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The Outer Hebrides Experience

Just when I thought we had seen all of the Scottish Isles and were ready to head south to Ireland, another string of Islands appeared on the western horizon – time to investigate. Now I know why she bought the guide on the Outer Hebrides! 30 nautical miles later we were anchored in Loch Grimshader, among the seals basking on rocks and sheep grazing in fields.

Time to open a bottle of wine and enjoy the experience.

The next day Saorsa was docked in Stornoway, nestled between fishing fleet. It’s the most northerly port in the Outer Hebrides, where we ran into our fellow seafarer, Angus McLeod, who was born out there. The next day Angus, who was in the Merchant Navy for 48 years, drove us to a lifeboat commissioning and what an event, including singing in Gaelic. We just pretended, as you do, by moving our lips.

The whole town of Leverburgh turned out for the lifeboat commissioning service, with everyone invited to the hall afterwards for tea and incredible home baking – seconds necessary and we’ll ignore the scales for a while. The lifeboats are manned by volunteers, requiring strong community support.

After two nights in the bustling megatropolis of Stornoway, we headed south, ready for a quiet anchorage which we found in Loch Claidh. An early start for a great "Minch"sail the next day, around the Shants Islands. (Pauline was reading the current owners book about them - so a sail around them was very fitting). The Minch

had it’s own "wee"surprise for us. Just south, we suddenly ran into strong currents and short seas, - rather uncomfortabel to say the least, but a slight course change enabled us to thread our way through, arriving at a peaceful anchorage in Loch Maddy. A unique Scottish sailing experience, which partly explains why the locals are so hardy, as we must be. In the Loch, the local seals were not impressed to see us and soon slid off their rocks into the water.

Then off to Loch Dunvegan on the Isle of Skye the next morning, identified from the sea by the Three Chimneys headland.

We anchored next to Dunvegan Castle, home of the McCleod Clan chiefs for the past 800 years – a very interesting visit and the gardens were impressive, from natural waterfalls to the greenhouse.

We celebrated Pauline’s XX birthday at the Three Chimney’s Restaurant, which she had been trying to get to by boat for many years. It certainly exceeded our expectations, along with the rest of the table, including one Danish and one Dutch couple. The dishes were based on local ingredients and were sublime.

The next morning, back to the Outer Hebrides we went, passing by the mighty Queen Elizabeth ocean liner

at 1.42 miles, after a short radio conversation to offer to give way- she very kindly sped up and left us standing! Then we sought some shelter in Loch Skipport, as the winds were blowing over 30 knots in typical Scottish weather, - a good test for the anchor - Sailing in the Caribbean (planned for Christmas) is looking ever so appealing to me. We have now sailed Saorsa for just over 1,600 nautical miles around the U.K. and Scotland. While we’re beginning to understand the boat, I feel we still have more learning and fun to come in our transition from coastal to ocean sailing.

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