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31st August, 2012

Around Britain day three

Sound of Islay

This morning we started our transit of the Sound of Mull, passing the Ardnamurchan Lighthouse, the most westerly lighthouse on the UK coastline. I informed the passengers that we were passing Tobermory, where the houses are quaint and painted in bright colours. This is where the childrens' programme, “Ballamory” is filmed. When we travel through, I had to make an all ships call, to let all the vessels in this narrow channel know, that a large cruise ship was proceeding south. Knowing the area as I do, I knew we would soon meet the morning Caledonian Macbrayne Ferry from Oban to the Outer Hebrides, and sure enough we did. Turns out the captain knows my father well, it's always nice to be known around the shipping world.

We cleared the southern extremities to the Sound of Mull, passing Duart Castle, and I decided to take the ship over to Oban Bay, just to give the passengers a look. For me doing things like this really are special, as I used to watch the ferries come and go as a boy sitting on the north pier, and here I am today, in command of a beautiful cruise liner. We passed the excursion vessel, Balmoral which usually sails around the Bristol Channel and spoke to the captain who I knew, so he sailed close by and we exchanged horn blowing!!. Then I set off south towards the Sound of Islay.

Today was all about reminiscing, and the highlight this morning was a fantastic quiz hosted by Cruise Director John, called ‘All Our Yesterdays’. Guests looked back with fond nostalgia and did their best to recall some tricky trivia from the 40's, 50’s and 60’s. There was the odd question on T.V theme tunes, famous movie stars and even important events of a by-gone era, and a fun hour was had by all as the crowd remembered the good old days.
Straight after the quiz those passengers who had served the King or the Queen were invited to a ‘Veterans Get Together’. Commemorating all those past and present who defended these wonderful isles, the pre-luncheon function was attended by members from all branches of the armed services. Later in the afternoon there was a chance to partake in our daily game of ‘Snowball Bingo’, the pot didn’t go off, but there’s always tomorrow.

About 1230, I decided to deviate from our route and go and have a look at the Corrievrechan Whirlpool, between the Island Of scarab and Jura and we sailed past the entrance. It wasn’t on full bore, but you could see the turbulence as it was getting started. I was going to go though but decided with the gale force conditions we were having and the possibility of 6-7 knots swirkling current against the wind, it would be lively, so decided against it - again its always handy to have local knowledge. I remember as a young boy, my parents took me camping on Jura and I remember hearing the roar of the whirlpool in full flow and saw it from the mountain so its not something to be taken klightly. I took the Quest through a few months ago when the conditions were right.

We sailed on to the Sound of Islay, and again a very narrow channel with not a lot of water under the keel. But again, I have been sailing this channel since I was a young boy so knew what to do. We had 5 knots of current against us but once through we set sail for the Giants causeway on Northern Ireland. At 1900, we sailed about 0.5 miles of the Bushmnill distillery and sailed along the coast to show the passengers the Giants Causway and continued on between Rathlin and Ballycastle and set course south overnight to the Isle of Man.

Nostalgia was reflected in the main show in the Britannia Lounge tonight as the cast took guests back to the great music of the 50’s and 60’s in ‘Happy Days’. It was a non-stop action packed hour of Rock and Roll music and dancing. Upstairs there was a completely different mood for those who wanted a more relaxing night; as the aptly named String Delights performed a beautiful soiree of classical music in the Drawing Room.

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

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