It was a dark and stormy night -- yes, honestly, I just wrote that.
As you already know, I was brought up until the age of nine on Stroma, an island in the Pentland Firth. Our transport to and from the island was a yawl, not more than eighteen feet long.
My mother and I had been in Wick for the day and were homeward bound in our small but sturdy craft that had weathered many a storm. The light was fading, but we should have made it before nightfall. Suddenly, the engine died and we were plunged into darkness.
Now, the back-up plan for any boat in trouble, would normally be hoisting the sail. Not only would this give us wind power, but islanders, seeing a boat under sail, would be alerted that something was wrong. Unfortunately, my father cleaned out the boat that day and the sail was back on the island in the sail-shed.
The tides in the Pentland Firth are pretty strong, and with no power we were being swept towards the notorious Boars, a place where several currents meet causing whirlpools and high lashing waves. As we were dragged nearer, we were tossed around.
Luckily my mother had bought torches that day -- a present for my cousins who lived on the island. With the light, my father struggled to get the engine going again.
I was scared, crying. They put me under a tarpaulin and the spray rattled like hail above my head as the boat bucked and rose on the waves and plunged into the troughs.
Meanwhile, my grandmother, carrying my baby sister, continued to look out the window, searching the firth for any sign of the boat. In the darkness, we were invisible, the tiny torches not able to carry enough light to send a signal.
Finally the engine spluttered to life and we fought our way from the lashing waves back to calmer waters.
I don't remember the welcome we must have got that night as relief flooded the family. But, as I had been taught, I did say my prayers and thanked God for delivering us from the jaws of the ocean.
|Our boat, The Tern, in calmer waters.|