NEWS FROM NORTHERN LIGHT CHARTERS :: APRIL 2008

Tue 1 Apr | New news for April  We usually include April as the last month in a four month newsletter that starts in January each year. However, with Easter being so early this year, and signalling the start of our charters, we hope to have lots to tell you this month hence a new news page!

Wed 2 Apr | First family foray of the year  Today we welcomed aboard Ronnie from Edinburgh who, with other half Ann, has travelled aboard our various boats many times over the years. This early season trip was to mark a special occasion, albeit one year late. Ronnie had planned to celebrate his 80th birthday with his family, onboard Hjalmar Bjorge, last April. Unfortunately the date clashed with a hospital appointment so the cruise was postponed until today. Helping Ronnie celebrate his 80 + 1 birthday on the boat over the next few days are ten family members including two children and two grandsons.

Sun 6 Apr | Early eagles but puffins not present  Ronnie and family were delivered back to Oban this morning after a blowy circumnavigation round Mull. Departing Tobermory on Thursday morning the first stop was Lunga at the Treshnish Isles. Seven guests went ashore in strong winds and enjoyed a bracing walk. Unfortunately it was a little early for nesting puffins. Later in the day Mark put everyone ashore on Inch Kenneth, currently uninhabited but former home to the eccentric Mitford family. Guests had a look at the main house, where they used to stay, and at the old church and graveyard. Thursday evening was spent anchored in Gometra Harbour.

Friday morning saw a cruise past Staffa with a peek into Fingal’s Cave. Hjalmar Bjorge then anchored off the slip on Iona and everyone went ashore for a walk to the Abbey (below, left) and surrounding area (right). They then sailed the coast of the Ross of Mull before arriving in Loch Buie. An early evening walk (below, right) to Moy Castle and the Stone Circle built up an appetite for dinner. The wind picked up overnight but the boat was secure in her anchorage. Photos: David Bonar

 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 Saturday was eagle day. Upon leaving Loch Buie a sea eagle, close to its nest, was seen. Hjalmar Bjorge cruised to the Garvellachs where everyone went ashore on the main island of Eileach an Naoimh to see the remains of an old monastery and “beehive houses” where the monks used to live. St Columba’s mother is also said to be buried here. The vessel headed north into Loch Spelve for the evening (sunset, below) and on the way in a golden eagle sitting on its nest was spotted. On the final night aboard Ylva presented Ronnie with a celebratory birthday pavlova. Photo: David Bonar

 

Thu 10 Apr | One boat out, one boat in  Hjalmar Bjorge left Corpach sea lock early this morning, with Hannah and Mark aboard, headed for Oban to start our first “Scenic Seabirds” cruise of the year. On her way out of the lock gates she passed Zuza, tied up to the wall outside the entrance to the canal. She arrived last night! Photos: Hannah Thompson

 Zuza left Falmouth on Monday with three aboard including skipper Charlie (who designed and built the boat). She rounded Land’s End and continued north, sailing and motoring, arriving in Corpach around 1930 on Wednesday. As Hjalmar Bjorge cruised away from the open lock gates this morning Zuza motored in and is now tied up in the basin.

Hjalmar Bjorge arrived in Oban about midday to be greeted by our Lindsay- substitute who is crewing this weekend. Lindsay has gone to Anglesey to see her beau and managed to persuade her mum, Rhona, to take her place! All cars were parked and guests onboard by about 1600, in good time for Hannah to throw the lines off and catch the bus home. That’s the problem with boats and cars – they are rarely in the same place at the same time!

Sat 12 Apr | Peregrines, puffins and primroses  Guests aboard Hjalmar Bjorge spent a day on Canna yesterday, having cruised there from an overnight in Tobermory. Early spring primroses are plentiful now and wildlife sightings from the day included eagles, an otter and a peregrine falcon. Our first puffins of the year were also seen from the boat just off Canna. While guests were walking on Canna Mark dived for scallops and Ylva turned them into a starter for the evening meal. Whilst off Canna a possible early minke whale was seen although the glimpse was too fleeting to be absolutely certain.

The night was spent at Canna and this morning a discussion about the itinerary ensued. Conditions were less than ideal for heading round the west coast of Mull so instead the boat cruised into Loch Scavaig at the foot of the Cuillins on Skye (photo, right). From here the guests disembarked via “the bad steps” and took the short climb up to freshwater Loch Coruisk. They declared it “brilliant” – a wild and remote destination, beautiful sunshine but with snow on the peaks. Below, a stitched panorama of Loch Scavaig taken before departure. Photos: Mark Henrys

Once back onboard Hjalmar Bjorge set off for Inverie in Loch Nevis. This offered everyone the chance to visit the UK’s remotest hostelry – The Old Forge. 

The photo right shows the keen partygoers from Hjalmar Bjorge enjoying a drink in the April sunshine – Sue, Phil, Mark, Hugh and Ylva. Photo: Rhona Wilson

Guest Hugh (Ylva’s dad) caught up with a friend who lives in Inverie that he hadn’t seen since 1980. After dinner Ylva and Rhona were last seen, flutes in hand, heading off in the direction of the pub…

 

 

Mon 14 Apr | Eagles on the way out (and in) The first “Scenic Seabirds” cruise of the year finished today with Hjalmar Bjorge arriving this morning in Oban. Leaving Loch Spelve this morning a pair of sea eagles were seen flying above the boat. Yesterday on the way into Loch Spelve a golden eagle was seen in the vicinity of a nest. The journey down to Mull, from Inverie, was lovely and sunny – in fact there’s been plenty of sunshine this weekend…probably the best weekend of the year!

Someone onboard started a “spotter’s list” for the weekend which only ended up with one or two dodgy non-wildlife inclusions:

ravens

golden eagle

sea eagle

hooded crows

seals

otter

diver (human)

scallops

oystercatcher

wheatear

eider ducks

gannets

mussels

red deer

shags

cormorants

puffins

plovers

peregrine

redshank

curlew

razorbills

black guillemot

guillemot

wren

shearwater

fulmar

herring gulls

porpoise

border terrier

seals

shelduck

grebe

great northern diver

wild goats

2 helicopters

Joan managed to get a photo – whilst travelling at speed – of a first year black guillemot chick, included in the list above. The species is on the RSPB’s “Amber List.” After waving good-bye to our guests Mark and Rhona took Hjalmar Bjorge back to Corpach Basin where she tied up alongside new arrival Zuza in sight of a snow-capped Ben Nevis, right. Photos: (left) Joan Denny (right) Mark Henrys

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Thu 17 Apr | Scenic Seabirds and sunshine  Hjalmar Bjorge left Corpach this morning, headed for Oban, to pick up guests joining us for our second “Scenic Seabirds” cruise (and fifth charter) of the year. Onboard were Mark and Lindsay plus Big John (who is skippering this cruise) and John’s partner Cathy. Another unbelieveably sunny day with blue skies, white fluffy clouds and sun, sun, sun. The wind fetching across Oban bay was a little on the chilly side but nonetheless it was a glorious spring day. Similar to last year April started off a wee bit windy but has been a very dry, sunny month.

Our ten guests all arrived off the train or by car and vehicles were parked up by 1600. John read the safety briefing then Mark and Hannah threw the lines off and watched Hjalmar Bjorge depart the bay (below right). Boat girlies Ylva, Lindsay and Cathy are below left. Photos: Hannah Thompson

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Sat 19 Apr | Heroics from Hjalmar Bjorge  Yesterday was a good, average day for a cruise in April, with better weather than might be expected (it is still warm, dry and sunny). Sea state was a wee bit bumpy for the trip into Loch Nevis but not too bad. Lots of birds seen en route. An evening in sight of “The Old Forge” in Inverie made for a good contrast to Thursday night’s pretty sunset in Loch Drumbuie.

Today started with an otter spotter spotting an otter at 0630 on the pier. Next the boat cruised out to Canna – one of our favourite destinations – where Ylva provided packed lunches and guests went ashore for three hours. Wee Canna Kathryn came onboard to say hi to Lindsay and Ylva, with whom she went to St Kilda last year. Guests returned from their walk, some reporting sightings of both golden and sea eagles. With everyone onboard John departed Canna around 1345 for Ulva on the west coast of Mull.

So far so good. Just as Hjalmar Bjorge was leaving, however, John was asked to relay a “pan pan” to the Coastguard on behalf of a dive boat who couldn’t raise them himself. “Pan pan” is the VHF radio phrase used when urgent help is required because a passenger (or boat) is in jeopardy but the situation is not deemed life-threatening (when a “mayday” would be used). The boat was carrying a bent diver and required assistance to get the diver away as quickly as possible to the decompression chamber for treatment. John spent about 45 minutes relaying information between the Coastguard and skipper of the dive vessel until the emergency helicopter arrived. It landed on Canna where the diver was boarded and airlifted to Dunstaffnage by Oban. All very dramatic. Arrival at Ulva will be slightly later than scheduled…

Sun 20 April | Feedback features flutes  Questionnaire responses and feedback received today from last weekend’s guests concentrated on two subjects – fine weather and flutes played by Ylva and Rhona. Terry and Sandie said they would, “never forget seeing them playing their flutes in the galley.” They had many kind words to say about Mark and the girls, writing, “Our holiday was very special to us. It was looked forward to for a long time and surpassed our expectations in every way and its one we would love to repeat.” They sent us some great photos including Phil and Sue on Canna (below left) and a sunset in Tobermory harbour (below right). Photos: Terry Morris

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Robin and Joan said, “the food was excellent and we were lucky with the weather, but Mark did take us away from the rain!” They sent photos above left, of the calm weather conditions and, right, Rhona and Ylva playing in the galley. Photos: Robin and Joan Denny

Also arriving in my inbox today was some feedback from Ronnie who celebrated his 80 + 1 birthday on Hjalmar Bjorge earlier this month. Of his experience aboard he writes, “We greatly admired Mark’s seamanship in landing us safely on our destinations despite the very blustery conditions. We also greatly enjoyed Ylva’s inventive and delicious cooking and Lindsay’s constant cheerfulness and proficiency as a fiddler. I have travelled widely and have had close encounters with a leopard in the Masai Mara and bison in Yellowstone, but these were no greater thrills than when my family saw a golden eagle and a white tailed eagle on the same day…” If you needed proof that the Hebrides are a world-class destination there are some wise words from someone who knows…

Sun 20 Apr | Birthday greetings  This morning Hjalmar Bjorge cruised past Fingal’s Cave on Staffa (right) on her way round the west and south coasts of Mull. Photo: John Maughan

Later in the day everyone aboard the boat went ashore in Lochbuie for a walk (photo, below). Photo: Paul Remblance

 

 

Somehow Ylva ended up arriving back at the meeting point five minutes later than everyone else by which time the co-conspirators had all travelled back to the big boat in the tender. John went back to collect Ylva and by then Lindsay and Cathy had organised a cake, a card signed by all aboard and all the guests in the saloon with glasses, ready for champagne. When Ylva got back she was ambushed with “Happy Birthday”s and corks were popped (below, left). It’s actually her birthday tomorrow but as the trip finishes then it’s more fun to celebrate on the day before. Photo: Debbie Lodge

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Mark met Tim and Heather at Corpach this morning to take Zuza out for a trial sail ahead of her first charter which begins next Saturday. Later in the day they met up with Hjalmar Bjorge in Loch Spelve on Mull. Guests and crew aboard Hjalmar Bjorge watched Zuza sail in and anchor close by. Mark, Tim and Heather then motored over in the tender. I’m told Mark was serenaded aboard by Cathy and Lindsay on their fiddles…much like the photo, above right, taken at Inverie earlier in the weekend. Photo: Debbie Lodge

Mon 21 Apr | Parallel passages along Loch Linnhe  Big John managed to take a couple of photos of Zuza, from Hjalmar Bjorge, in Loch Spelve (below). The one on the left was taken yesterday evening as the sun was setting and, on the right, in this morning’s early light, before both boats left the loch and went over to Oban. Photos: John Maughan

John, Cathy, Ylva and Lindsay said good-bye to our guests in Oban and then both vessels left, after lunch, to cruise back up Loch Linnhe and into Corpach basin, going through the sea-lock together. Photos: Hannah Thompson

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another spotter’s list for the “Scenic Seabirds” cruise was compiled. Once again the odd slightly suspect inclusion…

mr + mrs chaffinch

free range cockerel

sea eagle

golden eagle

cuckoo (heard not seen)

otter

seals

manx shearwater

gannets

curlews

mountain hare

meadow pipits

skylark

cows

old labrador

horses

bumble bees

2 tourists

new born lamb + sheep

tortoiseshell butterfly

eider duck

hooded crow

red deer hinds + stags

buzzard

carrion crow (raven?)

wheatears

oystercatchers

heron

mussels + winkles

shelduck

border collie

terrier

guillemots

kittiwakes

2 funny french dogs

cormorants

wagtail

geese

swan

helicopter

birthday girl

 

Fri 25 Apr | All aboard for Mull Music Festival  Mark, Ylva and Lindsay welcomed regulars Biddulph SAC aboard Hjalmar Bjorge this afternoon. These guys have been with us for years and always book for the weekend of the music festival. Although they are a “sub aqua club” not that much diving tends to go on over the weekend as they are here to party!

Sat 26 Apr | Zuza’s first official charter  Tim, Heather and Hannah, helped by Tim’s friend Donnie, spent much of the day getting Zuza ship-shape to meet guests this afternoon. They were not assisted by the weather which was appalling – gales and rain. Thankfully as the day progressed the winds dropped and some blue sky appeared. Conditions looked promising although the forecast was not good for the rest of the weekend. By the time the boat was due to lock out of Corpach Basin, however, it was a pretty nice day.

Over on Hjalmar Bjorge in Tobermory Mark got four divers in the water. Four divers, out of a group of 12, onboard for the music festival, is probably something of an all time high… 

Sun 27 Apr | Wonderful warm weather  Today was a surprise weather-wise. The forecast had not suggested good weather but it was incredibly sunny and warm, no rain, and with just a gentle breeze. A really glorious day (let’s hope there are many more over the coming season) in which Zuza ended up in Tobermory harbour near to Hjalmar Bjorge.

Mon 28 Apr | Wildlife (not the divers this time)  Last day onboard for divers on Hjalmar Bjorge today. The boat crew, and those who weren’t diving (um, most of them) were treated to a display of wildlife while their buddies plumbed the depths of the wreck of the “Thesis” near the entrance to Loch Linnhe. Three otters were seen at the edge of the shore, plus a sea eagle overhead and also a stag on the hill behind. Nothing much else to report wildlife-wise this weekend although there are a lot of porpoise around at the moment. Our guests enjoyed a hearty brunch before departing for home.

Tue 29 Apr | Minke whales: first of the year  A text from Heather aboard Zuza to report all is well. The yacht was doing 9 knots off the Treshnish Isles with the right amount of sun and wind to keep everyone smiling. They had seen a golden eagle and two sea eagles plus – the first definite sighting this season – three minke whales off cetacean “hotspot” the Cairns of Coll.

The yacht had a lunch stop at Lunga today and Tim dropped everyone ashore for a walk. There were lots of super cute puffins to see and mate/cook Heather got a few shots of them with the yacht in the background.

The puffins of Lunga really are very endearing. They don’t seem to mind being photographed at close quarters and are quite happy to pose for the cameras. Photos: Heather McNeill

 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

news from the previous months [ January – March ]