Calum’s Seal Trips, Plockton, one of the best wildlife cruises in the UK, had humble beginnings.
How It All Began
Calum Mackenzie started boat trips in Plockton using a former River Thames Police Launch having bought the boat for the princely sum of £30. Calum had the idea of taking guests of the Plockton Hotel around the waters of Loch Carron and occasionally further afield to Kishorn to see the construction of the awesome oil rigs on which he once worked/
The boat trips were soon renamed as Calum’s Seal Trips and Calum soon realised that Plockton was a great place to see seals and the magnificent wildlife that the village had to offer. Those early seal trips were the inspiration for a story that has lasted nearly forty years.
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 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 90s 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 appeared in one of the episodes, and his seal trips was the inspiration for the episode with the plastic whale.
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 6 July 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 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 the search for a new boat.
Covid arrived and we were unable to go anywhere. Eventually we managed to find a replacement, a very popular boat sailing out of North Berwick. It was known there as The Border Rose and had also worked in the Solent as Wild Rose. Its journey has continued north to the waters of Loch Carron where it will be known as Sula Bheag and so Calums Seal Trips was able to sail again from June 2021 as restrictions began to lift and we were able to operate with limited capacity to allow for social distancing, creating more happy times and memories of one hour seal trips, music cruises, weddings and special events.
Currently getting ready for another season and awaiting the vigorous MCA safety inspections to comply with all Safety Regulations. We hope to be ready to start the season on the first weekend in April and to welcoming passengers old and new to sail with us in 2022.
We have recently purchased Spindrift lV, a Colvic Beta 40 which used to work out of Portree. A 12 passenger boat available for private hire or regular evening cruises where you can enjoy the last of the evening sun with a glass of Prosecco.