Strange and troubling times…

It’s so hard to believe how the global situation has changed since we wrote our last blog. Today we advised via our website that we have postponed all spring and early summer cruises due to the Coronavirus outbreak. It’s a bleak, scary and sad time.

But …we know we will get through it and that people will resume their ‘normal’ lives – perhaps with a different outlook, some with sadness to bear but also hope for the future.

We hope to be cruising again by late summer and we are keeping abreast of the latest advice from the government and trying to ensure that we do our best to protect ourselves and others.

We wish you all well and trust that you and your families will stay safe.

A Scottish Year of Coasts & Waters…

Visit Scotland have launched another of their ‘Years of..’ and for 2020 we are delighted that it focusses on our world – Coasts & Waters. Even better, there is a specific focus on the west coast and a targeted campaign under the banner ‘West Coast Waters’ which aims to promote the lovely areas we cruise in.

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We recently attended a workshop which explained how the campaign was going to work and to offer support to buisnesses offering tourism – whether it be a something like a Red Moon cruise or a local product like the delicious Glenshiel Chocolates we serve onboard.

So…we are very excited about what this year will bring – our fourth season on Red Moon!

Certainly, it has been a very watery start to the year and our sympathies have gone out to those who are still suffering with flooded homes. We have been through that ourselves and although so far all is well on the home front this year…not so for our lovely ‘new’ car “Lexie” which got flooded in the marina car park when Storm Ciara raged through!

We are really hoping for the storms to pass and some drier weather to arrive as we have some exterior work to do – Red Moon does like a fresh coast of varnish on her lovely woodwork each year! Meanwhile though we have been working away inside to get the boat all ready for the new season which starts a month tomorrow for us!

We mentioned our new seating area in the previous blog but here’s the finished article….

We are very pleased with it and having ‘tested’ it this winter are sure that our guests will really appreciate the new comfy viewing area – just in case it rains this summer! We are making some changes to our aft deck as well which we think will improve space, comfort and viewing, but more on that in the next blog.

Scott has been busy checking and servicing everything in the engine room to make sure we run smoothly during the season and Mary has been busy with the business side of things as well as putting some finishing touches to the interior – just keeping it all shipshape.

 

Not long to go now before our first cruise which is to celebrate a Golden Wedding – we hope Red Moon will be the perfect place for that celebration.

Where did that time go…?

Summer season 2019 seemed to pass in a flash! So much so that we have got a bit behind with our Blog. So here’s a little round up of last season as we head towards the end of the year.

Our season started with a little birthday shakedown cruise with good friends. We headed up the Sound of Mull – destination Tobermory – for a birthday dinner out. Stopping off in Loch Aline we had a lovely walk around the Loch and an extremely windy walk along the coast to Ardtornish Castle – nearly blown off our feet! Dramatic views down the Sound though.

Our cruising season proper kicked off with a fabulous six night Mull circumnavigation in late April. We were really pleased to be welcoming our first guests of the season on board – they made a booking with us after sampling a day cruise with us the previous year – a gift from their daughter. Always very pleasing when guests decide to return to Red Moon.

 

We headed in an anti-clockwise direction and at the top of Mull had a wonderful dolphin experience, setting the scene for a great wildlife trip. Next highlight was the Treshnish islands and a chance to get up close to those delights of the air – puffins. We were a bit worried we might be too early but no, there they were and our guests got some great pictures for us.

A lovely day for an explore on Iona followed before heading along the south coast for a night in Loch Spelve. With one day left we decided to head into the Firth of Lorn, seeking a sheltered night off Bernera Island where our guest were able to explore the ruined Bishops castle.

With a promising weather window and an early May cruise in Skye to be there for, we left Oban almost straight away after our Mull cruise and had a fairly good rounding of Ardnamurchan Point. We did have a little time to spare, once safely round, so we decided we would explore the Lochaber coast in a bit more detail. To date we hadn’t really poked our nose into this lovely area, usually being on a mission to get to Skye or south around Ardnamurchan before any strong weather from the SW hits us!

We were very impressed with what we saw in both Loch Ailort, which we sailed all the way into, and Loch Moidart where we were bowled over by the picturesque Castle Tioram and the gorgeous hidden anchorages. We knew this was a place we would want to bring guests back to in the following months. A wonderful dolphin bow riding session really delighted us – a propitious start to the season!

We didn’t have time to explore Arisaig harbour – something we put right later in the year – but it was very gratifying to add an extra location to our cruising grounds.

For our next few cruises we embarked from Plockton rather than Kyle of Lochalsh as the pontoons we usually use in Kyle had not been put back in place. Plockton is a very pretty place to start a cruise from and we didn’t encounter too many problems with getting onto the small dock for a short stop or for guests to find parking, so there were a lot of positives for us in using a different location.

This became the pattern for all of May and we were blessed with some lovely weather. Partly because we were already north of the Skye Bridge, but also because of our guest preferences we concentrated on the area we think of as the Rona – Raasay – Plockton triangle!

Cruises up here usually include stops at both these lovely islands, sometimes with a diversion to view the magnificent Skye coastline or to the east into Loch Torridon or further down the Applecross coast and into Loch Carron. This year we managed to get comfortably as far north as Staffin Bay for a lunch stop under the dramatic coast of Skye. We had some wonderful wildlife sightings from the Portree & Rona eagles to porpoises in the Inner Sound, seals in Pol Domhain and Loch Carron and otter sightings close to Plockton itself.

June saw us heading south – again the weather did not dicate, it was just what our guests wanted to do or where we thought they would get the most out of their cruise having heard their preferences.

It has to be said that this year it was south of Kylerhea that we probably got the most intensive wildlife sightings. It became an ‘otter fest’ and we finally got some glimpses of the fabulous Minke whales which cruise the area in summer. Was it just a good summer for wildlife or are we getting better at knowing where and how to look? Who knows but it certainly was a good season for fur, feathers & flippers!

As well as exploring Lochaber this summer we finally got a proper look ashore on the island of Rhum. It makes a great lunch or overnight stop with enough variety for a good visit ashore. One set of guests managed to join a group looking around Kinloch Castle and they thoroughly enjoyed it. On another visit we had some surprise and surprised boat guests in the form of gorgeous little Manx Shearwaters who seemed to be attracted to our mast light and deck space…

By late July the pontoons were back in at Kyle so we were again able to start our August and September cruises mostly from there. We had a couple of other different departure points this year, Broadford on Skye and Mallaig. They both have some challenges for us but worked out ok and it was good to be able to oblige our guests and try out new places!

And we had some spectacular sunsets…

Great wildlife sightings continued in August and September with our best eagle sightings in our final cruise of the year – which was for two very keen ‘twitchers’ so that worked out rather well! They are also keen photographers so that was an added bonus for us. On our penultimate cruise we had spotted seals, otters and eagles within half an hour of leaving Kyle – a record and our guests couldn’t believe it!

 

We also finally got to visit Raasay Distillery ourselves on our final cruise. Lovely tasting experiences and a very informative tour from the effervescent Chrissie, who is Raasay born and bred. We also took the time to explore Churchton a little more fully and were delighted to come across two or three wonderful arty places – Raasay Gallery, The Studio and the Silver Grasshopper the latter of which we had been to before. This makes a stop at Churchton Bay a really interesting excursion with something for everyone
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Whilst we had a quick sail down and around Ardnamurchan on our return journey to Dunstaffnage at the end of September, we did take time to explore Loch Sunart, off the Sound of Mull, more fully. Scott navigated into tricky Loch Teacuis which was quite a challenge in Red Moon. Again, it’s always exciting to try new places and imagine showing them to our guests. Finally we had a couple of nights R&R off Bernera Island, with time ashore walking and exploring and just enjoying a very peaceful and picturesque spot.

As September turned to October we found ourselves back in Oban for a busy autumn of freelance private cheffing ashore, with bookings already lined up. Sitting in the wheelhouse one day idly talking about how to make it more comfortable for our guests we came up with the idea of converting our chart table into a new seating area!

 

It had always seemed all wrong to take apart any of the lovely craftsmanship we inherited when we bought Red Moon, but Scott reassured Mary that he could re cycle much of the wood to transform the area into a lovely cosy spot to sit and scenery-watch as well as building a new, smaller chart table.

He did just that and we are very excited to show our 2020 guests what he has created. Especially those returning to us who know what it was like before. Mary has been testing it out all winter and is convinced it’s a winner! Just awaiting the new cushions……

Christmas and New Year sees Red Moon’s crew hard at work on land, cooking for families and helping make their celebrations something special. Soon it will be time to get Red Moon all spruced up for another exciting new season and we can’t wait!

Countdown to Easter…

Our preparations for the new cruising season started in earnest once we had seen the New Year in. Scott got busy in the sanitation department moving our guest quarters toilet pump to a new position in the engine room – hopefully making for a quieter toilet experience, so to speak! He also removed a redundant autopilot system ( not Mary!) which has created more storage space in the wheelhouse cupboards – and he also improved the insulation in same cupboards. The boat’s battery system got an overhaul with some improved venting.

In February we made the trip to Corpach boatyard for haul-out and antifouling. A check on bearings and replacement of anodes was part of the deal and Scott got a new coat of paint on the hull.

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Inside, Red Moon has benefitted this year with some new wheelhouse shelving, a tidy up of paintwork and a complete re – varnish of all our floorboards which has given her a bit more of a warm glow!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Most recently we have carrying out the annual upkeep of her exterior paintwork and varnishing – dodging the wet weather as usual. We are almost there and she’s looking a lot smarter.

So it’s been a period of steady progress and pleasingly seen our bookings calendar filling up nicely which is always very exciting for us. Whilst our first official charter of the year is at Easter, in the Sound of Mull, there is going to be a ‘shakedown / birthday cruise’ with friends the weekend before Easter- a chance for us to get back into the groove of cruising/chartering!

There have been one or two lovely days recently and it gives us hope and inspiration for the summer to come…next stop Skye in May!

A new perspective…

So far we have had a great winter based in the Marina at Dunstaffnage near Oban. We have a rather prettier view here and enjoy looking out to the hills and the wonderful sunsets and sunrises we see. We have done a bit of exploring around the nearby headlands, from which we get stupendous views out towards the Sound of Mull.We hope to get much further afield when time allows.

Red Moon is protected for winter with a roof cover, plastic ‘double glazing’ and strong covers over her aft and forward decks. There have been some wild and windy days (one is happening as I write this !) but there have also been many calm and stunning winter days. We have offered cruises this winter with just this kind of day in mind. No takers so far but we are available in January if you want to blow away the cobwebs and start the New Year a little differently!

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Since October we have been keeping busy with private chef work in various lodges around the Highlands and we hope this venture will grow alongside our summer cruising business.

In late November we celebrated Scott’s 60th birthday with a variety of outings and happy times with friends…

 

Christmas is here on Red Moon and she looks great with pretty lights up the mast and our little tree up in the wheelhouse. We have been preparing for a trip even further south to see family and friends in Devon for the festive season.

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The New Year will see us busy cheffing or cruising, or both, and come February we will be preparing Red Moon for the new summer season, starting with a haul out and bottom clean and paint! We are pleased to, so far, have our first booking of the season at Easter – but we are available earlier than this 😁…!

 

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South for Winter

Into October and now it was just a case of finding a happy weather window in which to head south to our new winter home near Oban. Or so we thought…..

A phone call from the BBC galvanised us into one last trip, this one to act as a filming platform for Countryfile! We said yes of course, even though it was to be that first Friday when the weather was looking good to head south…

After some filming on the beach at Kyleakin, the camera crew and Director sped round to Kyle and joined us onboard. We sailed out into the channel and stopped below Maol Castle to start to try and film Matt Baker and Kevin Williams of Skayak Adventures who were already afloat. They decided they needed to get closer so while Mary took the helm and kept Red Moon safely out of the way of other traffic, Scott took the crew onboard Silver Cloud to get some close ups.

Very luckily for the kayakers they got a close up sighting of an otter while exploring around the rocks…

It was all over pretty quickly and once we had returned to Kyle and re organised Red Moon we departed the Pontoons for our journey south.

We spent the night just inside Loch Nevis and departed in the early hours with the promise of a light northerly and a following sea….This never quite materialised so we had a rather lumpy rounding of Ardnamurchan Point, but once safely round, things smoother out and we had a lovely sail all the way to Dunstaffnage Marina – home for the winter.

 

Approaching the Equinox…

September 2018 was, it has to be said, rather a tempestuous month for everyone after the hazy days of summer with two named storms, Ali & Bronagh sweeping through in one week – that of the Equinox so perhaps not so surprising.

We had a full month of bookings however so not to be daunted by the weather we set forth to show our guests as much as we could of this wonderful area.

The month started with a repeat booking from our lovely guests Tom & Sue – Tom has kindly provided us with some wonderful wildlife photos and this year proved to be another opportunity for him, the highlight being his capture of the elusive otter about to go for a swim…

 

For this cruise we first took them south of the Skye Bridge and down the Kylerhea to Lochs Hourn and Nevis and it was actually in Loch Nevis that he got the shot. We stayed in one spot for sometime watching the otter on a fishing trip….On our way north to Loch Hourn we had a fabulous eagle spotting opportunity.

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To finish their three night trip we sailed round to Plockton for a little visit ashore spending the final night at anchor behind the Kishorn Islands.

Our next guests were well versed in boat life having enjoyed cruises with both the Majestic Line and Argyll Cruising. This time they fancied a trip for just the two of them and that’s where Red Moon comes in just right! As strong winds were predicted we decided to race ahead up the Inner Sound to hide out in Loch Torridon, where there is plenty to explore for a day or so.

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On day three we peaked our nose out from Loch Torridon, after some impressive eagle spotting on the way and with our staysail set we cut across the waves heading for Arcaseid Mhor on Rona. It was quite bumpy in the Sound but this made for fun conditions for a pod of dolphins we encountered on our journey!

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Once inside Caol Rona and then the anchorage itself all was calm for a while and we anchored deep in the bay to await the next big blow. Fortunately this timed nicely for Rob & Lynda to be taking a walk ashore and and having a good exploration of this lovely little island.

 

 

Next day we slowly made our way back into Caol Rona and not liking the look of the sea state to the west we headed east and turned down the coast of Raasay. This was a good move as we had a relaxed cruise south, with an eagle overhead at the start and end and we managed to anchor for lunch by Brochel Castle. Scott took Lynda and Rob ashore and they were able to walk up and take their first steps on Callum’s Road.

 

 

We spent that night at anchor to the east of the Scalpay narrows so that the next morning we could take advantage of the high tide to sail through the narrows and round to Churchton Bay off Raasay, always a popular place to visit especially with a Distillery to check out!

For their last night we had a long cruise back to the Skye Bridge, through Loch Alshe and down to Letterfearn in Loch Duich, passing Eilean Donan castle on our way.

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Another three night cruise followed this one with guests Charlie and Ellen on a longer holiday from the US. They used live on their own boat so it was a nostalgic return for them to life at sea. They were keen to sail Red Moon rather than motor so we did our best to oblige – though at times we had too much wind and had to batten down the hatches and enjoy the charms of Rona island instead!

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A long sail heading south east from Rona brought us to the entrance to Loch Carron and we had a little cruise there before heading across to Plockton for the night. On our final cruise back to Kyle we had a wonderful finale with a pod of lively dolphins to accompany us.

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With a day between we welcomed more guests from across the pond, this time a group of four, two of whom were experiencing their first time living onboard a boat! The family group wanted to end their cruise at Mallaig so that they could catch the Jacobite train as part of their grand Scottish Tour. We promised to deliver if we possibly could and for a while it was touch and go as to whether we could safely make it down the Sound of Sleat and into that busy fishing port.

However, the weather co operated just enough for us to do just that and after an excursion Isleornsay, an explore of the drovers track on the side of Loch Hourn and a visit to the famous Old Forge pub in Loch Nevis we safely delivered them to the pontoon in Mallaig, with kind courtesy of the Harbourmaster.

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Before entering the Kylerhea and committing ourselves south, we had given the group a taste of the area north of the Skye Bridge with a cruise to Loch Carron and Plockton and  a night at anchor in the Kishorn Islands.

 

 

Red Moon made her way back to Kyle to get ready for her final cruise of the season for friends Beth and Dave, who have sailed with us before as part of the ‘Crinan Canal Crew’!

With conditions rather challenging in Loch Alshe we met Beth and Dave at Dornie were they were able to leave their car. After a short cruise up Loch Duich we anchored in our favourite spot at Letterfearn and all went ashore for a walk. A friendly dog joined us for a while, enjoying having some new people to throw his chewy ball/ rag thing! On our return road journey and despite not having brought any one of the five pairs of binoculars we had on board, Dave managed to spot an otter swimming along the loch side! We followed it for some while before it disappeared, but it was a fabulous sight.

As Beth and Dave are keen walkers, as are we, we decided to head for Loch Hourn the next day and while three of us got to walk the drovers track, Scott moved Red Moon back up the loch to meet us. This allowed for some great photos and even a little vid!

 

 

We managed a trip ashore at Isleornsay where sadly Mary’s favourite shop Floraidh Skye was unusually shut! However there was a good exhibition on in the gallery and Beth and Dave came away with a wildlife bird picture.

We returned to Loch Alshe with thoughts of spending the night at anchor in Loch Na Beiste but the wind was blowing up again and it was not the best place to be so we returned to Loch Duich and had a very peaceful afternoon at anchor, spotting the odd porpoise, looking at the birdlife and playing cards, with a wee dram or two by our sides. A lovely end to a great cruising season!