The Aegre Voyage: Chapter Six Notes

As I tell in the book, a winter storm engulfed us soon after we arrived back at the Adventure School in February. But our cabin wasn’t blown flat and a few days later we emerged to a new white world.

After the snow had gone we drove to nearby Scourie to see how the boatbuilder Bob Macinnes had got on with decking The Aegre. In the photo below Bob inspects the spar I planned to use as an occasional bowsprit, on the roof of Jamie Young’s car (written off a few weeks later).

Boatbuilder examines spar on car roof
Bob Macinness outside his boatbuilding workshop with the bowsprit spar on the roofrack of Jamies car

As I tell in the book, Jamie Young was a fellow instructor at Ridgway’s Adventure School. He went on to have a remarkable career in sailing/adventuring, including competing in the 1976 OSTAR single-handed yacht race across the Atlantic; later again, newly married, for their honeymoon he and his wife delivered the famous junk rigged folkboat Jester across the Atlantic.

The ex Blondie Hasler junk rigged folkboat Jester

Jamie went on to skipper the maxi yacht Ondine in the US for two years; paddled a kayak around Cape Horn; was a member of the ‘South Aris’ Sailing & Mountaineering team completing a re-enactment of Shackleton’s epic boat trip from Elephant Island to South Georgia and subsequent traverse of South Georgia. (The expedition was the subject of a documentary by TG4); compete in numerous Atlantic short-handed yacht races; was the Skipper/Leader of a three-month project to make a film/documentary on the changing climate and social subsequent social changes in Greenland, and much more. Along the way he and his wife found time to have three children and establish the Killary Adventure Centre in Co.Galway, still going strong.

Jamie Young

Jamie Young has probably had the most extensive adventure career of any of the instructors who started out working under the guidance and influence of John and Marie Christine Ridgway at their adventure school. But he wasn’t alone, other instructors went on to complete extraordinary adventures, as if we, the instructors at the school, were the students who gained the most. A credit to John and Marie Christine.

Back in NW Scotland in February 1973, following the unplanned departure of Julie and I from the Adventure School, we were soon back in Scourie looking for somewhere to live and for work. Below, Scourie (in summer) in the early 1970s.

Post card of Scourie c1973
Post card of Scourie c1973

To our surprise, Mr and Mrs Hay who owned the Scourie Hotel, took us in and gave us work. Below, the Scourie Hotel today.

Scourie Hotel Sutherland NW Scotland

A visit to the Orkney Islands

In the book, I write about having storm sails made by sailmaker Kip Gurrin, who was living in the Orkney Islands. I tell of us visiting Kip and his wife on Inner Holm island, close to the small town of Stromness, adjacent to the vast natural harbour of Scapa Flow.

Northern Scotland
Inner Holm just off Stromness Orkney

As in my photo, it can be a bleak place. Around the walls of the Gurrin’s stone cottage were old photos of the WW1 British naval fleet in nearby Scapa Flow. Inner Holm island is adjacent to the vast Scapa Flow protected anchorage which was used as the UK’s chief naval base during World War I and II and where the German fleet was interned following the defeat of Germany ending WWI. Seven months later, in a secret operation, 53 of the German warships were scuttled by their German crews in Gutter Sound.

It must have been a miserable place to be stationed. On the Gurrins wall also hung the classic poem of Orkney, that some naval wag had written:

Bloody Orkney

This bloody town’s a bloody cuss
No bloody trains, no bloody bus,
And no one cares for bloody us
In bloody Orkney.

The bloody roads are bloody bad,
The bloody folks are bloody mad,
They’d make the brightest bloody sad,
In bloody Orkney.

All bloody clouds, and bloody rains,
No bloody kerbs, no bloody drains,
The Council’s got no bloody brains,
In bloody Orkney.

Everything’s so bloody dear,
A bloody bob, for bloody beer,
And is it good? — no bloody fear,
In bloody Orkney.

The bloody ‘flicks’ are bloody old,
The bloody seats are bloody cold,
You can’t get in for bloody gold
In bloody Orkney.

The bloody dances make you smile,
The bloody band is bloody vile,
It only cramps your bloody style,
In bloody Orkney.

No bloody sport, no bloody games,
No bloody fun, the bloody dames
Won’t even give their bloody names
In bloody Orkney.

Best bloody place is bloody bed,
With bloody ice on bloody head,
You might as well be bloody dead,
In bloody Orkney.

There’s nothing greets your bloody eye
But bloody sea and bloody sky,
‘Roll on demob!’ we bloody cry
In bloody Orkney.

(attributed to Captain Hamish Blair, RN, said to have been stationed at Scapa Flow during WWII)

Following the scuttling of the German fleet in 1919, the ships were left to ‘rest and rust’ for a few years until the price of metals went up a bit and a contract was taken out to raise the ships and sell them off for scrap

In my small sea book library, I have a novel set in Scapa Flow in the 1930s at the time of the salvage of these sunken warships. Written by a retired Naval Officer Captain Taprell Dorling, D.SA.O., R.N. under the penname ‘Taffrail’, The Man from Scapa Flow, published in 1933, by Hodder and Stoughton. It contains extensive information about the end of the German Navy in 1918, the scuttling of the ships in Scapa Flow in 1919, and their subsequent salvage between 1924 and 1931. Despite the salvage efforts, only 45 ships were raised. the remainder are still there in Scapa Flow where they have become a mecca for scuba divers.

Scapa Flow Orkney

Back in Scourie, Bob Macinnes admired our new flax storm sails.

Bob Macinnes inspects our new flax storm sails

Then the decking of The Aegre was finished and it was time to knock out the end wall of Bob’s boatshed and drag her on a makeshift sledge to Scourie Bay, a mile or so away. Here are a few pictures of that day when we launched The Aegre that aren’t in the book.

To take photos in those days all we had was a little Kodak Instamatic camera with a 12-shot film…

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