Friday 25th May
We arrived shattered in Wick after our 16 hour journey from London on an inappropriately named “sleeper” train to Inverness and a further slow train to Wick. We were met at the station by Iain and Bunty Gunn, the closest thing in Caithness as to royalty, and as their guests, we too were given the red carpet treatment and were soon on board the recently renovated 1800s ex-fishing boat, “The Isabella”, out of Wick harbour to meet the incoming Grahames who had left Peterhead that morning.
We had a full crew accompanying us. There was Malcolm, the Harbour-Master who doubles as the Danish Vice Consulate; various local dignitaries and others whose only job seemed to be to prevent me from falling in. The Sentosa looked sleek and magnificent under a piercing blue sky and the softening yellowing image of the evening sun as she cruised effortlessly into Wick Harbour.
Saturday 26th May
A day of rest and recovery for all of us! We were given a tour our new home on board the Sentosa. What also became apparent was the different personalities of the two Grahames – one so laid back as to be horizontal and the other, passionate, forthright and effusive. Grahame Solway had kindly given us the use of his luxurious double bed cabin and we were rocked to sleep by the gentle sway of the boat and the soothing tinkle of the mast in the breeze.
Sunday 27th May
Started early setting off at 06.30 on our voyage to Scrabster through the formidable Pentland Firth. This is supposed to be one of the most treacherous passages of water in the British Isles and we faced the day in full battle regalia, our life-jackets drawn tight around us and our weatherproof coats of armour donned. Once above deck we were met with a glassy calm sea shrouded in thick fog known in these parts as “a Haar”. In fact such was the tranquillity of the day that even a racing pigeon, bored with the placidity of the wind hitched a ride on the boom for most of the way to Scrabster. By the time we had rounded John O’Groats and chugging easily along to Dunnet Head – the most northerly point on the mainland, we were treated to some magnificent views of the Orkneys and west across the North Coast as the fog dramatically cleared in the ever strengthening heat of the sun.
Scrabster harbour was not like Wick and most of the rest of the day and night was spent wincing and cursing at the deafening noise from the gigantic dredger – Scrabster harbour was not a pirate’s paradise!
This affected us in different ways. Grahame Solway vented his disapproval to anyone and everyone immediately but his anger seemed to wane as it became clear the dredging was not going to stop.
Tom, at first, had a boyish fascination with the transformer-esque mechanism of this monstrous machine but as the noise raged into the wee hours my patience wore thin and my shaking intensified.
Lyndsey could not find any fascination in the machine and was most annoyed by Tom’s hourly updates on the proximity of the dredger to the boat which, mixed with the noxious fumes from the nearby fishing boat; tested her resolve to its limits.
Graham F seemed oblivious to the noise, the machine and pretty much everything!
Monday 28th May
It was almost a relief when a knock on the door came at 03.15 hours to say we were leaving the Scrabster’s cauldron of cacophony. But the day did not really improve initially as the weather had turned overnight and for the three hours it took for my drugs to work we were tossed around the cabin until Lyndsey felt sick. When we finally made it up on deck we found Grahame Solway clad in oilskins standing fast at the helm with an “it couldn’t get any worse than this” expression on his face. Grahame F’s expression meanwhile told us that it could get a lot worse but even if it did, it wouldn’t matter in the least!
We finally rounded Cape Wrath at 10am and in doing so our fortunes were transformed quite dramatically. The sky brightened, visibility increased and the wind was behind making Sentosa’s sails billow. All our moods lifted as we switched off the motor and were treated to Sentosa at her sensational best. For 6 glorious hours we were propelled by Mother Nature at vast speed, catapulted forward at times by force 6 gusts of wind, at others by great mountains of surf which loomed up behind us as we travelled south. Tom felt the urge to launch into song as the adrenalin began to pump and the emotion and recollection of my “Coastin’” experiences were recalled. All agreed in sailing terms, it couldn’t be much better than this. When we finally arrived at Lochinver the bubbly was popped and we sadly bade farewell.
As we caught the bus back to Inverness we gazed back on Lochinver harbour across the now silhouetted Sentosa moored in the crystal clear waters of North West Scotland and decided we had enjoyed an experience which will remain long and happy in our memories.
Tom and Lyndsey
Some of the photos taken are below........