Many Shades of Grey

Sunday 9th July was our day to return to Oban. It felt too cold for a sea swim but Ros washed on deck with rainwater collected overnight. We had decided to leave Milo in Oban Marina on the island of Kerrera for the next few weeks, before returning to Scotland in August.


The many shades of grey

We set out at noon on the flood tide knowing the weather would be poor. As we left the shelter of the bay, there was a slight breeze – Force 3-4 at the most, so we set full sail, but kept the motor on at low revs to keep the speed up when the wind dropped. It was overcast, dull, drizzly wet and grey – many shades of grey. Later the wind disappeared completely and the sea became like a mill pond. With the helm set to Autohelm, both Ros and I were reading our novels most of the time, but when the wind dropped, we furled the Jib giving a clear view to the north and as the weather seemed to brighten toward the NW, the result was an amazing multitude of greys which were reflected in the calm sea. By the time we arrived in Oban, the sky was blue in the north west and we were treated to a lovely sunset.


Sunset on the Isle of Kerrera, Oban

We berthed at the Oban Marina on the Isle of Kerrera while Oban bathed in the evening sunlight. We berthed next to a 46 ft Cornish Pilot Cutter. Later talking to the crew we discovered they were between trips and were picking up 6 new guests the next day. Their boat was a reproduction built in 2003 (1 year younger than Milo) of an Isles of a 1841 Scilly Pilot Cutter (1 year after our house in Bristol was built). Both Ros and Ian agreed that they’d like to have a trip on her one day – she’s based in Falmouth (


After beginning to get Milo ship-shape we took the ferry over to Oban. Ros spent time in Waterstones choosing some books for our next sailing trip and the journey home. We had both enjoyed Julian Barnes’s The Sense of an Ending and so bought “The Lemon Table”, the latest Margaret Drabble “The Dark Flood Rises” and the latest Ann Cleeves Shetland series. We like to imagine sailing on to the Shetland isles next year, after sailing to the Orkneys. We will both be fully retired and should be able to wait for fair winds.

The reproduction Isles of Scilly 1841 Pilot Cutter built in 2003



Ros on the ferry from the Marina to Oban Quay, the new short-term stay marina (still under construction) in the town and the CalMac ferry arriving from Mull

That evening we ate dinner at EE-Usk ( phonetic for the gaelic word for fish). Ian chose scallops followed by langoustines and Ros mussels followed by fish and chips. An excellent restaurant, overlooking the new short stay marina.

Ros’s nth fish and chips and Ian’s Langoustines at EE-Usk

While Ros was in Waterstones Ian walked up to McCaigs Tower via Jacob’s Ladder, a steep 144 step staircase.  John Stuart McCaig had initiated the project in 1897 to keep the out-of-work stonemasons in Oban busy.  No-one knew why it was modelled on a Roman amphitheatre, but it makes an impressive sight on the hill as you approach Oban and has magnificent views from its parapet.

Views from Jacob’s Ladder and McCaig’s Tower.  The views on the right show the Oban Marina on Kerrera Island in the foreground with the Munros of Mull in the distance

Tuesday July 11th was our day to return to Bristol. We felt as if we had been away for weeks but it was only 7 days since we had arrived from Edinburgh. We realise how much we enjoy the remote anchorages with the hills rising up in the distance. Ros loves swimming in the sea and after reading about how good cold water is for the immune system she is determined to take the plunge as often as possible. We are already thinking about our return in August and whether we can explore Jura and Islay. Ros wants to sail to Fingal’s cave on Staffa and the Treshnish isles off the West coast of Mull. We sometimes fantasise about a bigger boat. Our aft cabin is very cramped and there is no head room for Ian who sleeps on the right hand-side. He has to climb over Ros to get in and out and surely we are going to become too old and too stiff for all this rigmarole or maybe it keeps us young. Ian had seen a slightly bigger Hunter Legend 326 at the Oban Marina and asked the owner if we could look around her. It was a relief for Ros to discover that an additional 3 feet didn’t offer much advantage to the fore and aft cabins and overall the design, wood quality and ergonomics didn’t seem as good as our Hunter Legend 306. Ian recalled Paul Santry, the original owner of Milo telling him that Milo was the showboat at the 2001 London Boatshow and was therefore built to a very high spec and has all the extras – comparing these too boats – it would appear he was right.

Waiting on deck for the ferry; the ferry arriving and Milo’s mooring for the next month

We took Milo from the pontoon to a mooring where we would leave her for a few weeks and were picked up with our luggage by the ferry that took us to Oban. We had time before the train to try the seafood just near the Caledonian Macbrayne ferry stop – “Welcome to the Oban Seafood Capital”. Ros ate a whole lobster and Ian a crab sandwich, both were delicious.


Ros’s whole Lobster – and that’s only a light lunch

A very friendly 80 year old Scottish lady from St Andrews and her husband were sitting opposite us eating scallops. She chatted away about the golf course in St Andrews, about how Edinburgh is too posh for her (although her granddaughter would like to go to University there), the awfulness of the Grenfell Tower fire and what might happen when the Queen dies. Ros who is sometimes rather anti-social rather enjoyed the conversation. The lady said that she had been married for 61 years and that all the 10 couples who they knew when they were first married are all now dead. Her son had said to her – “We’ll buy you a holiday for your 60th anniversary, where would you like to go?”. “Australia” she said. “You should have seen his face” she said, “before she said “just kidding”!”. Their chosen holiday was the bus trip they were now on to the Western Isles. “We haven’t had an argument in all those 60 years” was their parting comment. Her husband, who rarely spoke, adding: “just a lot of lively discussions!” We liked that. Our 49 years of marriage (on July 13th) is punctuated by ‘lively discussions”.


Always be aware though that there may be something lurking under the surface.  This wreck was revealed at the entrance to Oban Marina at low tide.  At high tide only a thin stake is visible in an otherwise clear approach – so beware.


4 thoughts on “Many Shades of Grey

  1. Chris Ponsford

    Keep up the cold dips Ros.
    If you want a bigger, more comfortable boat our Moody 38 is still for sale. If we don’t find a buyer in the Ionian we may be looking for crew to bring her home next Spring.
    Funny how Ian always loves food so much! Chris xx


  2. iansutherland455 Post author

    When we looked over the Hunter Legend 326, we realised what a good boat we had, even though it is small. One strategy would be to charter in warmer climates and keep Milo based in Lyme Regis for trips to the Silly Isles, the Channel Islands and Northern/Western France.
    Happy to crew on your return to the UK. Ian xx


  3. eganj1

    Just read your blog post which I found through WordPress, I go to Oban and the isles regularly but we aren’t said.ors, although me might want to be as we go out on Calmac as often as possible. I’m an artist and the isles inspire me so much. I e joyed reading your blog, will follow with Bloglovin



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