Tall Ship Sailing: Tecla, Galapagos to Rapa Nui

I first came across the Tecla on Facebook when they posted asking for people to declare an interest in joining them in attempting to navigate the North West passage.  Unfortunately I could not afford the cost of this leg of the voyage but when I saw  they were also sailing from The Galapagos islands to Rapa Nui I signed up immediately, several months before tortoisethe trip.baltra airport So it was with a great deal of excitement and anticipation when I finally landed in Baltra airport in The Galapagos on 11th Nov.  I checked into my hotel in Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz and went straight to sleep after 5 airports, 4 flights and more than 18 hours in the air I was whacked. The next day I walked to the famous Charles Darwin Research Station and was given a very informative tour of land Iguanatheir giant tortoise and iguana breeding programmes. After a visit to Playa de los Alemanes and las grietasLas Grietas for a swim I walked to the beautiful Tortuga bay. Everyone recommended taking one of the tours on Galapagos so after asking around I booked a snorkelling day trip to Isla Pinzón. After a long, fast boat trip I found myself snorkelling with sea turtles and marine iguana as well as a mother sea lion teaching her cubs to dive for a stick. I felt very comfortable swimming with these amazing creatures but all I could think was wow! this is absolutely fantastic, I couldn’t quite believe it was happening. If that wasn’t enough on our second stop we were swimming with white tipped reef sharks and a sting ray, another surreal experience. A couple of people in the group had underwater cameras so I’m hope they’ll share some footage. On our way back to Santa Cruz we stopped off at this rock to see the blue footed boobies and sea lions, I made a mental note to  check the name of the island,  which I later discovered is Isla sin Nombre, go figure! I met up with Claudia and a few other crew mates and started to get to know each other. Unfortunately we found out that Tecla had been delayed in Equador due to the bio-security clean up and was  not allowed to come to Santa Cruz so now we had to meet the ship in San Cristobal. An extra day in Galapagos, what a bummer 😉 It was a leavingsancristobaltwo hour high speed taxi ride to San Cristobal where we met up up with another guest crew for a few beers before finally joining the ship. It was great to get on board to start the next part of the adventure. Unfortunately we had to wait over the weekend for immigration clearance an on Monday we all had to go onshore to have our passports photocopied and then  all taxied up to the immigration building which for some reason was on the outskirts of town. We eventually raised anchor under sail in late afternoon heading South into the big blue. We quickly settled into the routine of watches, eating, sleeping. Or at least trying to sleep with the engine running which unfortunately we had to use when we lost the wind to keep to schedule.

white watch
white watch

I was on white (wit) watch 04:00-08:00 and 16:00-20:00 which was great as we saw the sunrise then breakfast and we saw the sunset then dinner.  the days started to merge together as they do on long ocean passages as we headed due South 190o a heading that became etched on the memory of everyone at the helm.  To paraphrase Douglas Adams…

The Pacific is big. You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it’s a long way down the road to the chemist’s, but that’s just peanuts to The Pacific.

sun rise

voyage route
the voyage map

South of the Galapagos, but still near the equator the sunset is very early, around 18:00 but as we got further South it became later each day, but still quite fast, you could miss it just going below deck to get your camera.  On a couple of occasions when the wind dropped we had a swim stop the first was 06o 12′ South 94o 53′ West and the second was 24o 22′ South 107o 39′ West which I can safely say was the most remote swimming pool I’ve ever been in with the nearest dry land around 2000Km away.

The weather was a bit more variable than expected with a bit of everything really which meant quite a bit of sail setting, reefing and taking down. Although there was very little in the way of wildlife apart from the odd bird now and again there were a lot  of flying fish,  and during the night and early morning many landed on deck in fact I was hit on the back of the head by one whilst at the helm around 05:00. So this little fellow must have jumped/flown  some 15 feet up. Needless to say it came off worse than I did.

Hanga Roa
Hanga Roa

Ahu Vinapu

After some 14 days at sea we sighted land in the distance on 30th Nov at about 15:30 and eventually dropped anchor in Hanga La Perouse on the Noth of the island.  We celebrated our arrival that nigh which unfortunately (for me) given the combination of darkness, rain, a rolling ship and far too much alcohol on my behalf resulted in my head making an accelerated impact with the deck. The next morning I awoke and the damage and memories became clearer. Needless to say I felt rather embarrassed. With two nurses and a doctor on board I was well looked after and my injury was minor, a lump no bruising and a scar to add to my collection.  The next day we sailed round the island for our first view of the township of Hanga Roa. Later that day we had to go round to the East of the island to shelter from an incoming NW squall. We anchored in the bay near the end of the airport and within sight of Ahu Vinapu, which would be our base until we left the ship on Wednesday 4th Dec.




Tall Ship Sailing: Oban to St. Kilda on the Schooner Oosterschelde

I last sailed on the Oosterschelde in Jan 2018 from Tenerife to Cape Verde where I heard from the crew that they would most likely be coming to Scotland during the summer. When I returned home  I had a look at the Oosterschelde schedule for the coming year and saw that they were planning to sail to St. Kilda in August, an island I’d wanted to visit for a long, long time.  I joined the ship on Thur 9th Aug in Oban where it was moored to the nice new jetty in the harbour.  It was great to meet all the crew of this fantastic ship again. During the initial briefing for the guest crew the skipper, Maarten suggested that the voyage would be planned to try and cover whatever we, as guests wanted to get out of the trip and as someone had mentioned the Corryvreckan we motored through the night and arrived there around 00:30. It was very dark so we couldn’t see much but we certainly felt the effect when we throttled back on the engines.  After messing about at the Corryvrecken for a while we set course for Tobermory and arrived the next morning.  Most of the guest crew went ashore and had a wander around and some of us visited the distillery for the tour and I bought a nice bottle of LedaigWe set sail later that day on our way to Muck and passed the Lord Nelson as it was coming into Tobermory.  We arrived late in the evening at Port Mòr and some of the guests and crew went ashore for a walk, whilst I stayed on board.  Sat morning was beautiful and sunny so after breakfast most of us went ashore to explore the island which is quite small but very beautiful with great views of Eigg, Rum and the mainland.  We joined the ship later that day and set sail for the Talisker distillery  on the Isle of Sky.  A very nice day of sailing in great weather. We anchored in Loch Harport and after dinner went ashore to the local pub, the Old Inn, Carbost.

After spending some time outside enjoying the evening air the midges got the better of us so we heading into the pub to catch the thankfully final ‘tune’ from  a very drunk bagpiper. I got chatting a guy called Marten from Germany who was on holiday with his two kids, so I invited then on a tour of the ship and arranged to pick them up at the jetty at abut 12:00 the next day (Sun).  Marten and his kids loved the tour and thought the ship was fantastic.  We had a short briefing from the skipper who updated us on the weather report and suggested that if we wanted to make it to St. Kilda then now was as good a time as any with a good weather window giving us enough time to get there and back before a major storm moved in from the South West.  So we set sail and headed through the Sound of Harris en route to St. Kilda and I took my turn on the first watch (red) that night. Once we cleared the Sound of Harris it was open water between us and St. Kilda and sailing through the night we caught first sight of the islands looming out of the mist  at around 07:00 on Mon 13th Aug. We anchored in the bay of Hirta  and after one of the crew checked in with the island warden we all went ashore to explore this amazing island. 

As I said before I’d always wanted to come here and it surpassed all my expectations. I knew a bit about the island’s history from books and documentary films but being here walking the village street and going into some of the houses brought it all to life, the hardship, the isolation, the community, the stark beauty and force of nature and a life quite literally on the edge. There is quite a bit of activity on the island as the MoD have a base an NTS station and a resident ranger as well as a number of researchers from Edinburgh University. I got chatting to a couple of the researches from Edinburgh who were conducting a vegetation study  of the plants which formed the main diet of the local, wild Soay sheep. The study of these wild sheep is apparently one of the the longest running mammalian studies in the world. The sheep probably arrived with the first settlers around 4000 years ago and until 1932 they were only on the small Isle of Soay but in 1932 the flock of 107 were moved to Hirta where they have been ever since and now number 1401 and appear to be getting larger. I could easily have spent a lot longer on Hirta but due to the encroaching weather front we had to leave later that day and headed towards the isle of Boreray and Stac an Armin, spectacular rocky outposts to the North East of Hirta absolutely teeming with sea birds. We then set sail again with Dunvegan in the Isle of Skye our next port of call. We sailed through the night back through the Sound of Harris with the lights of Leverburgh and all the warning buoys making it an interesting watch that night. Come the morning the Approaching weather front began to catch up with us and we picked up a fair bit of speed topping over 8 knots at times, which was really exhilarating.  We dropped anchor  in Loch Dunvegan and most of us headed ashore to visit Dunvegan Castle, the clan seat of the clan MacLeod, always worth a visit, especially in the company of a fellow MacLeod from Nova Scotia. It was a really wet day but the gardens were still beautiful followed by a quick dinghy tour around the loch to visit seal colonies, a great day all round. Leaving Dunvegan later that day we dropped anchor on Loch Snizort Beag for the night.  Wed morning was beautiful with light winds in the loch but Maarten expertly maneuvered us around and out to sea under sail alone where the winds picked up significantly and pretty soon we were making over 6 knots on our way to Tarbert on the Isle of Harris arriving there in beautiful weather at around 15:30. Some of us went ashore and checked out the new gin distillery.  We set sail from Tarbert on Thur morning heading for Stornoway with more great sailing, beautiful weather and fantastic views of the Shiants, and  dolphins  which are always a welcome sight. Manon and I spent a good deal of the afternoon  guiding some of the guest crew up to the yards to experience the view in fairly calm conditions. We planned to spend two nights in Stornoway where have a lot of family from my fathers side so I called my cousin Rodney who came down to the ship and I gave him, his daughter and grandson a tour of the ship.  I spent the next day with Rodney driving around the island visiting some local sights and some of his old friends, a great day out and fantastic to catch up with long lost family.  That night after a few beers a few of us headed up to Lewes Castle fully expecting it to be closed, as it was but a really nice guy who was locking up invited us in a gave us a private tour which was fantastic. The community really have done an amazing job on the restoration. We left Stornoway on our last sailing day heading for our final destination of Ullapool. There were strong winds and we topped 10 knots at one point so we made good time which for most of us meant the end of the trip came too soon. Of course the end of a voyage is always a good excuse for a party and this was no exception, a great barbecue accompanied by a few beers and later on some very dubious dancing, including our version of ceilidh-disco fusion, you really had to be there. Sun morning meant we had to leave the ship so we said our farewells to the amazing crew and most of the guests caught the bus to Inverness for onward journeys, a last few beers and goodbyes to good friends it was onto the train and heading home, until the next time Oosterschelde.

Tall ship sailing: Liverpool to Dublin Regatta on the Brig Morgenster

When I saw that the Morgenster was taking part in the very first Three Festivals Regatta and was sailing from Liverpool to Dublin on the first leg I didn’t hesitate to sign up.  This was the first tall ship I sailed on back in Feb 2017 and I had such a fantastic time it was a no-brainer to join this wonderful ship once again.  I’d never sailed in a regatta before  so I had no idea of what to expect.

I joined the ship in Liverpool on Sun 27th May and it was great to meet all the crew again, and of course the new guest crew. There was quite a good mix of guests with a group from Dublin with Sail Training Ireland, a group of young company sponsored apprentices and the rest of us.  I was on white (wit)  watch with our first stint on Mon/Tue 00:00 – 04:00. By Tue we were making good speed but the sea was a bit rough and some of the guest crew were the worse for it with quite a few wee buckets being carried around.  By this time we were well ahead of  the other class A ships, Lord Nelson, Belem and Belle Poule with only one other ship in the race ahead of us, Maybe.  With the wind dying away it was getting more difficult to gain any distance North to follow our planned route around the Isle of Mann, but with a lot of tacking and the skill of our captain Jakob we eventually made headway and rounded the North of the island.  When we did eventually catch some wind we overshot our way point so had to backtrack a bit.  On Wed night we anchored near Lambay Island just off the Irish coast and watched a beautiful sunset.

It has to be said that this voyage was memorable for many, many reasons, not least of which were our musical entertainment, especially the force of nature that was Seamus, a hard act to follow, belting out such classics as ‘five fresh fish’ as never before.

On Thur 31st May we crossed the finish line in second place behind Maybe but first in our class and anchored just outside Dun Laoghaire harbour.  The next morning we headed off to motor up the Liffey into Dublin making a good show as we were the only ship to set our sails. Later that day we had RTE onboard making a film about the Sail Training Ireland crew members, so we had our wee bit of fame on Irish TV. Saturday was the big crew get together and awards ceremony, which were almost late for but we arrived just in time to hear our ship being declared the winner in class A

which involved a very large cup and one hell of a party afterwards. A great voyage to remember for so many reasons, good friends, great sailing, fantastic musical entertainment, beautiful weather and to cap it all “we won”!!!