One more tragedy; one brave little girl

In November 2009 I wrote on this site a blog headlined 'Longa Island in the Gairloch'. The blog mentioned our holiday experiences of many years before, fishing from our old, clinker built  boat Culash (Gaelic - 'Little Fly') We had towed her all 700 miles up from our home on the south coast of England. I included a picture of my pastel painting of Longa Island, also the verse I wrote about it and its Viking ancestry. The verse was called 'The Gurgle of Their Oars.'

I noticed yesterday that quite a few people had clicked into this rather ancient blog, the reasons being not hard to guess for on Sunday last two men, each with two small children, set out for Longa Island from the adjacent campsite. They were paddling a Canadian style canoe. The boat overturned some four hundred metres out. One of the fathers and both of his sons died. The other father managed to swim ashore, preceded almost unbelievably by his ten year old daughter. His other, even younger daughter died in hospital a day later.

The sea was flat calm, the sun was shining from a clear blue sky and I know from many, many fishing drifts around Longa Sound that there is very little tide. Holiday makers were out the beach enjoying the late summer weather. If anyone was looking they must have seen the canoe upturned. But they didn't. Nobody raised the alarm until the ten year old came ashore, scrambled painfully over rocks and ran to a nearby house. She had only in recent weeks attended her swimming lessons. She had held on to her toy (pet) dinosaur all the way in, dropping it only when she knew either the dinosaur or she would have to go down. Brave? I should say so.

Of course you can pontificate about the apparent foolhardiness of the wrong sort of craft, lack of proper lifejackets, one father being a non-swimmer etcetera, but that will not bring back the man and the three children now dead. And if you take all the risk out of life I guess you lose the spice, the sense of adventure. I hate to think how many times I set sail with my boys and their disabled mother up the Gairloch to fish Longa in conditions that represented a considerable risk. No lifejackets.

Thirty years ago a party of five local men, grown men, were out angling again off Longa Island. Their boat, too, capsized. Three of them were were lost. The sea is where we humans came from, so they say. But it is and will always be an implacable foe, never to be trusted, never to be taken lightly no matter how innocent it might sometimes seem.


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