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Coast to Coast

Saga Sapphire blog - Captains' blogs

19th May, 2014

Coast to Coast

Who would believe it? Sail around mainland Great Britain, non-stop, or in our case nearly nonstop. Well it does work, but expectations are often high, passengers seem to think it’s a bit like the BBC programme; we can zoom in and take a look at majestic scenery from almost touching distance. On occasion it seems like that from the bridge, but in reality it really is necessary to keep at least half a mile off the shallow water just in case of some slight misadventure. Insurance I call it.

We started rather well with a close look at the White Cliffs, and as we passed St. Margaret’s just up the coast from Dover, I showed the folks Noel Cowards house (and Ian Flemings apparently). Breakfast next day saw Flamborough Head pass down the port side, followed by numerous gas platforms to starboard, then Whitby, Newcastle and, just as I was making for the gap between the Farne Islands and Bamborough Castle, a Sea King from RAF Boulmer (Alnwick) came along and asked if they could conduct an exercise. With much noise and downwash a chap was winched down onto the fo’cstle, and then hoisted back up again, and all timed so they arrived just as the classical concert was finishing in the Drawing Room. How clever is that?

Coast to Coast

Duncansby Head, north east Scotland was the ‘corner’ I had planned for eight the following morning, and as we passed into the Pentland Firth an enormous current came against us, bringing our speed over the ground down to just 2 knots for a while as we passed John O’Groats to one side and the island of Stroma to the other. It was a windy cloudy day; even so passengers had a great view of that stack off Orkney, the Old Man of Hoy. We saluted ‘Saga Pearl ll’ as she left Thurso Bay, then continued along in the relative shelter of Scotland’s north coast until we passed Cape Wrath in the late afternoon.

The third day started off well in pleasant weather, and we passed the tiny island of Staffa, the home of Fingals Cave. The Sound of Mull was scheduled for coffee time and, if conditions were right, a stern approach into Tobermory Bay so passengers down aft could get a ten minute view of the charming little harbour and its colourful painted houses. Things didn’t go quite to plan and we ended up having to anchor a mile or so off the village. A technical issue which the great team down below eventually sorted so that we could get on our way, but much of my daylight viewing time had been lost. By the time the folks emerged the next morning we had Ireland on one side and, a few hours later, the Isle of Man on the other. Anglesey and Holly Island passed by during lunchtime, then the Lleyn Peninsular and Bardsey Island. So the bird watchers were in seventh Heaven, as were the ‘Orca’ crowd who seemed to see massive sea mammals when no one else could. Must have special eyes.  

But it was the final day that was the cracker, superb blue sky weather, light winds and God’s own country, Cornwall. I virtually made everyone get out of bed to see St. Ives as we passed by at eight o’clock, then Lands’ End an hour later, Longships Light passing close down the port side, then into Mount’s Bay. Residents in the tiny fishing village of Mousehole had their binoculars on us when we passed, (not really needed I would have suggested) Penzance, St Michaels Mount and on towards the Lizard. But I had another ‘surprise and delight’ coming up.

Coast to Coast

Yet again I came over the public address system to let passengers know where we were and also ‘it’s a lovely calm day…..and very quiet outside’. Five minutes later, and just about on cue, Navy search and rescue helicopter 193 was calling us on the radio. (I had made, shall we say, an ‘arrangement’) So I came back on the PA and said ‘and now it’s getting rather noisy outside, perhaps you should come up and take a look.’ After a certain degree of preparation and ‘feeling’ the air above us, the helicopter moved off to one side, a crew member sat on the step of the open door and attached the winch wire. Out and down he went until he was just about level with the bridge wing, and then across he came. For one moment I thought he might land on the balcony below, but up he popped and set down just in front of me. He disconnected, took off his helmet and with a sly smile passed me a red waterproof bag. Inside was the Daily Telegraph, and with great theatre, I held it up for all the passengers on the decks above to see. Laughter, smiles, waving; not only had we somehow engineered yet another chopper to come along, but by getting them to bring the Captain the daily paper, now that was something impressive. That story is going to be told by many people for a long time to come. It certainly made me smile.

So, a great cruise, not without its challenges, but for just about all, one to be remembered for all the right reasons. And for me Cornwall beckons again, via the A303 this time.  Bye for now. 

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.

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