With this being our second trip to Ulva and the last big beach clean of the summer, we had been busy planning for this trip for months, and things were beginning to fall into place for the weekend ahead. We then added boats to the mix.
Our original plan was to take both the big boat Stroma A and our newly purchased Pioner Multi Curlew. In the days running up to Ulva, the person who was going to operate Curlew became unavailable, but no problem, we thought, we would just take Stroma and our smallest boat (another pioneer). Plan A is now Plan B!
With a crew of four and Skipper Davy at the helm, Stroma A set off from south of Oban to head to Tobermory and then onto Ulva. The sea was calm, but we were expecting that to change as we passed Easdale, and Stroma was soon pushing her way through some big, bouncy waves. We had been moving along fine, and the sickness tablets were being well and truly tested, but there was a small mechanical issue. Although we were still moving okay, we made the call to head to Oban rather than risk a breakdown at sea. Plan C: here we go!
Once we arrived in Oban, we managed to get a ride back to our vehicle further south. Our knight in shining armour, Liam, was an absolute star and even managed to do a quick detour to give us a local history lesson on the way there.
Reunited with our vehicle, we drove back to the boat and emptied out everything we would need for the weekend. Skipper Davy stayed with the boat, and thankfully, she was fixed quickly and soon on her way to her winter mooring. There was only one ferry sailing left that day, and luckily, we managed to get a space. Once on the ferry, we then realised that we only had one very small boat coming over, and this wouldn’t be big enough to transport all the collected rubbish to the nearby Bakkafrost site, who were very kindly supplying a skip for it all. So, while sitting in the dark on the deck of the Oban to Craignure ferry, we emailed our contact at Bakkafrost, explaining the day’s drama and now being down two boats. Within 5 minutes, we had a response back, offering to pick up any rubbish we collected over the weekend. There may have been a wee celebratory deck dance!
We arrived on Mull quite late, and it was straight to bed as soon as the tents were set up.
We woke to calm weather and headed straight to the Ulva Ferry. Ally from Ocean Plastic Pots and Tommy (the founder of SCCU) headed to the bothy (base camp) in the small boat, while two of us walked the 2 hours in. Two volunteers had arrived at the beach the night before and were already out cleaning.
The Cragaig bothy recently featured on the BBC TV show Designing the Hebrides, where designer Bango Beale gave it a makeover. The bothy is available to book as accommodation on https://www.islandholidaycottages.co.uk/cragaigbothynew.php. and between its cosy interior and stunning location, it really is a fabulous place to stay.
That afternoon, four of us headed to a bay we had seen on our last visit and spent the next few hours clearing it of its many years’ worth of plastic pollution. After multiple boat trips taking stuff back to the beach, the beach was finally back to its natural state. That night, we put the fire on, lit the lamps (there is no electricity), and had a wonderful evening relaxing and sharing stories.
We woke to glorious sunshine, and two of us travelled by boat back to the Ulva ferry end of the island to meet the volunteers who were coming over from Mull to beach clean for the day. The group of 12, including four children, walked about 20 minutes to beach clean a stunning stretch of coastline that looks across the water to Benmore on Mull. This area was extensively cleaned last year, when we removed a huge number of bulky items like buoys, fish boxes, and oil containers. It was looking so much cleaner this year, but even so, we managed to remove 100kg worth of rubbish.
While one team was doing this, the rest of the volunteers were back at the bay and had found a bay that was full of plastic pollution that had washed up, so they spent the day clearing it all away.
With the amazing weather of the last two days well and truly gone, we spent the morning packing up, getting the boat back on the trailer, and getting thoroughly soaked! We treated ourselves to brunch at The Little Bespoke Bakery in Salen, where we bumped into and chatted with Wildlife Camerman Hamza Yassin.
We want to say a huge thank you to all our amazing volunteers, the residents of Ulva, the North West Mull Community Woodland Trust, the team at Bakkafrost, and all the other folk that stepped in to help when it was needed. You all helped to make the weekend a great success.
You can find out more about the Isle of Ulva at www.ulva.scot/.