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A Winter Sea Change

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Angry Atlantic © Lewis Mackenzie

The seasons are never dictated by dates on a calendar, nature has its own rhythms and the timings are often set by sights and sounds.

Looking out to sea this week it was a sure sign that things are in flux once more as the first storms blew in with a less than autumnal blast.

Distant weather far out to our west, the strength of the jet stream, and cold weather to our north are often what determine the waves which reach our shores.

Spray In The Air © Lewis Mackenzie

A mirror calm tranquil sea can be replaced by rolling swells in just a few hours so a healthy respect for the mood swings of the Atlantic at this time of year is called for.

The saying ’never turn your back on the ocean’ has just as much meaning on the beaches of Harris as it does in Hawaii.

The shoals of mackerel, smacks of jellyfish, and screams of seabirds dwindle as the sea-life moves with the season.

Mealista And Scarp Sunset © Lewis Mackenzie

The change in the sea at the start of winter means a busy time for Sugar kelp diver Lewis Mackenzie who tells us…

“The colder, rougher water wakes up the dormant kelp. It needs colder water to reproduce and grow so it is now through to next May that I monitor for quality and then pick the right time to harvest.”

As well as watching the wild kelp, Lewis has been busy preparing the growing ropes for his new experimental seaweed farm which will go into the sea next month.

Surf's Up Behind You! © Lewis Mackenzie

Here they will hopefully catch the spores of the wild kelp as they drift in the tide. He explains…

“If the spores attach themselves naturally to the ropes, I should be able to harvest 1-metre-long fronds by early May. The rope grown fronds are excellent quality as they aren’t in contact with the seabed so don’t get broken as much as the wild plants in rough seas.”

Other sea lovers are also making plans, as local fishermen bring their lobster and crab creels into more sheltered waters.

Last light and a winter beach cèilidh.

Intrepid surfers will also be busy waxing their boards in anticipation of winter swells and legendary wave breaks.

So, as the days shorten, the low sun lingers for as long as possible, enveloping empty beaches with a warming orange glow.

As we enjoy the last of the low light it’s a good time to gather for a wee beach cèilidh and raise a glass to the sea change that winter brings.



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