275EBE1A-8C99-49B6-B7B2-8A82B0CF2998.jpegFor whatever we lose

                (like a you or a me).

Its always our self we find

In the sea.

E. E. Cummings

We sail south, moods high, plenty banter, passing well known spots that we have visited over the years. It feels strange moving past Kerrera reminiscing of Duke of Edinburgh practise expedition days, then Gylen Castle visited the previous week with my American clients, I remember standing on the promontory looking out at the sea and a wee white boat scooting by, thinking that’ll be me next week, although I won’t be turning around, I’ll be off.

At anchor near Balvicar the team start the norming/forming process, much chat and drinks with snacks. Music is on and we spot a Minke whale gently cruising around us, she stays overnight, maybe she is listening to our craic? The crew are settled in their cabins and dinner is made, enjoyed then cleared away before we retire to our bunks. I lay awake for a while my mind crammed with silent shouting, what are you doing, this is not for you, you are not a sailor, why are you leaving all that you love behind, you are soft, not like the real people that do these things?


I go up on deck in the moonlight and sit with a cup of tea, my version of a fag to ease the stress. I rationalise with myself and quiet my mind. Jeez woman you are going on holiday, its meant to be happy and fun, something you’ve planned for so long. Get a grip and sort yourself out.

After giving myself  a good talking to I climb into bed and sleep peacefully. However every morning I awake with a pang of fear I can not ignore.

Next day we set off early to catch the tide and have a great sail on down to Islay and take a berth in Port Ellen. We’d been here earlier in the year on our way to Ballycastle and it was nice to feel familiar. Stuart lived at Bruichladdich as a boy and told us tales of his job barrowing the barley from the puffers to the distillery, I smile, my dad would have loved him and I think of my treasured model puffer Vital Spark sitting proudly in my living room. Stuart’s sister pays him a visit, a rare meeting as he cruises the world on deliveries or racing, she brings us homemade flapjacks too!

Off out for dinner to the Islay Hotel for a great meal of soft shelled crab, a first for me and Stewart W and we giggle as it is presented in a burger bun with its wee legs hanging out the side looking a bit like marine road kill- oh well here goes! It was delicious. Wandering back to the boat I pass  our neighbours, a nice young family with two wee kids and a hound dog. Why is it live aboards always look so cool? Even the dog had a “get me” look about him.

Leaving Islay felt serious, next port would be Ireland and my home country would be behind us. I tried not to think about it. “Caledonia” playing over the waves did not help.

The leg from Islay to Dublin was lovely, nice winds, calm seas, good chat, Karl on his Ukulele and much snacking. We settled into our watch routine and our first night sail commenced. It was great, really foggy which made it quite a strain keeping a look out but the seas were so smooth with phosphorescence as our wake broke the surface like a trail of stars behind us, it was mesmerising. We have a good routine of making up food and hot water urn for underway so we could keep our energies and moods up.

John woke me around 8am to say we were coming into port, Dun Laoghaire near Dublin. I was so excited – our first foreign port of call! We raised the courtesy flag and congratulated ourselves. Even Stuart T was excited even though he has seen it all before which was nice to see. I think if you love the sea, it never fails to impress you.

A wee nap to recover from disturbed sleep, a good breakfast then on the train to Dublin’s fair city. We meet up with Sean MacGowan, John’s pal from Grantown school, such a great lad, I remembered him for early days up at Grantown-on-Spey. Always smiling with teasing eyes, happy outlook and warm hearted. Lovely conversations of those early days and the gang, parties, malarkey at school then our narratives of growing up, wives, children, careers. He shows us proudly around his city and told us of Irish politics, then his wife Triona meets us and we enjoy  Korean veggie Bibimbap, well it’s different from Irish stew! Hugs and fare well greetings, we leave and I feel happy to be back on my boat which is fast becoming my world.



On that sinuous passage from infancy

and youth’s buoyancy through middle

life to advanced years, the one certainty

is a gathering of momentum consistent

with time’s flow- something scarcely

uppermost in my mind as the trout

I’m playing draws me downstream

till rocked by the tidal undertow I fight

to regain my balance: hard to know

Where the river ends and the sea begins.

Stewart Conn

We stood on the pontoon, two teenagers, tanned, bleached hair with a innocent sparkle of limitless opportunity in our eyes, scanning the white yachts that lay side by side moving gently in the French marina like sea birds full of the days catch, digesting and contemplating where next?

“Maybe we’ll find a boat that needs crew, you can help sail and I could cook? We could work our way up and earn some money then buy our own boat?”

“Yeah and we won’t need jobs or a house or a car , we could live onboard and sail the world!”

“And have babies that we can school ourselves, they won’t need clothes as it’ll be warm, a vest and maybe some wellies for getting ashore”

Well no one was looking for crew that day, at least not for two rookie Scots kids, they’d take one as deck crew or one as cook but not both.

“Oh well back to Uni for me and back to work for you, but we’ll do it one day for sure.”

“Yeah, one day”

Friday 10th August 2018, a house, two cars, various careers and three kids later ( all fully clothed and educated), we stand on the Scottish pontoon gazing at our beautiful boat Stravaigin, a 42i Jeanneau Sun Odyssey.

We eagerly await the arrival of the crew that have volunteered to join us on this trip. I collect Stuart from Oban, a tall, lean, sparkly eyed gentleman, softly spoken and gentle natured. He sailed round the world and I took to him straight away, he has an assurance about him.

Paul and Karl walked purposefully toward us, bags in hand and smiles on faces, I’m greeted by a hug and cheek kiss, lovely lads! Within minutes we all felt at ease, Paul is a fellow “weegie” and we rattled off places we knew, flats on Kersland St and even a mutual friend, small world. Karl is quieter, friendly, warm and sound.

Then there is our wee Stewart, number 4 son, a super lad, always ready to help and upbeat, a new adventure for him never having sailed before, save the 2 nights he went out with John to “test the waters”.

She is all ready to go, stocked up, filled up, fuelled up, all repairs done, all additions added, gear stowed away and 6 excited people climb aboard and we caste off.

We motor out of Dunstaffnage marina in sunshine, moods high with anticipation and adventure.

I raise my eyes to Ben Lora as we pass and thank Dad for making me the person I am, giving me that sense of exploration and love of nature. I gasp as a sea eagle flies directly over us and accompanies us out, I’ve never seen one so close to home! I decide it’s a good omen.

As we sail past the Connel Bridge I smile at the wee estate Mum calls home and thank her for making me the person hope I am –  kind, considerate, sociable and loving.

Then it hits me, is this selfish, unkind, inconsiderate? I have angst over this for a year, torn between the desire to do something for myself, in a way to be selfish and take the time I want before the inevitable happens, body ages, mind not so strong. I want to do it for John, it has been his dream for a long time and I don’t want to humour him by saying soon darling, soon.

I love my job, love being part of a great team that are friends more than colleagues, I love helping young people achieve their goals and make a difference in their lives, I feel somebody when I’m at work , respected, liked, big fish in a little pond but its my pond and I love it.

I love my friends, some are going through tough times just now and guilt pulls at me leaving them though I am always in contact and tell them I can be home in 2 hours on flight from anywhere if I am needed. But they encourage me to go and live my dream.

Toughest one is family, I adore my family they are my reason for living, my three sons such lovely human beings and their respective partners, all beautiful, loving young women. But they are all grown, independent and have their own ladies to care for them. Also I believe they admire us and want us to go on our long planned trip.

Wee mammy is a worry, 90 in three months time, frail in body but strong in mind, she admits she is not looking forward to us going but is also happy for us to have achieved what we have. Arrangements with family mean she is well looked after and although I still feel guilty, I am confident she will be fine.

In-laws have been encouraging and supportive from the start, always interested and keen to hear how we get on but they are also ageing and have health problems, I hope they’ll be ok.

We push further south, blue skies, sunshine, wind in our sails. I do have tears in my eyes, they are a salty mixture of sadness and excitement.

As I leave the hills of Argyll behind me, I fix my eyes and mind on what lies ahead.

I’m finally doing it!