Monday, August 16, 2010

Sailing Scotland… With Children

I know I’ve been back from the trip for over two weeks, but I still owe you a piece of the awesomeness that was misty-moisty Scotland.  Even though I posted iPhone photos pretty continuously on my Posterous account while we were there because, as it turned out, the outer reaches of the Hebrediec Islands have better cellular reception that either my home in southern England AND Madison, Wisconsin. Go figure. (GRRRRRRRRR. It actually pissed me off beyond reason that I could email photos from my phone on the boat, but I can’t even receive a text in my house that is 10 miles from a major city like Southampton.)

Map picture
The Hebrides are a set of islands on the Southwest Coast of Scotland. Because we were sailing with our three young boys, we weren’t able to make it very far from our origin port of Oban. In fact, we were only able to cover about 56 miles total during our five days of sailing! It seemed that our kids were equipped with some sort of destruction button that would activate if we tried to sail for more than three hours at a time, so it was best that we keep the jumps from port to port relatively short. Truly, every time we approached the three hour mark, the boys would start to bicker and then try to destroy each other, some part of the boat, or whatever toy they were currently playing with.


The sailing trip was, despite really chilly and extremely rainy weather, really fantastic.  The husband & wife captains and boat owners, Sails and Summits, had lots of rules to keep the ship safe and the kids in control, so it was actually a lot more structured (thus making it easier for me and my husband in a lot of ways) than I expected.  I won’t lie and say that I didn’t chafe at some of the rules, but I understood why they were in place, so tried to respect them.  The biggest annoyance was that I was not allowed to do anything in the galley (kitchen) at all. For example, I couldn’t even cut up an apple for the kids to snack on. The first day I was STARVING because I couldn’t even get myself _3001382a snack! I finally took charge of a large bag of snack items that I kept in our cabin and would dole them out as needed, but I was annoyed that I had to use my valuable (i.e. extremely limited) cabin space for a big, unwieldy grocery bag. *eyerolll*  I got over it.

Whatever quibbles I may have had about living so completely in another person’s domain, the ability to go on a sailing trip for a week without the worry and pressure of doing all the navigating yourself was priceless.  My husband and I have gone on bare-boating trips (where you rent a sailboat in a locale and then sail it around for a week, either solo or with other couples) in the British Virgin Islands before, and being the captain makes the trip not as carefree and vacation-y as one might like.  In fact, the last trip we did to the BVI was a major headache because the boat had all kinds of engine and generator problems while we were out and unseasonably rough seas. Even though it isn’t anyone’s fault that these things happened, there is a certain responsibility that you can’t help but feel when you are the captain. As the captain, you HAVE to take responsibility, actually.  When faced with tough to navigate seas, where bad weather is the norm, we were not about to take on those responsibilities while also trying to entertain three children. It would have been destined for disaster.

So, happy to not be in charge (even while sealsresenting it just a teeny, tiny bit), we set sail for our first stop, Lochaline (prounounced “lock allen”), an inlet where we would pick up a mooring for the night, hopefully see some seals, and could go ashore in the dingy to explore a fossil burm and the Ardtornish Estate gardens.

The seals were hard to come by (that photo above is from a “seal colony tour” that we took in Oban before we rendezvoused with the Sails and Summits people) throughout the week, so we were very happy we paid however many pounds we did on that first day to see some up close.

The Ardtornish Estate did not let us down in the natural beauty department, however. It poured the entire time we were ashore, but the fossil burm was incredible. It was a boulder-y river, the Lockaline River, I believe, that ran down a mountain and there were shell fossils almost everywhere you looked. And moss. And lush greenness that looked like it would swallow you whole and you could disappear forever into.



And did I mention that it poured?  The entire time? Some creative camera holding, using myself as a human umbrella and tripod enabled some great, but we got back to the boat looking like a bunch of drowned rats. But happy drowned rats.

The Ardtornish Ruined Castle, with waterfall in the background. In the rain.

We made one more rain-soaked stop in Loch Drambuie where we anchored for the evening and got caught in yet another torrential downpour as soon as we went ashore for an exploring session. It was kind of seeming like maybe someone up there didn’t want us to  and then slogged into Tobermory, an adorable little port town that had a proper marina where we could do some laundry, take showers, and generally enjoy a little bit of civilization.  Of course, it was still raining for the first day we were there, but the second full day was lovely and I spent the day in a photographer’s heaven capturing sunrise, waterfalls, lovely water reflections, and a beautiful lake located in the hills above Tobermory.




From Tobermory, we sailed back toward Oban under a light breeze powered only by the gennakar, making it a beautiful, calm, and quiet sail. We arrived at Duart Castle in the late afternoon under brilliant skies and the best weather of the entire trip. Honestly, those few hours of exploring the seashore around the castle made all the rain more than worth it.  It was magical.




There are a ton of other photos that I wish I could include here, but I will have to send you over to my flickr page to see them or this one will never load.

p.s. That is a Lion’s Mane Jellyfish above, for those of you who might wonder.

This post was written and formatted with Windows Live Writer, available on PCs running Windows 7 or Vista.  Microsoft has kindly loaned me an ASUS pc for the month of August to test out Windows Live Essentials while blogging.

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