Step aboard the magnificent Bessie Ellen and embark on a remarkable journey through time as she celebrates 120 years of heritage sailing. Built in 1904 and lovingly restored, Bessie Ellen stands as a living testament to her maritime history, overflowing with stories from the past.
In her 2024 season, she will set sail around the British Isles, unveiling the mesmerising landscapes and seafaring heritage of the United Kingdom. Join her on one of her celebratory voyages as you immerse yourself in a hands-on sailing experience that will transport you back to a bygone era.
Spanning fourteen legs, Bessie Ellen’s voyage will showcase the coasts of Cornwall, the rugged shores of Wales and Scotland, the mystical Orkney Islands, and the East Coast. Each leg of the journey offers a unique opportunity to delve into the rich heritage of traditional sailing, exploring the history behind Bessie Ellen and her seafaring ancestors.
All the different legs promise an immersive experience where you can actively participate in sailing the ship. Feel the thrill of taking the helm, and learn the art of hoisting the sails through traditional rope work. As you engage in the fascinating practice of celestial navigation, you will connect with the age-old methods of guiding a ship by the stars. It’s an incredible chance to embrace the seafaring traditions of the past and acquire skills that have been passed down through generations.
Bessie Ellen’s Heritage Sailing History
To truly appreciate the significance of Bessie Ellen’s 120-year celebrations, it is essential to understand her remarkable heritage. Originally built in Plymouth in 1904, this west-country trading ketch has quite literally witnessed the changing tides of history. She began her seafaring life as a cargo ship, navigating treacherous waters and transporting goods across Ireland, Wales and the West Counties. Over the years, she has weathered storms, explored distant shores, and forged a deep connection with the maritime world.
In more recent years, she has been restored with meticulous attention by her current owner and skipper Nikki. Her wooden decks, towering masts, and traditional rigging transport you to a time when sail ruled the seas. The stories etched into her timbers whisper of daring adventures, incredible discoveries, and the relentless spirit of exploration.
Preserving historic vessels like Bessie Ellen is vital to our seafaring maritime heritage. These traditional wooden vessels serve as tangible links to our maritime past, allowing us to connect with the traditions, skills, and stories of those who sailed before us. They embody a bygone era when sailing was at the forefront of exploration and trade, reminding us of the bravery and resilience of our seafaring ancestors.
Maintaining historic vessels ensures that future generations can experience the magic of sailing on these iconic ships. By keeping them in sailing condition, we are providing opportunities for people to engage in hands-on experiences, learning traditional skills, and immersing themselves in the rich history of seafaring.
Preserving historic vessels encourages the ongoing development of traditional shipbuilding and restoration skills. The knowledge and craftsmanship required to maintain these vessels are passed down through generations, ensuring that invaluable skills are not lost to time. These skills, rooted in centuries of seafaring expertise, contribute to the broader maritime industry and support a thriving ecosystem of maritime trades.
By joining Bessie Ellen’s 120-year celebrations, you are becoming a part of this living history. You will have the opportunity to converse with experienced crew members who possess a wealth of knowledge about the ship’s heritage. Listen to their tales of life at sea and absorb their passion for preserving the art of traditional sailing.
Bessie Ellen’s 120-year celebrations offer an opportunity to step into the world of maritime heritage. As you sail around the British Isles, you will be enveloped in the stories and seafaring traditions that have already shaped Bessie Ellen’s journey. Feel the wind in your hair, embrace the spirit of exploration, and create your own memories aboard this magnificent vessel. Celebrate her remarkable journey as she continues to sail into the future, preserving the legacy of heritage sailing for generations to come.
Tired of the usual go-to choices for your next family trip? Then why not join us for a stress-free skippered family sailing holiday?
Our unique fleet sail in stunning locations around the globe offering a range fully skippered and catered sailing adventures. Best of all, no experience is needed to climb aboard and guests have the option of doing as little or as much as they like. From individual berths to whole boat charters, set sail on a skippered family sailing holiday with us in 2023!
Why choose a family sailing holiday?
Our family sailing holidays provide an ideal opportunity for families to connect and create lasting memories. With no distractions you can focus on spending quality time together, engaging and forming strong family bonds. Sailing holidays also encourage self-reliance, problem-solving, and teamwork. Children will also have the chance to actively participate in sailing tasks. These could include helping hoist the sails, steer the ship, and learning the ropes of seamanship under the guidance of experienced crew members. Of course there are benefits for parents too, as you relax, unwind and indulge with no cooking, cleaning or washing up to do!
Whether you’re dreaming of traditional sailing in Denmark, luxurious escapades in Sardinia, embarking on a thrilling pirate ship adventure in the Caribbean, discovering the wonders of the Faroe Islands, or sailing the crystal-clear waters of the Saronic Islands in Greece, we have curated an array of remarkable experiences to cater to every family’s desires. Keep reading to discover five of the best family sailing holidays for 2023, handpicked by VentureSail.
1. Greek Island Sailing on Zorba A short flight to Athens and you can be on board Zorba within a couple of hours of landing for your family sailing holiday in Greece. Teenagers will love the Instagram-worthy turquoise waters and out-of-this world scenery. There is also the chance for the whole family to swim, snorkel and explore ancient historic sites all whilst soaking up the Grecian sun. Each island is completely different so no two days are the same – boredom is not an option!
Warm evenings are spent in local taverna’s feasting on delicious traditional Greek cuisine. It’s the perfect way to switch off, relax and get back to simple family pleasures while enjoying good food, fabulous weather and comfortable accommodation. Owners Aga and Greg are the perfect hosts, making a stress-free sailing experience. The relaxed and friendly atmosphere aboard Zorba encourages quality family time. Spend evenings stargazing from the deck, sharing stories and laughter, and forging bonds that will last a lifetime. View Zorba‘s 2023 Summer Schedule >
2.Sustainable Family Adventure Holiday in Denmark
A sustainable family sailing holiday in Denmark’s South Funen will certainly capture the imaginations of parents and children alike. Step aboard magnificent schooner Aron, a beautifully preserved historic tall ship. A family sailing holiday with Aron is a journey where time seems to slow down, and the cares of the world fade away. This traditional sailing holiday also presents a unique blend of relaxation, exploration, and cultural immersion. Children will undoubtedly delight in helping hoist the sails and steer the ship, fostering a sense of adventure, teamwork, and independence.
The islands of South Funen reveal a world of enchantment, with each possessing its own distinct personality and landscape. From the charming island of Skaaro, renowned for its delectable ice cream and idyllic thatched cottages, to the fairy-tale town of Ærøskøbing on the island of Ærø, where 18th-century architecture transports you to a bygone era. Embracing the power of the Baltic winds, this journey emphasises ecological consciousness, sustainability, and local experiences.While you indulge in delicious home-cooked meals using locally sourced produce, you can also relish the tranquility of the sea, the sound of wind-filled sails, and the gentle creaking of the wooden ship. Children of all ages are welcome aboard Aron, while it is advisable for younger children to have some prior experience at sea. The ship provides a safe and comfortable environment for families to create lasting memories together.
3.Swashbuckling Caribbean Family Holiday Ahoy, pirates! Prepare to set sail on a thrilling Caribbean holiday aboard the historic tall ship Florette. Here families, children, and teenagers will experience the adventure of a lifetime, just like in the Pirates of the Caribbean. Florette even has a voyage tailor-made for the Christmas holidays! Her Caribbean family sailing holidays offer a perfect blend of island hopping, exhilarating sailing, and endless opportunities for tropical exploration and relaxation. The experience of sailing on this magnificent vessel is certainly integral part of the adventure, allowing children and teenagers to witness the power of the wind as they hoist the sails and steer the ship.
Island hopping through the Windward Islands will unveil a world of natural wonders and thrilling activities. Discover secluded bays with crystal-clear waters, perfect for swimming, snorkelling, and kayaking. Meanwhile, paddle along the coastline, marvelling at natural rock formations, or relax on pristine sandy beaches that stretch for miles. Captain Ron, who grew up on the ship himself, and now sails with his two daughters, shares the ship’s fascinating history with guests, captivating young minds with tales of adventure and exploration.
Set sail on an extraordinary family sailing holiday with traditional Indonesian vessels Katharina and Ombak Putih for a once in a lifetime family adventure to the furthest corners of this island nation. Both vessels offer a range of experiences, from encountering the Orangutans of Borneo to witnessing the mighty dragons of Komodo and swimming alongside the legendary whale sharks. Indonesia’s endemic species, protected coral reefs, and ancient rainforests provide a haven for wildlife enthusiasts and adventure seekers. As you watch the sunrise over the stunning volcanic landscapes, you’ll breathe in the fresh ocean air and immerse yourself in the wonders of Indonesia.
On board both vessels, your family will experience the warmth of Indonesian culture and hospitality. Each ship offers kayaks, snorkeling gear, and SUPs for guests to enjoy, while the attentive crew can organize additional activities ashore. Indonesia’s pristine coral reefs, teeming with a rich variety of marine species, offer unparalleled snorkeling opportunities. Escape the tourist crowds and discover the untouched beauty of these remote areas, where the reefs have flourished undisturbed. Our family sailing holidays in Indonesia provide the perfect chance to explore these remarkable underwater worlds, ensuring a truly unforgettable experience for families, children, and teenagers alike.
5. Family sailing holiday to the breathtaking Faroe Islands
Join adventure yacht Cherokee to explore the Faroe Islands, nestled in the depths of the North Atlantic Ocean. This unique sailing area boasts fantasy-like landscapes, dramatic cliffs, and breathtaking waterfalls. The Faroe Islands is a truly otherworldly setting that will leave families in awe. Exploring these enchanting isles by boat unveils otherwise inaccessible beauty spots. This ensures an extraordinary experience for families seeking to connect with nature and discover the wonders of this isolated paradise.
Families are warmly encouraged to actively participate in all aspects of sailing, guided by skipper Jouke’s relaxed expertise. Take the helm, lend a hand with winching the sails, anchor the yacht, and even learn basic chart navigation. Prepare for an unforgettable journey through this magical corner of the world aboard Cherokee, where family sailing and extraordinary natural beauty intertwine to create lifelong memories. View this voyage here >
If you have any questions about a skippered family sailing holiday or would like to find out more please contact [email protected] or call one of our friendly team on 01872 487288.
With ice covered fjords, colossal glaciers and soaring mountains, the wild and fragile landscape of Svalbard is on the bucket list for many of us. But as with any truly world class destination,travelling to Svalbard can seem daunting, with an overload of travel information to be found online. We are well versed in travelling to this remote destination, so whether you’re looking to join us for a skippered sailing tour of Svalbard, or you’re just searching for some top tips for your own journey, let us take you through a simple guide of everything you need to know before you visit Svalbard.
What you need to know about travelling to Svalbard
Svalbard is part of the Arctic circle and is the northernmost settlement in the world. Although many think of Svalbard as an island, it is in fact the name of the entire archipelago, home to nine unique islands. The main island, Spitsbergen, is home to the main settlement of Longyearben, where our tall ship Noorderlicht departs from. The other islands are less inhabited, and it’s important to remember that visitors cannot leave Longyearben without a registered guide due to the dangers of Polar bears and the harsh local climate.
One of the most important things to remember when planning a Svalbard holiday is the fragile nature of this landscape, and the impact that visitors can have on it. A sailing holiday on our traditional tall ship is the most sustainable way possible to travel to Svalbard when compared to a larger cruise, but it is still important to consider your impact on the environment here. Svalbard is being greatly affected by the effects of climate change and this will only continue in the future, with a particular impact on the local wildlife. This shouldn’t be a reason not to visit Svalbard, as long as you are visiting with a company that adheres to the strict regulations put in place to protect Svalbard. Noorderlicht is one of few boats that has been awarded an annual licence to operate in the area.
How to get to Svalbard
The easiest way to travel to Svalbard is through a connecting flight. Tromso or Oslo in Norway both have several connecting flights a day to Longyearben. Most major airports in Europe have flights available to Tromso and Oslo. Once you’ve touched down in Longyearben, there will be taxis and buses waiting to meet each incoming flight, stopping at the marina where Noorderlicht is based on request. If you’re planning to stay in Longyearben before or after your trip, the airport shuttle service will stop at all hotels in the centre.
Where to stay Svalbard
Of course the best (and most unique) place to stay on your visit to Svalbard is on a traditional tall ship! Where else will you find handcrafted accommodation, all inclusive meals freshly prepared by the onboard cook, and a new arctic view to wake up to each day? However, if you’re looking for some more traditional accommodation, perhaps before or after your Svalbard sailing adventure with us, we recommend visiting the tourism board for a full list of hotels and places to stay. These include modern hotels, independent apartments and even the world’s northernmost campsite for visitors in the summer months.
When is the best time to visit Svalbard
Sunny Winter – 1st March to 16th May. The most ‘normal’ season on Svalbard, with a clear distinction between night and day. After the long polar winter, nature awakens, and the landscapes become more diversified and teeming with wildlife.
Polar Summer – 17th May to 30th September. Polar summer includes the Svalbard phenomenon of the Midnight Sun where the sun rises on the 20th of April and does not set again until the 23rd of August. This phenomenon is a wonder to behold, and also marks the true awakening of flora and fauna found on Svalbard as the temperatures reach the highs of 6˚c.
Arctic Winter – 1st October to 28th February. Arctic winter includes the Polar night, when the sun sets on the 26th of October and does not rise again until the 16th of February. With the archipelago embraced in darkness, this is undoubtedly one of the best times of year to see the Northern lights in Svalbard!
Our sailing trips to Svalbard run between April and September, meaning there’s a chance to sail in the Sunny Winter and Polar Summer. Sailing in these months means you too can experience the incredible phenomenon of the Midnight sun or even the Northern lights. The months between April and September are well known for being the best times of year to see the widest variety of wildlife on land, sea or sky!
Things to do in Svalbard
Guided hikes in Svalbard
Although many operators in Svalbard offer hikes and excursions around the island, these can prove costly. The most economical and environmentally friendly way to see all the top destinations in Svalbard is on a sailing adventure with us! All our voyages have daily guided hikes ashore which are an amazing way to see all that Svalbard has to offer, and discover the incredible flora, fauna, geography and history of the area.
Watch out for wildlife
The call to visit Svalbard for many starts with the chance to see some of the world’s rarest and most endangered wildlife. Sailing in Svalbard allows you to get up close with some incredible creatures in their natural habitat, with minimal disturbance to them and their environment. Although the old tale of there being more polar bears than people is not quite the case, there are still many chances to see Polar bears in the wilderness as they explore the ice. The Svalbard Reindeer, Arctic Fox and Sibling Vole – who all thrive in these conditions as they are capable of building up enough fat reserves to survive the harsh winter, are common spots in this corner of the world.
The sailing waters around the archipelago are also home to many incredible marine animals that make a once in a lifetime spot on your trip to Svalbard. These include mystical fairy-tale Narwhals, and over 10 different species of whales, including Blue, humpback, fin, Beluga and Minke. Spend time on the spacious, open decks of tall ship Noorderlicht watching out for these creatures, and have your binoculars at the ready for some more frequent sightings of walruses, seals and the incredible bird life here.
Ghost town exploring
Svalbard has a plethora of ghost towns and whale hunting stations, quite literally frozen in time. Explore the historic Russian settlement of Pyrimaden, the town named after the pyramid shaped mountain that it sits next to. Now largely abandoned, there is a small hotel which houses the Pyramiden Museum alongside a post office and souvenir shop. The town has been well preserved, largely due to the cold weather and offers an incredible insight into the long mining and whaling history of Svalbard throughout the centuries.
Explore the numerous Glaciers
All of our voyages and trips to Svalbard make sure to visit to some of the area’s most impressive glaciers. Being on board Noorderlicht with its shallow draft means exploring bays that cannot be reached by land or by other larger tour boats in the area.
One glacier that Noorderlicht visits regularly is the breathtaking green-blue bay of Magdalenafjord, one of the most impressive in Spitsbergen. With a gorgeous beach, impressive vistas of the mountain tops and glaciers, this bay is an incredible stopping point. A truly rugged landscape, its vastness is impossible to explain with words. The local fauna has taken over and there are regular sightings of reindeer, polar bears, and walruses.
Head to Trygghamna bay on your sailing adventure trip to Svalbard, before a guided hike to Alkhornet cliff where some 10,000 pairs of different seabirds breed. The carbonate cliffs are more than a billion years old, meaning you’re truly at one with an ancient landscape. If you’re not feeling up to the whole hike, simply marvel at the tundra landscape at the base of the cliff, with gentle grazing meadows for the local reindeer, as well as many great wildlife spots of arctic foxes and polar bears.
Walk in Whalers footsteps
Although all our voyages visit sites of whaling history, we also run a number of voyages with a special focus; ‘Sailing in the Whalers Footsteps’. The history of whaling is long, often controversial, but it no doubt plays an important part in the heritage and modern day community of Svalbard. Get a feel for historical life on your visit to Svalbard. Voyage to the 17th century island of AmsterdamØya to witness the remains of daily life in the arctic wilderness. Or visit Kvitfiskstranda, ‘white whale beach’ where there are reminders of the past hunting of Beluga whales, which fortunately have returned to swim in the bays here.
What to pack for a trip to Svalbard
We provide a full extensive packing and kit list ahead of your voyage to Svalbard, but here are just a few of our top tips;
Layers, layers and more layers! Quick-drying layers are a must so you can adjust quickly depending on the temperature. Warm, lined, waterproofs are necessary, as well as base/thermal layers and water-proof boots. All clothing and accessories for a cold winter environment such as hats, scarves and gloves. Sun protection and polarised sunglasses are also necessary due to the sun glare from the snow!
Although the arctic climate means that keeping warm is of the utmost importance, below decks on Noorderlicht offers a warm respite from the cold, so you’ll need light, comfortable clothes for relaxing times on board.
Our secret top tip for a trip to Svalbard is to mark your boots, as most places indoors in Longyearben you have to remove your shoes before entering. This is due to a decades old custom leftover from the days of mining, where the local residents had to remove their boots to enter shops and restaurants to avoid the mess of the coal dust!
Join us for an adventure sailing tour of Svalbard
If you’d like to learn more about a visit to Svalbard on a sailing adventure with us, head to Noorderlicht’s page to find out more information about specific voyages. If you’re interested in learning more about the location, head to our Svalbard destination page for all the latest information!
The benefit of spending time near the water has been long-understood; listening to the waves and allowing the soothing sounds to wash away our woes. But what is it about the water that is so therapeutic and how exactly does this aptly named ‘blue therapy’ work?
Cast Off As an ‘always on’ society, it can be really hard to find ways to switch off. This is where being at sea truly comes into its own and all our guests confirm that climbing aboard the vessel they experience a subtle psychological shift, stepping off land, onto the water and away from it all. No longer physically connected to life ashore, we begin to unwind. Casting off and setting sail there is a true sense of having escaped, leaving anxieties and troubles behind.
The Benefits of Being at Sea While the health benefits of green spaces are well documented, research in recent years has shown that ‘blue spaces’ can have an even greater effect on wellbeing. A 2013 study on happiness in natural environments found that proximity to the coastline or marine environments had the greatest effect on an individuals happiness. One of the largest reasons for this is the psychologically restorative effect that water has. The evidence is clear that spending time around water has been consistently shown to increase positive mood and reduce stress, and there’s no better way to experience this than on a boat!
Sanctuary at Sea The therapeutic qualities of the sea are now growing in popularity with increasing bodies of evidence now supporting the benefits of being in, on or around the water. This is no surprise for Cornish mental health charity Sea Sanctuary who have long placed the sea at the heart of their programmes and pride themselves on ‘taking therapy out of the office and onto the water’. Teaming up with historic ketch Irene of Bridgwater, Sea Sanctuary are able to offer a range of sailing programmes, all focused on reducing stress and anxiety whilst rejuvenating bodies and minds in a non-medicalised way.
VentureSail Holidays are proud to confirm that Irene has also joined our fleet, offering guests the chance to take to the water and explore the Cornish coast under sail. We are contributing a percentage of each Irene booking to Sea Sanctuary to support their invaluable charitable work. View Irene’s Schedule >
Chase away the Blues
All our ventures offer the chance to experience the magic of the water, from voyages to far-flung St Kilda to cruises around the Cornish coast and Isles of Scilly. There is something very special about being completely surrounded by water, the fluid motion and tranquility of life on the waves is something that lures guests time and time again. Why not climb aboard and experience some blue therapy first hand? We are confident you will return to shore feeling revived and restored with a new found love for the sea.
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.
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!
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.
Nikki 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.
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 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!
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.
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 beautifulanchorages. My trip was aboard Escape, but Our Daddy and Pilgrim of Brixham also sail around these waters.
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.
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.
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 Colonsay 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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
Situated on the West coast of Scotland, the Isle of Skye is a popular island destination for the nature-loving traveller. From rolling hill hikes, mountain climbs, sea-shore wanders and wonderful wildlife spotting, it’s easy to see why visitors return year on year.
Featured in many poems and folk songs, Skye is the largest island in the Hebrides and arguably one of the most beautiful. The Cullin Ridge makes 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 exploring to be done, from Viking ruins to sections of dramatic coastal walking.
A sailing holiday in Scotland is a great way to explore Skye’s diverse coastline. Its peninsula-based shape is large enough to have different levels of precipitation from one end to the other, making sure that there will be a sheltered anchorage somewhere nearby. 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 watching on Skye
Wildlife in Skye is rife, and many native maritime invertebrate species are critical to other local fauna, which include salmon and sea otters, among other bird-life. Red deer stroll the hills while Sea Eagles soar the coast catching Salmon in race with the seals. Dolphins are often seen in wonder swimming in the wake of the bow and the North part of the coast has been known to be part of a whale migratory route so keep your binoculars to hand.
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. Despite the larger population of the island, exploring the coast by boat takes you far away from the busy ports and main towns. Discover tranquil bays only accessible by boat and walk through sleepy villages with artists studios and local farm shops.
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.
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 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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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!