At approximately 18:00 hours on 13th August 2015 an adult minke whale was swimming off the southern shores of Arran. As it swam it broke the surface of the water, a couple of seconds later I turned to look out over the stern of the ferry and caught sight of its flanks as it re-submerged. We stood in the coral light of the fading sun, under the electric lights behind the doors of the ferry cafe the sound of conversation mingled with the smell of hot food. Outside, the whale rolled twice more, the wild crossed paths with the civilised and nobody saw. A coral coloured wake frothed over the sea marking a disappearing path as the whale crossed horizontally, pushing through the bubbles with its great belly. Each time it rose the sea streamed pastel pink from it’s shining back. The whale swam on under the dying rays of the sun, it was a privilege to encounter this creature of the wild, the scene was surreal and I thought it would have happily graced an illustration page of a child’s book. I wondered if the whale was aware of the sunset if it had come up specially to see the colours at the end of the day and feel the bubbles of ferry wake across its belly. I watched for a while longer unable to turn away in case it rose again but it had gone on its way and the sunset pulled the ferry onward.
We were crossing from Ardrossan to Campbeltown, the evening was preciously still and ahead of us, the sun was setting. It can be lovely to watch a sunset in the countryside when the sun drops behind the horizon turning the sky to orange with a final hint of warmth. It can be quite a different experience seeing this happen on the sea with no clouds and horizons that are flat and far away. Our view in all directions was suffused with delicate shades of coral and salmon pink, the sea reflected the sky. There was a strong sense that the ferry was actually travelling in two dimensions, moving under its own steam whilst being pulled forward by the power of the setting sun. It was as though the sun had cast out over the sea, caught the unsuspecting ferry, passengers and all, to take with it as it fell ever lower behind the hills of Kintyre. We stayed on deck for most of the crossing to catch the changing light and watch the lines of the of the land alter as we approached Campbeltown. When we passed Davaar island at the entrance to Campbeltown Loch a strong scent of ferns rolled across the water followed by a slighter but unmistakable smell of earth.
We had left the car in Ardrossan and boarded the ferry as foot passengers. That evening we were the last ones to disembark, having become disorientated, we went to collect our luggage from the wrong side of the boat! We arrived in Campbeltown with our sandwich board in tow, it had been set up to display information about the boat Shemaron and her time as Wistaria. This was the first stage of a plan to take Shemaron to Maidens which relied on so many complexities coming together (not least the weather) in order to bear us safely to Maidens harbour. We walked to the other side of the quay rather awkwardly weighed down with rucksacks and sandwich board and eventually alighted onto Shemaron’s deck.