A group of five local air cadets found themselves exercising their sea legs rather than their wings when they took to the waters off the west coast.
The cadets, from 1716 Squadron in St Boswells, spent an exciting week aboard the 72ft ex-BT Global Challenge racing yacht, the Alba Explorer, cruising the seas around the Inner Hebrides.
The trip, run in conjunction with the charity Ocean Youth Trust Scotland, also provided the intrepid young Borders sailors with the residential component of their Duke of Edinburgh Gold Award.
Brothers Tom and Daniel Stainer, from Jedburgh Grammar School; Ryan Snook and Edward Webster from Earlston High School; and Kyle Stewart, from St Boswells, returned home exhausted, exhilarated and thoroughly enriched by the experience.
Ryan said: “It was a life-changing experience, rich with excellent banter and sound education.
“It has opened up a whole new world to me and has broadened my horizons quite considerably. There are many principles in sailing and navigation that can be applied to everyday life too.
“I’ve always loved Scotland and have always considered myself very fortunate to be able to call this country ‘home’. Nothing could have prepared me, however, for the sheer beauty of the Hebrides and Scottish west coast.
“This was the first time I’d travelled these parts and seeing them from the water was very special. We do indeed live in the most beautiful part of the world!”
The trip started at Dunstaffnage where the Borders quintet joined another seven cadets from other Scottish ATC squadrons and boarded the yacht.
Mother Nature thought it appropriate to welcome these sailing novices with a Force 10 gale upon their arrival and this gave the young crew members the opportunity to spend the first day in port learning all the knots and procedures, and familiarising themselves with the vessel.
After a 7am wake-up call the next morning and a hearty breakfast, the sailors set sail for Tobermory, on Mull.
The weary youngsters arrived in Tobermory in the early evening and were given an hour of shore leave to go and explore the port and sample the island’s fish and chips.
The next morning the Alba Explorer headed for Rum. With the mighty Atlantic swells being channelled between the isles of Eigg and Muck, this was another exhilarating day of sailing.
The water was very choppy and the repetitive motion of the deep swells caused some of the crew to succumb to a touch of seasickness.
The reward of reaching and discovering the overnight mooring in Rum proved well worth all the effort, however, and the Borders crew was unanimous in its vote of this stunning island as being “jaw-dropping” in its beauty.
Day four of the expedition saw the crew navigating back to Dunstaffnage.
The leg back to Dunstaffnage was the highlight of the trip for all concerned. By this stage, everyone had found their sea legs and a fair amount of sailing competence and familiarity too.