The first of what may be an occasional series for the Magazine of the parishes of Chesterton, Little Chesterton, Middleton Stoney and Wendlebury, with larger and additional pictures.
Although few get there, many cruising types have St Kilda on their “Bucket List”, partly the attraction is the landscape and the wildlife including unique species, one of the world’s largest Gannet colonies and the largest colonies of Fulmars and Puffins in Great Britain, all sadly now depleted by Bird Flu.
But mainly it is the challenge of getting there. First, it is a long way, especially for those of us sailing small boats solo from the south coast; then there is the weather and the rough seas.
The Sounds of Barra and Harris are the only way through the islands. Both are torturous with strong unpredictable tides and get dangerous in stronger winds that are frequent in the area, and in such conditions the ways round to the north or south don’t bare thinking about so, with few places of shelter on the west coast, a rare period of settled weather is needed to get to St Kilda.
|The NW part of the Stanton Channel through the Sound of Harris|
|The route from my anchorage to the Stanton |
Channel, the route from the south east is not
In 2021 I hoped to include St Kilda in my second solo circumnavigation of GB but reaching Stornoway under time pressure to get to a sailing event in Wales, I skipped St Kilda and still missed the event. In 2022 I made a more determined effort, it took 39 days, to reach South Uist but weather systems developing in the Atlantic could have trapped me there for weeks, so I went to Plockton on the mainland (where the TV series Hamish Macbeth was filmed) and after 3 weeks, with no prospect of improvement I gave up and got home after 89 days.
In 2023 I set off again and made better time getting to Tobermory on Mull in 32 days. Prospects looked good so on the 19th May I crossed the Sea of the Hebrides to Vatersay at the southern end of the Western Isles.
Scottish waters are always good for seeing marine mammals, but this leg was exceptional; in 58 nautical miles I had 3 sightings of Minke Whales, more than in the previous 5 years together, there were Dolphins most of the way over and at least 200 in one super pod northwest of Coll, a pod of Killer Whales [fortunately, unlike their Iberian cousins, without a taste for boat rudders], a Basking Shark and Seals as I arrived in Vatersay Bay.
|A Minke Whale, this one in the Firth of Lorn on my return, it|
was a good year for seeing whales, there were also many in the
sound of Harris (pics on the blog, link below)
|Arriving at the Village Bay anchorage, Hirta (St Kilda).|
|One of the more accessible cleitean.|
|Some not so accessible Cleitean . Part of the ruined village and|
accommodation for the contractors manning the tracking
station for the nearby missile firing range.