Ever wanted to ease the home-moving process? Kirsty and Gavin Pritchard made an adventure out of relocating by sailing to Scotland, their new home.

Flitting is a traditional Scottish expression for moving house so our decision to move from Gosport to the island of Arran meant we needed a plan to ‘flit’ our Hanse 312, Local Hero, north with us.

Although we have both been boating since a young age, the initial passage planning research for sailing to Scotland was a bit scary.

Strong tidal streams, offshore hazards, high speed ferries and multiple logistic requirements were just some of the things to consider.

Sunny skies with the boat alongside a jetty in the harbour.

Alongside in Glenarm. Photo: Yachting Monthly

We prepared the boat by thoroughly checking absolutely every moving part; we had a professional engine service, and stocked up on food, fuel, water, tools, tape, torches, spare parts, paper charts, e-charts, sailing directions and a lot of chocolate.

Safety was key; as well as a life raft, lifejackets and personal locator beacons, we were always transmitting on AIS when underway.

We logged each day’s passage plan on the RYA’s SafeTrx app, with Gavin’s sister as the guardian angel monitoring us ashore via the app.

Sailing to Scotland via the south

We departed Gosport at daybreak on 30 April 2023, to catch favourable winds and tidal stream through the Needles and west on to Portland – an ambitious
plan for Day 1 but everything went well.

Portland is the former base of the Royal Navy’s Lynx helicopter squadrons, so it was a delight for Gavin, who had commanded two frigates, both with embarked Lynxes, to see the helicopter on display there.

The rest of our passage along the Devon and Cornish coasts was blissful cruising, with the weather gods whisking us along to either marinas or visitor moorings in Dartmouth, Plymouth, Fowey, Falmouth, the Helford River then Newlyn.

Fowey was a real highlight as our visit coincided with the King’s coronation weekend.

Kirsty and Gavin are smiling on a sunny coastpath. They are both wearing hats.

Kirsty and Gavin Pritchard are lifelong sailors. Gavin was previously a Royal Navy captain. Photo: Yachting Monthly

We enjoyed some memorable walks and, in naval parlance, a cracking ‘run ashore’ with the carnival atmosphere in the town.

On the Saturday evening, we rowed back to the boat in time to enjoy a front-row seat for the firework display lighting up the sky.

Our voyage then turned into a game of two halves. The sun and favourable breeze along the south coast had lulled us into a false sense of security when we started to plan the detail of the northerly leg up the Irish Sea.

Three dolphins swimming close to the surface and boat.

Dolphins played at the bow on arrival at Kilmore Quay. Photo: Yachting Monthly

Due to persistent forecasts of northerly winds, we sadly abandoned our plan to visit the Scillies and instead decided to undertake the only night passage; to cross the Irish Sea.

Sunset and sunrise at sea was an epic experience and we were welcomed to Kilmore Quay in the Republic of Ireland by a pod of dolphins that escorted us for half an hour, occasionally rolling on their sides to look us in the eye.

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Irish hospitality

The day sails up the east coast of Ireland proved to be quite a battle into the northerly winds, and helpful but wind-opposing northerly tidal streams often created lumpy sea conditions.

The Irish Sea ferries also turned up like leopards, but our AIS picture gave us plenty of warning.

A gorgeous sunset over the Irish Sea from the boat.

Witnessing the sunrise at sea was a highlight of the night passage across the Irish Sea. Photo: Yachting Monthly

Morale was boosted each evening by the splendid hospitality in the Irish pubs we found serving local ale and good food in Arklow, Howth, Ardglass and Glenarm.

The second crossing of the Irish Sea, at the North Channel end, gave us our first sighting of Scotland.

But as our latitude rose, the temperature fell and there was a very wintry feel to our final passage through the Kilbrannan Sound from Campbeltown to Local Hero’s new home in Lochranza.

We had owned and sailed Local Hero for 10 years before this trip; however, most of that had been ‘just-the-two-of-us’ Solent weekend trips or short cruises of a week or so along the south coast.

Three weeks together onboard was new territory for the boat and our teamwork. (Actually, there were three of us onboard: Gavin, Kirsty and ‘Arthur the Autohelm’, our faithful Simrad tiller pilot who did the lion’s share of the steering.)

Map of the UK, with a red line showing the journey. The line runs around the South West coast, up the irish sea, and onto Scotland.

Kirsty and Gavin’s journey while sailing to Scotland. Photo: Yachting Monthly

The routines we had developed sailing together stood us in good stead, but who was the skipper and who was the galley chef?

We were always both on deck for berthing, casting off or narrow navigational passages and there was a great sense of teamwork as we worked together, checking the depth, proximity to danger and delivering our plan.

Otherwise, one of us was always on deck keeping lookout. Plans are only a basis for change, and things did change often, but we shared the passage planning effort.

Kirsty was head chef and delivered some memorable meals.

We planned and delivered a proper adventure, making friends along the way, and enjoying Dorset, Cornish and Irish hospitality.

We dodged a few ferries and managed to avoid lurking navigational hazards.

As we turned around Lochranza Pier there was a quiet sense of achievement that we had stayed safe, worked together and thoroughly enjoyed the experience of sailing about a third of the way round the UK.

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