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Saturday, 28 January 2023

ALL AT SEA - Sepia Saturday

This week's prompt photograph is of yachts in a harbour.  Cue for my holiday and family memories of yachts, ships and boats - all at sea.

Not the Greek Islands, not the Caribbean, but a beautiful scene on the  island of Iona off the west coast of Scotland, (often portrayed as "it always rains"),   looking across to the hills on the Isle of Mull. 

Oban, meaning "little bay" in Gaelic, lies on the Firth of Lorne on the west coast of Scotland. and is often regarded as the unofficial capital of the West Highlands. and "Gateway to the Isles", with the  Cal Mac  (Caledonian McBrayne) ferries sailing from there  to Mull, Coll, Tiree, Colonsay, Barra and South Uist.  
During World War Two, Oban was an important place  in the Battle of the Atlantic, with a Royal Navy signal station, and RAF flying boat base.   In the Cold War, the first Translantic Telephone Cable, carrying the hot line between the USA and USSR Presidents came ashore at Oban.

 The Cal Mac ferry   leaving Oban for Mull. 

Fishing boats in Oban harbour.   McCaig's Tower (or Folly) stands high above Oban, named after its originator John Stuart McCaig (1824-1902). His intention was to provide work over the winter for local stonemasons and to build an imposing monument to the McCaig family. However the ambitious  project ran out of money and on McCaig's death, his relations successfully contested provisions in his will for the Tower's completion.

A Tall Ship moored at Oban 
 We had the top desk to ourselves on this dreicht day, sailing from Oban to the Isle of Mull.  Even our dog did not look very happy!  
Across to the Eaast coast of Scotland  andthe sailing ship "Discovery" moored on the River Tay in Dundee 
Discovery" was the last 3 masted ship to be built in Britain in Dundee in 1901.   it was taken on two expeditions to the Antarctic by Captain Robert Falcon Scott. The second expedition saw a party of five reaching the South Pole in 1912 only to find that Norwegian explorer had preceded them. Scott and his four comrades all perished on the return journey.
My own connection with ships is slight, but here are some memories. 

In September 1966,  I returned home from a year in the USA, travelling aboard the Cunard liner "Sylvania" from New York, calling at Boston and Cobh, Ireland,   before reaching Liverpool.  The ship, small by today's cruise ship standards, was very quiet and I was lucky to get a cramped 4 berth cabin all to myself.  Goodness knows how four adults could have managed in the space, without someone  being perched on top of their bunk.  Commercial jet planes services  were hitting the transatlantic  scheduled shipping and the Liverpool-New York sailings were axed in November after my return.  Still I enjoyed this experience  and had my first glimpse   of Ireland with dawn over Cobh. 


A statue   on the waterfront commemorates this leaving of Ireland.  It depicts Annie Moore and her brothers.  Annie was the first person to be admitted to the United States of America through the new immigration centre at Ellis Ireland, New York on 1 January 1892.    On 11 April 1912 Queenstown was the final port of call for the "Tatanic"   as she set out across the Atlantic on her ill-fated maiden voyage.
[Source:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cobh#History].
My husband's ancestors (Donaldson, White, Moffet) were mariners, sailing out of South Shields,on the River Tyne  in north east England, whilst extended family members were in related occupations   as a caulker, seaman, river policeman, shipwright, roper, ship’s carpenter, and marine engine fitter.

It  is amazing what diverse directions family history can take you.  To me "snow" was the white stuff falling in winter and a "smack" was a slap to a recalcitrant child. But that all changed as I began researching maritime history, and learnt about the different names for ships in the 19th century - barque or bark or barc, brig, sloop. smack and snow.

 The River Tyne, with the Norwegian ferry  in the background at North Shields.

An aerial view taken as we were coming into land at Newcastle Airport, with a clear picture of the River Tyne estuary, its north and south piers. and on the left South ShieldsThe first purpose-built lifeboat in the world was built in South Shields in 1789.
To sunnier climes and more happy memories of our Austrian holidays.


 The Swan boats on Hallstattersee, near Salzburg

The ferry on Wolfgangsee, near Salzburg,  where we celebrated our ruby wedding anniversary.

Sepia Saturday gives bloggers an opportunity
to share their family history through photographs


Click HERE to read takes from other Sepia Saturday bloggers



  1. Nice that you got in on the last cruise. I have never been on a cruise but the ships nowadays look so huge!

  2. Great photos of all different sorts of ships & boats. Of course I recognized Oban & the ferries. I never knew what the name Oban meant, however. Nice to know. And I remember seeing the folly way up there on the hill wondering why there was something that looked like the Roman coliseum up there? I don't know if sleeping in a 4-bunk room on a ship would create the same feel, but when we were cruising on the Island Princess in Alaska, I loved the slight roll & sway of the ship when I went to bed at night. It was like being rocked gently to sleep. Of course the sea was calm. I'm not sure what it might have been like had it been a little rougher? In Scotland I remember the ferry trip coming back from the Orkney Isles was rocking & rolling pretty good. Getting things to our seats from the refreshment window was quite the challenge. :)

  3. I enjoyed seeing all your different ships, and the various places that they, and you have been.

  4. This is a wonderful collection of boats that reminds me of my few visits to Scotland (and Newcastle too). I've always enjoyed small boats, especially sailing, but as my wife is English and has actually sailed around Britain in a small single mast boat, I've come to appreciate that the North seas can be very very challenging, so I enjoy watching boats from the shore or on a large ferry. I'm fascinated by McCaig's Tower which I'd not known before. It seems to be a rare uncompleted folly that has proved worthy of historic preservation.

  5. Impressive ship that "Discovery". I tend to get seasick even when it's calm so was never a fan of bot trips myself... Prefer to look at boats from land!

  6. I have never cared much for being on boats, but appreciate you connections, however minor. Especially your return from the States. Looking back over your photos, the vivid reds in so many of them really stood out and made them vibrant.


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