Voyaging vet finishes trip to St. Kilda


A Deeside vet who swapped cats for a catamaran has completed a seafaring adventure for a nautical charity close to his heart.

Neil Cockburn, from Banchory, set himself the challenge of sailing from Oban on the mainland to the island of St. Kilda for the Ocean Youth Trust Scotland (OYT) and his six-day journey took place between August 26 and September 1.

OYT own three vessels, including two former 72 foot former “BT Global Challenge” racing yachts.

Youngsters between 12 and 14 (including Banchory Academy pupils) are given charge of the ships, with everything from navigating to cooking the meals left in their control.

While a professional skipper is there to make sure nothing goes wrong, the pupils are left to captain their own ship.

Neil found his inspiration for the journey after his daughters took part in an OYT adventure through school.

He told the Piper: “My daughters went and had a fantastic time. They seemed to have learned a lot and really enjoyed themselves.”

Neil had twice tried and failed to get to the island but had faith that three would prove to be his lucky number:

He said: “Mission accomplished, we got there. We landed...but the trip back was a little rough.

“When we set off, the forecast was saying light winds until the end of the week. After we reached St. Kilda, the weather turned and their were winds forecast of up to storm force ten. On the way back, over night after we’d sailed round the Butt of Lewis our sail ripped.

“The boat was fantastic though. It was designed to sail in high seas so it was nice to see it doing what it was built for.”

Neil hoped to raise £2,500 with his event, and his after setting up a Just Giving page coupled with other sponsors, he thinks that after collection donations will exceed £3000.

While his fundraising event is over, Neil wanted to stress that OYT may need to take boats out of the water without additional desperately needed funds.

He said: “OYT need and deserve significant corporate funding, and with oil week underway I’d encourage any oil companies to strike while the iron is hot and get on board with this great charity, furthering the North-easts connection to it’s ancient lifeblood, the sea.”