NEWS FROM NORTHERN LIGHT CHARTERS :: JUNE 2011

Thu 30 Jun | Small Isles to Spelve  Hjalmar Bjorge departed Canna this morning headed for Hyskeir (Oigh Sgeir), about five miles to the southwest. More common dolphin were seen en route with a few briefly bow-riding. Mark had been hoping to put everyone ashore for a wee explore but unfortunately the swell prevented a safe landing. Instead the boat spent an hour gently drifting close to the east shore, from north to south, taking in the views. Upon leaving Hyskeir the vessel cruised back to, and down, the Sound of Mull and into the last night’s anchorage in Loch Spelve. Golden eagles were seen as well as a sea eagle perching on an isolated rock on the shore of Loch Don.

Wed 29 Jun | Common dolphins near Canna  An early start from Taransay this morning, with the aim of reaching Canna in time for an afternoon walk. Upon the approach to Canna the boat was bow-ridden by half a dozen common dolphins and around 40 other individuals were observed, feeding, about half a mile away.

Under Canna’s north cliffs a pair of sea eagles were spotted then guests enjoyed good sightings of a pair of peregrine falcons. Hjalmar Bjorge berthed alongside enabling guests to go for a hearty walk, before they returned for dinner, where after Mark and the crew moved the boat off the pier, anchoring off for the night.

Tue 28 Jun | Taransay terns  This morning the winds had abated, but not the swell, hence the rather lively ride to Taransay. Mark and the crew inspected the anchorage on the south west side of the island but conditions proved too bad to stay there. They also scanned the shore for any remains of the sperm whale that had beached a few years ago but, of the carcass, there was no sign (perhaps just washed back out to sea or collected by souvenir hunters). Eventually it was decided to anchor in the Sound of Taransay and after a quick lunch the guests went ashore, landing on the beach. Below (left) the view from Taransay (right) Hjalmar Bjorge anchored off Taransay, both photos by Mark Powlett

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was, by now, lovely weather and most of our guests set off to explore the island. Some, however, were content just to chill out on the beach watching the common and little terns guarding their beach and nesting grounds. Everyone returned aboard for dinner and a pleasant evening looking out to Luskentyre beach and Taransay. The general consensus amongst guests was relief that Ben Fogle had been unsuccessful in his recent bid to buy the island. We understand a family from nearby Harris bought the Castaway location around a month ago after it went on the market for £2 million.

Mon 27 Jun | Reams of raptors  Mark was very happy this morning that a peaceful night was spent in Loch Cravadale despite some trepidation about the choice of overnight anchorage. The wind had shifted and he took Hjalmar Bjorge back over to Scarp where better shelter was now available. Running guests ashore, Mark was greeted by old friends Brian and David who, along with their long-suffering wives, are summer residents of the island. David had produced an excellent map, and guide to the island, which included a stunning two hour walk. The guests opted to follow this and enjoyed it immensely.

After lunch on the boat the anchor was lifted and a cruise north, to Kearstay, was taken. Here there was a great sighting of a sea eagle which was to set the tone for the remainder of the day involving close encounters with more sea eagles and golden eagles. There were some superb views of the latter, soaring above the cliffs, as the boat entered Loch Resort. After dropping anchor guests went ashore for the two mile walk to the head of the loch, following American Marc, who was probably better acquainted with the place than anyone else aboard (he does spend an awful lot of time in the Hebrides!).

Back aboard for an evening of relaxation, and some entertainment from guests Pete and John who have formed some kind of Laurel and Hardy double act over the last seven days! The birders aboard also declared themselves delighted with the day’s sightings.

Sun 26 Jun | Minke’s monstrous mouth!  Further deterioration of the weather this morning, with rain accompanying the stronger winds. Leaving the anchorage, and departing West Loch Roag, it quickly became obvious that a passage to the Flannan Islands would be foolhardy and anchoring out there impossible. As some compensation for the abandonment of this plan, a minke whale turned up and delighted the guests with its behaviour. It was feeding, and repeatedly circled the boat, giving everyone onboard some very clear views of its baleen plates and undersides, as it rolled over, both filtering, and inspecting Hjalmar Bjorge at the same time. The encounter stepped up a gear when four basking sharks turned up! At one point there were four baskers and the minke within 50 metres of each other and the boat. Mark reflected that it’s been some time since he experienced these mammals in such close proximity feeding upon what was clearly an abundant source. After nearly an hour watching the whale and sharks, the vessel pulled away and proceeded to head south in near gale force winds. Below: minke whale feeding beside Hjalmar Bjorge by Mark Henrys

The next chosen anchorage was Scarp where the hook was dropped for lunch. Conditions, however, prevented landing any of the guests ashore. It was agreed to sit the afternoon out here, with the hope of the wind abating, and in due course, with the wind still wild, the anchor was lifted and the vessel headed to nearby Loch Cravadale. Mark was a tad anxious about his choice of anchorage. This particular loch has had some bad press about its ability (or lack thereof) to offer a safe haven in high winds, and as the vessel approached, very strong gusts could be seen rushing down the hill sides and hitting the surface of the water (“williwaws”).

Sat 25 Jun | Lewis lochs  The weather had deteriorated somewhat this morning with a strong south westerly wind blowing. Leaving Loch Carloway, the boat headed for Little Bernera, the chosen anchorage being rather snug verging on tight! Guests went ashore here for the morning and in the afternoon passage was made to Pabbay Mor where the guests then spent the afternoon. After everyone had returned, Hjalmar Bjorge motored a short distance to Tràigh na Berie, on the NE side of the Valtos peninsula, where the vessel anchored adjacent to the beautiful beach.

Fri 24 Jun | North Rona to Sula Sgeir  What a great start to the day, waking up, anchored off North Rona, in perfectly clear, calm conditions. Breakfast was taken early enabling the guests to go ashore from 0800 until 1100. The crew were also able to get ashore and explore this stunning, infrequently-visited, island. This is what makes it such a contrast to St Kilda as there was nobody else present apart from those who’d stepped off Hjalmar Bjorge, and very little sign of any other recent visitors. Everyone explored St Ronan’s Chapel and saw a fulmar nesting securely in its shelter. They also had a look in the bothy which is obviously maintained by visiting scientists. This is in really good condition and even had a supply of grog in place! Guest and crew returned to the boat utterly enchanted by this remote island and its wildlife.

The anchor was lifted upon return to the vessel and Hjalmar Bjorge next headed west for Sula Sgeir, which everyone had been able to clearly see from 11 miles away. A seemingly ever present northerly swell accompanied the boat to Sula Sgeir, and enabled it to drift quietly east to west along the south face of the stacs. At one point the gannets seemed to fall like a wave off the cliffs over the heads of everyone standing on the front deck of Hjalmar Bjorge, an incredible sight. Right: gannets swirling around the cliffs at Sula Sgeir by Mark Powlett

Mark had a look for Albert the albatross we last saw on Sula Sgeir some years ago. Named “Mr Ross” by the birders, the black-browed albatross has been hanging around gannet colonies in the wrong hemisphere for the last 40 years or so – experts believe he’s the same bird that first appeared on Bass Rock in May 1967. Unfortunately there was no sign of him today.

Hjalmar Bjorge left Sula Sgeir at about 1330 and headed southwest to West Loch Roag on Lewis. Approaching the loch there was a brief encounter with what looked like six Atlantic white-sided dolphins and then, upon entering the loch, a small basking shark was spotted. This evening’s chosen anchorage was Loch Carloway.

Thu 23 Jun | North Rona in northerly swell  After a hearty breakfast the anchor was lifted at 0900 and Hjalmar Bjorge headed north. Abeam of Stornoway a dozen white-beaked dolphins bow rode the boat. The cruise north was fairly pleasant in clear conditions with a good northerly swell. The vessel anchored at 1700 on the south side of North Rona by Poll Thothatom. After a quick cup of tea the guests went ashore, until 1930, for a quick tour of the island. Below (left) heavy swell as Hjalmar Bjorge approaches North Rona (right) North Rona looking picture perfect under a blue sky with fluffy clouds, both photos by Mark Powlett

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wed 22 Jun | Bow riding dolphins  After breakfast this morning the anchor was lifted and Hjalmar Bjorge set off around the west side of Canna. The vessel soon encountered 12 common dolphins who bow rode the boat for around 20 minutes. Further on, a second group of six were encountered north of Canna.

By mid afternoon the boat was anchored on the south side of the Shiant Islands, another unusual anchorage, but it did provide good shelter from the fresh northerly breeze. Six guests were landed on Eilean an Tighe and another three, more intrepid adventurers, landed on Garbh Eilean, where they inspected the remains of three roundhouses on a raised platform which they guessed were Iron Age. Below: Hjalmar Bjorge and the Shiant Islands, both photos by Mark Powlett

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tue 21 Jun | Leaving at lunchtime  Earlier than usual boarding today, 1230, at the start of an adventurous 10 night cruise aiming to reach North Rona. Hjalmar Bjorge departed from Oban at 1300 after the safety briefing. On board for this trip were three Marks (the skipper, chef and regular guest Marc from America) plus two Anna Whites, one crew and one guest, the first time either had met another woman with the same name. 

In (reasonably) calm conditions the vessel set off north through the Sound of Mull and on to Canna. Anchor was dropped for the first night on the south side of Canna, by Tarbert Bay, in a freshening northerly wind. Hjalmar Bjorge rarely uses this anchorage which affords stunning views of Hyskeir to the west and Rum, Eigg and Mull to the south.

Fri 17 Jun | Bottlenose escort into Oban  And yet another damp start to the day! Guests’ spirits were soon lifted, however, by an encounter with a bottlenose dolphin off Lady Isle in the Sound of Mull. Hjalmar Bjorge berthed on the Railway Pier in Oban where Mark and Ship’s Dog were waiting. Fatty seemed very keen to get back on her boat, although this was probably to do with the smell of brunch wafting up from the galley!

Mixed weather this week, with some bad forecasts, so kudos to Tim and the crew for getting everyone out to St Kilda, albeit for a fairly brief visit. Right: bottlenose dolphin in the Sound of Mull by Kirsty Dalby

Thu 16 Jun | South thru Sound of Mull  Another rather grey morning today as Hjalmar Bjorge set off for Rum, anchoring in Loch Scresort at 1030. The guests were taken ashore and enjoyed an impromptu tour of the castle before returning to the boat at 1330 for lunch. By the time the anchor was lifted there was bright sunshine and the vessel set off to return south through the Sound of Mull and into the final overnight anchorage in Loch Aline. Below (top left) Hjalmar Bjorge berthed at Canna by Chris Gibbs (top right) the beach on Canna by Mark Powlett (below left) Hjalmar Bjorge anchored in Loch Scresort by Chris Gibbs (below right) rainbow in Loch Aline by Mark Powlett

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wed 15 Jun | Dolphins and eagles  Today dawned grim and wet. Following breakfast the anchor was raised and Hjalmar Bjorge headed south for the Sound of Barra in a rather bumpy sea. Entering the Sound, the sun came out, and the crew saw some old friends: three bottlenose dolphins whom accompanied the vessel through the Sound. Below (left) bottlenose dolphins beside Hjalmar Bjorge (right) common dolphin beside Hjalmar Bjorge, both photos by Mark Powlett

 

 

 

 

 

 

Later whilst heading to Canna, common dolphins were spotted. Approaching Canna, on the north shore, two sea eagles and two golden eagles were spotted, providing passengers with some superb views. Tim and the crew anchored the boat in Canna harbour and the guests had a brief walk ashore before supper.

Tue 14 Jun | Venture round Village Bay  Today’s forecast was pretty dire and Tim realised he wasn’t going to be able to hang around at St Kilda for long. Guests went ashore at 0730 to explore Village Bay before returning to Hjalmar Bjorge at 1100. The anchor was then raised and Tim took the boat for a cruise around the stacs before finally leaving the archipelago at 1340. They anchored at 1800 off the Monach Islands following a good run across. Guests had a quick walk ashore, spotting an otter, before returning for supper. Above: St Kilda wren by Tim Wear

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Above (top left) Hjalmar Bjorge in Village Bay by Tony Dickson. (Top right) Hjalmar Bjorge in Village Bay (below left) Boreray from “The Gap” (below right) chef Marky Mark launches a St Kilda mailboat, three photos by Chris Gibbs

Mon 13 Jun | Hjalmar at Hirta  Guests had a brief walk ashore on North Uist this morning in pouring rain. After returning to the boat the anchor was raised and Hjalmar Bjorge headed through the Stanton Channel in the Sound of Harris bound for St Kilda. Shortly after clearing the Sound a minke whale and calf were spotted. The vessel anchored in Village Bay, Hirta at 2000 just in time for supper. Right: supplies being delivered to Hirta, St Kilda, by Tim Wear

Sun 12 Jun | Tobermory to North Uist  An early start this morning enabled Hjalmar Bjorge guests to take a brief walk ashore on Canna before heading further north. A golden eagle and a sea eagle were both seen over Canna’s north cliffs. Not far north of Canna a basking shark was spotted and 50+ common dolphin were encountered. Passing Neist Point (Skye) at 1530 huge hurries of feeding Manx shearwaters were seen. Tim thought this was one of the largest groups of these birds he had ever witnessed. Soon more dolphins were spotted in the bright (and unusual) sunshine! After a wonderful days sailing Hjalmar Bjorge anchored in Sponish Harbour adjacent to Lochmaddy. Below (left) common dolphins north of Canna (right) a little hitch-hiker aboard Hjalmar Bjorge, both photos by Kirsty Dalby

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sat 11 Jun | Tim at the wheel  Hjalmar Bjorge boarded 12 guests today with Mark and a rather confused Ship’s Dog waving the boat off late afternoon. At the wheel was Tim with Marky Mark the cook and Kirsty, crew, aboard. The journey to Tobermory was completed in bright sunshine and dinner was taken aboard once the boat was tied to our mooring in the harbour.

Sun 5 Jun | End of the line  Yesterday evening, the last of this cruise, was spent in a tranquil Loch Spelve on a mirror flat surface. This morning the boat left Mull and cruised through the Sound of Kerrera into Oban. Guests enjoyed brunch aboard before heading back to Edinburgh.

Sat 4 Jun | Corncrakes on Colonsay  Mark took a run round Colonsay before breakfast today and heard a number of corncrakes in various locations. He reckons this could be the place to go for anyone trying to spot one of these elusive birds. After breakfast Hjalmar Bjorge headed north under Tim’s command whilst Mark was busy in the engine room. Midway to the Garvellachs a minke whale was encountered with several good sightings made. At one point he surfaced close to the boat giving everyone an excellent view.

The boat anchored at the Garvellachs at 1130 and the guests got ashore for a walk before lunch. A cruise was taken around all of the “Isles of the Sea” with the boat running very close under “eagle cliff” looking out for raptors but no sightings were made. Next, north to Loch Spelve where Hjalmar Bjorge anchored off Croggan. The guests walked from Croggan to Portfield beach whilst Tim and Mark met up with our friend Jane Kidd who showed them round the garden she and husband Geoff have cultivated. Very impressive to say the least. They also took a look at some fibre glass fish models Geoff has been casting from real fish. Again, very impressive handiwork!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fri 3 Jun | Staffa, Iona, Colonsay  Anchor was weighed early this morning and Hjalmar Bjorge cruised past Staffa and Fingal’s Cave before anchoring at Iona for a quick breakfast after which guests were run ashore. Ditto Seven (Fatty) who has been a constant companion to the passengers on all their walks this week. Above (left) Hjalmar Bjorge cruising toward Staffa (right) Ken and Nancy Walker, plus friends, and Marky Mark and Kirsty (and Fatty) enjoy the views, both photos by Mark Henrys

Mark bumped into, and caught up with, Davy Kirkpatrick who runs MB “Iolaire” (http://www.staffatrips.co.uk/). He said he’d lost more days to bad weather this May alone than in the whole of 2010. Still, better weather today, and the guests enjoyed the Iona stopover in bright sunshine. Guest Alex and skipper Mark both heard a corncrake but were unable to spot it. After lunch aboard the boat cruised to Colonsay and anchored at Scalasaig. Guests took a short walk ashore (to the pub) before returning to the boat for a 3-course dinner and the evening aboard.

Thu 2 Jun | Cruise ‘n’ views  Hjalmar Bjorge cruised over to Inch Kenneth this morning and our guests had a lovely walk ashore in increasingly brightening weather. After lunch, another short cruise into Loch na Keal, with a landing on Eorsa. The weather by now was stunning and most of the shore party walked to the summit of the island, enjoying the magnificent views. The last cruise of the day was to the chosen overnight anchorage at Cragard. Below (left) Hjalmar Bjorge in Loch na Keal and (right) Hjalmar Bjorge in Loch na Keal, yes really, that tiny white speck in the middle of the photo is the boat. By Mark Henrys

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wed 1 Jun | Eagles @ Ulva  The forecast gale and bad weather arrived this morning. Guests were defiantly landed ashore enabling them to walk along Ulva toward Gometra before returning to Hjalmar Bjorge for lunch. In the meantime the “Hebridean Princess” had anchored close by, her captain sharing Mark and Tim’s view that this was a safe spot in unpleasant conditions. The pre-lunch tender run provided some good views of golden eagles. In the afternoon a smaller party of guests landed ashore and this time walked to Ulva Ferry. Hjalmar Bjorge stayed put, with the intention of remaining in this sheltered anchorage overnight.

:: news from the previous month[ May ’11 ]