• Mark

Suede wellies, toilet pump and the burgee

By Asha


As planned on our first walk around Lochmaddy, we went to the pub that evening. We called in advance to find out what rules applied and upon learning that we didn’t need masks with a hole on the mouth to drink a pint through a straw, we set out on a mission to socialise in our current local. The interior of the pub was clean and modern, resembling a waiting room at a dentist, rather than the cozy traditional bar with an open fire and comfy furniture that we expected. Setting aside fussing over the décor and one-way traffic that applied to getting in and out of the pub, we ordered a couple of pints.


Soon we were joined by a local who has recently relocated back to her homeland on the rocky shores of the North Uist. She was accompanied by two seemingly friendly dogs, who took upon themselves to guard the door to the nearest loo and with loud barking scared the s%*t out of anyone who walked in that direction. Except for the very much desired canine company, as both Mark and I love dogs, she shared with us snippets of her story and some local knowledge as her father is a fisherman and used to take her fishing years ago.


As the evening went on, we were joined by the ferry crew who moored in Lochmaddy for the night and came to the pub to unwind. The engineer had some sailing experience as a crew for a friend of his and couldn’t understand for his life why would anyone choose to live on a sailing boat. His point of view on floating in a plastic tub in high latitudes, relying on the wind to take you places wasn’t anywhere in the spectrum of sanity. Despite my calling to the sea, on some level I could resonate with his lack of sympathy for this beautiful way of living and travelling the world, as the challenges of the lifestyle are obvious.


I don’t feel unsafe floating in the “plastic tub” but the cold water around scares me, or maybe more the idea of landing in the water due to its temperature. I am cold most of the time as it is and often wet enough from the rain that is never too far away so I prefer to stay in the plastic tub! Wearing the lifejacket doesn’t make me feel that much better, because the temperature of the water wouldn’t allow for a long survival anyway, so stay on the boat!


Another thing is the wind and the ability to read it and apply it to the setting of the sails. Mark always tells me to read the signs and “look at the burgee”. The burgee is an arrow on the top of the mast, which points towards the direction where the wind is coming from, not where it is going to, now imprint that in your mind. The burgee used to be a great source of confusion to me. With the boat turning, wind playing around, me trying to coordinate keeping bow in the wind and looking up the mast, I was nearly having a tantrum. The other signs are perceptible not only by the sense of touch but also vision. When I first heard of taking a visual of the wind I found that hard to believe. How can one actually see the wind? Amazing, huh? How is it possible? With your eyes, of course! The color and surface pattern of the water changes under different breeze and it is not exactly difficult to spot, just necessary to know what to look for. Before developing sensitivity and perception it is always possible to resort to checking out the ensign and wind instruments, and of course looking up at my “favorite friend” the burgee!


Another thing that our new friend from the ferry mentioned was suede wellies, which I figured out were better known as deck boots. Those are apparently the signature of the sailing trade. I don’t wear my suede wellies outside the boat as they have soft soles designed not to ruin the deck, not to walk the streets, hence their name. Do I feel super special wearing the deck boot? Yes, of course, as they keep my feet warm and dry, and are sign of the trademark, of course.


A recurring theme of the jokes with the ferryman was problems with the toilet pump. My experience isn’t bad at all because Mark explained early on that there shouldn’t be anything going in the toilet that hasn’t been eaten first! The same rule was not applicable on the boat he was on because they were experiencing frequent toilet blockages. As an engineer he had to indulge in resolving those issues by draping his arm in a bin bag and manually removing what was in the way of flushing the loo. Not sure what stopped me from advising him to resort to the middle eastern and eastern cultures’ idea of using the toilet paper only to dry a washed ass!! Each to their own.


Once I saw a meme saying, “Always be yourself, unless you can be a sailor, then always be a sailor”, and despite all the odds I still think it’s the best way to be so I won’t be taking the ferry crew up on the invitations to join them and bring the safe containing my passport with me so they can cut it open for me in the engine room.


Lochmaddy


Always a sad view for me to see an abandoned boat, dead and rotting slowly...

Court house in Lochmaddy

Local seafood restaurant in Lochmaddy

Mark and his version of 'Burgee my best friend'

Pub in Lochmaddy

Fishing port in Lochmaddy

A pretty fishing boat

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