By Iain A MacSween
A new boat charter service operating out of Stornoway offers passengers a unique look at the stunning wildlife of the Hebrides.
Stornoway Seafari is the brainchild of Gordon Maclean, who admits to having the sea in his blood, having been brought up with a love of the local coastline and all the exciting things it has hidden within its waters.
“I worked offshore up until four months ago, when I was paid off due to the slump in oil prices,” said Gordon. “I have two skipper licences, and for years I had wanted to set up a boat charter company, so I decided that the time was right to just go for it.”
In January of this year, Gordon took ownership of his brand new ‘Our Lilly’ XS RIB. This features a 300hp Mercury Verado supercharged engine, has a top speed of 45 knots and has an average cruising speed of 20-25 knots with a 200-mile range. The vessel can accommodate 12 passengers and 2 crew.
Stornoway Seafari currently offers three set rate trips as follows: 1 hour trips at a rate of £20 per person include Loch Erisort, Witches Pool , Loch Leurbost and Loch Grimshader; 2 hour trips at a rate of £40 per person include Loch Grimishader, Loch Leurbost, Loch Erisort, Kebock Head and the village of Gravir in Loch Odhairn; and 3 hour trips at a rate of £60 per person include the Shiant Isles, Eilean Glas Lighthouse (Scalpay), Mollinginish, Loch Bhallamus, Loch Shell and Loch Erisort.
“According to the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust, the best place to see sharks, dolphins, whales and otters is off the Point coastline,” said Gordon.
“Our trips to the small deserted villages on the way to the Shiant Isles have already been very wellreceived. These wee places are really beautiful.”
While the ‘Our Lilly’ accommodates a maximum of 12 passengers and one crew, the chances are high that those on board will be joined on their tour by numerous other guests. Gordon explained: “We recently took a trip out to the Shiants and we were followed the whole way by a pod of Risso’s dolphins. It was an incredible experience and everyone on board was blown away by it.”
Children are allowed to travel with Stornoway Seafari, on the condition that they are five-years-old or over, and any child aged between five and 12 must be accompanied by an adult.
“We provide all the safety gear and wet-weather clothing,” said Gordon. And as well as targeting the wildlifespotting market, Gordon is also making his services available to any commercial interests who may require a RIB at short notice.