Friday, 22 April 2016

Across the Sound

I hadn't appreciated, until a conversation yesterday with Kilchoan Early Bird, that fish as large as cod are caught in creels designed for prawns. As if to make the point, he sent me this picture of the year's first mackerel caught in one of his creels later in the day.

This morning I crossed the Sound of Mull on the CalMac ferry Loch Linnhe on her 11.45 sailing to Tobermory, once again to visit the dentist. Since I had only phoned this morning to report the loss of a filling, this is an example of first class service from the NHS.

It was a beautiful morning but with a chill and increasingly strong northerly wind. Eight cars drove off the ferry, and three on, along with some foot passengers. The ferry has been busy - up 300% on last year during March, in part due to the early Easter - but it's quieter now.

What used to be a green buoy marking the New Rocks has been replaced in the last few weeks by this yellow one. The New Rocks buoy had a green light, but this has a white one, flashing nine shorts and a long to indicate that it is a west cardinal marker. Six or seven years ago, a south cardinal marker was put down near Auliston Point, the purpose of the two lights being to mark the Stirks, a set of rocks on the southern side of the entrance to Loch Sunart. All this information is courtesy of the staff on the ferry, for which many thanks.

M112, HMS Shoreham, was paying a courtesy call to Tobermory so, with an hour to fill before the dentist, I asked if I might come aboard and have a look round.

This gentleman explained that only pre-arranged, organised parties were permitted.

It's a reflection of our times that a fully armed marine has to stand guard on a minesweeper during a  visit to a peaceful place like Tobermory - but perhaps the Navy knew that the Mull Music Festival is on, attended by a contingent from Kilchoan.

So I sat and talked to this little bird, which I think is a dunlin, until it was time to go to the dentist.

On the return journey, for the first time in 20 years, I enjoyed a crossing in lonely state. It's a pity there isn't a first class section on CalMac boats, as I would have asked for an upgrade.

The visitors should be here to enjoy the glorious blue skies of April on Ardnamurchan.

Many thanks to Kilchoan Early Bird for the mackerel picture.


  1. I sometimes wish you had the facebook-style "like" icon to click on when you put posts on like this; I have no sensible comments to make but would like you to know that they are read and enjoyed!

  2. Hi John.
    Just to say that a west cardinal has nine flashes only. It is only the south mark that has a long flash on the end to make it clear that it is not a west mark.
    The top marks point towards each other which can be remembered easily as it looks a bit like a wine glass (sort of). W for West. The buoy is yellow black yellow. The top mark arrows point to the relative position of the black part ie in the middle. This all makes it easy to see what cardinal mark it is from a distance.

  3. Many thanks, littlegrebe, for your kind words, which are much appreciated, and many thanks, too, to you, John, for sorting me out on the cardinal marks. To be honest, I'll rather miss the green light at night - all the lighthouses, beacons and buoys visible down the Sound now flash white. Jon

  4. Yes I enjoy reading the Kilchoan Diary every day as I live in Norfolk and have been Sailing in the area for the last ten years and visiting
    friends on Lismore always as an annual event. Carl

  5. The bird is a common sandpiper. We spent our summer holiday at the Field study centre campsite last year and your blog always brings back memories of a lovely break in a special place. Thanks, Andrew & Stef

  6. Many thanks for correcting me on the bird. Jon