The first Focus on St Kilda trip proved to be something of an epic! Departing Oban on Saturday 23rd May, the forecast for the week ahead looked challenging. Our first evening was spent at Tobermory and was followed by an early start on Sunday to escape the worst of the incoming weather. The route saw us head to Canna where we had lunch in the relative shelter of Canna Harbour, we then had a lively run through the MInch before entering our overnight anchorage at Loch Rodel on Harris.
Monday 25th May. The forecast didn’t appear to be anymore promising but I thought a weather window was there to get out to Kilda and then weather the worst of the next depression before running back… We lifted the anchor at Rodel at about 0545 and headed through the Sound of Harris, once through the Sound and heading west I had a call from one of the waiting day boats asking for a weather update… Well, the swell was 5-7m with probably a 100m between, wind was NW6. I wasn’t surprised that no body followed. The run out to Kilda was actually amongst the more comfortable I’ve experienced, the big seas were what Hjalmar was built for and she felt in her element. Also ships dog Seven didn’t seem at all bothered, spending most of the trip horizontal, with her paws in the air! Arriving at Hirta we immediately dropped anchor, had some lunch and got the guests ashore. That night we were the only vessel in the bay, likewise on the Tuesday evening.
A couple of cruise ships entered the bay during the day but seemingly after no sooner disembarking all their passengers they were back collecting them. Our guests had a wonderful day ashore, with packed lunches and clear visibility in the breezy conditions.
Wednesday, I looked out to Levenish (my weather guage whilst in the Village Bay) and appreciated why the Kildans referred to it as the ‘Guardian’. A fairly large sea was once again crashing over the exposed Stac, however it did look like the swell was running now from the west. Defintely time to head off. After breakfast, we departed the bay and had a lively run out to Boreray and Stac Lee. Rounding Stac An Armin in the big swell was exhiliarating, we had a short break in the lee of Boreray before making the passage back to the Sound of Harris. Once more we had a big swell but this time we were running with it and we had a number of ‘surfs’.
We finally anchored for the evening at Loch Maddy before returning south the following day to the Sound of Mull and our return to Oban. A great trip with some lovely seasoned travellers! Special thanks to Molly and Anna for brilliant work in difficult conditions.
Mark Henrys, June 2015
DID YOU KNOW?
Atlantic puffins have penguin-like colouring but they sport a colourful beak that has led some to dub them the "sea parrot". The beak fades to a drab grey during the winter and blooms with colour again in the spring.