I’m no stranger to the Scottish Islands, but this was a whole new perspective.
I was aboard a meticulously restored, classic Brixham Trawler by the name of Provident.
Originally built as a fishing vessel, Provident celebrates 100 years at sea in 2024, and thanks to new owners, Morag & Steve, she is a marvel for her age.
One of very few National Historic Ships which is still fit to sail, this special ship is quite the celebrity of the seas.
Campbell Captures Scotland and I were kindly invited on a wee working holiday; a Provident-style, island-hopping adventure.
Boarding the ship at Dunstaffnage Marina Ltd, I didn’t know exactly what to expect; it was a journey into the unknown.
To some, sailing is a past-time and a passion. To others, it’s an alien world; intimidating and elitist.
If you fall into the latter category, Provident could very well change your mind.
No prior sailing experience is required. In fact, Morag & Steve, take joy in (literally) showing you the ropes, handing over the helm, and encouraging you to get involved out on deck.
As a teen, I sailed the Greek Islands on one of the Tall Ships, in my 20s I was a tour guide on sailing trips in Croatia and in Scotland, I’ve travelled on many RIBS, boats and ferries.
Sailing skills, however? None at all. Chaotic and uncoordinated with difficulty following instructions? Aye, that would be me.
Regardless, I learned about the throat and peak, lines and gaskets, sweating and tailing.
I observed the skill and synchronicity in sailing a classic ship; I got hands-on too, not that I was much use!
Our adventures were forged by the conditions on the day; at the glory and mercy of the wind and sea.
Time became a fluid concept; I didn’t know what day of the week it was, I was just there, present in each moment.
Gazing upon a yellowy moon, smudged by clouds in the dark and quiet bay at Lochaline, the towers of Ardtornish House just visible amongst the trees on the shore.
Breathing in the cool, salty air out on deck or a warm, mouthwatering waft of home-baking from the galley below.
Being anchored in a bay off the coast of Ulva, the setting sun spilling out a trail of glistening gold from its position just above the horizon.
Huddling in the cosy deck house on a wet afternoon, sipping a mug of homemade tomato soup; raindrops on the windows, silver waves slipping by.
Having the Isle of Staffa all to ourselves when the last boat tour departed. It was just us and the puffins. So many puffins!
Falling asleep on deck, in the middle of the afternoon; rocked into a deep sleep like a baby in a seaborne cot, drifting on the waves to the land of nod.
Steve said this was a great success, the ‘Provi effect’, obviously acknowledging my usual high energy and restlessness.
Steering us into a bay at the north of Kerrera for our final night; holding the helm, just like so many in the whole century before me. Not bad for a lassie who can’t drive!
Listening to the ship breathe a sign of relief when the motor is switched off and silenced; sailing as she was always intended.
People from all over the world have connections to Provident and its past; their stories and memories are as much a part of this ship as the striking red sails.
Mine is a tale of 7 nights and 163 nautical miles, circumnavigating the Isle of Mull; 5 islands, 2 for the first time, and many mindful moments on the ship in-between.
It’s an experience I’ll never forget
Details on the 2 new islands, coming in my next post…
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NEED TO KNOWS:
Campbell and I shared a twin cabin with bunk beds. They are small but comfortable with enough storage for two bags.
There are two ‘heads’ (toilets) with hi-tech electric flushing, courtesy of Steve, and the shower pressure was very impressive!
This is a sailing boat, not a cruise liner so the itinerary is not set in stone and cannot be guaranteed in advance. Our trip was a good balance of ‘at sea’ and ‘on shore’.
All meals are included and almost everything is cooked from scratch; steaming bowls of porridge or toast and eggs for breakfast, morning and afternoon tea & hand-ground coffee, freshly baked bread and sweet treats, and wholesome, flavourful dinners - usually with canapés or starters, and pudding to follow! Morag is queen of the galley, and the crew are all encouraged to develop their own signature dish.
Speaking of the crew, they are all amazing and the trip is very much shaped by their warmth, humour and experience.
Thank you so much to Morag, Steve, Jamie and Titouan for looking after us, keeping us safe at sea and helping me reach new islands.
Sailing holidays on Provident are a new venture for Morag and Steve. To say it’s been a labour of love would be an understatement! I couldn’t think of better people to have given this historic ship a new lease of life