The journey from Edinburgh to Oban via Glasgow isn’t a fast one, but it’s stunningly beautiful. The train line meanders along the coast of lochs, with views of mountains and little waterfalls, stopping at fantastically named stations - Arrochar & Tarbet, Tyndrum Lower and Falls of Cruachan.
I joined on a Sunday, when guests had just left and the last of the tidying was being done. That meant I had an opportunity for an introduction to the ship as well as some relaxed time with the crew - a mixture of paid professionals and experienced volunteers. By the time the guests joined I had practised some emergency drills, and helped make beds, clean and tidy.
Scottish weather - not famous for being sunny and warm, yet on both trips around the Isle of Mull, sunshine outweighed rain by far. This meant that we had plenty of time on deck to spot wildlife, and the conditions were perfect for us to land on my new favourite island - Lunga.
One of the Treshnish Isles, Lunga is a breeding ground for Puffins! The cute and confident birds line the path, stretch their little wings, take off and clumsily land again all without a care for the dozens of tourists looking on.
As fellow deckhand and professional wildlife guide Viky pointed out - there are other birds. Lunga is also home to Shags - large, dark feathered and green-eyed - are far more suspicious of the human visitors. The rock stack at the far end of the path hosts a screaming competition with Kittiwakes being among the noisiest.
Did you know: baby puffins are called pufflings, and the collective term for a group of puffins is called a circus.
Other stops during my two weeks included Iona, where I had time to photograph the Abbey and run up a hill and back down for some stunning views.
Did you know I've been published by Iona books? I contributed two short stories to an anthology called Refugees from Eden which is available here.
We also stopped at Ulva, where the lovely sheltered bay had us enjoying paddleboarding, mast climbing, and jumping off the ship. (Yes I did jump, yes it was cold!). Then there was Seil - where a mysterious path leads to the Bridge over the Atlantic, an arched stone bridge which spans the ocean from the island to the mainland.
Tobermory was a favourite stop too. Through some excellent steering from skipper Jack, and some professional crewing from Jan, Andy and I, we moored elegantly in the harbour. Not only did mooring mean no anchor watch, but the buzzing local pub was busy with locals, frequent visitors and live music.
1. Before volunteering on a tall ship I recommend gaining some experience, either in sailing small boats, joining Maybe Sailing’s traineeship or in other, non-sailing boats.
2. Know your knots - I can’t even guess how many kilometres of rope there are on Blue Clipper, and that rope needs securing, attaching, moving, etc. Quickly being able to tie a variety of knots is essential.
3. Bring waterproofs, enthusiasm and energy!
Are you tempted to crew a tall ship? Or have you already done it and have other tips to share? Comment below!