It may be true that any port is welcome in a storm but Lochinver in the western highlands north of Ullapool has been both welcome and welcoming. True to forecasts, the wind strengths experienced over the last couple of days have more than justified our decision to interrupt our passage north and we have been grateful for the all-round shelter provided by this protected harbour and thriving community. As the wind howled in the rigging, the heavy rain showers turned to sleet and, on the higher ground behind the village, to snow, Atlantis has sat safe and snug at her moorings in the new pontoon berths installed to bring yachtsmen and tourism to savour all the village has to offer!
Tenez la gauche
Anyone who has seen the film Local Hero will recognise the scenario where the lady who takes orders in the restaurant is also the clerk of the port authority - for all we know she is probably also the policewoman, postmistress and midwife - but this is an unfair and misleading depiction. At the heart of this inspiring tale is a local community who have taken control of their own destiny, purchased the land of the village and immediate area from their landlord, the laird, and combined together in mutual endeavour to make it work - and work it does. The previously ailing fishermen's mission has been turned into a café and bunkhouse with the benefit of Big Lottery funding and operated by villagers, the walking and climbing community are well served by B&Bs and walking routes and there is even an Albert Roux restaurant to serve more discerning palates - not ours we hasten to add.
We have been highly impressed by the welcome we have received; albeit at first glance slightly puzzled by the impressive Highlands Enterprise Council funded fishing and port infrastructure that seemed initially to serve little purpose. Since then, we have seen one (french) trawler alone discharge five container lorries worth of fish all destined for France and Spain direct and have revised our opinions. This is truly an 'international' harbour as the multi-lingual road signs reminding drivers to 'Drive on the Left' on leaving the port area will testify.
Yes, that is snow on the hills
The whole place is an enterprise which suggests the investment of imagination, leadership and community spirit - and the benefits of well targetted grant seedcorn funding. A cynic might suggest a background maelstrom of local politics but we saw nothing of the sort. Simply a community making a very tidy collegiate effort to maintain a sustainable local economy.
Taking our lead from the locals, we too have been highly industrious. We have serviced the steering, addressed a myriad of odd jobs and, less enthusiastically, taken the heads (toilet) apart to redress its tendency to recycle 'matter' intended never to be seen again. Whilst this is not, perhaps, what you'd like to mull over, these things are the realities of life on a boat. We are pleased to report that our efforts have not been in vain.
Today, Friday (24th May), we are at sea again. After topping up fuel, water and some fresh supplies we said a fond farewell to Lochinver and are currently heading north towards Cape Wrath; the northwest tip of mainland Scotland. From there, with a forecast of favourable southeasterly winds, we shall head for Lerwick in the Shetland Islands expecting to arrive at some stage on Sunday.
Wishing you fair winds and safe moorings.