NEWS FROM NORTHERN LIGHT CHARTERS :: JULY 2010

Thu 1 Jul | Basking sharks in big waves  Overnight the wind had strengthened to a full south easterly gale which made Hjalmar Bjorge’s early departure from Canna lively this morning. By this stage in the cruise though, it has to be said our hardened guests had become very seasoned to rough conditions and even managed to spot four basking sharks off Ardnamurchan Point. The boat anchored in Loch Spelve at 1800 and someone sharp-eyed pointed out a female hen harrier flying directly overhead.

Fri 2 Jul | Otter pottering  Early risers spotted an otter working its way along the shore this morning. It was a nice end to an exciting cruise ahead of Hjalmar Bjorge returning to Oban where guests disembarked after brunch.

The BBC News website reported a sighting of a possible “superpod” of 1000 dolphins off the north coast of Skye. Read more here.

Gareth Corfield from Reading BSAC who was onboard Hjalmar Bjorge last month has made available a photo gallery and an 11 minute video if anyone is interested. The video is fascinating if you don’t dive – you might imagine it’s murky and horrible under there but the colours are amazing! There are some lovely photos too, of overland as well as undersea so check them out.

Mon 5 Jul | After dinner entertainment  Guests boarded Hjalmar Bjorge in Oban this afternoon with the vessel cruising up to Tobermory to spend a night on the mooring.

Just after dinner a pair of porpoise circled the boat before heading off toward Calve Island. All the guests were lucky to get a good view of these normally very shy creatures. Right: porpoises in Tobermory harbour by Mark Henrys

Tue 6 Jul | Shelter in Loch Nevis  The immediate to midweek weather forecasts were not good so Mark opted to run in to Inverie for shelter. Hjalmar Bjorge arrived alongside in time for lunch after which guests went ashore for the afternoon. Upon their return the boat departed, late afternoon, and cruised down to Tarbert, further down Loch Nevis, where there would be shelter from the forecast storm. Arriving at the anchorage Mark was pleased to find it deserted save one small Canadian yacht called “Milvina”. The owner later came over to Hjalmar Bjorge to say hello, he turned out to be an exiled Scot named Neil who’d been living in Canada for 35 years.

Wed 7 Jul | More shelter in Loch Nevis  The predicted storm materialised overnight, however, the anchorage provided good shelter in the midst of the continuing gale. After breakfast the guests went ashore for a walk to Loch Morar returning for dinner aboard. With no improvement in the weather it was decided to stay put and the guests went ashore from the anchorage again, this time walking to the head of Loch Nevis.

Last night in the early hours, around 0315, John and Cathy in Croggan on Mull were awoken by some noisy otters, most likely mating. It went on for over an hour until their cat jumped on a rock and scared them off. John took some video and uploaded it to youtube here.

Thu 8 Jul | Basking sharks feeding  The gale had subsided to a very stiff breeze thus Hjalmar Bjorge weighed anchor and headed off to Canna. Upon arrival, guests were treated to a fine view of a peregrine falcon hovering directly over the pier. After a quick lunch the guests disappeared for a walk ashore. One group had a wonderful view of at least six basking sharks feeding close inshore on the north side of the island.

Fri 9 Jul | In anticipation of St Kilda  Leaving Canna, Hjalmar Bjorge set off for Leverburgh. En route there was a brief sighting of a minke whale at Neist Point on Skye. The vessel arrived at 1300 and in the afternoon a number of guests walked to Loch Rodel and visited the church there. The vessel stayed at Leverburgh, the plan being an early start for a quick run out to St Kilda. Right: Marky Mark and Rhona in the galley aboard Hjalmar Bjorge by Mark Henrys

Sat 10 Jul | Bumpy day and lumpy night  Hjalmar Bjorge departed Leverburgh at 0600. The forecast was not good for this evening, with another gale being predicted, but it was anticipated to pass quickly. After a bumpy ride, the boat arrived at Hirta at midday, and the crew got the guests quickly ashore with a packed lunch for an afternoon of exploration. They returned to the boat at 1800 and the forecast had not improved. Mark warned everyone they were in for a rough night. Even the fishing boat of hardy souls that had been around earlier in the day had disappeared by now!

Sun 11 Jul | Gales and gannets  Anchor watch at 0100 confirmed Village Bay was getting quite swelly due to a strong northerly wind. By 0400 this was gusting beyond a full gale. By breakfast time the wind had moderated although by now, unsurprisingly, Mark had had very little sleep. He was amazed when the guests got up and all said they’d had their best night’s sleep of the holiday! Must have been the rocking motion!

Guests went ashore this morning for another wander round Hirta, returning aboard for lunch. Mark then upped the anchor and took the boat for a circuit round Hirta and then out to the stacs and around Boreray. He was surprised to see people on Boreray but realised who they were. The previous day Mark had met ex St Kilda warden, Stuart Murray, and he said he was taking a small team of archaeologists and birders on to Boreray for a week’s work. Stuart was also intending to fix satellite trackers to 24 gannets.

After returning from Boreray to Village Bay, Mark then met one of three sea kayakers who’d followed the boat over from Leverburgh and had spent the previous night on Hirta. He said he was from the Birmingham area and that they were all paddling out to the Flannans after leaving St Kilda. Mark was very impressed that they’d got out to St Kilda, no mean feat in a small boat, never mind a kayak. Oh, he said, this was a pretty tame run really, on a previous foray they’d paddled to the Faroe Islands!!!

Mon 12 Jul | Weird weather  Hjalmar Bjorge left Hirta early bound for the Monach Islands. As they were approaching the islands a group of common dolphin bow-rode the boat for 10 minutes. After lunch all the guests went shore for a walk and experienced monsoon like rain. This was quickly followed by very bright sunshine eventually leading to a dramatic sunset which most of the guests watched from the deck up to and beyond 2200. Below (top left) leaving St Kilda with a rainbow overhead (others) sunset at the Monach Islands, all by Mark Henrys

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tue 13 Jul | Sound of Barra bow-riders  Mark and the crew weighed anchor at 0600 and left the Monach Islands upon a calm sea with not a breath of wind. They enjoyed a glorious run south to the Sound of Barra where they encountered two bottlenose dolphins who bow-rode the boat through the entire Sound. Right: last night’s calm conditions gave way to drinkies on deck, by Mark Henrys

Shortly after leaving the Outer Hebrides all aboard encountered what were later IDed as four white beaked dolphins. There had been some debate they may have been orca. Shortly after there was another encounter with a dozen more white beaks who provided the most amazing acrobatic show around the boat whilst it was hove to in flat calm seas. The human beings onboard weren’t the only ones confused in their identification skills. In the middle of the mêlée was a stationary grey seal who appeared to be dead. He was static for an age, amongst the possible predators, and everyone was relieved to see he was actually alive, and only pretending, when they approached to check on him. Below: whitebeaked dolphins beside Hjalmar Bjorge by Mark Henrys

 

 

 

 

 

 

Heading toward Coll, still on calm seas, there were numerous sightings of basking sharks. Hjalmar Bjorge spent this evening and overnight on anchor in Ardtornish Bay.

Wed 14 Jul | Last day  As usual on the last day, a gentle cruise into Oban for brunch and departure.

Sat 17 Jul | Boat bash  Edinburgh BSAC boarded Hjalmar Bjorge this afternoon. Loading was done on the North Pier for a change. Thereafter a quiet run up to Tobermory where Mark berthed the boat on the pontoons. Later in the evening a local day boat, piloted by an inebriated local operator who shall remain nameless, hit Hjalmar Bjorge. The incident was reported to the Coastguard.

Sun 18 Jul | Diving with seals  The forecast for the week ahead was not good this morning so Hjalmar Bjorge left Tobermory and put the divers in on the east side of Eigg. Lunch was taken in the lee of Eigg. They then headed for Canna and had a good sighting of three basking sharks off Kilmory Bay on Rum. Immediately after arrival at Canna the divers went in on Sgeir a’ Phiurt, most having close encounters with the resident grey seal population.

Mon 19 Jul | Two different dives  Hjalmar Bjorge left Canna this morning for a first dive on An Dubh Sgeir, off Loch Bracadale, Skye. This was quite a challenging dive for all in heavy swell and strong current. The second dive of the day, at Renish Point, off Loch Rodel, was quite a contrast in calm conditions but with thick fog. The boat berthed at Leverburgh this evening.

Tue 20 Jul | Diving at St Kilda  Hjalmar Bjorge departed Leverburgh this morning at 0500. The forecast was somewhat dodgy to say the least but the divers were very keen to get out to St Kilda if at all possible and Mark was the skipper to take them. Upon arrival at Boreray they immediately dived the arch at Sgarb Stac before the boat headed into the shelter of Village Bay for some lunch. The divers then went ashore for a quick explore before another dive, this time on Dun.

Mark caught up with Angus on day boat “Orca” out at St Kilda. Yesterday he’d been over to Boreray to pick the archaeologists and birders who were working on the island. He reported that the birders had managed to fix satellite tags to 20 gannets. At £4000 per tag this was quite an expensive undertaking!!! Seems the archaeologists also made some exciting discoveries although there are no details of those at this moment in time.

Mark also observed that the £250,000 restoration of the Manse looks as if it’s nearing completion. We think this will provide accommodation for the warden, as well as a  new shop and visitors space. It’s also rumoured that this space will have wi-fi which may mean the erection of a mobile phone mast is imminent. All hearsay just now though.

Wed 21 Jul | Marooned aboard!  As predicted the bad weather materialized with a vengeance last night. There was a near NE gale and Village Bay became very uncomfortable with heavy swell and very strong gusts seemingly coming from all angles. The only other vessel out there, a small French yacht, seemed several times to be almost knocked flat. Unfortunately the wind levels were maintained throughout today and there was absolutely no chance of any safe diving being done. All aboard remained cheerful despite the conditions and games of Scrabble provided both the day’s entertainment and excitement!

Thu 22 Jul | Second Sound of Harris  The wind finally eased at about 0400 this morning to be accompanied by a near full moon over Dun. The crew lifted the anchor at 0500 and Hjalmar Bjorge cruised away from St Kilda. Mark headed east again, for the Sound of Harris, as this provided the shortest possible Atlantic crossing. Usually he tries to sail through both the Sound of Harris and the Sound of Barra but that proved impossible on this occasion due to inclement weather.

By the time the vessel reached Canna there was bright sunshine and smooth seas. Guests went in for an enjoyable dive on the east wall of the island and it was a fairly exhausted bunch of divers and crew that finally moored in Tobermory at 2130 this evening after a long day at sea.

Fri 23 Jul | Dive then departure  An excellent dive in flat calm seas on the wreck of the “Rondo”, in the Sound of Mull, before arrival, brunch, and disembarkation in Oban.

Tue 27 Jul | Superpod surrounds boat  A full complement of 12 cruise guests joined Hjalmar Bjorge yesterday afternoon. After a leisurely cruise up the Sound of Mull the boat spent the night on the mooring.

Mark departed Tobermory at 0600 this morning bound for Mingulay. It was not a particularly smooth crossing but guests were rewarded, off the Cairns of Coll, with a sighting of three basking sharks and a brief glimpse of a minke whale. Approximately 12 miles from Mingulay, in a moderate to rough sea, the vessel encountered one of the biggest pods of common dolphin that Mark has seen in  his 16 years of skippering charter boats. Dolphins as far as the eye could see! They inevitably spotted the boat and very soon Hjalmar Bjorge was surrounded by dolphins, riding whatever wave they could find, adjacent to the boat. Unsurprisingly everyone was out on deck and most of the guests got thoroughly soaked in the excitement of the encounter. Due to numbers (hundreds and hundreds) there was unanimous agreement this was the “superpod” that was reported off Skye earlier this month. They stayed with the boat for about half an hour. Photos (top left) two of the superpod make an appearance (top right) Hjalmar Bjorge off Mingulay (bottom left) seals on the beach at Mingulay (bottom right) a couple of seals beside Hjalmar Bjorge; all by Bob Morley

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nearing Mingulay another big basking shark was spotted before the anchor was dropped at 1245 ahead of a well deserved lunch. The guests went ashore after lunch and enjoyed a wonderful afternoon. Boarding guests in the early evening, the crew were aware from the ship’s radio, that the Hebridean Princess was not far away, with the Royal Family aboard. They also spotted HMS Kent keeping watch close by. Mark wondered if the royal party might also be going for an evening stroll on Mingulay and gave Ship’s Dog a scrub in anticipation of meeting a royal corgi. Given the behaviour of Princess Anne’s bull terrier towards corgis it is probably just as well this liaison never happened!

Wed 28 Jul | From Elizabeth to Eriskay  The crew weighed anchor at 0830 this morning. Unfortunately the weather had deteriorated overnight so the original plan of landing on Barra Head was abandoned. Heading north, the boat was nearing Sandray when the Hebridean Princess loomed out of the gloom having just left her nearby anchorage. The larger vessel passed Hjalmar Bjorge as she headed south, the Royal Ensign flying from her mast. Everyone was ready to give Her Maj a friendly wave but none of the royal party seemed to be braving the decks. Cruising toward Mingulay a number of basking sharks were seen. The boat berthed on a pontoon in Arcasaid Mhor on Eriskay at 1230 and following lunch the guests had the afternoon ashore.

Thu 29 Jul | Scallops for tea  Hjalmar Bjorge left Eriskay at 0830. Mark had hoped to head through the Sound of Barra and on to the Monachs but the forecast was not promising for heading out to St Kilda and there was a group decision to head north. At Loch Eyport two of our guests Dave and Pat went for a dive as they’d brought their scuba gear hoping this might be a possibility. Vegetarians both of them, they incredibly sportingly gathered an impressive bag of scallops for the rest of the ship’s company to eat.

Approaching the Sound of Harris yet another big basking shark was spotted before the vessel anchored at Taransay for the evening.

Fri 30 Jul | Uncomfortable Kilda crossing  As forecast yesterday a south easterly wind developed overnight making a landing on Taransay impossible this morning. Mark, however, decided to up anchor and head out to St Kilda instead. The passage was not comfortable with a SE 6 blowing and a big swell running. Mark had delayed departure as he expected the winds to veer to the west during the afternoon. He was relieved that this did indeed happen as the vessel approached the archipelago. The anchor was dropped in Village Bay at 1715 and guests managed a quick meander ashore before returning to the boat for dinner. Most of the guests saw the Whooper swan which is still resident on Hirta and also spotted the snowy owl perched very soggily on a cleit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sat 31 Jul | Whole day on Hirta  All our guests, bar Dave and Pat the divers, went ashore on Hirta for the day with a packed lunch. Mark put the two divers in for a quick dip on Dun which they thoroughly enjoyed. They had dived this site on a previous trip and were pleased this time to find the caves they had missed on the earlier venture. The ten explorers returned to Hjalmar Bjorge this evening having made the most of a whole day on Hirta. Above (left) Hjalmar Bjorge at St Kilda (right) Hirta and Dun, both by Bob Morley

:: news from the previous months [ June ’10 ]