" 1. A Cruise round the Inner Hebrides ~ Days 1 and 2 "


Date & Time: Sat 20th / Sunday 21st September 2014

Locations : The Inner Hebrides islands, north of the Great Glen, south of Ardnamurchan.

Places visited : Oban, Loch Spelve on Mull and Colonsay.

Accommodation : The live-aboard motor yacht Zuza, of Northern Light Charters.

With : Ann and myself, fellow guests Martyn and Sian, skipper Tim and chef Steve.

Weather : Sunshine and blue skies, warm breezes out at sea.



Let me tell you a story

Just like Jackanory

Where we hired a boat, had a holiday afloat

and ended up at Tobermory !


If you are sitting comfortably . . . then I'll begin . . . .

- - - o o o - - -


A six night, seven day cruise in a live-aboard sailing boat with Northern Light Cruises.

Our two past holidays with them were great and this latest one promises to show us some of the Inner Hebridean isles around Mull.

With our friend Hilton dog and cottage-sitting, we travel north and travel light up to Oban on the west coast.

Scotland this week voted to remain part of the United Kingdom so passports were not needed . . . (everyone we spoke to was very relieved)

The Gateway to the Isles

The iconic Connell road bridge takes the road north from Oban towards Fort William but we have travelled far enough north.

Oban is just round the corner and our boat awaits.

We arrive early as the four and a half hour journey was without incident.

Time for a light lunch courtesy of the Shellfish Hut on the pier at Oban . . . branding itself the Seafood Capital of Scotland.

On time and in the right place . . . and lunch is in the bag . . . smiles all round.

Across the way our boat is waiting.

We have an hour spare before we have been asked to report on board.

The North Pier at Oban where we dropped our bags.   On the hill opposite is McCain's Tower (a Coliseum look alike)

and on an adjacent bench a gentleman in a classic Monty Python knotted handkerchief !

Ann stayed and enjoyed the sunshine

as I headed off to park the car.


On the way back I had chance

to look around the harbour at all the boats.

Oban is the gateway to the Hebrides

and is the ferry terminal for the Western Isles,

Mull and the inner and outer Hebrides.


Here a classic wooden sailing boat

loading passengers for a voyage under sail.

Oban is a tourist resort in its own right and visitors enjoy a "trip round the harbour" on a small day boat.

From the smallest to the largest . . . the Macbrayne's Ferry, the Clansman is docking after a trip back from Coll or Barra.

A matching pair of cruise boats . . . known as the Majestic Line.

Like our Northern Lights Charter they also offer boat trips around the Hebridean islands.

What we took to be Hjalmar Bjorge (Halmer-George) but turns out to be Elizabeth G, her sister ship.

Hjalmar was the boat we travelled on to Iceland in 2005.

Moored alongside was our boat, Zuza, a 22 metre aluminium built motor-sailer,

a live aboard boat and home for us for the next six days.

- - - o o o - - -

With bags loaded on board, old aquaintences renewed and new introductions made, it was time to be leaving.

North Pier Oban as we cast our moorings and leave port.

The boat accommodates eight passengers plus crew.

but on this last sailing of the season we are a select company of four plus skipper and one crew.

Ann and Steve, our cook for the voyage, get to know each other as we motor out of the harbour.

Taking it easy as we head out on the voyage . . . remembering the skipper's advice:

"Keep one hand on the boat when sitting on the edge or moving around the deck . . . it is much better than falling overboard !"

(Taken through our cabin window . . . hence the unusual reflections)

Oban recedes into the distance as we head south west down the Sound of Kerrera.

Beautiful afternoon sun.
Beyond Kerrera we turn more westerly and head for Mull.

Our first night's destination will be Lock Spelve on the south eastern corner of Mull.

Tim, our skipper, sets the auto pilot and relaxes now the boat is well under way.

Looking up the Forth of Lorne, the Lismore Island lighthouse and at the MacBraynes Ferry out on another journey, heading up the Sound of Mull.

Behind on the hill is the Glensands Super-Quarry mining 6ml tons of granite a year, all of which is exported by sea as there is no road access.

Criach Beinn, one of the hills of Mull ahead as we head into sheltered waters of Lock Spelve.

The boat and the nets are part of a large mussel farming operation here in the loch.

We head around the outside of the lines of nets towards the open area at the head of the loch.

Safely anchored we can relax and pose for a holiday photo.

We can unpack and explore our cabin.

We have an upper berth, a four foot double with panoramic windows giving fine sea views to the port (or left) side of the boat.

Clever use of mirrors makes the cabin seem bigger than it was. It also gave a clue as to the photographer.

I wonder if we will see any real dolphins this week ?

Salt spray on the window after the crossing masks the lovely sunset as we get called to supper in the main cabin.

Our first night aboard allows us to get to know fellow guests and crew as we chat the evening away.

- - - o o o - - -

Breakfast at 8.30 ! 

Tea and coffee are ready and waiting as we rise next morning.

Time to get out on deck and appreciate the day.

The sun has just risen over Carn Ban, the low hills that surround the sea loch

and we see the the two Majestic Line boats that joined us overnight in these sheltered waters.

A golden sunrise to start another beautiful sunny day on the boat.

Leaving quietly . . . so as not to spill the teacups on the adjacent boat's breakfast table.

It is such a lovely morning there is no point in doing anything else.

Out beyond the confines of the inlet there is a slight sea breeze . . . but not yet sufficient to sail.

The breeze increases as we head towards the Garvellach Islands and Tim decides to hoist a few sails.

Instructions on the winch controls to raise the boom.
Ready when you are !


Man power for the forward winches.
Steve sets course under mainsail.
Soon the jib is up and pulling well.

I get offered the helm and discuss the instruments with Tim . . . wind speed and direction, course and speed of the boat.

This is the first time that I've steered a boat using a ship's wheel instead of a stern tiller bar.

It operates like a car steering wheel (turn the direction you wish to go) which is opposite from small boat sailing controls.

Still with a steady course held someone else can relax and put her feet up on the sunny front deck.

A steady five knotts now as we leave the coast of Mull and head for Colonsay.

The three recognisable summits of the Paps of Jura, away to our left.

Chance to watch the gannets swim, fly and occasionally dive.
Other birds include Shearwaters and guillemots.

The harbour of Scalasaig ahead as we approach the island of Colonsay.

The jetty seen through the wheelhouse door . . . time to drop the anchor and launch the dingy.

Tim drops us off in the tender so that we can all go ashore for a walk.

Flat calm and lovely reflections as befits a good harbour.

We chose a short walk for an hour or so and head off in the direction of the adjacent promontory.

The island is quiet and we meet no-one but a few sheep.

A rather basic, modern harbour light made from (seemingly) galvanised lego blocks.

It serves its purpose but lacks the aesthetics of older, more classic lighthouses.

Zuza anchored quietly in the bay.
As befits keen fell walkers, we head for the hills.

Interesting rock shapes as we near the monument on the summit.

Time to sit and enjoy the view from the top.

[ I'm sure that the slight tilt on the monument is a matter of camera perspective.  It was in fact a fine vertical column of granite.]

Click here or on the photo above for a Loweswatercam 360 degree annotated panorama.

Zooming in on the detail . . . the Colonsay Hotel where we stayed for nearly a week in 2006.

The Church of Scotland, a nice building despite its simplicity.

The island climate has suited the wild roses this year and the hips (berries) were the largest we have seen.

Time for a cup of tea at the hotel (rather than wait for rose hip syrup).

Despite the offer of money we couldn't persuade the hotel to find any cakes or biscuits to go with it.

Surely it wouldn't be too difficult to keep a few scones (even tucked in the freezer) for days like today ?

The delightful side of island life is the ability for the children to roam and play safely.

Few cars and a quiet pace of life make for a different sort of childhood.

Back at the harbour, the tide has quietly risen but the reflections remain.

We have been joined by Hjalmar Bjorge, now at anchor in the bar beyond us.

Sea kayak enthusiasts round the point as we head back to our boat.

Safely on board once again.
Tim takes the dingy across to discuss anchorages.

Today is "ferry day" and we've been asked to move our boat a little further from the jetty.

We motor out past our fellow travellers and re-anchor further out.

That should be plenty of room . . . even for a big ferry to turn.

Eight in the evening, on cue, the MV Clansman arrives at Colonsay . . . the jetty lights guiding them in.

( If they can't manoeuvre in that much space then they need a new helmsman !)

Time to settle down for a spot of supper, watch the last of the sunset and chat away the evening.


- - - o o o - - -

Technical note: Pictures taken with either Ann's Canon Sureshot SX220 or my Canon 1100D Digital SLR Camera.

Resized in Photoshop, and built up on a Dreamweaver web builder.

This site best viewed with . . . . a comfortable cabin to spend the night in.

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A previous time here - 13th to 23rd May 2006 A Scottish Islands Holiday - Colonsay