Monday 30/01/06

Gorgeous day, sunny, cloudless and not too cold. Reports suggest it was about 7C / 45F at midday, and although there was a force 4 southwesterly wind, it was quite acceptable. Went out for a walk to Sandwick at 2 o'clock, round by the Coastguard Station, the Powerstation, down Miller Road and along Sandwick Bay. I had intended to cut through the graveyard to Sandwick Road, but a burial was taking place. As I was going down Miller Road, I could hear a piper playing "Amazing Grace". A group of darkly clad people were standing by a grave, with a heap of sand beside it. I carried on past the cemetery to Lower Sandwick. Walked up the road to the A866 main road and made my way back to town. Along there stands a pile of a mansion which looks horrendously out of place. After dropping the camera off at mrs B's, who is out shopping, I went on to Somerfields for some shopping of my own.

Note: The pictures were intended to replace some for walk 3182 with Walking World, but the heavy shadows put paid to that idea.

Supper tonight: runner beans, spuds, onion rings, fried balls of minced meat.

Sunday 29/01/06

The weather is the same it's been most of the week. France had a large helping of snow yesterday, southern England also had a swipe of that. There is a man staying for a few days, who is helping to take down an exhibition at An Lanntair called Sharmanka. It is something to do with clocks. The previous exhibitor hung pieces of wallpaper from the ceiling and called it art. Our guest went round the west side, to the usual places like Callanish, Carloway and Gearrannan. Today he sets off to Harris. There is a cold southwesterly wind blowing. Lunch consists of peppered mackerel with rolls and lettuce. Discover a website which shows 15 cams from inside one couple's home in Daytona Beach, FL, USA. It shows all rooms from their sumptuous premises, and every aspect of life (including the salacious) is shown. I sit in the sun to write down info about the nearly 700 pictures I have amassed in Lewis and Harris. The sun sets at 4.40 (pic above), after which mrs B's third son comes in with his boys. Mrs B cooks me supper, alternative pastabake. Well, the pastabake was a success. Using aubergines instead of courgettes is not something I'd really repeat. What was not a success was the wine. It just wouldn't stay in the glass. I sent one glassful flying all over my portion of pastabake, over my jumper and into my lap. Absolutely incredible how much wine comes out of one glass. One change of clothing!

Saturday 28/01/06

Slightly brighter today, with breaks in the clouds. This gives nice images on the webcam. Friday saw 109 people watching proceedings; today it's a lot less. A naval vessel is out on patrol in the Minch. The ferry comes in by 1.05. Tide is well out at that point. Go out to Somerfields at 3.30, with a new microwaveable dish of vegetable chilli concarne. Nothing much else happens today, apart from an extensive chat with mrs B.

Friday 27/01/06

This morning dawned overcast and chilly. The blanket of cloud seems to have coalesced , and the clearance over the Minch disappears by midday. It's not very warm today, but still no or little wind. Go into town at 2pm to buy a watchstrap in the jewellers. The Glasgow Herald newspaper has sold out at Nicolson's, but is still for sale at the Baltic Bookshop. Nearly had an accident at the corner of Kenneth Street and South Beach Street, after somebody didn't indicate they were going to turn left. Have a wee natter with mrs B's nephew who comes to call. Otherwise a quiet afternoon and evening. Watched a series of programs about Holocaust Memorial Day on the History Channel. Very harrowing images and accounts from the time of the liberation of the camps, early in 1945.

Thursday 26/01/06

Mrs B tells me her alarm went off at 5.40 a.m., but she does not remember what for. Well, it wasn't until she heard people stir (not me), that she did recall. Yesterday, 3 workmen came to stay to go off on the early ferry. They had been installing a large kitchen in Barvas. Sunrise shows a blanket of cloud moving across the sky, leaving Skye and Applecross in the clear. Forgot to mention I met David's cousin Heather, who lives in the keeper's cottage at the Arnish Lighthouse. Isles FM has no local news today - nothing ever happens here. The roadworks are dragging on in the road outside. It's not sunny today - a blanket of cloud has crept in off the Atlantic, and only a sliver of sunshine is visible on the horizon. There is hardly any wind so it doesn't go anywhere. Go to buy the papers, which are full of the usual: little local news. In Lewis and Harris, 15 plots of land are for sale for house building. One of them is on the Eishken road, 3 miles southeast of Balallan. No neighbours, no other structures. YET. A windfarm with 133 turbines, each 450 feet high, is proposed for the hills overlooking Loch Seaforth and Eishken. That is not mentioned in the sales blurb. Pity about that, it is a glorious location. Dinner is microwaved sweet & sour.

Wednesday 25/01/06

A brilliant sunrise, and not a cloud in the sky all day. It's quite chilly though, with the thermometer barely above 5C / 40F all day. It's windless and sunny. Mrs B shows me some of Robert Burns' poetry, whose works we celebrate today. Radio Scotland has organised a poll for the most popular poem in the country, and Robbie Burns' works come top. Tam o' Shanter is number 1, An' a' that is second, with Hallaig by Sorley MacLean a shared third. Go out for a walk with mrs B at 2pm through town to Bayhead Bridge. Here we meet up with her nephew. A slow amble ensues to Lews Castle. Next port of call, the butchers shop outside the Coop on MacAulay Road. Mrs B wants some smoked salmon for her Burns Supper tonight. Unfortunately, the butcher has not checked the expiry date on his stock - some of it went out of date yesterday. The supper consists of: smoked salmon; steak in creamy whisky sauce, vegetables, chips; trifle. Nice Australian wine, a g&t (or two) as aperetif and a Grouse afterwards.

Tuesday 24/01/06

The day starts nice and bright, and it only gets better as the day wears on. Mrs B goes shopping at 11. Her grandson is with us today, like yesterday, because he's not well. It would appear that a bug is going round. The granddaughter was unwell at school yesterday, headache and being sick. Mrs B's brother-in-law calls in to return the plate which held Saturday's goodies. Her nephew also pays a visit after lunch. At 2pm, I sally forth for a walk around town. I want to take a handful of pictures, two of which are required on Island Blogging. The item gets published, but I spot a mistake in the idiom. In the first entry for today, I did not mention the route I took for the walk. Up Island Road, for the derelict Harris Tweed mill. Turn left into Sandwick Road, where the Council offices and the clocktower are located. Up Matheson Road, where the well-to-do houses stand, complete with cast-iron railings - I mentioned these in an entry early in October 2005. Across to Cromwell Street via Church Street, to picture the pink and the blue buildings. In the evening, I have a look through the Coastguard website, which has finally been updated. The MCGA were involved with quite a few rescues surrounding a trans-Atlantic rowing contest, from the Canary Islands to Antigua, over nearly 3,000 miles / 4,700 km. About 3 crews have had to be rescued following capsizings, damage &c. The British MCGA passed the maydays on to other ships and agencies in the area. Another rescue took place on the Pacific coast of Mexico.

Monday 23/01/06

Better day than yesterday, at least it's dry. Mrs B has a builder in to give her a quote for some major repairs to the house. At times of heavy rain and wind, the water just pours in at the windows. The Comhairle has a grant available towards some of the cost of the repairs. As with any form, this one is tricky. The grant is means-tested, which means that the less you earn, the bigger the grant becomes. It would appear that the council has a different way of interpreting means than the accountant. Ferry comes in on time, the Anglian Prince coastguard tug follows at 1.20. At Somerfields, I meet up with Sally from Balallan, whom I have not seen for a while. She is (still) very bitter about the bullying which forced her teenage daughter to continue her education in England. The attitude of some local people towards incomers elicits a response that is at best vitriolic. The weather is wet and windy at night.

Sunday 22/01/06

Dreich, wet and grey today. Breakfast at 10, then spend the day updating the diary and writing up yarns as quoted by mrs B's brother-in-law. I cannot publish them. Very quiet, hardly any traffic on the road, apart from pre-church traffic. A man drove past in his car, with a trilby on his head. Read the papers, watch some telly and watch the rain. Lasagna for supper. Television had a good program about Elizabeth I, and about the good work being done by the crew of HMS Chatham at Sri Lanka, in the aftermath of the Boxing Day 2004 tsunami. Late to bed, as per normal.

Saturday 21/01/06

Very nice start to the day, bright but not sunny. There are chinks in the cloud. The efforts to rescue the whale in London continue. At low tide, it is hoisted onto a barge, and taken down to the Thames Estuary. Thousands throng the riverbank and bridges to watch. One bridge even had to be closed to traffic. Unfortunately, just before the animal was due to be released into the North Sea at Margate, it suffered a seizure and died. The whole operation costed 50 to 100 thousand pounds. On the worldwide weather front, there are some interesting things going on. Australia reports a cyclone (Daryl), along the coast between Exmouth and Roeburne in Western Australia. Russia has a cold snap, with temperatures at -34C in Moscow, and a whopping -68C at Verchoyansk, in Siberia. Calcutta in India is nippy, and its 7C is actually lower than Stornoway's maximum of 9C. East Africa shivers in temperatures as low as 16C. The Russian deepfreeze looked set to march west, but is unlikely to reach the UK now. Go to Somerfields at 4pm for some shopping. Lottery tickets prove useless. At 6 pm, I'm sent to mrs B's brother-in-law up the road with some baking. He offers me a dram and a good yarn or two. Return to Mrs B an hour later, much the worse for wear, and enjoy a good supper.

Friday 20/01/06

Morning dawns fairly bright with big showers, and a lower temperature. It's nicer than in Skye, which is plagued by heavy snow showers. The workmen finish the works outside, only need to fill in the ditch beside the kerb. I spend the morning checking grid references for some of the pictures I've taken. Mrs B's nephew comes to call, and he is very gloomy. His 13-year old dog has had to be put to sleep after a long illness. Although the animal was very old, it's nonetheless upsetting to be losing your pet. Go to the supermarket for a few bits, and encounter the phenomenon of the lady behind the wheel who really shouldn't be there. The light fades by 4.45, we're rapidly gaining daylight hours. Reports come in of a whale swimming in the river Thames in London. Somebody spotted it as he sat on a train, crossing over one of the bridges. It is a Northern Bottlenosed Whale, which normally feeds on squid in the deep Atlantic.

Thursday 19/01/06

Very dark and dreich this morning, with heavy rain but not much wind. Workmen are digging up the road outside. There is talk that the extreme cold in Russia could reach the UK next week. The Met Office issues a statement to the effect that this is unlikely to happen. The wind increases as the day wears on. After lunch, we're on 37 knots in gusts, force 8. Before lunch, I have a haircut and get all the papers in. This includes a feature paper about past events, including the original Stornoway Gazette article about the Iolaire disaster. It's absolutely tipping it down all day, which just gets worse and worse. At 9.15, a loud bang out in the street is accompanied by a few powerdips. Check through the house, but nothing appears to be wrong. Mrs B phones the power company, SSE, as it sounded like electricity arcing. At 11.15, SSE come to check inside and outside the house, but nothing is wrong. Two vans are parked outside, and the men have a look at the roadworks, from where the bangs could have originated.

Wednesday 18/01/06

It's a very dreich morning, with heavy drizzle and limited visibility. The Arnish Lighthouse is barely discernible, although it's barely a mile away across the basin. The murk lifts just before midday. Receive an interesting email about project Timbertown, from a lady whose relative made a jewellery box whilst at the camp. She now has it in her possessions. Go into town at midday to send off some mail through the PO. Reports come through that a fisherman has fallen overboard from his boat, 65 miles north of the Butt of Lewis, at 5.30 this morning. A major sea and air rescue swung into action, with the Coastguard helicopter Mike Uniform and an RAF Nimrod plane engaged in the search. Conditions were said to be fair with light winds. Poor visibility hampered the search, which was finally abandoned at dusk, 5 pm. The man was not thought to have worn buoyancy aids. As the temperature of the sea is only 8C, and he would have been wearing oilskins, his chances of survival for any length of time would have been minimal. This has happened before during the last 12 months. After supper, the sound of a noisy ship's engine can be heard from the harbour. A number of boats, including the lifeboat, are going in or out. One fishing boat is followed by a flock of gulls. Wind appears to be increasing after 7pm. Heavy rain is subject of a Met Office severe weather warning. Upto 50 mm of rain, 80 mm on upslopes, are forecast. It's been mild today, 11C. Compare that to Moscow's temperature, -30C / -22F. A large area of high pressure sits over Finland and propels all this cold air towards Europe. We've got Atlantic murk. Spend the evening revamping my webpages.

Tuesday 17/01/06

It's not very bright after sunrise, but it does gradually clear up as the day progresses. It's a cold day, temps around 3C, and two sleet showers pass by. Two Irish fishing boats come into port, only to leave again 20 minutes later. The SFPA (Fisheries Protection) vessel is hovering on the horizon around lunchtime. Watch the sparrows, starlings and bullfinches on the birdfeeders. Out in the basin, there are gulls, oystercatchers and curlew. Help mrs B to improve the view from the backwindow by washing it. The weather is very cold, we have a handful of sleet showers. Elsewhere in the UK, it's mild, but the Western Isles is shivering at 3C. Showers carry galeforce gusts. Go shopping at Somerfields at 4pm. Daylight hours have extended to just past 4.30, with the sun setting at 4.15. Sunrise is now at 8.55 a.m.. This means that total daylight hours have gone up by 1 hour. For the second day this week, mrs B's granddaughter comes by after school. She comes off the servicebus at 3.40. Mrs B herself takes the bus up to town in poor weather, like last week. It's only half a mile, but then she has free travel on all public transport right across Scotland. This is on account of a sight problem. I join her for supper, stew with mash, and and evening's entertainment.

Monday 16/01/06

Breakfast at the slightly more normal time of 9 a.m.. Weather outside is fairly acceptable. The weather turns nasty in the course of the afternoon, with a heavy shower, carrying force 9 gusts. Go to the library at 3 pm to scan some pictures that were sent to me by Donald MacLeod from Aberdeen regarding project HMS Timbertown. The computer with the scanner had no chair with it, so had to conduct business standing up. Get myself a chicken korma for tonight. Watch two boats leaving port at 7.30 pm, one of which used to be run by mrs B's 3rd son. He's glad to see the back of it, it caused him no end of grief. The moon comes out, and it's not a bad evening. Just jolly cold.

Sunday 15/01/06

Awake to another grey and wet day with strong winds. Breakfast at 10.45. More gales on their way for today. Whatever there is going in terms of ferries appears to be cancelled. Uig - Lochmaddy, Sconser - Raasay and Barra - Eriskay. Quietly surprised that any of those boats were timetabled to go on a Sunday in the first place, but Scotland is smoothly gliding into the 21st century after all. It's no weather for going out at all, so do blissfully nowt all day. Mrs B. cooks me a nice spag bol.

Saturday 14/01/06

Brilliantly sunny morning to start with, hardly any wind to speak of. Cloud bubbles up as the morning progresses. The birdfeeders fell to the ground during last week, so they are being refilled and rehung. At 1 pm, the weather pulls a fast one and comes out with a few light showers. The wind increases to force 6, which makes it feel bitterly cold. Go out shopping at 2 pm, and encounter a long queue of children and parents outside the Town Hall, waiting to see the film Narnia. The Radio Times had 3 audio CD's containing the radio version of this C.S. Lewis novel. The tanker is in port to deliver supplies of fuel. She departs again at 4.40pm, at nightfall. Supper is home-made fish and chips, from frozen fish and ditto chips. A bottle of Black Tower wine washes things down nicely. A piece of cranberry tart with custard completes proceedings. As the evening progresses, the strong winds continue.

Friday 13/01/06

Today I am starting book 7 of the hand-written diary, at page 907. From October 8th, 2004, I started making daily entries on Northern Trip, or almost daily. However, when the computers in Stornoway library were down for more than a month after Christmas 2004, I decided to start taking down written notes. I caught up with the two months before October 2004 in the summer of 2005.

On with today's happenings.

After an overnight lull, the gales are back in all their ferocity in the morning. Today however, there is a good deal of sunshine around. Showers come around every now and again, but it's not cold. Winds are going at a steady force 7 to 8, with gusts up to force 10. Spume flies across the Basin, and huge waves crash behind Arnish Light. Nonetheless, the Irish fishing boat Neptune, from Sligo, decides to set forth. With tremendous difficulty, on account of the wind, she leaves port. High seas meet her off Arnish, washing over her deck and she almost looks as if she'll be going under. I dash out to the Coastguard Station to have a look, but all is well. It's binday today, so bins are strewn all over Newton Street. Have some soup for lunch, then go out to pick up my latest batch of pictures. As I'm in the library scanning them, the ferry appears on the horizon. She makes for the harbour entrance, only to make a sharp right turn and keep hovering outside until Isle of Lewis finally docks at 3.45. The fresh vegetable shelves in Somerfields are bare, and the staff are anxious for supplies. I encounter Mrs B and her sister in the supermarket. The winds are abating now. There are reports of structural damage and boats sheltering in Broad Bay. Ferry leaves for Ullapool again at 4.30. Other ferries are still cancelled. Rain moves in at 5pm. After dinner, a shower comes past which carries severe squalls. But as I return to Somerfields later in the evening, it's dry and clear. I end up in a queue of full trollies, but one lady very kindly lets me in front - I only have two items. Ferry comes back at 10.40 pm. The occasional shower keeps putting in an appearance, but no more squalls.

Thursday 12/01/06

Awake to a gale thundering through the town, but at least it's dry. The German guest heads down to Harris to conduct more interviews. Yesterday, he parked his car in Port Nis at 11.30. Six hours later, a villager rang mrs B because he was concerned. It was dark and the car was still where it had been left. He was about to call the police. I advised mrs B to tell the chap to wait until 7, by which time Holger did rematerialize. I was amazed how people had found out where he was staying. But then, he'll be the only German visitor to the island at this time. Mrs B spoke to me about Robert Burns, whose 'night' it'll be on the 25th. He wrote poems about mice, his bed, holy men, anything. He wrote in English as well as Scots. His works were translated into Japanese, Chinese and Russian. In the weather reports for 9 o'clock, the wind is blowing at gale force 8, with gusts up to force 10 or 11. North Rona has winds of 61 knots (70 mph), gusting at 80 knots (90 mph). Buoy K5 in the Atlantic has waves of 10.5m or 35 feet. The ferry has been cancelled for today. Spray blows over the causeway. It gets blown onto the windows, so I go out twice to clean off the salt. Very windy outside, but strangely enough it is a fairly steady wind. It is this windy all over the northwest. Drizzle commences at 1pm. An hour later, I go into town, with the rain increasing in intensity. It's very difficult to walk. Find seaweed lying behind the fences facing Somerfields.
Very strong gusts along South Beach nearly blow me off my feet, also on the Amity House quay. Hand in a roll of film for processing, pictures available tomorrow, Friday. On the way to Somerfields, I had big trouble walking into the wind in Kenneth Street. Newton Street has a headwind for the first part, and a tailwind in the further bit. Both make walking very difficult. Glad to be back inside, conditions are hard. The latest readings show gusts of upto 60 or 64 knots (68 to 72 mph), which is about force 12. Most ferries on the west coast are off, because everywhere is having gales. At 14.20, a gust of 67 knots was recorded, which is more than 75 mph. A very serious squall passes through at 3.20, which pours waterover the window, with extremely strong gusts. Viewers on the webcam have a front row position. After the squall passes, the wind drops to force 6. The white horses in the Basin disappear, and the rain stops. Schools in the north of the island are closed tomorrow because of a power supply problem. Supper is a concoction of macaroni, ratatouille, left-over chicken (from lunch), cranberries + custard. It's a very quiet evening, not much wind and even some moon. Watch some TV with mrs B.

Ferry Cancellations - 12 January

Picture from Hometown

This little list from local ferry operator Caledonian MacBrayne should give a hint at weather conditions today. In other words: gale number 3 this week.

Islay Service
The 1300hrs sailing to Port Askaig and the 1530hrs return from Port Askaig today have been cancelled due to the adverse weather conditions. Service will resume as per timetable tomorrow (Friday 13th Jan) @ 0700hrs.

Ardrossan/Brodick Service
Due to adverse weather conditions the 1105 sailing ex Brodick and the 1230 ex Ardrossan have been cancelled. we aplogise for any inconvenience this may have caused. This message will be updated at 1300 hours.

Rothesay/Wemyss Bay Route
Due to adverse weather conditions the next sailing from Rothesay by MV Bute wil be at 1145 and going to Gourock. MV Bute will then leave Gourock at 1345 sailing back to Rothesay.

Mallaig-Small Isles service
The 1020h departure to the Small Isles today has been cancelled due to severe adverse weather, next sailing tomorrow 1020h weather permitting.

Oban - Coll/Tiree
Due to adverse weather conditions the 0645 hrs to Coll and Tiree has turned back to Oban and will arrive at approximately 1100 hrs. The next sailing to Coll and Tiree will be on Saturday 14th at 0645 hrs as scheduled.

Gourock - Dunoon Service
Due to adverse weather conditions the above service has been cancelled until further notice.

Gigha Service
Service suspended indefinately due to adverse weather conditions.

Ardmhor to Eriskay
The 09:25hrs sailing ex Ardmhor and the return 10:30hrs ex Eriskay have now been CANCELLED the remainder of todays sailing are still in doubt

Lochmaddy-Uig-Tarbert Service
Due to adverse weather conditions,the car ferry Hebrides is still presently in Lochmaddy. The situation will again be reviewed at 12.00 today.

Sound of Harris
Due to adverse weather 0915 ex Berneray and 1025 ex Leverburgh have been cancelled. Situation will be reviewed at 1200.

Mallaig-Armadale service
The 0840h ex Mallaig and the 0925h ex Armadale have been cancelled due to adverse weather. Will update later re the 1600h departure this afternoon.

Sconser - Raasay
Due to adverse weather these sailings have been suspended. For further information contact Uig Office on 01470 542219.

Fionnphort / Iona service
Due to adverse weather conditions the Iona service is currently suspended. The situation will be reviewed at 1300 hrs.

Oban - Craignure
Due to a technical fault there has been no sailings on this service so far this morning. There will be a passenger only service from Craignure at 1100 hrs. Normal service will resume from Oban at 12 noon, weather permitting.

Stornoway - Ullapool service
Due to adverse weather conditions M.V Isle of Lewis will not be sailing at 7:15am. The situation will be reviewed at 11:00 am

Wednesday 11/01/06

Gale subsided overnight. Central heating boiler went off overnight, so it's cold in the house. During the morning, a couple of showers pass through. The engineer calls round and fixes the boiler - by topping it up with water. A sleet shower passes at 11.30. Webcam is attracting visitors from London, Hull and Northern Ireland. There is a problem with water ingress at times of heavy wind and / or rain. This means that water almost pours into the house, dripping off window frames. Towels are required to prevent things really getting wet. It all boils down to a fault at rooflevel, which allows water to seep down the walls inside. After lunch, showers decrease in intensity and frequency. The sun comes out. Ferry is about half an hour late leaving. Go into town for some stationery and food. Have a look round the library. A boat has been hovering on the distant horizon all day. A fishing boat is sheltering in the Glumag. Beautiful view of a shower moving east over Arnish. In the Island Blogs, someone is posting very nice pictures of Molinginish and other deserted villages (e.g. Reimseabhagh in Eishken). He has quoted the names of more lost villages: Teilisnis (W Loch Tarbert), Eileanan Dubha, Gearraidh Mhurchaidh and Gearraidh Loiteigir, north and west (respectively) of Reinigeadal. This village is 2 miles from Molinginish. Sleetshowers fade by nightfall. It's a quiet evening, until the wind picks up again by 11 pm.

Tuesday 10/01/06

Just to show two images from the British Met Office website, which should provide a taster of today's journal entry. Below is an infra red satellite image of a major Atlantic depression, at 4pm GMT today. There was no proper image in the visible spectrum, as darkness is falling across Europe at that time. Its central pressure is expected to go down to 947 mbar at midnight tonight. This is a classical image of what a depression looks like from space. Windspeeds up to 45 mph sustained, and 75 mph in gusts.

and associated with that the rainfall radar of the British Isles. The trailing edge of the front, the brighter colours, is just moving out over the Western Isles. It became dry at 6pm.

Quiet night, but the rain returns shortly after breakfast. Watch MV Muirneag coming into port at 9.30. I look on as she comes to a halt just off Green Island, having taken a course very close to the island. A fishing boat passes by very slowly as Muirneag reverses, then, as a second boat comes past, she goes on. Muirneag again comes to a halt, this time just past the Goat Island jetty. She turns 180° and slowly backs into her berth at n° 1 pier. What a carry-on. Muirneag has difficulty manoeuvering in strong sidewinds. Today's weather is windy, but force 5 is not that bad. It's raining steadily by 11 a.m.. The forecast mentions gales again. Tomorrow morning we can expect severe gales. The weather worsens at midday, with lashing rain and increasing winds. The ferry will not leave Stornoway once it's back from its current crossing from Ullapool. At 2.15, a German chap calls in for a bed for the night. Spray starts to fly across the basin at 2.45. Pity it's going to be dark after 4.15. Waves begin to crash over the causeway. It's a year to the day since the big hurricane of 11 January 2005. Ferries are off again, Oban to Uist; Barra to Eriskay; Mallaig to Armadale; Tarbert to Uig. The rain continues to lash down. When I venture out to the Coastguard Station, it's difficult to tell whether it's rain- or seawater that's flying about. Hardly anyone out on the streets, except in their cars. The wind nearly blows me off my feet outside the Coastguard Station. Hear that power is off in NW Skye, after debris hits the lines. Ferries are also off in Orkney, no sailings to Shapinsay or Sanday. Skye Bridge is closed to high-sided vehicles at 5.30.

Page 900 in written diary

Police issue a warning to residents in the Western Isles to be careful because of severe weather. Busservices may be restricted, schools are closed in the southern isles. Gusts increase to 54 kts at 6pm, with Benbecula at 64. When I go to pick up logs from the backyard, the rain has stopped and the moon is out. The winds increase further. Out in the Atlantic, buoy K5 is bobbing down in waves of 21 ft (6 m), which increase to 35 ft (10.5m) later in the evening. It reports a barometric pressure of 955 mbar, which shoots up to 979 mbar by midnight. Gales are extensive, all the way down the western seaboard of the UK. The depression (shown on the satellite picture in thepreliminary entry) has a central pressure of 947 mbar. Winds are very strong at 7pm, and appear to be veering southwest, now that the initial front has passed. In the darkness, it's difficult to see the seastate, but I can see that the basin is very rough. Have a wee chat with the German guest, who is investigating the attitudes of Gaelic speakers about their language. He goes door to door to interview people. When he goes for a walk, he promptly gets dosed with a shower. Otherwise, it's a moonlit night. Gusts increase to 63 kts, force 12, by 9 pm. Sustained windspeeds 41 kts, force 9. North Rona reports 75 kts, 86 mph (force 12) sustained windspeeds, with gusts of 97 kts, 111 mph. At 11.15 pm, I go for an amble to Goat Island, but it's less windy than at 4pm. A fishbox is blown onto the access road. The moment I step back inside, a shower passes through. Nobody is out on the street. Showers and squalls continue. At midnight, the winds at North Rona are not as strong - gusts of 86 kts are still very severe.

Monday 09/01/06

Disturbed night with the wind pommelling the house. Rise a bit on the late side at 10 a.m., which is actually the time the rain started. According to the Met Office, it's blowing a gale, 35 knots, gusting up to 55 knots, which is force 11. At 10.20, reports quote a sustained windspeeds of 41 kts, force 9. Two or three boats pull into port to seek shelter. The ferry did not leave Stornoway at 7.15, but a decrease in windspeed is forecast for later today. Other ferries in the Outer Isles are also cancelled. The Skye to Harris ferry is still on. Waves break over the causeway, and it looks very wild beyond the lighthouse. At midday, windspeeds remain at severe gale force 9, with gusts of 53 knots. A climber in the Cairngorms [a mountain range 30 miles south of Inverness] was left dangling by a climbing rope for 7 hours after a fall. He was unhurt, but had to be rescued together with his companions, who were holding on to the rope. Just before 1pm, a squall sends a lot of spray over the basin. The wind appears to be increasing, with gusts now approaching 60 kts, 70 mph, by 2 o'clock. Venture outside to take some pics at the Coastguard Station. Waves break over the causeway, much like November 11th. Go round to the other side of the building, where I can see the waves crashing into the dam and running parallel to the shore. Even the webcam captures the waves in the basin and the spume flying over. Visibility deteriorates after my return at 2.30. Mrs B receives a DVD from a young German couple who were very grateful for her hospitality during their stay in August. They had fled their campsite at Tolsta following an overnight gale. Workmen are repairing the pavement along the street. Extensive disruption to ferry services, now including the Uig - Harris service. We're expecting a guest from Skye. A decision will be made by Calmac when service will resume; the vessel is stormbound at Lochmaddy. Mrs B goes to town at 3.40 on the bus, with lashing rain and a howling gale. Just after 4, the wind suddenly drops away. The crests disappear from the waves in the basin, and the rain stops as well. How strange. Radar and satellite images had shown the back-end of the front to be approaching from the west. I had anticipated its arrival at 4 pm - which happened on the dot. Waves are still crashing against the causeway. The Minch will take some time to calm down. A shower drifts across at 4.15, as darkness falls. The ferry casts off, nearly 3hours late, at 4.40. Forecast for this week: three more gales, tomorrow evening; Thursday; Saturday. Sounds like a repeat of the second week of November 2005. Supper consists of a microwave meal, after which mrs B and I watch the DVD I mentioned earlier. They thanked her and myself by name. I supplied them with ideas for further trips in the islands. They left for Skye after looking round South Harris. Simon Fraser leaves a nice message about Molinginish on the VisitHebrides website. He explained the history of the village, which was deserted in 1964. There was a school there until 1935, and up to 40 people lived there in the 1880s. Our Skye guests materializes at 8.40, nearly 4 hours late.

Sunday 08/01/06

Nice sunny weather, but continuing windy, force 5 gusting 7. As before this week. Having a very lazy day, faffing about on the computer. Mrs B gave me a very nice meal at suppertime - ratatouille, beans, courgettes and rice. As the evening progresses, the wind starts to pick up. The shipping forecast at 6pm promises a gale, which duly arrives.

Saturday 07/01/06

Today, like most days before this year, starts with a glorious sunrise and strong winds. There is a bank of threatening cloud, but it's good old altocumulus again, which is blown away by the wind. The lifeboat is out on exercise in the harbour. After lunch, I head into town for a few things. I spend an hour at the library, scanning in pictures. Afterwards I nip into Somerfields for food and a lottery ticket. Food is OK, lottery ticket is the usual dud. Not much on the telly tonight.

Friday 06/01/06

Mrs B's son + girlfriend leave for Glasgow early in the morning. It's a day like many before. Windy, bright and cold. There's talk of snow in southern England, after which warmer weather will sweep in from the west. Tropical Depression Zeta is dying out in the Atlantic, which heralds the end of a very lively 2005 hurricane season. This had 27 named storms, 14 hurricanes, of which Katrina was the worst - causing $80bn worth of damage to New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, and taking 1,300 lives. The next decade will continue to be lively on that score. Helped mrs B pack up her Christmas trees, together with the helping hands of two of her grandchildren. The house suddenly looks very bare. The reams of Christmas cards that adorned the walls have also gone, so bleak January is here. At 5.45, I get stuck in a huge queue at Somerfields, where everybody is cashing in their lottery winnings.

Thursday 05/01/06

Fantastic colour and cloudscape at sunrise, at 9.12 a.m.. The sun rises in a blaze of orange above the powerstation. The weather is comparable to yesterday, very windy and cool. Help mrs B's son and his girlfriend book seats on the plane for tomorrow morning at 9 a.m.. As it's Thursday, I go out for the wad of papers, and put in a film for processing. Unfortunately, I put in a spare (unexposed film), which I therefore lose. The birds have a great time picking up shells from the foreshore and dropping them from a great height to smash them and eat the contents. The birds show on the webcam. As the ferry leaves, a guest calls in to stay with his 5-year old son. They had been due to come yesterday, but were fogbound at Edinburgh all day. BA could not be bothered to transfer them the 45 miles to Glasgow. Horrible news about a man at the other end of the district who was jailed for 7 years for child abuse over a period of 40 years. In the evening, we get a double meal in the shape of borscht (Russian peasant soup) and mrs B's famous pastabake. At 9 o'clock, I join mrs B's son for a drink in the company of his cousin at the An Lanntair bar. An hour later, I return to Newton.

Wednesday 04/01/06

It's been a day of little activity. The weather is pleasant, albeit cloudy, but with clear intervals. A fresh wind blows, and it's 8 degrees. Tropical storm Zeta is still going strong out in the Atlantic, but there is fog in the Forth / Clyde valleys. We have lunch at 2.45, after I sort out another entry on the Arnish Lighthouse blog, which will be published tomorrow. Lunch consists of a substantial soup with garlic bread; supper is equally simple, sausage and ham rolls.

Tuesday 03/01/06

Brilliantly sunny morning, this time no sore head or anything. Temperature dropped from 10 degrees yesterday to 3 degrees C today. For the first time in several days, Isles FM have a local news bulletin, but I already knew about the main things. Tropical Storm Zeta is still about in the Atlantic, but not going anywhere fast. She was 1460 miles east of the northern Leeward Islands, and heading in that direction at 7 mph. She has sustained windspeeds of 65 mph, 9 mph below hurricane threshold. Just after 12 noon, I join mrs B's son and his girlfriend on a drive up to Ness. We visit the Cross war memorial, from where the roar of the Atlantic is clearly audible. We call into Port of Ness, from where I explore the harbour at low tide. After a visit to the local portaloo, we carry on to the Butt of Lewis lighthouse. Spectacular waves crash onto the rocks. Back down the road, at Eoropie Beach, the pounding of the waves is harshly interspersed with the buzzing of trailbikes, which churn up the beach, the dunes and the machair. On the way back to town, we watch the sun set behind Beinn Bragar at 3.50. It is bright yellow, up to the point of setting. In the evening, we go to a supper in the Crown Hotel. The less said about that, the better. Food was fine though.

Monday 02/01/06

Awake with a considerable hangover, worse than yesterday's. Everybody else appears to be suffering from the same effects. What do you expect after 3-4 large whiskies and 2 beers Oh god, didn't get out of bed until about 1 pm. Unheard of. Right, manage some food. During the afternoon, I gingerly waken myself up, sort through about 20 emails. The weather was nice and fairly sunny until lunchtime. After that, the wind started to gust at galeforce, and the rain began to belt down. This continued well into the evening. Mrs B's brother in law, whom we visited last night, came to join us for supper at 7.30. The gale subsided in the meantime. Dinner consisted of roast chicken, vegetables and potatoes. Minimal intake of alcohol, oh dear.

PS: Remember this boat? Found an image of her on the Net, unusually. In addition, I found out where the uniforms and the medical care kit used on board this yacht came from. She is MY (Motor Yacht) Air, which was anchored in the Glumag near Arnish in early June. At the time I wasn't sure of her name.

Sunday 01/01/06

The boats in the harbour sound their horns after the stroke of midnight, as does the powerstation. For about 10 minutes, there is a flurry of fireworks going off down the backstreets, then it all goes quiet. We drink a few glasses of Cava and wish each other happy new year. At 12.30 a.m., we have a first-footer, as they're called in Scotland. This gentleman was involved in an unfortunate incident, where he wandered the streets of Newton in his birthday costume, in full view of a packed town bus. He is very drunk, and has difficulty getting the words out. Harmless nonetheless. Mrs B bundles him out of the door at 1 a.m., as she wants to go and visit her brother-in-law up the road. Our visitor can be seen staggering up Newton Street, trying to open someone's front gate. When he can't do that, he tries to climb over the wall, which he cannot do either. We avoid him by going down Inaclete Road, but mrs B's relative is in bed now. So we go to her other son, up one street for a convivial ceilidh. Once her son turns up that is, because everybody (bar his eldest son) are out and about. Return to mrs B's place at 2 a.m., go to bed at 4 o'clock.

Finally rise at 11 a.m., feeling a little fragile. Only manage fruit juice and cereal, not up to much more. Brilliantly sunny morning though, with some high level cloud creeping in. The Coastguard helicopter had its first outing of 2006, when it was called out to Ullapool this morning. Someone had fallen 40 feet / 12 m off a cliff, and could not be reached from land. We have a magnificent New Year's Supper, consisting of roast leg of lamb, vegetables and a raspberry pavlova. The last of the Christmas crackers are pulled, and they contain more corny jokes (why can't ducks tell jokes in flight? they'll quack up). At 10 pm, we go to another ceilidh at mrs B's brother-in-law. He tells us some good yarns, well sprinkled with whisky incidentally. By 1.30, we stagger home to our beds.

Happy New Year

Happy New Year

Best wishes for 2006