Monday, January 19, 2015

Shillay of the Monach Isles

I have a vivid memory of small Shillay of the Monach Isles. During a sailing trip to St Kilda in 1999, we had to make a quick escape from Kilda due to an incoming gale. And so we left Kilda in the late afternoon, and then flew with the wind to the Monachs. It was getting dark when we arrived, and I watched as the skipper, Donald Wilke, used two marker cairns on a small skerry near Shillay to navigate to a safe anchorage between Shillay and Ceann Iar. It was my first time sailing in the twilight, and I was amazed by Donald's skilled seamanship, as he kept the cairns aligned against the darkening horizon while we sailed through a skerry-studded sea, After dropping anchor he could finally relax, and made us big steaming cups of hot chocolate. It was a sail, and a night, to remember, and we stayed on deck until the tall tower of the lighthouse on Shillay was no longer visible in the darkness to the west.

I promised myself then that someday I'd return to see the lighthouse on Shillay, and touch the navigation cairns that had guided us to safety. It took 14 years, but I did make good on that promise. Below are a few photos from a visit to Shillay made on Hjalmar Bjorge in 2013. The tide was low, and so I was able to wade from Shillay over to the skerry to touch the navigation cairns I'd seen so long ago (last photo).

Approaching Shillay (2013) - the nav-cairns can be seen to the left

The landing place on Shillay - ship's dog Seven (aka Fatty) leading the way
Looking back to the lighthouse from the skerry of the cairns
The lighthouse and the temporary light that operated until 2008
One of the navigation cairns - Hjalmar Bjorge in the background

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