Friday, 28 March 2014


I've cared for her since 1976 and she's been a big part of my life, source of a lot of joy and good friendships and occasional worries. She's taken me and those I love safely through storms, gently cradled us when we were tired and thrilled us when we eased her sheets and let her reach across broad seas.

I've never counted the hours spent caring for her, but am sure there are few yachts her age in better condition. She's as strong as when McGruers launched her in 1929.

I'm sixty six now and won't be taking her, as I once did, to Ardminish or to Craighouse, or to Skye or Muck or Eigg or Coll or Mull or Wester Ross. She needs someone younger to do such things, in Scotland or further afield; I won't care if she's going to be in good hands.

Stroma is up on the hard at Cairnbaan along the Crinan Canal, a two hour trip from Glasgow. I'm asking £18,000, about 22,000 euros, for her and she's well worth that to the right person.    

There are full details elsewhere on our sister website,

Thursday, 13 March 2014

Classic Boat Awards 2014

Ellad, photo by Nigel Pert

Interesting to see a good Scottish contingent getting awards at the Classic Boat 2014 awards, with best restoration William Fife III’s Ellad heading the list, and his Saskia included.

Our own St Ayles skiffs did well, coming runners-up to the CW Hood 32 footer from the United States, a fibreglass “Spirit of Tradition” daysailer, which I guess would have collected a few trans-Atlantic votes.
Skiffieworlds in Ullapool
American plastic daysailer
Among the human winners were Fiona and Alastair Houston, tireless organisers of the Fife Regattas and Martin Black, the painstaking biographer of G L Watson, whose massive work is a great read and a fantastic resource for anyone looking for information about our sailing heritage of a hundred years ago, available from our fellow blogger the Leggy Prawn.
Fiona and Alastair

The images in this post have been lifted from Classic Boat, who attribute the one of Ellad to Nigel Pert. The takers of the others are not identified, but the one of Martin is mine, which I took when we were aboard the Ayrshire Lass last year. It’s always nice when the commercial sector acknowledges the efforts of those of us who publish for the fun of it. 

Sunday, 9 March 2014

The Easdale Ferry

Until recently almost any journey on our western seaboard would have involved a ferry crossing or two. The ferries were part of the lifeblood of the coastal communities and stories about them form an interesting component of our social history. The skills of the ferrymen were legendary in keeping vital routes open in all weather. 

Greatly improved roads and numerous bridges have reduced the numbers considerably and ferrymen and women are now quite a rare breed. Some of the ferries from earlier days can be seen gently rotting in remote bays, a reminder of the greater skills required of the early motorists than those of today.

There seems to be constant pressure, certainly from landowners if not from the ordinary folk, to reduce ferry links further by constructing more bridges and causeways. After all, having a proper road link to the mainland provided at the taxpayer's expense will easily add a zero to the end of whatever figure one's island is currently valued at. The implications of this in terms of rapid influx of new residents, pressure on island roads and so on are pretty obvious. Perhaps more important is the loss of the peculiar quality that makes islands special, the uniqueness of access by ferry. 

I was able to reflect on this a few days ago when crossing to Easdale for a quick visit that had been arranged before the wind got up. With over 30 mph blowing across the Sound I wouldn't have been surprised to find the ferry off, so there was a little surprise and apprehension when I saw the two ferrymen and their dog setting off in response to my summons. I needn't have worried, because the trip across and back was a model of expert seamanship and boat-handling. It would take a lot to stop the Easdale ferry running. 

The Wherrymen

The Wherrymen
Two old friends on the water