19th to 25th August Isles of the Southern Hebrides
After a season of very few sightings of basking sharks, last week’s cruise came up trumps, with a “wow” day including sightings of at least 8 basking sharks, several minkes, bow-riding dolphins and a rare landing on Hyskeir. Read on to find our more…
Saturday 19th August – Uninviting foul weather in Oban greeted the crew as we loaded on the food for the week ahead with reports of a backlash from Hurricane Harvey heading our way! The crew this week was Skipper Mark, chef Steve (just arrived back from Greece where is was a little hotter than Oban at 50 degrees), and Michelle (getting a break from the office). But as guests arrived the skies brightened and Steve served home made scones with jam and cream. This cruise had 3 repeat guests and 3 new – a good mix. All out on deck to enjoy a sunny if breezy ride up the Sound of Mull to Tobermory for our first evening, where some guests ventured ashore after dinner for an unforgettable rendition of “Copacabana” in the Mishnish.
Sunday 20th – After a breakfast of porridge and bacon rolls, we departed Tobermory and headed out past Ardnamurchan in lovely autumn sunshine. The views to Eigg and Rum were spectacular, enhanced by the sighting of a minke whale. Sea conditions were better than expected, with swell but no chop and Mark saw a chance to visit rarely visited Hyskeir. As we neared we spotted a basking shark – which turned out to be our first of many today. Fantastic viewings of several baskers brought whoops of joy from the guests. After a delicious lunch of quinoa salad with harissa chicken, the swell subsided and allowed us to anchor at Hyskeir to explore the island and its lighthouse in fantastic sunny conditions. A fantastic experience and one which is rarely available. Beautiful views all around. (Let’s not mention the “eagle” which turned out to be a sparrow on a rock!)
After seeing 5 basking sharks it was time to move on to our next destination – Eriskay. And the journey there brought more delights. Another 3 basking sharks, a few minke whales, several pods of dolphins playing around the boat, it was hard to find the time to eat the lemon drizzle cake! Arrived at Eriskay 5.30 on a lovely calm sunny evening, and guests went ashore for a walk before dinner.
Monday 21st – Michelle and Phil were up early for a run to the church before breakfast. A bracing wind had sprung up, and after the anchor was lifted we had a roller coaster ride round to the Sound of Barra. Kate was still in her pyjamas on the bow when a large wave drenched her! Everyone was delighted when Mark saw the Barra Bottlenose dolphins who came along to play on the bow. Conditions were a little less challenging further on but the swell stayed with us all day. We arrived at the Monachs around lunchtime for delicious soup, then guests went ashore for a couple of hours on Cean Ear, where some went beach combing, others went to find the former houses and exhibition. A pair of swans with cygnets spotted. In contrast to yesterday’s sunny conditions, today saw no clear sky all day. Dinner was roast beef with all the trimmings, preceded by smoked mackerel and with cheese and biscuits to round it off.
Tuesday 22nd – We arose to fog, rain and swell, not a good start! Today was chef Steve’s birthday so the bunting was out and there was singing at breakfast. The conditions were not good for a shore visit, so the anchor was lifted up and headed off to the Sound of Harris. As we entered the Sound, the weather improved and the sea flattened, so we dropped the anchor, launched the dinghy and guests went ashore for an hour or so wandering on Ensay, a beautiful island. So much to see here, although no-one spotted the “cup and ring”. Several unusual bright blue creatures were found in the kelp, which were later identified as “By the wind Sailor” jellyfish. Much fun was had relaunching the dinghy. Another exhilarating ride followed, out into the Minch past Lochmaddy and then into Loch Eport, where all guests gathered on deck to witness the passage through the narrow entrance where several deer were spotted and photographed, also an otter in front of the boat. Dinner was delicious – salmon with Greek salad for starter, then mushroom lasagne followed by apple crumble with home made custard.
Weds 23rd – Another birthday today, and this time it was the skipper’s. The exit from Loch Eport after breakfast was just as impressive, with a magnificent stag watching us. En route to Canna, Common dolphins were spotted leaping and playing. The sea flattened out as we approached Canna so lunch of Tarka Dal was served before we arrived. Canna is always a favourite, especially when (as today) the sun came out as we arrived. Guests spent a few hours ashore to explore Prison rock, the beach, the churches and some sampled the delights of the Canna Cafe. Some guests spotted golden eagles and a sea eagle. We discovered that the rain of the past couple of days had resulted in a road being washed away.
Thurs 24th – The morning’s passage back to the Sound of Mull was quite lumpy, especially when passing the Isle of Rum. But there was plenty to distract us – lots of large ships passing by and a fleeting visit by dolphins. We pulled into Tobermory for lunch and crew drills for “Man Overboard” and then moved on to Lochaline, our mooring for the evening at the pontoons and guests took walks ashore in the rain. After a dinner of smoked mackerel, lamb/ veg tagine and fruit salad, some guests headed back out to sample the local hostelries.
Fri 25th – All too soon, the week is over! An early start to leave Lochaline and head back to Oban, where the guests enjoyed a hearty breakfast before fond farewells
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.