Why I Love Our Rival Yacht, and the art of provisioning a boat for a cruise around the Western Highlands of Scotland



It was with a mixture of feelings oscillating between concern , regret and pride, that I waved goodbye to Ranger as she started on her delivery trip to Inverness from her berth at Woolverstone Marina on the River Orwell, Suffolk, England. But more of the actual trip later, suffice it to say that at present she is in the middle of the North Sea bound for Inverness, via Peterhead with a lovely Delivery Crew of two sets of fathers and sons, and one girlfriend.


It has been 30 years since my husband and I have cruised the Western Highlands, and a return trip has long been in the offing. Back then, we had sailed directly from Falmouth to Largs in a She 36 called Pastime, with a motley crew of 4 others, who gratefully went ashore at Largs, leaving just the two of us to enjoy a glorious two and a half weeks of cruising in the inner Hebrides. It was my first time sailing non-stop for 3 days and nights at sea , and remains my most fondly remembered sailing trip. My husband has probably mellowed a lot since then. Without any pang of guilt he had invited my parents to help us through the Crinan Canal, and sat , statesmanlike at the helm,  with a can of beer or two, whilst his new in-laws manfully operated every single lock by hand, and then graciously allowed them to buy us all a marvellous dinner at the Crinan Hotel at the end of their travails.

This Summer, we plan to take Ranger through the Caledonian Canal and out into the Inner Hebrides, with the intention of sailing across the Minch to the Outer Hebrides, and then returning to Inverness either via Cape Wrath or back through the Canal, depending on the Weather and our personal inclinations.

Now for those reading this who have never been on an older sailing yacht before, this is what the Accommodation affords, and what the Delivery crew can expect to live in for 5 days or so at sea.DSC00646The Saloon comfortably seats 6 for Dinner, and the settees double up as sea-berths, both with lee-cloths which attach to eyelets on the bulkheads. This means that you can safely go to bed at sea without being rolled out onto the floor. The Bubble-wrapped object in the left of the picture is our oil lamp. Traditionally you would use this instead of the normal cabin lights in order to conserve battery power, but modern sailors today tend to rely on LED Headtorches, eschewing the old-fashioned ways. Not my husband though; he loves to light the lamp after dinner and sit with a large comforting glass of something and maybe even a cigar. I try to limit these occasions as the smell can get too overpowering, and oil lamps give off a lot of condensation.

There are two cabins fore and aft which sleep 4, although the forward cabin is not so romantic as the anchor chain is guided down a spurling tube in the middle. This is a good feature however, as it provides for a much greater drop for the chain down into a locker below the bunks which means it doesn’t get caught up or tangled when you are raising the anchor, and also keeps the weight off the nose of the boat. We did have an infill for the Double berth in the aft cabin, but chose to remove it to allow us to climb into bed more easily, and to be able to get up in the night without disturbing the other. It does also allow you to get dressed in comfort in the morning. When you reach a certain age, you are quite glad of a little distance between you and your neighbour, especially if you have been married for 30 years.

The very best thing about our boat are the 2 heads , or bathrooms. Despite the extra holes in the hull for the plumbing, which is never a good thing when all you want is for your boat to float…… I installed combination taps and shower heads in each, and the water is drained out through the hull using an old-fashioned foot pump. We have kept the original Blakes Lavac toilets, which are superb, and miles better than the nasty modern Jabsco ones. Although I nearly cried when I saw how expensive it was to replace one of the Loo-seats, AND the quality was very inferior to the original.

DSC00648Now the important part of our boat–the Galley, or Kitchen area. The Stainless double sink is a must, as where else can you put the dishes to drain? The Cooker is a Canadian Force 10  gas cooker, which is the Rolls Royce of marine cookers. Lucky for us, it came with Ranger when we bought her just under 3 years ago. I have never had to use the Cook’s Safety strap which you can see to the right, as it is very easy to wedge yourself in against the Bulkhead and then you can look out the porthole too whilst cooking, thus preventing any seasickness. It is a tiny space, but everything can be prepared with a little planning. Last year I cooked a whole leg of lamb and Pommes Dauphinoises  whilst visiting South Dock in London. I do also have an oversized plastic chopping board which can sit over one of the sinks, thus giving a bit more worktop space.

DSC00657DSC00654DSC00656Now to the provisioning. It was quite an exercise to provide everything that 5 people could want for 5 days at sea. If you have never sailed, then you have no idea how hungry the sea air can make you. Even if you aren’t doing anything energetic at all. Add in some windy, cold weather and you suddenly find you have 5 ravenous appetites to satisfy. Water, obviously. Ranger has 90 gallon Water tanks, and the same for fuel, or around 400 litres of both if you prefer metric. I never drink the water straight from our tanks without boiling it first, so I had to make sure that there was at least 2 litres of water per person per day, which I got from the Supermarket in huge plastic bottles. Then enough Milk, both fresh and UHT, fresh meat, cheese, fruit and vegetables, breakfast goods such as orange juice, tea, coffee, cereal, granola, bacon and sausages, bread, rolls, wraps, long-life part-baked bread, cake, biscuits,crisps, ham and a whole pre-cooked chicken for lunchtime sandwiches, herbs, spices, condiments and the list goes on! I did though, also include a large container of ready-made Beef and Red wine stew , which could easily be heated up when the going got rough. The crew had requested the wherewithal to make a hot evening meal from scratch each night, so I got them the ingredients for a Green Thai Chicken Curry, Spaghetti Bolognese, Chilli con Carne, and a stock of tins and pulses and chorizo should they be stranded somewhere. No matter where or for how long we are sailing, I always have on board what I call my ‘ Iron Rations’ : that would allow for food and water for 4 for at least one day, and Corned Beef Hash is the first thing I think of for that!  Vital if you are sailing on the East Coast and get stuck on a Sandbank! Although you could be stuck there for two weeks if you have your mishap at High Water Springs!

The fridge that came with the boat is a god-send. It is an Isotherm and frightfully expensive. It is fixed firmly by top-hat-feet to the shelf above one of the diesel tanks. it is power hungry though, and would run down the 3 service batteries in 14 hours if the engine is not run to top up the batteries. I do have a cut out for it though so that shouldn’t happen accidentally. Its only downfall is that it is liable to spill its contents if I am not extremely careful when opening the door whilst we are heavily heeled over on the starboard tack. But I can make ice in it’s icebox!

The most important thing with provisioning a boat for a long sea passage, is to ensure that the food doesn’t get spoiled on the trip. Imagine your boat being turned upside down almost, shaken vigorously and then sprayed inside with a hose. Obviously, make sure all your cupboard doors have good catches. Then, package all items which should not get wet–I use Plastic rigid Tupperwares with secure lids. Then arrange everything very carefully to withstand a rough Fairground ride, and keep stowing carefully throughout the trip as the stores get used up. Those elasticated hammock type nets are brilliant for fixing to the roof of each cupboard, thus holding safe things like Eggs, and fruit and vegetables which might bruise if knocked around.

Of course the real beauty of our boat, aside from the fact that she is very pretty and seaworthy, being of course designed by a Wykehamist, is her copious wine cellars. I am sure no one can guess just how many bottles can be absorbed in her capacious lockers!

After all, we are going to the land of Whisky, and may need something a little more refreshing sometimes.DSC00655

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