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Sailing round the coast of Britain

Holidays afloat for the active combine gentle excercise with relaxation and exploration.

A youthful fantasy, a lifetime’s love of sailing, an inspirational book and early retirement were all factors that led to Jim McCrossan sailing his yacht, Rebel round the coastline of Britain in 2011.   

The Yacht RebelI

It’s late November on a blustery day of alternating showers and sunshine. I’m walking on Holy Island in Northumbria. I can see the tall stone obelisks that were the leading marks for vessels entering the inner harbour here. Out to sea there’s a fishing boat skirting the outlying reefs with white horses breaking over them.  I reflected that six months earlier I was on that same stretch of water part way through a quest to fulfil a long held ambition to sail round the coast of Britain. It was one of those lovely silvery grey days, slightly misty with pearly clouds and an occasional light shower. Grace Darling's Longstone lighthouse was flashing through the mist, Holy Island coming up on the starboard bow and in the distance the formidable shape of Bamburgh Castle.



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Learning to Sail

The Hamble School of Yachting run approved sailing training courses including taster weekends covering the first steps to learning to sail and becoming a knowledgeable and useful crew member.

Visit Scotland have a varied list of places to learn to sail in Scotland

We particularly like and recommend The Galloway Activity Centre based at Loch Ken in Dumfries and Galloway. They have a full menu of sailing courses as well as plenty of other activities including windsurfing, power boating, kayaking, canoeing, archery, mountain biking, orienteering, climbing and abseiling and some of the most breath-taking scenery in Scotland.


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It was the trip of a lifetime and one I’d been planning for a long time. The idea first came to me in1989 when I first read "One Summer's Grace" the story of how Libby Purves, her husband and their two very young children set off in a 30 foot sailing boat called "Grace O'Malley" to sail round Britain.  It’s now a classic and my favourite sailing book.  Reading it I realized that the idea of sailing round Britain seemed much more realistic than my previous youthful ambition of sailing round the world.  It also whetted my appetite for the various places I could visit and the interesting people I would meet. But it would be another twenty odd years before early retirement gave me the opportunity to turn my dream into reality.

Rebel in Marina

When I finally decided to go for it I knew that I had a huge planning job on my hands before I could even get started. The early part of the year was taken up with maintenance on the boat, acquiring charts and new equipment and carefully setting out each leg of the voyage, choosing suitable harbours and marinas and more importantly acquiring a crew. Family and friends were all press-ganged into service and dates allocated along with approximate embarkation ports. Eventually early one Saturday morning in April we left our moorings and with my pal Mike as ‘The Crew’, sailed Rebel out into Holy Loch while tooting the foghorn for my daughter Gwen and her family who were standing on Kilmun shore to wish us bon voyage. It would be many months before we sailed back into Holy Loch and nearly a thousand sea miles and a couple of months before we would cross the border on England’s east coast sail past Holy Island.

 Captain Jim at the helm
That was the beginning of what was to prove a lengthy and eventful adventure.  From the Clyde up the rugged and beautiful West Coast of Scotland, through the Inner Hebrides to the remote North West Coast, round Cape Wrath, across to the Orkneys and then along the extremely stormy North East of Scotland. 


Part Two The Clyde to Islay via Campbeltown



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