Scottish entrepreneurs switch from seafood cruises to delivering vital supplies to remote island community

A pair of Scottish entrepreneurs have switched from their main business of providing seafood cruises to delivering vital supplies to a remote island community. 

Published 2nd Apr 2020
Updated 31 st Oct 2023

Ewen Grant and Janice Cooney have had to stop their popular seafood cruises from the Isle of Skye because of the coronavirus outbreak and have now switched to a more important role in these troubled times - providing a lifeline delivery service to the neighbouring island of Rona.

Ewen and Janice, who is also working as a nurse during the pandemic, usually run half and full-day cruises from Portree to Rona and neighbouring Raasay for up to 12 people on their 40-foot luxury catamaran named Seaflower.

They serve freshly caught seafood on board, and in 2019, Seaflower’s second year of operation, it was awarded 5-Star Visitor Attraction status by VisitScotland.

However, much like the rest of the seafood sector, they are now having to change up their roles to help counter the devastating impact of the COVID-19 global pandemic, and its effect on the industry.

They are now delivering vital supplies to Rona, a one-hour boat trip from their base in Portree.

Often described as one of the loneliest places in Britain, Rona has only four residents - current caretaker Bill Cowie and his wife Lorraine, and another couple who were chosen out of scores of applicants to be inducted as the island’s custodians and take over when Bill and Lorraine retire.

Raasay and Rona were once well-populated, but during the 18th century, Highland Clearances were denuded of inhabitants, many fleeing to a new life in the United States and Canada. At the end of the 19th century, the island had a devoutly Christian population of almost 200.

From the 16th century until late in the 18th century Rona, now owned by a Danish family and home to hundreds of deer, was a notorious haven for pirates operating out of its concealed natural harbour.

“Seaflower is the only way to get essential supplies to an almost deserted but magical island,” said Ewen. “We’re determined to make sure the resident quartet have all they need during the pandemic.”

Donna Fordyce, interim head of Seafood Scotland, added: “This is another example of the ingenuity being shown by a small business within the wider seafood sector. From fishermen, processors, retailers and tourism businesses built around some of the world’s finest seafood, all are suffering the effects of coronavirus right now.

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"The speed at which these businesses have adapted to survive, and to help their close communities which often rely on the seafood sector themselves, is an inspiration and yet another reason for Scotland’s seafood community to be immensely proud.”

Driven by a passion for all things drinks-related, Sean writes for The Scotsman extensively on the subject. He can also sometimes be found behind the bar at the world famous Potstill bar in Glasgow where he continues to enhance his whisky knowledge built up over 10 years advising customers from all over the world on the wonders of our national drink. Recently, his first book was published. Dubbed Gin Galore, it explores Scotland's best gins and the stories behind those that make them.
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