It was just over year ago when holidaying with the grandchildren in a croft cottage in Badrallach a little north of Gairloch that we had the idea of sailing to Scotland. Seduced by the thought of voyaging by boat between the Western Isles we wondered if we could sail along the coasts of England, Wales and Ireland to reach Scotland.
Arriving now in PortPatrick in Dumfries and Galloway we now realise that this is just the beginning of a new adventure. Will we sail to St Kildas in the Outer Hebrides? Will we sail to Eday in the Shetland isles? Will we sail around the Northern tip of Scotland to Betty Hill where the Mackay side of our family gathered after the Sutherland clearances. Would we sail into Poulteney Town (now Wick) where my great-great-great-grandfather, Robert Sutherland, was a fisherman and mysteriously disappeared at the age of 40 in the 1840s? Will we travel through the Caledonian Canal? Will we circumnavigate the United Kingdom and travel down the East Coast, visiting places where Ros’s mother grew up in Norfolk? Imagining new voyages and ventures for next year, the first year of my 70s, is both delightful and daunting.
Crossing the North Sea from Ardglass in Northern Ireland to Portpatrick in Scotland was beautiful – one of those blue sky almost cloudless days that you’d love to have on the beach as there was no wind – but not sailing. Initially the winds were light and from the South and coming from behind us. It was a good opportunity to try the shute for the first time.
Seeing the north sea like a mill pond reminded us how capricious the British weather can be. One day calm and the next day stormy. Sea ports all have tales of those lost at sea and this has taught us to respect the sea and plan carefully – if in doubt do not set out.
In fair weather we have started to observe the bird and wild life around the boat – particularly guillemots and gannets. In Portpatrick we were berthed against the harbor wall from which we were treated to a lovely display from a group of black guillimots on how to dive and “fly” underwater.