Traveling by sea has been one of the most exciting things I have done. I have had the opportunity to travel widely on the old herring boat, Shemaron. My husband and I have had many adventures with her. In this blog post, I look back on a trip in 2015. We left Campbeltown for Carradale, a short hop up the Kintyre coast of southwest Scotland. We had just formed the Ring Net Heritage Trust in order to protect this amazing little boat that we believe to be an important part of Scottish heritage.
Ring Net Heritage Trust
I had wondered if the foundation of the Ring Net Heritage Trust might affect how I felt about traveling by sea with our boat Shemaron. I always find our journeys invigorating. They wake me up and pull me out of myself in a way that is eternally refreshing. Being in the public domain demands accountability and an availability for official scrutinizing. I was concerned that this close inspection might override the natural and free flowing nature of my experience of traveling by sea. I was relieved to find that it did not! We hope our times at “official” events will be happily sociable and the pleasure in reliving the memory of our manner of arrival always potent.
Traveling By Sea
We were traveling by sea, from Campbeltown to Carradale. My youngest daughter, my husband and myself. Trustees with a focus on the ring net boat Shemaron. I was pleased to find room for my personal observations on the journey. When we left Campbeltown harbour we were glad to be free of hotel rooms, despite the sorry estimations for oncoming weather. On our starboard side, the sun ran beside us escaping from the heavy clouds through a small gap. On our port side, a full-on brooding backdrop made our wake shine bright and white in the grizzly illumination. The sea was moody, it had been all summer, never settling for very long. Once we were out in the Kilbrannan Sound the sea state began to change. A jumble of wavelets rode a deeper and stronger swell.
A Smell Of Lemons
We had moved away from the break in the sky and we were traveling under a thick canopy of cloud. The temperature had dropped quite dramatically and I went down to the fo’c’sle to light the stove. As I stooped low to enter the fish hold I noticed a faint smell of lemons. Further investigation showed that it was emanating from a sack of hardwood. The sack was open ready for the fire. Moss and lichen still clung to the bark from its days in the forest. The lemony smell made a pleasant change from the normal boat aroma that usually pervaded below deck.
Back on deck, I watched as the freshly burning fire billowed smoke from the chimney. I took a seat at the stern where the ring net would have sat during the herring fishing days. Our wake scattered white over the black sea. We were hoping there would be enough room in the small harbour of Carradale for our little blue boat. The unseasonable weather was disrupting the local fishing. We weren’t the only boat seeking shelter from lengthy squalls that sporadically unleashed and rained down upon us.
Near Carradale point a skein of gannets flew as I love to see them, strung out long and low, tracing waves. They looked as if they were joined by an invisible thread that trailed their rising and falling flight. Our arrival in Carradale was smooth and easy. We coasted alongside Village Belle IV and her crew stepped on board to take our ropes. We were the third boat abreast. This was a position not unfamiliar to Shemaron having worked out of Carradale for many years. It meant, however, clambering over two trawlers and negotiating harbour ladders before I could set foot on land.
The process of gaining the shore necessitated balancing and bending in an awkward series of movements across the gunnel’s and equipment of our two neighbouring boats. I managed this without mishap. My daughter joined me and we set off for a walk. When we arrived back on Shemaron a couple of hours later the rain had just started to fall. We quickly sort shelter below deck.
Shemaron in Carradale
Nestle Evaporated Milk
Lying on my bunk, I watched the rigging of the Village Belle rise and fall. I could see it through the skylight. Years ago the crew on Shemaron might have passed a rainy afternoon playing cards. They drank cups of tea with Nestle evaporated milk. (Fresh milk doesn’t last long in a warm fo’c’sle, especially if it’s rolling about)! I dozed contentedly on the rise and fall of the harbour. In the background, the voice of Stephen Fry was reading Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy (downloaded onto our IPad). This was followed by various tunes and eventually a game of I spy which thankfully lasted all of one turn because the rain finally stopped.
We all scrambled out of the hatch taking in gulps of fresh damp air. This was only a small break in the rain, it started again almost immediately and lasted through most of the night. During times like this when it rains heavily, we have grown used to the rhythmic drops that leak into the fo’c’sle. Notes that lie somewhere between musical notation and annoyance. This time, however, the recent application of a mixture of oil and varnish (in the traditional manner), on Shemaron’s deck had alleviated much of the problem and we remained comfortable and dry.