Loch Inver was not on the plan. Our intention was to sail overnight from Stornoway direct to Stromness in Orkney, about 110 miles, and indeed the forecast of northwesterly winds prompted our departure earlier than planned. We would otherwise have chosen to stay longer and see more of the island but we were still behind schedule and this wind, promising fast sailing on a reach for most of the way, looked too good to miss, particularly as the outlook was for more bad weather coming in, and perhaps keeping us stuck there, later.
Once underway and clear of the land however the wind stubbornly remained in the north east, quite strong in the upper range of the forecast force 4 to 5. It did back a bit towards the north but there was no hope of rounding Cape Wrath; the best course we could make was just north of east. The only mainland harbours for which we had adequate plans were Kinlochbervie, just south of the cape and many hours to windward, or Loch Inver, about five or six hours off the wind on a close reach, so Loch Inver it would have to be. I was disgruntled about this, getting a northeasterly wind instead of the forecast northwesterly and ending up not much closer to our intended destination than we were at Stornoway. Loch Inver proved to be an attractive place however, with the village of Lochinver set against the spectacular mountainous skyline of the Assynt region of Sutherland, and it has a nice little marina, so afterwards we were not sorry to have gone there.
A word of advice may be given regarding pilotage. In making your approach from the west it is necessary first to identify Soyea Island, which has a lighthouse on it, and then decide to shape your course either via the wider and deeper but longer way round to the south of it (now marked by buoys not shown on the chart), or the narrower and shallower but more direct channel to the north. I identified the island but there was no lighthouse on it. Scottish lighthouses are often quite small but are always painted white and clearly visible. Now I don’t like islands which are supposed to have lighthouses on them but don’t; casts the whole basis of the pilotage into doubt. We continued to close the coast because there wasn’t much else to do, there weren’t any other islands that would fit. Finally for a moment the late afternoon sun glinted off something at the summit. Yes, it was the window glass of the light itself. The lighthouse structure is tiny and for some reason appears to be painted in exactly the same dull brown colour as the surrounding rocks making it difficult to pick out, but it is there.
Soyea Island: can you see the lighthouse?
NOT TO BE USED FOR NAVIGATION
14: Stornoway to Loch Inver, 22nd July
Shipping forecast, 22nd July: Hebrides: N or NW backing S or SW 4 or 5; rain or showers, fog patches; moderate or good.