Having completed one of our perhaps more unusual cruises, one with no stops, I believe I can safely say that it was a great success. In five days we circumnavigated much of the British Isles and Ireland in calm seas and, for the most part, in superb weather. No doubt to the joy of those passengers who booked a port side cabin, we sailed antic-clockwise, first up the east coast then, on the second morning, rounding Duncansby Head and getting a good view of John-O-Groats.
As we passed the Butt of Lewis the cloud began to descend, sufficiently so that we could only just make out the lighthouse on Eilean Mor in the Flannan Islands where, in 1900, three lighthouse men mysteriously disappeared. Passing between the high cliffs of Boreray and Stac Lee off St.Kilda must have sent the bird watchers into seventh heaven, as we passed the world’s largest gannet colony at just a few hundred meters.
The third day took us to Staffa and Fingals Cave, around the Western Isles through the Sounds of Mull and Islay, stopping for ten minutes or so off Tobermory and later passing through Corryvrecken. Here the tides can be treacherous for small craft, and for a few minutes our speed went up to almost 25 knots.
Throughout, the scenery was delightfully typical, being shown off at its best in the sunshine, heathy hillsides, yellow gorse in the countryside closer to the water and multi coloured Azaleas in the gardens. During dinner we had a fifteen minute stop off the Giant’s Causeway, where late tourists ashore gauped at our unexpected presence.
We hugged much off the western coast of Ireland the following day. The unusual geological formation of the Aran Islands, the towering cliffs of Moher and the fabulous Dingle Peninsular with the Blasket Islands reaching out into the Atlantic all went past during the day. No doubt to the further enjoyment of our bird folk we passed between the Skellig Islands, leaving the gannets on one side and the monks stone habitation built around 600 AD on the other.
The final day took us first to Lundy Island and then down the north Cornish coast, with views of Tintagel, Doc Martin’s house and the beaches of Newquay. I had had a live telephone interview with Radio Cornwall in the morning so I believe the folks of St. Ives were expecting our arrival. We did not disappoint, and in glorious sunshine the ship was stopped a few hundred yards off the harbour. For over twenty minutes hundreds off beach goers, tourists and locals had the spectacle of Saga Ruby filling their horizon as our superb Welsh tenor belted out Rule Britannia and Jerusalem from the after deck.
With three long blasts of the ship’s whistle and the enthusiastic union jack waving passengers lining the boat deck, we slipped away. Now that’s what I call advertising. Land’s End, St. Michaels Mount and Lizard Point completed the visual feast and we settled down for the overnight leg back towards the Needles Channel and Southampton.
‘Last port of call?’ the VTS operator asked as we announced our arrival. ‘Southampton’ we replied. I detected by his delayed response a momentary confusion.