on the hard

Ara' Deg on the hard

Our boat is out of the water now and we live poised on a slim keel. Winds bring a subtle rocking motion as our fibreglass hull shivers and flexes on its stand, and my mind invents or imagines more movement, having accustomed itself to living in the slow shudders of the sea.

All my instincts tell me it’s unnatural to be perched up here, high and dry, set on a slivered wedge of fibreglass and ballast, held up by five thin metal supports. We sit on reclaimed – or recreated – land too, a concrete boatyard filling in what used to be a fine sheltered curve in the bay.

I can see the water from here though, pale under the night sky beyond the fishing boats and harbour wall; and across the loch, behind the lumpy hills, the bright rose of the northern sunset glows steadily. Suilven rises on the other side of us, a visible lump in the starboard portlites, marking our position here, on this concrete plain between the hills and the sea.

Its presence eases my disorientation and as I get my bearings Ara’ Deg slowly starts to become a home again. The streamlined bulge of her hull shelters our rusty bike and the tools for whatever boat job we’re currently working on, and there’s space for our car parked neatly beside. Hoses and electrical cords wind their way across the yard to her various openings, and we fix and clean and paint her, in anticipation of her saltwater return.

Ara’ Deg herself seems to be in no rush though and, as she adapts to her new surroundings, they adapt themselves to her. A hooded crow took up position first, cawing loudly from the top of the main mast our first morning here, and a collared dove sat calmly on our lifelines for a while one eve. This afternoon I found a sparrow clinging to the rope I had tied to the halyard to stop its blocks clanking against the mast, and swallows are constantly zipping around us in graceful forked swoops.

From up here I can also see – and hear – more of the five raucous herons which nest in the crowns of the conifers atop the rockface that backs this yard. And there are mammals too. Rabbits hop around in the twilight and, at various times of day, a young stag – just a couple of inches of velvet antler beginning to branch – wanders by, pulling at the tiny trees that are springing up by the fences and harbour outbuildings.

These are not creatures I am used to seeing from a boat, and they are welcome. Not so much the midges though, and I take to our new oars and little shell of a tender to escape them and to get my heartsful of the water which I miss living on. It comforts me to get glimpses of my familiar marine companions too – the blond-faced seal, the cormorant, and the vomit-splashes of jellyfish drifting beneath me in the blue, for these are mostly sunny days here, on the concrete, on the sea.

Lochinver harbour, Assynt, Scotland
10th June 2014