10th July, 2019
We spent a day weaving northward in between the Scottish west coast islands and the inner Hebrides. The intention to this was of course to provide our guests with a lovely scenic cruising experience.
The Scottish weather, however, had other ideas. Heavy drizzle, a very low cloud base and frequent patches of dense mist and fog, provided generous visibility of about a mile – if we were lucky. We pressed on through the Sound of Mull, passing the famous little village of Tobermory at morning tea time. Those armed with binoculars and umbrellas out on the open decks may have just been able to make out the coloured row of houses and shops on its waterfront.
Even weaving between the islands of Muck, Eigg and Rhum a mere few hundred metres from their coastlines provided us only a faint outline through the thick, persistent misty drizzle. Well, I suppose nobody could complain about not receiving the full Scottish experience….
After squeezing through the Pentland Firth in the early hours of Wednesday, we rounded mainland Orkney and passed the island of Shapinsay to the north, entering the sheltered bay housing Kirkwall just after 07:00. We were alongside the cruise/ferry berth just on the outskirts of Kirkwall at bang-on 08:00. Thankfully the weather had cleared somewhat since yesterday, and now there were only a few spits & spats of rain to try and avoid.
The Orkney islands are home to some grand archaeological sites, including the 5,000 year-old chambered tombs of Maes Howe. For those unfamiliar with the aforementioned excitement, it’s basically very old and well-preserved graffiti. But without the spray-can smell. There is plenty of other history to discover here too, including the Neolithic village of Skara Brae, relics from German WW2 battlecruisers scuppered in Scapa Flow, and the Churchill Barriers erected during WW2 to prevent enemy ships causing mischief to allied vessels sheltering at anchor.
For those less interested in history but more interested in something else excellent which Scotland has to offer, Orkney boasts the most northerly Whisky distillery. Our tours team offered trips to all of the above of course, or for those who preferred they could organise a private trip to wherever one wanted to venture. Alternatively, our free regular shuttle service made tracks back and forth into the town centre throughout the day for those just wishing to wander the quiet streets of Orkney’s capital.
The end of the day arrived and it was time to manoeuvre Saga Sapphire from her berth, which today I allowed our chief officer to conduct. As we headed back out into the North Sea, a thick bank of fog descended upon us, enveloping us well into the night. Luckily, our onboard evening food & entertainment is unaffected by the presence of fog, and so it was only myself and the Bridge team left to stare into it whilst keeping a thorough radar watch overnight whilst heading south into the Moray Firth…
Captain Kim Tanner
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