NEWS FROM NORTHERN LIGHT CHARTERS :: SEPTEMBER 2010

Wed 1 Sep | Eagles ‘n’ otters  The crew raised the anchor at 0700 this morning and a gentle cruise was undertaken, on a smooth sea, down the west side of Rum, past the Cairns of Coll and on to Gometra Harbour. Entering the harbour there was a good sighting of two juvenile basking sharks close by. After lunch the guests went ashore and had sightings of golden eagles, more basking sharks and some otters. After they returned to the boat at 1730 the anchor was lifted and a short passage was made to the evening anchorage, Cragard Bay on Ulva, where Mark took a quick dip to gather some clams, a tasty addition to tonight’s evening meal.

Thu 2 Sep | Stunning scenery in serious sunshine  Most of the guests were up very early today, on the lookout for otters. The weather was glorious with an absolutely flat calm sea and beautiful bright sunshine. After breakfast the boat set off toward Staffa and Fingal’s Cave followed by a cruise through the Sound of Iona and along the Ross of Mull, past Carsaig Arches. Mark slowed the boat down to give everyone a good view of this curious formation. Below (top left and right) Staffa and Fingal’s Cave by Mark Henrys

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hjalmar Bjorge arrived in Loch Buie in the afternoon and guests went ashore. Most walked either to Laggan Sands and/or the Stone Circle. Some robust individuals even went swimming! Mark took another dive and gathered some more scallops. Rhona (Lindsay’s mum and relief crew) joined the boat for dinner this evening. She brought along her flute and accompanied Lindsay’s fiddle playing on a number of reels and also played a solo herself. It was a stunning evening on the south of Mull.

Fri 3 Sep | Peaceful finish to stormy start  This morning a sedate cruise was taken back into Oban in very calm seas with no wind. Brunch aboard before disembarkation. Turned out to be a really lovely week. Below (left) Carsaig Arches and (right) this morning in Loch Buie both by Mark Henrys

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mon 6 Sep | Welcome for last full week  Guests boarded this afternoon minus regulars Ruth and Andrew whom we were expecting until a few days ago. Best wishes to Andrew for a speedy recovery from illness. Hjalmar Bjorge cruised up the Sound of Mull in near gale force south easterly winds, anchoring for the first night in Loch na Droma Buidhe (Loch Drumbuie).

Tue 7 Sep | Lighthouse at close quarters  Winds stayed strong overnight although the boat was in a safe, sheltered anchorage. This morning there was a pleasant, if slightly lumpy, run around Ardnamurchan Point with the wind blowing offshore. Mark passed a little closer than usual, due to inclement weather, which gave great views of the lighthouse and cliffs. Hjalmar Bjorge berthed at Inverie just after lunch and guests spent the rest of the day exploring ashore. This evening Lindsay entertained everyone with her fiddle-playing. This is Lindsay’s last trip as crew before she heads back to University so Mark is making the most of her varied skills this week!

Wed 8 Sep | Most marvellous minke sighting  Hjalmar Bjorge departed Inverie this morning with the wind having moderated slightly. East of Rum everyone had several good sightings – in fact Mark reckons the best of the season – of a minke whale feeding. The boat anchored upon arrival at Canna, with guests having a quick lunch aboard, before heading ashore for the afternoon. Between them, everyone enjoyed a variety of walks all over the island.

Thu 9 Sep | Not a otter in sight!  The crew lifted the anchor after breakfast today and the boat headed over to the Sound of Soay under the Cuillin ridge on Skye. They anchored in Loch Scavaig and Mark took the guests ashore to explore Loch Coruisk, a magnificent freshwater loch. Lunch, taken onboard, was a relaxed affair, with everyone enjoying the not-so-active antics of the adjacent seal colony. Hjalmar Bjorge then cruised over to Loch Scresort on Rum, dropping anchor at 1500. Guests went ashore for the remainder of the afternoon. Most opted to sit in the otter hide and later reported there was not a single otter to be seen! Some compensation later appeared in the form of a lovely sunset. Below (left) evening in Loch Scresort (right) a stormy, wet morning with sunshine in Loch Scresort by Mark Henrys

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fri 10 Sep | Things that go bump in the night  Overnight the wind rose from the SE, once again approaching gale force. At about 0330 Mark heard several bumps against the wheelhouse windows. Having had a similar experience last year he knew immediately what was causing the ruckus. Storm Petrels, attracted by the bright anchor light, were crashing into the boat’s superstructure. Having deemed it safe to do so, and contrary to maritime regulations, Mark switched the anchor light off and there was an immediate cessation to the bombardment. At daybreak he was relieved to find no little feathered bodies lying on the deck.

Unfortunately the weather this morning was truly dreadful so a leisurely breakfast was taken. The anchor was raised at 1030 and Hjalmar Bjorge set off for Eigg, berthing for lunch aboard. Guests then went ashore for the afternoon and a golden eagle was seen soaring over the anchorage. Prior to dinner being served, the boat pulled off the berth and anchored close by for the evening.

Sat 11 Sep | From rain to shine  Hjalmar Bjorge set off toward the Sound of Mull this morning in torrential rain. The boat berthed in Tobermory at 1030 where, rather amazingly, the weather cleared up. Guests took advantage and enjoyed a walk ashore before lunch. Early afternoon the boat cruised down the Sound of Mull for tonight’s overnight anchorage in Loch Spelve. Upon arrival, around 1730, there were some good sightings of two otters feeding.

Tonight was Lindsay’s last night aboard Hjalmar Bjorge. Having completed another full season she is now heading south to begin a Masters Degree in Conservation Zoology at Plymouth University. She will be missed and we wish her all the best with her studies. Small enough to be a brilliant anchor pixie (there’s not much room in that chain locker!!!), a hard worker and consummate fiddle player, she’s a truly marvellous Muileach. Good luck Lindsay!

Sun 12 Sep | Good-bye and Good Luck Lindsay  A gentle cruise over to Oban for brunch and good-byes to our guests this week, and also this time, crew member Lindsay.

Thu 16 Sep | First day, last cruise  Guests boarded on the railway pier this afternoon, for the last cruise of the season, in a near gale force NW wind. It was very cold indeed. After leaving Oban Hjalmar Bjorge cruised up to Tobermory where the night was spent on the mooring.

Fri 17 Sep | Bright ‘n’ breezy  This morning the wind had not moderated and guests went ashore for brisk walks. It was bright and sunny but rather cold with it. After lunch they left Tobermory bound for Cragard Bay (south of Ulva). Upon arrival, around 1700, Mark dived for scallops to complement the evening meal.

Sat 18 Sep | Bottlenoses at breakfast  Breakfast began, as usual, at 0800. Soon though a cry of “dolphins” was heard and looking through the windows, everyone saw around 12 to 18 bottlenose dolphins swimming around the anchorage, briefly investigating Hjalmar Bjorge, before returning to Loch Tuath. This sighting certainly made breakfast a little more interesting than normal. Shortly thereafter the anchor was lifted and Hjalmar Bjorge set off, all aboard hoping the dolphins might be seen again. Sure enough, soon after leaving the anchorage, they were spotted and this time round, they rode the boat’s bow wave for around 20 minutes. Below: bottlenose dolphins close to Hjalmar Bjorge by Mark Henrys

 

 

 

 

 

 

After this enjoyable encounter, the boat passed by Staffa for a peek at Fingal’s Cave, before anchoring off Iona where guests had a quick walk before lunch. In the afternoon the boat cruised along the Ross of Mull going in close to Carsaig Arches to provide not only good views of the arches but also three golden eagles, high above the boat, perched on the cliffs. This particularly delighted the youngest passenger aboard, Jordan aged 12, raptors being his favourite birds. Later this afternoon Hjalmar Bjorge anchored in Loch Buie, on the Laggan side, where a peaceful night was spent.

Sun 19 Sep | Eagles and otters entertain  A disappointingly wet and dreary morning, the intention had been to take a walk round Loch Buie. After a review of the weather everyone agreed they’d rather spend time aboard, looking for more raptors. The anchor was lifted and Mark made for a nearby sea eagle nest with the hope that a bird might be close by. Having drifted about for 15 minutes or so, he was just about to give up when a sea eagle was spotted, not far off, on the rocks. The next hour was spent observing him, perched, and doing a fantastic fly-by, which pleased everyone, not least young Jordan. Above right: slightly soggy sea eagle on the South of Mull by Mark Henrys

Hjalmar Bjorge proceeded along the coast to Loch Spelve, with Mark checking out a golden eagle eyrie before entering the loch. In the narrows two otters were seen, with one swimming beside the boat for a wee while. A late lunch was taken whilst the boat sat on anchor just off Croggan. The weather had cheered up considerably by now and the guests went ashore for a walk in dry sunny conditions. Just before dinner was served Mark and the crew lifted the anchor, setting off for the NE corner of Loch Spelve, in anticipation of better shelter and more wildlife sightings.

Mon 20 Sep | Last day, last cruise, lock-in  Another quiet night, Mark and the crew lifted the anchor for the final time this morning. Or at least they tried to. What they actually discovered was most of a redundant mussel farm attached to the chain. It was not an easy process to clear all the debris but, on the bright side, it amused those guests who were up early enough to watch the antics. Eventually the boat was freed and returned to Oban where brunch was taken alongside before guests departed amongst the final farewells of the year.

Mark, Anna and Marky Mark had a quick tidy up and were then joined by Mark and Hannah’s friend Murray who brought with him Daisy, Seven’s less fat and more evil sister, whom he was looking after while Hannah was overseas. The sisters were happy to be reunited and for once Daisy didn’t mind being on the boat. Hjalmar Bjorge left Oban for the cruise up Loch Linnhe and into Corpach Basin, at the end of the Caledonian Canal. Arriving for the final “lock-in” of the day, it was the vessel’s first time back in the basin since its departure in early April, some 4500 nautical miles ago.

Hannah and Mark would like to say a big thank you to Hjalmar Bjorge’s 2010 team: Lindsay (Lulu) Wilson, Mark Powlett, Kirsty Dalby, Rhona Wilson (Lindsay’s mum) and Anna White. And kudos to Seven (aka Ship’s Dog or Fatty) who completed every St Kilda trip, without being able to make landfall, and who was never once seasick.

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