NEWS FROM NORTHERN LIGHT CHARTERS :: MAY 2009

Fri 1 May | Diver diversion Hjalmar Bjorge spent last night at Loch Aline and guests had a good walk this morning. Photos below: last night in Loch Aline by Mark Henrys

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

The vessel pulled out after lunch and a rotten weather forecast indicated that it would be safest and most comfortable to head north into Loch Sunart. However events conspired against them. As Mark was leaving Lochaline he heard on the VHF that a diver was missing on the wreck of the Thesis. Given his proximity to the site there was no option but to assist with the search which they did from about 1430 until 1700. The diver was not recovered and by this time it was getting too late to stick to the original plan so the boat headed off to Loch Spelve for the night where guests enjoyed some eagle sightings.

Zuza guests arrived in Oban today, and transferred over to Kerrera, for a week long cruise. Tim and Heather took the yacht up to Port Ramsay on the north end of Lismore for the first evening aboard.

Sat 2 May | Circuit round Colonsay  This morning Hjalmar Bjorge departed Loch Spelve bound for Colonsay in fairly unpleasant weather. The heavy swell prevented the boat lying alongside the pier so they anchored off and Mark took everyone ashore for a walk. Mark has recently rediscovered a long-held passion for running and decided to run round Colonsay! He completed the nine mile circuit in just over an hour so if anyone is feeling competitive there’s a wee challenge for you next time you visit!

Zuza stayed put for the morning with guests having a walk on the north end of Lismore. The boat then set sail for Loch Drumbuie later in the day with a sea eagle seen off Ardtornish on the journey north.

Sun 3 May | Otter inspection  Hjalmar Bjorge cruised to Jura today via the Sound of Islay. Swell prevented use of the pier again so guests were taken ashore by inflatable. Right: The Paps of Jura in the morning light by Mark Henrys

Helen and Mark saw a young otter at close quarters under the pier. In fact Helen said it was her closest view of one to date and this is her third year crewing charter boats. The guests enjoyed their walk in the afternoon. The evening saw the sea get pretty choppy as all onboard sat out the long awaited gale. Below: Ruvaal Lighthouse at the north entrance of the Sound of Islay by Mark Henrys

 

Grim weather prevented Zuza travelling too far today. Guests went ashore for a walk on the island of Oronsay in Loch Sunart where a great northern diver was seen. A gentle sail north east to the village of Salen was enjoyed but very quickly, within about ten minutes, conditions had increased to Force 7 or 8. A decision was taken to head into the shelter of Tobermory for the night which meant all aboard enjoyed another excursion ashore.

Mon 4 May | Lunch at the lighthouse  Hjalmar Bjorge had a good run north through the Sound of Jura although visibility was poor and the wind was strong. They stopped for lunch on anchor by Fladda lighthouse, close to the slate island of Belnahua, before continuing north to Kerrera. The cruise finishes in Oban tomorrow but given weather conditions (wind, again, just for a change) Mark thought it would be prudent to be close to Oban tonight. Guests had a walk on Kerrera this afternoon.

Zuza guests had another stroll ashore at Tobermory this morning. The yacht left around 1100 for an enjoyable sail all the way down the Sound of Mull, the Firth of Lorne and through Cuan Sound to the island of Shuna where they anchored on the east side opposite Craobh Haven. The route took the boat past the entrance to Loch Spelve where a golden eagle was seen sitting on a nest. A red throated diver was seen at Shuna and red deer were spotted ashore.

Tue 5 May | Whirlpool waves  Hjalmar Bjorge guests departed today and Mark took the boat back up to Corpach with Helen and Mark onboard.

Zuza headed south from Shuna after lunch for a sail through the Sound of Jura and a great view of the standing waves at the Corryvreckan whirlpool. A few porpoises were seen in the vicinity and guests enjoyed learning to tack with a reefed main and jib. Once again, however, conditions changed rapidly and a gentle sail turned into an exciting Force 8 in about ten minutes! Tim and Heather turned the yacht around, hightailing it up Loch Craignish into the safety of Ardfern Marina.

A day to celebrate. If you are a Canadian seal that is. Today the European Union has finally banned the trade of products from commercial seal slaughter. Marking the end of a 3-year campaign, triggered by public outcry at the annual seal culls in Canada and Norway, the new legislation was approved by a 550 to 49 vote in Strasbourg today. This landmark ruling bans the trade in products derived from seals hunted for commercial reasons, but excludes the relatively small trade in seal products upon which the Inuit people “and other indigenous communities depend for their livelihoods”.

Wed 6 May | Entertaining otters  Zuza is out on charter until Friday and today’s forecast predicted storm conditions today and tomorrow. The yacht went out for a short sail but around 1400 Tim decided to return to Ardfern so guests would be able to get ashore tomorrow whilst the vessel was likely to be stormbound. There was a good sighting of two otters playing and running up and down the pontoon. A puffin and a merganser were also spotted today. Above: Beautiful light and pink clouds early this morning (before 0500) over Ben Nevis by Mark Henrys

Thu 7 May | Wild winds  Zuza was indeed stormbound at Ardfern today whilst the forecast gale did its worst. At least it was dry and windy as opposed to wet and windy!!! Our guests went ashore and also continued to be amused by the antics of the resident otters. Marion also lent a hand by making chocolate brownies in Zuza’s galley today. Yummy! Photo: Marion creating in the galley of Zuza by Heather McNeill

 

 

Fri 8 May | Lumpy bumpy  The wind was still raging today and it was agreed that a journey north this morning aboard Zuza would be very uncomfortable indeed so our guests took a taxi back into Oban to make their train connections etc. Tim and Heather then set off after lunch to take the yacht back to her designated berth. The journey past Easdale was particularly unpleasant with a confused sea running and somewhat challenging conditions. The wind did drop later and the yacht got into Kerrera around 1800. Photo: lumpy seas and stormy skies off Easdale Island by Heather McNeill

I had been away south of the border for a couple of days and was struck by the extra snowfall on the tops of the peaks when I returned through Glencoe today.

Sat 9 May | All aboard for – hopefully – St Kilda  We welcomed a full complement of 12 guests aboard Hjalmar Bjorge today for what we hope – fingers crossed – will be the first St Kilda cruise of the season. May has always traditionally been one of the best months of the year for weather in Scotland but weather patterns have become so unpredictable there is no guarantee of that anymore. After embarking everyone Hjalmar Bjorge cruised up the Sound of Mull and berthed overnight on the pontoons in Tobermory. I’m sure they were all much admiring of the new carpet that has just been fitted throughout the wheelhouse and top deck of the boat!  Above: new carpet in the newly refurbished wheelhouse. Photo by Hannah Thompson

Sun 10 May | First minke of the season  Hjalmar Bjorge departed Tobermory after breakfast today bound for Canna. Wind made the sea a bit lumpy but on the plus side a minke whale, the first of the year, was seen north of Hyskeir (Oigh Sgeir) lighthouse near Canna and Rum. They anchored for lunch and guests then had the whole afternoon ashore. A pair of golden eagles were spotted on the north side of the island and a sea eagle was seen being mobbed by ravens.

Mon 11 May | Stinky minke…well, truthfully, another sort of whale completely  The vessel left Canna at 0500 today and headed out through the Sound of Barra. Right: The Cullins at dawn from Hjalmar Bjorge on anchor at Canna by Mark Henrys

There were fresh south easterly winds blowing which are absolutely the wrong direction for St Kilda as this funnels right into Village Bay. Mark went so far before deciding to put into the Monach Isles for a day to wait for the wind to change direction. The crossing to St Kilda will be attempted tomorrow.

Guests had most of the day ashore at the lovely low-lying Monach Isles and Mark managed to collect the rest of the whale skeleton that had to be abandoned last September in favour of the skull which is now in Hannah’s garden! Hey, some people like garden gnomes, I like bits of decomposing marine mammals. The vertebrae had been dispersed by winter storms but Mark is pretty sure he recovered all the bits bar one.

By a strange quirk of fate Ron, who was onboard for the stinky-head-in-the-dinghy debacle last year, is also onboard for this trip. Poor Ron – we will probably never see him again after his being subjected, at close range, to rotting cetaceans. Twice.

Right: Sunset over Hirta, St Kilda, from the Monach Islands by Mark Henrys

Tue 12 May | First St Kilda visit  Hjalmar Bjorge made it out to St Kilda today, our first visit this year, the journey made in less than perfect conditions. The vessel arrived in Village Bay at 1130 and guests went ashore straight away with a packed lunch provided. A fantastic sunny day with blue skies and light winds. Mark met up with Stuart, who has acted as St Kilda warden before. His bird report was not encouraging – kittiwakes are few and far between, no gulls, very few oystercatchers and surprisingly few shags.

Mark ran up the hill to the Radar Station and top mast. 20 minutes up and 10 minutes down if anyone fancies another challenge!

Here is an inexcusably silly game on the BBC Scotland website. You are trapped in your tent by ferocious blood-sucking midges. See how many you can kill with your midgie spray before your blood supply runs out! Click here to play.

Wed 13 May | Hotfoot from Hirta  Yesterday’s forecast had not been good and, sure enough, as Hjalmar Bjorge sat on anchor in Village Bay at St Kilda, the wind started coming up from the SE at around 0200. By 0500 it had increased to SE 5 to 6 gusting 7 and Mark decided it was time to go.

 

They left via the stacs and Boreray which are always lovely to see but made for a rather lumpy ride! Above: approaching Boreray in the early hours by Mark Henrys

Over to Scarp where everyone was happy to anchor at 1130. All aboard had a great afternoon and evening on the island. Guests spent time ashore and a pair of sea eagles were seen over Cearstaigh on the north end of Scarp.

Thu 14 May | Tied up at Taransay  Some of the guests aboard Hjalmar Bjorge went ashore on Scarp again today, some to the Hushinish side of Harris. After lunch they made the short crossing to Taransay where the afternoon was spent ashore.

Fri 15 May | Breezy in Bracadale  Another dire forecast so Mark left Taransay early to get through the Sound of Harris and over to Orbost in Loch Bracadale on Skye. After lunch a short cruise was made down Loch Bracadale and Loch Harport to Carbost where guests went ashore. The weather deteriorated quite badly and it was a little challenging, to say the least, getting everyone back onboard again!

Sat 16 May | Bowriding dolphins  An enjoyable cruise today for Hjalmar Bjorge guests down the west coast of Skye, through Soay Sound, in sight of the Cuillins and in to Loch Scavaig. On the move again a juvenile minke whale was spotted off Elgol and a pair of bottlenose dolphins bowride the boat for about 20 minutes as they approached Loch Nevis. They berthed at Inverie and all the guests got off for a good walk. Above: No, it’s not a mass seasick event. Our guests are all watching the dolphins bowriding as the boat approaches Loch Nevis. Photo by Mark Henrys

Mon 18 May | Birthday on board  Yesterday Hjalmar Bjorge travelled from Inverie down to Loch Spelve for the last night onboard where guest Jan celebrated her birthday. Golden eagles and a short eared owl were seen in the loch. Also a special mention of Ted and Jean who will be celebrating their golden wedding anniversary this forthcoming September. Below: Ted and Jean aboard Hjalmar Bjorge in Loch Spelve by Mark Henrys

Today – after completing 431 nautical miles – Mark, Mark and Anna waved off their 12 guests who joined us for this 10 day St Kilda cruise, the first of the season. 

Thu 21 May | Double departure  We welcomed 11 guests on to Hjalmar Bjorge this afternoon for a trip which will, weather permitting, visit North Rona and Sula Sgeir. The forecast is not brilliant – fingers crossed!!! Some familiar faces join us for this expedition – Frances, Gavin, Lyndon and Marc. Newcomer John turned up very happy indeed, having driven over from Loch Garten where he had seen, after 20 years of waiting, a capercaillie. 

Hjalmar Bjorge motored up to Tobermory where the first night was spent on our mooring in the harbour. As usual the resident otters put on a good performance, swimming close to the boat. Turns out there are four doctors and two nurses onboard for this trip! Perhaps we should start advertising in the BMJ.

Tim and Heather aboard Zuza also met guests today for the start of an Inner Hebridean cruise. After boarding at Kerrera they motored south to Shuna, through Cuan Sound, during a lovely evening.

Fri 22 May | Porpoises and pomarine  Zuza guests enjoyed a trip through the Corryvreckan whirlpool this morning with Tim spotting a pomarine skua near the Dorus Mhor tidal meet. A very sunny, near idyllic, lunch stop at the Garvellachs (below right) with guests then going ashore. Below: a lovely sunny day today, for a bit of a change given recent conditions! Photos by Heather McNeill

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

In the afternoon some great sailing, under genoa, was enjoyed along the south coast of Mull, with sightings of a few porpoise, a golden eagle on her nest on the Ross of Mull and a nosey into Tinkers Hole. Zuza then sailed through the Sound of Iona with the forecast dictating an overnight anchorage off Bunessan.

Hjalmar Bjorge departed Tobermory this morning bound for Muck where guests went ashore for the morning. They left Muck at 1400 and cruised to Inverie for the afternoon where time was also spent ashore.

Sat 23 May | Close encounter of the cetacean kind  This morning Zuza sailed out to Staffa then up towards Ulva via spectacular waterfalls near the fossil tree on the Burg peninsula of Mull. Alas it was too misty to actually see MacCulloch’s 40 foot tree.

Despite dire visibility and pretty lumpy seas, a dodgy forecast and winds rapidly shifting from SW to NW (and back again) the guests onboard the yacht enjoyed learning to steer the boat under Tim and Heather’s careful tutelage. However their planned anchorages at either Gometra or Ulva both became untenable. Instead a good sail back to Bunessan was enjoyed. Andrew spotted a brief glimpse of “something big” about 10 feet from the boat whereupon a minke whale rolled over beside the yacht and immediately vanished!

Hjalmar Bjorge left Inverie this morning and anchored in Arcaseid Mhor or £Big Harbour” off the island of Rona, sometimes referred to as South Rona. Most of our guests went for a walk, some for a short potter, others set off cross-country to the lighthouse on the north end where the boat motored round to pick them up. Guest Marc, from America, had already spent a week on this lovely wee island a couple of years ago. If you’re interested in following in his footsteps click here. Hjalmar Bjorge spent this evening and overnight at Kenmore on the south shore of Loch Torridon.

Sun 24 May | Rollercoaster ride  Zuza guests took a walk ashore at Bunessan this morning after a peaceful night on anchor. Then out to Tiree on a big rollercoaster ride – under reefed genoa – with winds of Force 6 to 7, described by Rae as, “great,” and, “exhilarating!” A late lunch was taken at Tiree then guests had some time ashore, some of which was spent watching the many kite surfers hurtling by. Tiree is a popular location for these kinds of sports and it’s good to know some people benefit from big winds!!! Below: big seas and Rae (smiling!) off Tiree by Heather McNeill

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Hjalmar Bjorge left Loch Torridon this morning in rather unpleasant southerly gale force conditions, undertaking a 4½ hour journey north to the Summer Isles where they anchored off Tanera Mor, the largest and only inhabited island of the group.

Mon 25 May | Dozens of dolphins  Mark aboard Hjalmar Bjorge today, after listening to forecasts predicting unsettled conditions and more gales, took the decision to bin North Rona as the intended destination. Obviously this is a disappointment to both guests and crew but we cannot change the weather. Keen to cross the Minch and avoid getting stuck on the mainland side due to high winds, Hjalmar Bjorge departed the Summer Isles and headed west.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mark chose the lovely Shiant Islands, sometimes described as a “mini St Kilda”, as an alternative destination. About five miles SW of the Summer Isles a pod of 60 to 80 common dolphins bow-rode the boat for around 30 minutes, which provided some compensation to the abandonment of North Rona and Sula Sgeir. Above: common dolphins – including a calf, below right – bow-ride Hjalmar Bjorge off the Summer Isles by Mark Henrys

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Above (left) under the north cliffs of the Shiants – you can see why comparisons to St Kilda are made and (right) Hjalmar Bjorge on anchor at the Shiant Islands. Photos by Mark Henrys

A rather rock ‘n’ rolly night for Zuza on anchor in Gott Bay on Tiree last night. They sailed up to Arinagour on Coll this morning and, after lunch, guests went ashore. It was a bit misty but several red-breasted mergansers were seen. The weather cleared up a bit in the afternoon and a good sail to Loch Drumbuie was enjoyed. Half a dozen dolphins were spotted, albeit around a mile away, in the entrance to the Sound of Mull.

Tue 26 May | Full sail ahead  Zuza guests had a walk on Oronsay this morning and Alex spotted a golden eagle from the boat. Guests helped to sail Zuza down the Sound of Mull which they enjoyed, racing against yacht “Mischief” shown below passing alongside. Zuza’s destination for the evening was Port Ramsay on the north end of Lismore where, later on, all went ashore for a walk. Below (left) evening in Loch Drumbuie last night and (right) Mischief sails by Zuza in the Sound of Mull. All photos by Heather McNeill

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Hjalmar Bjorge cruised from the Shiants to Scalpay today where guests had the afternoon ashore. Nearly everyone walked to the lighthouse and John was invited for afternoon tea with one of the locals. How friendly are these places? 

Mark opted to stay the night on anchor in the south harbour of Scalpay this evening despite quite strong winds. Right: Last night’s sunset at the Shiant Islands looking over to Harris and Loch Seaforth by Mark Henrys

Wed 27 May | Zuza cruise completed  Zuza travelled south to Kerrera this morning to disembark guests onto the courtesy boat, bound for the North Pier. The trains seem to have reverted to their “normal” timetable which makes life a little less fraught on the final day. Up to now guests had to catch the wee 11 o’ clock ferry to make their train connections but, since the time has changed, the midday boat is a better option. 

Right: Zuza under full sail off Mull by Heather McNeill

Hjalmar Bjorge departed Scalpay at 0845 this morning for the Isle of Isay in the entrance of Loch Dunvegan, north Skye. 

All the guests went ashore to visit the deserted village and ruined church of Trumpan with its terrible and bloodstained history – the congregation was massacred in 1578 by the MacDonalds of Uist. The ensuing battle between them and the men of the Clan MacLeod resulted in the annihilation of the MacDonald perpetrators. Here’s another fascinating fact about Isay: the island was briefly owned by singer Donovan in the 1980s.

A gannet (below) followed the boat for miles and miles on the crossing from west to east, just keeping pace as they cruised at around 10 knots. Perhaps he was just having some youngster’s fun – the white bits in the black near the wing-tips indicate it was a juvenile bird. After Isay the boat set off again and headed south round Neist Point and to Carbost in Loch Harport. A young minke whale was spotted off the Point with lots of Manx shearwaters, terns and gulls. In a bid to counter chef Marky Mark’s generous dinner portions skipper Mark ran from Carbost to Talisker Bay and back again, a distance of around six miles. Below (left) the gannet that stayed with Hjalmar Bjorge for miles today and (right) a puffin at lift off, from a couple of days ago. Photos by Mark Henrys

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Thu 28 May | Golden and sea eagles  Hjalmar Bjorge left Carbost for Canna today. Guests enjoyed a walk to the west cliffs. The sea eagle’s nest was spotted but there was no sign of the usual occupant. On the return walk a golden eagle was seen flying over the harbour.

Fri 29 May | Hen harriers with the hump!  Hjalmar Bjorge guests had another walk on Canna this morning after which the boat pulled out at 1100. There was a long steam down to Loch Spelve today where they arrived and anchored around 1800. A golden eagle was seen at the entrance. Whilst sat on anchor everyone witnessed four hen harriers close to the boat, engaged in some kind of furious feathered altercation.

Zuza seven guests arrived today for the yacht’s first 9-night 10-day cruise which, weather permitting, will include a visit to St Kilda. They enjoyed a fast sail up to Tobermory during their first evening onboard with dolphins in the Sound of Mull.

Sat 30 May | Pigeon all at sea  Zuza made her way out to Eriskay today, sailing most of the way in a good breeze. There were loads of shearwaters to be seen with one slightly doleful pigeon amongst the group. It had a few goes at landing and then disappeared, presumably to try and find some other pigeon pals. The guests got a good walk ashore on Eriskay.

Hjalmar Bjorge finished her cruise in Oban today. Guests said they had very much enjoyed the trip notwithstanding the disappointment in weather preventing passage to North Rona. 

Sun 31 May | Zuza at St Kilda  Tim and Heather had an early start with Zuza travelling through the Sound of Barra at dawn. There were 15 bottle-nosed dolphins on the yacht’s bow in the Sound, likely to be the same group we have regularly encountered over the years. Below (left) the Sound of Barra at dawn and (right) bottle-nosed dolphins on Zuza’s bow, both by Heather McNeill

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

There was very little wind and what there was, was unhelpfully coming from the direction in which the boat was travelling, so they motored all the way to Village Bay on Hirta. A couple of white-beaked dolphins were seen en route.

Zuza arrived at St Kilda in thick fog which started about two miles offshore. Soon visibility was down to 200 yards. The boat anchored in the bay where occasional breaks in the fog gradually turned into more substantial ones. Our guests went ashore where they noted a lot of painted ladies butterflies which do not hibernate in the UK but were bang on time, usually arriving late May or early June from northern Africa. Right: a view of Village Bay and Dun in the fog, from Hirta, by Heather McNeill

:: news from the previous month [ April ’09 ]