Tue 1 Jan | Happy New Year  Wishing all our previous and prospective guests a Happy and Healthy New Year. If you haven’t yet experienced one of our cruises check them out here and see what we have on offer. Cruises aboard Hjalmar Bjorge are already very well booked but we have available spaces on new vessel Zuza.

Fri 4 Jan | New spaces on May HBj cruise  Due to an unexpected cancellation we have one twin berth cabin available on our “Not St Kilda” cruise which will, weather permitting, visit the Shiants, Monach Islands, Mingulay, Mull etc. This is a great opportunity as the cruise was full by 21 August last year!

Mark went up to Corpach today to check on Hjalmar Bjorge in her berth at the end of the Caledonian Canal. Some snow last night made for a pretty picture with a white capped Ben Nevis in the background, right. Photo: Mark Henrys

Sun 6 Jan | Hurray for email  How did businesses survive before email and the internet?! Messages were sent out to our e-mailing list on Friday and yesterday about the new May vacancy and this morning a provisional booking was received! Being on the emailing list gives guests and enquirers a definite advantage over those who are not as this will always be our preferred method of contact – it’s time-saving, “green” and cheap! So, if you’re reading this and are not on the list, please get in touch – we don’t send many mails and never share your details.

Tue 15 Jan | Romance blossoms aboard  We received a booking today from a couple who met for the first time on a cruise aboard Elizabeth G last September. Names won’t be published (to spare any blushes) but it was his second cruise and her first. Don’t you just love a happy ending…especially when it is a new beginning?!

Tue 29 Jan | Live local loggerhead  Lindsay’s dad, who works on the pier for Cal Mac in Craignure, on Mull, saw a real, live loggerhead turtle yesterday. It had been found in Loch na Keal, on the west coast of Mull, and was on its way over on the ferry to Oban before going to the Sea Life Centre in Barcaldine where it was due some TLC before release. Loggerheads are commonly found in the Mediterranean and the USA.

Fri 1 Feb | Stricken vessel at St Kilda  British registered trawler “Spinningdale” contacted the Coastguard at 0520 this morning to say it was being driven ashore at Hirta in Force 9 winds. In a rescue that involved the Marine & Coastguard Agency’s first female pilot 14 Spanish crew members were safely winched off the boat. NTS staff have said that rats onboard the vessel (shown right, beached on Hirta) present a threat to the archipelago’s bird life but, currently, there is no evidence that this is the case. A small amount of fuel is leaking from the vessel and this is being monitored. More news can be found on the BBC news website. Photo: BBC news website

Sun 3 Feb | The opposite same holidays  Mark and Hannah have just returned from a trip round the other side of the world where we spent time comparing notes with our friends Ruth and Lance who own Fiordland Ecology Holidays (FEH). Based in South Island, New Zealand, FEH offer environmentally friendly holidays aboard their 12 passenger motor yacht “Breaksea Girl” in the World Heritage Fiordland National Park. Our cruises have much in common and indeed we have shared many guests – Mark spent his time onboard in January with a group of divers from High Wycombe!

New Zealand, and especially Fiordland, is very like Scotland, albeit on a larger scale. We had a great time learning how cruises, much like our own, are designed and delivered in a relatively similar environment, some 12,000 miles away. The weather was much better than Scotland (an amazingly hot and dry summer spell; unusually good we were told – lucky us) but similar nightmares exist for charter boat skippers wherever they are based. With only a couple of days off between charters Lance phoned a company in Auckland (North Island) and very carefully described an urgently required replacement part quoting the catalogue number for the piece. They got it sent down to Manapouri very quickly…and it was the wrong bit. Argh! Photo: Paul Kay

Mark spent 10 days on “Breaksea Girl” travelling from Bluff (the very bottom of South Island) to Deep Cove in Doubtful Sound. He saw only three people, other than his fellow sailors, in this time and visited many of the coves and inlets on the journey round the SW corner of Fiordland. As well as spectacular scenery Mark saw lots of albatrosses, mollymawks, shearwaters and his first giant petrel. Two pods of bottlenose dolphins were also seen. Hannah joined the boat for the last few days when fur seals and a large group of bottlenose dolphins, resident in Doubtful Sound, were seen. A few of my snaps are shown below but Vicki and her buddies took much better photos…
































.such as a lovely photo of wife Lucy under the Fiordland water by Paul Kay and, below, Paul “shot” one of the resident bottlenose dolphins that we saw in Doubtful Sound. For more stunning underwater images visit Paul’s website at Photos: Paul Kay







After New Zealand we had a couple of days in NSW, Australia, visiting Hannah’s father and his wife. It was very relaxing…it had to be, it was too hot and humid to do much at all… Photos: Colin Thompson and Anne Graham








Special thanks to Lindsay and Kirsty for house/office/dog sitting in our absence which enabled us to have our first real holiday for 16 years!

Mon 11 Feb | Stop the cruel trade in seal products  Please take a few moments to go online and take a short survey to help stop the killing of seals. The European Commission is considering a seal-product trade ban that would save millions of seals from a horrible fate. Your opinion can help convince the EU to end the cruel seal product trade if you just go and take a short survey right now. Apart from your contact details only one question is mandatory. The deadline for making your opinion heard is 13 February so please act today – thank you.

Sun 17 Feb | St Kilda in the Sunday Times  Did you see the article in today’s Sunday Times about St Kilda? If you’ve a burning desire to go there we still have spaces on a few trips aiming for St Kilda although these islands are always weather permitting. Click here to see dates.

The article was to promote two 60 minute programmes that will be shown by the BBC in the Spring sometime. A couple of photos from the making of the programme can be seen on the Film & Mountain website – the bit about St Kilda is right at the bottom of the page.

Wed 20 Feb | Winter maintenance well underway  Mark and Lindsay are hard at work on Hjalmar Bjorge undertaking the usual program of tidying up, titivation and, this year, toilets! Mark has uninstalled, and reinstalled, the toilets to make them a little higher and thus easier to use. On the deck level of Hjalmar Bjorge the lone toilet has been moved into the large shower room thus freeing up the smaller space for a dedicated drying room. Lindsay has been painting up a storm (literally, judging by the weather!!!). Here she is with a tub of paint not much smaller than herself. Photo: Mark Henrys

Fri 22 Feb | White red deer spotted  An extremely rare white red deer has been spotted by staff of the John Muir Trust on the west coast of Scotland. White deer are often mistakenly thought to be albinos but, in fact, their unusual condition is caused by leucism, a rare genetic pattern that causes a reduction in the pigment of an animals hair and skin. Staff at the John Muir Trust are wisely keeping the whereabouts of the deer a secret after the last known wild white stag was shot, for its trophy head, by poachers in October 2007 on the border of Devon and Cornwall.

Thu 28 Feb | Zuza the cruiser (but not on this occasion)  Mark and skipper Tim returned from Cornwall today having travelled down there last Sunday. Their intention was to bring Zuza up to Scotland but, even before they set off, it looked like bad weather was going to hamper their plans. Still, for various reasons, this was the best week for the two of them to go down and it was by no means a wasted visit. They got an excellent single day sail in and spent the rest of the time going over the vessel’s systems in fine detail. It’s not often a boat buyer gets the opportunity to take a vessel over from the person that built it, and who can tell them what every switch does and exactly how everything works!

Mon 3 Mar | Hi ho, hi ho, it’s off to work we snow  We woke this morning to several inches of snow…always a delight when you don’t have to go outside and do anything. Not so that luxury for us, with boat maintenance at the top of the list just now. Mark set off north for Corpach, Hannah south to Oban to pick up Lindsay who had been home to Mull over the weekend (she was stranded on the mainland until Saturday lunchtime as gales had prevented the Oban – Craignure ferry running on Friday). By the time Hannah and Lindsay reached Corpach it was snowing quite determinedly (left) when, all of a sudden, it stopped, the cloud lifted and there was Ben Nevis in all its glory (right). Photos: Hannah Thompson







Tue 4 Mar | UK university “enables” Japanese whaling policy  In an article in the Guardian yesterday St Andrews University was criticised for accepting funds for whale research from the Japanese agency which directs the country’s annual whale hunt. The university’s Research Unit for Wildlife Population Assessment accepted £31,900 in 2002 and £5,000 in 2005 from the Japanese Institute of Cetacean Research. St Andrews insisted the university did not support whaling but this statement did nothing to pacify Greenpeace who state, “It’s disgraceful that St Andrews is accepting cash from the sale of whale meat. By taking this money, they are helping to justify the Japanese whaling hunt.” Read more in the Guardian online.

Thu 6 Mar | Bottoms up in Mallaig  Hjalmar Bjorge set off this morning from Corpach, heading for Mallaig and the slip. It’s that time of year again, when her bottom needs scraping, anti-fouling and repainting. Gale Force 8 winds were forecast for later in the day and Mark thought they might have to stop for a night’s shelter in Tobermory en route. But no, it wasn’t as bad as anticipated, and Mark, Lindsay and Hjalmar Bjorge made it round Ardnamurchan Point and up to Mallaig by late afternoon. The boat is now out of the water.

Sat 8 Mar | Goodbye St Kilda (Daily Mail)  St Kilda featured in the Daily Mail today in a story about some amazing photographs recently discovered on a Glasgow Barras market stall. Engraved on glass plates the photos were taken in August 1930 as the last 36 St Kildans were being evacuated to the mainland. It has long been understood the press were not allowed on the island at this time but Dr Jeff Stone, expert on the history of St Kilda, says it’s likely these pictures were taken for a newspaper and that one photographer must have covertly gained access to the historic event. The treasure trove of images was discovered by a professor of architecture from Glasgow’s Strathclyde University. Photo: St Kildans carry their belongings to HMS Harebell in August 1930 (Daily Mail 8 March 2008)



Sat 15 Mar | Woeful weather prevents painting  Hjalmar Bjorge is still on the slip at Mallaig. What ideally is a quick “up and down” for cleaning and painting of hull and topsides can be seriously thrown by the weather. It has been extremely wet and windy which has made painting difficult to say the least! The boat should have come off the slip last Wednesday but will not get off until Wednesday coming. Slipping times are tide dependent. It’s not all doom and gloom as (1) Hjalmar Bjorge passed her out-of-the-water five year certification survey with flying colours and (2) the forecast for this week is good so, hopefully, the last of the paint will be dry before the boat slides back into the water… Photo: Hannah Thompson


Sun 16 Mar | Down under…the water  Some more photos from our New Zealand trip, received today from Vicki, including some underwater shots. The picture above is of Mark at Puysegur Point in Fiordland. Photos: Vicki Billings













Mon 17 Mar | ROFL at LOLseals  The Humane Society of the United States is running a competition featuring funny baby seals which you can overwrite with a caption which is cute, amusing, plain silly or serious. Photos: HSUS


The Humane Society’s competition has a serious side of course. It is to draw attention to Canada’s seal culling policies, the largest slaughter of marine mammals on the planet. More than 1 million baby seals have been killed for their fur in the past four years. So by all means enjoy the competition entries, design a lolseal yourself but do consider supporting HSUS’s campaign to Stop Canada’s Seal Hunt by signing a pledge or sending an email to Canada’s prime minister – just follow the links.


Wed 19 Mar | Hjalmar Bjorge off slip  Bad weather kept Hjalmar Bjorge on the slip at Mallaig for longer than originally intended but she finally went back in the water today and will be at Tobermory this evening, ready for the first charter starting tomorrow. Above are a few photos of Hjalmar Bjorge taken whilst out of the water – views that aren’t normally seen of the boat. Photos: Mark Henrys

Mon 24 Mar | Easter eagles and wild weather  We completed our first charter of the year today, with divers having taken a long weekend aboard Hjalmar Bjorge. In previous years our “Easter Extravaganza” cruises have proved popular but as Easter was so early this year we felt it was still a little early for most (sane) people to go to sea.

It wasn’t a complete surprise that the forecast was absolutely appalling! We agreed to meet our guests at Corpach on the evening of Thursday 20 as there was no sheltered space available in Oban. There were gales for much of the weekend and snow flurries on a couple of days. Divers are a hardy lot though; they visited the Sound of Mull, the south coast of the Isle of Mull, Lochaline and had a couple of nights in Tobermory. They didn’t miss any dives and saw a golden eagle sitting on a nest during their travels.

Irish Tricia, who has cooked for us previously, catered over this weekend as Ylva was still en route to Scotland. She was aided and abetted by Lindsay returning for a second season. One of this weekend’s guests – Mick, who lives near Bradford – decided that an Irish woman and a wee Scottish lassie cooking Yorkshire puddings was definitely beyond the pale. So, on that particular evening, he ensconced himself in the galley and set about the task himself. And I heard they were jolly nice too!

Mon 31 Mar | Quiet weekend aboard  A relaxing and peaceful weekend for a group of divers who chartered Hjalmar Bjorge as a whole. They arrived on Friday evening joining the boat at Corpach. Nothing much to report in the way of wildlife but the weekend was notable for not going into the “big smokes” of Oban or Tobermory at all – unusual for divers! Saturday night was spent at Lochaline and Sunday at Ardtornish Bay. Hjalmar Bjorge cruised back up Loch Linnhe today with guests departing after brunch. This was prepared by Ylva, as were all the meals this weekend, who is now back for another season aboard.

news from the previous months [ October – December ]