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Launch day visitors

Sycamore budsThere can be few other signs that shout ‘Spring!’ more loudly than the unfurling of leaf buds and tree flowers, the creases all falling out as they swell to full size ready for another action-packed summer of photosynthesis. It is an amazing process to watch in action on a large scale too, this gradual greening up of the landscape, all starting from tiny buds of life sprouting from otherwise lifeless twigs.

For boat owners, however, spring is all about launch-day, the day the boat is lowered into the briny after being closed up for many months during the winter. This is what signifies a new beginning, a new sailing season. Tarbert Harbour lift-inCirrus  Cat stands ready onshore, freshly smooth-painted, as thick canvas lifting strops are wrapped around her hull. Then as the crane-driver inches in the cable and the tension increases there is a loud creaking sound as the load comes on – nothing to worry about really but alarming if you have never heard it before – and slowly we rise from the ground. From on board the sensation of movement is almost undetectable as we swing out over the water to descend gently into the boat’s natural element. This is always a nervous time for boat owners and friends Rich and Gerry who have come to visit for a week help us by remaining calm, taking pictures of the event for posterity.

Cirrus just launched

We are lucky with the launch weather, almost no wind and dry as well, at least until later in the day, so soon we are motoring around the marina to a berth, tying up to a pontoon and the kettle is on for a cuppa. A short while later Graham & Cheryl arrive, more friends of ours on their way home from holidaying in Wester Ross, then by mid afternoon we are moving on to the next item on the busy agenda, a meal out in Campbeltown followed by a ‘Tasting’ of some fine Springbank malt whiskies at the Sailing Club. It is dark by the time we arrive home, floating on a peat-flavoured cloud of alcohol (well most of us), barely capable of coherent thought but delightfully satiated.Seal at Southend

Rich & Gerry’s visit here has been an enjoyably relaxing experience for us (we hope it has been the same for them) despite each day seeming to fill up with activity almost without us trying. They have taken in their stride winning the Carradale weekly village quiz, Scottish country dancing in the village hall, circular walks around the village both in the rain and not, my driving along some of our more exciting single-track roads, single malt whisky consumption to near-excess, walks along miles of muddy tracks and pathways, irregular meal times tempered by countless cups of tea, and finally an evening-full of the Sicilian detective, Inspector Montalbano, on television. View from foghorn at the MullThey are hooked, by the way, as indeed are we.

On Rich and Gerry’s final day with us we all visit The Mull at the tip of the Kintyre peninsula, from where the cliffs of Northern Ireland’s County Antrim can be seen clearly just twelve miles away. Indeed Rich’s excitement is largely because he last saw this place from the other side. The forecast rain held off and the wind just sneaked along the cliffs instead of blasting us off our feet as it can do here. Rain showers came and went in a way that we could watch them drift away Ireland-wards like strange blurry waterfalls, out of focus and drifting slowly over the sea. Through the windows of the old, now disused, signal house the noise of the sea wafts upwards and echoes around the rusting steelwork, all that remains of the horn that once used to shout out a warning across the sea. This is now a redundant piece of equipment since fog signals all around Britain have been silent for some years now. They are no longer deemed necessary in an age when ships are fitted with so many electronic aids to navigation and their crew are all inside where they would not hear the signal anyway. So this rusting monument stands idle, silently watching the waves through its empty windows and when the fog comes its voice is no louder than the noise of the wind through its pipes.

Visiting friends have now taken their leave of us, flying south to the corner of England where it rarely rains and hose-pipes are things confined to the shed, never to see the light of day. Rather like paying car parking charges, a shortage of rain water is something quite hard for us to comprehend, living where we do. Not that we mind this. Having a little too much water seems a far more comfortable state of affairs than having too little of it and having to pay to park a car now just seems like a distant memory. I used to think that cutting the grass was an equally pointless activity until I realised that grass is a plant that needs to be trimmed down low, it cannot survive any other way. If it is left uncut then the land on which it grows will sprout taller plants which will shade the grass, leaving it without light. So grass and grazing must always go together and the lawnmower is really a grazing machine, made necessary because we have removed the natural grazers by fencing them out. Take the fence away and the grass will be grazed naturally, or at least it will where we live. Apologies for the rambling. It must be the time of year.

The sharper-eyed may have already spotted the new feature on this site where the banner picture in the strip on the top of the page changes each time you visit. The page will now randomly select one of our favourite pictures each time it is refreshed (Press F5). Feel free to explore these.

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