NEWS FROM NORTHERN LIGHT CHARTERS :: MAY 2010
Sat 1 May | A Rum do Mark had intended to put our guests ashore on Rum this morning but the weather had deteriorated and the wind was blowing straight into loch Scresort. A decision was taken to instead cruise to Inverie and Hjalmar Bjorge arrived there in time for lunch. After food the guests went ashore and all had nice walks in glorious weather. Below: deer at Inverie by Murray Lenton
Later in the day a guest came onboard for tea: Gwyn (who owns the Pier House B&B). Gwyn is a friend of Audrey (one of our guests) and also has an old connection with Mark. Gwyn is additionally now working on some development projects in the community and explained a little of what is going on there. Shortly after afternoon tea the boat left Inverie and cruised to its overnight anchorage in Sandaig Bay on the west of the Knoydart peninsula.
Sun 2 May | Puffins vs rabbits Quite a fresh northerly breeze this morning as Hjalmar Bjorge cruised down to Lunga at the Treshnish Isles. After lunch all the guests, crew and a supervised ships dog went ashore for a wonderful walk. Below: puffins on Lunga by Murray Lenton
The first puffins were landing and evicting the rabbity squatters from their burrows. Ships dog thought this activity was absolutely fascinating and made it clear this would be an acceptable alternative to one of her favourite spots, Ratty Bank at Corpach. Below: puffins on Lunga by Murray Lenton
With everyone safely back onboard the boat departed for the evening’s anchorage at Cragard on the south of Ulva.
Mon 3 May | Sea eagle or seagull? Persistent fresh northerly winds prevented Mark from taking Hjalmar Bjorge to Inch Kenneth to land guests on the island. Instead they cruised out to Staffa and had some spectacular views of the cave in bright sunshine. They then returned to Gometra harbour for lunch and an afternoon walk. Below: Staffa and the entrance to Fingal’s Cave by Murray Lenton
Later the boat cruised down by the Burg on Mull and into Loch Scridain where they anchored for the night by Tavool House. Upon arrival everyone watched a huge flock of birds feeding close by the boat. After a while they realised there was a sea eagle amongst the party! This was an impressive sight with the gulls seemingly unsure whether to carry on feeding or attack the eagle. In the end they managed to do both with small groups of gulls breaking off from their feeding frenzy to have a go at the far larger bird.
Tue 4 May | Iona + south coast of Mull Hjalmar Bjorge guests cruised to Iona this morning where guests were landed for a couple of hours. An afternoon cruise along the Ross of Mull preceded a final beautiful and peaceful night in Loch Spelve.
Wed 5 May | Eagle antics All board Hjalmar Bjorge woke in Loch Spelve this morning to another light dusting of Icelandic volcanic ash. Departing the loch Mark pointed out the eagles’ nest. There was no sign of any activity (or new incumbents) and he pointed out that as soon as the boat set off for Oban, one would probably make an appearance. And sure enough it did! Which was a nice ending to a relaxed Inner Hebridean Cruise. Guests departed after lunch in Oban.
Thu 6 May | Malarkey on Muck Sent to us by previous guest Elisabeth, a story from today’s Telegraph which may raise a smile: “Police are investigating what could be the first crime in 50 years on a picturesque Hebridean island after receiving an unlikely tip off from the ‘key suspect’.” Yes, the tiny island of Muck (population 40), is reeling (or not) from a recent crime in which a fisherman from the neighbouring island of Eigg “threatened” a fellow guest at a wedding. And then handed himself in to the police who had been blissfully unaware of any fracas. Full story here.
Sat 8 May | All aboard to Ardtornish Hjalmar Bjorge left Oban at 1630 today with regulars from Worcestershire onboard, an RSPB group brought together by Lyndon. Destination for the week: The Small Isles. The boat anchored overnight in Ardtornish Bay where winds were fresh from the NE. Ardtornish is much more sheltered than Tobermory in these conditions. It was a very cold night but the group were rewarded with good sightings of a great northern diver right beside the boat.
The group’s total list of sightings for Saturday was: great northern diver, mallard, razorbill, red deer, herring gull, lesser black backed gull, jellyfish, oystercatcher, kittiwake, Jacob sheep, grey seal, shag, heron and, for good measure, bull terrier
Sun 9 May | Marvellous Muck sightings After departing Ardtornish Bay Mark took Hjalmar Bjorge to Muck where they berthed alongside for lunch and then stayed overnight. Everyone had fantastic walks in bright spring sunshine although the wind remained bitingly cold.
Sightings: otter, great Northern divers (four), shelduck, willow warbler, gannets, black headed gull, sea eagle, great black backed gull, puffin, Manx shearwaters, great skuas (bonxies), eider ducks, pheasant, meadow pipet, swallow, hooded crow, guillemot, buzzard, common sandpiper, wren, snipe, corncrake (heard not seen), wheatears, robin, ringed plover, dunlin, song thrush, greenfinch, chaffinch, starling, raven, rock dove, common gull, skylark, blackbird, carrion crow, curlew, linnet, greylag goose
Flowers and plants also seen on Muck today: primroses, thrift, milkwort, bird’s foot trefoil, tormentil, ladysmock (cuckoo flower), silverweed, flag iris, nettles, brambles, greater plantain, lesser celandine, dog violet, speedwell, lousewort, bog asphodel, dwarf willow, king cups, cleavers, bluebells, bittercress, wild thyme
Mon 10 May | Walking and talking This morning the wind was due to strengthen further from the NE so Mark decided to head for Inverie, arriving there just before lunch. More long walks ashore before dinner. Afterward Lyndon was pleased to lead everyone on another walk round the village but found he was talking to himself after passing the pub where his companions mysteriously disappeared!
Sightings around Inverie: common seal, peacock butterfly, peacock (bird), white-tailed bumblebee, coal tit, ring ouzel (female), tawny owl, thistle, sphagnum moss, sea campion, gorse, butterwort, maidenhair fern, spleenwort fern, hard fern, ramson (wild garlic), docks, wood sorrel, meadow sweet, foxgloves, wild roses, yellow pimpernel, red campion
Tue 11 May | First minke of the year Hjalmar Bjorge crew woke early this morning to find ice on the deck after a heavy frost and fresh snow on the surrounding mountain tops. An early start to reach Canna this morning. The approach to the Sound of Canna rewarded with our first minke whale sighting of the year; a juvenile feeding 400m from the boat. Everyone was fortunate to get a good view.
The boat arrived in Canna for lunch and everybody again had more good walks ashore. Mark led most of the group up to the north cliffs in the hope of seeing the golden eagles. They weren’t successful but there were good sightings later on.
Sightings on and around Canna: harbour porpoise, minke whale, orange tip butterfly, red throated divers, house sparrows, rock pipit, red breasted merganser
Wed 12 May | Run on Rum Hjalmar Bjorge left Canna for Rum early today, arriving to put the guests ashore with a packed lunch for another great day. Mark ran the 14 miles over to Harris, the second long run he’d done in two days, having done the Knoydart loop yesterday. He was very impressed by the Bullough’s mausoleum, it being the second version and built in the somewhat incongruous style of a Greek temple. The family disliked the original (smaller and more modest) one and blew it up! A cold night was spent under a starry sky.
Sightings on and around Rum: green-veined white butterfly, barnacle geese, sea eagles, merlin, mistle thrush, sanderling, golden eagle, sandwich terns, sundew, cotton grass
Thu 13 May | Rum run from Rum The weather broke for the worse today with near gale force winds from the S and SW. The run down from Rum to Tobermory was, to say the least, rather bumpy. Luckily there was a Hjalmar Bjorge sized space on the pontoons in Tobermory harbour. The journey had produced some green faces but once inside the shelter of the harbour everyone perked up and recovered sufficiently to enjoy a good lunch. In the afternoon all the guests went ashore with the majority taking a walk round Aros Park close to Tobermory. The boat stayed overnight on the pontoons.
Sightings from the Mull walk: dipper, blackcap, fulmar, collared dove, feral pigeon, yellow archangel, water aven, woodruff, barren strawberry, selfheal, bugle, horsetail, great wood-rush, dog’s mercury
Fri 14 May | Calm before Kilda Lyndon’s group departed Hjalmar Bjorge today in Oban after brunch. Many thanks to everyone for the sightings lists which are always fascinating to read. Mark and the crew now have a week off before the season’s first St Kilda trip (fingers crossed!) starting next Friday.
Fri 21 May | Wot? No wind? A full complement of 12 guests boarded Hjalmar Bjorge around 1600 ahead of a lovely still evening with not a breath of wind.
At noon Mark had watched the start of the Scottish Three Peaks Race in Oban Bay. This is a sailing and running challenge covering peaks on the islands of Mull, Jura and Arran. The start was made more challenging by the lack of wind and the yachts took almost an hour to get over the start line. The CalMac ferry masters were unamused by this because, despite being in charge of large, powerful engines, they were unable to pass through the slow moving flotilla due to the rules of the “road” stating motor gives way to sail. Below: competitors get off to a slow start in the Three Peaks Race. Both photos by Mark Henrys
Hjalmar Bjorge set off some four hours later and caught up with the yachts as they moved gently towards their first anchorage at Salen on Mull. By this stage most of the fleet had resorted to that trusted old method of marine propulsion: galley slaves and rowing. Mark pointed out to our crew that he might employ the same method for his next development in green power! Hjalmar Bjorge berthed on the pontoons at Tobermory for supper this evening and everyone had a walk ashore after food.
Approaching the Sound of Barra six common dolphins bow ride the vessel for a time. The guests were most excited by this event however it turned out to only be a precursor of the day’s main entertainment when the boat passed through the Sound. Below: common dolphins bowride Hjalmar Bjorge by Mark Henrys
At around 1040 Hjalmar Bjorge was joined by Cyd and his crew who provided a fantastic display, bowriding for over 30 minutes with some acrobatic jumps thrown in for good measure. There were about 12 to 14 of the bottlenoses who appeared to be terribly pleased to see the return of a vessel they knew. Below: bottlenosed dolphins in the Sound of Barra by Mark Henrys
A little later there was the season’s first sighting of a juvenile basking shark west of South Uist. Most of the guests braved the swell to get a good view. Shortly after this one of the propellors fouled in a very long length of floating rope that a fishing boat had left behind for the unwary. Mark provided the guests with some unexpected entertainment by undertaking two dives to cut the mess free. After a 40 minute delay the boat continued toward St Kilda with further encounters of common dolphins 12 miles south of Hirta and sightings of individual minke whales 14, nine and three miles south of Hirta. After an eventful day Hjalmar Bjorge anchored in Village Bay at 1845. Everyone stayed aboard to enjoy supper and all went to bed early.
Sun 23 May | A day on St Kilda Guests went ashore on Hirta at 1000 with packed lunches. Unusually there was no warden to greet the party so Mark improvised an impromptu briefing. He also bumped into a friend, Helen, who was cooking for the NTS work party. She had hoped to work aboard Hjalmar Bjorge a couple of seasons ago but has become ill so Mark was delighted to see her in good health and boat work was discussed. Our guests had a great day ashore. The weather brightened throughout the day and allowed clear views of the island and stacs.
Mon 24 May | Sperm whale beached Mark took Hjalmar Bjorge guests for a cruise round Hirta then around the stacs and Boreray this morning. The weather was obviously starting to deteriorate with a strengthening northerly wind and the decision was taken to head back towards the Sound of Harris. This proved to be a wise choice as the journey was rather lumpy. Having heard from Angus (on day boat “Orca”) that two male orca were spotted about 12 miles east of Hirta, Mark and the guests were disappointed not to see any sign of them. Below (left) “Cuma” under Stac Lee at St Kilda and (right) seen again, under a rainbow, at Taransay. Both photos by Mark Henrys
Hjalmar Bjorge anchored at Taransay at 1615 and the guests went ashore for a brief walk before dinner. Mark spotted something of interest on the beach and found a sperm whale carcass partially buried in the sand. Being well acquainted with putrefying marine mammals he was keen to establish its state of decomposition and reckoned it had been there for a few months. It was pretty whiffy even from 50 metres away! Mark is fairly certain the whale is a youngish male, about 17m long. He dug round the head to see if the lower jaw was still there as these seem to be collectors’ items. Unsurprisingly the jaw bone had been sawn off and we can only hope this was done by some responsible person (such as a scientist) who may consider reuniting the jaw with the rest of the skeleton at some later stage for display purposes. Mark was minded to recall the Whale Museum in Husavik which had a superb skeleton of a sperm whale on display, with a glassfibre reproduction of the jawbone which was obviously not recovered with the rest of the bones.
Tue 25 May | Minkes in the Minch Guests went ashore again on Taransay and this time most visited the beach for a look at the sperm whale remains. The boat left Taransay at lunchtime, crossing the Minch with sunny skies and a following wind. At Neist Point there were a couple of brief sightings of a minke feeding, then shortly before arrival at Canna there was a further encounter with some common dolphins. About six of them bowrode with the boat for around 10 minutes. Right: Ian and Sheila aboard Hjalmar Bjorge watching for whales and dolphins by Mark Henrys
Hjalmar Bjorge’s arrival at Canna was rather muted as Mark had just heard of the untimely death of Patrick Mackinnan or “Packi” as he was known to many on the west coast. His daughter Kathryn had crewed for us on occasion and our thoughts are with her, her mother Wendy and their extended family.
Wed 26 May | Farewell festivities The crew took the guests over to Sanday in the tender from where they walked back round to Canna harbour to meet Hjalmar Bjorge on the pier. The boat left at lunchtime for a pleasant cruise back to the Sound of Mull and a last overnight anchorage in Lochaline.
There the usual last night festivities were enjoyed with Lindsay providing some rousing tunes on the fiddle. Guest Bob surprised everyone by asking Lindsay if she had a penny whistle, which she did! He then proceeded to play some lively tunes before the two of them were playing together which was great fun. Guest Alex sang some clean(ish) rugby songs which, again, was a surprise, not least for his wife who was expecting the worst once he got into his stride! Above: Last night’s view of St Martin’s Church on Sanday by Mark Henrys
Thu 27 May | Last day, first Kilda trip A gentle cruise back into Oban on the last day of this St Kilda trip with guests heading home after brunch aboard.
Sat 29 May | Double divers Reading BSAC boarded 24 divers on to Hjalmar Bjorge and Elizabeth G this afternoon with both vessels berthing in Tobermory for the night.
Sun 31 May | Divers ‘n’ dolphins Hjalmar Bjorge and Elizabeth G left Tobermory together with Elizabeth G yesterday morning. Their first dive was on the east wall at Canna followed by another dive at Macleods Maidens off Skye. Last night’s anchorage was in Loch Bracadale on Skye. This morning saw guests wake to blue skies and a flat calm sea. The first dive was on the conger wall at An Dubh Sgeir and after this the boat anchored for lunch in Loch Pooltiel, Skye again.
In the afternoon Mark headed across the Little Minch bound for Harris. Midway across the journey the boat was joined by around 30 common dolphins who played on the bow for over 40 minutes. The second dive of the day was undertaken at Renish Point, on the most southerly tip of Harris, before Hjalmar Bjorge berthed at Leverburgh for the night.
:: news from the previous months [ April ’10 ]
DID YOU KNOW?
The first signs of habitation on Hirta (the largest island in the St Kilda archipelago and the only one you can really land on) are thought to have occurred c. 600 AD.