|photo by Richard Pierce|
"In the Scottish Islands One Design Class a condition of the individual yachts being "in class" is that they should each be painted a separate distinctive colour; also that the name of each boat should be the name of a Scottish island ending in the letter "a". Yet how many of the class have actually visited their island namesake? Some of the islands are relatively close to the river Clyde, where most of the fleet are moored, but some are more remote and would require a special expedition to visit...I am thinking of Stroma and Fidra in particular.
The book written by Hamish Haswell Smith "The Scottish Islands" (Canongate, 1996) has fascinating details about most of the Scottish islands and it was this book that I consulted when deciding what I should call the newest yacht in the class, built by Richard Pierce in Cumbria and launched in 2000. I decided on "Shona", partly because I liked the name, partly because I knew a beautiful girl called Shona and partly because I wanted to visit the island with the yacht.
I have been privileged to own a few Scottish Island boats. "Cara" I owned for a decade and visited Cara, the island, with her on several occasions. As a colleague once told me, the island of Cara is difficult to avoid, it being the one that you run into in the mist after having rounded the Mull of Kintyre. "Isla" and "Bernera" I owned only briefly - enough time to start the process of restoration before handing them on to their present owners, who as far as I am aware, have not yet ventured out of the Clyde in search of their named island.
In 2001, encouraged by Ewan Kennedy, at that time still restoring "Stroma", I decided to take Shona to visit Eileen Shona which sits at the mouth of Loch Moidart, just North of the Ardnamurchan peninsula. Ewan and I set off from loch Melfort and easily reached Tobermory the same day, experiencing an interesting tide rip off Duart point, which with the wind in the opposite direction succeeded in soaking us thoroughly. The relatively small freeboard does result in quite a lot of water coming aboard, but none of it got inside which remained snug and dry. Anchoring in Tobermory bay that evening we went to visit the fleshpots of that town which still existed then, before Ballymory, the children's television programme, turned the place into a juvenile touristic venue. I found that Ewan was well known in the Mishnish bar and I set about trying to establish myself as a worthy Mishnish patron. The result was that the next day, on setting a course to round Ardnamurchan, it was not just the sea that was covered in mist. . . my own head took some time to clear.
The seas off the peninsula are well known to be frightening, but we were lucky to have relatively good weather with a light breeze. Nevertheless the waves in that area are considerably larger than those in the more sheltered waters of the Clyde estuary. Shona behaved impeccably, taking a little water over her bow, but shedding it before it reached the mast. We had less trouble here than we had had the previous day at Duart.
Once the peninsula was passed and the mist had lifted we could make out the not very distinctive shape of Eileen Shona and set a course for her. Anchoring a couple of cables offshore we landed in the inflatable dinghy and scrabbled about on the barnacled rocks, picking up a few rounded rocks and a sprig of heather which we took back to the boat. We photographed each other, the boat, the island, the rocks and the heather and made the necessary introductions between the island and the yacht.