You can't call it a storm, or indeed a gale, but the cruise to Lochinver was certainly punishing. From Jason's Ellen Gale Neil told me he could at times see most of Paul's bottom, an alarming sight.
Seven boats headed from Isle Martin after a gin-sodden evening on the pontoon before setting off into what the Vice-commodore suggested would be a "flat calm". Those of us with access to Windyty.com or the Commodore's preferred itsalwaysshiteonthewestcoast.com feared otherwise although the actual strength of the wind, and size of the waves, as we rounded Isle Ristol and headed north was a surprise; certainly to the Commodore who poked his nose out and poked it back in again, before heading for Kumari, anchored non too securely in a bight off the entrance to Ristol, for a comfort break. Fortified, and reefed, Sally's head was turned once again to the north, and once again she was thwarted by the waves, which had been building after a week of northerlies.
So back she came, in company with Captain John Sensible and First Mate Donald aboard Mairi Bhan. neither of whom needed their characters building, being quite bad enough already. Word came through later that they arrived back at Isle Martin just in time for a slap-up curry and cake, courtesy of the Ladies Who Scribble, alone and un-chaperoned on the island to garner inspiration for their next blockbusters. The sight of a bedraggled Buchanan, and his piratical skipper put them in mind not so much of Johnny Depp and Orlando Bloom, more of Long John Silver and his trusty parrot. Who knows what literary gems will have been inspired by their ragged appearance on those placid shores.
What transpired after curry and cake is not disclosed, and perhaps is best kept secret until the publication next year of what will undoubtedly be a host of books featuring a cast of swarthy mariners and marooned maidens bearing plates of cake and bowls of curry.
Meanwhile, aboard Sally, by now heading gently downwind, the Commodore was pondering his decision to turn back. Had not Andy Reeve told l him aboard Kumari that "No one will think any the worse of you," if he bailed out. That clinched it.
And with those words ringing in his head, mindful of his role, the heavy responsibility of office, reputation, example, but mostly of of the ignominy awaiting at the Winter Party, knocking back a tumbler of 100% proof Captain Morgan's. crossing himself three times, and with a prayer to the Almighty, resolutely once more he turned Sally's head to face the onslaught, this time with working jib and a few more rolls in the main.
Actually, it wasn't too bad. And how she did go under reduced sail. I'd almost forgotten what a powerful little boat she is. And when at last we rounded Coigach, and cracked sheets for Lochinver, the sun shone, the breeze softened and for an hour or so it was just bliss to tack slowly up towards where the rest of the fleet, Lunga, Twister, Kumari and Mollymawk, were berthed, to a warm welcome on the pontoon.
Alas, Ellen Gael had found the last tack up from Rieff too daunting, and had also turned back, possibly the horror of seeing Paul's bottom had been too traumatic. That left five yachts and crew to share their experiences. In truth the wind had been no more than force 4/5, with a touch more in the squalls that accompanied the rain clouds. But it was the swell, combined with the waves on that five-mile upwind leg that had been so brutal at times.
What happened next? Have a guess. It involved red tins and a walk to the Caberfedh for an excellent supper. After which we all went to bed happy and tired.
The return passage was flat calm, as the Vice had predicted, albeit a day later...