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St Kilda

Saga Pearl II blog - Captains' blogs

11th September, 2018

It was a slightly bumpy ride out there, but by Goodness was it worth it. We sighted St Kilda and her surrounding islands at around 07:00 on Wednesday morning, as we bounced out to these islands ‘on the edge of the world.’ The spectacular cliff tops of this – the UK’s only dual World Heritage Site – beautiful volcanic island group loomed ahead of us as we slowly neared them for our dramatic sail-by.

We approached the northern-most of the 4 main islands, Boreray, with the intention of sailing around its northern face, and then ‘threading the needle’ in between it and Stac Lee, a few hundred metres to the west. The sun miraculously had emerged especially for our sail past it seemed, and we rocked our way gently through these stunning high-rise pieces of land, waves crashing a dozen or so metres into the air upon the battered Atlantic lee shores.

These islands are home to a thriving population of seabirds, including one of the world’s largest colonies of northern gannets – of which we witnessed several hundred plummeting into the white waters, a daily ritual to catch a fishy lunch. Once we rounded Boreray, we then circumnavigated St Kilda itself anti-clockwise before making our way into the relative shelter of Village Bay to anchor and check out the scene ashore.

Bronze and Iron age finds have been made upon this island, providing evidence that this remote ex-volcano was in fact inhabited in prehistoric times. The visible remains of a village on the shores dates from the 1830’s, with the well-preserved remains of the traditional blackhouses between the more modern Hebridean houses laid out in a crescent above the shoreline. The final residents departed here to the mainland in 1930, struggling with illness and food shortage, at their own request.

After sussing out the conditions ashore, it was unfortunately too rough to land passengers today. There were a number of factors working against us: it was low tide and too shallow for our boats to approach the little breakwater, as well as there being another strong Atlantic depression heading our way – bringing weather conditions which we would rather escape ahead of. However, it was pleasant enough at anchor to enjoy a peaceful lunch for a few hours and the beautiful scenery of Village Bay, before proceeding to sea again at 14:30 just as siesta time approached and the library thus filled with its afternoon armchair residents...

We would head south-east, to the southern end of the Outer Hebrides, where we would squeeze through the scenic Sound of Mingulay at supper time, thereafter affording us some nice shelter from the Atlantic conditions behind the islands. Slowly and peacefully overnight, we worked our way to our final island destination of this cruise: Canna.

Captain Kim Tanner

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