Chapter 2
United Kingdom/Ireland

Our 67 day Expedition Cruise


Wednesday 19 Sept

Morning brought us (after and in the middle of somewhat rough weather) to the vicinity of Heimaey, in the Westmann Islands. Unfortunately, the weather was rough enough and the channel to the harbor narrow enough that we had to hang out, unable to negotiate the narrow passage. OK, The fact that the pilot couldn't be brought aboard gave us a hint that things might be difficult.

In the meantime, we moved. An upgrade was available (for peanuts!) and we were able to get a mini suite aft on deck 5. Let's see... the differences between the low rent district (or cell, as one friend calls it) and the nouveau riche?
 Budget Cabin

Mini Suite 

 open shelves

 cupboards with doors (lots!)

 twin beds oriented starboard/port

 queen bed oriented forward/aft

shower curtain trying to join bather

 shower door (ok, it bangs in any seas)

 small closets

 big closets

 empty luggage under a shelf in view

 suitcases hidden under bed

 disposable plastic cups

 glasses (water, wine, highball, etc)

 multi-purpose liquid soap/shampoo

actual bar soap in bathroom 


 couch and chair


 throw pillows






 bathrobes, champagne and fruit, Kleenex, etc

  clearly we have a good thing here

After packing and unpacking again and watching the seas and the island for most of the day, we found there was to be no way to get to Heimaey, so on we headed toward Scotland. The big excitement on board was the appearance of a pipit, a small land bird. Simon, our deputy assistant expedition leader : ) and resident bird fanatic, thought it might actually be a North American species. It stuck with us throughout the day and into the next, but unfortunately expired before we reached land. Simon packed it up and mailed it off to a friend for more positive identification.

Thursday 20 Sept - At sea

Friday 21 Sept
Stornoway, Isle of Lewis, Outer Hebrides


We arrived in our first port in the a.m. and disembarked down a precariously steep brow, knowing that high tide would make it even worse to come back later. The first order of business (after tourist information, of course, which is assumed) was a little shopping - to pick up those things either forgotten or deliberately not brought. And of course, there's David's perpetual search for news (International Herald Tribune and magazines).




We happened upon the grand opening/ribbon cutting of the Edinborough Woolen Mill shop, complete with bagpiper (accompanied as you can see), champagne and shortbread. Between rain showers we wandered toward the local castle, closed to everyone due to its needing 6,000,000 British pounds for renovation/restoration. On the way we found a little hole in the wall shop with piles and piles of Harris Tweed fabric, remnants, scraps of all kinds and finished goods. I hadn't been aware that Harris Tweed is all hand loomed in homes to strict specifications. I picked up a couple of things there and made David buy (!) wool socks to wear inside the boots they give us to wear in Antarctica. The owner of the shop advised us on the highlights of the area - a walk through the park around the castle, seals in the harbor, and a local pub for lunch. "That'll take you about an hour."




Walked around the castle, went to the recommended pub, which did not serve food (at least at that time of day). The bartender sent us off to another pub, the Carleton, where we had great fish and chips and met Mr. Patrick Molony, a fellow passenger (although it took us awhile to gain that information, or any info from him, for that matter!). He has since decided that he is on the world's longest pub crawl. He does know his beer.

After returning our purchases to the ship, up that incredible gangplank, we venured back down (silly us!) for a walk on the beach. I was determined to find the aforementioned seals. David gave up halfway, but I continued on, bird watching, shell hunting (although I wisely decided not to bring any home) and unsuccessfully searching for seals. It turns out the seals were in the fishing harbor, so I took a nice long walk back into and around town. I did spot a half dozen or so seals, just hanging out in the water with their noses out. Naturally I had neglected to bring my camera or binoculars on this trip.



Saturday 22 Sept
Oban, Scotland

We anchored off of Oban and were tendered to shore. With the weather still iffy, however, we were warned that if the ship needed to move, they would blow the horn and we were to come to the dock to be returned to Fram. We thought this was an interesting way to deal with things and decided to stick fairly close but not obsess.


Before and after tourist information, we found ourselves in a few more shops - I had decided to buy some sheet music, as there is a piano on board. Books are always on our list, despite the fact that we do have several more available. And of course there was a yarn shop. I found some wonderful local wool from the heirloom Hebridean breed and had a lovely chat with the proprietor, who was kind enough to give me a pattern for kilt hose.



Hiked up a significant hill to McTaig's Tower,

an unfinished building based on the Coliseum

with great views of the area.



Lunch was a quick fish and chips from a main street stand - we had some serious begging by the locals but managed to avoid any actual theft.







Our warnings to stay close didn't stop us from visiting the Oban Distillery, where they make an exceedingly good single malt scotch and we had an exceptional guide. After that a quick trip to the chocolate factory (what more does one need?) and we were off again. Made our purchases and headed back to the ship.

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