We would be leaving Milo in Scotland for a month and wanted to leave her in a beautiful place. As we sailed between Holy Island and Arran and entered Lamlash bay we knew we had arrived at Milo’s temporary resting place – there was no discussion, both Rosamund and I were adamant that this was where we would like to leave Milo – in a beautiful place sheltered from the prevailing winds. But when we landed and spoke to Jim of the Holy Island Ferry Company, we learned that the Brodick-Ardrossan ferry was on strike the next day and there was no way that our son Andrew would be able to meet us with his car.
Andrew does not do “not possible” – even though he only got back from Rotterdam late on the Friday night, he left with the kids (Hugh, Percy and Skye) early on the Saturday morning to catch the 11:10 ferry from Ardrossan to Brodick as foot passengers. We decided to sail to meet them at Brodick and this was a different sort of sailing with no urgency. We were able to sail all the way even when the wind dropped, we just waited for it to rise again – unlike the earlier passages when we had to get to a particular port by a particular time to catch the tide. This was another taste of things to come – a new more relaxed sailing schedule.
It was lovely meeting the Ardrossan ferry towering over us like an ocean liner. There they were on the galley way below the bridge – Andrew distinctive with his huge rucksack and Hugh, Percy and Skye recognisable by their energetic waving.
We’d moored Milo in the middle of Brodick harbour and we were soon all on the boat. First a briefing to the new crew on the rules: no toilet paper down the heads, life jackets to be worn at all times when on deck, harnesses to be clipped on when going out of the cockpit and on the front deck, and only then with permission of the skipper, and no hanging about in the companion way. We explained that the wind was fresh and could get fresher when we rounded the headland, so no-one was allowed forward of the cockpit.
We were not disappointed – we had to tack back to Lamlash with a force 4 wind, occasionally gusting 5. Hugh wanted to have a go at the helm and although Milo was difficult to hold when tight hauled and slightly over-sailed, Andrew explained to him how to hold the course by looking at a recognisable point in the distance and then cross-checking with the compass. After a while Hugh said, “I’m getting the hang of this, Las Vegas here we come”. Where that came from we weren’t sure but we all laughed and did not like to say that Las Vegas was landlocked – maybe he was thinking of Los Angeles!
We tacked to get into Lamlash harbour past the port marker buoy for coming out. Our plan was to anchor off Holy Island and then climb to the summit, but it was far too exposed and choppy so we decided to moor in the relative calm of Lamlash which was sheltered by the Kingscross Point headland. Andrew was set on barbecuing, but plans for a beach barbecue had to be abandoned due to the worsening weather and it was starting to rain. Andrew persuaded us that his barbecue had a cold bottom so could stand on the port transom seat. We were able to put the canopy up leaving the aft port flap folded back to expose the barbecue to the elements. Later as I was relaxing on the starboard transom seat having a well-earned gin and tonic, I noticed a tender being rowed past with two people aboard – half joking I said, “fancy a gin and tonic?” – “are you serious?” replied the oarsman, “I’d love one.” We welcomed them aboard – a father (Tom) and his son from Hamburg. Their outboard was not working and Tom had had to row about a mile through strong winds and choppy water to get back to his boat Baxkiste, which was moored downwind next to ours – no wonder he was willing to stop for a rest and a gin and tonic. He’d been trying to get the outboard motor fixed as their whole family had planned a meal out at the Drift Inn that evening. Always wanting to problem solve, I suggested they could borrow our outboard as we were not using it that evening – an offer they took up later that evening. These chance meetings at sea are always fun as we learned from them some places to explore further north and we were able to recount some of our experiences on what would be their route south.
It was a fine meal with steaks, hamburgers, sausages and salad followed by a selection of cheeses – then getting the kids ready for bed after their early start that morning. The first chapter of Arthur Ransome’s Peter Duck was the incentive to get them to bed early. Snug in the front cabin – the skipper (Ian) between the three writhing youths slowly gained their attention with the story which involved the Swallows and Amazon’s going to sea in a ketch with Captain Flint – appropriate, as we’d just completed our first group voyage aboard Milo.
That night turned out to be the worst night of our whole trip – gale force winds, noise from the rigging, crashing beer bottles across deck in the middle of the night, non-stop pitching and rolling, but by 8am the winds began to moderate and after a full English breakfast
we were swimming off the back of Milo and Skye and Percy were bailing the water out of the tender. The water was very very cold (11.6degC) but was refreshing – not water to linger in. All the kids dipped in but came straight out again with a yelp.
Time to get shipshape and leave. I always feel anxious when leaving Milo on a mooring, but Jim had given me confidence by riding by to inspect our mooring warfs before we disembarked. He also promised to keep an eye on her and kindly came out to pick us up with all our luggage and deposit us on the quay – that way we could leave the tender on Milo lashed to the foredeck without worrying about her – “how much do we owe you, Jim, for the taxi service”. “oh nothing he said, you’re a customer of mine now.”
We all took the bus to the Ardrossan Ferry and Hugh, imitating his father, insisted that he carry the rucksack – much to the amusement of the passengers on the bus who applauded and cheered him when he did eventually manage to turn round in the gangway on an overcrowded bus without disabling too many passengers.
At Ardrossan, we squeezed into Andrew’s car and returned to Edinburgh and a lovely welcome home meal prepared by Rebecca after her heavy on-call day at work. It was strange for Rosamund and I to return to civilisation, but it had been a gradual and relaxed 2 day process before we eventually returned to Bristol and home again.