Bessie’s Adventures from Cornwall to Scotland

Sailing the Celtic Seas

The first major voyage of the summer started in Fowey, finishing up in Oban 520nm North. Leaving Cornwall’s warm spring sunshine we headed off at the tail end of Storm Hannah. Rounding Dodman with gusts still above, 40 knots, I decided to return to Fowey and leave the following morning on the tide and with a fair wind to round Lizard and anchor off Mousehole for the night.

Rendez-vous at sea

Over the VHF I hear a familiar voice of Arian aboard Oosterschelde, having sailed through storm Hannah from the Azores a night in the Helford was needed to recuperate and restock. We traded white flour , apple cake and coffee for a bottle of Geneva, a photo opportunity for both ships before sounding horns and heading off East and west.

Celtic Sea

As the sun came up so did the anchor, with all hands turning too, setting sail and settling into watches only to be met with the sailors enemy, fog! A little wind and fog, a rolling swell from the storm encouraged the crew to hand sail and motor as the wind died away completely. Upon reaching ST Davids head, a decent SE breeze sprung up and soon Bessie Ellen was charging along under full canvas just as in her working past over 100 years ago. The wind stayed fair until dawn on Wednesday by which time I believed with a good tide and engine we could reach Islay by nightfall. Once again fog banks loomed ahead which made our progress a little slower but with careful navigation we reached Mull of Kintyre where the sun broke out and all of our Hebridean Isles spread away before us.

Row the boat

After a long passage, nothing seems more satisfying than a walk and a pint – and of course a wee dram. So while Bessie Ellen held station off Port Ellen, Owain ran the voyage crew inshore with the plan that they would meet us at the anchorage off the beach, a short walk around the bay. All this went well until our gear in the outboard broke so the only thing to was row 200 yards to the beach. With much hilarity nearly all arrived safely back on board, however still missing two of our party – lost in a haze of whisky somewhere on Islay. Tony, who had been left in charge of troops, looked slightly sheepish but found out the escapees were hidden in the hotel, being entertained by Californians no less!

Amazing Ardbeg

After a good nights sleep and in bright sunshine, our voyage crew sailed off the anchor under the skilful helming of Jeff, who’s great uncle Percy Lamey was skipper of Bessie Ellen during the 20’s and 30’s following the death of John Chichester. A walk and a whisky was in order with Ardbeg being distillery of choice, this involved a walk to Kildalton cross which was further than expected so our band of sailors opted for a coffee within Ardbeg’s walls. With pure Islay hospitality the manager offered all our crew a free dram as they were from Bessie Ellen.

With the final leg underway, our ships company tacked all the way up Jura towards Oban and I am happy to report that this merry band of sailors handled all the tacking unassisted by the crew. Hungry, tired and out of water after 10 days Bessie Ellen pulled alongside Oban after 530 nm happily back home in her summer waters.


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