Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Loch Ailort and the silence of Eilean a’ Chaolais

After passing Eilean nan Gobhar, it was only a skip and a jump to Eilean a’ Chaolais at the north entrance of Loch Ailort. I was still running on auxiliary outboard and was keen to see if I could spend a little time and get the main engine working before crossing the open waters of Loch nan Uamh. Douglas was keen to have a look at his bandage again, and we were both looking for an excuse to stop for another lunch, so agreed to land at the sandy beach on Ardnish headland.

Rounding the rocky point of Eilean a’ Chaolais, I could see just how far the tide drops here by the markings on the rocks. It was around ten feet in height. That is a lot of water to move out to sea between high and low tide, but I had not detected any significant tidal flow since leaving Loch Moidart.

I was now homing in on the landing beach at Ardnish. The fish finder still showed 40ft of water below my keel so I knew it wasn't far to go.

However Douglas had another idea. He had spied a different sandy beach on Eilean a’ Chaolais and was making his way towards it. It's normally under water at high tide as I didn’t recall seeing it the last time I passed this way.

I followed him ashore and we both rested for a while in another place I can only describe as paradise.

The water was calm and crystal clear. Sand eels darted in the shallows. There were sandy bays separated by steep rocks decorated with orange and black seaweed. The sun danced happily through the hillside chased by the shadows of the clouds. But best of all, was the stunning silence in the landscape around us.

It didn’t last for long though. I had brought the main engine ashore and ask Douglas if he could assist trying to start it. He suggested removing the plug again and checking for a spark. I removed the plug and carefully supported the engine with one hand while I held the starter chord with the other hand. I asked Douglas if he could hold the plug onto the metal casing so it would spark while I pulled the chord.

He agreed. I pulled. The silence was broken.

Not by the sound of the engine starting but by a noisy cough, then a splutter followed by a curse. Alas for poor Douglas, the cylinder had been flooded with fuel which was why the engine wouldn’t start. When I pulled the starter cord, the excess petrol spurted out the plug hole and caught Douglas full in the face.

The good news was that when I assembled everything, the engine started with no further problems. I thanked Douglas and called him a star .. he called me something else but I didn’t quite catch what it was. To make amends, I offered to help him change the bloody bandage on his foot, but he politely declined my offer of help.

Not long after, we were back in the Sound of Arisaig, having passed through the Caolas a’ Bhogadain, rounded the end of Ardnish and were now heading for the many islands on the far side of Loch nan uamh.

Silence again returned to Eilean a’ Chaolais... my main engine was now throbbing happily ... while Douglas's toe was just throbbing again :(

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