Sometimes you are just stunned by the hospitality shown the Sea Stallion and us, the lucky crew, who have the privilege of sailing the ship to Dublin.
Yesterday was one of those moments. No matter how much I racked my brains, I couldn't find English words to fully express my gratitude.
We arrived early evening in the bay near Bruce and Dorothy Mickel’s estate in the Scottish highlands. On the beach was one of our hosts’ friends. He was lighting a fire. Shortly thereafter two big rubber dinghies came out to meet us. In one of them were Bruce and Dorothy. When the rubber dinghy got near us, Bruce played a musical welcome on his bagpipes.
After we had cast anchor, the rubber dinghy came to the side of the Sea Stallion. Bruce brought out a bottle of whisky, made a toast and then let the life-giving drink pass around the Sea Stallion. And then we, our tents and luggage and the banquet for the evening were taken ashore by 10-15 locals in their boats.
Venison and homemade sausages were put on the grill, as we pitched our tents near the beach. And we toasted in beer, wine – and later – in whisky.
I sat down for a moment. Sitting here, surrounded by beautiful Scottish mountains, had made me speechless. So far from civilisation and yet able to eat a banquet like this. No doubt the best meal on this voyage. The pleasure in eating such a feast also depends on where and with whom you share the joy. And I was touched watching the host couple have so much pleasure in giving us so much.
When I had regained my powers of speech, I went over to Bruce and Dorothy. They said that they usually lived in Edinburgh. But they enjoy spending time on their estate; 3,000 acres of Scottish highland. I'm sorry, but I don't remember how much an acre is by Danish standards, but I have no doubt that the estate was big.
"But not in Scotland. Here Rahoy is a relatively small place. But we enjoy it and try to give back to the landscape its original look by planting many more oaks than there are today. Earlier the trees had difficulty growing because the deer use to eat the leaves of the young trees. But now we've begun to control the population. We shoot about 60 deer a year. One for each of us," Bruce explained and looked at his friends around the fire, "and the rest are taken care of by our bailiff."
"We've been watching you guys for weeks. Actually, we feared that we wouldn't be able to meet you here, for we are going back to Edinburgh soon. But we are so happy that you made it and that we had the chance to see your beautiful ship," Dorothy said with a big happy smile on her face.
That Bruce and Dorothy had heard of us at all was due to John Robertson on the escort ship. He is familiar with the area, and before we arrived on the Orkneys he had asked around for places we might cast anchor for the night.
Some of the crew on the Sea Stallion built a sauna out of four oars as uprights and some canvas from the ships. The locals had a fine time watching the small bunch of naked Vikings shuttling between the hot sauna and the ice-cold water in the bay.
I stayed by the fire, where I enjoyed the beautiful landscape, and went to sleep around midnight satiated with impressions and with the sounds of Morten and Balders singing by the fire and Bruce's bagpipes in my ears.
In the morning, everything had to be returned to the Sea Stallion and the locals helped once again. Bruce and Dorothy came on board and helped us row the ship out of the bay. As we rounded the point to sail due west, the skipper decided that because of the strong wind and the long row ahead of us, we should take down the mast.
Now we're sailing southwards. Maybe – I certainly hope so – we will arrive at Oban this evening or night. I need a bath after several days without one. And to have my laundry washed and feel the joy of clean clothes against the body.
We are moving pretty fast – 8-9 knots and then some. We just overtook a modern fibre-glass sailing boat. They knew how to build ships, those Vikings.