Life on Board
No two trips, or even days, are the same. The wind, tides, your wishes and those of your fellow guests ensure a varied itinerary and routine.
A week will start with introductions to new faces and catch-ups with old friends. This is over coffee, a chart and the seven-day weather forecast as we agree an outline plan for the week. Stormdancer provides for easy relaxation with her rich teak joinery, leather upholstery and the prospect of casting off to head anywhere we wish (after a comprehensive briefing on the safety gear on board, of course).
That first evening is likely to find us at anchor in a remote bay after a short sail designed to re-familiarise with the routine of running a sailing yacht. Some guests enjoy a hands-on approach and will have taken the wheel, set the sails and dropped the anchor. Others may prefer to relax and simply enjoy the sensation of being out on the water and watching out for wildlife. Everybody will have built an appetite for dinner, where we share experiences of the day and talk about plans for tomorrow over a glass of wine or a “wee dram” of the several single malt whiskies carried on board.
Sleeping on board isn’t normally a problem, aided by the combination of fresh air, exercise, crisp bedding, warm duvets, the gentle motion of the yacht at anchor and cares left behind (and often no ‘phone signal).
Some trips require that we crack on to cover sea miles to reach a specific destination, heading out to St Kilda or across to Orkney, for example, but on most days there is no such pressure and we are able to enjoy a relaxed and informal breakfast which is normally a help-yourself arrangement with choice of porridge, muesli, cereal, fruits, Greek yoghurt, honey, fruit juice, coffee and tea plus croissants, eggs, bacon and smoked salmon on request. We carry up to ten different teas and herbal infusions including decaf options, so plenty of choice.
Depending on wind, tide and wishes, lunch time will normally find us in another beautiful anchorage with the opportunity to launch the dinghy and either row or motor ashore to explore. The more energetic may want to strap on walking boots and stretch their legs walking to the other end of the island, inland to a fresh-water loch or up a hill to look down on the yacht. Others may prefer to just stroll along the beach or even stay on board and enjoy the view from the unique vantage point of an anchored yacht (with a ready flow of tea, coffee and snacks). Occasionally, we will spend most of a day in one anchorage to allow for longer walks ashore or simply to enjoy watching the seals, birds or basking sharks.
Lunch is another informal meal. Sometimes taken on deck in the sunshine or even carried ashore as a picnic or taken “on the run” on longer passages. Menu choice includes Chilli Con Carne, Scotch Pies, Quiche with salad, Ricotta and Spinach Tortellini or hearty soup and bread rolls. The fruit bowl and biscuit barrels on board are never empty.
The afternoon might involve a spirited sail to take us to a sheltered anchorage to assure a good night’s sleep. As the week progresses, the guests will typically become more and more involved in the planning, navigation and sailing of the yacht as the skipper’s role is “confined” to advice when requested, help when needed and keeping up the flow of teas and coffees. With just five of us on board, it’s easy to maintain a relaxed and informal approach without compromising safety, which is the top priority. The large majority of crew will have sailed on board before and will be familiar with both boat and skipper. The skipper’s local knowledge means that we can find an itinerary to work around weather and tides and maximise enjoyment of the scenery and wildlife of these stunning cruising grounds.
Wherever we sail there will be wildlife to spot. Bird life can include hyper-active Arctic Terns, entertaining Puffins, magnificent Gannets and gigantic Sea Eagles. Basking Sharks are more rare these days but we are sailing in whale territory with the chance of spotting Minkes as well as Dolphins, Porpoise, Seals and even the occasional Orca. We often face the difficult choice between trying to get good photos or just watching.
The evening meal is a great occasion for “craic” and building friendships around the saloon table. We re-live experiences of the day just gone and talk about plans for tomorrow. If it’s a training or milebuilding week we will also talk about lessons learned and any gaps-in-knowledge that can be worked on.
The skipper plans, provisions (not always easy in some places) and prepares the meals on board (and guests normally clear away and wash up).
These are a couple of regular menus, served with wine or soft drinks:
Greek Salad; Moroccan Lamb on a bed of couscous;
Amaretto-drenched pear crumble with Amaretti biscuit topping.
Peppers stuffed with whisky-soaked vegetarian haggis;
Salmon parcels served with carrot batons and asparagus;
Warm brownies served with cherry kirsch, cherry compote and crème fraiche.