and pick up the way-laid chicks and store them in boxes, then the following day take them out to sea on the ferry (the ferry travelling to the isle of Sky) and release them to their proper environment for a take two at fledging to the sea. Great stuff, and of course I would be keen to be in on that, so come 10:30pm off I went to rescue manx shearwaters with Ian, being followed by Dylan and his camera … and of course we only started finding them once Dylan had given up for the evening. The next day Phil proceeded to inform me that manx shearwaters were actually what us Tasmanian’s would call tasting eating mutton birds! Now feeling very guilty as yes growing up I ate many a mutton birds (very greasy and oily but oh so yummy) – also kind of makes sense now as they were always pretty easy to catch as they couldn’t run away. Can I ease my conscious now however that I spent an evening reducing them??
It was also a pleasure to meet David and Francis proprietors of Thistles On Skye B&B (on the nearby Island of Skye) who were next to us on their yacht. After meeting David earlier in the day he asked if we were moored off isle of Ornsay last night – yes that was us…he went on to say he got a phone call from Francis back at the B&B to tell him all about the Red Yacht that she could see out the window from their property – apparently she was very impressed (you have great taste Francis). She came over from Skye later in the day bearing gifts of freshly laid eggs from their hens and a delicious home baked lemon drizzle cake, a fantastic couple with an absolute stunning B&B property with the most fantastic views (check them out here: http://www.thistlesonskye.co.uk).
Mallaig is also the end of the line for the Jacobite steam train famously known as the Hogwarts Express in the Harry Potter Films. Despite the recent fame from Harry Potter it is an amazing train in it’s own right and very much a piece of Scottish History, it’s fabulous that it still runs daily. Described as one of the greatest railway journey’s in the world, (being very picturesque) this 84 mile round trip takes you past a list of impressive extremes. Starting near the highest mountain in Britain, Ben Nevis, it visits Britain’s most westerly mainland railway station, Arisaig; passes close by the deepest freshwater loch in Britain, Loch Morar and the shortest river in Britain, River Morar, finally arriving next to the deepest seawater loch in Europe, Loch Nevis! Whilst we didn’t take a ride, we met it at the station as it arrived and took the required photographs (to look like we rode on it!). Was fantastic to hear it chug into the station and blow it’s steam whistle, and it was certainly full, each day bringing hundreds of people to Mallaig for a couple of hours each day before they made the return journey home.