A Quick Trip to Holy Island

During the half term week we took the opportunity to return to Moana for a few days before the start of the Queens Platinum Jubillee Celebrations. A couple of weeks previously I had been able to work on the undersides when Simon, the Marina Manager, kindly arranged for a 'lift and hold' over a weekend. Out of the water by 4pm on Friday and back in at 8.30am on Monday morning with connection to mains power and water. This was perfect for a full hull check, thorough clean and anode change before getting on with all the other pre-season checks and jobs.



Once back afloat we she looked in great good shape, fuel and water tanks filled, and it was now on to finishing some inboard checks and maintenance before setting off for a couple of days over near Aran and Great Cumbrae.

The weather was gorgeous, with the sea like a millpond. Unfortunately there wasn't a breath of wind for us to sail but it meant we could spend a comfortable night directly off Holy Island which protects Lamlash Bay from the East. At just over 600 acres but with a summit of 314m, this lump of rhyolite igneous and basalt rock was bought in 1991 by a group of Scottish Buddhists for £350,000 on the understanding there would be no commercial exploitation and that the archaeological and spiritual amenities and the distinctive flora and fauna would be protected. The main building for the Samyé Ling Buddhist Order is fringed with Tibetan flags and Stupas and is dedicated to World Peace and Health. All visitors are respectly asked to keep to the marked paths to avoid damaging the flora and disturbing the fauna, and observe the Five Golden Rules of Buddhism at all times during their visit. The whole island is a nature reserve and in addition to the nomadic Saanen Goats, Soay Sheep and Eriskay ponies, there are numerous beach nesting Oystercatchers and Common Gulls (sometimes refered to as a Mew Gull). Ironically the latter is rather uncommon and is Amber status on the UK Conservation List. It looks like a small, gentler version of the herring gull, with greenish legs and a yellow bill, initially we thought they might be Kittiwakes, but their call and the ground nesting behaviour put a stop to that theory!




The best anchorage is almost at the north west tip of the island and opposite the Peace Centre. It is a fabulous spot in settled weather with easy access to the landing jetty which is also used to ferry over a small number of visitors and Centre residents. There's a path which circumnavigates the island and on the western side leads to the lighthouse at the most south westerly point. Along the way there are numerous Buddhist art works painted on large boulders, each with it's own spiritual message. There is also the 7th Century cave dwelling of St Mo Las' , or St Molias, who was born in Ireland and, legend claims, lived to 120 years old in spite of deliberately contracting 30 nasty diseases to expiate his sins! The cave sinks deeply into a solid rock face facing due west and near a fresh water spring. Quite cosy really, on a warm day in late May, but maybe not so inviting in mid January. Holy Island has a facinating history, probably because of it's vicinity to Ireland, having a monastery built here in the 12th Century and it's location next to the natural, deep water harbour of Lamlash Bay. A ship carrying the 5 year old Mary Queen of Scots sheltered here on her way to France and in World War 1 it was used as an anchorage for the great Royal Navy Warships.



It’s catharthic to be back on Moana again. That feeling of freedom and privilege, being able to seek out and find these wonderful uplifting places. After one more peaceful night in Kames Bay, Great Cumbrae, we were back in Ardrossan before heading South to catch up with a beacon lighting party in Worcestershire. It’s a pity as in a few days the weeklong William Fife Regatta will start from Largs. It will be the first time for 7 years that these gorgeous Fife built yachts have gathered together. Oh well, another month or so and we'll be back on board ready to give Moana much more time and venture farther afield x