BOOK REVIEW

Travel book: World Sailing Adventures

Travel book on world sailing
Harbour in Croatia taken by Blackburn family

For those who like world sailing and travel, ‘A Scotsman’s Odyssey’ by Ian G. Macpherson is great fun and an excellent read: and even more interesting if you have visited those same places from the seaward side. Since the book covers four decades of his boating adventures, the photos are in black and white – which is a slight pity. Otherwise I bemoan the lack of maps or charts so that you cannot see exactly where he went. This is really a note to publishers who should deal with this before publishing any travel book.

Sailing from South coast of UK to Brittany

As to how interesting it is to readers of Kent Bylines, it might depend on whether you sail or live in one of the sailing spots around the coast. Unfortunately, the travel book doesn’t cover any of the normal south coast yachting trips to France or the Channel islands.

He does, however, tell us about the fun to be had at a Tall Ships event in Brest. These events are wonderful for international solidarity and hospitality. Certainly sailing around the treacherous Brittany Coast is also quite an experience.

Sailing around Scottish coast

My family are most interested in his descriptions of sailing adventures around the Scottish coast. That is partly because those are trips that we still want to do. Indeed, next year there is a plan to sail along the Northern Irish coast from Scotland. Ian Macpherson tells us a cautionary tale, as he had to abandon the attempt, so we might not get there either.

Actually I have sailed to Arran and also to the Isle of Man. I remember asking some naval officers based at Faslane, when was the best time to sail in that area. They came back quickly with the answer “June” – which we duly did. The weather was wonderful and the scenery spectacular.

It really brought me back from the miseries of the North Sea to actually enjoying sailing. It helped that only a few weeks after that we were sailing in Sydney, Australia, and enjoying our first taste of Australian wine.

Sailing to Caribbean and Australia

Ian Macpherson describes some of the legs of the Ocean Youth Club’s 18 month World Cruise on two 69ft steel yachts, James Cook and John Laing, which involved 300 people. The first leg in December 1995 was beating across the notorious Bay of Biscay bound for the Canary Isles. Leg two was much more relaxing across the Atlantic.

This is the time of the year when the current takes all the 200 odd boats sailing in the ARC (Atlantic Rally for Cruisers) across the Atlantic to the Caribbean. He tells us that the yachts had a great welcome at English Harbour on Antigua. Our first sailing holiday in the Caribbean started from English Harbour and another one started from St Maarten and we, too, visited Anguilla.

Other legs of this epic voyage took them to Australia and included the Great Barrier Reef and the Whitsunday islands.

Sailing along coast of Croatia

My main interest in this book is the three holidays he spent chartering yachts in Croatia. The Caribbean is all very well at Christmas time (no hurricanes at that time of the year) but Croatia has more islands and plenty more history.  He describes their first holiday sailing from Dubrovnik – exactly as we did during our second sailing trip.

Sailing to Dubrovnik
Photo from Blackburn family album

He describes the most attractive island of Mljet – a green island with a lake in the middle. This was where St. Paul was said to have lived for a while. Sailing from Dubrovnik should allow enough time to walk the walls of the old city and to sample the hospitality.

Like us, they sailed into Split and visited the islands nearby, such as Solta and Hvar. They also went to Vis – the furthest island from Split, which has a museum. They found the mooring in some of the island spots quite difficult as they normally required you to tie up stern to the quayside. Trying to manoeuvre with ropes and with lots of different languages can be quite dramatic.

He, too, sailed up river from Sibenik to see the Krka Falls. They were lucky enough to visit some of the Kornati Islands which form part of a National Park – so are mostly uninhabited. This, for me, was the start of my Robinson Crusoe idea of living on an island. The result was our present seaside villa on the Croatian coast, which is available for holiday lettings, and especially attractive for those yachting along this coast.

Mark BLackburn’s yacht in Croatia

If you want to charter a boat or join a flotilla in Croatia, then this is the book for you. It will also help you explore the coast of Scotland and the Hebrides.

A Scotsman Odyssey by Ian P. Macpherson is published by Conrad Press and as an e-book