Alternative Boat Hire Iona
Puffins on Lunga, Treshnish Isles
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What we do
There are great possibilities in all directions and flexibility often ensures the best opportunities to both sail and have an enjoyable all round experience. The destination of scheduled trips is usually decided on the day of travel according to the forecast and current weather; this can mean that the trips go to a different location each day we are out.
Broadly speaking there are places which are reachable in a three hour trip and others where you need a full day. Most places reachable in three hour trip could be visited on a longer trip as part of a day out. It is very easy to spend a whole day, and see a lot, and not go that far if you don’t want to. In our experience the best trips are not the ones where you try and cram in too much. (That is what R.I.Bs are for, I suppose!)

We have compiled a list of places we usually see during our season, have a look at Where we go
Picnic on Eilean Annraidh
Picnic on Eilean Annraidh, an island just Noth of Iona
Sometimes it does not matter so much where we go, but what we do and see during the time at sea.
There are an lot of things you can do:
Sailing You can be as involved with this as you like. There are a lot of ropes on board! and ’crew’ are always welcome. We often set fours sails and there are no winches; only ‘block and tackle’. Hauling the anchor up is another way to build up an appetite! But don’t worry if you’d rather not be ‘hands on’, the boat can be managed without help, sit back and watch instead, or sing us a shanty if you know one. With her tan red sails to drive her, Birthe Marie makes a beautiful sight and her progress is blissfully quiet, unobtrusive and steeped in tradition. If conditions are suitable, then Mark will usually encourage passengers to try their hand 'at the helm'. Budding skippers from as young as 4 (and as old as the time) have often managed this without difficulty.
Watch a video
of B Marie sailing past Staffa on YouTube.
If you have requested a specific destination for a whole boat hire we will obviously do our best to deliver this but you may have to make a choice to motor if the conditions are not favourable.
Hauling up the main sail.
Beach picnic trips Birthe Marie can take you on a trip to one of the local white sandy beaches or further afield to other islands. This makes idyllic picnics possible in the most stunning locations. B Marie at Knockvologan.
Birthe Marie anchored at Knockvologan/Mull
Wildlife This rather over used buzz word needs some understanding to get the best out of it. The whole area we sail in, but perhaps most particularly the Treshnish Isles are a hugely important asset for a variety of nesting seabirds. Many of these birds are truly maritime species who do not spend much time ashore except when they come here to breed in the summer months. Many of these birds such as Puffins, Shearwaters, Razorbills, Guillemots, Skua, Kittiwakes and the more common Fulmars, Shags and gull species arrive to make their nest on the cliffs, skerries or shores in the spring or early summer. The eggs are generally hatched, fledged and nests empty by late July or early August with variations depending on species and the weather patterns that season.
Much of this is based around the water temperature rise that takes place between winter and summer bringing with it vast opportunities all through the food chains. So for birds don’t leave it too late in the summer to see them in their full numbers and variety.

Puffin in flight.Isle of Lunga.
Puffin in flight. Isle of Lunga, Treshnish.
Razorbills. Isle of Lunga
Razorbills. Isle of Lunga, Treshnish.
Whales and Sharks while not always around are definitely more frequently sighted during the warmer months June-late August.
Dolphins can actually sometimes be seen here in the winter but again they take advantage of larger gatherings of seafood when it is around.
Common and Grey seals are sighted quite regularly near Erraid, on Soa and in Bull Hole.
Common dolphin.
Common dolphin.
Feeding basking shark
Feeding basking shark.(photo N.Jardine)
Seal.(photo copyright Gordon Bruce)
Wildlife is exactly that, wild, and therefore they do not arrive to order, all part of the joy of going out, you can never be quite sure what you will come across!
Fishing Birthe Marie was built to fish! Outside the Sound of Iona there is always a chance you can hook a Saithe, Pollock, or a Mackerel in season. Fishing aboard is a low key activity and we carry basic handlines. Fishing for mackerel.
Fishing for mackerel. This one went back to sea...
Combo Trips Using a boat can open up some new possibilities for walking: Sail one way, walk the other. Or combine with a vehicle to make a varied roundtrip.What about ...
... walking from Fionnphort/Mull via Knockvologan to the ruined villages of Tir Fhearagain and the white sands of Traigh Gheal and sailing back via the South coast of the Ross of Mull and Erraid. B Marie moored in Traigh Ghael/Isle of Mull.
B Marie anchored in Traigh Ghael, Isle of Mull (photo copyright Rentoul)
... walking and exploring on the Isle of Ulva (there is a extensive network of footpaths and a tea room!) if you can arrange the land based transport through a friend or by taxi. Walking on Ulva
Walking on Ulva.
Our page Where we go might inspire you to other possible Combo trips.
Island Hopping If you are coming from or going to another island for part of your holiday it can sometimes make sense to travel direct rather than return all the way to Oban in order to get to the next island. In particular this applies to the likes of Coll, Tiree, and Colonsay. Which are all around three hours ‘steaming’ time away. Last year a newly wed couple followed up their romantic beach party celebrations with a sundown crossing to Tiree to begin their honeymoon.
At present we cannot accommodate people overnight on the boat, but travel to another island for a visit overnight would be a possibility if passengers wanted to book in ashore or even camp. Single trips (i.e. one way to or from a specific destination) may be charged for the boats return passage.
Check out our page Where we go for islands B Marie can reach.
House on coll.
House on the Isle of Coll.
Gott bay, Isle of Tiree
Gott Bay, Isle of Tiree.
Church in Canna's natural habour. Canna is one of the Small Isles.
Private Charter between Iona and Fionnphort/Fionnphort Iona You can book (preferably well in advance), subject to the skippers availability and weather conditions, an out of CalMac ferry hours passenger only link between Iona and Fionnphort.
Alternative Boat Hire is set up to run excursions during the day. While we like to help out in 'missed connection' situations or evening crossings we cannot always offer its guaranteed provision. Please do not place total reliance on us.
Dun I.
Dun I, Iona highest point, as seen from the middle of the sound of Iona.

‘A reef and tops’l breeze’ (Favoured wind strength aboard sailing trawlers)

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Heavy clouds over Staffa
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