As usual, we welcomed our guests onboard with sparkling wine, canapés and grandma Mary’s scones. Once everyone was settled into their cabins and had been given a safety briefing by Skipper Rob and Bosun Sarah we set off up across the Firth of Lorn and up into the Sound of Mull headed for our first anchor of the night. Wildlife spotted on the way included eiders, diving gannets, black and common guillemots, razorbills, common terns and black-throated diver. We also spotted harbour porpoises feeding at a distance. We dropped the hook in Loch Na Droma Buidhe and sat down for our first evening meal which included local Inverlussa mussels which the guests raved about.
In the morning we spotted a great northern diver fishing for its breakfast whilst we were having ours. We set off and on leaving the loch we had a great sighting of four harbour porpoises very close to the boat. As soon as we reached Ardnamurchan Point excitement started building up as we spotted large flocks of Manx shearwaters feeding. I urged everyone out on deck as we went closer to investigate and it wasn’t long before we spotted what we were looking for – MINKE WHALE! A large black back rolled across the surface and disappeared below, but soon reappeared. We watched the Minke surface a good few times and then continued up towards Eigg. Steaming past Muck we had our second Minke for the day, but this Minke didn’t stick around and with one deep dive it was gone. We also spotted our first great skua (bonxie) for the season. We anchored off Castle Island on Eigg and hopped ashore to explore the island. Most people went to investigate the Massacre and Cathedral Caves but four hardy souls ventured all the way up the Sguirr. We had a fantastic bird sightings, including a short-eared owl, female hen harrier and cuckoos. We took in the glorious views from the top and then descended back down. Back onboard we gorged on Portobello mushrooms stuffed with haggis; roast pork loin with roast potatoes; and pear and raspberry trifle – the perfect way to end a brilliant day.
On Monday we set our course for Canna, a definite favourite amongst both crew and guests. Steaming south of Rum we came across a feeding frenzy and I spotted a blow in amidst all the birds! As we came close it turned out to be a large Minke whale. Minkes don’t generally make visible blows, but some of the larger ones sometimes do. The feeding was over in a matter of minutes (a Minke aided by seabirds can decimate a bait ball of fish in a matter of minutes!). We couldn’t have asked for better weather as the entire island was washed with sunshine. The usual gang of grey seals where basking on the skerries in village bay. Having dropped anchor we stripped down to shorts and t-shirts and set off to walk over to the puffin colony on Sanday. On the way bird sightings included linnet, twite, whooper swan, bonxie and lapwing. As we approached the cliffs we could hear the squabbling of kittiwakes. We peered over the edge and got many curious looks from the guillemots crammed together on the ledges. The sea below us was peppered with hundreds of black dots – each one a puffin! We sat down next to the sea stack to enjoy our packed lunch and watched as puffins came in for landing dodging hungry black-backed gulls on the way. I also spotted some disturbance far offshore – a pod of about 6 bottlenose dolphins. After our walk back we all enjoyed a well-earned drink in the sun before heading back to the boat for a very special dinner consisting of scallops dived by skipper Rob served on a bed of wild garlic picked by me on Eigg; venison casserole with rosemary, mashed potatoes and green beans; and steamed chocolate cake for desert – delicious!!
Leaving the bay we first steamed around the north cliffs of Canna before we headed off in the direction of Skye and just as we started steaming north we spotted our fourth Minke for the trip. Approaching Skye and Soay we came across another feeding frenzy with diving gannets, kittiwakes, porpoises and our fifth Minke all feeding together on a bait ball! Steaming up past Soay we spotted more harbour porpoises. We marveled over the impressive black Cuillins of Skye as we steamed into Loch Scavaig. Everyone strapped on their walking boots for walking up to Loch Coruisk – the scenic freshwater loch that rests at the foothills of the Cuillins. We walked the whole length of the south side of the loch in glorious sunshine. Back on the boat we had our dinner whilst the local common seals provided entertainment. Pip served up asparagus with Hollandaise sauce; fish pie; and peanut butter cookie cheesecake. Yum!
We couldn’t believe our luck when we woke up to another beautiful day! We hopped over to Rum and walked around Kinloch Village visiting the otter hide, the village craft shop and some of the guests also visited the Kinloch castle – a big monstrous Edwardian castle with all the original furniture and paintings intact. Built by Sir Edward Bullough in the early 1900, he used it only spontaneously during the year as a hunting lodge. Birds spotted whilst onshore included goldcrest, spotted flycatcher, willow warbler, chiffchaff, greenshank, eider, red-throated merganser with the highlight being red-throated divers displaying in the loch. We left Rum feeling blessed that we had managed to visit this notoriously rainy island on such a fantastic, sunny day. We steamed past Mallaig and in to Loch Nevis spotting harbour porpoises on the way and steamed in to Inverie. We enjoyed a fantastic dinner with salmon, capers and egg for starter; chicken in creamy tarragon sauce for main course; and a perfect crème brûlé for desert. The evening was warm so the guests enjoyed the sunset and a post-dinner dram on top deck. Just as everyone started heading to bed, one of the guests spotted two otters swimming close to shore.
On Thursday we started our journey back south with not much stirring for the first two hours, but just as we passed Eigg there was suddenly a dramatic increase in birds (mostly Manx shearwaters) with feeding happening all around us. The guests spotted the first harbour porpoise and then we suddenly realised that there were porpoises feeding all around us! We counted between 8-10 – a very unusual appearance as porpoises are usually only seen in groups of two-three. Off Ardnamurchan point we encountered another Minke (maybe the same one as the one we saw on our way up) which made our 6th and final Minke sighting for the week. We popped in to Bloody Bay on our way to Mull to see if we could spot the white-tailed eagles. The female was on her usual perch but soon disappeared from sight, but with the appearance of TWO GOLDEN EAGLES! In the same breath we also spotted a small raptor (kestrel?) and a buzzard. Four raptor species within 5 minutes! Ashore in Tobermory some guests explored the local pubs and some joined Vivi for a walk to the waterfalls in Aros park. Our final dinner onboard was Pip’s roast leg of lamb. She places the trays of roast vegetables and spuds underneath the lamb so that the meat juices drip down which adds amazing flavour. And to spoil us even further she had saved her very special brown bread and whisky ice cream for dessert.
On Friday we steamed towards Oban in overcast and cooler weather – it seemed like we had finally over-exerted our luck! To add a tint to the otherwise grey day we visited the local white-tailed eagle on Morven who was still sitting tight, probably still incubating her egg. We enjoyed brunch (with crispy bacon as a treat for the Americans onboard).Then, much sooner than we would have liked, we were steaming in to Oban and we were saying our goodbyes. Hope to see as many of you as possible back on board soon!
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