We visit Gairloch because we’re seeking Tim and his glass-bottomed boat. Only problem is, there seem to be two Gairlochs – both based on the linear, Lochside model so prevalent in these parts. And, to a certain degree, we’ve become so overwhelmed by the continuing scenic beauty all around us, we can no longer differentiate between one inland or coastal Lochside village and another. So we gaily cruise into Gairloch and are mildly bemused by its obvious lack of any boats or harbouresque loch-side clutter, nor signs for any glass-bottomed boat trips. At the end of the High Street, we therefore effect a perfect Knumpty pirouette and return to the main road, where it dawns on us that what we seek is Gairloch Harbour, a separate entity from Gairloch itself, and this time agreeably cluttered in a start-of-the-season harboury sort-of way.
It’s by now five-to-ten and we espy a very quaint and newly-painted harbourside shack, proudly displaying ‘glass-bottomed-boat-trips’ signage, but the door is locked and our only desperate hope is that the boat itself must be in the immediate vicinity (albeit about to depart), so the Chief Navigator bales out to sprint across the harbour tarmac – as her co-pilot attempts to park the van.
Success! The boat is located and indeed about to depart, with a full complement of glass-bottomed passengers, save for 2 spaces, which Chief Navigator has secured – whence we are welcomed by our amiable Captain Tim, who shakes us warmly by the hands as we stumble aboard.
In short, the trip was delightful – not so much for any plethora of undersea marvels we witnessed as we peered through glassy portals at seaweed, starfish and the occasional sea-urchin which passed beneath our gaze – but more for the enthusiastic and passionate commentary provided by our amiable host as we puttered about the bay under bright but still chilling sunshine.
Tim really had only been doing these trips for a week – having arrived in Gairloch as a visitor on his own yacht, which he’d sailed up from Ipswich 2 year’s previously – a story in itself. His small crew of avid passengers were indeed his tourist guinea-pigs as we enjoyed a trip around the bay in Tim’s very informative company. Having returned to port, it became awkwardly clear that Tim was taking no fares for these inaugural trips, but such was his infectious bonhomie that there wasn’t a passenger among us who didn’t press hard cash upon him and wish him well for the coming season as we disembarked.