Monday 23rd June – Sunday 29th June
I had been looking forward to this week ever since Shazza had told me that she had booked us on a half day boat trip. This was no ordinary boat trip, this was a trip on a RIB (Rigid Inflatable Boat) from Elgor on the Western Coast of Skye out to sea to explore the wildlife on and around the outer islands. We had no way of knowing what the weather would be like on the day, our ‘work of fiction’, namely the BBC Weather Forecast, had changed every day that we had looked at it, so it could be raining, waves six feet high with a visibility of zero or absolutely scorching or then again anything between the two !!
But before any of that there was a little matter of a Monday morning at work before we could commence our day and a half off. This was also to be our last extended time off for nearly two weeks as next week, on what would have been our half day off, the Regional Manager was paying us his bi-monthly visit, the last time we would see him before we finished our short summer contract here at Morvich. It was important that we saw him, for as well as him discussing our ‘appraisals’ for the work we had done over the last two months, we also needed to discuss with him our choices for the following seasons contracts. As Assistant Wardens we can only select a ‘preferred’ Region and not a ‘Specific site within that preferred region, however, if we elected to remain on ‘his‘ region, Scotland, and some sites just across the South Eastern Scottish Border, he had the ‘influence’ to nominate us to a ‘specific site’ within his region. We have not actually made any firm decisions yet but have a couple of choices in our minds that we need to discuss with him. On the Thursday, immediately after the Regional Managers visit, which would have been our full day off, Terry was away on a course which would have left Ennyd on her own, this just is not practicable, so we would cover with Ennyd during his absence and then get our time back once Terry had returned, however that will mean just half a day off in the next nine days !!
The morning passed relatively quickly, the routine bin run and cleaning of the on site facilities buildings, a contractor to sort out and the assistance to a ‘guest’ who was having problems getting ‘any’ signal on his TV, these being just part of our normal daily routine. Then came that magical hour on the clock, 1pm, that was us finished now until 10:45am on Wednesday morning. We hadn’t planned to do anything with our afternoon off, well we certainly didn’t need to do any shopping now did we ? We just ‘chillaxed’ in the van, Shazza threw our work gear into the washing machine and then we just let the afternoon pass us by doing absolutely nothing !! In the evening the heavens opened, this was not a good omen for our following days trip !!
We awoke not so much to rain but gloomy low cloud hanging on to the mountains and a light but constant drizzle. We were both a little downhearted but for very different reasons, Shazza had only booked this trip for me, she knew how much I liked boats, of any size and shape, and she knew that I loved seeing ‘wildlife’ and taking photographs, she on the other hand didn’t mind big boats, on the sort of scale akin to cross-channel ferries or in calmer waters, ‘Kevin’ our Sea Eagle inflatable Kayak. Other than that she tended to get rather sea sick and yet she still went ahead and booked us on a rather fast and often bumpy RIB !! I didn’t mind fast and bumpy rides (behave yourselves !!) but I would have been disappointed if the weather caused our date with adventure to be cancelled, which, according to the small print on our booking form, was a possibility in bad weather or unsafe sea conditions. If the trip did go ahead but visibility was poor, then the sighting of anything, including land, would have made the trip a waste of time. We would not know the weather conditions on the West Coast of Skye until we got there !!
We were not sure whether there would be any opportunity to go ashore during the trip so we made a flask of coffee and hashed a small picnic together, well it wasn’t as if we didn’t have anything in the provisions stores was it ? We needed to be at Elgor harbour for 12:15pm to put on the provided ‘dry suits’ and be ready to depart in the RIB at 12:30pm, so we left ‘Big Momma’ at 10:00am as we knew that once past Broadford, on the Isle of Skye, the road became narrow single track so it may have been slow going from there. Before we even reached the Kyle of Lochalsh just 15 miles away, the drizzle had ceased although the sky was still dark and gloomy and the clouds were still gripping a firm hold on to the mountains. However, as we got closer to our departure point the gloom lifted and the sun started to slowly burn the clouds away.
At the allotted time we went to get kitted out in our very fetching ‘Dry Suits’ !!
Our skipper was excellent, not only did he have lots of information about the remote outer Islands and their inhabitants, human as well as other Animals and Mammals, but instead of just heading to the Islands we were to visit on today’s trip, he told us that if we saw anything that we should point in that direction and he would deviate to take a closer look. It was possible that we may have seen Whales and Dolphins, it was a big Ocean and you just never knew what you may see from one day to the next, although their were no guarantees of seeing anything. We were fortunate in one respect, today the harbour porpoises were out in numbers, during the morning trip there were none sighted. However, the unfortunate thing was that unlike their cousins, the Dolphins, who were curious and would approach and swim alongside boats, porpoises were timid and when boats drew near they would submerge from view. We saw lots leaping out of the water and no matter how quietly the skipper attempted to drift towards them so that we could get photographs they always disappeared before we got close.
We had Forty-five minutes to spend exploring the Island, Shazza elected to spend the time wisely, namely exploring the contents of our picnic !! There was a Cafe on the Island but it was closed on Tuesday’s, and today was………………? Yup you guessed it. However, the Cafe may not have had any staff working but the door was unlocked and customers basically helped themselves to Coffee and Tea, cakes and biscuits, sweets and crisps and loads of the usual tourist tat. You just simply wrote on a sheet of paper (provided) what you had purchased and placed the money in an ‘Honesty Box’ !! We indulged in two very tasty ‘muffins’ but then, picnic over, scenic photographs taken it was time to return to our RIB.
We were getting close to the end of our terrific half day marine adventure and had seen so much, however, would we get a glimpse of a Whale or a Dolphin on our way back to Elgor. The one thing we were sure of was the odd sighting of another boat and more stunning views.
We never did get to see a Whale or any Dolphins, well not on this trip anyway, but there may still be other opportunities. One thing is for sure though, we had an amazing trip and it was worth every penny from our budget. As you may imagine I took over two hundred photographs which for obvious reasons I couldn’t put into this post, however I think that I have provided a pretty good variety but you really do need to come and do it for yourself. The thing about what we are doing with the Assistant Warden jobs is taking the opportunity to visit places in our own country that we otherwise would not see and so far, coming up to our half way point, we have seen lots of different places. We know that we will not get the time to see all that this part of Scotland has to offer but we do feel privileged to have had the opportunity to taste a small part of this beautiful area. However, for this week at least, sightseeing over its time to get back to work. On my first day back, whilst doing the morning bin run on ‘Freddie’, I saw two of our ‘guests’ stood outside their van looking into the sky with binoculars. I couldn’t see what it was they were so interested in so stopped and asked them what they were looking at. They told me that they had seen a Golden Eagle soaring high above the site, which is not unusual as we have a ‘nesting’ pair on the mountain that overlooks the side of ‘Big Momma’. Anyway, we got engaged in conversation about the wildlife around here and I told them about our half day trip on the RIB. They were quite interested so I pointed them in the direction of our information room to where they would find all the details. I thought no more of it, we often provide our guests with suggestions about walks, scenic drives, places to eat, local shops and of course Kayaking and other boat trips but it is so much better when you have actually experienced some of these things yourself and so can give personal recommendations. It was really good when early evening the following day they called in to reception to tell me that they had just returned from the half day trip and thanked me for suggesting it. I was a bit miffed though, they had seen Minki Whales !!
A little over a week or so ago we had a power outage in the van, we re-set the ‘trip switch’ and everything came back on, or so we thought ! Since then we have been unable to get any hot water from the water boiler using the Electric supply although it works perfectly well on gas. It is a combination boiler so also provides the habitation heating, we tried it on electric and no joy but again no problems with gas. I changed the fuse in the control panel and still no joy and I suspected that the electric heating elements had gone. I sent an Email to ‘Truma UK’ and they concurred with my diagnosis after my lengthy explanation of events. Fortunately they provided us with a list of ‘Truma’ approved dealerships, the nearest being just outside Inverness. I contacted them and explained our situation, the lady on the other end of the phone from ‘Highland Campervans’ was extremely helpful and told me that she would order the part I needed, namely a new heating element unit, and that it would be fitted the same day. She even made a minor adjustment to their scheduling to ensure that we got sorted on the morning of our visit giving us time to drive back to the campsite ready for work the following day. However, this will now entail the loss of a ‘sightseeing day’ but at least it will mean that ‘Big Momma’ will be sorted ready for our winter trip, it’s a good job we have a ‘Maintenance Fund’ within our allocated budgets as the estimate for the work, the parts’ labour and VAT is around three hundred pounds !!
After a few weeks of the site being ‘fully booked’ it is now easing off. Now you would be forgiven for perhaps thinking that this means that our daily workload will also ease off, in fact it’s quite the opposite, there are some routine cleaning and general tasks that go on whether you have ten units or seventy units on site, but when the site is full a lot of pitch maintenance cannot be conducted. This means that when the site isn’t fully occupied we have to catch up with strimming borders, cutting grass, weeding and trimming hedges. I was able to go in and check the site ‘occupancy’ board and found five pitches in a row that were unoccupied so the trailer was loaded with the petrol strimmer, petrol mower, petrol hedge trimmer, leaf blower (as well as leaves it also works very well for blowing bits of cut grass off the Hardstandings back onto the grass borders), grass rake, traffic bollards and high visibility tape (used for cordoning off the pitches whilst I was working on them). Terry and Ennyd were on their day off so my morning was taken up with the ‘Bin Run’ and cleaning the ‘Communal Facilities Building’, Shazza manned the office and shop and then when I returned I took over in the office whilst she went and cleaned the Toilet/Shower block.
After lunch, with Freddie and the pre-loaded trailer full of equipment, I set off for my afternoon of ‘gardening’ but I had a couple of diversionary tasks to fit in first. Sometimes our guests have some manoeuvering issues and inadvertently damage our road signs, so with screwdriver in hand the aforementioned sign was repaired. Whilst on lunch and managing the office one of our ‘guests’ had come in and asked for some help with his TV as he couldn’t get a picture, so next stop was at said ‘guests’ pitch. However, by the end of the day I had managed to ‘service’ seven pitches (there were another two pitches unoccupied directly opposite where I had been working and you need to take these opportunities when you can). At the end of the day I was aching a bit as the petrol hedge trimmer gets very heavy very quickly but it was nice to stand back and admire my handiwork. I dropped off the equipment in the compound and then took the trailer ‘full’ of grass and hedge cuttings to the grass dump before returning and cleaning and re-fuelling the equipment so that it was ready to use next time. In my absence Shazza had not been idle, she was looking after the office and shop but had also been out and finished trimming a hedge that Ennyd had started the previous day and after that she had got out the second petrol mower and cut two lengths of grass at the entrance to the site. This is certainly a very ‘physical’ job and at the end of each working day your body let’s you know it and it is good to quite literally ‘put your feet up’ !!
And so we have now come to the end of week eight and the time has just flown by. Week nine marks the half way point in this our first season as ‘Assistant Wardens’ with the Caravan Club and it is decision time ! We have a visit on Wednesday by our Regional Manager, he will spend most of his time with Terry & Ennyd as the site Wardens, but at some point we will have our one to one’s with him, during this time we will need to discuss a location (Region) for next years season. We have a couple of things in mind but a lot will be dependent on two things, whether he is happy to keep us on his region and, if so, the likelihood of him accommodating our wish for our ‘preferred’ location within his region albeit that we really should not request a ‘specific’ site. However, whatever comes of those discussions and wherever we end up next season Terry & Ennyd have given the both of us all the training to be able to go to ‘any‘ site and conduct confidently all of the tasks, ‘Office’ or ‘Groundwork’. The one thing that they cannot guarantee is whether the ‘wardens’ on our new site will permit us to utilise all of these skills as there are still some who operate a ‘Pink and Blue’ segregation of duties. This would suit ‘me’ as although I am happy to do the associated ‘office’ stuff I much prefer to be doing the outside groundwork but Shazza, whilst she is much more proficient than me in the ‘Administrative’ department, also enjoys getting out and doing some groundwork. But we are unable to pre-empt that so will just have to wait to see where we get allocated and then meet our new ‘Wardens’ and see how ‘they‘ manage ‘their‘ site. But before any of that we still have lots to see and do here before proceeding on our six month holiday and our second winter in Europe………………………………….
Well Sunday arrived and after a routine morning at work we got to lunchtime and a much-needed half day off. We are both feeling pretty knackered as it has been another quite physical week so a quick drive into Kyle for some essential bits and pieces followed by a brief stop at another local viewpoint. We returned to ‘Big Momma’ and whilst Shazza relaxed, making a chocolate brownie cake !! I decided to get this latest post finished and published before lighting the charcoal BBQ and hopefully then get a chance to settle down and watch some World Cup football. So I will leave you with some photos taken from today’s visit to the viewpoint…………..