Wednesday, 21 March 2007
The day the sea disappeared
In the centre of the picture above is my hoose, sorry house, must stop saying that. Yesterday was the day the tide decided to receed way more than usual, further than some of the locals had seen in decades. Thankfully, due yet again to the wonders of the InterWeb, we get precise data of when such events will peak, to the minute, from the EasyTide website (nothing to do with EasyJet and Stelios). This gives data for specific locations; follow this link to see the tide patterns and times for Bays Loch, the area of sea outside my hoose (damn!).
When the tide goes out a long way, it makes for an interesting wander out on the shoreline of Berneray. From here, you get very unusual perspectives of Berneray and see stuff that's normally difficult to spot, or just plain underwater. The picture above is of the nearby Turner's house and the slipway that runs up to it (you can see a boat hull at the top). The structure is man-made; on the left are a lot of large rocks and boulders, stacked neatly as a barrier. This is where lobster fishermen used to land their catch and haul up boxloads of of the critters for distant market (so I've been informed).
If you read yesterday's blog entry you'll have seen the pictures of scallops. The picture above shows a scallop hunter, wandering around the huge expanse of seaweed in search of the creatures. Very low tides and good weather are the perfect hunting environment, and you often see the odd local or two wandering around but keeping one eye on when the tide is turning. But there's never a crowd. Thankfully, unlike many other places in the UK, we don't and can't suffer the blight of large gangs of illegal immigrant cockle-pickers being forced to hunt for a gangmaster in dangerous conditions for a pittance.
Today was a yachties nightmare. Fishermen have to really consult the tidal charts in order to plan their trip out, so they don't end up excessively weaving around between rocks and other obstacles in Bays Loch. Or worse. If you are new to the waters, and not familiar with Bays Loch, then if sailing a yacht you often provide much entertainment for us and other residents with views over the Bay, as you attempt to come in.
Seaweed itself is pretty odd stuff, and low tide gives a good opportunity to examine it. Not surprisingly, it's slippery. What is surprising for someone who, until recently, never lived close to the sea is (a) how much of it there is and (b) how large the individual plants are. Great big floppy things, like some kind of weird cabbage leaves on rhubarb stalks, each individual sprog surprisingly heavy. Also useful things, as exemplified by the tractor loads being hauled off the beach onto the machair for fertiliser (now *that's* organic!), and the lorryloads heading to more distant parts for processing.
In the end I made it fairly far out into Bays Loch, just wearing trainers; the gravelly parts of the seabed being surprisingly dry. Donald and his dog overtook me and went out further; there he is, perched on a small rock not too far from the centre of the bay. The next time the tide is this low, and I have wellies, perhaps I'll attempt to see if I can make it in a straight line from my house to the old school building. (At this point of reading, several local readers will shake their head and mutter some variation on "stupid, reckless, incomer" :-) )
Finally, above, the fishing harbour. That's about an hour after the peak low tide, so the water was even lower at one point. This is taken standing on the slipway, which is usually covered in water. Even here, looking over the side into the harbour water, there was a bit of a drop. Not a good time to be hauling creels out of boats, even with the help of the engine crane thing (orange machine in the top left corner).
There are more pictures of Bays Loch in the very low tide in my flickr area.
Tomorrow's picture blog will feature the same harbour, but containing a much larger boat...