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AquaXplore boat trip - RIB boat or Island Cruiser?

I'm think about taking this boat trip (the Puffin Run/Small Isles Tour to Canna and Sandaty, Soay and Rum). But I'm not sure which boat would be better.

I have looked at the difference between the two boats so I'm aware the the Island Cruise has a toilet and wooden seats, where as the RIB seems to be bit more crowded (and has no toilet). But it's hard to tell from those small photos. FWIW, lack of toilets are not a problem, and I have no fear of boats or water (I've gone whitewater rafting on many occasions) and I never get seasick. However I guess I'm just wondering which boat would be more comfortable.

Does anyone have any experience with these boats?

Posted by
1188 posts

Hi Mardee.

I have done both many times - it's a favourite trip when friends come to stay with us. My personal preference is the RIB for the thrill of the speed of the journey and the fact that you also therefore get longer on Canna (you don't land on the other islands). The boat driver slows down if wildlife is spotted (and it will be!) both for the welfare of the animals (especially dolphins and porpoises) but also so that you can take photos. You are only allowed to stand up (e.g. to take photos) when the boat is stopped - for safety reasons. So there is no scope to move seats once you are on board and no room to move around. It can be very bumpy on the journey as you bounce across the water. Some people say the journey gives them sore backs. It can also be very cold indeed in the wind. You are give an orange waterproof, windproof set of trousers and jacket to wear and you will certainly need them. And also a life vest. You must wear them all. When you arrive on Canna you can remove them and leave them in a heap on the jetty. You will also want a hat and gloves.

The Island Cruiser is much slower. There is no indoor seating. There is a tarpaulin roof above the outer back deck where you will be sitting. It offers a degree of protection but really only from the sun - the rain will still get you! The seats are wooden benches around the sides and back of the boat. There is also (I think) a bench running from the back of the boat towards the crew/captain's area.

You can move around as you like (except if the crew tell you to sit down). A warm drink is provided on board (and sometimes a dram). The speed is slower so you get less time on Canna.

Both boats take you to the exact same places, a cruise around Soay before heading to the high cliffs of Canna to spot puffins (if the season is right), then a landing on Canna, before heading across to Rum to see a shipwreck and to view a couple of the sandy bays on the island, where the Queen used to like to go on her yacht Britannia, and where you will certainly see red deer around the beach. You don't land on Rum though.

I hope that gives you a sense of the trip. I love Canna! There is a community shop which is not staffed, so there's an honesty box (cash only) for payment of anything you buy. There's also a tiny, tiny post office which has never yet been open when I've visited. And a wonderful community run cafe. If it's open then you should have time for a quick lunch.

Jacqui

Posted by
6853 posts

Thank you so much, Jacqui - that is exactly the information I was looking for! I really appreciate it - I'm going to book it now! It sounds wonderful!!

Posted by
1188 posts

I'm so glad Mardee. The only thing I should have thought to add is that they sometimes cancel trips at short notice due to the weather.

Posted by
6853 posts

Jacqui, they did mention that on their website and in fact, when I was booking it, they asked me to list any extra days I might be available if they have to cancel. I decided to schedule my first day there. That way I will have 2 full additional days to potentially schedule if it something goes wacky with the weather. :)

Posted by
1376 posts

Mardee and Skyegirl,

We have tried to take the Island Cruiser the last two times we've been on Skye, but with no success. The first time we were told that the boat was being repaired; the second time we were told that the weather forecast was not conducive to its sailing. The second time, we drove to Elgol anyway, in order to use the toilet (now gone) after a long out and back hike from Kilmarie to Camasunary. Well, the Bella Jane was sailing, and the owner looked a bit sheepish when we told him who we were. Fortunately, our money was refunded the next day. It took a few weeks to get our refund after the prior cancellation.

I have the feeling that there weren't enough reservations to make the trip worthwhile. I could be wrong. We've taken the Bella Jane a few times over the years, including to the start of a memorable hike from Loch Coruisk to the Sligachan Hotel.

The reason that we didn't sign up for the RIB was because Mrs. A and I both have bad backs, and due to our advancing ages, we have more frequent need for the toilet than do our (younger) fellow travelers. (Getting old sucks!) Also, there was an article in the P&J a few years ago about a visitor to Elgol having to be airlifted to Raigmore due to badly injuring his back during a rough sailing on an RIB. We've already been to Canna, as well as Eigg and Rum, so we wouldn't have minded being shortchanged on the landing.

We did an RIB sailing on the St Lawrence a few years ago. We really enjoyed it, especially seeing whales, but definitely a one and done!

By all means, Mardee, do not let this discourage you in any way! Based on what we've read, and on what we expected to see, it looks as though it would have been a great way to spend half a day.

Best wishes, as always,

Mike (Auchterless)

Posted by
6853 posts

Oh MIke, I'm so sorry that you weren't able to ride the Island Cruiser, although it is pretty funny that you caught the owner out!

When I booked, they said that if you want the IC, you had to book the afternoon run. That was another reason for me to go with the RIB since I wanted the morning. I totally get that about the toilet (and I have the same problem sometimes - it does suck to get old) but I'm hoping that if I can take a pee break at the jetty before the trip, I will be okay until we get to Canna. :)

Posted by
1376 posts

Hi once again, Mardee,

When we were there (Elgol) this past July, the toilet at the jetty was closed (actually gone). Hopefully it's back by now! We were directed to use the toilet in the village shop. There was a tour bus in - you should have seen the line for the toilet! The shop owners seemed to be happy, though - everyone was buying food and souvenirs!

Just in case the toilet block is still closed, the shop is in the opposite direction from the jetty, on the road to Glasnakille. Also, while you're in Elgol, have a wander out to the shingle beach by the school. There is a great view up Loch Scavaig toward Camasunary.

Elgol was made famous (or infamous!) by author Lillian Beckwith, whose series of books made the residents of the village seem like a lot of teuchters. The books took place in Elgol and on Soay, but implied that Beckwith had moved there by herself in the 1950s. She actually moved there with her husband in 1942. The books are an interesting read. If you want to give them a try before heading off to Skye, the first one in the series is "The Hills Is Lonely". You can probably get a copy through interlibrary loan.

"And now you know...the rest of the story!"

Best wishes once again!

Mike (Auchterless)

Posted by
1188 posts

Not sure about the current status of the Elgol loos! Will have to have a run down there and check.

Another good book to check out is Island on the Edge by Anne Cholawo. It's about her move to Soay and subsequent life there. A wonderful book. Your trip will take you past the island, where Anne and her husband are now the only permanent residents. Island on the Edge

Posted by
6512 posts

I've got the set of 7 Lillian Beckwith's books on my shelf at home, and often read them. They are a great series, highly recommended.

Posted by
6512 posts

I've just been down to my local Library and placed an Inter Library Loan request for Island on the Edge on Skye Girls kind recommendation.

Posted by
6853 posts

Mike and Jacqui, thanks for the book recommendations - they sound wonderful! I've been able to order seven of the Lillian Beckwith books from a interlibrary loan (they have more but I figured I'd start with this. :) Unfortunately there is evidently no library in the United States that carries the Anne Cholawo book, but luckily Amazon has it so I ordered a copy. I can start to read that while I'm waiting for the other books to get here. I'm very excited about reading these!

It's interesting that both of the writers wound up on Soay. Is it still privately owned?

Posted by
1188 posts

Mardee
That's great! Yes I believe the island is privately owned.

Jacqui

Posted by
1188 posts

isn31c - I really hope you enjoy it. I may have to try the Lillian Beckwith books.....

Posted by
1376 posts

Hi, Jacqui,

Of the four initial Bruach (Elgol) books, the only one which the Portree library carries is A Rope-In Case, from 1968. The initial three books about "Miss Pecky's" adventures in the fictional village of Bruach, The Hills Is Lonely (1959); The Sea for Breakfast (1961); and The Loud Halo (1964) should be available through interlibrary loan. I have seen copies in the Mission book shop in Mallaig.

The Portree library does have two later Bruach books: Lightly Poached (1973), and Beautiful Just (1975).

You'll have to let us know what you think of them.

Happy reading!

Mike (Auchterless)

Posted by
6512 posts

The Loud Halo is at Broadford Library. The other 2 can be ILL'd from other libraries in the Highlife network.

Highlife also have several of her other non Elgol/Soay books in stock.

Posted by
1188 posts

Mike and isn31c

You two are much better informed about Skye libraries than I am - and I live here. I remember when I went into Portree to join the library, the librarian gave me a tour of the the library and explained the filing system to me! It was very sweet - they obviously didn't get many customers. I now work at the High School (where the library is located) two days a week (teaching piano) so I will pop in tomorrow and check out their stocks.

Best wishes
Jacqui

Posted by
1376 posts

Hi, Mardee,

While we're on the subject of books, you may be interested in Calum's Road, by Roger Hutchinson. It's the true story of Calum MacLeod, who lived in the hamlet of Arnish, on Raasay. When the local council declined to build a road from the end of the existing road at Brochel Castle out to Arnish, MacLeod took it upon himself to single-handedly build the road. It took him ten years, and by the time he completed the road, he was the sole remaining resident of Arnish.

It's a truly inspiring story, and contains a great deal of information about Raasay. Donald Shaw, of Capercaille, composed a strathspey in honor of Calum MacLeod. It's called "Calum's Road," and there are several versions on YouTube. The tune appears on Capercaille's album The Blood Is Strong.

Happy reading (and listening!)!

Mike (Auchterless)

Posted by
1188 posts

I agreed Calum's Road is a wonderful book. And you can drive to the end of his road on Raasay and look back across at Skye and the Cullin.

Posted by
6853 posts

Thanks, Mike! I've heard about Calum and seen photos of his road on the Walk Highlands site, and I hope to get to Raasay to see it in person. I didn't know there was a book, though, so I will look for that.

I will also check out the song as well. I had to look up what a strathspey is and found out that "The Bonnie Banks o' Loch Lomond" and "Coming Through the Rye" are strathspeys! And then I found out that the dance comes from the Strathspey region in Moray, which I will be driving through, so of course I will have to stop and sing a few strathspeys (probably after I've had a wee dram or two). ;)

Posted by
6512 posts

I've been reading Island on the Edge by Anne Cholawo today.
It's a great book.
It has not been Northern Rail's finest hour today- I've been to a town 5 miles away, and was on site for 7 minutes, but the round trip took me 5 hours.
So the book stopped me from tearing my hair out!!
Calmed me down, after I'd been forced to don my mask for the first time in many weeks after ending up on a heavily overloaded train, full of football fans, due to the cancellations.

Posted by
1188 posts

So glad the book was a good distraction. I've not made it to Portree library yet, but will definitely head in there on my return to school after the (much needed holidays).