Tag: sailing

When Is The Best Time For A Sailing Holiday In The Canaries?

Twister-distance-canary-islands

If you have been considering a sailing holiday to the Canaries, aboard a luxury yacht charter then weighing up the best time to sail is a great place to start. With its consistently high year-round temperatures and limited rainfall, June, July and August offer an average of 9 – 10 hours of sunshine a day. 

Warm weather island hopping on a chartered yacht

Between them, the seven islands of the Canaries provide a surplus of destinations, each bringing their own traditional nautical culture, climate and appeal to the sailing experience, making the Canaries a popular choice for seafaring visitors. 

Best time to sail to Lanzarote

Boasting some of the finest beaches in the archipelago, Lanzarote is a popular choice for visiting mariners with its many marinas and excellent anchoring. Its two mountain ranges disrupt the flow of north easterlies, meaning that most of the rain falls before it reaches the west and southern regions of the island, making these areas arid and less windy. Lanzarote’s proximity to the Sahara and Morocco makes it the hottest of all the Canaries, and an ideal year-round sailing destination.

Best time to sail to Tenerife

Tenerife enjoys relatively consistent weather and predictable temperatures thanks to the northeasterly winds that hit its shores from the Atlantic.

Dormant volcano Mount Teide divides the island into two distinctive halves, the north subject to a slightly wetter, cooler climate than the south due to the cloud cover. With more tourists seeking sunshine, the south coast is typically busier and also less windy.

Best time to sail to La Gomera, El Hierro and La Palma

The most Western of the Canary Islands, La Gomera, El Hierro and La Palma are typically lush and a contrast to the drier landscape found on Lanzarote and Fuerteventura. You can sail all year round in this region.

Best time to sail to Fuerteventura

The island of Fuerteventura’s northern coast is sheltered by the weather in Lanzarote, fewer than 10 miles to the north. While the northern coasts of the Canary Islands are generally where the rain falls, much of Fuerteventura is used up by Lanzarote. What there is of it falls mostly in the months of December and January. 

Best time to sail to Gran Canaria

Despite being in the Atlantic, the island of Gran Canaria sees minimal annual rainfall. Summer sees the ‘calima’ drive up temperatures as it travels over the Sahara. Cooled by a pretty constant, refreshing breeze, it makes for a pleasant summer sailing destination with its warm winds.

Best time to sail to La Graciosa

A short sail across the water from Lanzarote, La Graciosa is a UNESCO marine reserve. With only 700 inhabitants, here you can arrive at beautiful secluded beaches with little influx of visitors.

Best time to sail to La Gomera

Steeped in history, La Gomera is typically quiet and green. Columbus set sail from the island back in 1942 on his way to discover the New World. Known as the ‘most Canarian’ of the islands, it offers a warm and friendly welcome and is teaming with wildlife.

Which of the Canaries is your favourite? 

Why limit yourself to one, when you can get a taste for them all when you book a sailing holiday in the Canary Islands. All seven Canary Islands are within an easy distance of each one another, so you can experience many of them all within a single sailing holiday.

A seasonal guide to sailing in Cornwall

Sailing guide to Cornwall Helford

Cornwall for many is the UK’s favourite holiday destination. With its astonishingly diverse and picturesque coastline, stunning sandy beaches and meandering streets in ancient fishing ports, Cornwall has so much to offer. A sailing holiday in Cornwall is the perfect way to experience a more undiscovered Cornwall, away from the crowds with local skippers as your guide.

Over the centuries, our nation’s foundations have been built on the age of sail and Cornwall played an integral part in the design and construction of wooden sailing boats. Today, Pilot cutters, trading schooners, rowing gigs and fishing smacks have all stood the test of time and offer a huge amount of pleasure to all who visit the county.

Escaping to the outdoors for the freedom of the sea and fresh air after the restrictions of 2020 has never been more needed. Thankfully, with a sailing holiday in Cornwall, you can explore the coasts and rivers at your leisure aboard a wonderful historic fleet of comfortable sailing vessels; each one superbly restored and hosted by wonderful captains and crew.

Spring sailing in Cornwall

Wake up from winter and spend a Spring weekend sailing in Cornwall. Find Bessie Ellen in the picturesque port of Fowey with its charming narrow streets and coloured cottages stretching the foreshore. It’s no wonder that the ancient town of “Foye” is such a mecca for outdoor sailing enthusiasts who come from afar to explore this perfect little estuary.

Explore the waters of St Austell bay, shielded by Dodman point and dominated by the Cornish Alps – the remains of China Clay spoils once so important to the historic harbours of Charlestown and Par. On returning to Fowey, the stark red and white bands of the Gribben Head day mark.  Built in 1832, the daymark was constructed to avoid confusion to mariners mistaking the shallow reefs of the bay with the deeper estuary of Falmouth further down the coast.

Eda Frandsen shakes of her winter blues and sets sail from Falmouth under new ownership with the lovely Mungo & Stella. The historic port of Falmouth provides an ideal starting point for a sailing holiday in Cornwall, exploring the river where each bend reads like a book, opening a new story on each turn. A morning walk ashore is one of the most relaxing ways to begin your sailing adventure as oystercatchers chatter away, herons clack in the branches and the quiet cormorants dive with a satisfying plop.

As the river gives way to mud banks, the spires of Truro glint in the morning sun.  Winding back towards the sea, the Fal is truly one of the great British rivers and remarkably unspoiled on all banks. The sea beckons, and with Stella’s fabulous bakery below from her tiny galley, munch contentedly on cake and she will happily divulge the secrets of the Helford river. Equally enchanting, the Helford is a smaller river hiding creeks and quays along the way. Daphne Du Maurier penned her famous Frenchman’s Creek after a sailing voyage from Fowey with her father. Today, the Helford is a place of absolute tranquillity and is surely a little bit of heaven on earth, and a must-see for any private charter sailing holiday in Cornwall.

Pilot Cutters unite!

The clatter of blocks and the crack of the canvas never fails to excite as the fleet assembles in the bay of St Mawes for the annual Pilot Cutter Review in May.  Over four days, Pilot Cutters of all ages, from new-builds to restorations, gather together to cruise in company along the coast to Fowey and back before rejoicing in friendly racing around the cans in the famous Carrick roads.  Join Pilot Cutters Agnes and Pellew as they join this spectacle of sailing along the Cornish coast.

Shanties and classic sailing in Falmouth

If you love the sea and you love a shanty, then the Cornish town of Falmouth hosts one of her biggest summer events in June, the Classic Boat rally combined with the increasingly popular Sea Shanty Festival. Street markets, food stalls and singers fill the streets, pubs infused with Breton stripe clad revellers resound with harmonies of John Kanaka and Fair Spanish Ladies.

From all over Europe, singers come together in song and friendship, keeping alive the old sea shanty traditions. Out on the water, graceful classic yacht Escape, traditional trawler Pilgrim of Brixham and gaff cutter Pettifox liven the bay with other classic boats, joining the parades of sail and friendly races that take place throughout the weekend before the tired sailors retreat to a corner of a warm and friendly pub to join in the merry singing.

Summer river sailing along the Tamar

Think lazy summer days spent messing about on a river. Life could not be more carefree as our traditional Tamar barge Lynher slides gently on the tide from the wide mouth of Plymouth sound up through the marshlands of the Tamar River. This great river divides the two counties of Cornwall and Devon and navigable upstream from the mouth a Cremyll.

Today, the industrial mines of tin in this region of Cornwall lie quiet, but the once busy quays are still there – famous Cothele, quiet Haldon and majestic Morwelham each have a unique story.

The banks of the meandering river come alive with wildfowl in the early evening light and a gentle peace descends over gently rolling hills after the heat of the day.  Well away from the tourist trails, the Tamar Valley is a real gem of a destination to explore. Great walks lead to historic monuments all wrapped in the unspoiled woodland valleys. Perfect for a family sailing holiday and private charter weekend away in Cornwall.

Be part of the historic Tall Ships race

Falmouth has once again been chosen as host port to the magnificent Tall Ships Race as they set off on the start of the Magellan – Elcano 500 Series, celebrating 500 years of the first circumnavigation, crossing Biscay to La Coruna before heading south to the famous ports of Lisbon and Cadiz. 

Falmouth is particularly suited to hosting the regatta, from St Anthony’s head to Helford, Flushing and Pendennis, everyone can enjoy a day on the cliff tops in the clean sea air, relishing in the excitement as the all Tall Ships and their crews prepare for their own adventures. 

Or perhaps you want to be closer to the action onboard Escape or Pettifox as they offer guests the chance to sail in Falmouth Bay and see the start of the Tall Ships Race and join the parade of sail. A sight not to be missed!

Head to the islands from Cornwall

As legend has it, the Isles of Scilly are all that remain of the ancient land of Lyonesse but today the Isles of Scilly are the perfect sailing holiday getaway. There is no better way to explore than by sailing boat, discovering new bays and anchorages, wildlife spotting of the Western Rocks or walking barefoot in powder white sand. 

Many of our fleet of sailing vessels visit the islands, but none are more suited to the area than Agnes, a true Isles of Scilly pilot cutter and gaff cutter Pettifox who was built on islands.  Built specifically for the sea around the islands, both boats have a shallow draft so are able to venture into some of the more isolated spots around St Martin and Tresco, and the hidden island of all – Gugh. 

With so much turquoise water and wonderful beaches, being in the water as much as on it is a must, netting prawns in the Tresco shallows is a favourite way to idle away the afternoon. Plants and gardens are very much a part of the island industry with plenty to visit or walk the gentle paths between old flower fields   Whatever the weather or time of year, the islands impart a little magic to everyone who comes here and leaves you wanting more of this simple way of life.

Sailing Devon’s beautiful creeks & bays

Devon coast

Niki Alford, skipper of Bessie Ellen and co-owner of Venturesail gives her insight into her favourite sailing grounds around the beautiful South Devon Coast.

If there is one goal for 2020 it should be getting out on the water for a long weekend right here at home in the UK. Even if you have never sailed or stepped foot on a boat, there is just so much to explore along our shores and rivers that will delight and inspire you no matter what the weather. And the best thing is – you don’t even have to know how to sail.

I’m going to take you on a tour of the South Devon coast, exploring secret coves, bustling harbours and quiet estuaries on board our fleet of Devon-based traditional craft. Along with their welcoming and knowledgable, the captains and crew are there to give you the very best of times, both onboard and whilst exploring the shore and feeding you wonderful food!

DEVON CREEKS AND BAYS

Protected on both shores by two dominating castles is the historic merchant port of Dartmouth is by far the most picturesque in the whole of Devon. The old town overlooks the Rover Dart, tumbling picturesque timber-framed houses line narrow cobbled street housing delightful; independent shops and galleries. The wide River Dart winds through rural Devon farms and woodland before arriving at the very hip town of Totnes. If you are joining Escape or Our Daddy in Dartmouth, it is well worth starting in Totnes (better parking and train links) and taking the River Ferry down the River Dart. Both boats run coastal exploration weekends and day sails from Dartmouth so it is worth taking time to wander the streets to discover some 600 years of history.

I prefer to anchor than berth overnight in the harbour. It’s a real chance to “get away from it all” and Devon has two of my favourite beaches to drop anchor. The long sweep of the golden beach at Blackpool Sands is a perfect backdrop to watch the sunset with the boat murmuring at her anchor. Further up the coast to the South of Berry Head is St Mary’s Bay and no doubt a favourite of our third Devon-based boat, traditional trawler Pilgrim of Brixham. With clear waters of crystal blue, St Mary’s is a marvellous spot to dive over the side and explore ashore.

As always the British summer is never always sunshine and sparkling seas, but what we do have are sheltered secret places away from rougher seas. Our Devon harbours, rivers and creeks just scream “Explore me”, with each bend opening to another seemingly new world to discover. Old oaks bow down to the river’s edge, Herons like statues stare in dark water while families of ducks and swans cruise in the tranquillity of river life. Even as a beginner to boats, it’s a wonderful feeling to take the tiller, gently potter along under sail and enjoy the calm and quiet.

Of course with all this activity and fresh air, food is an absolute high point and what better county in England produces such fine fare. Sharpham, up the River Dart, produces some outstanding cheeses of course best washed down with local apple juice or ciders from nearby villages. Stoke Gabriel is surrounded by organic orchards and of course, must absolutely finish with a Devon Cream Tea.

Whichever boat you choose, whether sailing up the River or out to sea, this coast really is perfect for those wanting to try something new or simply see Devon from a different view.

View our Devon sailing experiences >

Twister’s Canarian Adventures

Twister-diving-1280

Blogger and photographer Lizzie Churchill joined Twister and her crew for a week of winter sun sailing in the Canary islands, read on for her full article about her island adventures!

With a fleet of 10 ships covering the seas of the South West, Isles of Scilly, Caribbean, Canaries, Baltic’s,  France and  Faroe’s as well as the Arctic and Atlantic, Venture Sail really do offer an enviable amount of sailing expeditions for anyone interested in testing their sea legs. Having previously sailed and worked with Venture Sail back in August onboard Johanna Lucretia in the Isles of Scilly, I was fortunate enough to be invited back to tick off my second ship in their ever-growing list to begin an adventure of a lifetime. So with 24 hours pirating experience in the bag, it was time to level-up, grab my passport and head off to the Canaries!

Here, I was glad to step into the 25ºc heat and head to Marina San Miguel to meet Twister the captain and crew and become familiarised with the area and ship. 

Sunday; we left San Miguel for our first day sailing and ended up setting the bar pretty high for the rest of the trip – all within 24 hours! 

Having only sailed once before I was excited to see Twister at full sail and encounter the speeds she was so well known for. What’s funny now is that what I’d deemed ‘tippy’ on this particular day was absolutely nothing compared to what we experienced on Wednesday, but non-the-less we sailed 6 miles off coast and back with water coming in at the sides and a ‘heel’ that kicked our sea-legs into action whilst learning the ropes, and testing our sailing skills. It was then, just as I was discussing how tippy the ship was, Captain Yp suggested I harness up, climb the jib-boom-net and capture the ship ‘in action’ from the very very front. So of course, I did! – much to the concern of Anna below who also shared my concern for how ‘tippy’ our current situation was! It was great fun though and an amazing way to see the ship at full sail! Returning towards Los Cristianos we followed the magic 1,000-meter depth mark notoriously known for spotting whales as they feed and sailed right into a pod of seven Pilot whales! At this point, I could barely believe what was happening having just had a tonne of ‘firsts’ thrown at me before this incredible moment then topped it all off. In hope to then see them a little closer AND capture some shots from the water, 3 of us then hopped into the ships dingy with first mate Julian (or Thor to Anna and I) and did a few laps of Twister to get those hero shots in full sun before all climbing back on board and taking the most refreshing dip in the sea. I mean, could this day seriously get any better? It turned out…YES. 

Moored off San Juan we all dried off, changed, then had our first group outing to the nearest bar on the beach, watched the sun go down and sipped on the strongest cocktails known to man, whilst further discussing the day. Back on board after dinner our conversation had turned to the ocean phosphorescence that commonly occurred in these waters; knowing they were present along the Helford in Cornwall, I was aware of the phenomenon but hadn’t actually seen it in person, and so with that I launched myself to the side of the ship only to be greeted with, I kid you not, glowing and flashing specs in the water below! As you can imagine it took all of 2.8 seconds before we’d all returned to swimwear and were diving in, disturbing and further illuminating the phosphorescence around us under the clearest, most star-filled sky I’d ever seen.  The most unforgettable moment. I only wish I could have captured it but alas, it will have to remain a team Twister memory.


Monday – Wednesday we sailed to Valle Gran Rey, La Gomera, and stayed for two nights so that we had a full 24 hours on the Island before sailing further round to Playa Da Santiago for one last night pre Tenerife Crossing. It was another insane few days where the people, places and lifestyle continued to make a mark on me as I realised just how fortunate I was to be sailing in such a beautiful part of the world, surrounded by water and good souls. The rugged, raw and unforgiving landscaped of La Gomera fascinated me along with the lifestyles they had on an Island that felt like nowhere else I’d ever been; Its beauty was incredible — the colours, light, communities and entire environment just so unique and I was so glad to be experiencing it with the people I had surrounding me. People often say it’s like living in a bubble when you feel so cut off and secluded from the Norm, but it was much more than this to me, it was the best form of escapism I wasn’t aware existed.  In a situation where you spend literally the entire waking day in the company of the same, like-minded people, it’s no doubt great relationships will be formed but having only spent two days together these people became like family. The ship became like a home and as a team we continually worked together sharing chores and duties as a community of our own. 

I was also surrounded by the sea, constantly. From 8:30am where we sat for breakfast each morning until we rolled into our beds at night, we were outside. ALL day. Fresh air and the sea; a fail-safe recipe for happiness right? My ‘blue mind’ was thoroughly nourished and bursting at the seams. 

My curiosity and adventure had also been nourished with a full day to explore the Island of La Gomera. We walked the town, hopped on a bus to The National Park, took in some INCREDIBLE views, lost sight of the horizon as the clouds came in level with us and managed to jump in (get rescued) by our hero blondes to explore San Sebastian after too. 

So Wednesday, we went in search for wind in what turned out to be the tippiest day of my LIFE and what an experience it was sailing along, up and down some pretty epic swell; I think we’d clocked 11 knots at one point before we reaaallllyyyy began to heel. It was during this ‘trip’ that Anna and I had decided our state of ‘panic’ whilst sailing would be determined by the actions of our extremely experienced and unflappable crew. It’s hard no to worry a little when your sailing experience is rock-bottom, water is rushing in, we’re sat at a comfortable 30-45º and traveling at 9 knots but when Nicole is sat READING, Julian is out on his chair and Benjamin’s flicking through a magazine on an unsupported bench we couldn’t have been in too much trouble and was certain we were all safe. When Julian put his chair away however, coffee mugs are flying, the boat was under water, the waves are devouring the ship and Nicole looks up to take photos and videos I had a feeling this was a little more extreme than we were hoping for. Having heard about their crossing to Tenerife from Amsterdam, I had 100% faith in the crew’s competence so continued to document and laugh in shock as we ploughed on through the infamous accelerated wind zone of the Canaries



With our last full day and the realisation of heading back to ‘civilisation’ hanging heavy over me, I took every opportunity to absorb as much sea-life as possible and went for a post-breakfast dip before we set sail one last time. I wasn’t so sure I was ready for land again. With another 34 mile crossing and some decent wind half way between the Islands we had some great sailing again that kept the crew on their toes as well as some calm seas that meant Anna and I could climb one last time onto the boom-net, keep an eye out for dolphins and generally take in the sights and serenity as we hung above the ocean.

Once again we’d had another beautiful lunch prepared for us by the super talented (and funny) Chef René and if that wasn’t enough, he’d also been baking a farewell cake ANDprepping for the Captains dinner; a beautiful ship-side bbq and spread crafted by past and current Twister Chefs – and it was perfect.

I honestly can’t describe how much fun I had this week, the amount of belly laughing that took place, the humour, jokes, stories and memories made were some pretty special moments and It wouldn’t have been the same had it not been for the team on Twister. It was an escape like no other that I didn’t realise I’d needed so much until I was there living it. Thanks to Jo for inviting me, Yp who made it all happen and ‘got it right’ so very often, Anna for being my roomie, side-kick and all round partner-in-crime, Julian & Marloes for being the best blonde rescue team and crew, Ben & Gawel for your many funny conversations and help and of course to our ship love-birds Nicole and Andreas who taught me so much. So if anyone is looking for a sailing holiday, look no further. I myself will certainly be after another ‘fix’.

Yp, Anna, Julian, Marloes, Rene, Benjamin, Gawel, Andreas, Nicole, Nigel and Jan I can’t thank you all enough for being the best family of shipmates and for well and truly making Twister feel like home for the week. 

Lizzie
x

Read more exciting tales from Lizzie on her blog! – http://lizziechurchill.com/blog/page/1


Delightful Devon Sailing

ESCAPE dartmouth

Naomi from the VentureSail booking team discovers the delights of sailing in Devon .

Growing up in Cornwall I thought coastlines couldn’t get any better. I’ve travelled a lot internationally and always came home to the Cornish Coast with a sigh of relief. Then I went sailing along the Devon coast and realised, perhaps, just quite how bias I had been! I am not saying they are “better” (loyally Cornish!) but I would say a happy extension of the Cornish coastline and more dramatic. Higher cliff lines loom, with a lot more greenery, gently giving way to quaint inlets and harbour towns, with crystal blue waters – almost like the Scillies. There are many more coastal features here than in Cornwall with arches and stacks forming fascinating headlands.

Brixham itself is such a dear little harbour town. With its colourful houses and quaint cottages, it’s definitely a scene for a postcard! I had a wander here before I boarded and all the locals are really friendly. There is a sense of “lost-in-time’ here, a relaxed atmosphere that seems to be getting lost in this increasingly modern world.

Sailing alongside Berry Head near Brixham sees a dramatic limestone headland which has been designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural beauty. With my binoculars at the ready, I couldn’t believe the birdlife that called these sheer cliffs home! Colonies of kittiwakes are something I’d been dying to see and I was certainly not disappointed. I had read that the Lighthouse on Berry Head was on one of the highest points on the British Isles; I was not prepared for the size and scale of this cliff line – totally breathtaking.

Sailing into Dartmouth and Kingsbridge you are greeted with the silhouettes of their Castles marking each side of the river mouth. Totally picturesque on both sides of the river, each town spills down onto the waterfront, dotted with colourful houses. We stopped in Dartmouth for the night and what a lovely town it is. We walked through with the skipper and had a drink at the yacht club, before going onto have a cream tea in a 16th-century building now cafe – The Sloping Deck.

Next we were headed for Salcombe. Dolphins swam with us for a good hour or so as we continued our sailing down the coast and we were lucky with good weather so it made for perfect sailing! Arriving into Salcombe was really stunning. The town is tucked in and around the inlet, with local fishing boats lining the shore. This little inlet was a paradise for “life on the water” from SUP’s to children practising in dingy, kayaking to classic boats.
Everyone’s waves and sails by beaming from ear to ear – a really great atmosphere. We stayed here for another night before heading back up the coast the next day. There wasn’t as much wind on this day but it made for the perfect opportunity to learn how to read charts and plot positions. Andy the Skipper is a great guide who has a lot of experience!

With a tiny taste of what the Devon coast has to offer from the sea, I will be sure to return for a longer sailing passage with hope to stop at more the beautiful anchorages. My trip was aboard Escape, but Our Daddy and Pilgrim of Brixham also sail around these waters.

Take a look at our sailing breaks in Devon >

My week on ZUZA

Puffin in Scotland

It is with a flutter of nervous excitement that I walk from Oban train station to Zuza, a double-hulled purpose built adventure vessel that is to be my home for the next week. Having never sailed before I am not too sure what to expect but skipper Helen and her all female crew greet me with a warm welcome, helping me on board and showing me to my very comfortable cabin before introducing me to my fellow passengers.

Making the most of the warm light, we set sail mid afternoon, down past Easdale Island and through the spectacular Cuan Sound, which reminds me of a narrow street except the tall buildings are dramatically high cliffs and whirlpools swirl where a road would run. I am surprised to see seals lazily bobbing about in this ever-moving water but Helen explains that they are a frequent sight here.

After a spot of beachcombing on Seil Island, we climb back on board and I am surprised to find how hungry I am, my tummy grumbling as delicious smells entice me back below deck. As we all tuck into the freshly prepared meal I find that the food far surpasses my expectations and I make a mental note to let go of any preconceived notions I clearly have.  The crew then take care of all the washing up, leaving us to sit back and relax, whiling away the evening with wine and good chat, getting to know each other a little more. Some were single travellers like me, and many were just pairs of friends seeking a unique adventure together. We bedded down for the night at a decent time, satisfied and excited for the week ahead.

Jura from colonsay

The next morning we set sail for Gigha, stopping en route to visit some of the islands dotted along the way. On our return journey to the yacht we were incredibly fortunate to spot Minke whales, bottlenose dolphins and seals, Helen was also pleasantly taken aback at this sight and hopeful that we would be able to get a closer view once we were back at sea. I felt like a kid at Christmas at this prospect, my love of marine wildlife has been with me since I was little and I couldn’t believe I might be so lucky as to see a Minke in close quarters, and in the UK! Once back on board we set off towards Gigha where we were indeed treated to a closer viewing of these incredible mammals. A hushed silence fell as we marvelled at these huge giants effortlessly gliding through the water. This was a wonderful experience and is a moment that will stay with me forever.

Continuing on I decided to try my hand on the helm and see how it felt to ‘control’ this fast yacht. I had initially been nervous but under Helen’s capable tuition, I soon discovered it was in fact completely exhilarating and actually made me fall a little for Zuza. On she raced to Gigha where we were greeted with sweeping sandy bays, crystal clear waters and a lush botanical garden. We idled away the rest of the day beachcombing and meandering, soaking up the warm sun – we had been forewarned that the weather tomorrow may not be so summery – such is sailing in the Hebrides! Waking the next morning to thick fog we took our time over breakfast, enjoying the stillness that always arrives with such weather before setting off to Jura where the weather lifted, rewarding our efforts with a breath taking sunset which I enjoyed with a gin and tonic in hand.

Hebrides dolphins from Bessie Ellen

From Jura we made for Oransay, through the incredibly narrow sound of Isla where we spotted stags silhouetted on the high mountains, to Nave Island. The plan had been to go ashore and stretch legs but on anchoring we noticed that the beach was completely covered in seals and Helen was itching to snorkel with them. We set off in the dinghy and watched her slip into the water and swim about with these sea dogs before making for land and exploring this now derelict island.

By now I had almost lost sense of what day it was, thoroughly enjoying the simplicity of boat life – waking, eating and then journeying where the weather allowed. Our next day was spent exploring Colonsay, which has a magic of it’s own. I learn that there are no cars on the island, bikes are the preferred form of transport, and that the local bookshop can be opened by anyone who visits the post office to request the key. They are then free to browse at leisure and pay honestly for anything they wish to keep. The remoteness and lack of humanisation in this part of the world makes it very easy to feel like you have stepped back in time, completely detached from the modern world when in fact, we were only ever a few hours way.

Departing Coronsay with a sigh, Zuza effortlessly sails through the Strait of Coryveckan, notorious we are told for its strong tidal currents, standing waves and the third largest whirlpool in the world. With my mind focused on the potentially precarious waters ahead, I am astounded to hear the crew cry Minke whales once again. Fizzing with excitement I remind myself I must move carefully around to the other side of the deck to watch these whales. When another crew member spies a basking shark, almost in disbelief, there is a hush that falls amongst us all as we sit quietly, admiring the sights on display. Even Helen is amazed at our luck but explains that this is one of the many reasons Scotland continues to lure her back year after year. As the whales move away we continue on for Croabh Haven marina, our mooring for the night and home to Princess Anne’s boat – well, if it’s good enough for royalty…

For our final evening Helen has organised a real treat for us all on Kerrera Island in a simple, no frills shed where we are treated to huge, freshly caught and prepared seafood platters which we eagerly tuck into whilst watching the sky fade to black over Oban.

As a busy individual, I had forgotten what it was like to be truly calm – but not in a ‘crashed out next to the pool’ kind of way. This was a different calm; a more mindful, tranquil calm. Our days were comprised of optional tasks like setting the sails and helming, mixed in with exploring little islands, and swimming off white sandy beaches. Each day held such rewards, and life outside of Zuza now seemed irrelevant. Feeling her race along the white-topped waves, doing what she was designed to is as peaceful as it is exhilarating. As we docked back in Oban I was filled with sadness. We all said our heartfelt goodbyes and emails were exchanged before going our separate ways. As the train wound its way through those spectacular views once more, I couldn’t help but wish I’d stayed longer. So, I turned my 3G on for the first time in a week and booked my next voyage, there and then. See you next year Helen and Zuza!

Scintillating Scilly

Bryher Summer boat isles of scilly sailing holiday

Located just 25 miles from Lands End in Cornwall, these magical islands sparkle like jewels in a silver sea, surrounded by crystal clear turquoise waters, adorned by soft white sandy beaches which back onto lush tropical gardens, crowning pink granite cliffs. Life here is unhurried. And this unique holiday destination is a well kept secret by all who visit, and what better way to explore the archipelago than by sail?

Just a short hop from mainland Cornwall, passing the infamous Wolf Rock lighthouse, the islands seem to be born from the sea. St. Agnes is often a favourite anchorage where you can kick off your shoes and take a relaxing walk up to the lighthouse before heading to the cosy Turks Head, a charming traditional pub with stunning views across the water.

Clear harbour on Scilly Isles St Marys Sailing holiday

Life’s simple pleasures are the name of the game here. Swim – you must – off the sand spit between Gugh and Aggie, shake yourself off with a short walk to the Bronze Age burial mound, Obediah’s Chamber, before climbing back on board. Sailing out round Western Rocks, Bishops Rock lighthouse stands tall and proud, defeating Atlantic storms, protecting ships against the jagged teeth-like rocks for over 100 years. It is here you may see the endearing puffin, along with countless dolphins feeding in the shallower waters around the coast.

No Scilly voyage is complete without a stop at the narrow channel between Bryher and Tresco. Here, dominated by Hangman’s Rock, the clear waters are sheltered from the booming Atlantic swell beyond and a sense of calm reigns. Don’t be fooled by the small size of these two islands, there’s plenty to entice you onto dry land and explore. The world famous Tresco Abbey Gardens are home to a plethora of subtropical flora and fauna, plus a red squirrel population. If the botany isn’t for you then simply let your eyes absorb this natural wonder.  Striking Agapanthus are everywhere along with brightly coloured tropical flowers which line the walking paths – where no cars are allowed.

Red squirrel Tresco Isles of Scilly Sailing

You will soon discover that foraging is an important part of life afloat and shrimping in the shallow channel here at low tide is the best way to spend a few hours getting to know your fellow crew . Not to worry if you don’t succeed, we head across to Bryher and get hold of a feast of freshly caught lobster or crab for your supper back on board in the cosy cabin.

View of Bryher and Tresco channel

Exploring the seas around Scilly provides plenty of excitement for the mariner, strong tidal currents make navigating the narrow passages challenging, so your skipper would love to get you involved in plotting courses to those secluded beaches that beckon. All the channels are well marked, however some of the more remote anchorages use rocks as beacons, so a good lookout is imperative, adding to the thrill of holidays afloat.

Life on Scilly is not all quiet however and busy St Mary’s harbour is a hub of activity with rowing pilot gigs, famed as wreckers, the daily arrival, and departure of the Scillonian ferry (during high season), a supermarket and of course locally made clothing. Busy pubs and great cafes make St Mary’s a great day out but do hire a bike to see the best of this island. Quaint Old Town and the church where Prime Minister Harold Wilson is buried, Porthellick where Admiral Cloudesley Shovell washed ashore after wrecking the Naval fleet. Perhaps make for Juliet’s Café, deemed to have the best view in the Scillies, where you can’t help but be drawn to stop, sit and take a moment to reflect on life.

Once really cannot describe the magic of Scilly, it’s what you make of it, the sunsets, the peace, your ship rocking gently at anchor, the smell of nature and of course the beauty of your little ship and all who sail in her. Arrive home in Newlyn, utterly relaxed, rejuvenated and ready to take on the world once more. But sshhh, don’t tell everyone your secret.

Sailing around the Isle of Skye

Hiker on the Isle of Skye

Skye

Featured in many poems and folk songs (which you might get to know during your time on board), Skye is the largest island in the Hebrides and arguably one of the most beautiful. The Cullin Ridge constitutes the backbone of the island; 12 km of dramatic peaks and troughs that only the most experienced outdoor enthusiasts should attempt to traverse. There is however, plenty more (slightly more relaxed) exploring to be done, from Viking ruins to sections of rocky coastal walking.

On that topic, Skye’s coastline, much like Mull’s, is peninsula-based and is large enough to have quite different levels of precipitation from one end to the other, making sure that there will be a sheltered anchorage somewhere close. There is always something to see from the water too, so grab a pair of binoculars when you take a break from rope-work. Wildlife is rife here, and many native maritime invertebrate species are critical to other local fauna, which include salmon and sea otters, among other bird-life.

Skye is home around 10% of the 100,000 or so island inhabitants in Scotland, making it one of the more populous islands. Crofters still work the land here, an ancient way of living which is no longer as profitable as working for tertiary industry, hence the rapid decline in croft numbers– yet a bold few still persevere. However, ancient fishing trade continues to thrive and is based in Portree, Skye’s main port. Your skipper might decide to pick up something delicious for dinner, fresh off the boats that come in each day.

Skye is one of those places where words simply don’t do it justice. You must visit, on, before or after your sailing adventure. 

Skye Old Man of Storr

Sailing to St. Kilda

Hirta and dun at St. Kilda

St Kilda

Shrouded in mystery and legend, the real tale of St Kilda is, in reality, more melancholic. The small population of this group of islands was evacuated in 1930 due to multiple reasons such as crop failure, famine, disease, war and simply being at the mercy of the weather for months on end. A ghost town remains. However, every cloud is lined with silver, and today St Kilda is a huge nature reserve, home to a diverse fauna and flora including some endemic species such as the St Kilda Field mouse and the St Kilda Wren.

The islands lie about 40 miles from North Uist and are thence the most westerly archipelago in the Hebrides. VentureSail runs many trips to this nature reserve over the summer. We think the perfect way to take in the hopelessly beautiful scenery and spot the best wildlife, both terrestrial and maritime, is by boat. Take a look at our sailing schedule to see when you can climb aboard.

welcome to st kilda

The island at the edge of the world

Wanderlust journalist, Phoebe Smith, earns her way with Bessie Ellen to the remote island of St Kilda. Read her full article about her adventure as she experiences first hand the elements that may, or may not, allow her passage to this magical place.

Hebridean Insight: The Small Isles

Hebrides coastline

Collectively known as the Small Isles, this pretty little archipelago plays host to a vast amount of wildlife – and each island in this collection is very different from the next. Just 153 people live on these islands and transport links are tenuous, making them quite isolated. They’re perfect territory for boat exploration; many of our cruises will show you around by water and you’ll also be able to explore on foot.

Rum

Rum is the largest of the Small Isles, which should make it a Medium Isle, but that doesn’t quite have the same ring. Rum is 40 square miles in area, and conceals the main village of Kinloch to the east, where just over 30 people reside and a small primary school educates the handful of island children.

The rest of the island is uninhabited by humans but a huge population of red deer are free to roam, studied intensely by field ecologists in various areas of academia. Watch out for them (the deer, not the field ecologists) and the wandering wild goats and ponies too.

red Deer scotland small isles

Eigg

One of Eigg’s greatest qualities is its eco-friendliness: it generates all of its power from reusable sources and has a traffic light system of power usage, so its 105 inhabitants know when the reusable power is at its most abundant (think windy days or blazing sunshine) and when its at its most scarce.

This clean energy powers a microbrewery, producing 7 distinct ales and lagers, and a restaurant, bar and several craft shops – quite remarkable for an island of relatively small inhabitancy and stature. It’s just 12 miles square.

Historically, Eigg has been tossed and tumbled through the hands of various clans, religious sects, invaders and wealthy landlords – relics from these eras including churches and chapels can still be found dotted all over the island. Eigg’s tumulus history makes for some fascinating reading. At present, Eigg belongs to its own heritage trust, but political murmurings still cause the occasional tremor, as natives feel they are unfairly treated in comparison to the friends and family of the trustees.

Muck

Muck is the baby in the family of the Small Isles. It’s just 2.2 square miles; less than the distance from the Houses of Parliament to the British Museum! She’s famous for her porpoises and seals – even the name ‘muck’ is derived from ‘mouch,’ meaning ‘swine’. The ancient word for porpoise was ‘mereswine,’ so the island was likely to have been named after its first maritime inhabitants – a rarity in terms of ancient place names, which normally derive from geographic features.

Muck has a permanent population of 27 people, and has several holiday cottages and a hotel. It’s the only inhabited island without a post box.

Seals in the hebrides

Canna

Canna’s population could easily double if a couple of small tourist boats arrived on the island at once; she’s home to just 18 people! Being mile across and 4 miles wide means Canna is long and thin, which makes for an amazing coastline habitat for a plethora of wild birds, including peregrine falcons and merlins. Rare butterflies reside inland, which benefits from relatively little human footfall.

Canna harbours some of the best-preserved Bronze Age relics such as huts, walls and pottery – a perfect place for archaeology lovers to engage in some of their own detective work.

She’s linked by land to the isle of Sanday, which is walkable when the tide permits. 

 

Life as the Skipper of Zuza

Helen Walker is the skipper of Zuza, heading up an all-female crew as they sail the South African yacht around Scotland. Here’s what she has to say about life on board this fabulous vessel…

Why I like skippering Zuza

Zuza is a modern boat, custom built using the latest materials modern technology can offer – this makes her unique; truly one of a kind! One of the many reasons I so enjoy being her skipper is the comfort she offers whether under sail or motor. She combines comfortable living and fast sailing so that she can take you to remote destinations day after day, and as a skipper this is really satisfying. It embraces my passion for sailing alongside the knowledge that my guests are safe and comfortable. Zuza is also able to reach particularly remote destinations that other vessels her size can’t, thanks to her bilge keel design, and the 2 powerful engines enabling superb manoeuvrability. Wind and power: the perfect combination!

A bit about me

My love of all things sailing started in my teenage years, when I discovered sailing dinghies in the Lake District… I was hooked! A yacht sailing holiday in the Balearic islands led to me taking my day skipper ticket and volunteering with the Ocean Youth Trust. This enabled me to log sea miles and learn on the job from a multitude of highly skilled and diverse skippers on lots of different sailing boats. My first professional role at sea was as a flotilla skipper on the beautiful Dalmatian coast in Croatia. The next 20 years saw me in a variety of skipper roles from Brixham trawlers in Devon to the round-the-world challenge boats. I qualified as a yacht master instructor in 2003, enjoying the challenges in this role hugely and working my way up to cruising instructor trainer.

One of Zuza’s many perks is that she caters for all experience levels of sailing – whether you’re a complete novice looking to learn or a seasoned sailor wanting a new experience. However, if you simply want a holiday on a lovely comfortable yacht with stunning scenery, food and company, my crew work hard to anticipate your every need and make you want to visit Scotland Zuza-style year after year.

What makes Zuza comfortable

Another really unique aspect of Zuza is the completely enclosed cockpit with its 360 degree windows, so no matter what the weather, you’re right in the hot seat warm and dry. This is where the helm is, so you are welcome to steer Zuza and learn about all the navigation or simply sit back with tea and cake and watch the world go by.

Unlike most modern yachts, Zuza has sturdy hand rails around the entire deck providing easy walking, and lots of places to sit comfortably while wildlife spotting. If you fancy a swim, there’s a diving platform which is also used for boarding outer tender for daily shore excursions. Three steps downstairs brings you to our large saloon where breakfast and dinner are served – lunch depends on the day! The saloon also has wrap around windows and large hatches, and a servery where you can help yourself to fruit and biscuits and drinks. On the saloon level, Zuza has two ensuite cabins, where you can lay in your double bed with the hatch open watching the stars at night or dolphins during the day. Down another three steps is a corridor past the engine room and washing machine (which are enclosed completely) to two twin cabins (which can easily be adapted to become singles) and another toilet with a shower.

zuza-double-cabin

What to expect when booking a holiday on board Zuza

I endeavour to plan a comfortable voyage visiting new places everyday, of course the weather has the final say but my aim is to deliver the itinerary you have booked as weather permits. I like to be flexible, and we’ll have weather forecasts each morning, so over breakfast we can plan the day together. You may have a desire to go somewhere nearby and I will do my best to make this happen, likewise feel free to make contact with VentureSail prior to the voyage to discuss.

A typical day onboard Zuza
Breakfast is usually served at 8am, with cereals, toast, porridge, fresh fruit, and yoghurt followed by a cooked option. This is also where the plan for the day is discussed, along with the latest weather forecast.
We’ll have lunch whilst sailing, and it varies but you can guarantee there’s always lots of it! Soup and homemade bread, cold meats, salad, quiche, baked potatoes are just some of the options. Some days may be a packed lunch as we are ashore walking or just sitting on a golden sandy beach, followed by an afternoon tea of cake or scones with tea and coffee if underway.

Dinner is served between 1900 and 2000 and usually at anchor, having returned from a shore excursion to a hearty meal of local produce perfectly cooked by our onboard chef. A dessert or deluxe cheeseboard with drinks and coffee while we talk about our day winds up another VentureSail experience.

Zuza-saloon area-guests

Why I love the west coast of Scotland
After sailing in so many seas around the world I can honestly say the west coast of Scotland is where my heart is! Sailing from Oban offers so many diverse options to explore this stunning corner of the planet. There are 790 islands in Scotland which vary in culture, language, music and, of course, whisky! The wildlife here is spectacular and a photographers dream. A single day can bring otters, many species of dolphins, basking sharks and as for birds… there’s no place like the Shiant islands or St. Kilda for colonies of tens of thousands gannets, puffins, fulmars, guillemots and more. Just a short cruise from Oban takes you to the Treshnish islands, which is the place to get up close to puffins, or to Rum where the Manx shearwaters breed. One of the greatest, almost guaranteed sightings is that of golden and white tailed eagles – first mate Sarah is a bit of a fanatic and will be on deck spotting most of the time!
Outer Hebrides