Episode 49: ‘A Taste of Freedom’ – Sailing on the Scottish West Coast
Let’s kick off this season about Scottish Waters and go sailing on the Scottish west coast aboard the Stravaigin.
‘A Taste of Freedom’ is a story about changing your perspective and seeing the Scottish coastline from a different angle. We’re setting sail aboard the Stravaigin, a 44 ft sail yacht owned by John Ormiston. John takes us on a sailing adventure from Oban to the Isle of Mull, Lismore and Kerrera – but there is a lot more to this trip, than spending time on the water.
We learn what it takes to sail around the coast of Scotland, spend time on land on a foraging walk with Heather Thomas-Smith and go for a guided swim with swim coach Dan O’Coyle.
At the end, I’m sharing my top tips for your own sailing adventure in Scotland, including what to pack and how to deal with seasickness.
Are you ready? Great – let’s travel to Scotland!
This episode is sponsored by Stravaigin Sailing, a small family run business that offers boating holidays and sailing excursions along the west coast of Scotland.
Blog post: Tips for a sailing holiday in Scotland
The Stravaigin’s 2024 sailing schedule
Listen to my interview with Heather Thomas-Smith from season 4!
5 Tips for Sailing in Scotland
1) Book early
John told me that over half of his sailing trips are actually private charters and when I spoke to him in April, he told me that his trips in the following year were already 30% booked. The benefits are endless when you’re opting for a small group sailing holiday, but the one downside is probably, that the trips fill up quickly.
So my advice is, if you want to go sailing in 2024, get in touch as soon as possible to secure a space on one of John’s voyages aboard the Stravaigin.
2) Prepare for seasickness
If you’re worried about getting seasick, or if you already know that it will be a problem for you, you can still go and enjoy a sailing holiday, you just need to prepare accordingly.
There are all kinds of remedies, like eating something with ginger, hydrating well and staying outside in the fresh air to a range of motion sickness medications. If you bring medication, make sure you try it at home, to make sure your body agrees with it and you’re not getting too drowsy.
I personally struggle a bit with motion sickness, but found that the best remedy was to stay on deck, look at the horizon and find something to do. I took the helm a lot during our two days aboard the Stravaigin, and found that concentrating on steering the boat distracted me so much, I forgot to feel uneasy.
3) Be Flexible
The most important thing about sailing is that you have to be able to go with the flow. John told me that that’s sometimes the biggest challenge, because depending on the wind and weather forecasts, he may not be able to reach all the locations that are mentioned on his suggested itineraries.
The good thing is though, that John knows the west coast like the back of his hands and will always find a great alternative destination, that is just as beautiful. In his words, there is no second-best place in Scotland – it’s all fantastic. And that local knowledge is one of the things that makes a trip on the Stravaigin so special.
4) Pack sun protection
When you book a trip with the Stravaigin, you’ll get a full kit list with all the things you need to bring to be comfortable and well-equipped on the boat. Good waterproofs and plenty of layers to keep you warm are a no-brainer, and if you’ve got them, binoculars are a really great way to spot more wildlife from a safe distance.
One thing I hadn’t considered bringing and wish I had, was sun protection. Because you’re on the water a lot, you’re exposed to a lot of reflected sunshine, so you’ll definitely want to bring sun lotion with a high SPF for your hands and face. A hat or something to cover your head is also important, as you won’t notice how strong the sun is beaming down on you when all you feel with the wind from sailing. Just make sure it’s a hat that stays fast on your head.
5) Give it a try
If you’ve never been sailing before and you’re a little worried if you’ll like it, I recommend booking a short sailing trip before going for a week-long excursion. Stravaigin Sailing also offers 4-day trips to the Isle of Mull and the Morvern peninsula, which would be the perfect introduction for first-time sailors.
Another option is to book a multi-activity sailing trip, so that you know you won’t spend all your time on the boat. In my story, I mentioned some of the guides John works with throughout the year, from mountain guides to swim coaches. It brings some variety to the trip and allows you to just dip your toes in.
My Sailing Holiday on the Stravaigin in Pictures
Written and hosted by Kathi Kamleitner.
Produced, edited and sound design by Fran Turauskis.
Transcript by Kathi Kamleitner.
Social media support by Kirsty Spain.
Cover Art illustrated by Lizzie Vaughan-Knight.
All original music composed by Bruce Wallace.
Field recordings and all photographs by Kathi Kamleitner.
Additional sound effects from Zapsplat.