Rock pools abound on the pristine shore of our cruising area. It's great fun to wander along the shore and see how all the plants and animals live together in the rock pools left by the departing tides. Barnacles and limpets, anemones and hermit crabs all carry on feeding while the tide is out. Gazing into a pool we see the beautiful tentacles of the red and green anemones as they photosynthesize and attack and kill the plankton with their microscopic harpoons. There are scuttling crabs, darting fish, shooting shrimps, lumbering hermit crabs, red, green and brown seaweeds - all in a kaleidoscope of colour and movement.
On certain anchorages, we shoot our lobster pot and haul it the following day to examine our catch. The majority of the catch is returned, but a good-size lobster or crab could be served up for dinner if you so wish! Beside the lobsters and crabs we are always surprised by the amount of marine life in the pot: cod, ling, conger eels, dogfish, tope, sand eels, brittle stars, whelks, swimmer crabs to name but a few.
Everyone can have a go at fishing when we are at anchor. Small fish are put back, but if you are lucky and have a little skill the larger ones will end up in the pot that night. It's hard to find fresher fish for dinner, especially when the mackerel are in season.
You can jump or dive off the boat. For the less adventurous you can enter the sea by climbing down the ladder.
Our Scottish Island cruises are perfect for relaxing, sketching, painting and/or taking pictures with a knowledgeable skipper to guide you and dedicated chef who serves delicious meals prepared with fresh, locally sourced products. Guests who wish to improve their photography or sketching/painting skills with a tutor can do so with St Hilda Sea Adventures aboard one of our small ships. The tutor will be selected from the following website: https://www.artistravel.eu/en/
There is plenty of room onboard for you to bring your own equipment for those activities which you can enjoy from the boat. On Seahorse II we have two sea kayaks and a paddle board and on St Hilda and Gemini Explorer we have one sea kayak. Buoyancy aids are provided.
Boat Operations, Sailing, Seamanship
You are welcome to join the skipper in the wheelhouse to steer and learn about navigating the local area. Navigating the boat on their own is something children are unlikely to forget. The skipper will also be happy to take you round the engine room and educate you on his diesel engine (aboard St Hilda a 6 cylinder Kelvin diesel engine!). You will be able to help with: tying knots (a very important activity!); mooring; and on St Hilda you can help with the sails (if you want to hoist them). We anchor at night (or occasionally moor alongside a pontoon) - we do not travel at night for safety reasons. We only set the sails on St Hilda when conditions are right (ideally a broad reach) and do not sail in the very narrow sea lochs or beat into heavy weather!
On some cruises, plankton sampling can be carried out from the decks or from the tender using professional plankton nets and examined aboard with microscopes. We can even take part in a scientific study of global warming to see if tropical species of plankton have arrived in Scotland's cooler seas. Under the microscope we discover such a huge variety of shapes and sizes, some are part plant part animal and some so bizarre, with large eyes and pincers, that they were the inspiration for the creature in the sci-fi film "Alien".
If you need a break from the activities, you can also choose to relax and enjoy the beautiful scenery and extraordinary wildlife from the ships' decks. Make sure to bring your camera and if you wish your own binoculars. The boats have binoculars but you may wish to bring your own as there are lots of opportunities to spot birds and other wildlife.
The library is in the deck saloon. It has a range of informative books/leaflets on the local area as well as novels and board games. Remember to take your own favourite games and any extra reading material.
The tender will take you ashore and pick you up at a prearranged time or signal. We want you to be able to do as much or as little exploration ashore as you wish and we can plan daily trips ashore. The skipper has good local knowledge of the best walks and attractions and any specialist activities. For insurance and safety reasons, the skipper operates the tender.