And so back home to Eigg. Behind me, memories galore and plenty to ponder upon.
We’d left Tobermory, finally sailing (albeit slowly and into the wind) north-west to the Isle of Rum, the lurch of the boat being more of a challenge to some than others.
Rum, its mountains looming large over Loch Scrizort where we ate an incredible Chinese meal prepared below by XiaoLu and exchanged thoughts on our short visit ashore. The island’s vast landscape is home to a tiny grouping trying to forge a living as Scotland’s newest community buy out. But with no shared history or culture, few children and no elders, their task to make a viable community is no small challenge.
The next morning we motored east, to introduce my boat-mates to friends, family and our way of life on community-owned Isle of Eigg. The 48 hours spent on Eigg were packed. Walks and talks by Eigg folk on buy-outs and renewable energy, on history and growing food. Fishing, hunting, swimming, dancing, cooking, cycling and climbing to the highest point, An Sgurr – a good time had by all.
But as we left Eigg on Thursday morning, travelling round the Sound of Sleat and then inland to the shores of Loch Coruisk, I realised that I hadn’t had time to find out what Eigg made of Cape Farewell, or vice versa. My fellow travellers had loved the island, the energy and welcome of its people and the passion they applied to daily life and living. It seemed to offer an extreme contrast to the busy business-like Mull and the quiet melancholy of Rum. But what was it that made it so? The Eigg people welcomed this strange band of souls, puzzled (still) by what they came for or took away, but happy that they did.
And then, after a final meal of veggie curry eaten by sunset beneath the Cuillin hills, an early morning sail and a rushed goodbye on Mallaig pier, we parted. All too soon, and before the chance to really explore and discuss what our eight nights afloat together had shown us.
So, I ponder on the idea of time and space spent together, of what that might bring to the theme of the trip – stewardship. Eight nights should surely have been enough to get the measure of one another. Living in such cramped quarters and sharing everything from food to bodily functions should surely make us “familiar”. And yet I feel I don’t really know my fellow travellers at all.
How can we now make something of our time spent together? What can we learn from the many photographs taken and notes scribbled as we criss-crossed this tiny part of the north-west Scottish islands? Cape Farewell has brought us all together, crammed us into a small, moving space and showed us the beauty and achievements of Scottish islanders, all building a future based on their sense of place. But, as the week one voyagers make their way home to London and Wales, to Skye, Belfast or Glasgow, I wonder what they think their role is as stewards of the place they live in. What can the things they’ve seen or experienced on Mull, Eigg or Rum add to their understanding of their own worlds and how will they share it? Perhaps this blog and the journey carrying on into weeks 2, 3, and 4 might reveal more.