Following months of maintenance work, Jonty Pearce swaps yachts for a luxury cruise
After all my commissioning efforts I had no doubt that I deserved a rest from lying upside down in the bilges and re-rigging with numb icicle-like fingers.
Being too far from the water, however, was not going to be an option, so joining my 94-year-old mother on a luxury cruise of the Inner Hebrides was an opportunity Carol and I grabbed with both frost-bitten hands.
And a few days after our return we can look forwards to a salmon fishing trip to the River Tweed for a week. Life can be tough.
Travelling by train can be very good value if purchased early, so when a return ticket from Malvern to Glasgow was on offer at a mere £134 for the three of us it was a no-brainer.
We have previously driven up to Oban to join the Hebridean Princess only to arrive slightly brain dead after the long drive; by train it was only my arthritic shoulder that felt dead as a result of functioning as the family ‘beast of burden’ as I hefted our luggage on and off the carriages.
A swift transfer to the coach that whisked us effortlessly to Oban, however, was the true start to a very relaxing week.
But why write about a luxury cruise on a hair shirt yachtsman’s website?
Well, what I found fascinating and fun was revisiting many of the very same places that I had sailed to on last year’s Penguin Cruising Club’s Easter charter from Skye Yachts at Armadale.
Swapping half ropes for halyards
Facing shipwreck on a lee shore didn’t put him off sailing, but then having only one limb of four working…
Jonty Pearce: the maintenance/sailing balance
A frustrated Jonty Pearce gets bogged down in maintenance when he would rather be out sailing
Jonty Pearce: essential maintenance – antifouling
Jonty Pearce continues maintenance on Aurial to prepare her for the season ahead
Jonty Pearce: New halyards for old?
Jonty Pearce carries out some serious mast maintenance to prepare Aurial for the season ahead
We had started with the wind in the north but forecast to veer to the south in time to blow us back, so it was eminently logical to start off southwards.
The Cruise Commodore, Jonathan Walton, decided that it would be stimulating to enter every difficult anchorage and traverse all the tortuous sounds he could think of. And he knew a lot.
We started with Arisaig before moving on to Loch Moidart’s Castle Tioram; a cruise past Ardnamurchan Point followed with a landing for lunch on the Treshnish Isles.
Continuing close by Staffa, the anchorage at Craigaig on the south side of Ulva gave us a good night’s shelter before we motored in line astern through the narrow Sound of Ulva before refilling the water tanks at Tobermory (other fluids were taken on board at the Mishnish, of course).
Loch Na Droma Buidhe has a narrow entrance that enticed us to spend the night there, but next day’s temptation to enter Loch Teacuis by the west channel and depart via the east channel was a done deal for our intrepid rockhopping Penguin commodore.
We wound our way back to Skye via Sanna Bay, Muck, and Loch Na Cuilce (Scavaig) to complete a delectable week.
The Hebridean Princess’ itinerary overlapped the Penguin cruise after high winds prevented a landing to visit Iona and its famous abbey.
In the face of a forecast southerly near gale the captain declined to continue to Tiree, Canna, and Muck and instead cruised past the Treshnish Isles, Staffa, and the south of Ulva before anchoring west of the Sound of Ulva; the Princess’ tenders then transported us through that very same narrow rocky passage that we had tensely traversed aboard our four yachts.
She then steamed past the iconic anchorage at the northwest tip of Gometra that had hosted a lunchtime break for us the previous year, before calling in to Tobermory.
While the Princess did not enter the tricky passages found so irresistible by our commodore off Loch Sunart (she’s prefers her hull unpunctured), she did push on as far as Salen, so I was able to bore the family with typical ‘that’s where we went in’ and ‘we anchored just behind that rock’ observations.
Visiting familiar places aboard a different type of craft can open up a whole new appreciation of favourite destinations, as well as emphasizing the fortune yachtsmen enjoy in being able to spend the night in spectacular and isolated surroundings.
So which do I prefer?
Fine dining with Black Tie Gala dinners followed by exquisite malt whiskies aboard a luxury small cruise ship, or cooking Fray Bentos pies on a yacht gently bobbing at anchor while the sun sets over the misty mountains?
Now, that’s a hard one.