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Trip to the Northern Isles

I am finding it very difficult to summarize August, but nevertheless feel that I should attempt it, not just for myself, but for all the lovely people who helped me raise the funds to go in the first place. I knew it'd be an adventure, I knew I'd find it inspiring, and it was both these things. It's also further infected me with the desire to travel, not helped by the fact that I've emerged from it dating a sailor.

So, what happens when a seasick introvert poet shares a small (well, two small) space for a month with a bunch of artists?

Quite good things, on the whole.

It wasn't all rosy. I had a wobbly moment on my second day, when we were still grounded (waiting for the second boat), and I felt overwhelmed by inaction. I was seasick on our first big sail (from Bressay to Muckle Flugga, a thirteen hour sail in fairly rough weather), and never entirely found my sea legs (but found that lying down in my bunk or staying active on deck were two extremes that worked). Sometimes I felt overwhelmed by group dynamics, decision-making especially, which felt like cat-herding. Sometimes I just wanted to be alone, with internet and a good cup of coffee.

But overall, really, I was surprised at how insignificant the above was. I was surprised at how little I missed internet. Beyond the initial fix of looking through notifications, I felt slightly lost looking at my phone, what now?

My body didn't fail me too much. I, rather predictably for anyone who knows me, did sprain my ankle in a ditch on the way back from the pub (more of a community hall, open just that night as a bar). Other than that, it held up pretty well, considering.


I think I really lucked out with the group taking part - there were frictions at times of course - but I respect them all immensely, as artists, as people. I am looking forward to future collaborations - we have so many wonderful overlaps in our interests!

(They're also all amazing cooks it turns out, I can't remember the last time I ate so well for a whole month!)

Here are some of their websites (I'll add more as and when I find them):






I got more writing done than I thought, looking back, enough for a small pamphlet. This is lucky, as I promised backers a small pamphlet. I've approached a bookmaker I love to create something out of it, I just need to assemble the material.


So to be clear, there were two yachts involved: The Spirit of June (slept 10), and The Sleepy Eagle (slept 4/5). I was on The Sleepy Eagle for most of the trip, which is owned by John Fleming (bit of an inventor, check out his self-steering contraption!)

We set off from Lerwick (Shetland) and ended in Papa Westray. The Sleepy Eagle left us a little earlier, in Rousay. The last week was meant to have been spent on Papay, but I deviated (see below).

This is where I sailed while on the Clipperton Project (with thanks to Liz Crichton, fellow travelling artist for this image):

My travels continued after Papa Westray, where I sailed back with the Spirit of June to Gairloch, and from there went to the Isle of Lewis, before heading to Inverness to hire a car and drive down to Oxford. It was a suitably improvised end of the trip.

A far less beautiful map of what happened after Papa Westray would look a bit like this:


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