Riding out a Scottish storm.


This past weekend Scotty and I had the incredible opportunity to spend three nights on a sailboat with some friends. Graham and Nathalie invited us to go sailing with another couple from our church and we couldn’t have been more excited about it! We are now back home, and as I write this the room feels like it’s rocking back and forth beneath me – I guess three days and nights on a sailboat will do that to you – especially if you happened to ride out an incredible storm in the process.

We left Edinburgh early on Saturday morning and were on the boat by early afternoon. The train ride up to Oban was gorgeous – we passed through forests carpeted with bluebells and I even spotted a stag. The rhododendrons were just beginning to bloom adding pops of color to the verdant scenes. Once on the boat we spent the day getting used to the rocking and were treated to some delicious meals by our lovely hosts Paul and Christine.

Graham and Scotty

The weather wasn’t conducive to sailing so we stayed put, listening to the “shipping reports” and hoping for a break on Sunday. And it came! And the sailing was grand.

Scotty at the helm.

For the most part sailing was smooth but some “squally showers” did liven things up.

Nathalie doing a great job of steering while Paul points out landmarks.

I got a turn at the wheel.

Due to some reports of severe weather heading our way, we returned to the mooring and tied up to the buoy (pronounced “boy-ee” over here in Scotland). Following dinner the sunset was gorgeous and everything deceptively placid.

Looking at these pictures now it’s hard to believe that such tranquility turned into such chaos. I guess there is something to the saying “the quiet before the storm” because those beautiful puffy clouds heralded an incredible change. We turned in that night with the boat sitting quietly in the water. The next morning over a calm breakfast the shipping report came on and it was suddenly filled with words like “cyclonic” and “gale force”! And then it was upon us. All day the storm seemed to get worse, whitecaps formed and turned into sizable waves. Winds blew water spray horizontal. The boat rocked back and forth, tugging at its mooring. It was the worst weather Paul and Christine had ever seen and all eyes were pinned on the anemometer as it displayed wind speeds starting at 30 knots and then peaking at 54.5 knots! This means that we were experiencing Gale Force 10! If we’d hit 55 knots per hour (off by a mere half a knot!) we would have been in Gale Force 11. And just to give some perspective on what that means, anything above an 11 is a hurricane. So, this was pretty intense. People started popping the motion sickness medicine, chewing on candied ginger, and sipping peppermint tea. But I think that when it gets this bad, there is little you can do. Strangely, I wasn’t effected at all and didn’t have to deal with that discomfort so I can’t describe what it felt to go through this day-long storm while feeling sick. As the storm mounted a few crazy things started happening. One big sailboat broke off of its mooring and landed on the beach, somehow managing to miss all the boats around it! A big industrial boat that belonged to the marina (we’re talking a boat with a crane on it!) dragged it’s mooring so that it was free-floating and also ended up on the beach. It had to be dragged off the beach by another huge boat. Yachts around us were swinging back and forth, dinghies were being whipped around, a few sails on other boats broke loose and were shredded by the wind. The coast guard was kept busy with reports of damage and a few rescues. And we were stuck. It’s very strange to be somewhere and completely unable to leave. Especially strange when all you want is terra firma and it’s only a few hundred yards away. There was no way that we would survive a trip to land on a dingy and the seas were too rough to bring the boat in to a dock so we simply had to ride it out.

News from the mainland was also not good – Edinburgh airport was closed, bridges were shut down, trees were knocked over, winds reaching 100 miles per hour, train service suspended. And as the morning, afternoon, and evening crept along there was mounting concern that we would not be able to leave the boat the next morning as planned. We had train tickets booked for around noon and needed to be home because we had a flight to catch on Thursday. But all of this was simply out of our control and so it wasn’t even worth worrying about! The last shipping report stated that there would be a break in the weather in the early morning. By 8PM things had started to calm down a bit – we were now thrilled when the wind went below 30 knots – and the waves had begun to quiet. We went to bed around midnight and were up by 4:45. Everyone was packed and ready to go in case this was our only chance to get off that boat! We were all safely landed by 6AM, very happy to have our feet on solid ground. While the trip did not end up being quite what we were expecting, I would do it again in a heartbeat. Our gracious hosts have said we’re welcome to come back and try it again and we just may take them up on that offer.

We were able to catch an early train from Oban and were home by noon! Now, one thing about sailing is that there is no room for vanity on a boat. No one was able to shower while we were aboard and I was so eagerly anticipating a long hot shower. Scotty was headed up to school so he hopped in and just as he was finishing up, there was a knock at the door. It was the plumber responding to a leak we reported before we had left. He needed to turn off all the water in order to make the repair. Ahhhh. So my shower was delayed another three hours. I cannot tell you how grateful I am for dry shampoo!

Despite the storm, I would say this trip was great. We enjoyed time with Graham and Natalie, got to know Paul and Christine, saw some beautiful Scottish landscapes, sailed, and had a truly unique experience.

About Rebecca

Hi! After five years in Europe, I'm adjusting to life back in the US. I use this blog to record my adventures, post photos, organize recipes, and post about things that interest me.
This entry was posted in Adventure, Edinburgh, Exploring Scotland, Friends, Life in Edinburgh, Mini-break, photography and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Riding out a Scottish storm.

  1. Bethy J says:

    Wow! What an adventure!!

  2. POP says:

    The “so near but so far ” trip
    Great shots….it looks like Maine

  3. Marty says:

    Wow, those waves at the end look ferocious! I love the pics of the rigging…glorious! Also notice Scotty’s Gill jacket…think I can borrow it?!

  4. Bethy Manor says:

    Terrific! Absolutely Terrific! What a great and documented sailing adventure to add to your repertoire of sailing stories. This will be one to share with many, many friends and fellow sailors. I hope Dave Beeson gets a copy of this story.

  5. Karin says:

    Oh. My. Goodness. I think I am hyperventilating.

    I don’t know where to begin! Your pictures are beautiful. I’m so happy you are still wearing the scarf! I love the shot of Scotty at the helm. I can’t believe in this entire post you didn’t mention one word about thinking you might die. I’m never getting in a sailboat again.

  6. Nathalie says:

    What a wonderful post Becca! I wish you would turn your story telling skills to novel writing! Also, as fellow sailor I feel that I should emphasize what a tough cookie this blog writer is! While I was ‘below deck’ for most of Monday afternoon Becca was cool as a cucumber reading her book!!

  7. audrey says:

    Wow!
    Loved the pictures of EVERYthing. The storm was intense…I cannot imagine how it was to be trapped on the boat when all those things were happening around you…large boats thrown to the beach! I’m glad you weren’t sick…and that you finally returned to Terra Firma.

    I hope your time in Paris is perfect and you are able to show your family the city you both love so much!

  8. Sloane says:

    Wow! I’m just so glad you’re all ok! Sounds like quite an adventure!

  9. Pingback: A Year in Review | Paris at my doorstep

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