Light on the waves

A northeasterly wind combined with near-spring tides blew up the disturbed sea for which the Minch is notorious. The waves were not big, but short, sharp and with little discernible pattern. Tecla shouldered her way through, lifting to each wave then plunging back down, throwing spray from her bluff bows and pumping air bubbles into sea, creating a bow wave across the burnished blue sea, frothy white over turquoise opalescent.

The horizon drew a razor sharp line separating the pale sky from the leaden sea, while linking the misty outlines of the Torridonian hills on the mainland and the mountains of Harris to the west. The morning sun, reflected from the water, dazzling the eyes. It caught the many facets of the broken sea, a glittering as if specks of mica in rough granite. Or “Like the scales on a sardine,” Stephanie suggested.

For a while a Great Skua flew alongside, so close we could see its powerful body, the sober brown of its feathers against the glittering sea, the white flashes on its wings. Effortlessly, it held its place within a couple of yards of the ship’s siderail, eyeing us up for something edible. In contrast, fulmars flew acrobatics astern, sliding from mast top height, across in the ship’s slipstream, down among the waves, lifting up again on the wind.

It was a long and somewhat tedious day, butting northeasterly into the wind. As the sun dropped and the cold evening set in, we slowly made past the headland Rubha Reidh into the shelter of the mainland, approaching the Summer Isles. The skipper had identified a possible a safe anchorage between the little islands of Carn Lar and Carn Deas just outside Loch Broom. It was well into the evening when we dropped anchor in a quiet bay protected by a shingle spit between the islands, with the last of the sun dropping behind the Outer Hebrides and the moon, now nearly full, high over the Torridonean Hills.