After refuelling, we eventually set off from colourful Barra…sorry, Tobermory, still with vivid memories of the previous night’s dancing. We motored for a few hours until, passing Ardnamurchan Point, the most westerly point of the British mainland, and familiar to all insomniacs who tune into the shipping forecasts, we hoisting our sails: Yankee 3, staysail and main. It was a joy to switch the engine off and hear the rhythmic swoosh of the waves as we headed west.
We had already spotted s a few guillemots, often mothers with their young, swimming low in the water and uttering their rasping cries. These become more numerous as we passed groups of a dozen or more, clearly clustering around shoals of fish.
Then the dolphins arrived. Small young ones at first, leaping close to our starboard side while more joined from port. Eventually we had dozens playing on our bow and it was time to get the cameras out. For some of the crew it was their first opportunity to get up into the pulpit and look down on a pod of dolphins, perhaps a dozen at a time, playing and interweaving so powerfully, sometimes twisting over to reveal their pale bellies, all within a few feet of us.
All this time CV11 had been sailing in parallel a few hundred meters to port, and I wondered whether we might be inadvertently herding shoals of fish between us to be causing so much excitement. Suddenly I glimpsed a sudden spray of water jetting into the air between us, soon gracefully followed by a dorsal fine. Smaller and blunter that a dolphin fin, and more majestic in its movements; then a display of its long, glossy back before it curved back into the water. A Minke whale!
We must have made half a dozen sightings before suddenly the party was over: the dolphins left, the Minke whales were no longer sighted, and the guillemots, harbingers of the display, seemed to have deserted us. What a watch!
We headed to our bunks after supper, falling asleep to the motion of the boat until the engines started up. The wind had faded and now, 15 hours later, we are still motoring – a strange experience to a veteran of the Clipper Round the World Race!
Image: Dolphins swimming next to the Skirr Adventure Yachts