Each year an event takes place in conditions of secrecy only rivalled by the Bilderberg Conference, but less damaging by far to global peace and prosperity, consuming no oil whatever and attended by a much nicer bunch of people, on a small island off the West coast of Scotland.
It takes place in the open air, but participants are untroubled by the vagaries of the weather, viewing extremes of rain, strong wind and temperature as stimuli to, rather than distractions from, their water-borne adventures. In all conditions they congregate. Strong winds and adverse tides present challenges to ever-longer turns to windward; in fact one year the weather obliged with a 180 degree wind shift while the crews were lunching after tacking half a dozen nautical miles South, coinciding with high water which gave a return journey of equal unpleasantness against a cold wet Northerly and a strong ebb tide. Despite, or maybe because of, such things participants, who like those at Bilderberg are all personal invitees, return year after year.
In 2004 there was little wind and on the morning in question the fleet was becalmed under a dreich grey sky, the drizzly rain trickling down their necks. I have no photograph of that morning, as the scene was too grim for anyone to bother recording and the image above comes from a cheerier day. To add to the miserable atmosphere the Brother had brought along the Great Highland Bagpipe, with which to regale the little ships as they drifted along on the tide.
Through the Sound came a commodious plastic-hulled vessel, which dropped anchor in Kilchattan Bay and sent a lady crew member ashore on a mission, to acquire some lemons for the gin and tonic. Asking a local resident where such a purchase could be made she got the reply "I regret, Madam, that there are no lemon shops in Toberonochy, in fact there are no shops here at all."
At that moment out on the water the Brother filled the bagpipe with blaw and started on a tragic lament, in keeping with the mood of the morning. On hearing this the lady said, obviously stunned at thinking she had gate-crashed an aquatic wake, "I'm terribly sorry to intrude on your small community in this time of grief," and made her way back embarrassed to her yacht.