We found it. Paddling in the break between the windstorms we took shelter in the Uig Bay. From there we could see them perfectly, some 18NM west from us, the outline of the Flannan Isles and, at some moments through the days, their lighthouse.
I once read in one of the books we came across during this paddle, that in the past the people, who rowed there to get the birds, did not call certain places by their names. In case the ocean heard it and prevented them from reaching such places. And therefore the Flannans were known as the “country”.
During our last time on the land the forecast changed few times and something what looked like a window worth waiting for appeared. It promised, that after solid F5 in the evening it would calm to variable F3 for most of the day, only to pick up later in the evening again. We decided to give it go. Planning was done, bearing counted, food prepared, alarm clock set.
In the book it also said, that those, who went there, only went when an easterly wind blew, and as soon as it turned westerly, they turned and hurried back. Unfortunately we couldn’t follow this advice, we decided to leave when the westerly was blowing, only to be returning with easterly, as setting at later times would mean coming back against F5 headwind, which we could not justify.
We set off, the sea was calm in the bay, but once we left its shelter our well known acquaintance, the swell, was there, waiting. We pressed on for almost an hour trying to decide whether it was getting smaller or bigger further away from the land. Really we were just trying to find excuses to continue as the idea of giving up on this project so soon was just a bit to painful. Then, at 7.10am, we remembered and turned the radios on, and for once actually heard something, it was the weather forecast. The sea state was moderate or rough, the wind picking up. And so, with lighter hearts we turned back. That day it was the best day’s weather we’ve had for long time, yet what we realised later was that, the wind blowing under F5 for six hours does not make a window for any off shore paddling.
We know it was wise decision, as landing isn’t possible there, if the swell it on. And we knew that doing at least twelve hours round trip without landing in such conditions was beyond our possibilities. Still, I felt a bit disappointed. I wanted to visit the island with the lighthouse from which the three keepers mysteriously disappeared with no trace in December 1900. We were also told that in a village of Brenish a game keeper was given a job of noting in a diary if the lighthouse was lit every night, or wasn’t. What he apparently wasn’t told was, what to do if it wasn’t lit. And so dutifully he noted yes or no in his book without really doing anything about it.
For a little while I also cherished the hope of landing on the so called House island. It had a house on built by someone who was lured there by his friends from Great Bernera. Apparently very unpleasant man, that the community decided to get rid of. Although he didn’t want to go initially, he gave in to bribes and promises and set off. However his feeling were right, his party abandoned him on the island. Yet, when they came for their next visit expecting to find a body, they found him in good health and good spirit, a changed man. Whether these stories are true or not, I enjoyed listen to them.
What’s more, they were told to us by David and Rosie, who we met the day before in a cafe in Timsgarry and who happen to be in laws of one of our club member living in the area.