"Rosita" Reports - Leg 3

Ship Bar

06 20 00 - Rosita's new crew has duly arrived. Of course the fine week of summer weather that preceeded Hannah, Oliver, Sam, Chris and Tom's arrival has been over run by a frontal system dumping rain and ugly forecasts. So they seem to be competing for a world record in endurance sleeping. Managed to pry them loose for a visit to the nearby Scattery Island - a place of many early Christian and Viking comings and goings. The goings resulted in many many graves.... Now the kingdom of multitudinous rabbits. MJM did an interview on Clare FM - the local radio organ of news, views and community life and death. Giving various evasive answers about large whales off the Irish coast. Another piece of Celtic myth it seems - possibly resulting from much seismic survey currently underway. Boat is in good shape for now. Plan is to day sail up the coast for 2 to 3 days before passage to Hebrides. Weather will dictate. Stay tuned - Mkl.

06 25 00 - 53 08.9N 009 40.8W 1000 UTC
Sat. made a passage from Kilrush to Inishmore, the largest of the Aran isles in the mouth of Galway Bay. Tom spotted a minke whale 5 m. S of the islands. Visited Don Aonghasa on Inishmore - a Bronze Age hill fort with a 700' cliff to its edge. Saw no other marine mammals in spite of the viewpoint. Exposure to such an awesome artefact lead to some pretty heavy questions about time and when humans first recorded the passage thereof. I'm not sure if we parents are up to the demands of home schooling, but exposure to such monuments to time surely raises the awareness level. Minibus driver, having recently retired from 25 years skippering a trawler off the w coast confirmed the dirth of large whales in these waters. Now headed N. to Inishbofin for more Irish heritage - there's a good chance of a surface front along our track somaybe we'll get lucky and find some itinerant marine mammals. Sam's in the crow's nest ready for 'em. Michael.

06 27 00 1500UTC 55 01.4N 009 01.4W
Michael Finished surveying back up the W Irish Coast. Overnights in Inishbofin off Galway Bay and Frenchport on the Mullet Peninsula. Climbed the ramparts of Boscoe's Castle guarding the entrance to Bofin - variously a monastery, then a garrison for Cromwell, then a prison for bishops waiting deportation to W. Indes, one of whom didn't make it 'cos his punishment was to be chained to a rock at low water.......Bofin has other strange stories too. A home to the rare Corncrake also. Only recent marine mammals so far are seals. But a confirmed sighting of a right whale 2 weeks ago W of the Hebrides (via. Simon Berrow) makes us hurry north. Expect to be in Castlebay, Barra June 28th. Michael.

07 01 00 1620 UTC 57 32.7N 08 11.2
Over the past few days surveyed from Inishmore to Inishbofin to Frenchport on the Mullet Peninsula. Nothing more than seals. Overnight passage to Castle Bay, Barra, Outer Hebrides. Greeted by 3 killer whales 10 miles S of Barra Head. Spent two days acclimatizing to Hebridean ways - slept a lot - went to a Cleidh, met up with friends and relations from the US, chartering a sailboat, as planned even. Now making a survey line to St Kilda. St Kilda is 40 miles west of the Outer Hebrides. It is the NE corner of the patch where D'Arcy Thompson shows right whale catches from the Hebridean whaling station at Bunaveneader in the period 1908-1814. Hopefully the wind will stay away from east to south so we can base ourselves at St Kilda for a bit - time will show. The only marine mammals seen today are humans inside large tin cans with periscopes that submerge when you approach them......Michael

07 03 00 0900 UTC 57 50 N 8 33 W
Survey line NW out of St Kilda. Foggy, but can see enough. Weather looks like we can stay here a bit. Spent yesterday ashore - St Kilda is an overwhelming place. 3000+ y. of largely isolated human culture (ended in 1930), based largely on birds: fulmars, puffins and gannets - the largest gannetry in the world - with a misty trail of Druid and Christian threads. Maybe gannets are reincarnated Druids? Many primitive stone structures for the storage of humans, their food and stuff. Children keen to go look for the menhirs. ....Would not be surprised to meet Obelix coming around a corner. Place well conserved by Scottish Nat. Trust, in spite of military industrial overlay for a radar base. Culture was slowly decimated by missionaries, tourists and their various diseases, along with market changes. A fascinating eerie place. Came back to the here and now with a dose of Euro 2000 soccer final in the radar base bar last night - the Puff Inn. Michael.

Compass 07 06 00 1930 UTC 57 47N 008 33W
Village Bay, St Kilda. Spent happy few days waiting for weather. Exploring various parts of the island and assimilating the unique ambiance and history here. Apart from avoiding the many cliff edges, major concern is avoiding walking too close to Greater Skua chicks. Sam and Michael both receiving significant whacks to the head from irate skua parents doing defensive dive bombing. Survey on the 3rd yielded nothing but sperm whale sounds at the shelf edge. Headed out again today to go west, where some fronts lie, on the basis of analysis from Plymouth Marine Lab remote Sensing Group. Had to return to base to reattach alternator to the main engine. Happily the right bolts were available ashore. Meeting the local bird folks doing extensive ship surveys on and off the shelf for past 16 yrs makes me think that if right whales were here they'd know it. 070700 Surveyed a front W of St K.in vain. 070800 Hd'd for Loch Resort on Harris to duck a low. MKL

07 13 00 2100 UTC 57 26N 006 35W
Loch Dunvegan, Skye, Inner Hebrides. Since we last wrote we weathered a blow in Loch Resort, on NW Harris, then to W Loch Tarbert to do laundry, visit the chipper, and see cars for the first time in 10 days. Still hoping for trees. Visited the old Harris whaling station at Bunaveneader - nothing but garbage, and dead sheep. Ramp & stack still intact. Decided to head east given the seeming dearth of lg whales where they could have been. Did find a decaying whalebone arch in W L Tarbert. In Loch Maddy pub(N Uist)last night heard of a lg whale carcass - about 3-5 months dead, on a very inaccessible island in the Sound of Harris. Will try to visit given adequate weather and neap tides. For now we are in castle mode, anchored next to a few head of highland cattle and TREES - tomorrow we visit the seat of Macleod of Macleod of Dunvegan - the erstwhile laird of St Kilda - will bring the appropriate msgs from the gannets.

Working 07 20 00 2200 UTC 57 11N 06 10W
Loch Scavaig, Skye. Have continued the slide from looking for the spirits of long dead large whales into tourist mode. However there is a link - a strong one - in that we are yet again in the footsteps of an endangered species. This time it is the Scottish island croft. So many of the places we have visited are empty of people, except where small hubs of commerce huddle around the ferry termini. Yet these islands 150 years ago were heavily populated with many crofting communities. There isn't space to go in to detail here, but to observe first hand, the decaying sheilings where once small crofting communities eked out a living, using the moor in back as communal grazing is to witness one of the saddest stories of the class struggle in recent European history. Essentially there was more money to be made in large sheep farms, than in collecting rent from smallhoding crofters so they were shipped off by the often absentee landlords to the New World in droves. Many forcibly evicted, being literally burnt out of their homes. It is no different than profiting out of slave wages for sneaker manufacturers today, but to see the stark contrast between the staggeringly beautiful landscape and the utterly depressing human history makes for acute interest in the history of the places we visit. Ironically it was in the bookstall at Dunvegan Castle - a multi-century now Victorian monument to the rents paid by crofting tenants of the the Macleod chief - that I found a book, "On the crofters Trail" by David Craig. For a few years he visited old crofting sites, interviewing descendants, and the areas where they colonized in Nova Scotia and beyond. The story is summed up in the observation that they often used ex-slaving ships to move the human excess - The peak of this exodus was in the mid 19th C. There was no obvious right sde in this conflict. The landowners saw it their right to profit from their land, the crofters saw it their right to cultivate land that their forebears had improved. The methods of eviction were certainly harsh. The reality was, is, and always will be, that rent stinks.

At Dunvegan we also spent time at a sheep dog trial - amazing skill, the skill used by shepherds in the big sheep flock era after the clearances, we went on to Loch Harport, also on Skye. The sun set on the west end of the Loch, as the full moon rose over the Cuillin Mountains to the east. I thought of Phil and his urge to see the full moon rise as we were doing the cloud-filled Atlantic crossing and hope he could see the same vista some day. He and I did get an amazing series of clouds backlit by a shy full moon. But the rise was hidden.

>From Harport we went to Canna, one of the small isles to the south of Skye. Canna, like St Kilda is owned by the Scottish National Trust. It remains a working sheep farm. Children in awe to find the footprints of what we assume were otters in a sand dune riddled with large burrows over a special white sandy beach. One of the sadder aspects of the beaches here is the amount of plastic, mainly of fishing industry origin. But trash management in general is not particularly good.

>From Canna we went on to Rum, where we stayed 3 nights. Anchored in a large bay. Rum is a bizarre place of contrasts. Now a National Nature Reserve. Originally crofts. Cleared for a large sheep farm that failed. Then bought by a Lancashire industrialist who developed it as a deer hunting estate, whose heir built an obscenely lavish early Edwardian castle, for what appears to be a fairly decadent summer retreat. Go past the castle, up the glen and you are in wilderness. Steep mountains, rushing burns, heather, red deer, golden eagles and springy trails through heather, bogs, streams and plantations. The land has been a reserve for 40 years now and the results of an aggressive reforestation campaign show amazing fruit, given what most of the overgrazed islands look like today. The red deer are the subject of a major sociobiological study (based at a little ole place called Cambridge). A destination for scientists, earnest hillwalkers, day trippers from Mallaig on the mainland, and yachties.

We left there this afternoon and crossed back to Skye to anchor underneath the other side of the Cuillins. Seals all around, a freshwater loch disgorging over rapids through the big round boulders and heather and peat bog. Deer looking on in wide eyed amazement. Williwaws rushing down off the mountain. Gavin Maxwell did the Tarka the Otter thing just around the corner. Sorry for the socio-economic ramble but I've never been so moved by the history if a place I've visited. Perhaps it is because I have had the time to read. A footnote: St Kildans were never evicted. It was too profitable in that era.

7 23 00
From Skye went through the Kyle of Lochalsh to Plockton, where w met up with Patrick and his girlfriend Vicky. Sail over to Rona - amazing anchorage - once called, in gaelic, the Port of Robbers, as it was a pirate base for the Inner Sound. Now just heaps of rock and heather and solitude. Over the next few days headed for "civilization" (aka a marina south of Oban) to restock, do LAUNDRY, take a train ride next w/e to a wedding in the SW of England, before we start to head south to the Azores by the end of August. Hopefull going west about Ireland again, weather permitting.

Michael

PS. Been seeing harbor porpoises..............

08 01 00 56 39 N 5 55 W
Past week has been one of catching up on boat chores and family life in the old country. July 23rd. Sailed from Rona to Loch Hourn, inside of Skye, after dropping visitors off at Plockton. Then on down through the Sound of Mull to Oban. Last few miles was the windiest since we arrived in Ireland. Then spent rest of July in Oban. Sewing sails, doing further battle with UK yacht eqp't mfrs - medieval business practices. Friday took train to Taunton in Somerset (12 hrs..) mostly hosted by Mr Branson. His trains hardly live up to the Virginal moniker. ScotRail is better. Family wedding on Saturday and back on Sun. Monday more hassles in Oban, including the start of a 7 day process to fill US propane tanks..... Had hoped to head offshore to do more whale survey before we head for the Azores, but will have to wait for the tanks. So now exploring around Mull. Tonight in Loch Sunart opposite Tobermory. Spectacular scenery and meatballs. 56 39 N 5 55 W August 01 2000. Moores.

08 09 00
August 8th 2000 Rosneath, Firth of Clyde. Since we last mailed a week ago we visited Fingals Cave on the island of Staffa. The other end of the Giants Causeway with spectacular basaltic columns. Spent that night off Mull. Neighboring yacht had a piper at dusk ^ a grand place and distance for the auld drones. From there we went to Iona and paid homage to St Columba. Spectacular ruined nunnery and restored abbey. Amazing restored stonework. That night in an anchorage called Tinkers Hole, where we found a cave with a chasm over it with a 2 ton rock wedged at the top and a grey seal at the bottom. Kids went swimming^^.. From there to the west side of Jura. Deer on the ridge at dusk, and then to Islay. Visited the SE corner ^ the oldest Celtic cross in Scotland. Yesterday rounded the Mull of Kintyre in a flat calm ^ around here the locals see it as being comparable to a mini Cape Horn. Now at a yard on the Clyde trying to coax a generator that makes all the right noises but no useable juice back to life. Now focusing on getting south of the Bay of Biscay by the end of August. Hope to make it to the Azores. Generator doom may change those plans. Finally saw an almost large whale yesterday ^ a Possible sighting of a right whale by a seismic vessel north of the Shetlands last week. Michael south of Islay. They are quite common around the Inner Hebrides, but we have missed them till now. Possible sighting of a right whale by a seismic vessel north of the Shetlands last week. Michael


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