SNEAKY SEALS | PIRATES OF THE AIR | MINKE | CALM STORMS | DOLPHINS | FISHY CHIPS | CAR SLEEPS
Whale watching always seemed like a far flung exotic activity to me. It never really clicked in my mind that here on my home island it's possible to glide across the waves and find all manner of sea life thriving in the cold north.
Close to home and yet seemingly a world away, my trip to Gairloch in the Wester Ross region of Scotland fulfilled a little dream I never knew I had.
My plans for this trip to Scotland took me to the busy village of Gairloch for several days. Doing a little research on the area, I found out there was the potential to jump on a boat and spot some sea creatures from here and this quickly became the aim of my whole trip. Landscapes would come second to the sea.
However planning a short trip to Scotland with busy, weather dependent plans is the behaviour of a fool. So I tried to keep my expectations low, never mind spotting some watery lads out there in the seas, perhaps I might just glimpse a seal or something from the shore.
Alas my worries seemed to be well founded with no cruises sailing due to high winds around the coast. Having been in Gairloch for my allotted 5 nights, I awoke on the Friday with only the prospect of a 9 hour drive home. It seemed the only sealife I would have encountered was the 3 lots of cod I had eaten from the fish and chip shop.
Yet I am nothing if not logical and optimistically pessimistic. So my mind interpreted this morning as the last chance I might ever get to get on a cruise and it was worth one last pop down to the harbour to see if the cruises would run. It was a slim chance, the wind had dropped a little, and it was easier to try today than drive the 9 hours back sometime in the future, maybe.
I arrive with 10 mins until the 9am cruise would set sail and I was told it was on, and even better there was a space free. I quickly got floatation suited and booted, listened to the safety chat and we were off. Eight bright yellow puffed up humans sailing a rib boat straight into the wind and waves.
I hadn't really known what to expect on the boat. I am definitely not of old sea dog blood, and the idea of the open seas and ocean does terrify me a little, but that's more on a abstract level, 'cus it's reet big.
It turns out when it's windy this little RIB boat sure gets tossed about on the waves and by the oncoming winds. Each time the boat hopped from one wave to the next you could sense the wind trying to push us back or sideways. I was a little tiny bit apprehensive, but tried to avoid thinking about the situation by chatting to the lady next to me about her previous life on the Isle of Harris.
Now Guess What?
About 30 mins cruising out to the mouth of Loch Gairloch, and the skipper deemed it was too windy to go on. My last ditch attempt to see the sea creatures was being scuppered by the weather. However I could see the captains point as could my pants and I was a little relieved to head back in. I figured this was probably my only real view from Orca 1 looking back toward Gairloch.
Back on shore the organiser chap advised they would try again later in the day as the weather looked to be improving. Should I stay or go? If I go, it's all over, if I stay where will I sleep tonight?
I figured it was worth waiting until 1pm and the next cruise. However, I misheard the times and while I was out snapping my first seals on the trip, the afternoon cruise set off without me and spotted a couple of Minke and some dolphin.
It was now 1pm and the next cruise was a maybe at 4pm. Any hope I had to get home today was gone, chances of finding accommodation were slim so hey I might as well wait until 4pm. In for a penny in for a dolphin as they say. So hanging around the harbour I watched the local fishermen go about their business while watched by the local seals.
The 4pm cruise is a go go!
..... and there is just enough room for me to jump on board. I get floatation suited again and now felt like an old timer at this game. The wind had calmed even more and this time the trip outwards was a doddle. Flying over the waves we soon got to the mouth of the loch and crossed out into The Minch.
The views from out here are special. Watching the clouds and weather drift over the Isle of Skye, Lewis & Harris was an experience in itself. I also caught a new appreciation for the scale of these close yet distant neighbours. The massive mountains make each island seem so close to the eye, and yet by boat despite heading towards them at full speed they only seem to creep closer at a snails pace.
After an hour or so's cruising we reached an area of sandbanks just north of Raasay.
And then we stop and wait. Thats when the magic really begins.....
Have you been?
Let me know your experience of the place with a comment below, or drop me a question if you want to find out more.