Elaine Bunting asks Royal Princess Anne and her husband Vice Admiral Sir Tim Laurence which are their favourite Scottish cruising grounds when they sail their Rustler 44 Ballochbuie
Scotland is no easy cruising ground. The weather can change quickly. Reaching the more distant islands requires a certain toughness as well as skill, especially if sailing double-handed, as The Princess Royal Princess Anne and her husband Vice Admiral Sir Tim Laurence usually do aboard their new Rustler 44 Ballochbuie. This is ‘black run’ cruising.
Their favourite places are the more remote islands and anchorages. “To be honest, if we get north of Ardnamurchan it suddenly feels different, and if you go north of Skye other boats almost disappear, and although there are some based up at Ullapool and Stornoway, they are rare,” says Princess Anne.
Asked about some of the places they like to visit, they first mention the island of Coll. “We’ve got some friends who live there,” says Sir Tim, adding: “though is not the most hospitable and the anchorages there are a little bit variable.”
“But it is pretty impressive at certain times of the year,” adds Princess Anne, “particularly up at the northern end, the Cairns of Coll. The northern end is rocky and the southern end is a bit more agricultural and there are lots of geese in the winter. Actually, winter is probably more entertaining – you get snipe and woodcock as well.”
At the mention of anchorages, Sir Tim gets up and goes below to Ballochbuie’s navigation table to retrieve a document that runs to several pages of A4 paper. This is a list of all the places he and Princess Anne have been to during their years of sailing the two Rustlers.
It is a very impressive and comprehensive list stretching from Rathlin Island off the north coast of Northern Ireland as far north as Cape Wrath at the north-western tip of Scotland. The scores of anchorages are carefully listed and account for some challenging pilotage and difficult nooks and crannies. But they seem to enjoy exploring new – and preferably out of the way – spots.
“We haven’t kept a record of how many miles we’ve sailed, but we have kept a record of the anchorages,” says Sir Tim, to which the Princess adds: “Every trip we added one anchorage we hadn’t been to before, at least, and usually two or three. Even if you are going over the same ground there are still places to be found, though fish farms are a bit of a menace. There are places we used to anchor in Bloodhound that you can’t get to now.”
The wildlife and sea life are something they both mention. “We see quite a lot of basking sharks, particularly between Coll and Tiree,” says Princess Anne. “Once I lost count at about 25. That was extraordinary.”
Princess Anne recalls: “We had a rough three days on the way from the Sound of Harris down to Lochboisdale [on South Uist] and saw a big pod of dolphins, which was just extraordinary. They were coming at you from the top of the waves. They didn’t quite jump over the top of the boat, but they looked like they were going to.”
Lewis: the lochs on the east side are great. There are quite a few places to anchor in Loch Roag.
Shiant Islands: we’ve been there a couple of times in Blue Doublet and a couple of times on [the cruise ship] Hebridean Princess with The Queen.
Loch Ewe: we had an interesting time in fog as thick as I’ve ever known it. There is a wonderful garden to see here as well.
Hermitray: there are some nice anchorages in the Sound of Harris, but lots of fish farms around.
Rona: a favourite spot. One of the most sheltered anchorages on the west coast. A very nice man, Bill Cowie, is the warden.
Skye: we’ve been all round Skye. There are lots more places to visit. We’ve only been to 12 anchorages there!
Eriskay: there’s a fantastic little anchorage here. We went there for the first time in Ballochbuie.
Barra: a marvellous place and a wonderful escape from the world.
Vatersay: good shelter in the lee of a sandbar. We anchored near Vatersay in company with Britannia one year.
Canna, Rum, Eigg and Muck: we enjoy visiting all these islands.
Loch Nevis and Loch Awe: both are lovely places.
Loch Moidart: beautiful, but we’ve only been there once. It has quite a scary entrance, not easy in a long-keel boat and you’re always battling the wind to get out.
Mull: Loch Mingary, Bunessan, the Bull Hole and Ardlanish. A beautiful little spot with shelter on the south side of the Ross of Mull. Carsaig is a little notch you wouldn’t think you could get into or get any shelter at all, but there’s a little reef offshore you can tuck behind.
Lismore: the island in Loch Linnhe. Walking there you get the most beautiful views and you can see as far as Ben Nevis.
Loch Feochan: there is a little place right at the entrance that is great.
Garvellach Islands: lovely, but weather- dependent so it has to be very calm.
Loch Craignish: Goat Island is one of the safest anchorages on the west coast of Scotland, as long as you are able to wash off your anchor; it has the stickiest mud.
Jura: we have visited anchorages all round the coast.
Rathlin Island: fascinating, a bit shallow and we bounced off the bottom there.
This is an extract from a feature in Yachting World August 2014 issue