The Wilds of Scotland – Sailing with Seals

isle of skye

In the current edition of Yachting Monthly (March 2017) you can find my article about sailing a Hanse 385 around the Summer Isles and down to Skye.

When my editor got in touch with me, asking me if I wanted to get myself up to Scotland to sail in October I thought two things;

  1. Hell no, Scotland is going to be freezing in October.
  2. I bet everybody in the office already turned this down because of #1.

But in the past three years I’ve learnt something very important about myself and that is, my first reaction is always no.

It’s not necessarily an external ‘no’. Almost always it’s an internal ‘no’ and an external, ‘ummmmmm…..sure.’

Bungee jumping: No. Well. Okay. Yes. Fine.

Skydiving: Yes but no but yes.

Sailing around the Atlantic: Yeeeaaahhhhh…..okay.

Alex Francis Sula Yacht
Photo: Alex Francis

My mother used to tell me that I’d enjoy it once I got there. She was mostly referring to long walks in the rain or muddy cycle races but even so, she was usually right. Blow the cobwebs away, she’d say, stretch your eyeballs.

I’m not going to pretend that I didn’t secretly hope the Scotland trip would fall through but, in the end, I found myself on the shores of Loch Torridon being shown around a the beautiful and shiny Sula.

A big part of my reticence with regards to sailing in Scotland was that, when the email came through, I was in the Azores during the particularly toasty September of 2016. I had been sailing in the tropics for almost two years and had only just arrived in the subtropical islands. My memories of sailing in England came with frost around the edges, how would I survive sailing in north-west Scotland?

But, as usual, I enjoyed it once I got there.

torridon kitiara pascoe
Photo: Alex Francis

In fact, it was as though Scotland had laid out the red carpet for me with seven straight days of pure sunshine, flat waters, pods of dolphins and anchorages filled with the curious snuffling of seals.

Sailing a modern yacht was a revelation as much as the glory of Scotland’s north-west coastline. For years I had been sailing in a 1974 boat with a couple of square metres of floor space inside. ‘Space’ was not a word I used in relation to my small, classically designed yacht.

But Sula was a different creature entirely and so easy to sail that, once again, I had to admit all of my doubts were imagined.

Kitiara pascoe seal
Photo: Darius K

Sailing in Scotland was something I never thought I would do, maybe even more so than sailing to the Caribbean. However, there was nothing but sunshine, nothing but perfect breezes peeling off the land and nothing more than seabirds and sneezing seals.

You can read my feature of sailing in north-west Scotland in the March edition of Yachting Monthly, published now. Maybe it’ll even inspire you to take a little trip up north and discover the cruising grounds that hide in that craggy shoreline.



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