The Softer Crofter – fickle weather spawns marine mayhem

Salty dog keeps an eye on the lobster pots

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The first yacht of the season sailed into the bay below the croft last week and its skipper could have been forgiven for thinking she’d dropped anchor off the Amalfi rather than the Argyll coast.

The blue sky and calm, sapphire water gave a positively Mediterranean vibe so we followed the yachtie’s example and headed round to the village to collect our wee boat from its winter mooring. The promise of long sunny days for fishing and flat calm conditions to drop the lobster pots enticed us to waste no time, so we chucked the double kayak in the car and set off.

The two-man big lump of plastic was being deployed instead of the rubber dinghy which had been badly torn in one of the wilder storms and neither of us had yet fancied attempting the repair. So the kayak was duly humphed out of the car and down to the shore, launched, boarded inelegantly and soon we were entirely soaked from the waist down.

Whether due to the fact that its previous users have been lightweight youngsters or our poor paddling technique, we were taking on water. Undeterred, we continued out to the mooring as fast as our skills allowed, concerned primarily about the plethora of phones and car keys we had misguidedly taken onboard.

Climbing up from one shooglie wee boat to a much bigger one is a bit of a laugh, as long as you can ignore the fact your spouse is finding it less amusing.

Marital harmony deteriorated further when the boat’s engine produced no more than a couple of coughs before spluttering into silence. As almost always happens hereabouts, an offer of help was just around the corner. A kindly neighbour had just sailed into the bay in his magnificent old wooden yacht and, hearing the death rattle of the engine battery, came alongside to proffer his jump leads.

Sadly, they were too short to achieve the intended jump-start so after thanking him and waiting till he wasn’t close enough to witness our clumsy disembarking, we climbed back down to our shooglie, inundated vessel, carefully passing phones and keys with more care than I ever remember handling any of our newborns.

Sodden trousers and bare feet – yup, I’d left my shoes onboard the big boat – are probably not entirely unusual in a harbour village like Tayvallich, but inevitably this was the moment the stunningly good weather turned and a biting northeasterly wind tore through us.

The weather has stubbornly refused to return to the glorious conditions we’d naively mistaken for the start of an early summer, so the rush to muck about on the water has dissipated slightly. Another kind local has taken our battery off the boat to charge it so we’ll give it another go when the mornings are no longer thick with frost.

Hay is still on the menu until the sun comes back.

It wasn’t only us that were tricked by those warm March days. The Highlanders had shunned their hay-ring, favouring the shoots of sweet grass the sun had encouraged through the ground, but these last few days they’ve been trundling back up to the ring for a good, warming feed.

They’re no daft and we’ve taken their lead. There will be time for prawns on the barbecue, fresh mackerel cooked at the beach – well a couple of days in July maybe – but in the meantime the ham haughs are back out the freezer and a good pot of broth is on the stove. The yachts are still coming into the bay, however, but I assume they’re hardy old seafarers with sturdy sou’wester’s rather than us novices with bare feet and a wet bum.


no_a15SofterCrofter01. Salty dog keeps an eye on the lobster pots.

no_a15SofterCrofter02. Hay is still on the menu until the sun comes back.