Wednesday, 27 September 2017

Take me to the Pilot! as the song goes........... Journey into HUMBER

'Take me to the Pilot' as the Elton John song goes...

This journey gave me the opportunity to see the work of the Pilot. Crucial and many ways unrecognised that keeps the shipping industry running smoothly.

The Humberside Launches moored ready work

Due to the support and generosity of Associated British Ports  I got to see the work of the Pilot close and personal. Out from their base in Grimsby in sunny Lincolnshire out to two vessels to drop off the pilot onto a ferry and a pickup from vessel.

Like many of these journeys this one started with another almost sleepless journey down from the West of Scotland to the East coast of Yorkshire to meet up with Colin Shores the skipper of the boat who took me out at Whitby. He is rapidly becoming a Shipping Forecast regular!

The amazing Humber Bridge

The initial destination HULL the current City of Culture who has suffered from being out on a relative limb, but finally getting the recognition as a cultural destination with a rich seam of industrial and maritime heritage.

An example of the forward looking redevelopment of the quay area of the City of Hull

After an afternoon in Hull it was over the architectural marvel of the Humber Bridge to the Grimsby for a seriously needed rest in a 'real bed' before heading the ABP Port office in Grimsby Docks.

The port office building, operational headquarters of the Humber Pilot.

After a briefing on equipment and what to do if I go over the side its out to the launches all kitted up for the ride out into the Humber.

Marine Services Manager Tony Lewis sporting the safety wear for the job.

After a briefing on equipment and what to do if I go over the side its out to the launches all kitted up for the ride out into the Humber.  

I was assured I was in safe hands on Geoff and Gary with other 50 years of experience. With amazing turn of speed we headed out to the ship 
The first journey was take the oncall pilot out to the vessel AutoPrestige to assist them on their entry into the Humber estuary. 

The launch maybe fast and manoeuvrable, but is dwalfed by the most of the ships that it services and only though great skill and experience can the pilot be transferred either on or off these vessels.

Pilot drop off successful and vessel on its way

With throttle opened up we headed of to the next job of the morning to pick up another Pilot , unlike the Auto Prestige and the side opening door this time it was down a rope ladder onto the launch. 

While the launch is pulled alongside the ship, the constant correction to maintain the launches relative position was astonishing.  Another successful pickup and back to the Grimsby quay to put my legs back on dry land.  Luckily the artist has good sea legs, this journey was one rocky ride on what seemed from the quay as relative calm. 
I can only imagine the same tasks carried out in much stormier seas and often in the dark. Only through the amazing attention to detail and the strictest of safety measures that this can of work can be done. The team told me that its those moments of board and leaving these vessels that are the most dangerous and its only concentration and utter professionalism that injury and even death can be avoided.Hats off to these guys and this amazing work!
Back on the shore and a welcome cuppa it was time to make my way back to Grimsby Town centre to start on the multistep journey by train and by bus back home to the Ayrshire coast.
Another interesting and often entertaining trip, with HUMBER under my belt now looking a mammoth one trip journey covering four regions in three days .. The trip to SPAIN.
Hasta luego ! 


Matt Booth,  
Deputy Pilotage Operations Manager Humber 

Tony Lewis, Marine Services Manager

The pilots and crew of Humberside Pilot Service

Management at ABP  Associated British Ports

Special Thanks .. To the top Amigo  Colin Shores .. for ferrying me about, feeding me, providing the shelter on this one.

Friday, 21 July 2017

Back on the water - Choppy water and transport poets TYNE

After some significant time where real life got in the way, at last back out on the water and what a great place to start off the beautiful Yorkshire coast out from a sunny Whitby. 

The plan to head up the coastline towards the hidden gem of the village of Staithes, a significant fishing port at the turn of the 20th Century and once home to a then unknown a young grocer's apprentice, Captain James Cook. 

Most of the journeys start with a packed bag and a train journey out of my home town on the Ayrshire coast on the West coast of Scotland and this was no different. The first leg of the journey took me to Middlesbrough to stay with a friend who took good care of me and a bed for the night before the early start to the coastal town of Whitby. As the train trundled across the Yorkshire moors I was struck by the beauty of the local geography.

The view from the Whitby bound train

On arrival I met up with my generous skipper Colin Shores, semi retired ex car-dealer now found working bliss through painting and decorating. Even though the sky was clear of cloud and the sun was already burning down, Colin advised me that I had picked the worst day in July for getting out onto the water. I was soon to learn a new meaning to the innocuous word"Northerly"  As we headed to the end of the pier to stare out to bobbing yellow buoy, it wasn't looking good.

As we headed back into the marina to talk to the harbour master I was beginning to think "Why today?" After looking out at the daytrippers out on the "pirate ship" in the rollercoaster sea , we decided to go for it and see what happens!

The calmness of Whitby marina on a beautiful July day.

The Sea Shores II in the deceptively calm Whitby harbour.

As we headed out into open water a steady rolling became rollercoaster to bucking bronco in places. Heading out to deeper water and turning North we pitched and rolled, a rough ride that told us one thing that the weather and sea conditions weren't giving up fighting against us. 

Colin, skipper and safe pair of hands.

Where did everything go?

It may seem a beautiful relaxed onshore, but it's important to remember that the sea can be a wild and dangerous place. Feeling that the sea conditions could put us at some risk if we continued to travel further up the coast, Colin expertly manoeuvred the boat back round to head back to the towards the safety of Whitby harbour. 

As we headed back towards Whitby we encountered the crazy people on the "Pirate pleasure ship" although I wonder in an open vessel the pleasure is quite the word!

After a well earned lunch we headed by land to the village of Staithes via road which beckoned so tantalisingly from the water, but may have been a risk too far to venture by sea.

The access for the general public is a car park at the top of the hill so even with summer visitors the streets of Staithes remain quiet and nostalgic charm which belie the the harshness of life that the residents must have endured during its fishing heyday.

Staithes has a particular facination as the home to a group of twenty to thirty artists known as the "Staithes Group" or the "Northern Impressionists." The group contained renowned artists such as Edward E. Anderson, Joseph R. Bagshawe, Thomas Barrett and James W. Booth.  Dame Laura Knight became the most famous member of the Staithes Group; she and her husband and fellow painter Harold Knight kept a studio in the village

Looking out to the headland of the bay that was clearly visible out to sea when we were bobbing about in the roller-coaster waters of the North Sea.

After a cup of coffee is was back on the long days journey to home in the West coast of Scotland. 

Whitby station inundated with what seemed hundreds of schoolchildren and retired day trippers I climbed aboard the train back to Middlesbrough in the first leg of my journey. What I hadn't expected that the conductor would be the famous Graham Palmer, the bard and poet of Northern Rail. Destinations introduced in rhyming couplets what could be a better way to end of the Yorkshire leg of the journey.

Sitting waiting for my next connection to Darlington to pick up my train Edinburgh and then on to my home town Troon. An eventful and memorable trip... onwards to the next Forecast area...

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

The not so graceful swan

The project continues at a slow pace for 2016 but will burst into new life as we enter into a new year. I was surprised how my brief encounter with the grim reaper would throw a ship size spanner into the works along with keeping the artist on a regular income.

As the not so graceful swan glides on the surface the feet of planning continue to make headway as leave one year and into a new.

Due to the kindness of BBC Humberside's presenter Phil White I was given an opportunity to tell the Shipping Forecasts story on live radio. As we have noticed from previous entries that wasn't the first time on the radio, but in the past we had the opportunity record the interview and edit out those "I forgot my lines" moments. While you unexpected sit there on the sofa waiting for the the proceeding record to finish all sorts of thoughts cross your mind, will I lose it? will talk utter nonsense?  Those who know me know I'm quite good at that.  As the record faded out my introduction to live radio was a remarkably calm and relaxed affair and I managed to share my vision and story with some unexpected ease.
The challenge was to get some local help in the two Sea areas local to the BBC Humberside audience TYNE and the obvious one HUMBER .

Within an hour or two of the interview I was offered transport into both of those areas off the Yorkshire coast.

The first of those was an opportunity to take to sea on a historic Yorkshire Coble, a traditional fishing boat of the North East of England. A craft that was made famous by the Victorian heroine Grace Darling who with her father sailed out in treacherous seas to save the crew of the 400 Ton Steamer the "Forfarshire" I'm personally hoping for a little less adventure when I join the crew of the boats the Three Brothers or the Gratitude. #

The Yorkshire Coble
I'm particularly looking for to taking to the sea in 2017 into the HUMBER region aboard this beautiful boat or the Three Brothers shown below;

The Three Brothers

As always the project has been subject to the vagaries of the weather, particularly in the winter.  With the generosity of Colin Shore and his Jeanneau Merry Fisher boat. I look to make the journey from Whitby to the the historic sea part of Staithes, a long time artists colony which will take me into the TYNE region.

Other journeys are at tentative stage : WHITE and PORTLAND will be completed in 2017 due the generosity of accommodation from a long standing customer of mine Pam Du Val who is lucky to live on Portland Bill.

These are just the first few of many, 2017 will be a major catch up year for the artist and the journeys that will follow to put the show back on the road again.

The search for new music continues with the kind support of the American singer  Sally Ellyson who I have discussed using the beautiful song

A beautiful and poignant song that would be a fitting addition to the project.

Troon -Ayrshire coast November 2016

Thursday, 2 June 2016

An artist's boat ran aground - the tide has slowly returned.

After months absence away from the project the artist is back to working on the next set of journeys on this enormous venture across water and paint.
I had expected that the winter months would be quieter due the uncertainty of the weather, but I couldn't expected the turn of events at Christmas. I suffered a heart attack a week before Christmas, frighteningly unexpected for a reasonably fit 54 year old with none of the risk factors other than a very stressful life before becoming a full time painter. It has been a long road to full fitness and after two heart operations it was prudent to put the project on hold until I felt confident of travelling out to sea.  It is a well worn cliche, but not without truth that after an event that your heart stops you take stock and reassess your life and look at the World with new eyes.  During the recovery period  I have never painted so much and expanded my creative horizons. My senses have been more acute, whether this is "real" or a psychological consequence of my "cardiac event" I may never know, but the effects are refected in the way I look at the art , including my own.
Even though I made the decision to not to travel whilst building up my strength and confidence to travel alone I have continued to work on the music side of the project. I have recently been offered a beautiful work by the contemporary composer Poppy Ackroyd. A video of this work "the Glass sea" is included:

A number of other International artists have expressed an interest in the project and more names will be revealed as and when they come on board.

I have recently finished the project work for the Cromarty area. An initial decision to not include geographic markers in some of the painters has been abandoned as in some cases a feature will encourage sales which is the ultimate purpose to raise funds for Macmillan Cancer Support.

Tarbet light -storm
I made a decision a stormy piece for the CROMARTY region as it seemed in keeping with the often wild and unpredictable seas of the Northern coast of Scotland.  The Cromarty piece is also unusual in that I have worked in mixed media, adding detail and structure with crayon.  Each piece for the project is not only a journey of geography, but also a creative one and I am sure it will develop over the life of the 31 regions.

I am currently working on the painting  for the FORTH region and will be posting an image in the next post along with some news of further journeys in the coming months.

This update is only a short one, but it was meant to reassure supporters of the project that the rumours of the Artist's demise have been somewhat exaggerated and things are back on an even keel ( to strain the boating metaphors )

Another BIG BIG Thanks for all those who sent me good wishes, prays and thoughts which helped enormously in feeling a new fitter version of my former self.

REMEMBER you can still give via my Just Giving page , no amount too small for this amazing cause.

Troon - South Ayrshire - June 2016

Friday, 1 January 2016

All at Sea , but the music and the words go on

6x6 inch Acrylic wash on paper ( available for the Winter Season )

As we came to the end of the year its a good time to look at a year on when the project was merely a crazy idea.  Although the idea of basing an artistic project on the Shipping Forecast has been in my head for some years it was only the end of 2014 when it started to come together.
So how far have we come?  The Opening event at the Thistle Gallery in Glasgow started the project with 31 postcard sized pieces painted in the gallery during a Winter's Sunday.

10 months on and 5 regions under my belt, 2016 should see many more regions completed and thoughts are now moving to exhibiting the artwork influenced by my journeys so far.

THAMES, MALIN, CROMARTY, FAIR ISLE and FORTH now completed. HEBRIDES is coming soon in 2016 . Other regions well into the planning include PLYMOUTH, PORTLAND and WIGHT.

Some of the views from the Journeys so far............

Sunrise on the River Blackwater from the barge "The thistle"
The Ayrshire coast as we head out to the Island of Ailsa craig

Looking out into the bay from the Mareel in Lerwick Shetland

Back on the mainland looking out across the Pentland Firth to Orkney from Thurso.
Port Edgar Marina on the Firth of Forth.


The literary element has continued to be a success with the contributions of Sir Andrew Motion ( Poet Laureate 1999 to 2009 ) Simon Armitage CBE, Don Paterson OBE, and the Estate of George Mackay Brown.


The New departure is the planned collaboration with the award winning Film and TV Composer Andrew Phillips we hope work together to produce a contemporary music setting for the Shipping Forecast theme with the help of a number of International Artists.  The artists that have already agreed include UK musician and composer, Peter Coyle  and Canadian Cellist , Julia Kent

Before the sale of the main art works their are a number of ways that you can support Macmillan Cancer Support and the project: I have a Just Giving Page connected to the project and for the Winter Season I still have a number of small acrylic studies on paper which can be purchased to support the logistics of the project as we head into a New Year.


Winter Season artworks on paper:

I would like to thank the following people for their kindness

Top Sail Charters   Maldon Essex
Mark McCrindle - Ailsa Craig Trips
Stuart Garrett - MD Northlink Ferries
Sarah Young - PA Northlink Ferries
Colin Henderson - Edinburgh Boat Charters
Simon Armitage
Sir Andrew Motion
Don Paterson
Peter Coyle
Elizabeth and Kris Bevan - Estate of George Mackay Brown
Macmillan Scotland

A very special thanks to Carol Dunbar of the Thistle Gallery for backing up this crazy idea in the early days!

To my wonderful wife Marian for being in the rock in the Sea of Craziness I continue to throw myself into!

Ayrshire Coast
January 1st 2016
Email :

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

FORTH - A grey day under the bridges

The forth rail bridge completed in 1890
For months I’d moved across the open waterlike a wheel under its skin, a frictionlessand by then almost wholly abstract matterwith nothing in my head beyond the blissof my own breaking
From the Wave by Don Paterson OBE.

The next journey was a long time coming, even though geographically it was one of the closest from my home on the West coast of Scotland it was by its very nature highly dependent on the weather.
As we head towards the end of the year time was running out to get to the water before the bad weather became the norm.
Due to the great generosity of Colin Henderson of Edinburgh Boat charters the plan was to head out on the Firth of Forth from South Queensferry at the foot of the iconic crossings joining Lothian to the Kingdom of Fife.
Week after week the weather continued to defeat us with a succession of Atlantic fronts heading in bringing with it high winds and days of rain and more rain. To add to the complication the plan was to match up the visit with an interview with the Glasgow Herald and photo-shoot so each weekend meant planing against the weekly weather forecast, emails exchanged. There are so just many balls to juggle in the air and it seemed that we would never match everything together and the Scottish weather would continue to beat us..

At last the weather gods were kind and we found a slot of a few hours that would be suitable to head out on the Forth without gale force winds and horizontal rain.
The Edgar Marina is nestled between the current Forth road bridge and the construction of the Queensferry Crossing which cannot come soon enough for the travelers and the local economy as days before the journey fractures were found in the road bridge closing the bridge until the end of year. The history of the site goes back to the eleventh century, but it was in the early Nineteenth Century that a pier was built and has continued to have naval connections until the site became a marina in the late 70s.

Edgar Marina in South Queensferry
Sitting close to the marina is the recently fated road bridge and beyond the road bridge is the engineering and architectural wonder of the Forth Rail bridge whose structural dominance has made it an iconic feature of Scotland known around the World.

Colin Henderson my skipper for the day welcomed me on one of their yachts ready for our trip onto the Forth. Colin strangely sharing a very similar career in IT networking, a World I left some years ago to pursue the rewarding, but uncertain career as a full time artist.

Heading out into the Firth of Forth.

It was time to cast off  and we slowly slipped from the moorings and headed out into fairly calm water. The Estuary and sky a uniform slate grey so typical of many November days.

The Queensferry crossing under construction

Its only when you get onto the water you see the scale of the bridges at this end of the Forth, the current towers of the new bridge construction jutting out into the sky. We slowly turned and we headed Eastward towards the road and rail bridges.
The road bridge was built in 1964 and an immense suspension bridge over over 2,500 m and has carried over 65,000 vehicles a day.

Looking out to the North shore in Fife
Colin handed over the control of the yacht to me, the yacht feeling quite responsive, a pleasant change to my journey out on the Thistle from Maldon in Essex when the size and age of the barge was more of a fight for my untutored and inexperienced hands. In the slightly more choppy waters of the Forth I slowly took us under the road bridge and headed towards the iconic rail bridge.

Skipper Colin Henderson of Edinburgh Boat Charters

The huge distinctive red brown structure grew closer, a bridge like no other crossing this the stretch of Scotland since its opening in 1890. 

Historic photograph showing how the cantilever bridge construction.
Looking under the existing road bridge to the iconic Rail bridge

Its quite an experience to see the bridge from the water, the immense construction an artwork of perfect proportion an awe inspiring achievement for British engineering. We continued to out Eastward under my novice steering until a suitable moment to turn and return towards the marina and back to dry land. Heading back under the rail and road bridges I handed the wheel back to Colin to bring her back to her mooring.
A short journey for the FORTH region, but an enjoyable and interesting one. To see the bridges from a new perspective will remain with me even though the grey dreich day tried to defeat the mood, but enjoyable company and a warming cup of coffee on our return made the days travels a great success.

The journey onto the Firth of Forth only making me look forward the next journey out into the wonders and delights of the areas of the SHIPPING FORECAST.

Scotland Dec 2015

Monday, 21 September 2015

CROMARTY and FAIR ISLE from the City of Granite to Hjaltland and Hamnavoe

Fair Isle 50 x 50 cm Oil on wooden panel. 

I had been checking the weather day after day, worried that gales and high winds might scupper my plans and the inter-connected web of journeys from the mainland of Scotland to the Isles of Shetland and Orkney that Sarah from Northlink had painstakingly put together for me.
As the day came, all was well and the forecast of grey skies and light rain seemed a gift from heaven.
Boarding the train from Troon on the Ayrshire coast to Glasgow and then on to the port of Aberdeen - the granite city on the East coast of Scotland the first seaward destination was Lerwick the biggest port on Shetland a 14 hour over night journey on the North Sea traversing my first region of this adventure Cromarty.
My transport for this overnight sea journey was the Northlink Freighter the MV Hildasay a 122 metre long vessel built in Spain in 1999.

Northlink's Aberdeen to Lerwick freighter - MV Hildasay.

On my arrival at Northlink's Aberdeen ferry terminal I was welcomed with the VIP treatment which was to set the tone of the weeks series of journeys across the Northern Isles. Greeted by Stuart Garrett Managing Director of Northlink Ferries and his PA Sarah, a wizard of organisation I was then driven onto the ship by security and welcomed by the predominately Estonian crew.   I was shown to my cabin for the trip by Tina the steward whose job function seemed to be a cross between House Manager and surrogate mother to the passengers mostly made up of truck drivers who make the regular overnight journeys across to Shetland.  Unlike the layout of your average ferry negotiating the decks of a freighter are more akin to mountain climbing as the sheer steepness of the vertigo inducing stairs would be make crossing an alpine cravasse a stroll in the park in rough seas. As Tina ushered me into the drivers lounge, surrealy furnished with a large dinner table and glass cabinet like a 1970s suburban living room she ticked my name off her list of passenger and said with some excitement, "Mr Ian, you're the man we have been waiting for"
After a hearty meal I was ushered up further precarious stairs to the Bridge to meet the Estonian Captain Avo Orar, a calm and softly spoken man who was happy to share his domain with this artist and traveller.

The bridge of the Hildasay.
The Hildsay's skipper Avo Orar on the bridge.

A fascinating array of radar screens and buttons on the bridge seem to have more in common with flying than sailing. The ship once out of harbour runs like a plane on Auto-Pilot, but even a ship sailing itself  to designated channels and equipped with the latest navigational aids the crew need to constantly scan the horizon for hazards in the murky skies as the evening drew in.

Heading to down to my cabin I retired to my bunk bed as the deep rumble of the engines reminded you that we were slowly heading to the Northerly part of the UK.

My cabin on the Hildasay.
Heavy rain greeted the new day as we docked at the port of Lerwick I headed down into the terminal where I was greeted with smiles and a welcome cup of tea until I was taxied down to the Mareel the cinema and art centre of the town to meet up with my first appointment of the day with Adam Guest at the Shetland Times. After a quick interview and first photograph of the day in the Lerwick rain I headed up the BBC Radio studios to meet up with John Johnson a presenter who hailing from Armagh in Northern Ireland who made his home on Shetland.
The Lodberries - Lerwick

A rainy morning in Lerwick

The rain never let up but a wander about the shops in the town and visit to the stylish Shetland Museum it was soon time to return to the terminal and board my second ship, the passenger ferry MV Hjaltland to sail from Lerwick on Shetland to the port of Kirkwall on the main island of Orkney.

The MV Hjaltland 

One of the privileges of this trip was to be able to visit the bridge on the various vessels. Particularly on the Hjaltland where I was allowed to sit in one of the "Big chairs" during the all important "Red zone" when the bridge cannot be interrupted as they manoeuvre out of port.

On our way and out of the "red zone" leaving Lerwick

One of three control desks on the Hjaltland

Arriving at 11 at night, I was due to be picked up by taxi to take me to Stromness from Kirkwall another gesture of kindness from Northlink not seeing my name outside the terminal I asked one of the inundated staff on the Information desk who promptly vaulted over the desk to find me my taxi.
The driver was already there, but waving a blank name card. As we headed across the dark interior of the island I asked about the blank card, he said, "I hadn't a felt tip to hand to write your name. In the short and rapid journey across the main island he told how a Yorkshire-man got to be working on the island.
A jovial character from outside Barnsley explained that he had sold up, bought a transit van and planned to move to the West of Ireland and lead a hippy lifestyle. What stopped you I asked? "Bad weather", replied. He told me that he continued to drive north to Stranraer and because of traffic jams he just kept on going until he arrived in Scrabster, liking the look of the ferry and thought lets get on and see what happens.  The rest is history and like many I met that the magnetic pull of the Northern Isles was simply too much and with his wife following him up to the island he's there to stay.

On arriving at the Stromness terminal I was welcomed by the terminal security with a joyous and welcoming attitude I was handed over to Nicky on the MV Hamnavoe to sleep the night the harboured ship, a night seemed like an exaggeration as I only had 4-5 hours before I had to depart before the ferry sailed for Scrabster the following morning.  I soon escaped a lively group of bikers in the ships lounge to get to my bed to get up just after 5 am.  Leaving the ship I spent a few hours with the Stromness team who plied me with welcome cups of tea and more evidence of Orkney powerful pull on people from the mainland, Lauren from Aberdeen and another Ian, an ex policeman from Bristol.

As the sun came up in Stromness we were greeted with a clear dawn and the sun soon appeared for the first time for several days.

I was determined after the interviews of the previous day, dodging the rain I would take advantage of the better weather and try and visit the ancient sites of the island.
Orkney has some of the most important neolithic sites in Europe and was awarded World Heritage status in 1999. The greatest of these is the stone circle of the Ring of Brodgar

An amazing upright stone at Brodgar 
Part of the circle that consists of 27 standing stones

Close to Brodgar, the Standing stones of Stenness are equally impressive in their own way and seem to attract a little less attention. As I walked back to the main Kirkwall to Stromness road I had the stones to myself that would be unheard of at Stonehenge and Avebury in England.

Two of the Standing stones of Stenness. 
Stromness is a well established sea port centred around a huddle of houses and cottages off winding narrow lanes which reminded of the Cornish fishing ports of St Ives and Mousehole.  A stop off for the early Hudson Bay Company of Canada and  whaling industry of the 19th Century.

Stromness has been a major centre of the arts, home to the Pier Arts Centre a wonderful haven of 20th century art. The centre was established in 1979 due the foresight and generosity of philanthropist Margaret Gardiner who donated a collection a body of work from the St Ives School to sit alongside local artists such as Stanley Cursiter. 
Stromness was home of late poet and novelist George Mackay Brown. GMBs work is part of the DNA of Orkney and particularly Stromness which was his home for most of his life. 

The winding lanes of Stromness
The rich stone architecture of Stromess

Almost deserted , adds to the town's other Worldliness

For this project I have asked for literary contributions to sit along side the visual art for all the areas traveled. I have asked a number of leading contemporary writers to contribute to the project, but I felt that the work of George Mackay Brown justly complements the essence of this project and these lines match the Fair Isle wonderfully. This work is thankfully reproduced through the kindness of George Mackay Brown's friend Elizabeth Bevan.

On the salt and tar steps. Herring boats,

Puffing red sails, the tillers

Of cold horizons, leaned

Down the gull-gaunt tide

From the poem Hamnavoe by George Mackay Brown.

'With permission from the estate of George Mackay Brown'.

Soon it was time to leave the beauty and mystery of Orkney to journey to  Scrabster and return back to sleep my final night on the MV Hamnavoe in Stromness harbour before my return to the Scottish mainland.
As we left Stromess you get wonderful views of Orkney's Hoy island and its famous Sea stack "The Old man of Hoy". These images were taken from the bridge of the MV Hamnovoe as we headed out towards the Pentland Firth and the mainland of Scotland.

The spectacular Old man of Hoy from the bridge of MV Hamnavoe

A table cloth of cloud enveloping the cliff tops of the Island of Hoy.

It had not seemed so long since I started this sea journey from the commercial modern port of Aberdeen that I was leaving Stromness for the last time.  

Looking over to the sunrise across Dunnet  Head as we heading back to the mainland.

Arriving at Scrabster port on Friday morning at 8 o'clock I opted to walk into Thurso the most northerly town in UK. An unexpected longer jaunt up hill with bag over my shoulder than I had expected!
I knew that I had a long wait for my nine hour journey back to home to the West coast Ayrshire town of Troon. Sustained by a welcome hot cup of tea I headed for Thurso's seafront so I could take my last look at the Northern Isles across the indigo Pentland Firth.

Looking out to Hoy across the Pentland Firth.
Leaving a packed train we slowly winded our way down first to the Highland city of Inverness and then onto the still bustling Friday of Glasgow and my connection back to my home town of Troon.
Ample time enough to reflect on a journey of the sea, beautiful scenery, neolithic monuments, but above all kindness of strangers.

This journey was made possible by the generosity of Northlink Ferries and its MD Stuart Garrett who "understood" from the outset the possibilities of these journeys in using Art and travel to raise money for Macmillan Cancer Support.
I particularly wanted to thank Sarah Young at Northlink's headquarters in Aberdeen for her patience and tireless efforts to make the logistics to come to together. the crews, the staff of all the terminals, security and a special thanks to Nicky who works on the Hamnavoe often on the night shift for taking care of a weary traveler during my stay on board.

REMEMBER If you want to support the fantastic work done by Macmillan Cancer Support you can give directly, or via my JUSTGIVING page at:

Troon - Ayrshire Coast - September 2015