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Twelve months into retirement

From her winter home in Oban we moved Cirrus Cat first to Loch Aline, or Loch Alainn as it is known locally then on to Tobermory on Mull, making use of the new genoa to sail into a brisk south-westerly then into a wild northerly wind, the sail pulling us along at over 7 knots when the sea was flat enough. We still have a lot to learn on how to handle a sail this powerful. Kate expressed some disappointment at the absence of dolphins or seals on our journey but I guess it is just too early in the year for them to show themselves. This time last year we were just setting out on the adventure we call ‘retirement’, not really knowing what was in store for us. Kate’s diaries place Cirrus in the South East of England, at Gillingham Marina in the Medway, and us visiting our friends near Sittingbourne before last minute shopping and casting off to go north.

Reflecting on all we have done in the last twelve months we realise that we have still to complete our original ambition of circumnavigating the UK. Events late last year cut short this plan and left us ‘stuck’ here in the Western Isles instead of smugly secure in some West Country creek and although this is something we have always seen as a positive – it has given us much longer here than we expected – we feel in some ways we still have a mission to accomplish. It is early to be sailing this far north, very few boats venture out this early for very good reasons – it can be cold and the weather unpredictable. We will wait for the weather to come right before venturing forth but before long we’ll be looking for northerly winds to blow us southwards again.

At the first opportunity we have taken ourselves off into the hills for a spot of walking, just to take in the ambiance that is uniquely Scottish. Lichen drapes from the branches of trees giving them a grey-bearded look and higher up we caught a distant glimpse of two roe deer just at the same moment they spotted us. Not being able to smell us they seemed unconcerned and casually ignored our presence.

We were walking beside Loch Aline looking for, and soon finding, Tennyson’s Waterfall where a small mountain stream drops some 20 metres into a natural amphitheatre ringed by a line of brown cliffs. Some of the stones here are soft and green in colour, and the cliff being undercut it is possible to walk behind the screen of water and look out at the view across the Sound to the Isle of Mull in the distance. Of course, Kate just had to risk the cold shower to get here. Her feet would already have been wet because the one thing almost guaranteed about walking in Scotland is wet feet. The ground often has a sort of bounce to it, the moss and the tussocks of grass lying over peat bog or hiding marshy areas into which the feet sink ankle deep.

On a completely different topic, just a few weeks ago we were held up in the UK by the effects of industrial action affecting air travel – in our case it was the French air traffic controllers. Am I the only person to see the irony in the present massive disruption to air travel caused by the Icelandic volcano, just weeks after the end of latest of the strikes here in the UK? Surely the great god of the skies must be thinking ‘You call that disruption…. I’ll show you disruption!’.

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