NEWS FROM NORTHERN LIGHT CHARTERS :: AUGUST 2008

Fri 1 Aug | Blast from the past  Hannah, Donna (and wee friend Jade) Ylva and Rhona (who is crewing for us this coming week) were all in Corpach today, cleaning Zuza and Hjalmar Bjorge and loading up stores etc. Helen, who has booked on Zuza’s cruise leaving tomorrow, came over to the yacht to say “hi” then wandered over to have a look at Hjalmar Bjorge. Ylva, who was on the boat, saw a face peering through the window and was suddenly transported back to her 14 year old self at school in Winchester. “Miss Harvey!” she declared for it was she… Ylva’s biology teacher from her old school days!!!

Sat 2 Aug | Cruises: today and 2009  Both Zuza and Hjalmar Bjorge set sail today, both hoping to get out to St Kilda this week if weather permits. Our usual “first night” anchorages were chosen; Loch á Choire for Zuza and Tobermory for Hjalmar Bjorge.

And finally, at last, later than usual (apologies to those who have been waiting patiently), the dates of our 2009 cruises are ready. Click here for details of these plus the few remaining spaces left this year on both Zuza and Hjalmar Bjorge. It’s your last chance to experience Hjalmar Bjorge in the next month or so. Our big news is that Hjalmar Bjorge will be formally offered for sale in the coming weeks and we will be concentrating on offering eco-friendly holiday experiences aboard motor yacht Zuza next year. This has not been an easy decision – we love Hjalmar Bjorge and she has been a fantastic boat to work with – but for various reasons we have decided the time is right for a change of focus. 

We very much hope to see you for a “wind in your hair” sailing holiday next year. After trying Zuza in May this year, regular guest Marc said, “I just wanted to reiterate what a wonderful time I had, and as I said, it was the best of the six trips to date. I know it is a cliché, but “going to where you’re getting” vs. “getting to where you’re going” truly summarizes the experience.” He’s right – in a nutshell the holidays will be more about exploring and discovering wildlife and marine and island environments in a low impact way; less about destination-specific targets. We do still intend to visit lots of exciting places though, including St Kilda on the longer holidays.

Click here to read about next year’s offerings, from old favourites such as the early season 4-night “Scenic Seabirds” to a brand new exciting and adventurous 13-night trip at the other end of the season called “Pelagics and Passerines.”

Sun 3 Aug | St Kilda and cetaceans  Hjalmar Bjorge departed Tobermory at 0435 this morning bound for St Kilda. West of Coll, and on the way over to Eriskay, they passed about a dozen basking sharks. Then, about 12 miles south of St Kilda, seven common dolphin bow-rode the boat for a while. They arrived in Village Bay this afternoon. Photos (right): Common dolphins on the way to St Kilda by Mark Henrys (below) Hjalmar Bjorge from the beach in Village Bay, St Kilda by Rhona Wilson

 

Meanwhile all aboard Zuza (also near Eriskay) spotted a minke whale and brought the boat to a halt for some quiet observation. The minke whale also spotted the yacht and came right over to them, lying on its side close to the surface of the water, so it could have observe them right back. It even rolled over and made eye contact with the people onboard. Everybody was too mesmerised to go and get a camera but Robin snapped this photo with his mobile phone. Photo: Minke whale beside Zuza at Eriskay by Robin Priestley

Not a bad ending to a day where a dozen basking sharks had also been seen en route to Eriskay. Tim and Heather are planning to leave at 0600 tomorrow morning, also setting sail for St Kilda.

Mon 4 Aug | Both boats at St Kilda  Zuza motored out to St Kilda today arriving mid-afternoon. The winds were wrong for sailing but everyone agreed the crossing, undertaken entirely by motor, was worth it for a visit to the “islands on the edge of the world.” Early evening there was time for a photo shoot of both vessels in Village Bay (right). Photo: Zuza and Hjalmar Bjorge in Village Bay, Hirta by Mark Henrys.

Tue 5 Aug | Kilda to Taransay This morning Hjalmar Bjorge took a tour round the islands and stacks including a navigation through Soay Sound. Zuza was also round the stacs and Boreray so Mark and Heather both got photos of each other’s boat. Below: (left) Zuza at Stac an Armin (right) Zuza by Boreray, St Kilda, both by Mark Henrys

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Above (left and right): Hjalmar Bjorge by Stac Lee, both by Heather McNeill There are still puffins and other birds around at St Kilda although the fledged chicks are starting to fly away. Both boats ended the day at Taransay with guests having an evening walk ashore. Heather and Ylva opted to go swimming. Brrr. Below: Zuza at Taransay by Mark Henrys

 

Wed 6 Aug | A whale of a time  Mark put Hjalmar Bjorge guests ashore at Neist Point on Skye to walk round the lighthouse today. They watched some minke whales from land then, after returning to the boat, were able to see others from there. Mark had a dive at Neist Point. He was looking for scallops. Sadly, for the guests, none were to be found but he did find a perfect undamaged orange sea urchin test on the seabed. Hjalmar Bjorge ended the day in Loch Bracadale. Photo: Minke whale off Neist Point by Mark Henrys

Zuza had an enjoyable sail to Loch Eport today, it being quite windy and in the “right” direction. A juvenile golden eagle was seen on the way in and guests went ashore for a walk seeing a couple of red deer stags.

Thu 7 Aug | Whisky and whales  Zuza made her way back over to Skye today seeing a minke whale breach off Neist Point. They went into Loch Harport and at Carbost the guests went on a tour of the Taslisker Distillery. On the way into the loch everyone spotted an adult sea eagle flying with two juveniles. Today was also Robin and Ros’ wedding anniversary which they tried to keep very quiet whilst onboard. Obviously we honour their desire to do so. Not. Happy 37th Wedding Anniversary to Robin and Rosamund, thank you for choosing to spend your special day aboard Zuza, and we wish you at least the same again! Photo: Robin, Jean, Helen and Ros aboard Zuza by Heather McNeill

Fri 8 Aug | From NZ to Italy to St Kilda  Hjalmar Bjorge ended a successful “Focus on St Kilda Expedition” in beautiful sunshine in Oban today. We were particularly pleased to take Alec, Rae, Donald and Shona to the archipelago as they had all made unsuccessful attempts before. Donald reckoned he was responsible for the great weather this week, saying that whenever they travelled away from their home in New Zealand, they always had brilliant weather. I did ask him if he wanted to stay another week but sadly they had other plans! As well as our guests from New Zealand we also had Pietro and Cinzia from Italy aboard so it was something of an “international” voyage this week.

The “spotter’s list” from this St Kilda trip reads (in order of sightings): common dolphins – basking sharks – seal – Leach’s petrel – storm petrel – cormorant – guillemot – great skua – Arctic skua – dunlin – turnstone – ringed plover – purple sandpiper – oystercatcher – wheatear – meadow pipit – rock pipit – St Kilda wren – fulmar – puffin – great black-backed gull – golden plover – herring gull – godwit – gannet – red deer – black guillemot – lesser black-backed gull – Manx shearwater – shag – razorbill (with chick) – kittiwake – hooded crow – minke whales – greylag geese – siskin – chaffinch – house sparrow – twite – swallow – swift – greenfinch – buzzard – pair of young sea eagles – raven – wood pigeon – collared dove – linnet – robin – wren – porpoises

Huge thanks to Rhona for crewing this week after our planned crew was unable to join us due to unexpected ill health. And lovely Lindsay is covering next week while we continue to look for suitable candidates!

Zuza left Loch Harport this morning and on the way out saw the sea eagle and two chicks again. This time they were on the shore and could clearly be seen ripping a rabbit apart and eating it. The boat was relatively close to them and they seemed very underwhelmed by its presence. Below: (left) Sea eagle eating a rabbit on the shore (right) a seal seen earlier in the week, both by Helen Harvey

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A minke whale was seen off Loch Eynort and the next port of call was Rum where Heather got all “arty”. Photos below: (left) “A round the Hebrides” and “stone as Planet Earth”, both by Heather McNeill

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After Rum it was on to Tobermory. En route half a dozen common dolphins were seen off Ardnamurchan Point.

Sat 9 Aug | Grey and grim  Not sure where the sun went but it was very grey and rather wet today. Zuza experienced fog and wind and decided to stay put in Tobermory since they wouldn’t see anything anyway. Guests went ashore for some retail therapy which was enjoyed after seven days in the wilderness. Our full complement of 12 divers boarded Hjalmar Bjorge in Oban this afternoon and they travelled up to Tobermory for the evening.

Sun 10 Aug | Winding their way back  Zuza left Tobermory this morning and headed down to Oban to refuel and to let guests have a quick shore visit. The boat anchored for the evening at Port Ramsay on Lismore where guests went ashore for another exploration. It’s actually the first time Tim has dropped guests onto Lismore and this was confirmed by a crofter commenting that not many boats had been visiting, they had just been seen passing by.

Mon 11 Aug | Quiz question for “yachties”  Another first for Zuza today: they sailed up Loch Linnhe with a following wind for the first time this season. Hannah met them at Corpach and good-byes were exchanged. Zuza sets off again tomorrow for another 9-night cruise.

So, here is a trivia question for the sailors amongst you: You are running with two head sails, goose-winged, with no main sail up (as evidenced by Heather’s photo, right). Which tack are you on? Answers please by email

And don’t bother asking for clues because, um, we would actually like to know the definitive answer ourselves!!! Photo: Heather McNeill

Tue 12 Aug | Birthday dolphins  Hjalmar Bjorge spent the last two nights anchored off Lingay Island in the Sound of Harris. They left this morning to head out to St Kilda, a surprise for everyone onboard, not least Mark, because the forecasts had been pretty ropey. It was Lindsay’s birthday today and not far from Boreray six common dolphins came over to bow-ride, an excellent birthday present! Below: (left) a typical view of Boreray (right) common dolphin near Boreray, both by Mark Henrys

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

These weren’t the last dolphins Lindsay saw on her birthday though as, later in the day, Ylva presented her with a big dolphin shaped birthday cake adorned with sparklers! There were also two baby dolphin cakes and, being mindful of waste, Ylva shaped the cake remnants into a miniature Stac Lee complete with icing guano!!! Now that’s creative. Picture follows.

In Corpach Tim, Heather and Hannah welcomed a full complement of eight guests aboard Zuza this afternoon including Mike and Sheila (from the USA) and John and grandson Charlie who all travelled with us aboard Hjalmar Bjorge last year.

Thu 14 Aug | Masses of marine life  After spending the day at St Kilda yesterday where some good dives were done Hjalmar Bjorge left today for the long journey back to Tobermory. About eight miles south of St Kilda six common dolphin bow-rode the boat. Then about 20 miles out another five common dolphin approached the boat. Next a huge sunfish was seen (the first of the year) and then another four common dolphin, which also bow-rode. Finally, our old friends the bottlenose dolphins (including “Cyd”) joined the boat through the Sound of Barra. Below: (top left) this might look like a basking shark fin but it’s actually an ocean sunfish (others) exuberant bottlenose dolphins in the Sound of Barra; all photos by Mark Henrys

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yesterday Zuza travelled to Eriskay with the aim of heading out to St Kilda. Around halfway across the weather seriously deteriorated which made the archipelago an impossibility but on the plus side four basking sharks were seen. Two more were seen today in the Sound of Barra. The boat went around Barra Head and visited the cliffs at Mingulay (lots of birds) but there was too much swell to make landfall. The night was spent in Castlebay. Below: (left) guests aboard Zuza off Barra Head (right) Kisimul Castle in Castlebay, Barra; both by Heather McNeill

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Fri 15 Aug | Disembark and a day off  Our diving guests left Hjalmar Bjorge in Oban today to head home. Regulars Mike and Ekki set off for Germany via St Abbs (for more diving!). Following an afternoon of bed-changing, recycling rubbish and tidying up, Mark and Hannah took Ylva and Lindsay out for dinner to celebrate/ commiserate Lindsay’s departure from Northern Light Charters. There’s a day off for Hjalmar Bjorge tomorrow with a cruise starting on Sunday.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Meanwhile Zuza travelled from South to North Uist today, ending up in Loch Eport. A minke whale and two basking sharks were seen en route. All went ashore at Loch Eport for a walk and one of our guests – 15 year old Charlie – was made up to see a golden eagle swoop down low over Heather’s head. The minke whale had been Charlie’s first sighting of a whale and he declared himself “well chuffed” with the day’s events. Above: (left) Sheila and Charlie watching seals from Zuza (right) Mike watching a minke whale from Zuza; both by Heather McNeill

Sometime during the afternoon Sandy sidled up to Heather to say it was wife Jan’s birthday and that he’d smuggled a small cake aboard. Heather prepared a suitably celebratory spread and Jan was toasted with “Happy Birthday”s before dinner. Photo: the birthday girl on the back deck of Zuza by Heather McNeill

Sat 16 Aug | Hip hip hooray  More celebrations for Zuza guests today as Tony and Carole received news of the birth of grand-daughter Emily. The day started well with a sighting of a golden eagle before the boat left its Loch Eport anchorage in the morning. They enjoyed a good sail across the Minch with five minke whales being spotted on the way to Rona. Photos (below) watching the sun go down last night in Loch Eport by Heather McNeill

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sun 17 Aug | Portree to Plockton  A basking shark was seen before Zuza weighed anchor in Acarsaid Mhòr, Rona, this morning. The yacht then went to Portree where guests spent a couple of hours ashore before heading off to Loch Reraig, near the entrance to Loch Carron (opposite Plockton) for the night. 

Hjalmar Bjorge boarded guests in Oban this afternoon and spent the night in Tobermory. Photo: the moon rising over the Morvern hills, from Tobermory by Mark Henrys

Mon 18 Aug | Otter spotted and an eagle eyed  Zuza headed south under the Skye bridge (always an event with the potential for excitement!) and an otter was spotted in Kylerhea, an area famous for otters. A minke whale was seen off Loch Hourn and the yacht travelled half way down Loch Nevis to anchor at Tarbet for the evening and overnight. Guests went ashore for a walk and Charlie was wowed by a golden eagle that flew right across his head!

Hjalmar Bjorge guests saw a couple of basking sharks in the Sound of Canna then a juvenile minke whale and another basking shark off Neist Point. The vessel arrived at Taransay around 1630 and guests went ashore for a walk. A golden eagle was seen from the beach.

Tue 19 Aug | En route to Kilda (3/3)  Hjalmar Bjorge left Taransay at 0600 this morning arriving at St Kilda around 1400. That’s 3 out of 3 for Hjalmar Bjorge St Kilda cruises in August! Four white-beaked dolphins briefly bow-rode the boat during the first half of the crossing – unusual behaviour for this species – and a minke whale was seen just south of Boreray. Rarely spotted dolphins were also the order of the day for Zuza with six or seven Risso’s being seen off Mallaig as they travelled south to Tobermory for the night.

Wed 20 Aug | An amble to Ardtornish  A voyage down the Sound of Mull for Zuza today with guests disembarking in Lochaline. From here they walked through to Ardtornish to meet the boat. Two sea eagles (an adult and a juvenile) were seen on the walk. Zuza anchored in Loch Creran for the night.

Mark took Hjalmar Bjorge guests for a tour round the islands and stacs at St Kilda this morning then anchored back in Village Bay in the afternoon. Photo: Trevor standing on Hirta at St Kilda by Mike Parker

Thu 21 Aug | St Kilda to Monachs  Zuza finished a second 9-night back-to-back Outer Hebridean Explorer cruise today and 15 year old Charlie, who was aboard for this trip, provided us with some of his excellent photos, below. Tim and Heather now have a well-deserved week off. Top: ringed plover and cheeky herring gull on the tender. Bottom: sunset, grey seal and minke whale. All photos by Charlie Rogers

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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Hjalmar Bjorge left St Kilda about 0700 this morning and saw four common dolphins, which bow-rode, near to the Monach Islands. Guests had time to land on the three main islands of Ceann Ear, Ceann Iar and Shivinish, the first providing a sighting of a golden eagle. Below: (left) Hjalmar Bjorge anchored at the Monach Islands (right) the evening’s sunset; both by Mark Henrys

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Fri 22 Aug | Dozens of dolphins  Hjalmar Bjorge anchored overnight at the Monachs (in good weather) then departed at 0800 this morning. Over Hawes Bank, en route to Gunna Sound, the boat met about 50 common dolphins which bow-rode for around 40 minutes. On the east side of Gunna Sound about eight basking sharks were seen. Mark slowed the boat and guests spent some time watching them. The boat anchored tonight in Gott Bay on the east side of Tiree. Photo: one of the dolphins at Hawes Bank by Mark Henrys

Sat 23 Aug | Baskers and a birthday  Hjalmar Bjorge left Gott Bay at 0600 this morning and headed south past Lunga where six big basking sharks were seen. The boat then anchored in South Harbour, Gometra, and guests walked around Gometra and over to Soriby Bay on Ulva where they all managed to successfully meet up with the boat. Nobody was helicoptered off the islands – always a bonus! 

It was skipper Mark’s birthday on Hjalmar Bjorge today and Ylva produced a lovely fruit cake to celebrate the occasion. He had specifically asked for “no fuss” so, under sufferance, the cake was not lavishly decorated in her usual style. Tasted just as good though! 

Sun 24 Aug | Otter antics  Hjalmar Bjorge left Soriby Bay, Ulva, this morning and arrived in Tobermory around lunchtime. Guests went ashore and spent the afternoon there – most went for a walk around nearby Aros Park. Mark, who stayed aboard, spent about 10 minutes watching, and photographing, the resident pontoon otter. Guests thought he was joking when he told them about its antics but here are the photos to prove it! Below: otter eating a fish on the pontoon at Tobermory – in the picture, bottom right, you can see one of its incisors is missing! We think the mark on its nose is a fish scale; photos by Mark Henrys

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When everyone was back onboard they departed Tobermory and cruised down the Sound of Mull into Lochaline for the night.

Mon 25 Aug | A few days off  The wind got up in the early hours of this morning and Hjalmar Bjorge bailed out of Lochaline first thing. A leisurely cruise into Oban saw guests departing after brunch. Ylva also jumped ship (brother Mark is cooking for us again on the next cruise) and Anna, who has been crewing this week, took the boat up to Corpach with Mark this afternoon. A few days off for everyone now with Zuza going back out on Friday, Hjalmar Bjorge on Saturday.

Fri 29 Aug | Shorn shock  Tim had a hair cut today! If you’ve seen photos of Tim with his wild, woolly locks you’ll understand how that is big news!!! Guests joined Zuza this afternoon with the vessel anchoring near the Corran Narrows for the evening.

Sat 30 Aug | Eagles for everyone  Hjalmar Bjorge boarded 12 guests this afternoon and departed for Tobermory in the late afternoon. The run up the Sound of Mull was enhanced by a sighting of a pair of sea eagles on the Grey Isles. Zuza guests also saw a sea eagle off Ardtornish en route to an overnight anchorage in Loch Drumbuie.

Sun 31 Aug | Double dolphins bow-riding  Hjalmar Bjorge departed Tobermory at 0500 bound for Taransay. About 30 common dolphin were seen off Muck and another 10 or 12 off Loch Bracadale. Both pods bow-rode the boat. Basking sharks were also seen in the Sound of Canna.

Zuza motored over to Castlebay on Barra where Heather got all glammed up and had her photo taken against the backdrop of Kisimul Castle, ancient stronghold of the Clan MacNeil. Any excuse to get out the girly clothes, killer stillies and sparkly jewellery!!! Tim took a few pictures of Heather on the boat before she clambered up the steps to pose in front of the portcullis. Above: Heather aboard Zuza by Kisimul Castle, Barra by Tim Wear

Zuza ended the day in Cornaig Bay on Vatersay where Clan MacNeil also made their presence felt in the 15th Century. Apparently the widow “Marion of the Heads”, who lived in Kisimul Castle at this time, instructed her servant to behead her two stepsons on a curved stone in Cornaig Bay in order that her son, Ruari, become heir of Clan MacNeil instead. Luckily no such activity today and on a much happier note a baby basking shark was spotted en route to the bay.

news from the previous month [ July ]