It was sailing and mountains that first took me to the Falkland Islands but quickly the wildlife, so much a part of that land and seascape, became the deciding factor in my choice to sell up, buy a boat and sail to the south. With Ada 2 I was blessed with a boat that was sturdy and strong and enabled me to spend 5 years learning to navigate in the Falkland Islands, South Georgia, the Antarctic Peninsular and Patagonia. I loved it and my memories are joyful, terrifying, hilarious and embarrassing. It was a challenging place to survive but the boat and the company kept me in good shape for which I am ever thankful.
The last year of my time with Ada I shared with my baby son, Dylan. It was surprisingly fine being a single mum afloat in the Beagle Channel during winter. The community both on and off the water are close knit with arms open wide to newcomers. Ushuaia is a vibrant cultural city – off season alive with arts festivals to stimulate residents frantic with tourism in the short summer. Had I not missed family back home and wanted Dylan to know both mine and his dad’s relatives I think I would have stayed on Ada in the south. However, my confidence took a pounding when returning to Scotland for Granny’s 90th birthday celebrations and I turned my back on the sea for a few years and moved around a few continents trying life out as a landlubber.
I always kept one eye and ear to the sea. I invented projects around boats and found myself nurturing friendships with nautical connections, but projects became stuck fast in bureaucratic mud and I was filled with an overwhelming sensation that I was not being true to my nature and beliefs.
My dear friend, Ian Bury (essential contact for all sailing in South Atlantic waters), invited Dylan and I to the Falkland Islands for Christmas and I bought a ticket from Punta Arenas. From Puerto Montt it is 2000km of mostly dirt road and ferry to get to the airport. I had a pickup truck and we loaded it with camping gear and toys and headed off. From Stanley we all flew in a tiny plane to Beaver Island in the far south west of the Falkland Islands, home of the Poncet Family. Now on Beaver island there were Landrovers, motorbikes, quads, penguins, reindeer, sheep, guanacos, skuas, petrels, johnny rooks and the list goes on. To me the machines were the necessary means of getting here and about. To my young lad the mechanics of our adventure were paramount and of far more interest than the creatures and the people – unless they were letting him drive.
It was with Jerome Poncet, skipper extraordinaire, that had first opened my eyes to the South; who had helped find my first boat and now to whom I turned for advice about the next boat and the next chapter in my life. As always. he was enthusiastic, inspirational and instrumental in me finding Selkie. No one loves a story of adventure and misadventure quite as much as Jerome!
The first two years of Dylan and mine’s life with Selkie I worked towards returning to the south but family, friends, (footpaths) and stability focused my attention north from Morocco and eventually we found our way to the west coast of Scotland and Eigg. With Selkie I can find puffins and birds in abundance to gawp at. Clients will often catch me out pointing at “penguins” and pontificating on the life of these flying penguins… We are amassing our own fleet of raucous machines and wily creatures around the croft. Although our home may not be as wild, isolated and dramatic as the Falklands here we are also surrounded by amazing people, we’re not that far from (my) close family and I (and Dylan) get to explore and share Scotland’s beauty and wildlife on Selkie’s sailing holidays… even if this year we are not able to… long may it continue.