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Hope and Anchor

  We’ve been holed up proofing Issue 9 at our favourite hideaway quay in the wild west. The place is otherwise more or less unused other than by seabirds, hoodie crows, and the occasional lobster looking for a telephone. Unused, that is, except for nefarious ‘black-catch’ deals at the backdoor of the local gastro-pub THE HOPE AND ANCHOR. The proprietor is himself struggling to survive. As are the fish he pays through the nose for. Just as we are in these hard and uncertain times.   I took this picture of the good ship with my old box-brownie app. and a reel of Kodak Colour. I thought I must ‘share’ it with you, comme on dit. What’s with the French?…

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‘From the Wheelhouse . . .’

  Who goes to sea   knows heart’s care. Groves blossom   burghs grow fair meadows beautiful.   World quickens. All things urge   spirit to embark fare far   by flood-ways though melancholy call   of summer’s lord the cuckoo bode   bitter heart-sorrow.  from ‘In the Wake of the Seafarer’ Winter Moorings (2014)   Welcome to the wheelhouse! The big news: Archipelago has acquired a second fishing boat, a single rig prawn trawler we’re in the process of converting into a back-up floating editorial office: ARCHIPELAGO II. See the picture ‘Northwest Passage’ below: Skipper Macdonald Lockhart at the wheel, Katherine Rundell in charge of tightropes. Both images are by Andrew McNeillie. The blog that follows on from the ‘Northwest Passage’ image, about a visit to…

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‘The beautiful island . . .’

This is to mark the death of Iain Munro, crofter, boatman, and inspiration to all who had the privilege of meeting him. He drowned on the night of Friday 15 May, off the north coast of Ulva, making headway to Gometra, in a small RIB powered by a single outboard. His sole passenger, Andrew McNeillie, by some miracle made it ashore, at Port Bata na Luinge, round the point of Rubha nan Gall, and survived, managing eventually to raise the alarm at Gometra House at about 7.30 a.m. The two had spent the afternoon and evening together on Mull, erecting fencing against deer, and running errands on a dreich day with a mounting southerly wind. There will be a funeral…

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SOS: MV Naomh Éanna

from breakers’ yard to breaker’s yard . . .?   To all who knew the Aran Islands before the Celtic Tiger came and went, leaving such havoc in its wake, the ferry MV Naomh Éanna (1956-86) is an icon in the aesthetics of the voyage and of saner times. When I went out to live on Inis Mór in November 1968 she was not in service but in Dublin for a Board of Trade Survey. I had to go out in a three-hour crossing aboard a trawler from Ros a’ Mhil in Connemara, in a Storm 10.The Naomh Éanna would not have set out in such conditions. (She was top heavy at the best of times.) Once on the island…

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Agog to go to Gometra

  My great interest and excitement as this year opens up is to travel to Gometra, an island in the Staffa archipelago, just off Ulva, to the west of Mull. Owned and farmed by Roc Sandford it is one of those rare places off the beaten sea-roads and other tracks holding on to community as tenuously as once, not so long ago, the Erne, now commonly to be seen there, struggled but failed to survive human predation. I shall set out from Oban in late May with my journal and fishing gear, my basic food supplies, my survival kit, my bivvy bag, and all the rest. There is almost nothing on Gometra one could class as a modern convenience, I…

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Archipelago Issue 8 on the horizon …

I was in Ireland shortly after Seamus Heaney’s death, in Dublin, then on west to the Aran Islands. Both as seen from the Poolbeg Light on the South Wall at the mouth of the Liffey on a blowy day and rising tide and from a storm-bound Aran, Ireland seemed a smaller place without his presence, somehow empty, empty as a fish-box washed up in the tidemark.   Issue 8 of Archipelago is dedicated to his memory. I’ll not repeat here what I say in its Editorial as to his support for the archipelagic venture. But the issue has for frontispiece a collaborative work by Norman Ackroyd and Seamus Heaney, in which the poem ‘Postscript’ is ghosted over an etching of…

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Weather (not) permitting . . .

'Gannet's Eye View' by Andrew McNeillie

  I should have asked my friend the gannet before I set out, for a gannet’s eye view of the chances. But it was not to be and I knew it in my heart. I knew it in my bones as I stepped off the plane in Steornabhagh (21 May), though I took everything I could as a ‘sign’ to the contrary. My plan was to explore Lewis and then go south to join a party of friends (old and soon-to-be) at Tairbeart on Harris in readiness for the word from Angus Campbell to haste ye to Leverbrugh and embark. It was not to be. I knew it literally in my bones next day as I walked in a bitter…

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A Late Voyage to St Kilda

The New Year is already well underway. The long-hand on the clock is stretching towards the light, as a drowning person’s hand might reach for rescue. Spring is beginning to bury its dead. The evenings delay their roosting little-by-little. And when night at last rises up in the shadows and thickens, on come the desk-lamps, out come the maps and charts, and the serious dreaming begins, in the best spirit of Baudelaire’s ‘Le Voyage’. You should not wish your life away. You only have one. But I would throw all the days between now and the end of May overboard, if I could, and put out this moment from Leverburgh, on Harris, for St Kilda. That is my plan, if…

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Winter Moorings

  Anchored stern and bow, sea-logged to the gunwales: So I have moored my mind for the winter ahead. To be the more sea-worthy if all else fails Come better weather and spring buries its dead.   13th December 2012

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