The morning dawns warm and bright without a breath of wind and I slip silently away from Soay, not wishing to wake her, for fear I shall be trapped forever in her arms.
On on to Canna, across an oily sea, the long lazy Atlantic swell heaving the boat gently from side to side. All around me are the Islands of the Hebridean Sea. At my stern the great Isle of Skye, ahead Rum and Canna, on my port side the mainland mountains of South Morar and to my starboard, far away unseen and brooding, the mountains of North Harris.
I hear a noise, a snort and surging sound - quickly my glasses - there it is! About a cable away, a whale is moving on the same course as Lazy Beaver, sounding every few hundred yards to breathe. I watch and watch as it moves away and wait for its return. It's gone - It's gone, and I'm alone again on the lazy swell.
As if to bring me back to life, I notice that the temperature gauge for the engine cooling is fluctuating. This is not normal, and I go below to see what's amiss. I remove the engine covers and find a leaking pipe on the engine cooling water inlet. I stop the engine, and wrap the pipe with tape and pump the bilge. This will, with luck, see me safely to Canna where I can make a permanent repair.
Canna's ahead and as I pass under Compass Hill, the entrance to the harbour is before me. But I must move with caution as it's guarded by a submerged reef. I pass the reef, leaving it close to port and swing into the harbour, anchoring behind the rock just beyond the pier.
I stop the engine and quickly replace the split hose with new, secure it with stainless clips, and test - All is well.
The day is hot, and I'm perspiring after my exertions down below, so topside I go to cool off. Looking around and to the south I can see the Catholic Church, built of ashlar stone, and on the north shore the little Protestant Kirk, built of rough hewn stone, its circular tower reaching for the sky. Odd this, that so small an island with only eight inhabitants, should have two churches of different denominations, one for the minister and one for the 'popish' priest.
Canna today, with its visiting yachtsmen is a tranquil and serene place but it's not always been so. A gentleman by the name of Sir Randell Roberts, in the mid 1800's a frequent writer in the 'Field', was sailing round the Hebrides in his yacht the 'Sprite', and shooting everything in sight. One evening, he arrived at Canna and noticed seals lying on the rocks. Resting his polygroove, twelve bore, Rigby muzzle-loader on a rock, Sir Randell put up the one hundred yards sight and drew a bead:
'I touched the trigger, the bullet sped true, and with a thud entered the seal's body. It rolled into the water, dyeing the surface with blood and oil and lashing about in a furious manner; but his struggles were soon over and I saw his carcass lying inanimate, half submerged'.
All is peaceful now. Looking to the west I see Canna House, surrounded by trees and protected from the winter's south west gales by the hills to its side and rear. Until he recently died, this house was the home of Sir John Lorne Campbell, one of the greatest scholars of Gaelic language and culture. His library of books on Gaeldom is known throughout the world. A few hundred yards from Canna House is the island's Post Office, a little wooden shed selling stamps and cards - 'A View of Compass Hill, Canna - wish you were here, love....'
I go below and prepare myself a meal. Later, looking out I see two small yachts anchored across the bay, and two fishing boats, in for the night. A little later, slowly and quietly, The Marquis of Bute's motor yacht, last seen in the Sound of Sleat, slips in and anchors not a hundred feet away. If the aroma from his cooking is anything to go by, a banquet fit for a Marquis, is being prepared on board.
I light my pipe, and remember there are only two days left until my return to Crinan. But before then, the 'flesh pots' of Tobermory are calling.
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