Day 5 20/06/19
Personally, the JST trip being undertaken is full of firsts for me; not only is this the first time I’ve visited the remote country of Scotland but it’s the first time I’ve sailed on a tall ship. I’ve not only been blow away by the landscapes of Scotland but also the experience at sea. Arriving in Oban the STS Lord Nelson was a clear centrepiece in the area, not only proven by the fact that a large gathering of tourists had congregated around the ship but also by the fact that it was a very prominent landmark on the horizon with its three tall masts breaking the skyline. The actual task of sailing the Lord Nelson was a very daunting prospect, however, over the next 24 hours it lessened; not only through the companionship of the other voyage crew but from a massive amount of continuous support from our hosts, the permanent crew. Available 24/7, they are, able to answer any question you put to them and manage to get you through even the most difficult of tasks. They make this 400 year old tradition seem a much simpler exercise than first thought. During my time on watch we spent 4 hours on the bridge when we were kept busy steering the ship, logging various, different pieces of information on the ship and keeping watch on neighbouring vessels, buoys and other foreign objects which may be a threat to the equilibrium of the ship. One of the most fascinating things I’ve experienced is meeting other people and learning about their wider life experiences and how they’ve overcome the obstacles which life has thrown at them.
Setting off from Oban was a truly amazing experience, despite the sporadic rain and winds that were gradually increasing through the morning and well into the afternoon. Surrounded by the rolling highland hills, the town itself is a unique mix of traditional and modern buildings, and is dominated by the massive structure of McCaig’s Tower, which looks like the Roman Colosseum, but is just an empty shell rising from the hills above the town. Having arrived late yesterday evening, we were ready to depart mid-morning, much to the excitement of the junior school group walking around the port, whose excitement at seeing the ‘pirate ship’ could well be imagined. Leaving the bay and heading out across towards the Sound of Mull, we got some excellent sailing time, and a good chance to relax on deck and enjoy the beautiful scenery between training and duties. After a little initial use of the engine while leaving port, we hardly required it until we were well into the Sound of Mull, and even then, it was a while before the sails really were useless due to the sheltered conditions in the channel. Here, in what almost seemed like a vast, land-locked water body due to the sharp curves in the sound, we reached our anchoring spot in the late afternoon/early evening, before preparing the yards ready to sail off the anchor tomorrow morning.
Despite the forecasts of continuing rain, the promise of more sailing tomorrow and the chance to have a stab at climbing the rigging makes for another exciting day to look forward to.
Day 7 22/06/19
As we approached the Isle of Rhum among spectacular scenery, a sinister-looking cloud sat right on top of it, drawing many comparisons to Jurassic Park. But the sun broke through as we anchored in the bay at Kinloch, and looked across the water to the curious dark red building near the shoreline.
The next morning, we learned a whole lot more about the strange place when we went ashore and walked to Kinloch Castle, which was built by Sir George Bullough in the late 19th century and is well worth a visit today. Once he was over the shock of seeing more people in one place than he had in eight months, our guide Ross was incredibly enthusiastic and passionate – almost as passionate as the castle’s previous occupants (if some of Ross’s more colourful stories are to be believed). The castle is filled with precious objects collected from around the world on George Bullough’s steam-yacht Rhouma, and houses some really rare artefacts (enjoy the orchestrion!). The eccentric house and its past make for a surreal experience in such a remote place, and we all hope it can be enjoyed by visitors for many years to come.
After the excellent tour around the castle, we took a walk on the coastline, met the friendly local Labrador, and went looking for otters at the hide not far from our landing point. Back in the bar of the Lord Nelson that night, the quiz was as controversial and raucous as your average quiz. After rows about Greek and/or Roman goddesses, and the final score at the 1966 World Cup final, the aft port watch were eventually crowned as the winners.
The next morning, we sailed away from Rum in beautiful weather and anchored at Tobermory, which was familiar to some as the setting of the children’s TV show Balamory with its kaleidoscope of brightly coloured houses. Many of those who’d gone ashore enjoyed the excellent fish and chips served from the van on the quayside, and we toasted the end of the longest day of the year in the beer garden at the Mishnish pub, before returning to the Lord Nelson through swarms of jellyfish in a sea as flat as a mirror.