Chapter 8: Aug 13/15 - Acarsaid Mor to Tobermory
Next morning the Skipper rose early and took off his coat. He tackled the batteries which involved something over a hundred operations with the shifter. There was practically nothing wrong with any of them. An extra turn of a nut was adequate treatment. Then he went below and soon discovered the cause of the trouble. One of the electrical starters had refused to disengage, had shorted and heated up with the continuous flow of current. Unfortunately nothing would induce this starter to behave properly, so for the rest of the cruise the Skipper was compelled to use devious and ingenious ways of bringing the starboard engine into action. It was too heavy to move by hand without some auxiliary power. This he contrived to obtain by first starting up the port engine, proceed through the water at about seven to eight knots and so get a turning on the starboard propeller and the shafting and then by engaging the clutch acquire as it were another hand working at the after end of the engine. Look at it which way you will, it was not reposeful. It was good to hear both engines again on the go; but the Skipper had had a busy morning. Meanwhile the rest of the crew relaxed. Torrie took Lordie ashore to show him the island and the well which was dry. The Frail foregathered with the Bermudians with whom she was well acquainted, knowing as she does everyone in Scotland. If she had not known them, Torrie would have done: so as the French idiom has it the affair was equal.
At 17.55 we got under weigh. This time I ensconced myself in the captain's cabin a comfortable bit of yacht tonnage ignored by the Board of Trade. It had most comfortable settees and was glazed its full length on both sides. Booster who cleaned them with gallant altruism remarked that there were thirty six windows in the ship. As far as forecastle scuttles were concerned he kept a blind eye. Here then at great ease one could watch the scenery fly past, and make caustic observations. One could study the charts and keep an eye on the quartermaster in the wheelhouse to which led a stair of three or four steps which were apt to be slippery in a seaway. Five steps went down aft to the galley and beyond that to the twelve foot square saloon, at the after end of which was the Frail House or cabin de luxe. Once more we were bound south in a fresh breeze and a moderate sea. We passed through Kyle Rona with its bold islets and skerries into the Inner Sound and set a course to pass eastward of the Crowlins. There was again exceptional visibility and all the mountain tops were clear. We had a charming passage and it was not until we had passed through the Kyles and came to Glenelg that we encountered anything in the way of wind and sea which our now hardbitten mariners would have deemed worthy of comment. At Glenelg however we met the full force of a strong breeze coming from the south west up the Sound of Sleat, which meeting the ebb kicked up as big a sea as I have ever seen in that perpetually seething cauldron. However we soon slipped round Sandaig Island and into Loch Hourn where conditions were calmer if wetter. At Corr islands where Loch Hourn bends to the east, the quartermistress went haywire she went hard a port instead of starboard described a full circle and shrieked. We came to anchor in our usual moorings at 21.15 a remarkably fast passage, it being something over forty miles. No doubt the tide through Kyle Rhea stepped up the speed. It tears down at the rate of knots. "Pandora" had already arrived.
The next day we stayed put. There was a bright interval for about two hours, before and after which there were continuous squalls and several inches of rain. The big waterfall on the south side of the loch was at the top of its form. Against the dark olive background of the mountain, it appeared like a ribbon of satin or white silk floss. One wondered what the weather was like outside. Here in Loch Hourn we got exactly what we expected, The Skipper remembered an occasion when it rained for days on end without cease. Then they up anchored and went up to Kyle. When they got there a matter of under twenty miles they asked "What sort of weather have you had here"? They were told "Oh! it's been unco' fine; we've no had rain for six weeks.
The next day "Pandora" left at 8 and we followed half an hour later. It took her four hours to reach Mallaig a distance of sixteen miles. We took two hours and ten minutes after considerable driving against the steep seas we met in the Sound of Sleat. Breakfast crossing the mouth of Loch Nevis was an exercise in balance, rather like an egg and spoon race.
In Mallaig we tied up at the steamer pier and took in fuel. The little harbour which was enjoying a lee from the south west was a lively sight crowded with yachts and local craft; but even so the force of the wind kept every ensign and pennon at full stretch standing out stiff as cardboard. In some sort "Pandora" was an exception for contrary to her status, her burgee wore two tails.
When the shore party at length returned from their marketing and so what, they reported a gale warning. This was the cue for the Skipper to cast off and wend his most uneven way towards Ardnamurchan. I think he was bent on showing Lordie what the Atlantic looks like in a gale. Actually he was very wise, for though we had a good bouncing and saw the breakers crashing over the Ardnamurchan rocks we came comfortably into Tobermory and so made good our southing. We anchored so close to the trees that we could hear them rustle. There was a scent of honeysuckle and we could almost pluck the rowan berries. We lay at the east end of the harbour, far away from the Treasure ship. There was a beautiful black and silver light on the water, while the riding lights of the yachts seemed golden by contrast. It was now the genuine mill pond, flat as a silver salver and indeed a contrast to the hours of intense agitation we had spent during the passage. You may have seen the Rocio, at Lisbon; they also keep a roly ocean square in Oporto. The Portuguese seem to have a fancy for that sort of thing. The beautiful tesselated tiles are of course only seen in two dimensions, they are plane but you reel as you walk on them. Our track from Ardnamurchan past the Plowman Rock was in three dimensions and we had travelled through the trough.