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Category Archives: Scotland
We have already left many borders behind us on this journey, yet as we head further south from Scotland to Northern Ireland, and then on to the Republic of Ireland and various other EU countries border crossings are beginning to present a different experience. Of course one major change is the fact that reaching a new country can be a matter of a short hop of less than a day as opposed to the tiring progression of dawn and dusk as we grip the tiller in the open ocean. However, here in the heart of Europe the official attitude towards yachts passing between countries has also changed.
Rather than the long held tradition of raising the yellow “Q” flag and inviting customs officers aboard to fill out a pile of paperwork, since arriving in Europe we have found that most of the formalities are completed by a short phone call. Indeed the mention of old fashioned traditions like flags seems to rather amuse the officials who nether-the- less mention that we are welcome to raise the flags for the sake of tradition!
Since it was all running so smoothly we, of course, decided to make our life more complex! The thing is that while the border between European countries seems to be fairly wide open to wanderers on the water, add a little dog to the mix and things get rather more complicated. Despite having spent the past months cultivating wild hair, a bushy beard and a liberal coating of grease and grime designed to instil fear upon the landlubbers we encounter, my best attempt at the scary pirate look merely raises a smile. On the other hand, it seems that a very tiny puppy dog (currently snoozing on my lap) if the stuff of nightmares where immigration officers are concerned.
To assure the powers of authority that this lightly snoring puppy is not, in fact, a threat to national security we have been spending the past few days arranging microchips, vaccinations, pet passports, worming doses and various pieces of paper and promises to ensure that little Sparrow does not set off any alarms as we sail south. So far all looks good so tomorrow we set sail for the green shores of Ireland!
The sun is finally peeking through the turmoil of heavy grey clouds that have been our ceiling for the past few days. Under the dim watery light of these autumn skies, and occasionally through rain, hail and sleet, we have been watching a gradual transition in the landscape around us. Where the isles to the north presented a barren windswept façade hiding small pockets of greenery in the occasional sheltered valley, the sun shining down here in the town of Oban falls upon a riot of green vegetation clinging to the slopes. Strange as it may seem, while winter is looming upon the land around us, for two in the blue it seems almost as if spring has arrived.
And as we feel in a spring mood, we have again given sway to the urge to expand our little family. No …. not quite THAT way! Despite the continued attention of pods of dolphins (short-beaked common dolphins have been our constant companions since we arrived in Scottish waters) we have been craving the companionship of an animal on board. Thus the bed that was briefly occupied by a 25kg Greenland husky from Svalbard has now been commandeered by a 2kg pup that goes by the name of Sparrow. While our little ship mate has some rather large paws to fill, she has already shown that what she lacks in size she makes up for in tenacity and charisma.
So once again as we head towards warmer climes we are “Three on the Sea” …stand by for more images of Sparrow!
With over 5000 cold nautical miles under the keel at this point in the journey we are both elated to be on our way further south to warmer latitudes, and just a little weary of the increasingly wintery weather. On one hand, we are certainly glad that we diverted to the European coast as the entire North American coast is presently beset by incredibly strong winds emanating from Cyclone Sandy (see image). On the other hand, the situation here in the Outer Hebrides Islands could hardly be called settled (see image)! Indeed, an occasional flurry of snow hasbeen the only real break to the continued gloomy wet weather and strong winds we have experienced since arriving in the Isle of Lewis!
One advantage of being pinned down to wait out the weather systems is that we have had a chance to stretch our legs (though only when encased in our full Arctic wardrobe!). What has amazed me most about this landscape is the continuity of human occupation on this windswept island that was first settled around 8000 years ago. Walking over the rolling hills becomes difficult due to the constant need to scramble over the remains of some long abandoned dwelling. The reminders of the past are scattered over these rock strewn hills in a myriad of ruins and historical monuments – the crumbling remains of old stone houses stand side by side with modern occupied houses in the small villages; the crest of a hill overlooks an impressive rings of stones raised as tributes to gods long gone; the walls of an iron age fortification still stand guards against the bitter winds sweeping over the ocean … it seems there it a story buried under every rock in this place.
The history of the island also includes many influences from Viking raiders and settlers that intermarried with the Celtic inhabitants – yet for us we feel like we have finally stepped into a new dramatically different culture from the Scandinavian dominated countries of our route thus far. Don’t get me wrong, we have met some fantastic people in every country we have visited, and learning the habits of the diverse nations of the far north has been highly rewarding. Then again …. as an Australian I have to admit there is something extremely comforting about being able to but a cheap beer in a dingy pub and tuck into a meat pie with sauce for lunch …