Retracing Brendan’s Footsteps

Martha and Sarah recount their recent voyage with Bessie Ellen

Within half an hour of boarding Bessie Ellen, we found ourselves peeling the potatoes for dinner over the side of the ship. After being educated on the finer points of carrot dicing, we were treated to tea and cake before being introduced to our fellow sailing companions for the week on a voyage from Oban to Liverpool. All of them were solo travellers – some of whom were regular sailors with the ship.

Once the safety briefings were completed, the ship’s complement was divided into three watches and given our first lesson about the rigging in preparation for the nightfall ahead. Before we knew it, on shaky legs, we found ourselves out on the bow sprit – whilst underway!! This was our baptism of fire to prepare the jibs for sailing – the names of which we’d only learned moments ago.

The night ahead proved to be a hairy one, and there is nothing like jumping in at the deep end especially when you are at sea (notably all hands being called on deck at midnight to reef the mainsail as the winds increased off the mountains of Jura).
Sunset from tall ship Bessie Ellen in Oban

Over the week we found ourselves singing together in the bars of Islay, taking warm and welcome showers in Bangor (NI), eating ice creams in Peel and watching the TT motorbike races in Douglas. I was even asked to cut the cooks hair on deck, as he said the wind was in the right direction. By this time we felt like seasoned sailors, despite the fact we were occasionally still being cursed for picking up the wrong rope.

If you want a holiday away from the usual, a week (or two) on Bessie Ellen will be just that. Test your bow from stern, port from starboard – you will soon be corrected if you are facing the wrong direction. Our passage voyage was a hands on adventure and with great crew, fabulous food and lots to learn and was endless fun.

P.S Blog writing interrupted by skipper putting us to work. Happy Sailing!


Old Salt – geriatric sailor

Hallyard – The rope next the one you are holding

Bare Away – We are passing a naturist camp

Dog watch – Crufts

Fully reefed – The result of too many splits

Mizen – where we are on Friday night

Euan – Looe, Cornwall

C0-authored by Martha, 28, a teacher from London, and Sarah, 30, a scientist from Liverpool.

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