Waking to the sound of heavy rain doesn’t promise a great day and we’re still firmly stuck in the mud. But by 9 we are afloat and a watery sun is trying to burn off the early mist hanging low over the hills. The first of the fishing boats are getting ready to leave and soon we too are pushing out of the harbour and into a breathless day. We are sad to be leaving Helmsdale in some ways, as the little town grew on us over the last few days.
The coastline is dominated by cliffs and caves and fissures and even some waterfalls, with low cloud or mist a beautiful but chilly reminder that we are still among the earliest of the yachties to be venturing out.
The ever-present terns, gannets and guillemots with a few cormorants are joined briefly by a few seals, but the dolphins resolutely refuse to play.
Soon we are turning in for Wick and follow a fishing boat into a surprisingly lumpy harbour entrance…presumably the remnants of the recent easterlies which kept us in Helmsdale.
We have barely tied up when the harbour-master’s bother ambles down to meet us with keys and codes for the various gates and doors to loos and showers etc. he is soon joined by the owner of another elderly Moody and we chat on about the trip to Orkney. The message is always the same…get the tides right and it’s a doddle but….and then they frown. The harbour master himself is pleased to see us, even if he does chortle at his reference to us as ‘last of the summer wine’. He is very reassuring about the trip over and shows us in great detail the eddies and counter-currents which will get us to and through the Pentland firth in one piece. We decide that we will make the trip on Saturday assuming no SW winds.