St. Fucking Kilda!
So I finally lived the dream - the secret dream of all British sailors:
To make the passage out to the UK's nautical El Dorado, its salty Shangri La, its xenobathic Xanadu - the fantastically remote island archipelago of St. Kilda.
Not that St. Kilda is really all that far - it's only about 50 miles from the nearest safe anchorages on Harris,
but still it is an exposed voyage out into the raw Atlantic with its risk of sudden changes in weather and seas.
Plus you are starting from somewhere that's already pretty remote - the outer side of the Outer Hebrides. You don't get much more outer than that!
'Tis a wild and lonely place
, ye ken.
My sail out there wasn't entirely straightforward, it ended up being a two day beat (natch),
the first leg taking me massively southwards to the almost equally remote low-lying Monach Islands, where I anchored overnight,
before finally being able to lay St. Kilda on the second day.
And an exciting relief it is to finally see those sheer rocky cliffs rearing out of the empty ocean with their promise of a sheltered loch.
I anchored in the well-protected Village Bay, some distance off the old pier and the new slipway.
The bottom is clean sand and I eventually got Harmony firmly secured, even though the convenient shallows were congested by a host of small buoys,
and rowed ashore.
The St. Kilda radio operator was very welcoming, but asked me if I'd mind moving my yacht from where I'd anchored between the marker buoys
which guide in their delivery ferry, landing building materials onto the slip. I declined, opining that they would probably manage to work around me.
She then gave me a fine introduction to the island and its surprisingly large population of
birdwatchers, sheep taggers, archaeologist and the remaining small MOD contingent (as they dismantle the old barrack buildings).
And to the excellent museum set up on the single street of drystone black houses
where the original (and ancient) Kildarians resided in medieval squalor before the last 34 of them were shipped off to the mainland in 1930.
Probably not a moment too soon - a funny-looking bunch of inbreds they were
and the creepy old photographs in the museum still give off a very Wickerman
Then I spent a few pleasant evening hours hiking up the rocky hillsides and investigating the drystone cleats (St. Kilda is rich in stones)
where the islanders used to dry their seabirds, eggs, bits of stringy goat and their peat. And used to live! at least in the bigger ones.
Apparently they managed surprisingly little fishing due to the inhospitality of the local seas. Or possibly not so surprisingly.
And so to bed. I did ask if there was a pub. There wasn't :(
During the night the wind kicked off pretty enthusiastically quickly reaching a (un-predicted) Force 7
and bringing astonishingly fierce gusts down the steep mountain sides into the bay,
spinning my little boat right round its anchor and keeping me awake worrying most of the night.
Fortunately the holding was good, and Harmony survived but I left at first light the next morning
for the looooong, wet, horrible 12-hour sail back to South Harris.
And no time for cooking :(