HIGHLAND GATHERING – 28 MAY 2000
The 2000 millennium saw two major Scottish RIB Events in progress at the same time. One, the ScotRIB Grand Prix, no longer a race event based on the Clyde, which is now a great social and family event combining relaxed socialising and fine dining with excellent RIBing in some of the best scenery in the world. And two, the Scottish RIB Challenge which tests man and machine against the challenge of circumnavigating Scotland from Inverness to Inverness. This in itself establishes friendships and camaraderie that last a lifetime and provides a sense of real achievement. A RIBster’s baptism of fire!
With an early arrival at Oban of the Swiss group led by Peter Zurrer with crew Stephan & Rosemary enabled a day’s start on the gathering and the chance to visit and circumnavigate the Isle of Mull. Stopping off at Easdale for liquid refreshment before departure across to the Isle of Mull. The first stop was the entrance to the tiny Bull Hole cove with the Isle of Iona and the mini luxury cruise liner the Hebridean Princess in the background.
After a visit to Staffa to view Mendelssohn’s Cave, on which a landfall or sea cave entry was not possible due to the underlying ground swell, a course was set for the remote island of Ulva. A warming soup lunch was enjoyed at the pier’s Boathouse and the bright sunshine and spectacular scenery of the Inner Hebrides warmed ‘the cockles of your heart’. The day was to be very special for crew Stephan & Rosemary as they were reunited with their daughter Gaby, who had been working abroad for more than a year, joined up with her family for the splendour of Scotland on the return to Oban that evening.
Atrocious wet weather met some 17 RIBs who set out from Inverness down the Caledonian Canal through the Great Glen on the initial leg to complete the circumnavigation of Scotland.
The following day and 32 RIBs from both events met at Port Appin on Loch Linnhe. Both flotillas the ScotRIB Scottish Challenge and the BIBOA RIB Challenge It was a great carnival atmosphere when the two fleets approached and old friendships were renewed. After quite sometime the two groups parted and went on their respective ways to meet again at the bar of the now famous ribsters watering hole, the ‘Wide Mouthed Frog’ at Dunstaffnage marina, later that evening.
The start of the new day would see ScotRIB heading south for Tarbet on Loch Fyne with the Scottish Challenge setting off down the Sound of Mull for Ardnamurchan, before heading north. Ardnamurchan – the ‘Point of the Great Ocean’ – is the westernmost place in mainland Britain. 23 miles more into the Atlantic than Land’s End. The view from the lighthouse takes in the whole of the Inner and on a clear day the outline shapes of the Outer Hebrides. The lighthouse stands 55m high and its light can be seen for a distance of 24 miles. An earlier RIB event round Ardnamurchan had heard a coastguard officer report the weather forecast and conclude with the warning …. “there be doom at Ardnamurchan !”
The 2000 millennium saw the celebration of the 10th Anniversary of the conception of the British Inflatable Boat Owners Association. It was from the success of the inaugural event in 1990 that the formation of BIBOA was established. The Association’s Honorary President, Michael Alexander, now more than 80 years young, successfully completed the circumnavigation, showing once again his pioneering spirit to the young bloods of today.
Arisaig, one of the most beautifully located harbours in the Western Isles. It is also the most notorious harbour entrance to navigate in the British Isles. A good pilotage guide and sound transits are essential and local knowledge an added bonus to enter this peaceful haven. With magnificent views over to the Isles of Eigg, Rhum and Skye along with silver sands, there are very few comparable vistas in the world.
On to Portree before venturing to the peaceful Lochinver harbour came complete with its resident seal. Otters sometimes walk the pier looking for a easy meal and on one occasion a thresher shark was to be seen on the slabs of the adjoining fish market.
A glimpse of the mountain stack “Suilven” which dominates the skyline over Lochinver on a clear day. Lochinver is the chief village of Assant which is a rocky moonscape area littered with hundreds of hill lochs and lochans. The rocks are Britain’s oldest at 2,800 million years old.
From Lochinver it’s to round Cape Wrath before traversing the top of Scotland from northwest to northeast mainland Britain, We arrived in Scrabster to a daunting forecast which resulted in an overnight stay, the wind speed increased to the forecasted F7. Wind over tide and gale force winds make the Pentland Firth one of the most dangerous in the world.
After a day’s layover in Scrabster, while the winds blew through, the following dawn brought with it a flat calm harbour scene. 18 RIBs set out for the Pentland Firth to return to Inverness. 17 RIBS set off from Inverness and 18 completed the Challenge. How did this happen? Well, a crew of two brothers from Largs who were cruising around Oban met up with the Challenge fleet and immediately signed up to take part. Certainly a first in this, the 10th Anniversary of the 1990 inaugural Round Scotland. Bravo to the crew, who for the first time ever, completed the challenge.
A very special mention must go to two people The Association’s Honorary President, Michael Alexander, who conceived the original challenge and who once again completed the circumnavigation on this its 10 anniversary. Secondly John Harvey, the Association’s Vice – Commodore who organised the whole event.
Thank you both for such a for a Great Challenge.