Holland to Ardfern - bulletin ten
Onwards and Upwards - Buckie to Ardfern, Argyllshire, via Lossiemouth, Inverness, Caladonian Canal and Oban
Out of Buckie on a calm day, time to relax, the traumas are behind us, no more ropes, no more casualties - all is serene. Not, dear readers, for the brave BT.
No; his motto was Eternal Vigilance, so he hardly took
his gaze from the sea ahead when Sha and Totty cried out in
delight as a mother and baby dolphin leapt out of the water and
gamboled in the bow wave. Nor did his unwavering scrutiny of the
yeasty waters falter as 5 more of the dolphin family joined the
original two. He continued his vigil even when Sha counted 10 of the graceful leapers jostling for position around the bow wave and rushed from the wheelhouse to greet the friendly playful throng - no relaxation until The Canal. (Broontroosers insisted that Totty was in no fit condition to prance around the deck in a stiff sea at her age and should stay in the wheelhouse - after all, we still needed a navigator) The dolphins' final attempt to gain the capn's attention - when three of the more forward ones leapt on the foredeck and sang an impromptu rendition of "We Are Three Sheep Who Have Lost Our Way" with synchronized tail slapping completely failed to divert his attention from the job in hand.
According to Sha, the dolphins cast an intelligent and friendly eye
over the human leaning dangerously over the rails OOO-ing and AAAH -ing
at their clever antics. (Research shows that average dolphin's
intelligence is 50% higher than that of members of the UK Independence
Party and 100% more than those of the British National Party).
Eventually the playful nautical mammals drifted off to other interests
and Don marshaled the full attention of the crew for the Dash to Lossiemouth, our target, a sheltered harbour in a carefully laid
out village, home to RAF Lossiemouth, whose aircraft buzzed around like
a swarm of noisy wasps. None of this detracted from the warm sunshine
and balmy zephyrs of the Land Round the Corner, where the crew of
Deneys Reitz ingested several pints of the best heavy beer before
feasting on fish. The morrow would see the departure of Sha, who had
stoically withstood all that the sea and Don could throw up. Her trip
was a little like our 'rescue' of the distressed yacht; she had to
catch a bus that would connect to another bus that would connect to a
train that would take her to an airport which had a plane that flew to
another airport that had a station that would take her to another
station via the Underground and then another, eventually landing up in
Ipswich, where a friend would collect her for the final leg.
The depleted crew set off when the depth gauge at the harbour mouth
signified 1.4 meters (we surmise that we are 1.3), and much to Don's
disequilibrium encountered unexpectedly strong winds that sent sheets of spray right over the boat all the bloody way to Inverness, where the wind was
against the tide, which kicked up a very nasty swell - much to the
delight of another enormous muscular dolphin who leapt from wave to
wave (bloody showoff - Broontroosers).
As we neared the entrance to the Caledonian Canal, it appeared that
Broontrooser's confident prediction that it would be closed owing to gales was
far from the mark. Rolling hills sheltered the approaches and the lock
gates welcomed us by opening on request. There at the lock-side stood
Margaretta Gardmo-Hult, who was our next visitor with husband Curt.
Alas! BT didn't recognise her, thinking she was temporary lock staff, and simply slung a rope in her direction. Errors in etiquette were soon ironed out with the aid of a bottle of gin, and the celebrations wound on long into the night.
We had made it! Well, almost. Only 20 locks, Loch Ness, Loch Lochie, Loch
Oich, Loch Linnhe, Oban and the dreaded Dorus Mhor stood between us and
our destiny - Ardfern. The beauties of the Caladonian Canal can wait til another time. After all its inland, and we have done inland.
Said Broontroosers to an American yachty in Oban harbour, "We've almost reached our final resting place". "Couldn't you put it another way?" asked the American.
So, dear friends and relatives, the long march is over, the summer
meanderings of our almost accidental journeys have ended in a new home for
dear old 'Deneys', (and not of the senior citizen variety ) who has taken us
nearly 15,000 miles to 16 countries in 6 years (if you count England
,Scotland, Wales and Ireland as 4).
Totty, (or Charlotte as she is known by her vast array of children, grandchildren and admirers) has been the stalwart of the journey, Princess Sha Sha and Peg-leg Hamilton, along with Dr Harold Shipmate and Sarah + Margaretta and Curt and Watty ('I'll fix it, easy') Watts have been constant companions
Bartlett the Imminent Deterioration has shared every mile from his
eyrie in Rutland, which as he points out is about as far as you can get
from the sea. Nevertheless, from this sheltered spot he accurately
predicts the wind strength and direction in West Norway, sea states in
the Gulf of Riga, the flow of the Rhine and occasionally foretells
improving weather conditions in far-off places, even bloody Poland*.
So, let's raise a glass to all those who have shared in the
meanderings of the old boat and her crew. Let's down a couple to the
navigator, who only ran us aground once. Open another bottle and toast
those who have risked all to share the adventures. Throw away the empty
bottle, open another, sling the cork and take it straight from the
neck in sympathy for Broontroosers, the Old Fellow with the White Knuckles
Steaming at the Wheel. Finally, throw all the glasses away and slosh
another bottle of the very best vintage straight down your necks to good 'ol
Deneysch, the true hero(ine), who never missed a beat through calm and
tempest. Now she sits serenely in Ardfern marina, her new home, awaiting the summons to explore the West, home of the dreaded Gulf of Corryvreckan, the Cuillins of Skye with their 100mph Katabatic winds, Hutchinson's Rock (position uncertain, reported 1967), the North Channel, Western Ireland, the Shetlands and many, many uncharted horrors.
Thanks for lending an ear - assuming that you did.
Yours aye for now.
Titsoot Totty and cap'n Broontroosers.
The decision has been taken to circumnavigate Ireland next year, before we become old and senile - or maybe because we are old and senile and know not what we do.