All at sea: sailing in the Hebrides

An antique ketch in a force eight gale? A first-time sailor grabs a rope and hangs on for dear life in the high seas off north-west Scotland

I am holding on hard to the 112-year-old Bessie Ellen. We are in a force eight gale off the Hebrides. I am wearing every piece of clothing that I possess under my oilskins and I’m still cold. But that doesn’t matter. What does matter is that I continue to hold on to this rope.

There is a pause before frantic activity. Into that pause comes stinging hail. My hands are numb. Then someone shouts “Run!” and I’m running with the rope as fast as I can. Only that’s not fast enough. The Bessie Ellen is pitching in the high seas, so I am running uphill on wet wooden boards. Like a cartoon character, I’m going nowhere.

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