Sunsets and Cetaceans  Sept 19th – 25th September 2015

A few thoughts on our recent Sunsets and Cetaceans Cruise by regular guests Ellenor Thomas and photographs by Elizabeth Blackburn.

All Aboard !

Hjalmar Bjorge


September 2015.

 Who needs to go overseas when exciting ventures are available and tempting so much nearer home !

On the afternoon of Saturday 19th September 2015 Hbj awaited her new arrivals and at 4.00 pm these new arrivals were warmly greeted aboard (with a little help!!) by Mark, Anna and Linda, not forgetting Seven !

 Wonderful, and wonders ahead for all !

Drumbuie -Elizabeth BlackburnHbj, guided by the skilful Mark and supported as she cast off from her berth at Oban North Pier by his very able crew, set sail at 4.30 pm and headed into the Firth of Lorne, passing Kerrera and shortly Lismore Lighthouse en route for the Sound of Mull. The weather was fair, if a trifle dull, but in course of time and in plenty of time for a sumptuous evening meal prepared by the very talented Linda anchor was dropped in Loch Drumbuie, an offshoot of Loch Sunart and a very sheltered and picturesque bay. Look-out was immediately “on watch” for otters, but on this occasion these shy and elusive creatures were not to  be seen.

After a convivial evening shared with Mark, Anna, Linda (and Seven) bed called everyone below deck early, it is a well known fact that the west coast air, and sea air at that is very enervating!

Friendly Bull on Canna - Elizabeth Blackburn

20th September dawned, and with it the prospect of a sail to the beautiful and National Trust owned isle of Canna. Once safely at anchor, 4 passengers, now walkers set off in high spirits and in beautiful weather to explore the far reaches of the island. Some 3 miles on a large black bull was encountered. He was blocking the route ! 1 walker turned back, the other 3 clambering over a barbed wire fence, to escape, and continued the planned walk. Shortly it rained, it rained and it rained, BUT  …. Mark, now diver Mark had literally taken the plunge and procured a wonderful catch of scallops, for evening meal, WOW. Back  aboard and recounting the “tale of the bull” Mark jokingly pronounced that “he is friendly” !!!!  The on board drying room certainly did stalwart duty that night, and provided dry outdoor clothing for all for next day’s adventures.

Though the trip is entitled “Cetaceans and Sunsets” as yet there was no sign of either, with the exception of the intrepid and curious seals regularly spotted.

Next day .. ventures new, for all ….. Mark agreed to “backtrack” to Loch Coruisk, on Skye. Loch Coruisk is not accessible by boat, but from her mooring in Loch Scavaig passengers were transported ashore in the inflatable dinghy, normally resident on the top deck of Hbj and from there hoisted to and fro as required. From a small landing stage a narrow and rough path leads to the inland Loch Coruisk. A memorable afternoon walk was enjoyed by all, marvelling at the unfolding scenery  and majesty of the mist shrouded Cuillin range. Above the mountains there appeared a rainbow, this adding to the wonder of it all.

Loch Coruisk - Elizabeth BlackburnKath & Jo go forth, Loch Coruisk - Elizabeth BlackburnDespite not wishing to leave the majesty of the area further ventures called and after lunch anchor was heaved again and this time the bow of Hbj pointed seawards again, this time the planned destination being Loch Nevis …. a long sail, but thoroughly enjoyable. Inverie Village proved to be the next “landing” site, around late afternoon, and it was here that the one and only sunset was experienced, not too vivid or spectacular as west coast sunsets go, but still THERE, and photogenic. To make up for it though, the following morning saw a superb sunrise, well worth the early rising of both holiday makers and crew. The previous evening yet another walk was enjoyed, exploring the surroundings. It was warm and balmy for early autumn.

Departing Inverie and Loch Nevis our next destination was to be Arinangour and the Isle of Coll.

Passing the isles of  Rum,Eigg and Muck, eventually the flat outline of the Isle of Coll could be seen approaching, and soon anchor was dropped close to the jetty. After lunch the group of 4 (now friends) set  off to cross the island on foot, in search of SAND …. Linda, bless her, provided food for the “journey”, and with the added bonus of a pedometer, some 4 miles on , SAND was found, and what sand, as far as the eye could see sandy beaches washed by the Atlantic swell. Linda’s home / ship made flapjack WAS enjoyed. Pity there were 4 miles to walk back !

But Mark and Anna in the dinghy awaited as planned and soon a hearty meal and enjoyable social evening was had by all, including Seven.


From Coll next morning the long sail back towards the mainland began, and this time the wind blew, and blew and blew …. great!  It is most enjoyable, for most of Mark’s passengers, to experience the might(?) of the elements. 4 ladies out on the rear deck, enjoying the waves washing over the deck, yes and over feet too!

Tiller Girls


From Inverie the route saw the little ship head back eastwards, once again to visit Tobermory, on another dreich drizzly day. Never minding  the weather the redoubtable walkers, set out to explore. Some walked up (a VERY steep) pathway at the top of which wonderful views over the village and the bay were enjoyed, others walked along the village street, calling at the Museum en route. There was no sign of the infamous treasure, which reputedly lies somewhere in the depths of the Tobermory Bay.

Sound of Mull - Elizabeth BlackburnCalm Sound of Mull - Elizaabeth BlackburnNext anchorage was at Lochaline, another walk, enjoyed by those who ventured ashore, this time accompanied by the legendary west coast “midgies”!

By now the end of the trip was “in sight” though no one really anticipated that with any form of pleasure. But NO …. Mark had other ventures in sight.

Calling briefly at Craignure a further crew member was uplifted. She was to join Hbj as crew, for the next 2 trips, working with skipper Tim and Chef Linda on cruises to a) Outer Isles, and b) through the Caledonian Canal to Inverness. Following initiation into the workings of the ship, and the daily routines required, she proved to be very sociable and a real asset to the hard working “staff”

Walking on Lismore - Elizabeth BlackburnFor the final night of a most enjoyable trip, anchor was once again dropped … at Lismore, (the Long Island). Ashore once again, another walk called, exploring the northern environs, and the small hamlet by the shoreline. Once cottages housing lime quarry workers most of the properties are now holiday homes. Once again it rained, heavily!

It was sad, in some respects, leaving Lismore early next morning, and arriving back in Oban, but the trip was not yet over, for Linda had prepared a superb brunch / breakfast /veritable feast! 

And so the time had come to say goodbye …. after an adventurous climb up a precipitous harbour ladder, at all times encouraged and aided by Mark and yet again his fantastic aides. Amazing what can be done and achieved with positive encouragement!

Next season awaits, how many of this year’s groups will once again venture on to the high seas, with Mark, Anna and crew. I know I will, I wouldn’t miss it for the world. Once again THANK  YOU  SO  MUCH  MARK.