In retrospect I have to say that starting long crossings later in the day is much pleasant than early in the morning. The reasons are – good night sleep, time to prepare snack, time to pack, time to have proper lunch and time to leave on planned time. This time we haven’t much choice on when we wanted to leave, the wind just dictated it, as it had done with all our paddling over the past 5 weeks. We left at one in the afternoon.
The weather was a bit different to expected, the wind was blowing into our faces rather than from the side. We made our way towards the Heiskeir Rocks in solid F4. The sea wasn’t calm, but was one of the calmest we’ve had so far. We wouldn’t be crossing if it wasn’t.
Quickly we settled into the pace and paddled with little talking as it was quite noisy and we couldn’t hear each other.
At the beginning there was much to look at, the outline of Harris and Lewis hills to our right, the Heiskeir ahead of us. The Monach’s lighthouse was well visible to our left, but as we made progress forward, it was slowly becoming a stick until it disappeared completely.
The islands of Hirta and Boreray were hazy in the distance. There and now the big swell washed underneath us and hid them from our view. We settled into the time, this now would be happening for the next many hours. Occasionally we were disturbed by gannets or puffins flying nearby.
As the afternoon progressed into the evening, the sky was changing. The sun became hidden behind the clouds which were drawing interesting patterns in the sky. The wind stayed in our face, but calmed a little bit.
At some point we could take our sunglasses off. The sun retreated beyond the horizon leaving red, orange and gray marks just right of Boreray. The shapes of the islands ahead changed. Boreray with its stacks looked like a crown, while Hirta looked like a fish.
And was it, for the next several hours we were paddling towards a huge fish. In the fading light I was just waiting for it to lazily move its tail. Funnily it never had.
It wasn’t completely dark that night, yet as the sun settled down, so did the wind and sea. It was still moving, making us paddle up and down over rolling hills, but the surface was almost smooth. At some point we felt our boats gliding through and forward.
Having enough of waiting for the fish to move, I started to look at the patterns reflecting on the water. It reminded me of an African patterned fabric, which one could see on Sundays in East and South London. Some moments it was in shades of black and gray, and other times in dark blue, gray and orange.
Finally we came almost close to our destination. The fish was gone transformed into some hills and cliffs. However Boreray now concealed itself into the shape of baby mammoth rolling a ball in front of him.
It took another two hours for the navigation lights on the shore to align on top of each other and we could enter the bay. Finally we could breathe out a relief, yes, we’ve made it. We should make it to land now.
It was surprisingly dark in the bay and we couldn’t find any suitable landing around the pier. We had to paddle to what looked like a slipway in the middle of the beach. Doing surf landing after almost 14 hours of paddling at 3am was something I haven’t experienced yet. Fortunately what looked like concrete was covered in sand, so it was soft.