NEWS FROM NORTHERN LIGHT CHARTERS :: OCTOBER 2011 – APRIL 2012 :: NEWEST NEWS FIRST

Sun 29 Apr | Slipped and ship-shape  Mark and his team have worked very hard, in sometimes challenging weather, to get Hjalmar Bjorge’s hull cleaned, stripped and repainted. Here are a couple of photos of her on the slip looking all clean and shiny. Below: photos of Hjalmar Bjorge on the slip at Corpach by Mark Henrys

 

Wed 25 Apr | Welcome Michelle  Newest team member Michelle now has her own phone line for all your questions and queries regarding Northern Light Charters so feel free to call her on 01599 555723. If you get the answer-phone Michelle will call you back as soon as she can.

Michelle (pictured right), and husband Matthew, are old friends of Northern Light Charters. They spent many hours diving off our charter boats whilst onboard with their West Yorkshire dive club. A few years ago they decided to move north to Scotland and bought The Red House in Dornie within sight of Eilean Donan castle. They now run this as a self-catering house for up to 12 guests as well as having other business interests locally. Michelle (clearly not the kind of girl who sits around filing her nails) has now also taken over the booking and admin tasks for Northern Light Charters. When she can escape from her computer she’s usually to be found sailing or walking locally with Alfie and Matt.

Mon 23 Apr | Wild white whale  Scientists believe the first ever adult white killer whale (orca) has been spotted off the coast of Kamchatka in eastern Russia. The male whale nicknamed “Iceberg” appears to be healthy and leading a normal life within the pod. Two white juvenile orca have previously been spotted in Russian waters but this male – thought to be at least 16 years old – is the first of its kind. Read more and watch video on the BBC News website.

Wed 18 Apr | First minke whale spotted  The first common dolphins of the year were sighted in the Sound of Raasay on 13 April reported HWDT today. The next day, the first minke whale was seen, along with a group of at least 100 common dolphins off the Isle of Canna. Some species, such as the harbour porpoise and bottlenose dolphin, remain in Hebridean waters all year round but these sightings marked the return of our seasonal cetaceans.

Tue 17 Apr | New cruise dates  Unfortunately we have had a cancellation involving a small group of family and friends due to illness. Therefore we now have five spaces on the “Focus on St Kilda” cruise from Saturday 9 to Friday 15 June. There are two twin cabins available plus an extra space for a female guest sharing. This cruise filled very quickly when the dates were first announced so we hope to resell the spaces enabling us to return deposits paid. Get in touch if you’re interested!

Mon 16 Apr | New team member  Welcome to Michelle who has started the process of taking over admin tasks for Northern Light Charters. If you call our regular office number at the moment (01631 740595) or send an email to info@northernlight-uk.com you will now reach Michelle. She should also have a dedicated phone number by the end of the week so we’ll let you know that and tell you a bit more about Michelle then.

Wed 4 Apr | Back to normal  Last week Scotland was enjoying record Spring-like temperatures. This week it’s business as usual with more snow on Ben Nevis and freezing Northerly winds. Hard to believe that a few days before this photo was taken Mark was running up the Ben in a t-shirt. Right: Hjalmar Bjorge in Corpach Basin with a snowy Ben Nevis in the background, by Mark Henrys

 

Mon 2 Apr | Winter works progress  Soon the start of the season will be upon us. Mark and his team have been working very hard making lots of improvements to Hjalmar Bjorge over the winter. There will be some photos here soon but if you are re-joining us for a holiday aboard the boat this year you can expect to see:

 

  • The carpet head-linings in the cabins and saloon have been removed and replaced by clean, shiny, bright white panels.

  • There were a few bits of visible wiring in some of the cabins and these have now all been hidden.

  • The berth lights in all the guest cabins have been replaced.

  • The guest cabins have all been repainted.

  • The bedding is all in the process of being replaced.

  • One of the large guest cabins (toward the centre of the vessel) has had its bottom single berth extended into a double (three quarter) bed. The top single berth had been retained offering flexible sleeping arrangements.

  • The galley and wheelhouse have been repainted.

  • The bench seats on the forward deck have had their wooden slats replaced.

  • There are new aluminium storage boxes going on the top deck. These will double up as additional outside seating.

Hjalmar Bjorge is due on the slip at Corpach at the end of the month where her hull will be repainted. She will leave from there and cruise down to Oban before her first charter begins on Saturday 5 May.

Wed 7 Mar | Waving Not Drowning!  Thanks to Adrian for sending these photos, (below) which I had not seen before, with the subject “Bet the Coastguard loves this guy!” This is a real boat, designed by French artist Julien Berthier, and yes, it is meant to look as if it is sinking although it’s actually a fully functioning vessel. The name of the boat is “Love Love” and there are lots more photos online if you are interested.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fri 2 Mar | Zuza’s refit update  Charlie, Zuza’s owner, sent some photos of the yacht coming out of the shed where work has been undertaken over the winter.

The vessel has a new extended and covered pilot house for the benefit of both crew and guests as it contains additional seating. Photo (right) Charlie Erasmus

Mon 20 Feb | Wee wildlife warden  Little Lindsay, who worked for us for a number of seasons and is a wildlife whizz, has bagged herself a job with the RSPB this summer. She’ll be based in a hut at Land’s End, telling people all about the birds they can see, and doing her best to increase RSPB membership. So, if you see Lindsay at the pointy end of the UK this summer, don’t forget to say hello.

Fri 17 Feb | Job on St Kilda  The National Trust for Scotland (NTS) is seeking to fill a job in one of the remotest corners of the UK: an archaeologist is needed on the remote archipelago of St Kilda. The job description, unsurprisingly, states that “applicants must be able to work alone on occasions in a remote environment”. Applicants also need to be physically fit as many parts of Hirta are inaccessible by vehicles of any kind.

St Kilda is a very interesting place for anyone with an interest in archaeology or history. Artefacts dating back to prehistoric times have been found on Hirta and last year the remains of a permanent settlement, possibly from the Iron Age, were uncovered on Boreray. It was previously thought that it was only ever briefly visited by islanders to hunt seabirds and gather wool from sheep.

Following the departure of Hirta’s last 36 residents in August 1930 the archipelago has been described as a “lost world”. Summer months, however, bring a resident population of up to 35 comprising NTS staff and volunteers, MoD workers and contractors and scientists. In addition, small cruise ships sometimes offload up to 200 visitors at a time.

The closing date for this job is Friday 2 March and more details can be read here.

Thu 2 Feb | Rare marine wildlife round Canna  According to a report published by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) today the seas around the island of Canna are unusually rich in marine wildlife.

A survey carried out by marine biologists from SNH and Marine Scotland during 2010 revealed species and habitats of high conservation value in the Sound of Canna (the steep sided channel that runs between the islands of Canna and Rum). The underwater landscape of rock walls, glacial moraines, boulder piles and sheltered areas of mud and sand provide a wide variety of wildlife habitats.

An area of rare fan mussels, first spotted in 2009, has now been confirmed as the largest in UK waters. Once common around Britain’s coasts, only a handful of scattered fan mussels have been recorded in the past 20 years, making them one of the UK’s most endangered shellfish. Northern feather stars, an animal with several feather-like arms used for swimming and catching food, were found on deep sediment at both entrances to the channel. Excellent examples of northern sea fan and deep sponge communities were also found on the cliffs around the nearby island of Sanday, on deep rock outcrops and on the floor of the Sound.

The survey is one of several which have taken place around Scotland since 2010, to better understand the distribution and quality of marine wildlife in Scottish waters.

Tue 31 Jan | Humpbacks off Aberdeen  Media reports today of Forvie National Nature Reserve on the way to becoming a whale-watching hotspot. There have been a number of sightings in the last couple of weeks of three humpback whales, about a mile offshore, at the Hackley Bay reserve between Aberdeen and Peterhead. The 40 to 50 foot whales were readily visible from land. Sperm and fin whales have also been spotted in the area during the last year.

Fri 20 Jan | Bushy-tailed visitor  Mark noticed a cute little red-haired visitor on the bird table at Achnacraig a few weeks ago. Here he is helping himself to the birds’ food. Altogether now…aaaaaaaw… Photo: Mark Henrys

Sun 1 January 2012 | Happy New Year We are delighted to start the new year with confirmation that, once again, Zuza will be expertly crewed by Tim Wear and Heather McNeill this year. Nobody who travelled with Heather and Tim failed to be impressed by their skill, good humour and patience in assisting guests who wished to have a wee shot of sailing the yacht. We’ve got some repeat bookings already so Tim and Heather will be seeing a few old friends aboard as well as welcoming some new faces, most likely among them some talented sailors as well as absolute beginners. You certainly don’t have to have a go at steering the boat but we did find that, with the crew’s encouragement and kindness, many were tempted to give it a go.

Sun 25 Dec | Merry Christmas one and all  Hannah Thompson and Mark Henrys would like to wish all our customers (those who we know and those who we’ve yet to meet) a very Merry Christmas and a Happy and Healthy New Year. Thank you to everyone who has sent personal and/or business Christmas cards – they are all appreciated.

Fri 16 Dec | Quadruple cruises!  Well, that’s got to be some kind of record. Our friend, and regular guest aboard, Eva from Sweden, has confirmed she will be joining Northern Light Charters for four, yes FOUR, cruises this summer! Fabulous news! Good to know we are clearly doing something right!!!

Tue 13 Dec | Sea eagle chicks down  Three fewer sea eagle chicks fledged in 2011 than the previous year according to RSPB Scotland. They are blaming bad weather in May which caused some nest sites to be damaged. 43 chicks fledged this year as opposed to 46 in 2010. The good news, however, is that this year spawned an extra five pairs of territorial birds. More on the BBC Scotland website.

Thu 8 Dec | Stormy seas  High tides and strong winds affecting lots of places today. We’re glad that Hjalmar Bjorge is safely tied up under the watchful eye of British Waterways staff at Corpach Sea Lock. Someone has posted a video on youtube today of recent blustery goings on at Corpach. You can see the sea blowing up over the side of the lock. Click here to watch the footage. Brrr!!!

Wed 7 Dec | Special skills  Wow! The “condition of the sea and wind can change upon discretion of the captain”. If only Mark were so omnipotent… we’d be millionaires for sure!!! Thank you Gaynor for sending this funny fail photo below.

 

Sat 3 Dec | Work underway on Zuza  A couple of photos from owner Charlie to show the new improved and extended pilot house aboard Zuza. The painters were mid-brushstroke when the images were taken so ignore the mess! Very exciting to see progress on the yacht. Photos (left and right below) Zuza’s new pilot house by Charlie Erasmus

 

 

 

 

 

Tue 29 Nov | Zuza is back!!!  Northern Light Charters is delighted to announce that once again yacht Zuza will be offering cruises in addition to Hjalmar Bjorge during the forthcoming season. We delivered many successful cruises on Zuza throughout the summers of 2008 and 2009 before her owner Charlie took her back home to South Africa. The motor yacht has undergone an impressive refurbishment (photos to follow) and will be back with us next year.

In addition to attracting new guests who particularly wanted a sailing holiday (with sails) we were delighted to discover that many of our “diehard” motorboat customers tried, and enjoyed, cruises aboard Zuza too. We’re very much looking forward to delivering another year of interesting and varied boat-based holidays so please come and join us. Cruises are listed here – we hope to see you onboard in 2012. Don’t forget repeat guests receive 5% discount.

Fri 25 Nov | Photographers charged with disturbing sea eagles  Reports in the press today of two photographers being found guilty of disturbing a pair of nesting sea eagles on the Isle of Mull. They were charged, at Oban Sheriff Court, with disturbing the breeding birds near Killechronan last May and were fined a total of £1100. Yuli Panayotov from London and Ivaylo Takev from Norwich had previously ignored warnings, from Mull’s RSPB warden Dave Sexton and local holidaymakers, to stay away from the birds. Consequently the police were alerted to the photographers after a number of witnesses had spotted both the adult birds circling over the nest and alarm-calling.

The white-tailed sea eagles are a significant tourist attraction on Mull contributing an estimated £5 million to the local economy every year. The species is afforded the highest level of protection of any British bird, due to both its rarity and also its sensitivity to disturbance, particularly during the breeding season.

Mon 31 Oct | Charity cheques  Northern Light Charters has now dispatched its annual charity cheques. Some years ago Hannah and Mark decided to make a £5 donation to one of two local charities for every cruise guest who booked on our boats. Guests can choose whom they’d like to donate “their” £5 to and are also given the option of doubling this by paying an additional £5 themselves.

Cheques have been posted to Argyll Animal Aid for £445 and to Glencoe Mountain Rescue Team for £651.25. Of the total donation (£1096.25) £230.75 came from our very generous guests who opted to pay an extra £5 per head to the charities. As usual big thanks go to…

Elizabeth Blackburn Patty Maguire
Tony and Ben Burgess Joann McLaughlin
John Bulman Denise Melling
Marc Calhoun Norman and Gill Mitchell
Aileen Clucas Diana Neil
Mike Coupe Roy and Heather Owen
Ronnie Cramond Isabel Plant
Pete Dale Robin Rawson
Phil and Lyn Drake Anne Rayner
Graham Farrant Normand and Valerie Robb
Reuben and Chris Freemantle Malcolm and Denny Robinson
Chris and José Gibbs Michelle Sinclair
Ted Hallworth Archie Smith
Heather Horton Julie and Patrick Solly
Sandra Jones John Wakley
Pauline Johnson Paul Watts
Mike King Tony and Fran Yates
Bob Kitchen Erica and Bill Young
Lindley MacLeod  

Wed 19 Oct | Viking boat uncovered in west Highlands  The UK mainland’s first fully intact Viking boat burial site has been uncovered in Ardnamurchan on the west Highlands, archaeologists said today. The site is thought to be more than 1000 years old. Archaeologist Dr Hannah Cobb, from the University of Manchester, said the artefacts at the site suggest the burial of a high-ranking individual and that it is one of the most important Norse graves ever excavated in Britain.

Remains of the body along with objects buried alongside plus evidence of the boat were all found and recovered. The Ardnamurchan Viking was found buried with an axe, a knife, a sword with a decorated hilt, a spear, a shield boss, a bronze ring pin from Ireland and a whetstone from Norway. About 200 rivets, all that remain of the boat itself, were also found as well as some Viking pottery and quantities of iron, as yet unidentified.

Boat burials in a similarly well preserved state have previously always been excavated on island sites such as those on Orkney.

Thu 6 Oct | Rare fish found on Mull  The discovery of a washed up bluefin tuna on Laggan Sands, south Mull, caused some excitement on the island today (photo, right). When described over the phone to HWDT staff, it was thought the person who first saw the carcass might have mistakenly identified a decomposed porpoise. At 1.8 metres long, and around 150lbs, an Atlantic bluefin tuna was not the first creature to spring to mind. They spawn in the Mediterranean Sea and these days very rarely turn up in Scottish waters. In September 1989 a large 400lb tuna was caught near the Isle of Lewis. The remains of the “Mull tuna” were in a fairly poor state but the fish’s ear bones (otoliths) are believed to have been removed by HWDT volunteers in order to try and determine its age.

Mon 3 Oct | Summer ceases, winterising begins  Another early start this, last, morning with breakfast taken alongside the North Pier before the last guests of the season departed.

Guest Virginia sent us a photo of these feet resting in the window of the wheelhouse at some point during the cruise. She realised that when she took the photo, skipper Mark was diving, so we must assume these toes belong to Gog, who was onboard as crew! Right: mystery feet in the wheelhouse by Virginia Fraser

After saying good-byes to the last guests of the season Kirsty and Mark sailed Hjalmar Bjorge from Oban to our winter mooring in the Caledonian Canal at Corpach. The passage was quite memorable; approaching the Corran Narrows the weather had deteriorated rapidly and Hjalmar Bjorge surfed along in very large waves in a south-westerly storm. At Corpach the boat was met by Marky Mark and Gog who had driven up from Oban. The process of winterising the boat will be completed over the next couple of days. Last year Corpach experienced temperatures as low as -20 degrees. Ship’s Dog Fatty was delighted to return to one of her favourite spots, Ratty Bank, where Loch Linnhe and Loch Eil converge, by the entrance to the sea lock. Below: Hjalmar Bjorge is now back at Corpach, photos by Mark Henrys

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s been a most enjoyable season and Mark and Hannah would like to thank each and every guest who travelled with Northern Light Charters as well as the wonderful crew – Marky Mark, Kirsty, skipper Tim, Anna and Tiree. Who will we have crewing next year? Well, that’s a good question! Marky Mark is now engaged to girlfriend Emma (congratulations!!!) with a possible wedding in August 2012 so in theory he’s cooked up his last storm aboard Hjalmar Bjorge. And conscientious Kirsty, who has been us since the early days, recently signed up for a course in childcare and will be back in full-time education. Watch this space!

Sun 2 Oct | Iona, Arches and eagles  A bright and clear start to the day with Hjalmar Bjorge underway by 0700. Breakfast was served whilst everyone enjoyed the views of Staffa and Fingal’s Cave. A short while later the anchor was dropped in the Sound of Iona and the guests spent the rest of the morning on Iona. Lunch was taken on anchor before the vessel set sail again, heading east along the Ross of Mull. At Carsaig Arches there were wonderful views of two pairs of golden eagles soaring above the cliffs. After passing the entrance to Loch Buie the boat headed for the overnight anchorage at Puilladobhrain near Ardencaple Bay on Seil Island. The guests enjoyed a lovely supper on the last night of the season. Above: Carsaig Arches on the Ross of Mull by Mark Henrys

Sat 1 Oct | Eagles and falcons  And so to our news-page spanning the quieter winter months running from October through to the following March. This year we start with news from the last cruise of the season.

After a careful briefing this morning the guests aboard Hjalmar Bjorge were landed by the ruins of the black houses at Soriby Bay, their aim to walk along the north shore of Ulva to Gometra harbour. Golden eagles and a pair of peregrine falcons were seen. Whilst they were walking, the crew raised the anchor and sailed the boat round to meet everyone at Gometra. Lunch was taken onboard and afterwards guests went ashore again, this time for a walk west, along the south shore of Gometra.

With the guests ashore, Kirsty, Tiree (onboard once again following her work experience in the summer) and Mark took the inflatable into the entrance to the harbour where Mark dived for scallops. Once everyone was back aboard, a short cruise was taken to Cragard where a spectacular sunset accompanied dinner.

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