This week’s private charter had a fantastic itinerary that everyone, the guests and the crew alike, were very excited about; Jura, Islay, Colonsay, Staffa, Lunga and Mull were on the list. As we set out from Oban after having enjoyed sparkling wine, scones and canapés we were all holding our fingers firmly crossed for some fair weather. As we steamed down along Kerrera we spotted harbour seals hauled out on the rocks, harbour porpoises and majestic gannets diving for fish. Our first anchorage for the night was Loch Spelve on Mull, home to Inverlussa mussels. After dropping the hook we sat down for a fantastic dinner cooked by Chef Martin: peach and mozzarella salad with chili and ginger dressing; salmon steak topped with Inverlussa mussels from the loch and mashed potato; and spiced apple crumble for dessert.
On Sunday morning we woke up to see that the clouds and mist had lifted and we were able to take in fantastic views of Laggan peninsula and the mountains of Mull’s interior. As we set out on our walk we even had occasional sunshine lighting up the green hills. We walked from Loch Spelve down to Lochbuie. Wildlife sighted included buzzards and a large red deer stag that we spotted right next to the road. Not long now before all the glens will be full of rutting stags! At Lochbuie some of the guests were brave enough to take a dip in the sea, while the rest of us were content with taking pictures of the extremely cute Highland cow calves that were sunbathing on the beach. Elizabeth G soon appeared and we got a pick up from Skipper Rob. As we steamed down to Jura we were lucky to have flat calm seas – perfect for porpoise spotting! We had between 10 and 15 sightings of harbour porpoises. These small cetaceans are partial to the fast tidal flows around Scarba and Jura, often even venturing into the Corryvreckan maelstrom! We also spotted both grey seals and harbour seals and even a white-tailed eagle that was being mobbed by gulls on Scarba. We anchored off Craighouse on Jura and tucked into a hearty dinner consisting of farmhouse pâté and oatcakes with homemade chutney for starter.
On Monday we had a spell of bad luck when it turned out that the distillery on Jura was closed for maintenance, but as there is definitely no shortage of distilleries within close proximity, we simply hopped over to Islay and anchored at Caol Ila distillery in the Sound of Jura. After a tour and a dram (and some fantastic views of black guillemots diving right next to the visitor centre) we walked to the most northerly distillery on Islay, Bunnahabhain. After another sample we were picked up by the tender so that we could continue our journey to Colonsay. Martin served up another fantastic dinner that evening: pumpkin risotto with goats cheese; pan fried sea bass with sautéed new potatoes and chanterelles (picked by Vivi and Martin prior to boarding the boat!) and chocolate mousse for dessert.
We set out to explore Colonsay, a very quaint little island famous for the St Oran priory, standing stones, large celtic crosses and stunning beaches. We walked to Kiloran beach, a beautiful beach of golden sands and turquoise waters. Again our guests proved that not even the chilly weather would deter them from enjoying the water as they jumped into the waves. Such a feat of bravery deserves a reward so we crossed the hill to have a pint of the local Colonsay Ale in the lovely Colonsay Hotel before returning to the boat. We steamed up across bumpy seas to Mull. As we rounded the Ross and cruised in towards Bunessan harbour we suddenly got company! Three bottlenose dolphins of the inshore Hebridean pod (called the Ileach pod) spent the remainder of our journey playing in our bow wake! An absolute thrill for our guests who, being from Turkey, had never seen big chunky Scottish bottlenose dolphins before. Dinner that evening was orzo salad with spinach pesto; roasted pork with roasted tatties and vegetbales for maincourse; and raspberry cheesecake for dessert.
We were keeping fingers and toes firmly crossed for calm seas, because next on the itinerary was Staffa but landing would be completely dependent on the swell condition. We approached the small island and inspected the seas. A big rolling swell was wrapping itself around the island which meant that trying to land would be too dangerous. But luckily we still had fantastic views of Fingal’s cave from the boat and the sea around us was full of puffins, guillemots, black guillemots, razorbills, Manx shearwaters, herring gulls, kittiwakes, greater and lesser black-backed gulls, fulmars and shags. We aimed our bow towards Lunga, one of the Treshnish Isles and home to thousands of puffins! Luck was on our side as the swell was markedly smaller in the shelter of the island so we went ashore to explore. We soon found ourselves completely surrounded by puffins! They landed all around us and seemed on the whole oblivious to our presence as they darted in and out of their burrows. Probably a couple of thousand of puffin pictures later we returned to the boat with big smiles on our faces (puffin therapy should be a genuine thing!). As the weather was showing no signs of settling down we steamed around Mull and into Tobermory Harbour. In Bloody Bay we spotted the local white-tailed eagle coming in for landing. The guests all enjoyed a dram in the famous Mishnish pub while Martin cooked up another lovely dinner: beetroot couscous salad for starter; fish pie for main course; and sticky toffee pudding for dessert.
On Thursday Tobermory was bathing in beautiful sunshine so we set out to walk around this cute seaside town. Being a former Tobermory local myself I enjoyed telling the guests all about the history of the town, Balamory, the Spanish galleon and the Tobermory Terror. We visited the church on the top of the hill, An Tobar Art Gallery and the new Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Centre. Back on the boat we got a surprise as Rob had been diving for scallops and a small mountain of scallops now decorated the deck. Rob showed the guests how to chuck them and they made a great effort (even eating them raw out of the shell!). Tobermory is also home to a small but lovely distillery so while the crew finished off the scallops the guests sampled the local whisky. Martin was keeping himself very busy in the galley, cooking up a large buffet for our guests. That evening we ate one of the most amazing meals the boat had ever seen – pan fried scallops for starter and a buffet consisting of roast chicken, pan fried fish caught off the side of the boat by the guests, smoked salmon and many different salads. Our guests showed their appreciation by putting on a fantastic show of Turkish belly dancing (with some of the crew even having a go!)
After the last nights fiesta our guests were happy to wake up to the smell of fried bacon. It is tradition to serve up a big brunch so that no one ever leaves the boat hungry. And much too soon we steamed in to Oban Harbour and were kissing and hugging our fantastic guests farewell. As crew we absolutely love it when our guests make the boat their home. Our fantastic guests this week definitely did so and we shared some great laughs together. We won’t forget them for as long as we steam! Teşekkür ederim!