St Kilda often features on the itinerary of the annual NTS cruise but this year the entire cruise programme was linked to the islands. We had expected the ship to arrive at the weekend, but a forecast predicting weather totally unsuitable for landing people at the jetty caused a bit of a rethink. Imagine how disappointing it would be to make the long journey out to St Kilda to then have to sit in the bay unable to land, so near yet so far. Luckily, plans could be altered and locations jiggled about to allow a mid week visit instead.
Much preparation takes place in advance of the cruise ship arriving to ensure things go as smoothly as possible for passengers. I'm normally not involved too heavily with visitor management but all staff - Paul, Kevin and I - plus Rob the new shop convener lent a hand for most of the week due to the sheer numbers of visitors arriving on island. We know the shop can be a very popular place but it is also relatively small so we erected a gazebo in a sheltered spot outdoors where we could offer postcards away from the main shop. A gazebo? It's not the normal type of structure we are familiar with but it worked a treat and reduced queues. Seriously, who comes to St Kilda to queue?!
With all the prep work done we were like coiled springs ready and waiting for action and I suspect passengers were chomping at the bit to come ashore too. Although the sun was shining there was no denying the sea was a little churned up and for a while we weren't actually sure any one would make it across.
The Saga Pearl II anchored out in the bay but the tide was too low for the tenders to operate. A tense two hour wait followed as the boat handlers tested conditions alongside the vessel and at the jetty... then success, people made it and were welcomed ashore to a piper's song
The weather was much improved today and some passengers made it over at 7am for an early stroll in the morning sun. The shop wasn't quite so busy which gave me the opportunity to head up to the Street and I thoroughly enjoyed meeting people, answering questions and hearing their reasons for making the trip. Many had been before but for some it was a visit of a lifetime - either way all seemed to enjoy themselves and left thrilled to have set foot on Hirta.