Recently I had reason and (thankfully) opportunity to get away for TWELVE whole days. I have not had a holiday for more than 7 days in a loooooong time so it felt pretty awesome to be able to have a whole new place to explore for the best part of 2 weeks.
I didn’t actually care where I ended up, but for logistics sake I decided to go anywhere along the Ayrshire coast since it can be reached within an hour from where we live. And so I simply typed ‘Ayrshire’ into airbnb and booked the first affordable option on the list – I genuinely didn’t even look at the photos of the apartment, although I did quickly check the map and saw it was in a town called Irvine just north of Ayr. The specifications informed me that my apartment was a couple of minutes from a big Asda and the train station, 5 minutes from the harbour and 15 minutes from the beach which sounded more than good enough for me.
As it turned out, it took me all of about 5 minutes to fall in love with Irvine and I will be forever grateful to that harbour, the beach and all the other interesting places I discovered in the area. I’m wasn’t sure what I liked more – the delicious food from the many amazing cafes along Montgomery and Harbour Streets, or the long stretch of beach or the sunsets on the harbour or the wonderful examples of public art dotted all around or all the many other things which made me feel happy whilst I was there. Even just the (socially distanced) chats with random dog walkers on the beach – people who smiled!!! – felt amazing. Its safe to say, I really didn’t want to leave.
It has now been over a week since I returned and my mind is, for the most part, still very much in Irvine. On my last day there, Jay and the kids came to meet me in Puffer’s Cafe for lunch, before we visited our first museum in over a year – the Scottish Maritime Museum. It was only a few days after museums in Scotland had reopened after lockdown so it felt more than nice to be doing something ‘normal’ again. And it is a story I learned about in the museum which I want to share today.
The Maritime Museum proved to be very interesting, even for someone like me with little knowledge about ship building, boats or boating life. But it was was the little orange boat in the picture below – The Bass Conqueror, and the story attached to it which especially caught my interest. And I’m not ashamed to say that I had to swallow back tears when I read the few paragraphs of information about this 13ft fiberglass rowing boat on the board beside it.
On May 21st 1980, 27 year-old Irishman Kenneth Kerr set out in the Bass Conqueror from Newfoundland Canada with the hope of setting the world record for crossing the Atlantic in the smallest vessel. He had already made one attempt at the challenge the previous year, but after encountering horrendous storms, he had to be rescued after 58 days. His boat washed up on the Irish coast five months later.
After repairs, the ex-Royal Navy communications and electronic warfare expert, set off on his second attempt. The last message picked up from his communication device was on October 25th. He was never seen again. The Bass Conqueror was found by a Norwegian rescue team on January 26th 1981. The notches he marked into the strengthening board on the bottom of the boat to record each week he was at sea can still be seen.
For a more in-depth account of Kerr’s story, this is the best collection of articles I have found: http://old.oceanrowing.com/logs/kenneth_kerr.htm
And here is a little gallery of some of the interesting sights I found in and around Irvine: