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
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!