Sunday, August 25, 2013

Aleria's Jaunt to Scotland: 19 July 2013, Staffa, Gometra, and Ulva, Scotland

Staffa, with it's basalt columns, home to Fingal's Cave

Natural splendor in seeming isolation

Sailboat passing by
We returned to the pier where we had tied the dinghy and were horrified to see that the fast ferry was in and jammed against our inflatable. Poor Cappucino was almost squished. But luckily not quite. 

We departed Iona at the height of the tide and followed a circuitous route to keep to the deepest areas to avoid rocks.  Daria stood at the bow and watched for rocks in case the chartplotter proved unreliable.  The water was so crystal clear here, it was easy to see through it.  And the sun was at just the right angle to assist. We made it through the Sound of Iona without a hitch, which saved us hours of motoring all the way around. 

Beautiful cut between the islands
As we approached Staffa, the basalt rock lit up showing us her most impressive fa├žade of columns topped by what looks like a giant afro.  I was annoyed with the guide book which said simply, Staffa is so well known that we don't have to say anything more about it. Hogwash! That is so provincial. Neither one of us had ever heard of it. I know now that it was formed, like the Giant's Causeway, by a massive sudden eruption of lava.  The columns are symmetrically geometric, in ancient lore created by the Irishman Fingal who was a giant and constructed a walkway from Ireland to Scotland along the sea that ended here. That's a pretty good story. 


Onyx is happy. 
The sea was calm, there was about 15 knots of wind from the northwest, the air was warm, and the sun was hot. We thought about anchoring and launching the dinghy for a ride into Fingal’s Cave, but there were tour boats and cruise ships hovering with their little craft darting into the cave and buzzing around like nasty insects.  We thought a drive by would suit us just fine, and it did.  I suppose if the light had been right, a foray into the Cave might have been inspiring, as it was for Felix Mendelssohn who composed his Hebrides Overture (Fingal's Cave) after a visit there.  But just seeing the uninhabited island in the glowing sunlight proved inspiration enough. 

Alex is happy. 
Instead, we made for the anchorage between Gometra and Ulva for the night. We had bought fresh sour dough bread at the shop by the hotel on Iona and vodka at the Spar supermarket, so we had it made. It was an easy approach for a change. Once inside, we were all alone on a beautiful but hot evening, in glorious sunshine and total isolation. No other boats.

There was a strange phenomenon happening with the fog in the distance. It was creating bridge like mirages between the islands. We were fascinated. You can see it somewhat in the photo with the sailboat passing by. 

Moon rise over glass waters. 
From our vantage, there was nothing around us.  High craggy hills surrounded the anchorage, water trickled down the rock walls making a very calming sound, and the holding was good.  It was heaven. Trees clung to the hillsides, growing straight up out of crags in the rock.  We passed one lonely homestead on the way in, nestled so perfectly in the hillside that it lay hidden from view in all but one direction. Alex mused about it, intrigued about it's story.  It will figure prominently in his next novel.  I cannot wait to read it. 

We discussed the day’s events over cocktails and then enjoyed the long day of sunshine well into the late evening. It was a beautiful sunset followed by a perfect moonrise.  I will remember that night as one of the best anchorages ever.
 
Boathouse tucked into the hillside
Intriguing remote homestead will figure
 in Alex's next novel

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