During an April sail, Jonty Pearce adheres to the Highland adage that there is no such thing as bad weather - only inappropriate clothing
I write this blog while bobbing at anchor in Loch Scresort, the best anchorage on the Inner Hebridean island of Rum. Kinloch Castle, a spectacular example of Victorian excess, is just visible through the drizzle at the head of the inlet, and I am supping a welcome cup of tea after a fruitless vigil at the otter hide just east of the pier.
Some might consider Scottish cruising a slightly hair shirt affair this early in the season. At this point I hasten to clarify that I am not shoehorned into the austere confines of a mere yacht but living the high life on the Hebridean Princess, enjoying a somewhat superior level of comfort, warmth, and service. There is even a drying room. Before any of those few who are still reading at this point cry ‘cheat’ I would like to confirm that I have frequently enjoyed these very waters at this time of year aboard a ‘proper yacht’. Our Penguin Cruising Club has traditionally taken the first charter from Isle of Skye Yachts at Armadale, though this year Easter was so early that we were requested to delay our Easter Cruise until the 9th of April as the boats might not be ready before. Whilst snow on the hills may often be the norm, snow on the decks is a less frequent and welcome experience, and frozen fingers can take the joy out of sailing. However, by adhering to the Highland adage of ‘there is no such thing as bad weather – only inappropriate clothing’ even April sailing can be a joy. Those who do not take a winter break from their nautical activities or hardy souls who sail high latitudes will rightly feel superior here, but for most of us Easter heralds the start of the season.
It has to be said that visiting the Hebrides at this time of year can be an absolute joy. For those of us who love the area, its lack of bustle and relaxed atmosphere is at a peak – the sight of another yacht becomes the talking point of the week. The weather can be warm and bright, and of course there are no midges. Anchorages are deserted and mooring buoys unoccupied. While some of the hostelries might be holding out until later in the season, purveyors of supplies are always glad to help. But best of all is the clear air and sparkling views. When the rain holds off, it often seems that one only has to reach out to be able to touch the peaks of the mountains. Lichens flourish in the pure air, demonstrating their health by covering both old and new wood with green beard-like growth. The taste of the clear water that chuckles down the burns from the hills cannot be beaten, and provides the perfect companion to a warming glass of local single malt.
The colours of the scenery are bland at this time of year. The grey rocks, bare trees, dead grass and resting heather present the eye with a dull palate. A clutch of primroses, a platoon of daffodils or the shy glimpse of early rhododendrons provide the mere anticipation of the glorious colours of May, possibly my favourite time to visit. We regret that it is many years since Carol’s school timetable has allowed us the luxury of a long May visit to revel in the vibrancy of the rhododendron avenues and the green woods of sheltered valleys. With retirement now only 363 days away, I can see this school holiday restriction dissolving as our horizons widen. Fear not, Aurial will then soon enjoy Scottish waters bathing her keel.