I set my alarm for 4:30am so that I could leave at first light. I had no trouble getting up as I just pretty much didn't sleep - having been bitten I don't know how many times. When we left we didn't even have a plan as to where we were going, all we knew is that we couldn't stay there a minute longer! Our introduction to the West Coast of Scotland! Another night there and it might have killed us, so we just left and the Captain did some passage planning on-the-fly...not always a good idea - but we had no choice.
As we left I tried to make a little video, but I was so distracted by the bugs that I forgot to strap the camera down - and it fell over - whomp whomp whomp.
In the morning, the midges were still in full-attack mode.
Once we got out of the harbour, most of the bugs were gone things started to look up - we got to watch the sunrise. It might sound a bit silly, but there are moments when it doesn't matter how much we have or don't have, or how many times the crew and I were bitten or how tired you are - Some things are so special that nothing else really matters, and at that moment and you just have to sit back and just take in what you see - and just be glad you were there to see it.
After about an hour, it got a little better as the sun finally began to cut through the clouds and put on a heavenly display! Sometimes it feels like it's just for you, and you know that if you weren't there to see it, you would never even know it occurred.
As nice as everything was, it was about to get a bit sketchy....again. A few hours after this display there was an obvious change in the temperature and something weird was happening, and at this stage, I had been so distracted by what I was seeing, I hadn't yet decided where we were going. Astern, in the distance, I could see a huge white wall approaching faster than we were moving. The air seemed very still, and we weren't going very fast - I revved the engine up a few notches in the hope that we could maybe outrun the approaching fog bank.
In this part of the world fishing is the main industry and with crab and lobster pots randomly scattered throughout the area, and fishermen with their AIS units turned off - Being in fog is not a good situation to be in - just one of those pots has the ability to end us. Getting one of those ropes fouled in the prop shaft can do tremendous damage, or worse still bumping into another vessel out here! As we don't have a house anywhere, nor do we really belong any place - But this boat, the cats, and what little we carry - is all we have - and rolling the dice in the fog is just asking for trouble....we need to do something - and fast.
I spent the next while searching the charts for a suitable place to tie up to a pontoon, I know that's not very 'piratey' - but anchoring out in these conditions might not be a good idea - creeping around shallow water in the fog - where pots live just isn't a great idea. The only place for miles and miles was a place I'd never heard of - a place called Lochinver. A big deep industrial harbour servicing huge fishing trawlers and other large such vessels - but they also have a visitor pontoon, and only about 25 nm from our current position - this was to be our salvation.
When traveling in fog you are totally reliant on your instruments and as you change bearing - you just have to trust that they're reading true and correct, it just feels like you are lost in a great white haze - totally disorientating - and at times - terrifying as you can hear things, but can't see them, you can't tell if they are getting closer or further away - whether it's a wave breaking in the distance or the bow of a great ship bearing down on you. I quickly routed our passage and began to make for Lochinver...after what seemed like forever we banked into Lochinver (the loch) - The main basin of water on the approach to Lochinver (the town) and as we did so - we emerged out of the fog and into the sunshine, a relief that we were out of immediate danger.
As we approached we were unable to get a fix on the harbour visually, as it was around a bend and behind a breakwater - but we knew it was there - even though phone calls and radio call went unanswered. At about a half-mile out from the breakwater, we again tried the radio and this time we got an answer and were given instructions to wait before approaching the pontoon as there was a possibility that divers were in the water.
We followed instructions and waited some distance off the breakwater until final clearance was given to approach the pontoon, after 20mins we were called on the radio and given the all-clear - and to the pontoon we went.
We were met by a friendly member of staff who was keen to hear where we had come from and was able to give us the lay of the land, where best to collect supplies, who to contact to arrange fuel, and so forth. He was impressed that I had cats for companions and informed me that he too loved cats, but sadly someone had stolen his cat sometime ago, a beautiful male 'Maine Coon', this had clearly had an effect on him as he didn't want to get another cat for fear the same thing might happen again - quite sad actually - he still misses his cat.
Successfully out of the fog and on to the pontoon, the crew were permitted their usual arrival exercise topside to inspect the new locale!
Exercise completed - a mission into town was required - the usual supplies run....but this place was a bit different. Now, we've been in the Scottish Highlands for a little while and seen a few places, but I was a little confounded by the local signage. We don't know what some of these words mean. ???
Shortly after seeing these signs, we saw something else that made us feel like we'd walked right onto the set of Northern Exposure!
They were just walking about! Eating plants in people's gardens and in general just doing what they do without any concern for people - or cars. Apparently some locals feed them by hand and some are very tame, and evidently, they are becoming a problem, but I was just in awe that they were even there in the first place and quickly snapped a few pictured before they disappeared into the nearby woods.
It would come to be that we would stay here for two days, and after this initial sighting, we did not see them again. I also noticed that the local fishermen go 'all-out' on their vehicle graphics! These graphics are all air-brushed by hand and no doubt, cost a small fortune to have done!
Later that evening a boat arrived after hours and I went to assist, not that they needed it, these guys were pro's - but I like to offer a hand if I can - I know the feeling of arriving in a strange port and it's always nice when someone is there to help if it's needed, on this occasion - I was surplus to requirement.
The following day I noticed the same boat had several flags and banners that I hadn't noticed the day before - not sure if they had been there when they had arrived or not, but naturally, I went to investigate. I met the captain and this chap, Mark, was on a mission to meet every Harbour Master in the UK!
Having only spoken to him for a brief few minutes, he asked what direction I was headed in, I informed him that I was headed in a Southerly direction - without hesitation, he disappeared down below and reappeared with an entire pack of Nautical Charts and insisted I take them as he didn't need them anymore.
This was a VERY generous gift - to what was to him - a complete stranger - and these charts can be quite expensive - I asked if there was anything I could do anything for him - but he said there was nothing he needed. Please feel free to check out his project here
As this day came to a close, the sun was setting and it was time to get some sleep, for the next day - we'd be leaving. Chloe, as per usual, watched the sunset on our final evening in Lochinver - I think she likes sunsets, I often catch her doing this.
At this stage, we're still not sure where we're going, only that we're going South, and given we just spent two days marina - we will need to spend some time on the hook to slow down the burn rate on what remains of our funds.
Sailing is cheap, don't believe the hype or 99% of those 'expense reveals' or 'what it costs' on various YouTube channels - they're all full of it, but marinas are a drain on budgets - that much is at least true - but fully stocked - it's time for a bit of adventuring!