The ‘Sula Mhor’
Operating from Plockton for the first time in 2009, the MV ‘Sula Mhor’ is a 51 foot wooden vessel. She is of carvel construction, pitch pine planks on oak frames . She was built in southern England in 1947, possibly as a naval tender. She later saw service working for the St. Mawes FerryCo in Cornwall, and prior to coming to Plockton sailed the seas around the Isle of Mull on wildlife cruises.
The Sula Mhor is a much bigger vessel than the humble boat we started with…..
Our first boat
Calum Mackenzie started boat trips in Plockton using a former River Thames Police Launch having bought the boat for the princely sum of £30.
With the reputation of Plockton growing as an ideal spot for seal watching, Calum realised that a better boat was needed: the police launch had served its time well but was not big enough to cope with the visitors that were now coming to Plockton for the summer.
The second boat was called the Rhibbin Og which had been used as a prawn fishing boat in Plockton but was later moved by its owner to Fort William. After shaking on the deal with his old friend Finlay Finlayson, Calum had to go to Fort William to bring the boat back. So a motley crew was selected for the hazardous voyage of the Rhibbin Og which included Johnda Byrne, Finlay Finlayson, Colin Macandrew and Dave McGhie, the highlight of which was passing the Mishnish Hotel in Tobermory.
The next boat was a 31′ Yorkshire coble which was bought from a local boatman in Plockton.
Following that was the Amanda C, an AquaStar 27 from Christchurch in Dorset.
When the BBC chose Plockton to film three series of the now cult television programme ‘ Hamish Macbeth’ in the mid 90’s it soon became obvious that a bigger boat was needed. The success of the show bought a massive surge in visitors to the village to see the scenes and meet the people some of whom starred in many of the episodes. Calum himself starred, and was the inspiration for one of the episodes.
As the earlier boats had only been licensed for 12 passengers the search was on for a boat that could take the increasing number of visitors to Plockton who wanted to go and see the seals. After a nationwide search the ‘Argus’ was purchased locally from Mick Coe who had been operating out of Kyleakin Harbour on the nearby Isle of Skye. After much work and a lot of new paint the maiden voyage of the ‘Argus’ took place on July 6th 1999 and served well for nearly 10 years.
In 2009 we got a bigger and better boat than ever before, we spotted the Sula Mhor for sale in Tobermory. Before being in Tobermory she had been operating as the New Princess Maud on the St Mawes Ferry run. This was just the boat that Calum had been looking for, well suited to the inshore waters of the West Highlands. ‘Sula Mhor’ arrived in Plockton in February 2009, with Calum bringing the boat himself from Mallaig to where it had been delivered. A beautiful and much loved and admired boat.
Sadly in 2020 in storm Ciara the beautiful Sula Mhor was destroyed, Calum was devastated but with encouragement and massive support from everywhere from here in Plockton to all parts of the world to keep going, we started a search for a new boat. We think we have found one and so Calums Seal Trips will be sailing again from April creating more happy times and memories of one hour seal trips to music cruises, weddings and special events.
Well another year on and no one would have guessed what could have happened in the last year!
We didn’t get the boat we had hoped to buy as the vendor decided not to sell in the end! However we have now managed to get a replacement for Sula Mhor. A very popular boat sailing out of North Berwick known there as The Border Rose it also worked in the Solent as Wild Rose, it’s journey has continued North to the waters of Loch Carron where it will be kown as Sula Bheag.
Currently undergoing all the vigorous safety inspections to comply with the latest Health and Safety Regulations. We hope to be ready to start as soon as Covid restrictions are lifted to allow us to do so.
We are looking forward to getting back on the water and welcoming passengers old and new to sail with us.