After another good night’s sleep we awoke to a bright, crisp Scottish morning with views to die for. The Astoria had moored at sea in the Sound of Mull, just outside Tobermory.
As the harbour was too shallow and small for the Astoria to dock we had our first experience of the use of tenders which doubled as lifeboats in an emergency. Given this was the first port of call and the first time tenders had been used there was a bit of a rush for tickets for independent travellers, those on the organised tours being given priority. There looked to be about three tenders being used at the same time for ferrying passengers to and fro & the safety notice below was helpfully included in our day’s agenda.
Although part of the reason for going independent was the rather high cost of these tours, as the cruise progressed we realised that getting up early to make the often long coach tours to various sights wasn’t our cup of tea. As time progressed there was virtually no queue for tickets at all and people could disembark and rejoin the ship pretty much at will.
On this occasion we were a little late going from breakfast to collect our tickets and I think we got “F” which meant that tickets “A-E” were before us, so we decided to take it easy by going up to the promenade deck and watch the to & fro-ing of the tenders ashore and sunbathe next to a mother & daughter, who due to the former’s age weren’t going ashore, but knitting instead!
As time progressed more of the tickets were called then a couple came up to sit next to us with “L” tickets – I seem to remember rather cheekily calling them rather loudly the “Leper” tickets which made Debbie squirm a trifle, but fortunately “F” was called without incident!
On arrival at the small pontoon marina we were greeted by security and pointed towards the town’s tourist information a few yards away.
Tobermory’s cottages are painted bright multi-colours and were known as “Balamory” on children’s TV. We took the opportunity to post cards off to Mum, Emma, James & Alex and then made our way to the small Cal-Mac ferry port where I had some soup to warm up in the attached cafe, as although the sun was shining to begin with it was starting to get a bit colder.
We mooched in a few shops, buying some local Oban made drop ear rings for Debbie that subsequently found their way to Emma, before I spotted the pub next to the tourist information centre was serving langoustines which were delicious and crabs claws which weren’t! Happily washed down with a pint of best bitter for me and a half of cider for the dear lady we looked at the darkening skies and headed back to the tender. This is where the fun started.
About 45 people excluding the three man Russian crew got on tender number 6 and everything seems to go smoothly until we had just passed beyond the RNLI lifeboat station when the “captain” in charge of the throttle started pushing it back and forth to no avail as all power from the engines seemed to have been lost.
Below is a picture of Debbie sheepishly looking askance at me as I treat her and the other passengers with my rendition of John Laurie‘s “we’re doomed!”
Eventually another tender came alongside and tied ropes at the bow and stern as you can see in the photo below and bound together we slowly made it back to the Astoria. Funnily enough after this experience queuing for tickets didn’t seem to be a problem….
Back on board I celebrated life with a Cocktail of the Day (Astoria Special – dark rum, amaretto, lemon mix, orange & pineapple juice) while Debbie drained a white wine in one gulp!
Above is a picture of Welsh couple Bethan & Howard watching us celebrate in the Sirenes bar although I think I may have upset him when I mentioned rather too loudly he looked like Derek Jacobi, one of Debbie’s favourite actors, well he did! In fact I’m not sure it was the alcohol but as the cruise progressed we saw many celebrity doubles and alas my “Elton John” impression didn’t escape either…
Astoria’s departure time was 5pm and the ship rumbled as the huge anchor and chain was pulled up ready for the journey to Stornaway with an expected arrival time of 7am in the morning. Showtime that night was “From Russia with Love”traditional Russian songs and dances which was great fun, as well as a Russian version of “Call My Bluff” were you had to find out who was telling lies and the truth about obscure Russian words. Great fun although on this occasion we came last!
Another good night’s sleep as the sea was calm, little did we know what we would experience in the next 24 hours though 🙂