NEWS FROM NORTHERN LIGHT CHARTERS :: MAY 2008

Thu 1 May | Both boats briefly berth in Oban  Zuza, which finishes a “Sailing and Seabirds” cruise tomorrow, stopped briefly alongside Hjalmar Bjorge in Oban this afternoon. Yesterday they travelled through the Sound of Iona, under sail, and Heather snapped a photo as they passed Iona Abbey, below left. Photos: Heather McNeill (left) and Hannah Thompson (right)

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Hannah got one photo of Zuza as she sailed in front of Kerrera (above right) but the battery in her camera died after this one was taken. A kind-hearted stranger on the pier – who turned out to be called Chris Brough – took a picture of Zuza coming into the pier (right) and emailed it when he got home. The weather was very changeable today but, as you can see from the photo, was greatly improved by the afternoon. Photo: Chris Brough

Zuza was in and out of Oban before crew on Hjalmar Bjorge welcomed aboard 11 guests for an eight night “Not St Kilda” cruise. They departed from Oban about 1630 bound for Tobermory.

 

 

Fri 2 May | Last day for Zuza’s first  Zuza tied up at Corpach basin today having completed her first cruise of the season. There were a lot of individual quirks of the boat for Tim and Heather to learn and they appreciated having Tim’s mate Donnie (on the right of the photo) onboard for this first week. He proved himself very helpful and handy on a number of occasions. Photo: Hannah Thompson

Tim and Heather agreed the weather conditions had been just about perfect for the boat’s first proper cruise. Light winds enabled them to judge how the vessel handled and she proved to be very responsive. Through the week they enjoyed some gentle sailing in winds of up to about 25 knots. 

Peter, a guest with a real enthusiasm for wildlife, wrote up a tick-list of 64 birds and 10 mammals that he saw during Zuza’s first cruise – six nights at sea. 

Birds in order of sighting: heron – herring gull – common gull – oystercatcher – common sandpiper – black guillemot – eider – great black-backed gull – red-breasted merganser – great northern diver – kittiwake – gannet – sea eagle – Canada goose – golden eagle – guillemot – raven – razorbill – black-headed gull – shag – greylag goose – great spotted woodpecker – hooded crow – pied wagtail – cuckoo – Manx shearwater – tern (SP) – shelduck – linnet – starling – ring plover – lapwing – redshank – golden plover – snipe – shoveller – whimbrel – swallow – meadow pipit – rock pipit – wheatear – skylark – stonechat – great skua – whooper swan – puffin – fulmar – wren – kestrel – buzzard – peregrine – rook – jackdaw – house sparrow – dunnock – goldfinch – greenfinch – red-throated diver – cormorant – blackbird – mute swan – mallard – ring ouzel – curlew.

Mammals: common seal – harbour porpoise – minke whale – red deer – otter – brown hare – rabbit – grey or Atlantic seal – feral goat – roe deer. Pete saw the two roe bucks in daughter Paula’s garden in Fort William after he left Zuza so roe deer is on his “holiday list” but strictly shouldn’t be on the “boat list”.

Aboard Hjalmar Bjorge this evening guest Audrey’s birthday was celebrated (right) as the vessel was tied up at Inverie in Loch Nevis. Photo: Stella Sutherland

Sat 3 May | Rona: the first of the year  Guests aboard Hjalmar Bjorge visited Rona today. An island between the Applecross peninsula on the mainland and the Isle of Skye it claims “one of the most beautiful anchorages in Scotland” at Acarseid Mhor (Big Harbour). 

 

The island’s only permanent resident, caretaker Bill, and a visiting marine biologist confirmed our guests were the first to set foot on the island this year! You can just see Hjalmar Bjorge in the centre of the photo, right. Photo: Eddie Paterson

Mark had a scallop dive in the afternoon providing a supplement to dinner for all guests bar one who is allergic to shellfish.

Zuza was ready to go, with all guests aboard, and safety briefing delivered, by mid-afternoon today. We were pleased to welcome back Marc, all the way from the west coast of America, who has travelled with us aboard Chalice, Poplar Diver, Elizabeth G and Hjalmar Bjorge in the past. In fact, all the guests onboard today, have cruised on our motor vessels before and we very much hope they enjoy their week with sails.

 

Sun 4 May | Shiant Islands visit  A rather grim day today weatherwise. Grey, wet, drizzly – a true “driech” Highland day. Hjalmar Bjorge visited the Shiant Islands (above) where guests admired the tall sea cliffs (below left) and saw for themselves why some people refer to the Shiants as “a mini St Kilda”. Strangest sight to see at the Shiants was the cliff-dwelling sheep (below right). We’re not sure if they have fallen down onto the cliffs or whether, more likely, they climb up onto the ledges. Photos: (left and above) Stella Sutherland (right) Eddie Paterson

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Tue 6 May | Sue the skipper  Attention all shipping! Attention all shipping! Sue is driving the boat! Sue is driving the boat! Steer away! Steer away now! No, really, she was good at it (right). Photo: Heather McNeill

It’s been such calm weather that there has not been much hard sailing done so far but Zuza was trotting along happily at 7 knots with just the genny up and all the guests, in turn, have had a go at steering whilst underway. 

Yesterday Zuza spent time at Rum (two photos below) and overnighted at Canna. Although the deer on Rum are managed and not truly “wild” they still made a splendid sight which delighted the guests. Photos: Heather McNeill

The boat continued to Lochs Scavaig and Coruisk where a decent lengthy walk was taken. A black throated diver was spotted off Loch Scavaig, a species which is uncommon in the UK – the RSPB estimates there to be a little over 200 resident breeding pairs – and is more often seen in autumn or winter.

Wed 7 May | A short-sighted short-eared owl  The third day of unbelieveably glorious weather, sunny and very hot with just a little wind. In fact we have had such wall-to-wall blue skies for the last few days that this morning Tim, aboard Zuza, felt minded to write “a cloud was seen” in the log book! Crew and guests are in t-shirts and shorts, barefoot on the warm, wooden decks of the yacht, on their way to Lunga to see the puffins. A little later today Heather got this lovely shot of the yacht with the obliging puffins in the foreground. Photo: Heather McNeill

Earlier today, whilst Zuza was about 5 miles offshore, near Staffa, a short-eared owl approached the yacht and quite determinedly tried to land on the speaders near the top of the mast. Perhaps he was short-sighted and thought it was a tree. In the middle of the sea.

Hjalmar Bjorge has spent some time at the Monach Islands over the last few days. Guests had time to walk on three of four of the main islands at the Monachs and whilst there Helen also took a photo of a gravestone for us to pass on to The War Graves Photographic Project. A few weeks ago we received an email from Martin Briscoe, a TWGPP volunteer, asking if we had a photograph of this headstone marking the grave of Lieutenant William A McNeill who was a Royal Naval Reserve aboard HMS Laurentic during WWI. This 15,000 ton vessel was struck by a mine off the coast of Northern Ireland on 25 January 1917 and sank with the loss of 350 persons onboard. His body was washed up, on an unknown date, on Ceann Iar, one of the Monach Islands which, strangely, form part of the clan lands of the MacNeils of Barra. William McNeill’s family came from the Orkney Islands. Photo: Helen Litt

Having left the Monach Islands (below left) Hjalmar Bjorge continued onto Mingulay but it was not calm enough to land. An evening was spent on anchor at Vatersay though (below right). Photos: (left) Stella Sutherland (right) Eddie Paterson

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

This morning while crossing through Gunna Sound, on the way back over to the Inner Hebrides, they saw a juvenile minke whale and two big basking sharks – the first of the season and a few weeks earlier than we usually first see them. They are heading to Gometra this evening where they may well meet up with Zuza.

Thu 8 May | Lindsay sings for her supper – or rather plays for her breakfast  There’s a rock sticking out of the middle of Gometra harbour and this morning Mark set Lindsay on it where she stood atop and serenaded passengers on both boats with her fiddle. She didn’t attract any seals (this does sometimes happen) but did get rapturous applause from both sets of crew and guests, not to mention the crews of two other yachts anchored in the harbour. Actually it was their fault, I mean, influence, that led to Lindsay’s stranding. Last night the yachties (possibly after a couple of sherries) landed themselves on the rock and some people on Hjalmar Bjorge swear they saw a light bulb appear over Mark’s head at that very moment. Before he had time to say anything Ann and Fred piped up that Lindsay should be abandoned on the rock with her fiddle reckoning it would make a great image for her next CD cover. Thus it was a fait accompli…poor Lindsay – there was no way she wasn’t going to be dumped on the rock!!! Eddie wittily referred to this image as “Fiddler on the Reef.” Photo: Mark Henrys

 

On a fourth day of boiling sunshine and blue skies everyone aboard Hjalmar Bjorge and Zuza had some good eagle sightings in Loch Buie in the afternoon. Firstly a golden eagle being mobbed by a single (brave or reckless) peregrine seen in the photo right. Photo: Eddie Paterson

Secondly a sea eagle was spotted on a nest. Its partner was seen flying around close by then swooping onto the loch surface to catch a fish and return it to its nest-bound mate.

Earlier in the day Zuza had traversed the Ross of Mull stopping at Ardalanish where guests got off for a walk. A golden eagle was spotted and, as it was being watched, was seen to land and settle on a nest. A good vantage point was found and we hope to have a photo to show you soon.

 

Fri 9 May | The long and short of it  Both boats finished cruises today – Hjalmar Bjorge a long “Not St Kilda” in Oban and Zuza a shorter “Sailing and Seabirds” Inner Hebridean cruise in Corpach. Carole, aboard Zuza on her second Northern Light Charters holiday in two years, had another week of amazing weather. She must be a good luck weather genie (hmm, I wonder how busy she is for the rest of the summer?!). Carole is pictured with Tim, Marc, Phil and Sue relaxing on the boat earlier in the week, right. Photo: Heather McNeill

Sue and Phil declared themselves delighted with their first sailing holiday. In fact they had barely unpacked from a trip on Hjalmar Bjorge (in April) when they decided to take advantage of their B&B season starting a little later than usual. So they repacked and joined Zuza at the last minute. As seasoned motor boaters we asked them for some feedback on our new sailing cruises and if they could tell potential guests what the differences between the two vessels were.

Sue writes, “Our first impression is that you cannot compare the two. Each provides a unique experience and one is no better than the other. The excitement started at the sea lock – a whole new experience for us. Returning to other anchorages on a different boat was exciting. At Lunga we met one of the crew from Turus Mara who had crewed for Tim in the past and wanted us to know that he was ‘a first class splendid skipper’ (and so say all of us). Food was excellent considering Heather was cooking and crewing. How she managed to produce meals of such a high standard from such a small cupboard was amazing.

“I rather thought that Zuza was ‘Yachting for Softies’ in that Tim and Heather were brilliant and allowed individuals as much hands on experience as they felt comfortable with…without any pressure, but we would defy anyone not to get involved! We feel they would be able to handle anyone from novices to experienced sailors. Both are people persons and are happy to spend time teaching/talking about the yacht, navigation, weather and sail versus engine etc.

“Thank you for a wonderful experience, of being closer to the sea and the sound of the sails, wind and water. Unforgettable – ‘a must to do again’.”

Heather and Tim head home to Skye for not quite a week’s break from chartering but Mark, Ylva and Lindsay set off again tomorrow.

The “spotter’s list” aboard Hjalmar Bjorge for the past eight nights includes – arctic skua – blackbird – black guillemot (“tystie”) – buzzard – chaffinch – cormorant – curlew – dunlin – eider duck – emperor moth – fulmar – gannet – geese – golden eagle – great black backed gull – great northern diver – great skua (“Bonxie”) – greylag goose (the one in the photo, right, was seen on Erraid with Iona in the background) – guillemot – herring gull – heron – hooded crow (“hoodie”) – jackdaw – kittiwake – lapwing – Manx shearwater – meadow pipit – merganser – oystercatchers – peacock – peregrine – pied wagtail – porpoises – puffin – raven – razorbill – red deer – redshank – red throated diver – ringed plover – robin – rock dive – rock pipit – roe deer – roseate tern – sanderling – scallops – seals – shag – sheep – shelduck – song thrush – starling – swan – swallow – tern – turnstone – whale bones – wheatear – whimbrel – white tailed sea eagle – a respectable 60 species (not including the bones!). The roseate tern which was seen is described by the RSPB as “one of our rarest seabirds”. Photo: Eddie Paterson

Sun 11 May | Double dolphins  Lyndon and fellow shipmates from a Worcestershire RSPB group boarded Hjalmar Bjorge in Oban yesterday for, hopefully, our first scheduled St Kilda cruise of the season. Approaching the Sound of Barra six or seven common dolphins were seen and, once in the Sound, our regularly seen bottlenosed dolphins appeared (below, left). The group has increased from last year to about a dozen including one, possibly two, calves. The baby we named Cyd in 2006 (after our original ship’s dog) will now be one of the grown-ups. Today Hjalmar Bjorge visited and stayed overnight at the Monach Islands (below, right). Photos: Margaret Maggs

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Mon 12 May | First St Kilda visit of 2008  Hjalmar Bjorge arrived in Village Bay, Hirta, around lunchtime today ensuring everyone got a good long walk in the afternoon. The journey across was very good with calm seas although a SE wind is now blowing – the one direction you really don’t want out at St Kilda. If it doesn’t increase the plan is to spend a second night at the archipelago tomorrow.

Bristol based photographer Rich McDonough, on holiday in Scotland, snapped this mean ‘n’ moody shot of Zuza at Corpach in front of Ben Nevis, which he emailed to us today. Rich’s galleries can be seen online – why not start with his Scotland photos? Photo: Rich McDonough

Tue 13 May | Serious sunshine at St Kilda  The SE wind that was gently blowing yesterday pretty much disappeared today leaving a roasting hot day with flat calm seas, perfect conditions to be at St Kilda – as long as you remembered your sun protection cream and hat which the furry Soay sheep don’t have of course so they had to shelter in the shadow of the buildings, below left. Guests enjoyed a tour of the islands and stacs this morning – Dun, Soay, Boreray, Stac Lee and Stac an Armin – birds on the cliffs everywhere (gannets seen below right), before a long walk on Hirta in the afternoon. Photos: Margaret Maggs

 
 

 

 

 

 

 

The weather looks good for another day at “the islands on the edge of the world” but Hjalmar Bjorge will probably leave tomorrow to enable our passengers to go bird-watching in another location. 

Wed 14 May | Wardens and whales  Hjalmar Bjorge left St Kilda early this morning for the Sound of Barra. They had a minke whale on the bow and also saw a basking shark. On the approach to the evening’s anchorage at Vatersay they encountered a couple of dozen common dolphins which bow-rode the boat.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Yesterday the St Kilda warden – Bill – and relief ranger – Helen – came onboard to join everyone for dinner. Afterwards Lindsay played her fiddle on the top deck and everyone danced until late (Bill and Helen, above right). Photos: Margaret Maggs

Fri 16 May | Handover at Fort William  Hjalmar Bjorge arrived back in Oban today after our first successful, scheduled cruise to St Kilda. Mark and Lindsay waved off Lyndon, regulars Margaret and Frances, plus the rest of the group, before heading north to Corpach. The boat is out again a week tomorrow. Meanwhile in Corpach Zuza awaited the arrival of guests for her first longer Outer Hebridean cruise of the season. Mid-afternoon we greeted return guest Eric, plus Northern Light newcomers, aboard. Getting the boat ready on a twelfth consecutive day of lovely sunshine was no real hardship.

Zuza locked out at Corpach around 1545 and met up with Hjalmar Bjorge in the northern reaches of Loch Linnhe in sight of Fort William. The boats got close enough for some documentation to be handed from one to the other and then Hjalmar Bjorge continued north to Corpach while Zuza made her south for her evening anchorage.

It rained a bit later in the afternoon – that is news after so much fantastic sunshine!!!

Sat 17 May | Eriskay dolphins  Zuza encountered a group of about nine common dolphins which bow-rode the yacht as she was going into Eriskay. It’s quite possible they were the same ones that bow-rode Hjalmar Bjorge near Vatersay on Wednesday evening. Guests disembarked at Eriskay and walked to the pub. Anna and Peter managed to talk somebody into giving them all a lift back down to the pontoon after their drink!

Sun 18 May | Message in a bouteille  Well, how intriguing is this?! We got an email this evening from Jean-Guy who lives in Quebec in Canada. Translated from the French (thanks Alastair) it reads, “Hello to all. I found this old message in a bottle in the sea at the Iles-de-la-Madeleine, province of Quebec, Canada, on April 30, 2008. I do not understand most of it, however I was able to read the name of a boat; “Hjalmar Bjorge” I think that could concern you.” 

Unfortunately, as you can see from the small image, right, the paper has really deteriorated and it is hard to make out any of the words apart from the name of the boat (circled)…although the text that can only just be seen doesn’t appear to be English. If anyone threw a bottle over the side of Hjalmar Bjorge with a message in it anytime then please let us know! Alternatively if anybody wants to have a go at enhancing and translating the message please email us and we’ll forward the larger image to you. Image: Jean-Guy Poirier

Zuza, built in Cape Town, has been to all sorts of places on the planet (including Scotland) but never before to St Kilda. She embarked on her maiden “St Kilda voyage” this morning via the Sound of Barra anchoring in the bay with time for the guests to go ashore for a walk. Another beautiful sunny day although there was some swell in Village Bay. Photos: (left top and bottom) Heather McNeill (right top and bottom) Barbara Holl

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some of you will remember the story of fishing vessel “Spinningdale” which was blown onto the rocks on Hirta at St Kilda in early February 2008

Guest Barbara took a photo of the boat today, looking very sad, still lying on the rocks where she grounded over 3½ months ago. Photo: Barbara Holl

Eddie, who took a lot of excellent pictures on his “Not St Kilda” cruise earlier this month sent us this clever gannet compiled from a sequence of shots he took. We hope the gannet flies for you (the wildlife equivalent of the lucky leprechaun dancing for you perhaps?!) The combined file size is just short of 1 Mb so you may have to wait a minute or two to see the bird in action. Photos: Eddie Paterson

 

Mon 19 May | New system for fire-fighting fitted  In Corpach today a team from Marine Fire Safety, who travelled up all the way from Surrey, fitted a new state-of-the-art fire suppression system into the engine room of Hjalmar Bjorge. Although the previous system was perfectly serviceable (and legal) we felt it was time to bring it bang up to date and this gear comes with all the bells and whistles. Literally.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Zuza spent one night at St Kilda last night and Tim and Heather took guests for a tour round the other islands and stacs in the archipelago before departing for Taransay (above). Zuza had completed her first visit to St Kilda. It was about this time that Tim also admitted that, until the previous day, he had also been a St Kilda virgin…unlike the guests aboard, all of whom had been to the islands before. On the way to Taransay four or five Risso’s dolphins approached, and bow-rode, the boat which, in our experience, is quite unusual behaviour for that species. Photos: Barbara Holl

Wed 21 May | Shiants, sunny skies, Skye and sails  Zuza anchored at the Shiants for lunch where guests were able to get ashore and walk. There were a lot of birds around but skipper Tim, who was last on the Shiants 20 years ago, said there were far fewer than when he had visited previously. Below left: Peter and Anna at the Shiants. Photo: Barbara Holl

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Some wind later in the day meant Zuza sailed at 8.5 to 9 knots off the north end of Skye before anchoring in Acarseid Mhor, Rona, for the night, where a lovely sunset was seen, above right. Photo: Anna Blundell

Yesterday Zuza went into Loch Seaforth (Harris & Lewis) then NE into Loch Claidh and the guests went ashore to climb a hill. They were delighted to see, from their vantage point, a minke whale at the entrance to the loch. It was a wee distance away but they were able to watch it for 20 minutes. Several otters were also seen during the day. 

Thu 22 May | Skye bridge: Will she? Won’t she…?  Today was a day of some trepidation for Tim and Heather. Would Zuza fit under the Skye bridge? Tim had calculated her air draft, including the boat itself (don’t laugh; some people forget!), as being 27 metres. At high tide the clearance under the bridge is 30 metres so, in theory, there should be at least 3 metres to spare at any state of the tide…not a huge amount and certainly only enough to ensure the passage through had to be made dead centre. So, with crew’s and passengers’ fingers (and toes) crossed Zuza sailed toward the bridge.

Getting closer and feeling a little apprehensive the VHF radio crackled into life. “Yacht approaching the Skye Bridge. This is Range Control. We have concerns about you fitting under the bridge. Respond. Over.” Oh dear, Royal Navy Range Control monitor the area around the bridge and didn’t seem as confident as the crew that the yacht would be okay. Tim responded and reassured them there would be no problem. With just a short distance to go the radio buzzed again. “Yacht approaching the Skye Bridge. This is Range Control. We suggest you send the mate up the mast to check the clearance. Respond. Over.” At this point Heather realised the radio call was a wind-up perpetrated by a friend of hers on Skye! Tim and Heather, and the guests, were all having a laugh about this as the yacht cruised under the bridge – with about 5 metres to spare – when the real Royal Navy Range Control called them up demanding to know who had been impersonating them!!! Photos: Heather McNeill

 
 
 
 
 
 

Aiming to put some distance between Range Control and themselves the sails were hoisted and Zuza headed for Loch Nevis. Anna can be seen wrestling with the winch as the sail area is increased, below right. Photo: Heather McNeill

The wind carried the boat along at a speedy 10 knots and as it did so the vessel heeled some way to starboard…enough for one of the guests to check with the skipper that it was okay to be at that angle. Suddenly from below decks an almighty crash was heard. Somebody (who shall remain nameless because we have no idea who it was) had returned something to the fridge and had omitted to put the safety catch in place. And now, there was the contents of the fridge, for all to see, on the floor. And the walls. And under the table. Guests were rather dismayed to see the individual chocolate mousses in ramekins, that Heather had made earlier in the day, all over the inside of the boat and promptly renamed chocolate mousse “10 knot pudding”. The 10 knot puddings were sadly missed at dinner in Tarbert, Loch Nevis, that evening but a creative alternative was supplied.

 

Fri 23 May | Around Ardnamurchan  Zuza cruised out of Loch Nevis and headed south today rounding Ardnamurchan Point to lie alongside the pontoons in Tobermory for a shore visit. Lochaline was visited later in the day where an otter was seen and fish were jumping – probably salmon. The last few days have been warm and sunny but have also provided enough wind to make good use of Zuza’s sailing ability. Photo: Heather McNeill

Sat 24 May | Ships that pass…  Zuza called in to Oban today to refuel on the Railway Pier and was alongside as Hjalmar Bjorge arrived at about midday ready to collect guests later in the afternoon (photo, below right). Departing Oban Zuza travelled north up Loch Linnhe and into Loch Creran where Peter, Anna and Eric went ashore and walked to Kinlochlaich House Gardens. Not only did Peter and Anna buy some plants to take home with them but they had a cream tea and also cadged a lift back to the boat afterwards…a feat they wangled on Eriskay at the start of the cruise!!! Photo: Barbara Holl

Hjalmar Bjorge loaded a full complement of 12 divers plus kit in the afternoon and departed Oban for Tobermory. 

Sun 25 May | Finish of first Outer Hebridean Sailing cruise  Zuza completed the last day of her first nine-night Outer Hebridean Sailing Explorer cruises today – a trip notable for the sun shining every single day. Yesterday evening provided a fitting finale to the trip. Any regular Northern Light guests will know that the quality of food our cooks serve aboard is very important to us. Whilst in Oban Heather acquired prawns, oysters and smoked salmon and Peter bought some champagne. Heather prepared a wonderfully fresh seafood platter and Peter donated his fizz. The perfect summer meal (below left) was eaten on the back deck of Zuza in the evening sun and on the right are Anna and Heather bonding afterwards over chocolate and champers! BTW if anyone has a number for Chocoholics Anonymous please forward it and we will pass it on to Anna. Photos: Peter Ingleby

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

After locking in to Corpach Sea Lock today Zuza stayed in the lock for an hour or so as a fund-raising sponsored walk for the Highland Hospice was starting at Corpach. Just before 1400 a flare was sent up and the several hundred walkers were piped over the lock gates to begin the circular route to Banavie. It was estimated that the day’s event raised around £7,000 for this very worthwhile facility. Photo: Hannah Thompson

 

Guests aboard Hjalmar Bjorge saw lots of marine life today while travelling north from Tobermory. About three dozen common dolphins were seen north west of Muck, then a minke whale off Neist Point, Skye (where they had a dive) and then another couple of dozen common dolphins near the Sound of Harris. The boat anchored off Taransay for the night. The forecast this week is easterly winds which are exactly the wrong direction for going out to St Kilda. That was the aim of the week, however, the group – Stratford upon Avon BSAC – have been with us twice before and reached St Kilda on both occasions so won’t be too disappointed if they don’t get out there this time.

Mon 26 May | Beautiful Bank Holiday  And yet another glorious sunny day in Scotland. It has been quite a few years since we had a spell of weather like this in May. Almost the whole month has been rain free, hot and sunny. We heard the weather was pretty horrid in some parts of England today but at least people were on holiday. Here in Scotland many people were at work today but we had the weather!

We welcomed guests aboard Zuza for a week long trip today – 100% return customers on this cruise. Barbara just squeezed into this category as, having departed yesterday after a nine night Outer Hebridean Sailing Explorer cruise ended, she disappeared for 24 hours, to return this afternoon for another six nights onboard.

After departing the sea lock Tim and Heather hoisted half of Zuza’s genoa in 30 knots of wind and the boat sped down Loch Linnhe at over 9 knots (I’m told this is an incredibly good return on sail area vs wind and being a non-nautical type I bow to more knowledgeable opinions!).

Wed 28 May | Downpours and dolphins  Well it finally rained. About time following a month of non-stop sunshine. Hjalmar Bjorge abandoned any notion of going to St Kilda this week as the winds were forecast easterly the entire time. The group didn’t mind as they have been out there with us twice before. Today the boat travelled back from the Outer Hebrides over to Skye. About 10 miles NW of Neist Point they encountered a group of around 100 common dolphins who stayed with the vessel for about an hour.

Later, diving the wreck of the Chadwick (Oisgill Bay, NW Skye), a minke whale pottered about happily for an hour or so, feeding, and not paying any heed to the divers in the water. Elizabeth G, which was somewhere near the Sound of Harris, saw Risso’s dolphins – possibly the same group Hjalmar Bjorge encountered on the far side of the Sound nine days ago.

Zuza was involved in some excitement today. Yesterday the vessel travelled south, via the Corryvreckan whirlpool, and anchored off Craignish near Ardfern. Today they continued their journey south and not far from Craighouse, Isle of Jura, exchanged cheery waves with three Irish sailors aboard a 30 ft yacht. Heather was just remarking how close their yacht was to a reef when – smack – it hit said reef and grounded! The yacht starting taking on water and they called the Coastguard for help. The Coastguard dispatched a lifeboat but asked Zuza to “stand by” in case the smaller vessel’s situation became more perilous. The lifeboat arrived about 20 minutes later (below) and the yacht floated off the rocks as the tide rose. Despite some damage they sailed off and didn’t require further assistance. Photos: Heather McNeill

Heather ended up going for a rather longer walk than anticipated on Jura today. Once ashore she decided she would like to revisit a special place she hadn’t seen for 28 years which was a good few miles from where everyone was landed ashore from the dinghy. As Heather set off, several cars and the local bus, stopped to offer her a lift. She thanked them but waved them on, enjoying the opportunity to stretch her legs off the boat and figured she’d thumb a lift back instead. Having carefully timed her pilgrimage she headed back in the direction of the boat ready to accept the first lift that was offered. So she walked. And waited. And walked. And no cars passed. Then the bus appeared…but having been rebuffed on his first offer the driver didn’t even attempt to stop and sailed on past her! Realising time was running out Heather set off at a run in order to make it back to the meeting place in time. Her legs certainly got stretched!

Last night’s anchorage off Craignish rewarded with the first stunning sunset of this week’s cruise, right. Taken at 2150 it’s evidence the nights are getting much longer. Gorgeous. Photo: Judy Robinson

Thu 29 May | Baking heat and basking sharks  The rain didn’t last long. Zuza guests enjoyed a day of beautiful sunshine and blistering heat today as they rounded the south coast of Jura and sailed north through the Sound of Islay, past Colonsay and toward the south west corner of Mull.

On the west side of Erraid, between some rocky islets, is a very deep but very small pool called “Tinker’s Hole” which is a favourite spot of many small boat owners. Tim thought this would be a fine place to put Zuza into and he did – just. No room to swing a cat with the boat in there but just enough space for a 21m yacht. After departing from Tinker’s Hole (reversed out, possibly?!) Zuza continued to Gometra for the evening’s anchorage where two basking sharks plus a tiny fin were seen. A lovely sunset, the second this week captured by Judy, below right, was also enjoyed this evening. Photos: (above) Heather McNeill (below) Judy Robinson

Fri 30 May | Bills (puffins and drinks)  Zuza headed out to the Treshnish Isles today, past Staffa and Fingal’s Cave and on to Lunga where a couple of hours were spent ashore with the delightful puffins. Lots of bluebells can also be seen in the photo, below right. The vessel then continued round the north of Mull and into Loch Sunart for the evening. Photo: Judy Robinson

 

 

Hjalmar Bjorge waved off Stratford BSAC in Oban today. None of the liveaboards ventured out to St Kilda this week as the wind direction was totally wrong – SE which blows straight into Village Bay. However our divers enjoyed two good dives each day and, much like their previous holiday with us, did us proud with their enormous bar bill!!!

Last night Hannah took a couple of photos, below, from her back door at 2310 – not particularly exciting (or even in focus – no tripod – doh) but because she couldn’t believe it was still not properly dark at such a late hour. Photos: Hannah Thompson

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Sat 31 May | 24 on 2  Hjalmar Bjorge stayed alongside in Oban last night as today we boarded another full boat charter party, this time from Reading BSAC. Zuza joined her alongside, briefly, to refuel before heading off to Loch Linnhe and Loch a’ Choire for the evening. Hjalmar Bjorge departed Oban around 1700, in the company of sister ship Elizabeth G, as Reading BSAC have booked both vessels for their party of 24 divers. They are hoping to get out to St Kilda and the forecast looks good, after a slightly windy Sunday, for that aim.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

This evening an otter was seen on the Ledaig slip at Tobermory – a place they are commonly seen, above. Photos: Mark Henrys

news from the previous month [ April ]