Where were we? Ah yes, we transited the Sound of Harris & emerged at the NW corner of Pabbay. We passed numerous bays & deserted beaches on the way, all begging to be explored. If anyone is planning to go to St K & the weather turns, you could spend a day or 2 exploring this intriguing stretch of water, a good chart & a sharp eye is essential though.
As we rounded Pabbay it was decision time, should we stay or should we go.....we went. As we left the shelter of the islands & entered the open Atlantic, the sea changed character & became "pelagic" gone was the short chop & wavelets of coastal waters. We now had a rolling westerly ground swell with a northerly chop on top, it made for a confused & sometimes uncomfortable sea. We persevered due west & an hour later we saw a line of cloud on the horizon, shortly, we could make out the dark outline of Boreray & then the main island Hirta, we were still less than half way... 26Nm to go
We had expected to spot dolphins & possibly the odd whale during the passage, maybe they were there, maybe they weren't, difficult to spot amongst the white horses.
An hour a half later & we were pulling into the shelter of Village bay, a quick call to the ranger on VHF ch12 & we were cleared to land. There is a substantial jetty in the bay, but it's for landing only, you can't tie up. There are no visitor moorings either, the procedure is to drop off your passengers & kit on the jetty, anchor off in the bay & come ashore by tender. Covered boats aren't allowed to land (no cabin RIBs, open boats only) this is to prevent rats getting onto the island. Fortunately (for us) one of the regular trip boats had returned to base with engine trouble on our day & we were able to use their mooring which was going spare.
We came into the jetty & the first thing that hits you is the noise of the big diesel generator pounding away in the concrete shed at the head of the jetty. Looking past the generator building you see the green portakabins that provide accommodation for the MOD/Quinetic staff. Hardly a romantic idyll. Any way we were soon ashore & set about exploring the island in the 2 hours that we had allowed before we needed to return. A quick visit to the loo & we were wandering around the ruined village abandoned by the last inhabitants in the 1930's. The weather on our day was breezy, but wall to wall blue skies & sunshine, it would be easy to imagine this place in the depths of winter with hardly any daylight...grim, there's no wonder they legged it.
The old village consists of ruins of very small stone cottages that were primitive to say the least, life was certainly hard here, even by 1930's standards. The only inhabitants now, are the scraggly Soay sheep. Every now and then, a cottage would be home to a particularly ripe dead one. The area is littered with the Beehive storage sheds built by the islanders, these curious constructions are dotted around everywhere & were the fridges of their day.
We picked up a geocache hidden near the shop & headed up the VERY steep hill behind the village to take some panoramic photos & pick up the second 'cache on the islands. Unfortunately this has gone AWOL & we logged a DNF (more info regarding Geocaching can be found here
There is a Landrover constantly running up & down the hill, which is the "main" (i.e. only) road on the island, the Defender seems to be running between the village base & the MOD post on the top of the hill.
After a couple of hours, we headed back down to the village & made our preparations to leave. By 5 pm we were suited & booted & heading out of Village Bay towards Boreray. This sheer lump of rock is home to a spectacular gannet colony, we spent an interesting 20 minutes around the sea stack on the SW corner, before we headed back to civilisation, well, at least Lochmaddy
. The wind had picked up & was now a 6-7 from the north east, we spent the next 2.5 hours in a washing machine, actually more like a tumble drier, as we spent most of it airborne. Even the sound of Harris afforded little protection as it was blowing straight in from the east.
We tied up in Lochmaddy bang on 20.30, the pub stopped serving food at 9pm, sod the shower, hit the pub. As we secured the boats, Mrs PD headed off to the pub, still attired in drysuit & Gecko to order food before last orders. She stripped off in the bar, much to the amusement of the locals, & ordered food & drink
Half an hour later we were into steak & ale pie, chips, veg & local beer. A couple of Jura Diurachs own malts finished us off & we crawled into our tents at around 22.30 in full daylight. We had forgotten to bring our sleeping mats, so had our sleeping bag directly on the ground.....I slept like a baby
The next morning saw us up & packed away for 7am, the wind had been blowing all night & I was expecting the Minch to be "interesting", as we nosed out of Lochmaddy into the open water, I was pleasantly surprised to see little white water & we had a reasonably comfortable passage across the 17nm to Waternish point & loch Snizort. We stopped off at the Ascrib islands to see the seals & headed back to Greshornish to recover the boats. We were on the high tide this time, so didn't need to employ the 2 Disco manoeuvre.
All in all a great adventure & nobody died, although Mrs Mick thought she was going to at one point
I'm probably going to get sacrificed to the ancient Norse gods for what I'm about to say, but hey...The reason we went to St Kilda is; because it's there. As a destination I was a tad underwhelmed, I enjoyed the trip & the challenge of getting there, but as a destination, I found it disappointing. If you want to see birdlife, then Bass Rock, the Farnes, Bempton cliffs have more to offer. For history, go to Iona. For geology see Staffa. St Kilda is (IMHO) a rock with a military outpost, that has a decent selection of seabirds & ruined settlements.
Would I go again, probably not. Am I glad I went, absolutely