Meet Ewen Grant and Janice Cooney – life and business partners in a venture offering tourists a unique and unforgettable experience.
Seaflower Skye takes visitors on a luxury cruise to the remote, magical and barely populated island of Rona. For Ewen and Janice their business is their passion and this comes across in the ambience on the boat as it leaves Portree harbour. It feels more like a day-trip with friends rather than a commercial cruise. They provide a sensory bombardment of scenery, history and wildlife washed down with an endless supply of generous hospitality… …and that’s all in advance of arriving on Rona for a luxury seafood lunch and fine wine on the ample deck of their Catamaran, before a couple of hours exploring this magical island.
It's been a long journey for the crew of Seaflower Skye. Ewen was born and bred on the island but like many young islanders didn’t really appreciate what he had on his doorstep until he left home. He set off to travel the world and met Janice, who hails from Ireland, in Thailand. They settled in Australia for three years but the lure of home drew them back to Ireland where Janice worked as a theatre nurse and Ewen drove heavy plant vehicles on windfarm construction sites.
Ewen was really missing Skye, his family and their connection with the sea. Both his father and brother run Creel boats out of Portree catching some of the finest shellfish on the planet. Janice agreed to move as long as she could find work. They started to look for boats suitable for carrying fee-paying passengers on pleasure cruises around Skye. Eventually, Seaflower came on the market. Janice says they knew instantly it was “the tool for the job”.
They soon won the contract to carry out a ferry service for the privately-owned island of Rona. This contract helps cover the mortgage on the boat and provides a year-round income.
Next, they set about designing their cruises and wanted to offer tourists a luxury experience. The standard trip takes visitors out to Rona where they have lunch on deck in the sheltered natural harbour. Lunch comprises local langoustine, Squat Lobster, hot and cold smoked salmon… ...and on chillier days a warming bowl of Cullen Skink. The seafood is supplied by Ewen’s father and brother.
Ewen says, “It feels really good to be showcasing some of Skye’s great produce. Unfortunately, a lot of the best shellfish is exported to the continent but having a father and brother in the fishing industry means we can intercept the catch before it leaves Skye.”
After lunch passengers can spend a couple of hours exploring the island. Sturdy footwear is required for the steep climb to the Trig point on Rona’s highest peak or for the walk across the island to the cave where missionaries once preached and the island’s caretakers, Bill and Lorraine were married.
On the return journey to Portree there’s an opportunity to spot porpoise and dolphins or catch a glimpse of a Sea Eagle on the cliffs of Raasay…..all with a local dram to toast the end of a memorable day.
Ewen and Janice would like to run the business all year round. The unpredictability of Skye’s climate means a November day could be just as nice as a May day. The principal restriction is the lack of light in the winter months. Janice says “If we could do it all year round we would. But the weather is a factor and so is the light.”
2018 was the first season for Seaflower Skye. During the summer they hosted a wedding and had four other marriage proposals on board. 2019 will be their first full season and they are already inundated with booking enquiries from corporate clients and holiday-makers from across the globe impressed with their ratings on Trip Advisor.
Ewen and Janice couldn’t be happier in the jobs and Ewen especially appreciates the quality of home.
“I didn’t appreciate Skye until I moved away”. Once I left Scotland I started to get homesick. When you are travelling the world and you’re struggling to find a place as good as where you live it’s a good complaint to have.”
Busting the myth of an overcrowded island
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