Emma Jamieson, food blogger and first-time sailor, shares her experience of a week aboard Bessie Ellen in the Hebrides – it was love at first sight!
“Dolphins!” came the shout from Skipper Nikki at the bow of Bessie Ellen. We were whipping along at a nifty 7.6 knots – a cracking pace as she sliced through the waves on her merry way to the Hebridean Isle of Canna. Over in the distance we spotted them, jumping and diving in their hundreds towards us to play under our bowsprit.
Three days before, I had never set foot on a boat, and suddenly there I was, wind in my hair, wildlife surrounding me, helming a traditional tall ship on a trip round the Hebrides!
When I’d boarded – three days before – with eleven other travellers looking for adventure, I had very little idea the lasting impact this trip would have on me. From all walks of life and ages all of us bonded immediately as we gathered on deck for warming whisky macs and our first briefing. Within an hour of leaving Oban, we had hoisted the sails, learned to make fast, got our first taste at the helm and practiced knots! Anyone joining Bessie Ellen can get involved as much or as little as they want, but there is always something to do and see and learn, so few of us ever sat still.
Each day brought a new surprise. The sun rose and we were straight at it, scrubbing the deck, plotting our course for the day and taking turns on watch. Paddle-boarding surrounded by dolphins was a clear highlight, as was spotting minke whales and seals, wild swimming in remote coves or being surrounded by puffins and razorbills on the Treshnish Isles.
Our huge appetites from all the sea air were handsomely rewarded. We ate like royalty throughout the trip, with stellar meals apparating like Hogwarts feasts from a galley kitchen the size of a broom cupboard – from fresh baked bread to haunch of venison, Thai curries and homemade sorbet! Over evening meals by candlelight we played games, swapped anecdotes and even had a “pub quiz”.
All the fusses of terrestrial life seemed to melt away on board. Whilst there is no scrimping on comfort – from a spacious shower room and the cosiest bunks, I didn’t wash my hair or wear make-up once, spent most of my time with what looked like a tea cosy on my head, wearing ten layers and I couldn’t have given a monkey’s less.
When the final night arrived I could barely remember the day I came on board. Numbers were exchanged and all of us revelled in the lifetime’s worth of stories collected in even such a short time. A sail on Bessie Ellen is no mere holiday. It is a moment of spirit-filling, pure, unadulterated happiness and adventure suspended in time.
To read Emma’s full article please visit her blog The Edinburgh Epicure