A Modern Maritime Saga!

By Bernie Bell

Pics by McB

Our neighbour’s sheep are a great indicator of what’s happening on the road by our house.  Friday evening, I looked out the window and the sheep were all standing facing one way, looking up the road.  I looked too, and saw two of our neighbours standing, talking, pointing and looking out to sea through binoculars. I drew Mike’s attention to this, and we wondered…..

He then finished work, went for his after work constitutional, and met one of the aforementioned neighbours on the beach with dog Alfie.

Steve pointed out to Mike that there was a small boat which looked like it was grounded on a skerry. They looked through their binoculars, and couldn’t see anyone on the boat, but thought they should notify the Coastguard anyway. So, Mike phoned the Coastguard, who asked for a photo to help them to locate the position of the skerry and boat. Steve has a Smartphone, so he took a photo and sent it straight on to the Coastguard. The lady on the phone said they could tell where the boat was, and would follow up on the information. Mike and Steve came home – feeling that they had been good citizens.

We went out into our garden a bit later to see what was occurin’, and the grounded boat was still sitting there, listing badly, looking very much in danger of sinking beneath the waves!  Mike thought it would be gone by the morning – but it wasn’t!

Saturday morning it looked a bit low in the water – there was a boat in attendance doing something – and again, we wondered.

Another neighbour passed, with dog, and there was much discussion about how anything to be salvaged for the owners, must have been salvaged – which brought on memories of tales of how, in the old days, it was a tradition among folk who lived by the coast to get as much from wrecked or grounded ships as they could, before the authorities arrived – remember the film ‘Whisky Galore’? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Whisky_Galore!_(1949_film)

We were also remembering the container ship which spilled its cargo off South Ronaldsay last year, and joked about how the local eBay accounts were probably buzzing!

I’d just re-read ‘Pictures In The Cave’ by George MacKay Brown, and the story of how a lass got a good Spanish husband when his Armada ship was wrecked off the coast of Orkney.

There was much talk and interest – neighbours meeting and yarning, dogs meeting and playing.

As we were in the garden during the day, we kept an eye on the activity around the grounded boat. The tide was getting higher, the grounded boat was getting lower, and the helper-boat left the scene.

And we wondered……

By evening, the tide started to fall and a boat arrived at the scene, also a big….thing…with a crane on it. Renewed interest from, not only the neighbours, but from folk in little boats who just happened to be passing that way, and folk in cars who just felt like taking a drive by Hinderayre.

The tide was dropping  more and more, and we watched as the big crane thing fixed floatation devices to the grounded boat– it became clear that it was likely that there would be an attempt to re-float the boat on the next high tide …

Much conjecture between watchers in the gardens.

But it was getting late, so Mike took one last pic of the scene, illuminated by the evening sunshine….

…and we went to bed.

Just before we went indoors, as we stood watching the events unfolding in the Bay, Mr. Harrier flew by – swooping over our garden, then Steve-Next-Door’s garden, then away over the fields – and back again.  He must have heard about the boat – after all, it was the talk of Gorseness!

Sunday morning – woke all agog to see developments, and…the boat had gone.

High tide was just after midnight on Saturday, so it was probably towed into Kirkwall early Sunday morning.

A bit of island life – who needs the telly?

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