Sessions and Sail - The Fleet 2024
August 11th - 17th
Price: £1315 per person, including all food, accommodation, sessions and workshops.
Join us aboard two-masted brigantine Lady of Avenel, or Dutch Barge Volharding, for this first ever Sessions and Sail Fleet voyage!
The ship will be your home for seven days as we step aboard in Oban, sailing this unique part of Scotland's coast. The spectacular Southern cliffs of Mull, home to white-tailed sea eagles and a wealth of marine life; beautiful Iona; Staffa; the Corryvreckan sound between Jura and Scarva; the Garbh Eileachs, isolated yet at the centre of everything; Easdale Island. All these places and more are within reach as we sail and play tunes all along the coast.
The ship will be your base for a voyage of exploration and music with sessions, workshops, sailing and more; throughout the trip we will enjoy locally sourced food, beautifully prepared by our on-board chef.
In addition to the crew, each ship will carry sail-with tutors, dedicated musicians who will be able to run workshops, help keep the sessions going, and give dedicated assistance with any new techniques, tunes, songs or more that you might like to learn.
Cruising in company, or perhaps getting a little competitive as we sail to our next destination, with potential crew swaps, will bring a new dimension to this voyage. We may raft up the ship's and enjoy sessions together, either aboard or ashore.
Some of our likely destinations are outlined below.
We look forward to having you join us on this voyage!
Start and end your voyage in Oban, gateway to the Hebrides! Known for its beautiful bay, regular CalMac ferries, a lively music scene, and the colloseum-esque MacCaig's Tower on the hillside, Oban is the ideal place to set out from.
These uninhabited islands have a very special atmosphere all of their own. WIth monastic 'bee-hive' structures from the 6th Century AD, visited by St Brendan the Navigator, this peaceful place looks across at mainland Scotland, Mull, and the firth of Lorne..
Iona is another very special place, with white sands, turquoise waters and the dominating abbey. Iona has a welcoming community of 170.
Who is this trip aimed at?
If you are a keen musician playing at any level - whether beginner, intermediate or expert - with an interest in the traditional and folk music of Scotland, this trip is for you. No sailing experience is necessary, but those keen to participate will be encouraged to join in the sailing of the ship should they wish to, whether steering, helping set and trim the sails, or even climbing the mast for the finest view of all.
Accommodation on board
If sailing aboard the Lady of Avenel, You will be allocated a berth in one of our six double cabins. For solo travellers, cabins will be allocated on a same-sex basis; if two people travelling together wish to share a cabin, we recommend booking early to ensure availability.
If you're aboard Volharding, the accommodation is of a very similar standard. Fitted out in true Dutch 'gezellig' style, she's cosy and welcoming. Accommodation is, as per the 'Lady', in twin (or one triple) cabins.
Both ships have shared showers and toilets.
Meals are prepared in the modern galley; on the upper deck aboard the Lady, and below decks on Volharding; food is of a high standard and prepared by our own chefs. Meals, tea and coffee are included in the price of the trip.
The saloon aboard both ships provides an ideal place to socialise and, with the tables cleared away, will be the perfect session space for the evenings we spend aboard. Should the weather be fair enough, we may be able to play sessions on deck.
The following itinerary is a suggestion of how the trip may take form; all destinations are subject to change, are weather dependant, and are at the discretion of the Captain.
Day 1 Arriving at the North Pier pontoons in Oban harbour, you find the ships for the voyage - ‘Lady of Avenel’ and ‘Volharding’ tied up side by side.
Reporting aboard your designated ship, the crew welcome you aboard; you are given a tour of the ship and a briefing from the Captain; and are shown to your cabin where you can stow your gear and settle in for the week.
The two ships depart the pier in the early afternoon and sail out of the bay, heading south-west down the Firth of Lorne. This takes us to the Garvellach Islands; we pass through the narrow gap betwen the rocks and anchor in this small harbour.
After a drink on deck and a tasty dinner we clear the tables in the saloon and get to know each other over a few more tunes and songs; our musical crew and our sail-with tutors encourage you and to make sure the tunes keep going.
We depart the Garvellachs in the morning and sail west along the south coast of Mull. We have seen eagles on the ridges here in the past; and these waters are rich with dolphins and whales, so it's worth keeping our eyes peeled.
We continue into Iona Sound where we drop an anchor in the early afternoon.
Our first local tutor joins by dinghy here; clearing the tables in the saloon, we have the opportunity to learn a new song or tune; and gain a bit of local culture. There are opportunities to swap ships and play tunes and exchange ideas with the other crew.
We go ashore in the evening after dinner for a pint and a session in one of the pubs here in Iona.
From Iona Sound, we sail the fleet south through the Sound of Iona, anchoring in the beautiful Traigh Gheal bay at Erraid. This is the bay that features in Robert Louis Stevenson's novel 'Kidnapped' - where David Balfour makes shore after his brig is wrecked on the Torran Rocks.
There is a stunning beach at the head of the bay - you may choose to take an instrument ashore, or go for a swim; tunes are played aboard the ships and ashore as we enjoy the rest of the day here.
After dinner the tunes and songs go on back in the saloon; we may swap ships or even raft the two ships together and play a big session in the open air if the weather is good.
We pick up anchor in the morning and sail the 18 miles to Colonsay. By now you are becoming familiar with the ships and this is a great chance to learn more about how the sails work.
We arrive at Colonsay in the afternoon; our second local tutor joins us and runs a workshop aboard the Lady, giving us a taste of island culture.
In the evening we have the chance to go ashore where we join local musicians for some tunes in the pub.
We depart Colonsay, sailing towards the north end of Jura and the famous Gulf of Corryvreckan, where tides rip through at over 8 knots forming whirlpools and standing waves at springs.
We pass into the gulf at slack water, hanging a right into Bagh Gleann nam Muc. Here we drop an anchor, safe and still but locked in for the next six hours whilst the Corryvreckan runs past a few hundred metres from us.
Inspired by this, we run a tune/arranging session with our sail-with tutors and our musical crew. You may like to put a set of tunes or a song together with one of your shipmates; we will have the chance to perform some of our music in Easdale tomorrow.
We depart Baigh Gleann nam Muc at 1120 when the tide slackens, heading north towards Easdale Island, a small community island with a disused slate quarry which is the scene for the world stone-skimming champinships every September.
Arriving at this unique place in the afternoon, we get ready for the party this evening - rehearsing our music, or wandering ashore and getting to know Easdale.
We join the community at night in the local hall, performing the music we have prepared and joining with the local community in a few tunes or maybe a dance!
It’s the last morning; we depart at 0730 and head back to to Oban, sailing in company and having breakfast together on the way. A last tune or a farewell back at the Oban pontoons, and it's time to set off on the next adventure!