After a bit of a break (last season was rubbish) I’ve decided to re-start the blog.
Went up to Balvicar last Friday, where Silkie spent the stormy season in the yard, to get ready to launch. Sadly, Silkie has been much under-maintained this winter and a great deal needed to be done to achieve even the minimum necessary before launch. I declared us ready on Monday evening and hoped to go in after Shard the following day.
It was not to be however and I was first in on Wednesday, just after lunch, and the rest of the day was spent bending on sails and re-connecting the mast electrics etc.
After a last minute disappointment over a mooring at Balvicar I’d had a scramble to find an affordable summer berth before finally striking a deal for a mooring in Dunstaffnage Bay. Our shakedown cruise was to be the 19 miles between the two.
I’d hoped to have two crew for this sail but both had found flimsy pretexts to bow out and so I was single-handed again. The 0600 forecast was W/SW 3/4 inc 5-7 v NW4 in N later, oc R/Dr, M/G oc P, M oc R in N and the visibility was indeed decidedly poor although there was not much wind in evidence yet. Dropped the mooring at 0950 and motor-sailed through Cuan where I saw the only other yacht of the day motoring W to E against the start of the flood. It was a bit choppy as we emerged but not enough wind for the sea state so we continued motor-sailing and were immediately joined by two large dolphins.
They stayed with us around Easdale and up past the northern tip of Seil, about 6 miles and well over an hour, providing the most astonishing show almost the whole way. As well as the usual rushing at the boat from all angles and just scraping in front of the bow or under the keel, they made amazing synchronised leaps easily six feet clear of the water dozens of times. One did a huge back somersault right in front of the bow while crossing from starboard to port. On one occasion I thought they had left and I started to do a 360 degree scan (conscious that I hadn’t been keeping as good a lookout as I ought – oops) and as I looked back the two burst clear of the water, no more than ten feet astern, from opposite quarters and one leapt clean over the other. They flanked us, upside down, for a while but I’m afraid I’m unable to tell male from female. They spent several minutes keeping pace in formation alongside the cockpit with their heads out of the water and it was impossible to escape the conclusion that they were checking me out. No pictures unfortunately – a tale not worth the telling.
The current wisdom is that such behaviour by these beautiful, powerful and undoubtedly intelligent mammals is the result of boredom but I find it hard to believe that such an extravagant display is purely the product of ennui. At the very least they appear to display an admirable joie de vivre for all of their adult lives and I can’t help wondering who made the right evolutionary decision when I see them scrutinising me with that cheeky grin.
We parted company south of Kerrera and I suspect they became distracted by a fishing boat which appeared to be sorting it’s catch to judge by the cloud of gulls in attendance. The wind had picked up and we were sailing now. It was no more than a point or two off a dead run at any time and we sailed under a conservative, single-reefed main alone but it was enough to give four or five knots in the freshening breeze, with a clean bottom. We tied up to a Dunstaffnage pontoon (mooring yet to be inspected) at 1410. Not too shabby for 17′ on the waterline.
Miles this trip 19
Miles this season 19