Morag and the Storm


I've been getting out to sea on a small yacht named Morag. Morag belongs to the Darroch family who have old family ties to the island.

Alasdair Darroch arrived on Jura with family earlier in the summer in order to compete in the hotly contested Jura Regatta. (Alasdair, Archie and Jeanie can be seen in the photo sailing Morag on a balmy summers day). Morag is a veteran, having been sailed by the Darroch family at the Regatta for decades. Due, I imagine, more to my possession of a Land Rover with a tow bar than my sailing prowess, I was enlisted to help prepare Morag for the race. So began a whole summer of Morag related adventures! The first job was to tow Morag down to Craighouse. A gridlock situation developed on the Jura road as the trailer collapsed beneath the boat, blocking the road completely until we were able to enlist Martin Boyle with his massive digger to lift her free. The effort was well worth it as by the end of regatta day we were celebrating a double victory.

During the summer months Morag had been happily moored on an anchor in the Craighouse bay. On arrival back from the recording sessions at Crear, the plan was to get her out of the water for the winter with the help of Alasdair who was bringing up a new trailer. To our concern, the evening forecast brought news of gales coming in from the West. A step outside the front door confirmed that it was already getting blustery and obviously too dark for us to even think about transferring Morag to a more secure mooring. We'd have to sit it out and hope that Morag's very generously specified anchor would do it's job.

During the night I was kept awake by the old roof creaking in the gales and, in addition to my usual concern that it might suddenly take off to give me an uninterrupted view of the stars, I found myself thinking of Morag, on her own in the bay. First thing the next morning I rang Jack and Rhona Paton who live on the shore in Craighouse and have a close view of her. 'Hope it isn't to early to call, I just wanted to check that Morag has survived the night', I said. Rhona put the phone down and went to have a look out the front window. I had been expecting a quick reply to my question. There was silence. Followed by muted discussion in the background probably involving Jack and their son Angus. Rhona came back to the phone. 'I can't see her', she said.

Rhona went to have another look out to sea, this time with the aid of some glasses. More moments passed. With a Westerly wind Morag could have been blown over to the mainland, unless she had been broken on the rocks of Goat Island on her way out of the bay. Either way, it wasn't looking good. 'OK, we think we can see her. She's dragged her anchor across the bay and seems to have come to a standstill just this side of Goat Island - but it's terribly blowy out there so she may not survive for long'.

A few phone calls later and we were standing on the end of the big pier with Colin Campbell. It was so gusty that we could hardly stand up (you can see the pier and Goat Island in the photo). Morag certainly was in great peril. Remarkably her anchor must have snagged a rock as the sea shallows towards Goat Island and she was holding fast, for now. We decided that it was too dangerous to take any of Colin's boats out to try and rescue her. Colin retreated to his van and made a call to his father, Bill.

Bill arrived a few minutes later to take to the water in his fishing trawler, 'Ceanothus'. Within minutes we were on our way out to Morag and planning the rescue. Assuming we could get close enough, Colin would jump aboard Morag, take a rope from Ceanothus and cut the anchor loose so that we could tow her to safety. Although initially I had been assuming it would be me doing the jumping, I was quite relieved when Colin volunteered - he is certainly more sea-dog than I!

All went to plan. Our rescue mission complete, we clambered back on the pier. Morag was safely secured to one of the big mooring bouys in the bay, and we all felt a sense of relief that we had managed to save her from a certain, and rather violent, end.

Colin and Bill gave such an air of confidence, and Ceanothus felt so steady, that it had been easy to forget that we had been out in a Force 8 gale.

Never a dull day in Jura!


Hugh Carswell