VERB of Scottish, Irish origon
MEANING – Wander about aimlessly.
‘stravaiging about the roads’
ORIGIN – Late 18th century: probably a shortening of obsolete extravage ‘digress, ramble’.
It began almost a year ago….
James, skipper and owner of the fine yacht Stravaig mentioned that he would prefer to change his boat for a larger three cabin version as three people were his ideal crew but with the 10metre two cabin version, one person had to sleep in the saloon which was always messy.
Dave and I (his crew on our trip from Oban in 2016) told him that there was no reason to change his 14 year old pride and joy especially as he had finally got her fitted out to perfection with all the latest gear.
We thought that was the end of it…..
Fast forward a few months and James mentioned in a phone call that he saw a Jeanneau 389 for sale in the Jeanneau owner’s forum and was quite interested. He talked this over with his wife who suggested that he talk to the Scottish dealers for Jeanneau – Euroyachts who are based in Largs.
Long story short – James ordered a new boat rather than inherit someone else’s problems with a proposed delivery and commissioning date some time in April 2017 keeping the name Stravaig.
In mast reefing, lifting keel plus some super-duper asymmetric sail – what was he planning? Fortunately the racing sails that he decided to go for should counterbalance any losses from the above but a bow thruster – were we now of an age that we needed all these old men’s toys?
James also opted for integrated instruments along with an excellent chart plotter, a main sheet track (would you believe that this is an extra?) and various other bits and bobs.
We discussed what was to be called the Shakedown Cruise and I arranged flights to Scotland to cover a three week period also giving me time to visit Lossiemouth and play some golf – naturally!
James updated us with some pictures of the boat when she first arrived and these teasers made me all the more excited as the date grew nearer.
Arrived in Edinburgh, staying at my sisters after meeting my pals Alan and Helen for a few beers in the centre. Nice to catch up with everyone and also see how much my nephew and niece have grown since I last saw them.
Train to Elgin where James picked me up at the station and took me to my lodgings – just by the Beach Bar – what could be more perfect?
I had arranged to meet as many people as possible in JD Weatherspoon on the Thursday evening and was delighted that so many people made the effort. Great to catch up and see everyone.
Golf at Nairn (West) on the Friday where I was disqualified for taking too long to look for a ball – I think this harsh as I am sure I did not take five minutes but one of my playing partners was adamant that I did. He received his own reward through guilt at the next hole as he lost his own ball and decided to not return a card – serves him right! I did however have an excellent day and really enjoyed the course – thank you Kenny for organising things!
Golf again on Saturday at Moray which saw Kenny and I get beat on the 18th by George and Muir – tight game with never more than a hole between us.
Sunday saw us depart for Largs to finally see Stravaig – we left Lossiemouth with a temperature gauge on the car showing 8 degrees and arrived in Largs to brilliant sunshine and low 20’s. Gear all packed away, we had a good look round her – some new toys that none of us were familiar with but we guessed that we would learn during the trip.
Monday morning saw Angus (Euroyachts) giving us a quick explanation of how to rig and use the ‘Code Zero’ – Bill (Hercus) and I looked at one another with as if to say ‘this is going to be interesting’ but before we had much chance to experiment further we were off into the Clyde heading for Cambelltown.
Light winds meant that we could play with the sails without fear of overpowering the boat hence the Jenny went up, then down (in reality we rolled it out then back in again) as we unfurled the Code Zero. What a sail – an extra knot immediately … we like this one!
Cambelltown on a Monday night is quiet but we made the best of things and found a cosy pub where we had a few beers before retiring. I had cooked on board earlier in the day as I it was my turn to be ‘Peggy’ for the day.
James explained to us that in the early days of the navy, the cooks tended to be men who had lost a limb during battle and hence had been relegated to the kitchens. As they invariably had peg legs, the name Peggy seemed apt!
Tuesday and we headed round the Mull of Kintyre to Jura – the weather was pretty kind, perhaps too kind as we motored most of the way. At some point we saw Paul McCartney’s house but did not know which one it was – we did however manage to sing the first few lines of his hit from the Mull as we passed.
I have been to Jura a few times and it is a lovely anchorage, close to the distillery and hotel. The views of the Paps are magnificent as was the view of the anchorage from the hotel. WiFi as usual was a problem but we were on holiday…
Off to Kyle the following morning passing through the narrows between the mainland and Skye north of Mallaig. Lovely weather and spectacular scenery – this boat is extremely comfortable and quick! She sails along at 6.5 knots in the lightest of winds and you hardly know that she is moving. When heeled she cuts through the water gracefully and you never feel overpowered.
Old man’s boat – I don’t think so!
Kyle will one day become a fantastic marina – there are pontoons there and we received a great welcome however it needs a cash injection. The Kyle hotel is ripe to be developed into apartments and a marina office, the marina itself needs a breakwater and could be expanded. Visiting boats would use the facilities and there would be an influx of boats based out of there with the ability to explore the fantastic sailing on the doorstep both north under the bridge and south in the lovely sea lochs.
Off we headed the next morning to make for an anchorage amongst the Summer Isles – we were greeted by a pod of dolphins as we travelled north sticking with us for some time before they continued on their own route to who knows where. As we approached the islands we spotted a sea eagle with white wing tips being harassed by some gulls. We watched the commotion for quite some time before we reached our quiet anchorage between three small islands just south of Achiltibuie.
What a perfect spot, we got the dinghy out to explore which Bill cooked dinner. The views from the outcrops were lovely with our only company being a lone seal. We heard ‘Peggy’ call ‘dinner is ready’ and made our journey back to the dinghy which was now floating as the tide had risen. James opted to get his feet wet to rescue it…
The wind picked up during the night but our anchor held steady then, 0700, we departed en route for Kinlichbervie – our last port on the west coast of Scotland before tacking the notorious Cape Wrath and Pentland Firth.
Again a lovely sail up the coast with the wind dropping as we approached our destination. I had never sailed this far north on this coast so all was relatively new to me. The coastline here is spectacular with fantastic cliffs and rocky shores. The entrance to the port itself is like going into a fjord and the port is beautifully sheltered.
Unfortunately the money that made Kinlochbervie such an important place disappeared with the fish and left the port and village looking rather sorry for itself. The one hotel and pub had it’s dining area and lounge closed to the general public which left us with the public bar which was more like a pool hall in a wild west town.
The biggest advantage this port has is that it is only 15 miles from Cape Wrath and an excellent stop-over in a storm – we left at 0530 the next morning and were glad to be out of there however we did have some misgivings over the weather as the Met Office had forecast storms for the north which meant that we may have to turn back…
Cape Wrath – a bit of an anti-climax for us – shrouded in clouds with moderate seas. We had timed things carefully and caught 3 knots of tide as we rounded it but this dropped through the day to around 1 knot in our favour all the way to Scrabster our port for a few days given the weather forecast. We also could not travel any further through the Pentland Firth as the tides were now running against us – more fool any man who ventures out in a small boat in the Pentland Firth with wind against tide!
Scabster proved to be a welcome surprise with good shower facilities albeit a wee walk away and pontoons. The wind did pick up but from the south which meant that although we were stormbound, the weather was warm.
Our friend Cathy, who lives in Thurso, kindly commandeered her father to take us round the area including a visit to the Rock Rose gin distillery near Dunnet Head. This was the first time I had been in a small gin distillery and really enjoyed the visit and the tasting sessions. The following day we went for a walk with Cathy on the headland by Scrabster. Fantastic views and cliffs – some sheer drops which I kept well away from.
The forecast looked positive for the Wednesday and we made plans to depart catching the tide as it turned off Dunnet Head. Cathy had her day off and joined us for the sail to Wick – in company with a French boat who arrived the night before who we had talked to at Kinlochbervie.
A lovely sail out of the bay using the Code Zero until we got round the Head when the wind became too strong. We followed a fishing boat out of the firth and made excellent progress arriving half an hour ahead of planned at Duncansby Head but were met with the usual confused seas battling to get out of the Firth and down the coast whilst meeting the current descending from the Pentland Skerries as well as the North Sea itself. Always choppy here so we continued on our eastbound tack and headed out five miles off-shore. A good decision by Cathy and we tacked inland only to catch a wind shift and almost make Wick in the one tack having seen off the French Etap with that tack, an excellent sail plan and a faster boat – Stravaig really sails well and we were all on a high as we sank our first beer in Wick Marina.
Cathy left us after the fleshpots of Wick proved too much for even her experienced nature – she caught the last bus to Thurso and we had a last dram on board before turning in.
We left Wick the next morning after a full breakfast ashore – nobody wanted to be Peggy. Lossiemouth our final destination and home for Stravaig. Light winds to start meant that we motored until the oil rigs however the wind picked up and so did Stravaig and we enjoyed a lovely sail back home.
What a boat, an adventure, what a holiday.
Scottish Living ….