I remember when I saw Leon waiting for us on the dock coming on the small ferry from Oban to the marina on the island of Kerrera, where Regina Laska was berthed: “Oh! This sailing will be interesting, he looks like a real salt!”, I was thinking. He did stand out, as everyone else seemed to be waving at someone, and Leon was just looking. I often wonder what he saw… As time went on I came to think of Leon as more than our skipper, and more complex than I imagined a “salt” would be. I think a better phrase than “refined” would possibly be “more urbane than a salt” as this picks up more of your qualities, Leon: – sailor, teacher, navigator, adventurer, creative cook, psychologist, family man, friend.
I did enjoy our time together, and am reluctant to call it a sail, as I think we only spent two and a bit days with the sails up! This was an important adventure for my husband Ross and me. The issue of a larger boat is something we have discussed many times, so this trip was as much research as a sail: to see what it would be like sailing such a boat, how they feel, how they can be set up, what you get for your money and most importantly, to see if I could cope at sea and whether I would like it.
I have many enjoyable memories:
– the little restaurant at the Kerrera marina in Oban, and waiting for the fresh mussels to come off the ferry so we could dine there.
– meeting Inger-Johanna and William, our sailing companions – also arriving on the same evening ferry!
– learning some basic safety routines the afternoon of our arrival: the “where is?” check, the “practice turning the boat on its pivot point using the prop walk” lesson, tying up using the centre of the boat as it moved forward. New experiences, but logical, and your magnetic teaching board helped explain it all!
There were lots of other things that have stayed with me too:
– realising that there is a difference between a ‘sail’ and a ‘cruise’, and a cruise is as much about the destinations as the boat!
– a greater appreciation of your task in trying to get two women experienced in many ways of the world, but not cruising, experienced enough to want to take on more cruising challenges,
– seeing that food on a boat can be exciting, varied and fresh, even after a week on board and that BBQs are okay, too. Avocados on a boat in Scotland who would have thought?
– learning the language of boats
– Listening to your talk you normally hold at boat shows: about how women and men can have more fun together while sailing. I loved the shots of the messy, manly, female-unfriendly boats. I loved the line about how men speak to women on a boat, and it made me think about what kind of sailing person I would like to be. I still think you must have prepared that presentation just for us!
– understanding that men and women perceive sailing differently (and seeing it in action in Bruinisse later, where a man was calling to his wife to fix something we had seen him do earlier, and rather abruptly at that!) Your talk was so spot on, Leon!
– our first lesson on how the tides work before heading off to Tobermory,
– my first stint at the helm.
– realising that with only two pairs of undies, washing was to be a daily chore – (What would Leon think?)
– our first evening underway spent at Tobermory: a chance to explore the quaint town with views from the Church down into the bay. Our provisioning for the week, including my gin!
– our wonderful evening at the Café Fish: at that point so early on in our adventure. I appreciated the space you gave us to get to know Hannah (Inger-Johanne) and Willie (William), our sailing mates for this leg: You stayed on board while we all explored together. I think you matched our two couples well, as this was pivotal to the success of our week together.
– enjoying our many robust evening discussions – in English, Swedish or Norwegian!
– your realising early that we were all more interested in the sailing and confidence aspects of the trip than whisky, and the chance then of deciding where our trip would take us. I learnt that’s what cruising is all about!
– heading into Staffa with Mendelssohn playing his musical letter to his sister on the stereo. And those puffins!
– Skye, Mull, Rhum, Eigg, Colonsay, Islay, Jura.
– the discussions about Scandinavian history, Vikings, religion, politics, refugees, food, holidays, walking and children
– jam and scones.
– Leonard Cohen music.
– Suduko on the deck.
– The Old Forge in Loch Nevis, which is the remotest restaurant on mainland UK and which has won numerous prices: what an absolute gem, the little Presbyterian church on the hill with the many Scottish thistles in full bloom, the little mining cottages, all the jellyfish in the water, and the lone kayaker paddling long into the dusky evening.
– our lovely secluded keyhole anchorage where the only other anchored boat there was asking Stornaway Coastguard via VHF to let the UK know they had made passage and weren’t lost! And his departure turn around us in the morning which brought him so close I could see the skipper’s eyes were green!
– Lagavulin distillery and those navigation poles, and the seals watching us as we manoeuvred in and out!
– sailing wing and wing with Hannah and Willie at the helm, and Hannah’s look of terror when Willie briefly left, and I knew exactly how she felt!
– the chandlery at Ardfern where we found your book “The Missing Centimetre”, your explanations of different hull shapes on the boats as we walked through the boat yard and the restaurant there with the earnest host checking our every mouthful!
– polishing your daughter’s boots in readiness for her time on board with you: what is a suitable waterproof solution/cream/polish for nu buck suede boots? You’ll find out when they get wet!
– the lessons on ropes and knots and docking on the last evening on board, Practice, practice!
As you know, we have still not found what we are looking for in a boat. However, we are interested in doing another leg with you next season. We have specifically chosen a more demanding leg next year sailing in Orkney, Fair Isle and Shetlands, in the hope that my skills and confidence will continue to increase. Based on our last sail with you, I know you have the right mix of skills, patience and perseverance to ensure a safe passage.”
Cyndy Moncrieff, Australia, Hanse 34 owner, sailing Leg 8-2014 in Scotland