Wednesday, 14 January 2015
Well here I am on board MV Isle of Lewis. Actually our new ferry sitting idly in Greenock should have been doing this run 5 months ago but it’s now thought it will be another four or five months before she starts because of delays to the harbour works. I’ve had my mandatory bacon roll and coffee and done the Times2 crossword in the time it took to finish the coffee. To me that’s a good start to a day. Well at 0745 it wasn’t quite the start of the day which actually started over 3 hours, 7 road miles and half a Minch crossing ago.
I shouldn’t say this of course but I’ve been very lucky so far in judging the right moment to make my journeys. This weather window is a short one and more severe storms are expected this evening. By then, hopefully and road conditions permitting (heavy snow is forecast for the Highlands and down as far as Glasgow), I shall be in Glasgow.
All things considered the sea is not too bad and we are running with the wind but I suspect that the return journey may be slightly less pleasant. I shall not be on it!
Sitting here I have been contemplating 40 years of Minch crossings and some of the horrendous seas I’ve sailed on. The old (and much hated by many) ferry MV Suilvan (which went to be a cattle boat plying between New Zealand’s North and South Islands before going to Fiji where she eventually died) used to sail regardless of the conditions. The mariners said she was a fine sea-boat but to passengers she was a corkscrewing tub. David (of Mollie fame) and I were on board crossing from Stornoway to Ullapool (as I am doing now) when the sea was very rough one pitch black winter morning about 35 years ago. We were up abaft the bridge contemplating what it must have been like in a sailing boat in days of yore. I went into the upper deck passenger accommodation and when I emerged to look for David a little later he had gone. An hour later and after much searching he was still missing. He eventually turned up having walked round to try and get dry. A wave had gone right over the top of the bow and the bridge and soaked him from head to foot. He was less than impressed by my anger at his disappearance. It was the anger of relief. I (and to a lesser extent our more sanguine friend and colleague with whom we were travelling) had been getting to the point of severe anxiety.
And that was one of the less ‘exciting’ crossings!
Update: I'm now at a friend's near Glasgow: wined, dined and wined, and cheese and wined. The journey was amazingly uneventful apart from a 90 minute holdup because of snow and traffic accidents near Drumochter (the highest point of the journey).