Based at Dunoon’s Holy Loch Marina, the Majestic Line pioneered luxury small shop cruising in Scotland.
This was largely in Argyll waters – no small boost for a young business of this kind, with the best cruising grounds in the UK and beyond around our intriguing island and peninsular coastlines and mainland sealochs in the Firth of Clyde and the Atlantic west coast.
Yesterday, 5th April 2016, the Majestic Line saw its new ship, the third in the line, launched at the Holy Loch Marina by well known Scottish actress Barbara Rafferty, whose father worked in the Clyde shipyards and who, as a child, was taken by him to see the launch of the QE2.
In pouring a dram [below] for the new Glen Etive as she named her, Barbara Rafferty spoke of that launch event from her own childhood, remembering the cheers of the men at the yard, throwing their caps in the air – and promptly threw her own skywards, as she wished her father could have been there to see her.
The Majestic Line – in every way a family business for its owners, the Thoms – has been and remains the driving vision of Andy Thom. It was he who had the imagination, back in 2004, with his business partner, Ken Grant, to buy a de-commissioned fishing trawler [memory says it was from Killybegs in Donegal in the north west of Ireland], scoop it out and rebuild it as a small cruising vessel.
She was the Glen Massan and the first of the line.
In 2007, a second boat, the Glen Tarsan, was similarly rescued and repurposed, joining the already popular Glen Massan to offer unique cruising holidays for up to 11 guests.
Now in 2016, the Glen Etive has arrived – breaking new ground for the firm in many ways.
Not a conversion, Glen Etive is a new build and not a timber but a steel-hulled ship [and we understand the steel came from Europe]. She was originally designed by Ken Fulford of Fergusons Shipyard in the Clyde who, sadly, died in 2012. Andy Thoms, himself an architect as well as an experienced skipper, took the design forward with the help of Naval Architect, Alasdair Salmon. Ken Fufford’;s wife was at the .;aunch yesteday to see her husband’s design proud in the water.
Glen Etive was built at Ardmaleish Boatbuilding on the Isle of Bute and no fewer than twenty five local trades were involved in the project before she was completed.
Described as ‘a gentleman’s yacht’, she has been finished and fitted out in Andy Thom’s favoured traditional wood and brass – with a generous and light-filled aft saloon giving on to the broad and accommodating stern deck [above].
An impressive small ship, she has seven double cabins, each en suite and is planned to carry 12 on each of her normally ten day cruises to Skye and the Outer Isles and – yes – to St Kilda.
The Majestic Line has a generous and attractive policy of setting aside two of its double cabins on each cruise for single occupancy, charged at the same per capita rate as for double occupancy, with no supplement. This is the answer to the mystery of why it carries twelve on each cruise but has seven double cabins.
The big day
Yesterday’s launch saw the three Majestic Line boats sneak out of the Holy Loch early, in celebration mode dressed overall – in order to return in convoy and in style, led by the Glen Etive.
They were welcomed by the party of guests led by Dunoon [and Inveraray and District Pipe Band] piper, Craig Wilson [below], from the Holy Loch Sailing Club to the Pier Head in the Marina.
Down below, on the pontoon, Andy Thom, Barbara Rafferty and Ken Grant [below], stood, almost on the water, looking up at the new ship’s powerful bow, as her skipper [below] supervised her efficient tying up beside them.
Glen Etive timed her entrance for her audience [below] – after she and her two sisters had hooted their way up the loch – coming in to berth to an appropriate star’s welcome of a posse of heavily armed photographers and flashes galore – with Glen Tarsan and Glen Massan quietly slipping past [below] on their way to berth at the breakwater beyond, leaving the glory to the new kid on the block.
Then there were the speeches, followed by the christening of the new ship with the only appropriate liquor.
Andy Thom [above], whose face speaks for his passionate energetic benevolence, paid warm tribute to all of those involved in the emergence of the Glen Etive – and to his wife Cushla [or ‘Cush’] for her forebearance in supporting him in his driving of the Majestic Line. [in which, with her responsibilities for the crewing, the allegedly unflappable Cushla plays a major and daily part].
The Glen Etive is clearly destined to be a happy ship, with Andy Thom declaring that there had not been one cross word exchanged at any stage of her building.
The proud owner then raised a laugh in his graceful thanking of the Clydesdale Bank and David Short of HIE for providing the Line with ‘the wherewithal’ to bring the Glen Etive into being.
We had been talking to his brother Pete on the quayside, discovering that Pete’s wife, Ann, is from Ardglass on the County Down coast – and don’t tell us that ‘Cushla’ is from anywhere else but Ireland – so it wasn’t just the Glen Massan that came from the Emerald Isle.
The cruises and the bucket list
With substantial booking already in place for the Glen Etive’s inaugural season – some competey booked out – the Majestoc Line is offering a 10% discount on the normal rate for this season only.
She is doing some six-night and a four-night cruise, in addition to her ten day adventures – and all of them sound irresistible.
There are wildlife cruises, island coastsal cruises, mainland sea loch cruises – and of course the distance cuises to Skye and the Western Isles and out to St Kilda.
The photography accompanying the website’s details of the itineraries of each cruise is no less than mouthwatering. Nothing is the same as you come in from the sea – and Scotlan’s magnificent west coast scenery gets full value for every magnificent vertical foot when seen from sea level.
There are photographs of the Skye mountains from Loch Scavaig, of Skye and Raasay from Applecross, of the approaches to the Shiant Isles and of course, of St Kilda which have us utterly hooked.
A cruise on Glen Etive to those parts has gone to the top of our bucket list – and we’ll be there when we can.
Setting aside the introductory season’s 10% discount, the normal rate for the Glen Etive is £400 a night per person, all in. The company has worked to get the costs as low as possible but this sort of experience can never be cheap to provide. This is serious comfort-priority, small group cruising, with what is described as an informal relaxed atmosphere and what looks like fabulous food.
You get to see places you could never see any other way than from the sea – like the Shiants [and that surreal photograph sold us the whole caboodle].
These cruises are not just for the wealthy. The ‘bucket list’ concept now sees a lot of people saving up for the once-in-a-lifetime experience they have always wanted – and the Majestic Line’s menu doesn’t half fit the bill for a great number of folk.
Enjoy the website, dream on – and plan.
As we left the Pier at the Holy Loch Marina after the ceremony, Glen Massan [above left] and Glen Tarsan [above right], together and at peace alone at their berths, were looking contented with a very successful event for the enlarged and handsome line.