Skipper Tim gives his account of our most recent cruise, where it looked as though strong winds would hamper our plans. But crew and guests were delighted to reach our primary destination, the Shiant Islands. And they did not disappoint!
Sat 30 April – Snow on the hills of Mull and quite low down with sun on them make a fine sight for the guests as they join Hjalmar Bjorge for our second cruise of the year. First one for Tim and Eszter, but Lynda is already at home having done the previous week. It’s been 6 months since the three of us finished last season in Inverness after the Caledonian Cruise. Now the boat has 2 new engines, a new crane, new carpet, and is freshly painted.
Six guests make for an easy relaxed start with cruise up to Loch Drum Buidhe and a delicious pudding of pavlova.
Sun 1st May – Faces washed in the morning dew to keep us youthful on Mayday. It’s a better day than forecast but the long term doesn’t look good so a small weather window for getting to the Outer Hebrides is passed over as it looks like being inside Skye for the week offers better possibilities. So it’s Rum for lunch and then guests ashore for walks. Black Throated Divers in the bay. Castle is covered in scaffolding and shut but rumoured to be opening on the 3rd of May. Late afternoon it’s over to Loch Nevis and Tarbert.
Mon 2nd May – Guests ashore after breakfast with some making it to Loch Morar whilst others chatted to the locals and entertained a friendly collie. Sightings of Peregrine and Great Northern Divers. Then it’s past the Sperm Whale. A vessel built by Tom Maclean in the shape of a whale some 20 odd years ago for taking people across the Atlantic but it never ventured further than Loch Nevis. Now however he is resurrecting her to try again and looking for funds for those of you who are interested. It started to blow, but a scenic detour was made up Loch Hourn with some fine views of snow capped hills. Back down the Loch to Isle Ornsay and everybody ashore for walks, art gallery and pub. An otter also seen along with some rather fine spotted pigs.
Tues 3rd May – Late start to catch the tide through Kyle Rhea and anchored opposite Eileen Donan Castle. Walks to a substantial Broch and a visit from Michelle, tempted aboard by scones. After lunch under the Skye Bridge to Plockton and a rare sighting of a Long Tailed Skua.
Wed 4th – Ashore for walks in Plockton and then a windy trip past the Crowlin Isles to Portree anchoring just outside in Camus Ban. Sea Eagle and otter as entered briefly as by now blowing a full gale and gusting higher.
Thurs 5th – And it blew and it blew all night and all day a Red Throated Diver was the only life venturing out, apart from one yachter who gave it a try. Lynda The chef gave them 20 minutes and it was a spot on guess. By evening it dropped and we moved into Portree Bay itself. Guests ashore for walks,shops and hostilities then back on board for Fish Pie and Banoffie Pie.
Fri 6th – What a difference a day makes:
Anchor up 0600hrs clear blue skies and a calm sea so 4 hours later the anchor goes down at the Shiants. Bird paradise, and the birds are here. Not the numbers on the water yet but thousands of Guilemots, Razorbills and Puffins among the rocks ledges and burrows. Guests ashore for a couple of hours to discover Skyelarks, Bonxies, and a Golden Eagle plus ancient remains. Pillow Stones were found here.
After lunch a slow trip around the Islands and then a steam down to Dunvegan with sunbathing on the deck anchoring off the Castle. Terns in the entrance plus a Heronry.
Sat 7th – Another day and it’s back to gale warnings. Plan was to stop on Isay in the loch to see ground nesting birds but wind direction was not suitable so it was past Dunvegan Head (with a sighting of a dolphin with some porpoise – is this the solitary one from Barra being further ostracised?), then Neist Point and MacLoeds Maidens before heading up Loch Harport to anchor off the Distilary with a fine view of The Cuillin Ridge still with snow. Great Northern Divers seem to be in abundance this year and there were more as we entered the Loch along with some Red Throats.
After lunch guests ashore. Pub got a good review, the OysterShack had a huge queue and walks were also had.
Sun 8th – Sea Eagle on its nest on the way out of Bracadale and another one on the west end of Rum which we passed after a quick look in Canna harbour which had wrong wind direction for a landing. On to Tobermory for a 2 hour visit before anchoring for the night in Ardtornish Bay. Two Minkies seen but not by all, and another Sea Eagle outside Tobermory. The sun came out and the temperature rose giving a beautiful evening cruise.
Mon 9th – Fabulous morning for short trip into Oban and farewells.
DID YOU KNOW?
The first signs of habitation on Hirta (the largest island in the St Kilda archipelago and the only one you can really land on) are thought to have occurred c. 600 AD.