NEWS FROM NORTHERN LIGHT CHARTERS :: AUGUST 2009

Sat 1 Aug | Stunning sunsets  Zuza guests enjoyed a leisurely breakfast alongside at Kerrera. Some left on the 11am water taxi to catch an early afternoon train out of Oban, others took the midday boat. Anne commented it had been a week of lovely sunsets and reckoned the one above had been one of the most stunning. Below left: Sunset by Ann Careless

 

 

 

 

 

Tue 4 Aug | “Le Grand Bleu” in Sound of Mull  Hjalmar Bjorge cruised past “Le Grand Bleu” outside Tobermory today. This is one of the largest private yachts in the world at 370 feet (114 metres). It was built in Germany and launched in 2000. Roman Abramovich bought it in 2002 and in 2006 he rather generously gave it to a friend, Mr Eugene Shvidler, who remains the current owner. Above right: Le Grand Bleu by Mark Henrys

Thu 6 Aug | Dolphins off Duart  Guests boarded Zuza at Kerrera this afternoon then the yacht motored up to Tobermory to pick up the mooring for a late dinner in the Bay. Three dolphins were seen briefly off Duart Castle. There were over 130 boats in the harbour, today nearing the end of West Highland Yachting Week.

Fri 7 Aug | Humpback sighting?  A calm, sunny morning with a slight swell saw Zuza motor to Castlebay on Barra. Between Coll and Barra, some half a mile off, Tim had a spectacular sighting of a big whale, with classic tail flukes, leaping completely clear of the water which caused him great excitement. It was either one of the orca, recently seen from the yacht or, possibly – because it was so large and the tail wasn’t quite right for an orca – just possibly, the humpback whale which has been seen twice this summer in the Hebrides.

At Barra the yacht had close encounters with about a dozen basking sharks but the boat managed to avoid them all this time, or rather, the sharks managed to avoid bumping into the boat! The water was very clear so the baskers were easily seen, some of them swimming repeatedly right round the stern. Guests went ashore for a couple of hours and then Zuza motored in sunshine to Vatersay beach for the night.

Sat 8 Aug | Minke off Mingulay  It was windy last night on Zuza’s anchorage and grey upon awakening but the morning brightened quickly. Guests went ashore on Vatersay’s big beach for a couple of hours before the yacht motored through the Sound of Mingulay to the cliffs. It was too lumpy to visit Barra Head as planned so they returned through the Sound, to Castlebay, and pulled out a little headsail. A minke whale was spotted on the Atlantic side of the gap. Below: Zuza anchored off Vatersay beach by Margaret Simpson

Sun 9 Aug | Week’s wildlife sightings  Hjalmar Bjorge finished a 10 day dive charter in Corpach today. Although the guests weren’t specifically looking for wildlife during their trip there were a few highlights.

Last Monday a couple of basking sharks were seen by Loch Tuath on the west side of Mull. Another basking shark was seen on Friday as the divers were exploring the wreck of the “Helena Faulbaums” in 62 metres of water. This wreck lies upright near the slate island of Belnahua, a mile NW of Luing. Cook Mark and crew Rhona went for a swim off Belnahua. With the boat’s engines and generators switched off it was an absolutely silent, almost eerie, experience.

The previous day three golden eagles were seen as guests undertook a drift dive in the mouth of Loch Spelve on Mull. On the boat’s journey on the way out to Coll Rhona saw something large jump out of the water. She wasn’t sure what it was, definitely bigger than a dolphin, so perhaps a breaching minke whale…or maybe that elusive humpback whale again?! Photo: A happy diver emerges from the depths of the Loch Spelve drift dive (it’s Mike from Germany!) by Rhona Wilson

 

For Zuza today the sea got flatter, the day sunnier, and a perfect southerly wind of around 12 to15 knots saw the yacht guests enjoy a delightful sail to Loch Eport. All aboard helped to steer and raise the sails etc. Some eight to 15 common dolphins bow-rode for about 15 minutes. Photo: Dolphins bow-riding Zuza off the north end of South Uist by Heather McNeill

Rain ended play, so to speak, but the guests decided to head off and climb the hill anyway. 

 

Mon 10 Aug | Nuffin but puffins  Zuza left Loch Eport in calm conditions for the Shiant Islands this morning and saw a peregrine falcon on the way out. They motored over to the Shiants and found almost all the seabirds, apart from a few hundred puffins, had gone. A sea eagle was seen here, being mobbed by other birds. The guests really liked the Shiants and bade a fond farewell at tea time when they weighed anchor and headed for Loch Stockinish on SE Harris. Some common dolphins and a minke whale were seen en route. Above: John and Margaret on the Shiant Islands by Margaret Simpson

Wed 12 Aug | Soggy sea eagles  Yesterday was a wet and windy day for Zuza guests who sailed from Harris to the north end of Skye, ending up at Arcaseid Mhor (“Big Harbour”) on Rona. They did brave a shore visit and stayed the night.

This morning the yacht motored to Portree and filled up with water. Two adult sea eagles and a very miserable soggy juvenile were seen on the shore in the rain. 

After departing Portree the yacht sailed under the Skye Bridge and into Loch Nevis where the weather cleared up. Photo: John and Margaret approach the Skye Bridge, on Zuza, Titanic style by Heather McNeill (Thankfully the cruise didn’t come to a premature end with the yacht hitting an iceberg!)

 

Thu 13 Aug | Eigg-cellent activities  Zuza motored to Eigg from Loch Nevis on a flat calm sea this morning where guests spent about three hours ashore. Two climbed the Sgurr of Eigg and Margaret and John bravely (rashly?!) went swimming from the boat (below, bottom left). Rather them than me! The yacht then sailed to Tobermory where John, Margaret, Tony and Bernard generously took Tim and Heather out for dinner.

 

Above (left) palm tree on “tropical” Eigg by Heather McNeill (above right) the tidal cathedral cave on Eigg by Heather McNeill (right).

 

 

 

Below (left) John and Margaret swim off the back of Zuza by Tony Boylan (right) the Sgurr of Eigg by Margaret Simpson Zuza approaching Portree by Margaret Simpson

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sat 15 Aug | Rain, rain, go away  Sadly yesterday was another rather horrid day weather-wise and Zuza motored down the Sound of Mull into Oban to refuel. They then went over to Kerrera where they were safely tied up for the night to be lashed by further wind and rain. This morning it was no better and guests took the water taxi over to Oban mid-morning after a leisurely breakfast.

Hjalmar Bjorge boarded 10 guests on the Railway Pier this afternoon departed Oban for Tobermory where, after a fairly rough journey north, the spent the night on our mooring in the bay.

Sun 16 Aug | Skuas speeding south  The weather this morning was no improvement on yesterday so Hjalmar Bjorge guests opted for the morning ashore in Tobermory where, if wished, shelter could be sought in the interesting variety of shops along the harbour front.

After a light lunch the boat headed to Canna, once more enduring a rather lumpy ride. A pair of Arctic skuas were spotted heading south (and who can blame them?!) Upon arrival at Canna the winds eased up and, oh miracle, there was even some sunshine! Everyone enjoyed a nice walk around the island where a pair of golden eagles were seen.

Seven guests joined Zuza this afternoon including Kim who is sporting a very fancy stooky (plaster cast) on his foot. Unfortunately Judy, who was due to sail today, broke her foot earlier this week and was unable to join us. Let’s hope there are no more broken appendages this trip! The yacht motored up to Tobermory during a dry evening with little wind. 

Right: Kim, with cast, and wife Chris on Zuza. What a game guy! Photo by Heather McNeill

Mon 17 Aug | Juvenile basking sharks  Hjalmar Bjorge left Canna this morning and cruised over to Loch Scavaig where guests had a look at the seal colony. Strong winds prevented Mark anchoring the boat there so they went to Soay for lunch instead. Just after anchoring off Soay a juvenile basking shark swam right past the stern of the boat. After lunch they departed for Loch Nevis and off the Point of Sleat had another encounter with another juvenile basking shark with some good close up views. The boat anchored in Tarbert Bay inside Loch Nevis and everybody went ashore for a walk over to Loch Morar. Chris and Louie fished for mackerel which provided a starter to this evening’s three course dinner.

A calm day greeted Zuza guests this morning but the forecast was pants (no, that’s not a technical term) so a foray to the Outer Isles was not an option today. The yacht sailed to Rum, guests preferring to enjoy the sailing experience rather than motor more quickly which would have enabled a castle tour. However, they still got ashore for a couple of hours upon arrival. Next, Zuza motored over to Canna. There was a spectacular view of a large otter off the north end of Rum with a fish in its mouth. In fact it was so large that everyone onboard thought it was a seal at first. Kudos to Tim who was the first to correctly identify the creature! 

There was indeed a seal alongside at Canna. It was very entertaining and Heather encouraged its antics by bribing it with her own portion of dinnertime salmon. Lucky seal! Above: the seal that conned Heather out of her dinner. Photo by Heather McNeill

Tue 18 Aug | Otter spotters hide inside  Hjalmar Bjorge enjoyed a calm night in Loch Nevis last night and there were some good views of a pair of golden eagles this morning. After departing the loch they headed for Rum where the weather quickly deteriorated and they were glad to put down in a sheltered anchorage. Everyone onboard went ashore, most to visit Kinloch Castle but Chris and Anne decided to have a look at the otter hide on the south side of Loch Scresort instead. They didn’t see any otters but did spend an afternoon in the driest spot on the island. It rained and rained and rained…

Not far away a wet and windy morning greeted Zuza guests at Canna although they went ashore for an hour and a half. The yacht departed mid morning heading for Loch Dunvegan with a basking shark, then a petrel, seen shortly after setting off. Thereafter a very rollercoastery ride in strong winds and a following sea. Above: Graham winches the jib. In horrid weather. With a smile on his face. What a guy! Photo by Heather McNeill

Wed 19 Aug | Rays – but sadly not sunshiney ones  A so-so night for Hjalmar Bjorge in Loch Scesort overnight last night – there were some strong winds and swell and, surprise, even more rain which continued into the morning. After leaving Rum the boat cruised down the east side of Eigg looking for beasties. The winds eased up during the morning facilitating a reasonable run round Ardnamurchan and into Loch Drumbuie. And yet more rain although this didn’t stop some of the guests walking over to Loch Teacuis. Right: sunset in Loch Drumbuie this evening by Mark Henrys

Mark had a dive in Loch Drumbuie and brought up some scallops for supper. Chris and Louie did some more fishing and were surprised to catch two thornback rays in the loch. Mark had seen these beautiful fish on the bottom whilst he was diving and they were safely returned to their watery home. 

Zuza guests experienced horrid weather this morning too but went ashore at Dunvegan anyway. Some toured the castle, others the village. Back aboard the books and puzzles came out. The weather improved late morning with a good sail undertaken to the north of Skye in strong wind and (hurrah!) no rain. Tim swears he saw three dolphins en route but nobody else could verify this. The yacht then motored to the island of Rona which was voted by guests as, “prettiest anchorage so far”. Photo: tonight’s sunset at Arcaseid Mhor, Rona by Heather McNeill

Thu 20 Aug | Second soggy sea eagle  Hjalmar Bjorge left Loch Drumbuie this morning and had a fantastic sighting of a young sea eagle. Everyone could clearly see its green wing tag which, we think, makes it one of last year’s chicks. He was perched in a soggy heap on a rock and then lazily flew around enabling good sightings for those onboard. The boat is heading for Loch Spelve and it’s stopped raining!!! Below: the juvenile sea eagle takes flight in Loch Drumbuie by Mark Henrys

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Zuza’s generator ground to a halt this morning and the guests went ashore on Rona whilst Tim untangled and cleared a large jelly fish from the water intake. There were tendrils throughout the whole system and Heather was absolutely horrified to discover bits of them in the forward (crew) heads! That could have been a very unwelcome sting in the tail had they gone unnoticed – ouch!!!

Once guests were back onboard, and the water system deemed free of sea creatures, the yacht sailed in a strong breeze to Portree. They went alongside for water and then anchored in the bay close to the windward mark of Skye Sailing Club for whom it was race night. Exciting stuff – ripping sails, capsizing dinghies etc.

Kim has not been letting his healing foot deter his progress (right). He climbed over three trawlers in his plaster cast, using two crutches, to get ashore today! Not sure if Fran was jealous of the attention that Kim’s foot was getting but she ended today with a bandage on her hand!!! Nothing serious we hope. Right: Kim, with stubborn determination (or the promise of something rewarding on the other side perhaps?!) clambering over fishing boats with his foot in plaster. Photo by Heather McNeill

Fri 21 Aug | Subsequent soggy sea eagle  Hjalmar Bjorge finished a week long cruise today which had its fair share of grim weather included. However the atmosphere on board was good and everyone was delighted to be entertained in the evenings by regular guest Archie the magician and his magic tricks and sleight of hand. Below (left) a memorable meal making up for woeful weather (right) Archie the magician with Louie and Rebecca. Both photos by Ken Walker

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Zuza guests went ashore for a couple of hours at Portree this morning then the boat motored out with a sighting of an inactive dejected-looking sea eagle chick on the shore. The yacht motored and sailed to the Skye Bridge in strong winds then motored through Kylerhea, where there were lots of seals, and on to Isle Ornsay. It was too wet and windy for a shore visit so a party was held onboard instead, it being Fran’s birthday and also hers and Marcus’s wedding anniversary. Below (left) misty lumpy seas off the Hebrides (right) Fran steering Zuza. Fran has a serious visual impairment and was literally “sailing blind”. With her head stuck out of the hatch, and feeling the wind in her face, she managed brilliantly. What an inspirational guest! Both photos by Heather McNeill

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sat 22 Aug | End of an era for Chalice  An early start for Zuza in order to avoid the bad weather due to come in again. They enjoyed a good sail all the way from Isle Ornsay to Tobermory in a reasonably gentle wind. No marine life was seen on the journey so imaginative guests and crew were reduced to inventing a new species of “whale bird” and Tim saw some more fins. Unfortunately for him, after Wednesday’s dolphins which only he saw, nobody believed him, and you can only imagine the excitement when the “imagined” fins turned out to be real live porpoises!!! 

Zuza tied up alongside the pontoons in Tobermory where guests went shopping before the rain started again. Many trendy new shirts were sported at dinnertime. Guest Graham coincidentally met two guys on a yacht, also on the pontoon, who had travelled aboard Hjalmar Bjorge with him last year. They were just discussing this very fact when who else should turn up in Tobermory but Hjalmar Bjorge?! Mark boarded 11 guests this afternoon for a 10 day trip which, weather permitting, is aiming to visit St Kilda.

Chalice also started her last Hebridean cruise today. Chris departed Oban with guests and friends onboard this afternoon and was snapped by Mark in the Sound of Mull. Chalice was the boat that got Mark and Hannah started in the small ship cruise business 14 years ago before they sold her to current owner Chris in 2002. Chalice was launched in Falmouth almost 30 years ago and oddly enough the person buying the boat from Chris is taking her back to that very port. Photo: Chalice in the Sound of Mull by Mark Henrys

Sun 23 Aug | Dire downpours all round  Hjalmar Bjorge left Tobermory heading north for Canna this morning. The boat had a rough run in strong SE winds with torrential rain. They berthed at Canna for lunch and guests were happy to get on not-so-dry land for the afternoon. A couple of golden eagles were seen and Bob and Mairi saw a sea eagle at close quarters. It was Mark the skipper’s birthday today and this was celebrated in the evening.

Zuza headed south for Lochaline after leaving Tobermory this morning. They motored and sailed in incredibly heavy rain which didn’t abate when four of our brave guests went ashore. One walked half way round the loch to the otter hide and the others went to Ardtornish Point. A sea eagle was seen on the beach and once the drenched explorers were back onboard three sea eagles were seen flying over the loch for about 10 minutes.

Mon 24 Aug | It stopped raining!!!  This morning brought a nice surprise – no rain! – although the wind was still fresh. Hjalmar Bjorge guests and crew decided to stay put and leave Canna after lunch. More enjoyable walks were taken. Mark and Linda had a satisfying run along the north cliffs and were rewarded by some amazing views of two adult golden eagles, and a juvenile, soaring on the cliffs beneath them. At one point one of the birds appeared above the cliff face less than 10 metres from the two of them. Mark described the moment as “very memorable.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After lunch the boat cruised under the north cliffs of Canna where everyone else saw one of the two golden eagles. They then headed for Loch Harport and upon arrival had a great sighting of the sea eagles which nest there. The boat anchored for the evening at Carbost. Above: sea eagles off Carbost by Mark Henrys

Zuza took a gentle – dry (that’s newsworthy after recent conditions) – sail to Port Ramsay on Lismore today, passing lazy seals sunbathing on the rocks. They’ve had precious little opportunity to do that recently. Guests went ashore for a walk. Everyone always likes Lismore – it’s a fertile and lush island. Early evening the yacht departed and headed down to Oban. Fran did quite a bit of the steering and did well, avoiding a couple of ferries! Tim was tempted to radio the Cal Mac ferry skippers – who are not known for their sense of humour – and tell them the person steering the yacht was registered blind, but he managed to restrain himself. Below: seals sunbathing on Lismore by Heather McNeill

 

Tue 25 Aug | Hello Hurricane Bill  The bad weather that was forecast to arrive sometime soon came today. Zuza guests left Kerrera late this morning at the end of a 9-night cruise.

Mark’s plan was to take Hjalmar Bjorge north to Dunvegan and Lochbay today, the forecast being SW 5 to 7. However upon leaving the shelter of Loch Bracadale they soon encountered rather more wind and swell than expected but pushed on. Loch entrances often harbour bad swell from conflicting tides and Mark assumed he’d soon be through the worst of it. This assumption, however, was soon proven wrong! They encountered very high, uncomfortable, seas (at times exceeding seven metres) arising from a gale. Crockery was smashed and incidences of sea-sickness reached new levels amongst both passengers and crew!!! Say hello to the tail end of Hurricane Bill. 

Nobody was that desperate to get from A to B so Mark turned the boat around and, four hours after departing, was back in the shelter of Carbost. A few hours on terra firma and a session in the pub seemed to rally the troops. Anyone eavesdropping on recollections of the day’s events would have been amazed just how unfeasibly high those waves got!

Wed 26 Aug | Marvellous minkes  Hjalmar Bjorge poked a cautious nose (bow) out of Loch Bracadale this morning. Everyone onboard was mightily relieved that the sea and wind had abated enormously. On the run north there was a good sighting of a basking shark off An Dubh Sgeir and then a minke whale was seen off Neist Point. Better still, off Loch Pootiel, a pair of minke whales were observed feeding around the boat. Lunch was taken on anchor at Isay with guests then going ashore for a couple of hours. Later Hjalmar Bjorge left Isay and cruised into Loch Rodel on Harris.

Thu 27 Aug | Forecasts forbid St Kilda  Hjalmar Bjorge spent a peaceful night under starry skies in Loch Rodel last night. This morning they weighed anchor with the intention of nipping out to St Kilda. Yesterday’s forecasts indicated there would be a brief window of opportunity for a very quick visit. Once en route, however, updated forecasts foretold of imminent gales, so Mark abandoned the original plan to head west and they travelled east to the Shiant Islands instead. Photo: St Clements Church, in Loch Rodel, in the evening light by Anna White

Four common dolphins were soon riding in the boat’s wake and they anchored at the Shiants shortly after 0900 in sight of the Hebridean Princess. Our guests were pleased to explore before she disgorged her own passengers. They upped anchor at 1400 and cruised round the north cliffs before heading under the bridge at Scalpay and into the island’s south harbour. Guests had a couple of hours ashore with Mark and Linda running round the entire island on the optimistically named “Heritage Trail”. Both agreed it should be renamed the “Muddy Bog Trail”!!!

Fri 28 Aug | Bow-riding dolphins  Hjalmar Bjorge left Scalpay this morning in fairly strong winds and had a lively ride across the Minch. They had four common dolphins bow-riding for about 10 minutes which cheered up any queasy feeling passengers. The boat spent lunchtime on anchor at Portree and this evening is tucked up in Loch Na Beiste.

Sat 29 Aug | St Kilda Day  A special day has been dedicated to St Kilda, 79 years to the day after its final inhabitants abandoned the islands. “St Kilda Day” or “Latha Hiort” has been organised by the Gaelic Arts Agency, with funding from Homecoming Scotland. Culture Minister Mike Russell said the day would act as a “timely reminder” of the threat facing St Kilda if, as planned, Defence contractor Qinetiq pull out of the MoD’s missile range on Benbecula and thus St Kilda. A final decision on this has not yet been reached.

Mr Russell is also supportive of the possible establishment of a “St Kilda Centre” on the Outer Isles. He said, “In addition, earlier this summer I spoke to many people in the western isles who were incredibly enthusiastic about the idea of establishing an accessible centre that could tell the story of St Kilda and its people, without visitors necessarily having to brave the 41 miles of Atlantic swells in order to experience it. Such a centre would also take physical pressure off a fragile environment. I expressed my full support for such an initiative and urged local communities to work together to realise the project. I shall keep a close interest on how it develops between now and the next St Kilda Day, which will mark the 80th anniversary of the evacuation.” 

Hjalmar Bjorge guests awoke to a very calm loch this morning but the wind didn’t take long to make an appearance after the boat travelled through the Kyles of Lochalsh on her way to Inverie in Loch Nevis. Below: Linda donating the leftover porridge to passing birds and fish at the back of Hjalmar Bjorge by Anna White

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

They berthed alongside for the afternoon with most of the guests going for a walk. Some elected to stay in the Old Forge and regale the bar staff with stories of their intrepid journey through the jaws of Hurricane Bill no less! After extracting the tale-tellers from the pub the boat cruised around the corner to its usual overnight anchorage in the NW corner of the loch.

Sun 30 Aug | Breaching Risso’s  Aboard Hjalmar Bjorge all awoke once again to a flat calm loch. Mark lifted the anchor and set off for Eigg. The boat was berthed there by 1030 and the guests enjoyed good walks ashore until a late lunch at 1300. Linda and Mark ran up the pointy bit (the Sgurr) and completed the full circuit in 65 minutes. They had fantastic views of Mull, Coll, Skye and thought they could possibly even see Ben Nevis. Linda reckoned this circuit would definitely feature in her “Top Ten Hill Runs” which, given her wealth of experience, is saying something!

Hjalmar Bjorge left Eigg shortly after 1400 with the wind freshening from the south. Passing Ardnamurchan Point they had an amazing encounter with three Risso’s dolphins (Mark is pretty sure it was two adults and a calf). They made three spectacular breaches which delighted everyone onboard. Right: Risso’s dolphin off Ardnamurchan by Mark Henrys

The boat is now heading into Loch Aline for the last night of a nine-night cruise. Mark reports that despite some fairly atrocious weather during the days, the evenings have been great fun with a number of obscure games being played in the saloon. Linda and Fiona have managed to “murder” the entire contingent on two nights and Diana gave an Oscar winning performance of a deathbed scene!!! Wonder what they’ve got in store for tonight?!

Mon 31 Aug | Last day of August, last day of cruise  Hjalmar Bjorge had a good run from Lochaline to Oban today to finish a 10 day cruise. The journey was notable for the fact it wasn’t raining!

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