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Old 10 June 2016, 08:55   #71
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Originally Posted by Phil and Jane View Post
Would it be possible to speak to you on the phone this week sometime. My wife and I are going to travel from the mainland to St Kilda in our Rib in the next fortnight. We are staying near Gairloch and intend to launch from there, stop at Leverburgh, then on to Hirta. It's a bit of a bottle test due to the distance together with how quickly the weather can change up there and we could do with picking your brains about your trip and mooring in Village Bay, if you don't mind sparing us a few minutes, thanks, Phil.
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Old 10 June 2016, 18:20   #72
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Where were we? Ah yes, we transited the Sound of Harris & emerged at the NW corner of Pabbay. We passed numerous bays & deserted beaches on the way, all begging to be explored. If anyone is planning to go to St K & the weather turns, you could spend a day or 2 exploring this intriguing stretch of water, a good chart & a sharp eye is essential though.

As we rounded Pabbay it was decision time, should we stay or should we go.....we went. As we left the shelter of the islands & entered the open Atlantic, the sea changed character & became "pelagic" gone was the short chop & wavelets of coastal waters. We now had a rolling westerly ground swell with a northerly chop on top, it made for a confused & sometimes uncomfortable sea. We persevered due west & an hour later we saw a line of cloud on the horizon, shortly, we could make out the dark outline of Boreray & then the main island Hirta, we were still less than half way... 26Nm to go We had expected to spot dolphins & possibly the odd whale during the passage, maybe they were there, maybe they weren't, difficult to spot amongst the white horses.

An hour a half later & we were pulling into the shelter of Village bay, a quick call to the ranger on VHF ch12 & we were cleared to land. There is a substantial jetty in the bay, but it's for landing only, you can't tie up. There are no visitor moorings either, the procedure is to drop off your passengers & kit on the jetty, anchor off in the bay & come ashore by tender. Covered boats aren't allowed to land (no cabin RIBs, open boats only) this is to prevent rats getting onto the island. Fortunately (for us) one of the regular trip boats had returned to base with engine trouble on our day & we were able to use their mooring which was going spare.

We came into the jetty & the first thing that hits you is the noise of the big diesel generator pounding away in the concrete shed at the head of the jetty. Looking past the generator building you see the green portakabins that provide accommodation for the MOD/Quinetic staff. Hardly a romantic idyll. Any way we were soon ashore & set about exploring the island in the 2 hours that we had allowed before we needed to return. A quick visit to the loo & we were wandering around the ruined village abandoned by the last inhabitants in the 1930's. The weather on our day was breezy, but wall to wall blue skies & sunshine, it would be easy to imagine this place in the depths of winter with hardly any daylight...grim, there's no wonder they legged it.

The old village consists of ruins of very small stone cottages that were primitive to say the least, life was certainly hard here, even by 1930's standards. The only inhabitants now, are the scraggly Soay sheep. Every now and then, a cottage would be home to a particularly ripe dead one. The area is littered with the Beehive storage sheds built by the islanders, these curious constructions are dotted around everywhere & were the fridges of their day.

We picked up a geocache hidden near the shop & headed up the VERY steep hill behind the village to take some panoramic photos & pick up the second 'cache on the islands. Unfortunately this has gone AWOL & we logged a DNF (more info regarding Geocaching can be found here)
There is a Landrover constantly running up & down the hill, which is the "main" (i.e. only) road on the island, the Defender seems to be running between the village base & the MOD post on the top of the hill.

After a couple of hours, we headed back down to the village & made our preparations to leave. By 5 pm we were suited & booted & heading out of Village Bay towards Boreray. This sheer lump of rock is home to a spectacular gannet colony, we spent an interesting 20 minutes around the sea stack on the SW corner, before we headed back to civilisation, well, at least Lochmaddy. The wind had picked up & was now a 6-7 from the north east, we spent the next 2.5 hours in a washing machine, actually more like a tumble drier, as we spent most of it airborne. Even the sound of Harris afforded little protection as it was blowing straight in from the east.

We tied up in Lochmaddy bang on 20.30, the pub stopped serving food at 9pm, sod the shower, hit the pub. As we secured the boats, Mrs PD headed off to the pub, still attired in drysuit & Gecko to order food before last orders. She stripped off in the bar, much to the amusement of the locals, & ordered food & drink Half an hour later we were into steak & ale pie, chips, veg & local beer. A couple of Jura Diurachs own malts finished us off & we crawled into our tents at around 22.30 in full daylight. We had forgotten to bring our sleeping mats, so had our sleeping bag directly on the ground.....I slept like a baby

The next morning saw us up & packed away for 7am, the wind had been blowing all night & I was expecting the Minch to be "interesting", as we nosed out of Lochmaddy into the open water, I was pleasantly surprised to see little white water & we had a reasonably comfortable passage across the 17nm to Waternish point & loch Snizort. We stopped off at the Ascrib islands to see the seals & headed back to Greshornish to recover the boats. We were on the high tide this time, so didn't need to employ the 2 Disco manoeuvre.

All in all a great adventure & nobody died, although Mrs Mick thought she was going to at one point I'm probably going to get sacrificed to the ancient Norse gods for what I'm about to say, but hey...The reason we went to St Kilda is; because it's there. As a destination I was a tad underwhelmed, I enjoyed the trip & the challenge of getting there, but as a destination, I found it disappointing. If you want to see birdlife, then Bass Rock, the Farnes, Bempton cliffs have more to offer. For history, go to Iona. For geology see Staffa. St Kilda is (IMHO) a rock with a military outpost, that has a decent selection of seabirds & ruined settlements.
Would I go again, probably not. Am I glad I went, absolutely
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Old 11 June 2016, 01:28   #73
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Originally Posted by Pikey Dave View Post
I'm probably going to get sacrificed to the ancient Norse gods for what I'm about to say, but hey...The reason we went to St Kilda is; because it's there. As a destination I was a tad underwhelmed, I enjoyed the trip & the challenge of getting there, but as a destination, I found it disappointing. If you want to see birdlife, then Bass Rock, the Farnes, Bempton cliffs have more to offer. For history, go to Iona. For geology see Staffa. St Kilda is (IMHO) a rock with a military outpost, that has a decent selection of seabirds & ruined settlements.
Would I go again, probably not. Am I glad I went, absolutely
I can assure you Dave .. you are not the only one that I have heard say the same. The challenge is getting there... and its a must do on a decent boat..for the challenge.

I have never been but I know a few that have..and they said much the same. I went round Ailsa Craig the other day with someone who spent a fair bit of time on St Kilda.. and he prefers Ailsa ..especially now the Puffins and Kittiwakes have returned in great numbers now.

There are far more tragic histories of villages on the Scottish mainland ..due to the Highland Clearances ..than St Kilda's history ..but now...few remember or care to visit them. They dont have the "romantic name" of St Kilda though

Nice report and photos ..perhaps one day I will get there ..but there are a lot of other places higher in my own priority list
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Old 11 June 2016, 04:32   #74
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Originally Posted by Pikey Dave View Post
I'm probably going to get sacrificed to the ancient Norse gods for what I'm about to say, but hey...The reason we went to St Kilda is; because it's there. As a destination I was a tad underwhelmed, I enjoyed the trip & the challenge of getting there, but as a destination, I found it disappointing.
I've certainly heard this sentiment echoed by other RIB visitors. I was glad that I had been warned as my expectations were then more realistic. I went because we were going to be in the general area for a week and the weather was perfect. In truth, if I had any sense of anti-climax it was in that the trip out from Harris was so fast and easy. Following a 65Nm crossing from Donegal to Tiree in fog, St. Kilda seemed a little tame...
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Old 11 June 2016, 06:10   #75
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Great pics and report Dave shame it didn't live up to expectations but a good expeariance trip wise as you say still lots more to explore on the way without the 60 mile crossing.

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Old 11 June 2016, 06:31   #76
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As a destination I was a tad underwhelmed, I enjoyed the trip & the challenge of getting there, but as a destination, I found it disappointing. If you want to see birdlife, then Bass Rock, the Farnes, Bempton cliffs have more to offer. For history, go to Iona. For geology see Staffa. St Kilda is (IMHO) a rock with a military outpost, that has a decent selection of seabirds & ruined settlements.
Would I go again, probably not. Am I glad I went, absolutely.
Mmmm.... Mr Pikey Dave, it grows on you, you need more than the 2hrs you gave it. There's other stuff there and also species that don't exist anywhere else. I've been three times, three different challenges, sib n ribs. I haven't been for a number of years but I will go back.

I may be wrong but I suspect you had a little anxiety about the journey and kinda wanted to be off back to the mainland whilst also wanting to be there on St Kilda. It's a pity you didn't have better weather and taken your tents and stayed a night, more relaxed, it may have seemed different. But well done anyway cos that sea can be a little daunting.
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Old 11 June 2016, 06:59   #77
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You could be right about the anxiety, the return trip was always on our minds. It wasn't an easy run out & we knew the wind was picking up further for the trip back. It was the first impression of the generator, oil tanks, portakabins, telehandlers & containers that took the edge off for us.


Sh1t happens
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Old 11 June 2016, 07:29   #78
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It was the first impression of the generator, oil tanks, portakabins, telehandlers & containers that took the edge off for us.
I

I don't think all that was there when I was last on the island but there was a big presence of grey army stuff and it was also surprisingly busy so I do know what you mean. Not quite as remote and lovely as expected on first impression.
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Old 11 June 2016, 08:23   #79
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I

I don't think all that was there when I was last on the island but there was a big presence of grey army stuff and it was also surprisingly busy so I do know what you mean. Not quite as remote and lovely as expected on first impression.
It's curious how good we are at filtering out the stuff we don't want to look at. I bet that stuff was there. There's even a football pitch! There's all the stuff attached below plus two hilltop radar/comms installations with cables from the base below just run on the surface. I have no issues with it but it does look a little out of place in a UNESCO world heritage site.
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Old 11 June 2016, 12:26   #80
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I've only visited St K years ago on a dive liveaboard ,,,, one dive, one night and we had to leave to outrun a hooley ,,,,, hats off to you both doing this in Ribs ,,, a true adventure I can only dream about. Well done and glad it all worked out.
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