Chapter 13: Aug 17 - Loch Aline to Port Ramsay
August 17th - Loch Aline. As soon as breakfast was over we slipped out of Loch Aline and had an entrancing sail to Oban. It was one of those rare summer days when visibility is perfect. The Beaufort signs BcV describe it. Blue sky predominated with streaks of high flying cirrus and the underlining of V three times means something very exceptional in translucence and clarity of air. I have not mentioned the air of the Hebrides thus far but I do so now, for it is so fine, so exhilarating and so pure that its happy breathers are over conscious of some beneficent agent which cheers but does not inebriate.
Grimalkin: "I am not so sure".
As we passed the Grey Isles a rendezvous of cormorants and indeed most of the seafowl which frequent these coasts McClumsie introduced me to the Mollyhawk, a bird which in all my years at sea I had hitherto been unable to identify. It is about the neatest and best looking of the gull tribe. They have a black spot on the neck and are cleaner, whiter and smaller than the usual gull. That at least is how they first struck me but a later closer view inclines me to think their feathers are sometimes of a very delicate shade of French grey.
Grimalkin: "You know you are trying to spin this out; why not get on with the tale if there is one".
Cat: "My poor Grim; the trouble with you is that you are completely devoid of imagination. I am transcribing these notes in the depths of a cold, marrow freezing, December day, but I am none the less still basking on Pandora's quarter deck watching the bow wave and the wake as they make beautiful designs on the mirror like surface of the Sound. I can see the reflection of Dun da Gu as far deep down as he is high above me. I am poised between heaven and earth. Do you wonder that I like to linger here for as many pages as I can?"
We had come abeam of Duart Castle that very stately Scottish pile perched majestically on a high rock. On such a day as this one could see from its battlements as far as Inverness; for there is no obstacle save Neptune's Staircase to bar the vision.
A slight uneasiness In Daisy Gardner's engine beats caused suspicion of weed on the propeller as we gently rolled through Lismore Race. The fear of this is a frequent disturber of the peace in motor cruising. It is akin to the feelings of the driver of a car on a bad road, a sort of puncture complex. It was a false alarm and we sped smoothly on to Oban.
Oban in these days was a complete flop, no stores, no milk, no long expected wire for Smab, not even a picture postcard and without doubt a very slippery slip off which the Skipper dodged for an hour or so while the various search parties were ashore. At 2 o'clock we were away again out past Dunollie and heading up the Lynn of Lorn in most amazingly perfect weather. We threaded the tortuous maze of islets off Port Appin and turning to port around the head of Lismore went into Port Ramsay, a wild lagoon like harbour, but rather open to the north. Good shelter may however be had by mooring close to its eastern shore a spot probably only accessible at high tide.
From here was another marvellous prospect of Scotland's highest and most picturesque peaks. The great stack of Ben Nevis towered above all also some fifteen miles to the north, then the Glencoe heights with Bidean nam Bian (Peak of the Bens) then Clachlet in the Black Mount and all the Benderloch mountains round to Cruachan. As sumer clouds drifted gently over them from the west we could observe the deep blue shadows they cast now on this peak and now on that. A matchless panorama.
There was a colony of seal on a skerry at the entrance to our almost landlocked pool. It is nearly surrounded and is dotted with roofs and rocks many of which are only visible at low tide. While the others were having a siesta and sunbathing on deck I took the dinghy and 'booted' over the shallows under the steep rocks of the island to our westward. It was fascinating to peer down into the water below the rock, where little fish were swimming about amid ribbon weed and other algae and waving foliage over a sandy bottom strewed with razor shells, crabs and starfish; while to every inch of barnacled rock clung mussels, cockles and limpets. Round about me there fished, flew, sang and swam curlew, oyster catcher, heron, duck and gull. Maureen also did a spot of diving and swimming and sang as she did it.
I have not mentioned Ardgour and the imposing character of the western shores of Loch Linnhe. I do so now because of the impression it made upon me at the time. Those mysterious hills of Ardgour dominated perhaps by the striking peak of Resipol concealed behind then Loch Shiel and Glenfinnan where the gathering of the clans took place in the '45. On the Appin side we could almost see the spot where James of the Glens did not commit the Appin Murder. Bidean nam Bian looked down upon the scene of the massacre of Glencoe. The whole land was steeped in romance - and, if you like, crime. It made me in some degree a witness and even a participant of those olden days and deeds. Surely it adds to the value of the present if one can include generous measures of the past as well.
Grimalkin: "More mitigated tosh".
Cat: "Well, write the thing yourself".
Grimalkin: "Resipol is in Sunart, not in Ardgour".
In spite of my feline friend, I shall continue these pages exactly as I please, if an idea strikes me I shall put it down, if it does not I shall omit it.
Later Mate, Maureen and I went over to the little white clachan of which the inhabited part of Port Ramsay consists to see what we could acquire in the way of stores. The little row of cottages had each a kailyard which were bright with summer flowers. There were gladioli, pansies, roses, fuchsia, marigolds and balsam. Outside on the short green turf beside the sea grow also wild balsam, bluebells, thistles, meadowsweet and grass of parnassus. We speired for eggs and one old wife bade us "bide a wee". The weekly stores van was paying its call at the same time as we were, and later we acquired a dozen eggs on which the old lady doubtless made a few bawbees of profit. Two little burns trickled briskly down between the cottages and at the back was a grassy hillock with a fairy ring at its summit, evidently the favourite playground of the bairns. There we sat in the sun, discussed books and admired the view.
The night was star spangled and moonlit and very still, but at early morn came the rain and then wind, force 7 and 8 in confirmation of a gale warning. For once the weather office had been right.