Lighthouse Letters
By Sharma Krauskopf

This is an article by Sharma Krauskopf from Michigan who fell in love with Scotland - and decided to buy a lighthouse keepers' cottage at Eshaness, a remote location in Shetland, in the far north of Scotland and live there each winter. These pages were previously part of the "Scottish Radiance e-magazine Web site which was created by Sharma.

Over the Sea

The sky was bright aqua blue with a few fat scattered fluffy white clouds as we began the long walk from the ferry office to the boat at Uig. It gave me time to study the huge black and white Caledonian MacBrayne ship with its orange red smoke stack with the "Lion Rampant" symbolizing Scotland. I would not consider myself a fan of mechanical objects but the ship was stunning standing motionless tethered to the dock. Its big mouth was open and cars were pouring into the interior. I have always wondered how they managed to get so many cars jammed in without an accident. In many of my ferry rides we had driven into the ship's mouth and parked our car in that big open middle. My mind often envisioned this must be what Jonah felt like deep in the belly of the whale. The graphic here is of the Caledonian MacBrayne ferry leaving Uig Pier and is via Wikimedia.

As we walked, I wondered was this really January in Scotland? Sometimes the weather on the west coast of Scotland does the most amazing things like give you a clear and calm day like this in the middle of winter. I could not have been more pleased since my husband and I were on our way to see the Butt of Lewis lighthouse near Ness. The permanent residents of the islands probably consider the ferry a normal happening but to me it was like a special thrill ride at an amusement park. Our route of travel would be the ferry from Uig to Isle of Harris port at Tarbert. The bus would carry us to Stornoway to pick up a rental car.

Walking up the steep gang plank poking out the side of the ship, was far superior to the car parking. You were outside and could see everything before you entered the ship. The water was so still it resembled a perfect green mirror containing the ship's reflection.

I have "my own" special spot where I sit on the ferries. It is a corner table at the back of the buffet. The view is superb and a cup of tea only a few feet away. A great place to watch people when the weather is bad. Today with the beautiful sunshine I looked forward to spending most of my time on deck. Priorities are priorities. The first thing one must do is have a cup of tea while the crew finishes loading the cars. Sitting and sipping my cup of tea, I scarcely listened to the safety instructions having heard them so often. I speculated how many actual people listen or are they like me so confident of their safety, they ignore them.

All of sudden the view out my window is changing. Are we moving? I realized we were manoeuvering out of the harbour as I see the shoreline changing like the frames of a movie. Annoyed that I wasn't outside for the momentous event I ran out on the deck to find Skye slowly drifting away. I thought about the song "Over the Sea to Skye" and wondered how Bonnie Prince Charlie must have felt as land faded away. It must have been a frightening experience in a small boat.

One of the joys of the trip to Tarbert is the stunning vista of Neist Point Lighthouse sitting off in the distance. (The graphic of Neist Point shown here is by Frank Harkness via Wikimedia). I am fond of Neist Point because it was the first Scottish Lighthouse I ever visited and began my love affair with these historic sites. On my side of the ship (I never can keep the names for the sides straight) it was sunny and warm. There was no air movement caused by our considerable speed. If I had gone up front where I would have not been sheltered it might have been colder.

Shortly we could no longer see land or Neist Point. We were surrounded by the still Atlantic ocean. I concluded it was time for people watching accompanied by a another cup of tea. A ferry has an interesting blend of people on it. Across the aisle a lady was working on needlepoint. At the table in front of her a man was busy typing into a laptop computer. In the distance I could hear two farmers discussing how much they should pay for sheep at the sale on Harris. Some small children were playing tag and running around the aisles giggling. At other tables people were playing cards or drinking their tea while reading a book. I decided the ones who were occupied with these ordinary activities were regulars and only interest was to fill the time. The trip was a necessity they could do without. I hoped my enthusiasm and joy over the ferry ride never wore off. It has always been exciting and full of fun. I would be depressed to have it become like brushing my teeth in the morning.

Outside I could see some tourists stopping every few feet to lean out over the rail with their binoculars and take careful aim with their cameras at something. Since we were out where no land could be seen it could have been a whale. Then I heard someone say "Look, land." Another shouted "Land Ahoy" like in days gone by. Being the tourist, I am at heart I dashed once again to the deck to watch the mountains of Harris and Lewis come into view. Just as lighthouse bids you farewell when you leave Skye another one greet you when you get near Harris. Eilean Glas sits on the end of small island but is one of the first things you see when you near the end of this trip. (The graphic of Eilean Glas is by David Maclennan, via Wikimedia). It is a magnificent example with its tower ringed in red and white stripes. I watch it with joy because it is beautiful and friendly indicating we will soon arrive.

All of a sudden I understand that if we do purchase property on Lewis I will get to ride the ferry all the time. That definitely is a plus. One of the special things about living on an island is having to ride "over the sea" to home.

(Editor's note - this attempt to buy a Scottish lighthouse keeper's cottage was unsuccessful - but Sharma and her husband kept trying - and eventually succeeded. See later "Lighthouse Letters").

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