Andy Thoms is a true, bagpipe-playing Scotsman who has a wonderful family business, which grew out of a love for his native Argyll and his passion for sailing. When he retired as an architect, he and his business partner, Ken Grant, a friend from Edinburgh University in the ‘60s, decided to convert a large Irish fishing boat into a luxury small cruise vessel! And thus The Majestic Line was born. It is an amazing idea, which has been so successful that Andy is planning on building 3 new boats, traditional style based on 1930s steam yachts, the steel shells on the Clyde, fitting them out locally and getting them on the sea by 2014. Which is a positive thing all round, local jobs for shipwrights, more business for The Majestic Line and more opportunities for us all to explore the magnificent Scottish coastline.
The Majestic line’s first boat was bought in 2003, a 1975 fishing boat (now the Glen Massan) from Baltimore in Ireland. Its tough working life had been spent in inhospitable Atlantic waters, 200 miles west of Ireland, fishing for cod and haddock, supporting 8 families from the catch. Fortunately, Andy and Ken stepped in to provide it with a happy, second ‘career’. Many such boats were scrapped when fish stocks decreased, being encouraged by the government grants available to ensure such boats were removed from the fishing fleet. As an architect, Andy has the know-how to convert and re-fit the boats for 11 passengers and 4 crew. This painstaking, detailed process takes about a year at a local marina, and it is worth every moment of rejuvenating work!
Currently, the very gracious Glen Massan and Glen Tarsan carry passengers around some of the spectacular 3000 miles of coastline of Argyll, often accessible only by sea, from April to October. If the weather is bad, the boats tuck into sheltered sea lochs or inlets, although many passengers are reported to love a ‘safe’ storm, donning waterproofs and staying on deck to enjoy the exhilarating experience. A welcome change perhaps from the suburbs of North London. Twice daily shore excursions include ancient Scottish villages and monuments, a walk to look at birds and wildlife, usually about 1 or 2 hours long. And then there are the meals, food that is amazing, locally produced, sometimes delicious seafood, even caught from the boat. The chefs are highly competent and guests fill out a food preference sheet before embarkation. This is especially popular when the whole boat is chartered for a special celebration, when the chefs can really show off their prowess.
It is little wonder that Andy very honestly says that running The Majestic Line is more fun than anything else he’s done. And in his spare time, he sails some more, currently a 41’ cruising yacht and a 23’ racing yacht. He met his wife, Cushla, through boats too, when she left her job editing a sailing magazine in New Zealand, to crew for some Americans heading to Edinburgh. And there she served Andy and Ken, enjoying a student pint in their local pub, where she’d taken a stopgap, post-crewing job. What a great story. And a totally unique one, in which, rather like his fishing boats, Andy Thoms has created an unexpected second career that suits him perfectly.