Long time he lay upon the sunny hill,
To his father’s house below securely bound.
Far off the silent, changing sound was still,
With the black islands lying thick around.

He saw each separate height, each vaguer hue,
Where the massed islands rolled in mist away,
And though all ran together in his view
He knew that unseen straits between them lay.

Often he wondered what new shores were there.
In thought he saw the still light on the sand,
The shallow water clear in tranquil air;
And walked through it in joy from strand to strand.

Over the sound a ship so slow would pass
That in the black hill’s gloom it seemed to lie
The evening sound was smooth like sunken glass,
And time seemed finished ere the ship passed by.

Grey tiny rocks slept round him where he lay,
Moveless as they, more still as evening came,
The grasses threw straight shadows far away,
And from the house his mother called his name

Childhood   Edwin Muir

 

The little arrow on the screen remained still, just off Ponta Delgada, pointing north east. I checked it every day and it still remained. I was home and dealing with the after math of Mum’s passing, lawyers, utilities, telephone, return of NHS aids, writing letters, cutting grass and patiently waiting for news. A little text appeared via satellite, “Stravaigin on passage. All well” Relief. I was not worried about the boat or crew, three yacht masters, a good strong boat and fair weather.  However they were way out in the Atlantic. They were having a ball. Poor Jan had left the boat in the Azores returning back to Slovakia for military duty, so just the three had made the second passage from Azores to Dublin but it was going well.

I booked a flight to Dublin, the final one, to meet up with them for the final sail home. The little twin propeller airplane trundled noisily off the runway and made the short flight from Glasgow to Dublin, landing after we had all had a cup of tea and lovely Sean, J’s old school friend was there to meet me. As the boat was not due in until that evening he insisted on taking me home to meet the family and wine and chat flowed as we caught up on our adventures since we last saw them, right at the start and met their lovely daughters Rosie and Kiera, and the dog who lay his head on my lap and gazed up at me hanging on every word. Suddenly Sean leapt up, having checked his Vessel Finder App and announced we had to go as the “boat was coming in!”

We bundled into his car, dropping the dog off at granny’s and we headed to Dún Laoghaire, kids and all. A quick pizza and then a march down to the marina just as I received a text announcing the arrival of Stravaigin, landfall after eight days at sea.

A beaming and slightly hairy, captain stood on the deck as we arrived, delighted at the crowd welcoming them to Ireland and without further ado, headed to the pub for a well-earned Guinness.

It was hoatching, Saturday night in Dún Laoghaire and everyone seemed to have fled Dublin and headed to the coast so after a quick drink, the crew were done and we wandered back to the boat so the captain could finally sleep in his bunk, stationary and with no watch to worry about. And his first mate beside him.

We spent a nice day the next day, after saying goodbye to Michael who was heading home which was only a couple of hours by train away, then cleaning up the boat a bit, refuelling, rewatering, restocking before treating ourselves to a fabulous brunch. We then headed out for a quieter drink in a local pub that evening rather than the huge franchise we had found the previous night. I did notice the rainbow flag in the window and the pink flamingo and unicorn ornaments adorning the bar, but the lads were oblivious, heads in phones catching up on news from home, sipping their manly pints. Time to go as the skies grew dark and as we left the heavens opened in a biblical torrent of torrential rain and we were socked to the skin within seconds. Nothing for it we waded home and literally stripped in the cockpit before dashing down below to dry off. I smiled to myself at dear Stuart, non plussed about decorum as he sat in his thermal underpants, sipping a hot coffee, steaming from head to toe.

Hunger nudged me awake and I smiled as I opened my eyes, quietly. No persistent alarm demanding me on deck to layer up and don red light torches along with life jacket, thermal hat and leather boots to protect my sleepy body from a chill I had not expected in the Mediterranean nights, I was relieved of watch duties as we had three aboard and I would gladly get up to feed us all at breakfast time. At first light we slipped out of the marina and headed north up the coast, a two day, one overnight passage to get to Islay or Jura depending on the weather and tides. It was strange having to factor in the tides again after a year almost of no tidal range but now they had quite an effect and we were keen to get beyond the NW corner of Ireland while the tide was with us.

It was a nice sail, a bit of motoring too but as we headed north the noticeable thing was the amount of marine life everywhere. The sea birds were constant as were dolphin, seals and porpoise. And jelly fish in their thousands, mostly the clear moon with their four purple rings but the occasional orangey brown, lion mane, some the size of dustbin lids, floated by. As the little white capped waves shooed us from behind like children’s’ hands shooing their chooks back to the barn, I could see the distinct dark silhouette of Jura ahead. We were goosewinged out, I’d like to say, gracefully like the Greylag honing in to its nesting site but we were more like Jemima Puddle Duck flouncing her wings occasionally as the wrong wind direction caught the edges of the sail, flapping noisily and regularly.

It was decided we would call in at Craighouse on Jura for the night and it was simply glorious as we sailed up past the Kintyre peninsula, Gigha and Islay, all silhouettes we knew well and a feeling of great pride and nostalgia came over us. It was beautiful. The sun was shining, the seas were blue and there were gannets, puffin, guillemot, terns, seals, gulls everywhere, little colourful fishing boats petered by and gave a friendly wave and the iconic black and red of the Cal-Mac ferries plying back and forth to the western islands made us right at home.

We took a mooring at Craighouse, a small fee if you eat at the hotel and we had been anticipating a feast of seafood at the restaurant as we dinghied ashore, rowing as the outboard had sprung a fuel leak. It was our 34th wedding anniversary so I had contacted the restaurant to book a table and arrange a bottle of fizz to celebrate, along with Stuart it was a double celebration marking our arrival back in Scotland. The meal turned out to be a disappointment as the food was pretty poor however the view made up for it and we wandered along the shore after eating, soaking in the stunning sunset across the water, other yachts mirrored on the still waters, the cry of the oyster catcher making the perfect back tune to the scene. I felt so glad to be back in home waters, though it did not feel real. Stravaigin looked so comfortable sitting in the bay surrounded by mountains and green hillsides, I tried to imagine her against the pink rock of the Mediterranean and it seemed like a distant memory already.

Deciding to draw the inevitable end out a little, we anchored the final night in our local anchorage in Loch Spelve on Mull, literally chucking Stuart off the boat in the dinghy, as we flew by the mussel farm, to collect a bag from the honesty box and he re-joined us with his successful net bag bulging as we anchored at the far end of the bay, a place we had been regularly over the years. We indulged in moules mariniere, the best of the year so far, and watched a flock of geese both Canada and Greylag with little fuzzy goslings following along as they glided along the shore. It was significant how much wildlife there was since returning to Scottish waters and the lushness of the hillsides, resplendent in greens of bracken and ferns, low growing willows and birches, the purple of the early heathers and foxgloves and the yellow of iris and tormentil, painting a Monet type scene at every bay.

The final morning we weighed the anchor and headed over Oban Bay, not a ripple on the water surface nor a cloud in the sky, I stood on the deck at the bow and watched the blue water slip by, jelly fish appearing ghostly as we sailed past them and the sun’s rays piercing down a fair way before being swallowed up by the deep. Past Kerrera, past Lismore Light and Oban, the colourful buildings circling the bay and the ferries bustling in and out and we rounded the point at Ganavan into Dunstaffnage.

There and back again. Eleven months later and we were tied against the quay awaiting a berth as J’s mum and sister welcomed us back with bubbly and balloons much to the skipper’s embarrassment and joy. We were home.

Home is where the heart is and mine had sailed over the ocean and discovered new lands, new people, new experiences and cultures.  We returned to our wooden house in the forest by the sea loch and sitting in the lounge that evening looking out at the sea stretching out calmly from the bottom of the garden, I felt I had never really left home at all, I had been home all along.

Long Journey,

yet it was never too late

to crest the memories of yesterdays.

A voyage that was finished before

and here I am gazing beyond

through oriel windows once more.

An ocean wide stretched from afar

with a quill and vellum on my hand

I wrote these words and understand

life was never easy reaching its core

self must refine from silver to gold

dreams red as velvet, white as snow.

Pure as the heart of every little boy

moulded from a mother’s fervent love

brave, a father’s heritage in honour of.

Blessed by the gift from Nature

toiling day and night from my storm.

She never left me lonely, till all is won

I gazed back to the oceans and saw,

Someone familiar…

Could it be…

Land A Home,

it was a moment of spring.

I step the shore, my heart felt its beat

And Lo, my guardians caress on thee

for there is no sweeter victory

than the ones who truly loved me

 

From: Oceans Beyond Oriels    Nico Julleza

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