NEWS FROM NORTHERN LIGHT CHARTERS :: JULY 2012

Fri 27 Jul | End of a wild week  An early start was made this morning, with Hjalmar Bjorge departing Tobermory, arriving back at the North Pier in Oban for brunch alongside. The week’s weather had been grim to say the least and, under the circumstances, all the guests were pleased to have made it out to St Kilda.

Thu 26 Jul | Kilda to Tobermory  The anchor was lifted at 0600 this morning with Hjalmar Bjorge departing Village Bay. There was an hour’s cruise through Soay Sound and the stacs with Boreray being waved good-bye at 0700. It was a long 12 hour steam directly back to Tobermory where crew picked up the anchor shortly after 1900. A hearty “last supper” was enjoyed onboard followed by a peaceful night on our own mooring.

Wed 25 Jul | Dry land!  All our guests were very happy today to spend an entire day on Hirta with packed lunches provided.

Tue 24 Jul | Horrid haul out to Hirta  Hjalmar Bjorge set off for Leverburgh after breakfast this morning where the boat stopped for lunch and a walk. With everyone’s agreement a course was set for St Kilda after lunch. It was an extremely unpleasant crossing, rough, with a 3 – 4 metre swell and fresh SW wind blowing. There was much relief when the vessel anchored in Village Bay shortly before 1900 and nothing short of amazement when Mark B served up dinner shortly thereafter! It was no surprise to observe that Hjalmar Bjorge was the only boat out at St Kilda.

Mon 23 Jul | Dozen dolphins feeding  Frustratingly, the wind last night had seemed to strengthen. Mark’s interim plan for today was to get to Canna. Hjalmar Bjorge set off at 0900 and surprisingly (hurray!) the wind abated. The boat made a rough passage across the Little Minch to Loch Eyport. During the lumpy voyage a dozen common dolphins were seen feeding NE of Rum. Upon arrival at Eyport the guests were landed for a walk during which a sea eagle, male hen harrier and a golden eagle were spotted. Otters were also seen while the boat was on anchor.

Sun 22 Jul | Mayday! Bacon sarnies needed!  This morning’s forecast was downgraded from “dire” to “diabolical”, with winds of SSW6–8, possibly stronger. Hjalmar Bjorge left Tobermory after a light breakfast, the plan being to get as far north as possible, hopefully to Rum. After rounding Ardnamurchan the boat encountered near gale force conditions with a 3 metre swell. After a lively, not to mention wet, run, the vessel anchored in Loch Scresort on Rum just in time for lunch. Immediately upon arrival guests and crew saw the Mallaig lifeboat assisting a small yacht which had anchor problems. After stabilising the situation the lifeboat cox brought the lifeboat over to Hjalmar Bjorge, not to check the boat was safe, but to ask if there were any bacon sandwiches going spare! Unfortunately Mark B was unable to assist. Conditions deteriorated throughout the afternoon with Hjalmar Bjorge remaining on anchor. There were occasional sightings of a sea eagle and some otters feeding close by.

Sat 21 Jul | Week of woeful weather?  Hjalmar Bjorge and crew, Mark, Mark B and Anna, met a full complement of guests on the North Pier this afternoon. It was with some trepidation that guests boarded since the weather forecast for this week’s “Focus on St Kilda Expedition” was truly dire. The vessel headed up to Tobermory where the night was spent.

Fri 20 Jul | NEW Lighthouses Tour  Inspired by a private charter booked by The Association of Lighthouse Keepers we now have a similar itinerary which you can book. Click here to see details of the trip which will, weather permitting, include shore visits to Rubha nan Gall, Barra Head light, Ushenish light, the Monach Isles light on Shillay, the Flannan Isles light on Eilean Mor, the Butt of Lewis light, Tiumpan head light, Eilean Glas and Hyskeir lights. You’ll also be able to see Neist Point and Ardnamurchan from the boat. Anyone fancy this 10-night cruise? Just email Michelle on info@northernlight-uk.com to book your space.

Thu 19 Jul | Close encounter with minke  The crew upped anchor at 0700 with the boat heading south towards Mingulay. Whilst crossing the Sound of Pabbay there was a fantastic encounter with a juvenile minke whale. Initially he was lunge feeding on the surface before coming over to make a close inspection of Hjalmar Bjorge after which he carried on feeding. Right: minke whale feeding in the Sound of Pabbay by Mick Parmenter

 

Approaching Mingulay hundreds of grey seals could be seen on the beach but sadly the majority went back into the water when the boat anchored. The guests had a fantastic morning ashore on Mingulay in bright sunshine. After lunch the boat left, rounding Barra Head, before undertaking the long passage back to the Sound of Mull for a last overnight stay in Ardtornish Bay. Guests depart tomorrow in Oban. Below: a perfect moment at Mingulay by Mick Parmenter Wed 18 Jul | Right on cue  Hjalmar Bjorge left the Monachs heading south for the Sound of Barra. Mark jokingly said that the resident bottlenose dolphins had been booked to appear between 1030 and 1100 with the basking sharks joining the boat at 1115. And would you believe it? At 1030 one bottlenose appeared on the bow before four more joined in the fun to escort the boat, as usual, through the Drovers Channel. Below: common dolphin escort by Mick Parmenter

Exiting the Sound, lo and behold, a scattering of basking sharks were seen all the way south until Hjalmar Bjorge turned into Castlebay. Lunch was taken on anchor before the guests went ashore for a few hours. Crew then moved the boat to Vatersay for an overnight stay.

Tue 17 Jul | Hirta to the Monachs  The anchor was lifted at 0830 with Hjalmar Bjorge departing St Kilda for the Monach Islands. A number of common dolphins were seen whilst the boat was on passage. Lunch was taken on anchor at the Monachs after which guests went ashore for the afternoon. Right: Hjalmar Bjorge at the Monachs by Mick Parmenter

Mon 16 Jul | Decapitated seals  A quick breakfast was taken aboard in Village Bay before Mark and the crew took the boat and passengers for a cruise round Boreray and the stacs. Iain and Dawn went in for a dive on the east side of Boreray while the guests enjoyed watching the birds soar overhead as Hjalmar Bjorge hovered under the cliffs. A number of grey seals were also seen playing in the nearby caves. Dawn and Iain emerged with some gruesome underwater pictures of an adult grey seal minus its head. Some years ago, Mark and another diver, whilst diving on Dun at St Kilda, also found a seal missing its head. Guests now debated what had caused these incidents reached the conclusion it must have been the result of an attack by orcas. Mark read (later in the trip) of about 20 headless seal pups that had been found ashore on Orkney and local opinion there was that orca were to blame. Below (left) Boreray and Stac Lee (right) Hirta from Boreray; both photos by Mark Henrys

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The boat returned to Village Bay for lunch and the guests went ashore again for the afternoon. On their return to Hjalmar Bjorge the guests were taken over to the gap at Dun where tide and conditions were right to explore a wonderful tunnel that runs under the end of Hirta. It looks very dramatic and is great fun. The photographers were also able to get some great snaps of puffins rafting up on the water under Dun.

Sun 15 Jul | Sober St Kilda  Hjalmar Bjorge left Taransay this morning and endured a fairly rough run out to St Kilda in a fresh NW wind with 2 to 3 metres of swell. The crew dropped the anchor in Village Bay in the early afternoon and immediately took all the guests ashore until tea time. We’re sad to report that The Puff Inn is now completely closed and the island of Hirta is now notionally dry, probably for the first time in 50 years. Understandably, the base staff and others who were able to use the bar following the closure to the public, are not happy! It seems like a rather mean decision from Qinetic. Photo: approaching St Kilda by Mark Henrys

Sat 14 Jul | Fresh scallops for starters  Dawn and Iain had a quick dip in the entrance of Loch Eport this morning, surfacing with a fine haul of scallops. These later made a delicious starter before dinner. The boat then made passage through the Sound of Harris and anchored at Taransay. Lunch was taken on anchor and then guests spent the afternoon ashore.

Fri 13 Jul | Eport and Eaval  After Hjalmar Bjorge departed Loch Bracadale this morning, diving guests Iain and Dawn were put in the water beside Macleod’s Maidens, whilst the rest of the guests maintained a watch for basking sharks and eagles. After the dive the boat headed north in fine clear weather passing Neist Point and on into Loch Eport on North Uist. Guests went ashore for walks with most climbing nearby Little Eaval. Right: dolphin ahead of Hjalmar Bjorge, near Macleod’s Maidens, by Mick Parmenter

Thu 12 Jul | Bow-riding dolphins  It was cold but bright this morning with a fresh NE wind blowing. Hjalmar Bjorge departed early from Tobermory and breakfast was eaten whilst the boat was en route to Canna. Upon arrival it was time for lunch. Guests enjoyed a couple of hours ashore before the boat left to head further north. The recent dry spell has left Canna with only two days supply of water for the entire island which is a concern to the residents. Six miles north of Canna 20+ common dolphins were seen. They bow-rode the boat briefly and there was more of the same as it approached Loch Bracadale. Hjalmar Bjorge was anchored in Loch Bharcasaig for the evening/overnight and all aboard enjoyed fine views of the Cuillins, that is when they did occasionally emerge from the clouds…

Wed 11 Jul | Falcon on first day  Mark, Mark, Rhona and Tiree met 11 guests in Oban today and thereafter Hjalmar Bjorge cruises up to Tobermory for the first night. The crew had just picked up the mooring when a peregrine falcon flew overhead. A nice start to the trip! Right: clouds over Tobermory by Mark Henrys

Tue 10 Jul | Save Staffa  The clean seas around the beautiful Staffa archipelago, within the Loch Na Keal National Scenic Area, are home to, and are visited by, dolphin, porpoise, seal, salmon, shark and whales. Argyll & Bute Council is now considering a plan to privatise 40 ha (100 acres) of the waters of the archipelago for a salmon factory farm site off the Island of Gometra obstructing access to Mull and potentially venting hundreds of tons of untreated faecal waste into Loch Tuath. Seal killing licences will be applied for and research suggests that seal scarers will create a massive exclusion zone for cetaceans, inside which sightings will cease and outside which, sightings will decrease. A second factory farm is proposed for Ardmeanach on Loch Scridain on the way to Iona. If this prospect worries you go to The Petition Site and add your name in protest.

Mon 9 Jul | WhaleFest 2012  This year’s WhaleFest will take place in Brighton from 25 – 28 October 2012 and will be the largest gathering of people passionate about whales and dolphins for many years. This is a chance for the world’s whale experts and the public to meet and make new plans to help whales and dolphins in the future. Click here for more information.

Fri 6 Jul | Cruise ends  Hjalmar Bjorge departed Loch Aline this morning at 0800 and arrived in Oban for 0930. A very large breakfast was served after which guests rolled off the boat and headed home. Thanks to Tim, Sarah and Tiree for delivering this week’s cruise and to our guests for joining us.

Thu 5 Jul | And another breaching whale!  The anchor was raised at 0845 this morning with Hjalmar Bjorge arriving at Lunga aka “Puffin Island” at 1000. Guests went ashore for a few hours for some puffin therapy on a calm sunny day.

After the guests returned to the boat, they cruised round the north of Mull with yet another minke whale breaching twice off Caliach Point. Just off Ardmore Point, by the entrance to the Sound of Mull, a sea eagle was spotted. Hjalmar Bjorge berthed in Loch Aline for the evening, the last of the cruise, and one which was rounded off with more magic from Archie, this time pushing pens through bank notes and making cards appear in the middle of an orange! Thank you Archie, everyone loved your tricks.

Wed 4 Jul | Breaching whale  The piermistress at Canna hailed Tim this morning and asked him to move Hjalmar Bjorge out of the way as a National Trust cruiseliner was due in soon. Nobody onboard minded as the thought of mingling with a few hundred other visitors wasn’t that appealing.

About a dozen common dolphin were seen in the Sound of Canna as the boat set off on the journey south to Tiree, with over 20 basking sharks spotted in Gunna Sound. Tim attempted to tie Hjalmar Bjorge to the ferry pier on Tiree but they parted a warp on some sharp metal so decided to leave. Good timing as a minke whale breached three times on the way out of Gott Bay. Hjalmar Bjorge continued east to the Treshnish Isles, rounding Staffa and Fingal’s Cave, before anchoring in Gometra Harbour at 1800. After a long day at sea guests appreciated going ashore before dinner.

Tue 3 Jul | Eagles everywhere!  Guests went ashore at 0900 after breakfast. Some visited an Art Gallery owned by Marion Roberts who was on a Northern Light Charters St Kilda trip a few weeks ago, whilst Tim’s daughter Rosie kindly ran Sarah and Tiree in to Dunvegan for a few supplies.

The anchor was lifted at 1130 with an immature eagle spotted as the boat passed MacLeod’s Maidens (nobody was 100% sure if it was a sea eagle or a goldie). However, nearing Canna, a positive sighting of a sea eagle was made on the island’s cliffs, plus a couple of basking sharks were spotted as Hjalmar Bjorge approached the harbour. The boat was tied to the pier for the night enabling guests to take some good walks ashore later in the day. A further two sea eagles were spotted over Sanday.

Mon 2 Jul | Bow-riding dolphins  It was sunny and calm as Hjalmar Bjorge left Loch Nevis at 0845 this morning headed for Loch Scavaig. Two minke whales were seen off the Point of Sleat. Upon arrival at Scavaig at 1200 the guests went ashore for two and a half hours with a picnic packed lunch. There were lots of common seals around.

Hjalmar Bjorge left at 1520, passing the small island of Soay, heading round the coast of Skye for Loch Bracadale. Off Talisker Bay around a dozen common dolphins bow-rode the boat quickly followed by a sighting of two sea eagles on a cliff. The vessel was anchored in Loch Bharcasaig for the night where two great northern divers were seen. More after-dinner magic from Archie.

Sun 1 Jul | In to Inverie  Yesterday Tim (skipper), Sarah (chef) and Tiree (crew) met guests in the afternoon for an Inner Hebridean “Cetaceans and Sunsets” cruise in Oban before Hjalmar Bjorge headed north to Loch Drumbuie for the night.

This morning the boat left the loch at 0900 and cruised north to Eigg, anchoring in the harbour, where the guests went ashore for a couple of hours. It turned into a nice sunny afternoon as the vessel motored up towards Loch Nevis where Tim and the crew berthed her alongside at Inverie for the evening and overnight. The guests went ashore for a couple of hours before dinner (it is possible that The Old Forge, the remotest pub on mainland UK was visited!). There was some after-dinner entertainment from guest, long term magician Archie, who apparently clumsily broke a glass and then fixed it in front of astonished guests.

:: news from the previous month [ June ’12 ]