Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Coming on - rough but do-able

Coming onto the island for a shift always takes a reprogramming on mind and today was no different. It can be hard dragging yourself away from home life and the family and today it was harder with the weather iffy so the day started with an early morning phone call to Colin, skipper of the RIB Osprey, to see what he thought. "Rough but do-able" was the verdict so it was into the car for the trip to Fife and Anstruther for a 0930 sailing. Living in the middle of Scotland means that almost invariably the sunshine increases as I head East but this is tempered by increasing gusts of wind. Passing through Cupar and I could start to feel it on the car. For me the best part of the drive is when the road reaches the top of the ridge at Pittarthie and you get the first view of the island. Of course it hasn't changed but somehow it always looks different and you get the first idea of what the sea is doing. As you go through the settlements you savour trees and common birds that are rare on the island, rooks, house sparrows and magpies. In Anstruther and there is the usual rush of a sprint round the Coop for food for my stay, nipping in to the public loos where it is 30p to spend a penny and they don't do season tickets, and picking up any island post from the delivery office.
 The surprise is that though I thought I was the only one going over the boat is packed with builders and it takes time packing all their gear and getting them kitted out in waterproofs and life jackets. It is their first trip to the island and they don't know what to expect. But they soon get the hang of it as soon as we get outside the harbour entrance. It is still blowing hard and the swell is running. Lucky for us we are going with it and so only get quite wet. Colin is a master at handling a boat in these conditions, constantly reading the waves and adjusting the speed and direction to give a smooth crossing. At times, at the bottom of troughs I can see nothing as the tops of the waves are above our heads. Despite the spray there is still time to see a few razorbills ducking under, a ragged gaggle of pinkies battling the wind and most surprisingly a scattering of meadow pipits skimming the waves looking for gaps in the wind and water to make progress on their autumn migration .The biggest waves are at the North end of the island where current meets wind but once round that we enter the lee of the island, surprise a few seals on the North Ness and scuttle along the sheltered east side and swing into Kirkhaven. And suddenly I am back on the island and straight into dealing with contractors questions, meeting volunteers, noting boat times and gradually getting up to speed with the island. So what is happening out here now ? More of that tomorrow but for the moment I pass Jeremy on the jetty as he heads off the island for a break ...and a right good soaking on the journey back - even rougher but doable. 

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