View across the Outer Harbour of Stornoway

Thursday, 15 October 2009

From the archives: Tuesday 12 October 2004

Well, all good things must come to an end. On Tuesday morning, I moodily packed up my things. Unfortunately, when I came down to Kildonan, my backpack was transported to the house for me. So its weight came as an unpleasant surprise. Said goodbye to my hosts and lumbered across to the pier in 60 minutes. That is actually normal time, especially bearing in mind I diverted through the Lodge Gardens. On arrival at the pier, the Eiggach were in great confusion regarding The Boat. It was very well known that the regular one, Lochnevis, was away for its refit. The Raasay, a very much smaller craft, was taking its place for cargo. At midday, a mast appeared above the pier and everybody streamed down to have a look. No passengers. At 1pm, another cry "the boat is here" sent me scurrying down the pier again. This time round, it was for passengers. I could see nothing of it until I got to the point where John Cormack was standing. "Erm, John?" I went. "Did they wash Lochnevis at too high a temperature?" The Ullin Staffa was really wee. But a lot faster than Lochnevis. It covered the distance to Mallaig in 60 minutes, where the regular ferry takes 80 minutes. On departure from the pier at 1.15, the sea was choppy, and we took over a fair amount of seaspray. Some of the kids turned green and were sent out on deck for some fresh air. One young girl was beyond help and proceeded to spew up over the side. Nice. The adults stuck to their devices for keeping seasickness at bay. Arrival in Mallaig at 2.15, and we had to clamber onto the loading ramp for Coruisk, the Skye ferry. This materialized at 2.40. Coruisk was taken into service on 14/8/03, only to be taken out again before the month was out because she had lost a propellor on entering Mallaig Harbour. I had to wait for a bus for 2 hours at Armadale. I walked down the road to Aird for a bit, sat on a grassy knoll and had a coke in the local pub. On return at the main road, I stood waiting for the 5.35 from Armadale Pier, when one of the shopkeepers advised me that "this was not a stop". No. But the bus would stop there anyhow. However, I didn't want a row, so I dutifully toddled off to the Pier and boarded the number 52 for Broadford at 5.35.

From the archives: Monday 11 October 2004

Went out earlier than before, and tootled across to the Pier to start with. From Kildonan Farm House, you can actually short cut to the Pier via the cliffs. Of course, you must cross some fences :-\, but they're there to keep the sheep in. I finally reached the point opposite the pier, and came across Lady Runciman's Bathing Hut. No longer up to spec, as several planks were missing from the walls, and Lady R would have been severely embarrassed changing in there. Whether she actually did go for a dip in the days of yore, history does not recall. My attempts to cross Pier Bay were thwarted by deep and wide streams. And the sea of course. I had to wind my way around the obstacles and found myself outside Shore Cottage. No problem, I just walked round to An Laimhrig. There I partook of a cup of Nescafe, 50p, and chatted to a yachtswoman who was over with her family out of Ayrshire. Later that day she would sail, with hubby, young boy and dog, to Soay, 15 miles away under the Skye Cuillins. Apparently 2 people live there, but the Arisaig boat Sheerwater delivers their mail. Why the Western Isles (Mallaig based) or even the Bella Jane (Elgol, right opposite Soay) cannot do that, nobody knows. Later on that day, the golden labrador would bite Diesel, the Carr's dog, for mischievous behaviour. The lab behaved impeccably. Diesel, a lil monster, did not. I marched up Pier Hill, past Galmisdale and up the path to the Scurr. That is well eroded and little better than a mudchute. I did comment on that to some people, but did not receive much of an active reply. Once underneath the Scurr ridge, I diverted to Lochan nam Ban Mora (Loch of the Big Women) to find the bench, which had been placed there earlier in the year in memory of Brigg Lancaster.

He had died early in 2003 in a road traffic accident on the island, when his jeep left the road at Sandavore, and it rolled over. As this happened at 2am, he was not found for another 8 hours. Although he was still alive when he was found, he succumbed to his injuries. Brigg, aged 31, left a wife and a one-year old girl. The plaque on the bench simply reads 'honesty'. A bottle of whisky is commonly left at the bench, for people to have a dram. Unfortunately, the Famous Grouse had been smashed. I just sat there in complete silence, looking over the water of the lochan. Later on, I went on my way. I met Brigg only once, before he got married to Tasha Fyffe. He seemed a decent enough person.

Although I have visited Eigg for 15 years, I still managed to get lost amongst the lochans. I had to get the map out (disgrace) to remind myself of their location.

Next stop: Lochan Nighean Dougaill, Lochan of Dougal's Daughter. Her lungs were alleged found floating on the surface of the lochan after she was abducted from the nearby township of Grulin. The abductor was a kelpie, one of the good people, of whom we cannot speak. Grulin was cleared in the 1850s, and now only ruins and the bothy remain. With some difficulty, I managed to wind my way around to the Twin Lochs, at an altitude close to 1,000 feet. Corra-bheinn towered some distance to the northeast, above its own lochan, which I could not see. I had to stay that high because of Glen Charadail, which cuts deeply into the hills here.

The Twin Lochs can be crossed at midpoint, but be prepared for wet feet. The traverse to the western end of Lochan Beinn Tighe is a nightmare, 2ft high tussocks of heather and boulders. I disturbed 3 sheep, missed by the shepherd George Carr, so he has a job to go and retrieve them lol. Clambering over more boulders round the shoulders of Beinn Tighe, I finally managed to reach reasonable terrain at 3.15. I collapsed on the shores of the lochan and took a 45 minute break. Then followed a fairly speedy descent towards Laig, but not without the infernal barbed-wire fencing. And when you ignore clear warnings in the terrain that you're standing above a cliff, well, you have to clamber. Don't you. LOL. Reached Laig at 17.30, and the main road at 18.05. Although it's only a mile, there were plenty of blackberries to distract me. I came across Liz Lyons and Morag MacKinnon, outside's the former's pigsty - sorry, yard. Morag's cows were blocking the road further on at the summit of Bealach Clithe, so that was an interesting exercise in shooing the damn creatures to the side. Arrived back at Kildonan at 18.55. A good, long day, and I was well knackered. Asked for a rum coke - for those who don't know me, I hardly ever touch liquor.

Hurricane update - 15 October

The Atlantic hurricane season remains as lifeless as the proverbial dodo, but the East Pacific season, which runs concurrently with the Atlantic one, is roaring. This evening, storm number 20 formed, some 400 miles south of Acapulco and what will be Rick is expected to strengthen very quickly indeed, to hurricane force as early as Saturday (GMT) and major hurricane by late Sunday. Although the storm is currently heading away from land, it is expected to veer northwest, and could be on a collision course with Baja Califormia - with winds of at least 115 knots - early next week.

The West Pacific typhoon season is also in conveyor belt mode. After tropical storm Parma finally disappeared from the weather charts after gracing them with its presence for 17 days, we now have tropical storm Lupit east of the Philippines. By the time this storm reaches Luzon Island, it could be a category IV typhoon. As if Luzon hasn't already had enough typhoons this season: after 3 helpings of Parma, preceeded by a deadly deluge from Ketsana, Lupit could deliver another heavy blow with 125 knot winds and the usual catastrophic downpours.

It is habitual to retire hurricane / typhoon names if a storm, carrying that name, has caused catastrophic loss of life and / or damage to property. There will never be a hurricane Katrina, or a typhoon Durian. Ketsana is also unlikely to reappear again in 6 years' time (the lists of names rotate on a 6 year cycle). Last year, no Western Pacific typhoon names were retired. There will be quite a handful this year, unless I'm badly mistaken.

Thursday 15 October

Overcast with occasional drizzle today, but not cold at 13C this morning. Roadworks in my area of Stornoway sends cars onto the pavement, without a thought for the pedestrians on said pavement. Wonderful.

Two weeks ago, three people died when their car was struck by a train on a level crossing at Halkirk, in the far north of mainland Scotland. The cause of the accident is being investigated, and my comments below are not a reflection on any party involved in that tragic collision. The traindrivers' union ASLEF has said its members will slow down to 20 mph at any level crossing without barriers (the one at Halkirk only had lights). There has already been a negative reaction to that plan, if only because the Inverness to Thurso train already takes 4 hours to cover the 150 miles, and this go-slow would extend journeytimes even further. It would disadvantage the train against the bus, which incidentally, also takes 4 hours.

In my opinion, car drivers should be compelled to come to a full stop at any railway level crossing without barriers, then proceed slowly across. I believe that the current Highway Code already states that the onus is on the driver to ensure the crossing is safe to tackle, as the train cannot stop. After the train struck the car at Halkirk, it took a quarter of a mile to come to a full stop, although it was only doing the statutory 50 mph. Also, there is a litany of incidents of crazy drivers who fly across level crossings when the lights are flashing, barriers coming down (or already fully down). It is not the trains that should slow down - it's the drivers that should.