Travel: Boating in Scotland: The piper's call
|Travel: Boating in Scotland: The piper's call|
by Ann Hay -
Special to the SGN
On a recent trip to Scotland, I learned that the love we old wood boaters in the Pacific Northwest have for our fine vessels is shared by people worldwide.
My trip included a return to and a four-day stay in the Hay Castle, where I'd been for just one hour some decades ago as a 10-year-old with my parents and brother (when I was "no bigger than a post," as they say in Scotland). On this recent trip as an adult, I also purposefully visited several small seaside villages where fishing and boating are still a way of life for many people and where the craft of wood boatbuilding is still practiced and treasured. Scott Matthews, who designed and built Matthews boats in the USA for many decades in the early 1900s, including my boat, Pied Piper, was born of Scottish parents.
One of the most poignant and meaningful connections I made on this recent trip to Scotland was in a very, very small town at the furthest end of a remote peninsula on the Isle of Skye. The Isle of Skye is huge, with one mountain range that often has snow and ice on top year-'round. It is wild, absolutely gorgeous country, mostly unknown and off the usual tourist routes. But, thanks to the internet (www.mistyisleboattrips.co.uk), I found Seamus and Anne Mackinnon, who run daily trips (when weather allows) to visit local small islands, marine mammal and bird wildlife, and historic locations using their boat, Misty Isle, a 41-foot wood boat built in 1967 by Mitchell's of Mevagissy, a highly-respected wood boatbuilder in both Scotland and England. When Seamus and Anne discovered I owned a 1939-built wood boat (and built by a Scotsman at that!), they instantly welcomed me as family, inviting us to their home for meals, arranging a special trip on their boat for just me and my traveling companion, and arranging for us to stay at the only local B&B near the village, a croft house built almost 100 years ago (a house they consider new!), lived in by a most warm and welcoming elderly woman who had been born in that house and had, in turn, raised her family there. Even when Seamus and Anne lapsed into their first language, Gaelic, when they didn't know the Scot word or the English word for something, we seemed to communicate perfectly. How can you not, when you're talking about a shared love of wood boats and the sea?
Seamus told how some Americans are concerned about the seaworthiness of his wood boat and about his ability since he's "just a local," so those Americans take, instead, the fast fiberglass tour boat that plays a prerecorded talk on loudspeakers and is owned by a large English company that runs a chain of tour boats in the UK. Well, let me tell you, if you ever go over the sea to Skye and don't take Seamus' tour, you'll be missing the most delightful wee trip in all the isles of Scotland. As for Seamus' skill at boat handling, he's been running a fish boat and/or a tour boat there for all of his life (he was born there) as has his son after him. And if that's not enough, Seamus is a direct descendant of John Mackinnon, the local fisherman from the same village who ferried Bonnie Prince Charlie over the sea to Skye in 1746 in his wood boat, just as the song says.
The Isle of Skye (and its people and boats) is a place I'll never forget. But, ahhh, then there were the peaceful and charming wood canal boats in the Scottish "lowlands" that we stumbled upon by accident (one for sale, which was ever so tempting). And the fishing boats (mostly wood) on Loch Lomond north of Glasgow, truly one of the most beautiful lakes I've ever seen. And then there was the gentleman in the small village of Avoch in northern Scotland who had, just that morning, had his more-than 100-year-old, 26-foot fishing/sailing dory launched after four years of restoration. I just had to stop and walk out onto the old stone pier. He and I talked for almost two hours, and I could have stayed and talked all day. The entire trip to Scotland was simply amazing!
So wherever you go in the world - to a small village in Thailand, to a cosmopolitan city or the steamy jungles of South America, close by a stunning fjord in Norway or New Zealand, or just across the bay at home to the neighboring marina - be sure to allow some time to talk with your fellow boaters, some time to stand and stare, some time to connect with what really matters. But especially, if you ever go over the sea to Skye, please tell them the "Piper" sent you.
For more information on Ann Hay and her Pied Piper, visit www.mvpiedpiper.com.
Reprinted with permission from The Olympian, the Olympic Yacht Club newsletter, June, 2008, Volume 28, Number 6 - www.oycnw.org.