DAY 3.


I awake suddenly with a start. It's just daylight and although the wind has dropped a little, the clouds are skimming over at some speed. I look out to find the lifeboat still away and the village all quiet.

I get up, have some breakfast and decide to row ashore. This means blowing up the dingy and tossing it over the stern. This is accomplished without too much difficulty and suitably dressed in water proofs, I row around the pier and fishing boats, now eight in number, and land on the concrete slip. Carrying the dingy up the slip above the high water mark, I tie it to an iron ring and set off on my walk.

Up the hill past the shop, Post Office and pub, and then the new Scottish Co-Operative store. These stores have appeared all over the Western Islands in recent years and one can't help thinking of how the population managed before they arrived.

I decide to walk over the island to Borve, on the west side and see the results of the night's gale. I meet no one, they must all be sleeping in! Who can blame them. Barra is perpetually under siege from the sea and Atlantic gales. I walk on, with Oyster Catchers and the wind for company. It begins to rain and I zip up my Ocean jacket. Suddenly I hear a car approaching from behind and I step aside to let it pass. It stops and I am offered a lift. I jump in, and during the conversation learn that the evening before, two local fishermen had been lost feared drowned off Borve Point.

My mind flashes back to the previous evening, the lifeboat, the helicopter, now it's all too clear. Apparently, they had been lifting their Lobster creels, when their boat capsized in the big swell. The helicopter with RAF divers, assisted by the lifeboat have been searching for survivors. They had found the boat under the water split in two, but not the fisherman.

We drive on in silence and eventually reach the village with its few house and hotel. The car stops and I can think of nothing suitable to say except - thank you. I get out and walk until I reach the sea.

Under a louring sky the great Atlantic breakers are pounding and hissing in upon the rocks with great blossoming gouts of spume, and then with the under tow, hissing out again. In the distance I can see great waves, unable to hold themselves together, falling over in cascades of water.

I turn away, and with the wind behind me make my way back through the village to return to Castlebay.

On the high ground above the village I stop, and with my glasses look at the view. It's then, that I see in the distance, Greian Head. Along the edge of the nearby Dunes, parked cars, and a Land Rover marked R.L.N.I.. And there's the lifeboat, disappearing into the troughs to briefly reappear again on the crest of a wave. A very small boat is maneuvering close to the cliff: searching, searching - for what - for anything - manned by relatives and friends of the missing, no doubt.

On the Dunes, little groups of people stand in bright orange waterproofs. They stand, as though asking the great Atlantic for answers to their prayers.

At this point I am reminded of the Hymn -

The day Thou gavest, Lord is ended, The darkness falls at Thy behest; To Thee our morning hymns ascended, Thy praise shall sanctify our rest.

I am overcome with a deep feeling of frustration, there is nothing I can do - there is nothing anybody can do. I quickly turn and retrace my steps to Castlebay and Lazy Beaver - I'm hungry!

The wind that drowned the fishermen, has not only stopped my sail to Eriskay today, but I hear on Radio Scotland that a father and son are drowned after their boat capsized in Loch Assynt and that a Nature Conservancy researcher has been found dead on Rum.

Mother nature has taken a terrible toll of the Western Isles in the last twelve hours. However, I must not dwell on such matters - food, a smoke, and a read of Para Handy I think.

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