The Voyage of The Aegre book presentation in Scourie, Sutherland in July 2023
Scourie is the small village on the coast of northwest Scotland where Julie and I prepared The Aegre for ocean voyaging and departed from in July 1973.
I have always been grateful to the people of Scourie for their support. Julie and I were two unknown strangers from the south of England, drawn to Scourie by the reputation of its elderly boatbuilder, Bob Macinnes. We had commissioned him to deck our open Shetland boat, The Aegre, to prepare her to sail the Atlantic.
A madcap idea to many, but Bob, a highly regarded man of the sea, looked at the boat, and at us, smiled, and agreed to do it, even saying he wished he could come with us. Bob’s support opened many doors in the small village, including new friendships, finding somewhere to live and employment in the Scourie Hotel.
It was February, bitterly cold mid-winter when we arrived. We stayed six months, until the long evenings and gentle summer breezes had banished the memories of winter, and we were ready to sail off, out into the North Atlantic.
We sailed away late one fine afternoon, it was July 24th 1973, our goodbyes and thank yous to the people gathered on the quay were hopelessly inadequate in expressing our feelings.
Now 50 years later, here I was going back to Scourie, to tell the story of what happened after we sailed out of the bay that auspicious afternoon.
Iona Shaw, Bob Maciness’s granddaughter booked the village hall, put up posters, and sold copies of the book in advance.
Then on 29th July, I flew from Shetland to Inverness then drove out to the west coast and Scourie.
Of course having been away so long I was naive about the reliability of flights around Northern Scotland, and low cloud in Shetland played havoc with my fine timing. But arriving 75 minutes late to give the talk seemed quickly forgiven by the enthusiastic audience of nearly fifty people.
In the crowd were some who remembered Julie and me from all those years ago, some were little children but still had a memory of watching us sail out. It was an evening of remembering something of what Scourie used to be like, before the camping ground, and holiday houses, and of fine people now only alive in our memories. The Macinnes clan were there in strength and it was disarming to look into the audience and suddenly see the face of Bob, both here and there, as if he were actually with us, smiling, his eyes twinkling as they used to when we stood leaning on the half decked Aegre chatting long ago.
As I tell in the book, Bob had first loaned us, then told us to keep his grandfather’s antique brass log (used for measuring distance run through the water). But after having it for fifty years I had decided that it was time to return it to Scourie and the Macinnes family, so had brought it from Australia. Packed in our luggage, but looking like a mortar bomb, it had set off airline alarms to the delight of bored security staff who had never seen anything like it. But now here it was with me in Scourie and finally back with the Macinnes family. Bob would have been smiling about that too, even though it had taken fifty years to make the journey back.
Many people bought the book (at a special Scourie price) and in appreciation of their support long ago I gave half the proceeds to the Scourie school. It was a wonderful evening.
We stayed in the Scourie Hotel, our old workplace, and the next day in the still of the early morning I walked down to the beach where we had launched The Aegre, and then on to the little stone quay and looked out to where I had laid a mooring, and we’d kept The Aegre before sailing away. The mooring must have gone long ago, but otherwise, it’s just the same. The calm clear water, the ripples in the light breeze, the yellow kelp on the rocks, a gull calling. Nothing hints at all that went on to happen.
See Scourie Launch in Pictures