Day 44, Mon 11 April: A non cycling day. Time for a brisk stroll before breakfast. What a difference a ray makes. Sunshine. It’s as if someone really has repainted the town overnight. Or at least the harbour. The morning sunlight on the blue, red and orange paintwork of the working boats and pleasure craft adds a bright freshness to the place. Even the streaks of rust on the well weathered, steel hulled boats have a warm glow.
But there’s still a chill in the air. A small group of fishermen stand hunched, reflecting. It’s just two days since the sad loss to this community’s small fishing fleet. The first working day since the realisation that the Louisa won’t be coming home, nor three of her crew.
The orange & blue Stornoway Lifeboat, secured here at its mooring, is not the one called out by the Coastguard in the early hours of Saturday morning. Too far from Mingulay, where the Louisa suddenly took on water and sank. It was the much nearer Barra Island RNLI crew, visited by us just the day before, that responded to their bleeping pagers.
Two bodies were found and one man was rescued. Despite extensive searching by the Barra Lifeboat and Coastguard helicopter, one man remains missing.
After confirming with Martin John, the Stornoway Lifeboat mechanic, today’s visit went ahead as planned. Yes, “life goes on”, but that must be very hard for some to swallow here in Stornoway for the time being. Again it was a privilege to meet three more RNLI crew members. Thank you Martin, Connel and D.I.
Time to leave the Western Isles. After our longest and last CalMac Ferry crossing, we are are now in Ullapool, back on the Northwest Scottish mainland, surrounded by snowcapped mountains. Some long, hard days in the saddle ahead.
A dreadful tragedy. Our thoughts here are with the families. Thank you, Steve. You have captured perfectly the essence of your trip. Hope it spurs you onward to Lochinver.
Where I grew up in Hull, whenever a trawler was lost at sea the whole school would go to the assembly hall and sing the seafarer’s hymn by William Whiting – ‘Eternal Father, Strong to Save’ with the timeless and emotional line:
‘For those in peril on the sea!’
The fishing industry has long since gone from Hull but the perils of the sea are as real as ever for those who still work elsewhere on the sea for a living or for those who take pleasure from it as a pastime.
My thoughts go to all those affected by this tragedy and brings to the fore the whole raison d’etre for Steven’s challenge in supporting the work of the RNLI