Sunday, 24 September 2006

Brief Encounter – Eigg Anchorage

So we’d sailed over from Barra, and at the end of the day, dropped anchor on the south side of Eigg harbour. A shore party had been exploring the island, we’d had dinner, and were enjoying a glass of wine and some music on deck when a passing prawn boat gave our cook a notion for next day’s lunch. After a short discussion, the skipper and two of the female members of the party set off in the dinghy, and returned with a huge bucket of langoustines and some smaller prawns, traded, in best nautical fashion, for cans of lager. OK- it may be stereotypical, or even sexist, to send the bosun to bat her eyelashes at the fishermen, but it works!

It was a strangely calm night – strange, because the forecast had sternly said ‘Force 8 Northerly gale, imminent’, which was why we anchored where we did, sheltered from the oncoming winds. It never materialised, though they kept warning us about it! A few stars were showing through broken cloud, their numbers growing as the sky cleared. Out here, free of the intrusive lights of towns and cities, the sky seems immense – a swathe of brilliance curving from horizon to horizon, some stars seeming close enough to become tangled in the rigging, others as far away across time as to be nothing but a distant memory of something that once was.

The last few night-owls were loafing on deck, idly chatting and finishing up the wine, when there was a faint splash from the starboard side. We look at each other, and go to the rail to see. There’s something in the water, sliding quite quickly along beside the hull. ‘A seal’ says someone. I’m not so sure, and flick my torch briefly into the darkness. Not a seal. A long body and tail, broad flat head with a short nose, thick fur. The otter turns his head to look up at us, powerful tail driving him through the water. He’s about five feet long, or so it seems, and unconcerned by our presence. He swims alongside, vanishing under the overhang of the stern, before reappearing briefly, then diving with a hint of a splash. Bubbles trail away in the torchlight, heading for the prawn boat. It’s obvious where his interests lie.

Next morning, we tell Mum. She turns an interesting shade of green.

6 comments:

GfM said...

They get 5 feet long? Wow! I am also an interesting shade of green when I read your blog, Mad. Your accounts of your sea travels are especially beautiful to me.

mad said...

that's including tail - dog otters are bigger than females, and it's a guesstimate anyway! Seemed HUGE!

The skipper said they had one on the deck one night when they were tied up in Mallaig harbour, he wondered what the noise was, went up to see and found himself face to face with an otter!

Anonymous said...

face to face with an otter? *blink, gulp, double blink, double gulp* i prefer a leetle more distance between me and the natural world.

but even for urban cowards like me, it would be such a treat to go sailing with you...

mackie said...

as always, wonderfully written.

and i am another contender for the green state, please. sigh. not only this wonderful night sky, but an otter, too …

Anonymous said...

Wow, I had no idea otters got so big. It sounds both wonderful and a little scarey to be out there on the ocean in a relatively tiny boat. Really puts things in perspective I'll bet.
Thanks for the vicarious thrills! LOL.
Jude

Sue D said...

Mad you paint such an idyllic picture. I want to sit on that deck under the stars and see an otter in the sea...sigh...