Seaflower Skye – From Thailand to Portree

A brief history

Seaflower Skye began operating in May 2018 and was founded by Ewen Grant (32) and his partner Janice Cooney (34).

Ewen said: “The idea sprouted when we were both living overseas. We first met in Thailand and then lived together in Australia for three years, before returning to Janice’s hometown in Ireland for a year. The year we spent in Ireland gave us time to decide where we were going to put down some permanent roots. We knew, after a number of visits to see family, that Skye was where we ultimately wanted to be.

“However, with Janice being an operating room nurse, she struggled to find a full time job on Skye. We quickly realised that we would need to create jobs that would keep us here and ideally would have us working together.”

Ewen’s family have fished the local waters for almost five decades. Every week the couple watched the majority of this beautiful, local produce being exported, with very little staying in Scotland.

The Seaflower Skye experience

Seaflower Skye visits Skye’s neighbouring islands of Raasay and Rona – there are trips of different durations and the vessel is also available to hire on a private basis.

Seabirds, sea eagles, seals, porpoise, dolphin, basking sharks, orca and minke whale have all been spotted from the deck. Upon reaching the destination, a seafood feast is served.

“Often, during our trips, we pass our family fishing boats,” says Ewen. “We love to allow our guests to see how the creels are hauled and where their lunch has been caught.”

Adapting in the face of Covid-19?

Janice and Ewen were getting ready to kick off their season the very same week that the countrywide lockdown was rolled out in late March. Luckily however, they were able to begin operating again on the 21st July.

“This was a stressful, confusing time but we had good policies and guidelines to keep us on the right track,” Ewen added.

“Our first adaptation was purchasing an antiviral fogging machine to ensure that the inside areas of the boat were as clean and safe as possible for each of our guests. It was also essential to increase the level of daily cleaning around the boat.

“Maximum capacity was reduced from 12 guests to 10, and more seating and tables were provided to allow guests to spread out. Passenger access to the indoor areas was limited, which made trips more susceptible to disruption in poor weather conditions.

“However, the main difference was that each group onboard had to have a private dining experience. Previously everyone would sit and get to know each other during lunch, sharing one big table.

Ewen said: “I think it’s safe to say that the workload for every business has increased this year, but we do fully understand it is something that must be done in order to remain operational. We are just extremely grateful that people were able to get out on our trips and were allowed to enjoy each other’s company outdoors.”

Christmas gift ideas

“We have just updated our website and online booking system. Gift vouchers are now available online. Supporting small businesses has never been more important. Gifting someone an experience to remember in 2021 is made easy via our website,”

What are your hopes for 2021?

“I think our main hope is that we can just get back to some sort of normality with fewer restrictions. Ideally, we will be able to do a full summer season this year. We love what we do and we love showing tourists, and locals alike, the beauty of this special corner of the world. We are heading in the right direction now that the vaccine is being distributed around the country. Our hopes would be that things just continue to improve.

“We are also due to get married ourselves in May this year, so fingers crossed that will happen and Covid numbers start to drop.”
How important is local custom and support?

“Local custom is essential to our business, it always has been, but now even more than ever. Due to the restrictions, we don’t have the same volume of tourists visiting here this year, so the majority of our business has come from our local community.

“We have had wonderful support from the residents of Skye. Many families here have relatives who worked on Rona or Raasay, or have ancestry going back to before the Highland clearances on these islands. It is always special to bring locals over to see the settlements and get a feel for what life was like for their families here.

“We have also been lucky enough to host local weddings, hen parties, birthday celebrations and other family gatherings since we started in 2018. More recently, as restrictions relaxed, we have been able to host some lovely (and sometimes emotional!) family reunions onboard. As our trips are an outdoor activity, it is a space where families can get together to enjoy each other’s company again, after being apart for so long.

“We could not and would not be operational without local support. Thank you to everyone who has come out with us and supported us during this most difficult year. Wishing everyone a Merry Christmas and a healthy, happy New Year!”