Dearest reader, I am so excited to introduce you to my newest love… Mrs Muir.
Boat love: it’s a real thing
I remember the first time I fell in love with a ship.
It was the summer of 1999 and I was walking down to Lerwick’s high street via the A969. I had just approached the corner by the Lerwick RNLI lifeboat station, heading towards the Esplanade, when I saw her: the Statsraad Lehmkuhl.
At that moment the clouds parted, and rays of sunshine fell on this three-masted barque rigged thing of beauty.
My heart skipped a beat.
I never would have believed it, until then: boat love. It’s a real thing.
Fast forward twenty years (how the time has flown!) and I’ve since gained some sea experience through volunteering with the RNLI as press officer and crew, and from a summer spent crewing the Agnes Kay II.
I absolutely love being out on the water. It’s a freedom unlike any other; a place where one can feel truly alive.
Introducing… Mrs. Muir
This summer I had my first experience sailing. I helped a friend sail his yacht, Mrs Muir, from her berth in Scalloway to the Lerwick Marina, where she was going to come out of the water for the winter.
I’d never sailed before, but after this 39-mile overnight trip via the Sumburgh roost, a particularly tidal stretch of water at the southern point of Shetland where the North Sea and the Atlantic Ocean meet (pictured above, with me at the helm – photo courtesy of Robbie Robertson), I knew this was where I was meant to be.
Mrs Muir is a 29-foot clipper sailing boat built in the 1970s, named, as you might guess, from the novel (and subsequent 1947 film) entitled The Ghost and Mrs Muir.
Although she looks to be made of solid wood, she’s got the best of both worlds: her fibreglass hull provides reliable stability in the sea, while her teak cabin, deck, gunwales, taffrails, deck and bowsprit give her an old-worldly character that is impossible to fall in love with, especially if you’re an old school romantic, like me.
Learning the ropes
So, I am now learning the ropes.
Mrs Muir is currently out of the water for the winter for the first time in 7 years. I’m using this opportunity to learn about every part of her, from the rigging to the seacocks and the stern gland to the kerosene cooker.
I’m also spending every spare moment when it’s too windy to go out on my bike, scraping years of old varnish off the wood on deck, sanding her down and carefully applying layers of teak oil.
I am thoroughly enjoying every moment of it. This sort of manual work, especially when the sun is shining, is good for the soul.
Come the Spring, when she goes back into the water again, I’ll be signing up to my first Royal Yachting Association course, and my sail training will begin properly.