It’s fair to say the year 2015 was one to forget for Hebridean boat-operators. In fact, Seumas Morrison, of Sea Harris, says the horrendous weather made it the worst he had ever experienced.
“Without a shadow of a doubt, last year was the worst,” he said. “We were only out five times in May. That’s unheard of.”
Not getting out to sea was particularly frustrating for Seumas, as he had just taken delivery of a brand new boat. However, ever the optimist, he has simply transferred his enthusiasm from this time last year to now.
And thankfully, the bookings are still coming in thick and fast, a welcome indicator that the cancellations of 2015 haven’t put people off for 2016.
The ‘Enchanted Isle’ can now leave Leverburgh pier at 8am, arriving in Village Bay at 10.30am. And thanks to the comfort of his new vessel, a trip to St Kilda is now a pleasant experience for even the most weak-spirited sailor.
“Our new boat is a Stormforce 1650, and we got her custom built specifically for the St.Kilda day trip from Redbay Boats in Northern Ireland,” Seumas said. “She can cope really well in bad weather, not that we want to be taking passengers out in bad weather!”
At 16.5 metres, she is also bigger than her predecessor, and the new vessel, which maintains the Sea Harris name ‘Enchanted Isle’, is also proving to be very economical.
“She was designed by naval architect Joe McCollam,” said Seumas. “A lot of other boats, including our last one, are designed by ‘boat builders’ and lack the input of a naval architect in the design stages of their moulds, but having Joe design and create this boat from the start has made a big difference.
“On a St Kilda trip I am only burning 80 litres more than my last boat, which is incredible when you consider the difference in size. We are eight tonnes heavier, four metres longer, have an additional 300 hp and run four knots faster. It’s all down to the design of the hull.”
The hull of Seumas’s new boat is divided into six compartments with the engines and steering right aft, then the vee-drive gearboxes and then the fuel tank compartment. This arrangement with ‘walkthrough’ compartments via watertight doors, gives excellent access to all the key components of the machinery and with the engines aft they can be easily removed and replaced through the large deck hatch in the aft deck. Forward of the fuel tank compartment are the crew areas which include a mess room and bunks.
The forepeak has access from the deck and is used for anchor, rope and fender storage.
The large air-conditioned cabin has comfy aircraft style seating for 12 passengers, arranged in pairs down each side of the cabin, plus toilet facilities.
The dashboard has Cummins engine instrumentation plus a wide range of Garmin electronic navigation instruments, and with safety of passengers being paramount there is also a video camera to keep a watchful eye on any that are out on the aft deck.
Visibility is excellent through the large windows when alongside the huge sea-stacs of St Kilda.
The machinery on the ’Enchanted Isle’ comprises a pair of Cummins 500 hp diesels connected by a Carden shaft to ZF V-drive gearboxes, which sit forward of the engines in their own watertight compartment, with the shafts then running aft underneath the engines to the propellers. This installation gives a top speed of 27 knots, and an economical cruising speed of 22 knots.
Seumas charges £175 for a day trip to St Kilda, which includes at least four-and-a-half hours ashore to view the stunning archipelago at your leisure, and claims the fastest crossing time of all the ‘day trip vessels’. Trips are available from April 4 until September 24.
“We have done trips to the Shiants in the past, but this year we are going to focus mainly on St Kilda,” he added. “We will still do private charters for anyone who wants one, but St Kilda is where our tours will be.