The kindness of human nature is sometimes truly amazing. Kindness is a virtue that is precious in these times of world unease and for those who have been on the receiving end of it, it is a humbling experience.
After unintentionally beaching the old fishing boat Shemaron on top of a rock in Loch Fyne we were dependent on the help and kindness of others to save her. It was only through the kindness and generosity of the Tarbert boating community that Shemaron came out of the situation so well.
The pooled effort shared skill sets and the complete readiness to go above and beyond the normal call of duty demonstrated by this group of men brought our situation to a happy ending. That is not to say however that the following is an account of a swift or risk-free end to our plight.
Acts of Kindness 8:30 pm Sunday, May 7th
We met on the pontoon by St Claire. It seemed appropriate that it was another old ring net boat that was coming to our aid. We cruised out of the harbour into the sharp evening. The moon was already bright and at any other time, I would have been rejoicing in the excitement of being on the water in the glow of the evening. The Isle of Arran was suffused in lilac and gray shadows to our starboard side. On our Port side, the sun was setting and the sky was coloured with delicate shades of orange. Hard on the back of the sunset, the night was approaching, bringing with it a slightly feral and vaguely predatory atmosphere.
There was no time to dwell on any of this. The men who were focused on the task ahead were quiet and serious. The plan was to try and tow Shemaron off the rocks with St. Claire while the little rib FlyAway darted back and forth between the two boats catching and delivering the ends of the ropes.
A deep chill had set in when three of the men left St. Claire and got into the rib. I could tell by the lack of banter and serious expression that they were already thinking about the next stage in the rescue mission. Feeling cold was the last thing on their minds.
Against The Clock
Shemaron hadn’t moved since that morning and sat angled on Robbers Rock with the last rays of sun hitting the pine forest behind her. High tide was at 11:28 pm. They had two hours to rig up the pump and clear the water from inside.
There were three of us left on St. Claire, all we could do for the moment was wait and watch. It became increasingly difficult to see what was happening across the water on Shemaron’s deck. Darkness had come quickly. Sometimes we caught a movement as the men moved carefully about. Walking was difficult at the angle she was lying and her decks were slick with diesel. We could tell the pump was working sometime later because we saw the occasional gush of white water streaming into the loch.
An hour later the water was still gushing and it seemed as though nothing much had happened. A further thirty minutes on we were beginning to get jittery, this was a one chance operation and if Shemaron wasn’t ready she would miss the high tide. A few minutes later, however, we made out the vague silhouette of Shemaron sitting upright. The rescue crew attached a rope round the wheelhouse, Fly Away brought the end of it to St. Caire and we were ready to tow.
Nothing happened on the first attempt. We knew we had time to keep trying because we were still on the right side of the tide. In the end, I lost count of how many times we tried. All were to no avail. It had grown very black and between tows St. Claire jostled in the swell. The pots and pans clattered and I had to set right items that had fallen several times. I was drinking cups of coffee to keep awake.
How Quickly Things Can Go Wrong
We were all ready to call it off when someone decided it was worth one last try. We re-attached the rope and St. Claire pulled from a different angle. The rope came on, pulled taught and snapped suddenly. It writhed across the water and became tangled in our propellor. How quickly things can go wrong! A thin crack of fear snaked through me. I wondered if we might have to call the coastguard for a second time in 24 hours.
We floated at the mercy of the tide as the crew on St Claire worked hard to free the propeller and regain control of the boat. At one point I craned my neck to see out of the wheelhouse window. I saw the three men on Shemaron standing in a row. They were ready to come off and were now watching us. Thier features were both enhanced by the moonlight and hidden by the night. Thier faces were pale and their eye sockets dark. They looked drawn, tired and wet. They were precariously balanced on a deck that was still slick with diesel on a boat that was once again filling with water and tilting towards the waves.
To be continued