Preposterous seas & pies by post

Date published: 29 November 2018

Bikinis on deck, early morning yoga sessions and cold beers marked the start of the season, as warm sunshine and good breezes made for some fantastic sailing.  With such beautiful weather, guests enjoyed some invigorating swimming and walking on the white sandy beaches of Sanna Bay and the gorgeous sands of Oronsay.

Anyone who sails with us regularly knows all about the 3Ps and the 3Fs.  A safety brief is a compulsory start to any cruise and the 3Fs - fire, flood and falling in the water (just don't!) – form the basis for this chat.  This year, a guest suggested that there should actually be 4 Fs, for when things go really wrong.  The 3Ps are equally important, but they refer to the essentials of potty training – perhaps it's better if I stop there!

Our evenings are often spent in some of the most remote and unspoilt anchorages in the Hebrides and of course the west coast of Scotland is the best place to enjoy the setting of the sun.  We have been treated to some remarkable and spectacular sunsets where the skies have been ablaze with a riot of ever-changing colours.

Wildlife encounters are always special and we have had a few notable sightings this year.  The strangest we witnessed was about a mile off the coast of Soay, where a young red deer swam past the boat as we were sailing south.  It seemed quite unconcerned and paddled off, head held high towards the distant shore.  Strange but true!  There was the usual mixture of common and bottle-nosed dolphins and an amazing display of minkes off the east coast of Lewis. Puffins on the Treshnish Isles and on the Shiants continue to enrapture guests with their comical antics and the sea eagles in Loch Spelve put on a wonderful performance for us one evening.  Porpoises were in plentiful supply everywhere, but basking sharks were elusive with only two isolated sightings this year.

Hard to believe, but we do have one or two guests who swear blind that they never drink whisky.  We know differently!  Many have been “turned” after a few nosing and tasting sessions.  With a lot of interest in the whisky making process, we incorporated a few distillery visits in our cruises, including Oban, Tobermory, Ardnamurchan, Talisker and the new establishment on Harris.

On a tour of the North Minch we experienced Pie-ma-geddon in Lochinver, feasting on goodies from the famous Lochinver Larder.  Their delicious pies such as venison and cranberry or spiced sweet potato, squash and goats cheese are sent all over the world – and in case you get your pies mixed up, the base of each pie is inscribed with the filling’s initials.

We are always fortunate when a keen fisherman arrives onboard - tireless in their quest for a fresh catch. We have enjoyed lines dripping with mackerel, creels full of crabs and the occasional lobster. Even better, they often prepare it and bring it to the table beautifully displayed for all to enjoy.

Good food sustains us after a day at sea and we are lucky to have some excellent local suppliers -Jackson Brothers (Master Butchers), the Kitchen Garden delicatessen and Willie Fish for fresh and smoked fish. Further afield, we take every opportunity to call in to the island of South Rona, where Bill and Lorraine Cowie provide us with their island venison and even a recipe to go with it - a great service. We've enjoyed fresh baked scones, Oz style, and guests have re-branded Moonshadow’s own cheese muffins - twice now, from “cheesy puffins” to “chuffins”.

But food's not just for eating, you know! As one crew member discovered when he watched Colin use a Yorkie bar to navigate across the chart plotter screen one day.  Apparently it takes approximately three Yorkies to sail from Tobermory to the Isle of Muck!

This was the year we renamed one of the categories of sea state. Guests will listen with interest to the inshore forecasts being broadcast on the VHF and Colin will usually explain a lot of the meteorological jargon that is used in the forecast.  Sea conditions are described in ascending order from smooth, slight, and moderate up through rough and high to the top of the scale – phenomenal.  During one particular passage this season the weather began to deteriorate and one of the guests asked if the sea state had reached “preposterous” yet!  We felt this was a much better adjective. I am also pleased say that Moonshadow has fortunately not experienced such seas first-hand!   

Our guests come from all airts and pairts, as we say up here, and topics of conversation cover everything from Scottish independence and elephant polo to the merits of a Dyson hairdryer and celebrity gossip from the set of Outlander.  We took a party of Canadian guests to the Isle of Eigg, to research their roots and the discovery there of old Uncle John filled in gaps of their family history!  Young teenagers onboard made us feel really old when they asked "who's Terry Wogan?”.

We even now know someone who comes down to breakfast via a fireman's pole and he can play the tin whistle through his nose!  We "chased the light" around the Small Isles and Skye with a Polish Adventure Photography Company - some impressive images resulted.

Romance is always in the air and this year we witnessed a proposal on the slopes of the Cuillins, then a wedding on the shores of Loch Coruisk (different couple!). Onboard we celebrated an anniversary with a game of Mr & Mrs. With the TV show theme tune downloaded to a mobile phone, questions were posed to couples with much hilarity and a fair bit of trepidation. One crew of very inventive guests compiled an A-Z of flora and fauna spotted on passage.  "A" was for alpaca – so keep your eyes peeled the next time you go through Kylerhea!  Further evening entertainment involved assembling a few dressing-up props to play the chocolate game (what better way to deal with some chocolate lobsters from the Tobermory Chocolate Shop?), a few rounds of Mexican Train Dominoes and who could forget the riotous evenings spent playing Spoons!

So, with the arrival of Autumn, we would like to raise a glass to all our guests who have made this year so memorable:  to the ball girls and boys who mastered the hoisting of the anchor ball so admirably, to the dishwashers who made mundane chores in the galley fun, to the napkin folders who gave us an elegant and welcoming dinner table, to the "mother watches" who discharged their duties with grace, thank you all for being such fabulous company -  Slainte!

Pauline Taylor

Moonshadow Yacht Charter Ltd