HWDT BLOG

Monday 7th April 2014- Silurian Delivery

Published: 09/04/2014


At a bright and early hour of 07:20am on Monday 7th April, The Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trusts’ very own First Mate (Tom Reade) Finance officer (Mark Whitaker) and Marine Biodiversity Officer (Kerry Froud), awaited a ferry to Kilchoan, to begin their journey to the Caledonian Canal. After a winter of maintenance work in the canal, it was time for the Trust’s research vessel Silurian to be brought back to Tobermory in time for the fast approaching survey season.





The howling wind from the day before has ceased to a mere breeze as the three travelled across the overcast sound of Mull to start the next leg of their journey. Once on the mainland, they hopped onboard the bus, greeted by a very cheery bus driver, and continued on their way. Two hours later after many twists and turns, rattling and rolling and dead legs, the three unfolded themselves from their seats and arrived in Fort William to greet their skipper for the day Glen Murray. Glen has had around 10 years of experience working onboard Silurian and was even involved in purchasing her in 2001 from Lymington, Hampshire, after she’d been involved in the filming of BBC’s Blue Planet documentary.






By Mid-day the four crew members and their trusty vessel had begun to conquer Neptune’s Staircase. Neptune’s Staircase is a canal staircase made up of some 8 locks on the Caledonian Canal, with a stunning backdrop of looming snow topped mountains. Built between 1803 and 1822 by Thomas Telford, Neptune’s Staircase is the longest staircase lock in Britain, a marvellous feat of engineering! Thankfully it is now powered by the simple press of a button, unlike in Telford’s day, where the lock gates would have been opened manually by turning a large wheel. Wheels that despite no longer being in use can still be seen along the canal.  






























At around 3pm the kettle was on, as the boat prepared to leave the final lock gates and set sail into Loch Linnhe. Our lock keeper for this last leg was a rather young chap, of around 8 years. As the young man opened the gates, we waved goodbye and thanked the lock staff for their help down the staircase.

With cups of tea now in their bellies, it was time to set the sails and make headway to get back to Tobermory before nightfall. The sun appeared from behind the clouds and sleeves were almost rolled up. With a good bit of team work, the sails were hoisted and the crew could sail their way down beautiful Loch Linnhe. 




























Snow topped mountains to the port side, green hills to starboard (ignoring an rather unsightly quarry) and an intense rainbow stretching between the two to the stern. No pot of gold, but when sailing in the Hebrides on a day like that, who needs any more riches?

After a few short heavy showers, they entered the Sound of Mull where the sun began to dip behind the island, casting an auburn glow over the opposite headland. The sea calmed to mere ripples, allowing the team to pack away the sails, pump up the tender and get the boat ready for arrival. At around 9pm, Silurian entered Tobermory bay, with just the last rays of light penetrating the evening’s sky and within a matter of minutes, Silurian was back on her mooring, ready to start a new survey season.
 Home Sweet Home.


All photos courtesy of Mark Whitaker

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Wednesday 25th September 2013

Published: 26/09/2013

Anchorage: Tobermory
Location: Tied up at the pontoons! Distance Travelled: 30 miles (ish)

We were all up early for our final leg back to port and after breakfast, set off through the tricky narrows of Loch Moidart before turning south for home.  

After the excitement of the last few days, the passage south was comparatively quiet, until, that was, there was a shout of sighting from the mast and for the final time we were 'with whales.' This time, in the company of a Risso's Dolphin (Cue much excitement and cartwheels around the deck by Anja).

Once back on transect,  there were a few further porpoise sightings, before turning south east into the Sound of Mull where we spent a  while ‘with creels' before finally winding our way into the pontoons at Tobermory where we set upon the final clean of  the boat that has been our home for the last ten days.  

After gathering all our gear and a quick freshen up,  the crew and volunteers gathered for a swift one at the Mishnish before heading off to Café Fish for our last evening meal together and a celebration of an extremely successful survey trip.  

We, the volunteers, cannot thank our skipper crew enough for the fantastic experience we have shared over the last 10 days. With total sighting of 58 grey and common seals, 141 harbour porpoises, 102 common dolphins, 10 minke whales, 1 risso's dolphin, 17 basking sharks and 3 unidentified cetaceans.  

So to Tim, many thanks for being a first class skipper, to Anja and Kerry, thanks for keeping us all straight on the science and being excellent and informative guides to cetacean identification and behavior and to Tom, the architect of many great meals and epic second breakfasts, thanks for being a superb first mate and finally to you all, a great big thank you for making this a fabulous, fun and truly educational trip.    



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Tuesday 24th September 2013

Published: 24/09/2013

Anchorage: Loch Moidart Location: 56° 47.254N 5° 51.732W Distance Travelled: 53.8 miles

This morning we were blessed with beautiful sunny weather and a sea state of 0 which gave for amazing sighting conditions.

We set out from Loch Harport, heading generally south in the direct of Rum and Eigg with an aim for the day to cover previously un-surveyed water. At around 10.00 an excited shout of "sighting" called from the mast and deck and within minutes we were surrounded by 9 common dolphins bowriding with us. The animals associated with the boat for around 20 minutes before moving on.  

A quiet period followed where we all enjoyed glorious sunny weather in t-shirts (certainly an unexpected turn of events for us all considering that it's late September!).

As we travelled through the Sound of Rum we spotted first one harbour porpoise, then 2 and then 60! It was almost as if there was a porpoise conference going on in the area as more and more porpoises joined the massing numbers. Along with this mass sighting our total number of porpoises sighted for the day was 99. Pretty spectacular.  

Following this, Matt had a further moment of avian excitement when he spotted another rare bird, this time a junior grey phalarope moving into its first winter plumage.  

A short while later, with lunch just having been distributed by Tom, a Minke whale was spotted from the deck and then the mast so for the third time today we were "with whales". As we stood by to monitor the whale a further 3 animals were spotted, they appeared to be circling an underwater bank and feeding. We remained in the area for a while to allow photo ID shots to be taken before turning back on transect.   No sooner were we back on effort than a further shout of "Sighting - Minke" had us back with whales.  This time the initial observation was of two animals feeding along side a number of gannets, within a short space of time, further animals were spotted in the area with one whale lunge feeding amongst the birds. There was some excitement amongst the scientists at this point. We remained with this group for around 20 minutes to enable photo ID shots to be taken with the total number of animals feeding in the area being estimated at 6 which is a rare occurrence indeed. This put our total minke sightings for the day at 10. Truly awesome!  

As we progressed towards our anchorage for the evening, a large number of dolphin whistle detections were heard on the acoustics, a short while later Kerry spotted some splashes off to the right so we altered course to investigate. This time we found a large number of common dolphins feeding in association with a large group of gannets. The animals were circling and porpoising seemingly aiming to corral a shoal of fish against a rocky bank. For the second time today, a number of dolphins peeled off from the group and associated with the Silurian, bow riding for around 10 minutes before rejoining the rest of the feeding pod. Number of individuals was estimated to be around 50.  

We finally made it into our extremely scenic anchorage at around 6.45pm after over 10 hours under way but after a truly amazing day for sightings.

 A shore party headed off to visit the nearby Castle Tioram before darkness fell, whilst Kerry and Anja prepared some awesome bangers and mash.



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Monday 23rd September 2013

Published: 24/09/2013

Anchorage: Loch Harport, Isle of Skye.
Position: 57° 18.068N 6° 20.671W Distance travelled 56.2  miles.  

Awakening to a beautiful sunrise over Knoidart in mirror like sea conditions, after a quick breakfast and clean through of the boat, we said farewell to the island of Rum and were swiftly back on effort.  It was another one of those Hebridean days, where the sea can never quite make up its mind about what it's going to throw at us. Through the day we had periods of flat calm and 13 mile visibility through to 1 mile and 2.5m swell.  

We headed off north round the coast of Rum, turning back south and west round Canna and Oigh Sgeir Lighthouse, then north towards Skye in a bid to use the favourable conditions to conduct transects in areas that have had limited survey coverage previously. After a couple of porpoise detections and sightings there was a long period of no activity until a cry of "Sighting! Basking shark!" was heard from Libbi at the mast. This was followed by further sightings.  During the 20 minute or so  "With whales" (OK sharks really) period  a total of around 15 animals were recorded.  

As we progressed north again, a number of gannets were spotted diving and feeding on the left of the boat, almost immediately "Sighting! Common dolphin!" was called from the mast and deck simultaneously as the dolphins and gannets were seemingly feeding on the same shoal of fish. Once again we were ‘with whales' and a number of the dolphins started porpoising towards the boat to commence a 10 minute association with Silurian involving bow riding and porpoising alongside the boat. Three calves were spotting among the bow riding animals with the total pod size estimated at 18.

As the dolphins headed off we turned back on transect and were soon back on effort.   As we approached out anchorage in Loch Harport there were further harbor porpoise sightings and Lynsey scaled the crows nest to enjoy the stunning view of the Cuillins.  

After our evening meal Anja conducted a 5 hour :-) lecture on the work of HWDT, reviewing the survey data collected between 2001 and  2012 and showing how this is used to model the distribution of the main species across the West of Scotland and how this information is used to further knowledge and inform future research into these amazing animals.  

The evening was rounded off with a quick trip onshore to enjoy a swift refreshment at the Old Inn in Carbost.



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Sunday 22nd September (Pirate day!)

Published: 23/09/2013

Anchorage: Loch Scresort, Isle of Rum.
Position: 57°00.701W 6°15.725N Distance travelled: 49.3  miles.  

A fantastic day had on the high seas! We headed out of Bunnessan, north past Staffa (a geologists dream!) and on to the Treshnish Isles. Harbour porpoise detections came in thick and fast totaling 45 through the day, with a 11 sightings from the surface totaling 13 animals sighted.

A false alarm on the hydrophone had us all on red alert for dolphins but it turned out to be more probably a variant of ADD.  

Approaching Muck there was an excited call of "Sighting" from Lynsey on the left side of the mast as a common dolphin was spotted porpoising towards the boat. Within the space of a few minutes, the  Silurian was surrounded by common dolphins bow riding and porpoising alongside the boat so the survey status was quickly switched to ‘With Whales' so the entire team made their way to the bow to enjoy the spectacle. The pod was estimated to contain around 25 individuals with a large number of clicks and whistles also detected on the hydrophone. The pod associated with the boat for around 20 minutes before moving on. Back on effort we progressed towards our anchorage for the night.  

On arrival in Rum excitement picked up as sightings of porpoises were being recorded virtually every minute with a possible but unconfirmed bottlenose dolphin sighting from the helm.  

Once the anchor was down, we took the opportunity to explore the shore and get a much needed shower. Matt and Lynsey took off to the "Otter hide". From there an otter was spotted but the main highlight was the sighting of two Minke Whales from the shore line, with two or three more porpoises.

Of course today was ‘pirate day' with the full complement of the boat turned out in makeshift pirate attire and weaponry and accompanied by a fearsome looking parrot fashioned from recycling bin contents. The day concluded with a session of walking the plank for a number of the crew and volunteers resulting in a plunge in the exceptionally refreshing waters of the anchorage, followed by a splendid meal and sharing of pirate tales and sea shanties.



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Saturday 21st September 2013

Published: 21/09/2013

Anchorage: Burnessan, Isle of Mull.
Position: 56 19 100 N 006 15.16 W
Distance travelled: 43.8 nautical miles

This morning, the rain held off as we left Loch Tarbet (Isle of Jura) with Caren at the helm to navigate us out through some shallow water and hidden rocks.  A pair of grey seals escorted us out into the open water.  From there we headed north past Colonsay to unsurveyed waters where we had our first porpoise sighting of the day, with another 6 detections, two of which were sighted from the mast.

Matt was rather excited when he spotted his first Sabine Gull in UK waters, two Sooty Shearwaters and a Storm Petrol.  

We then sailed north hitting some choppy water before heading into the sound of Iona.  The skipper had a tense moment navigating Silurian through some very shallow water (3.6m deep!).  

Post effort has been spent preparing for the up and coming pirate day where an excellent parrot has been created!   As the day drew to an end, we found out our ‘pirate names' for tomorrow's swashbuckling antics around a tasty banana cake (made by Kerry aka Lady Esmerelda Smythe) and a bottle Lagavulin Islay single malt whisky…lovely.  



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Friday 20th September 2013

Published: 21/09/2013

Anchorage: Loch Tarbert, Jura West Coast
Position: 5557N 00554W  

We left Jura behind this morning, well, the East coast of Jura anyway and headed for Gigha in search of sea life and fair weather.

A few porpoises and seals en route were spotted and lots of seabirds including a sooty shearwater which totally made Matt's day.

Managed to get all three sails out and turn the engine off as we rounded Cara and made for the sound of Islay. A fast tide took us past Port Askaig as Dawn elegantly clambered up to the crow's nest for the best view onboard.  

A new view of Jura emerged as we rounded the west coast and picked our way into the remote anchorage of Tarbert, very scenic and peaceful until we arrived… rumour has it there may be some swimming later.  

So far no swimming…but a rather amusing moment with a chocolate brownie has had us all in stitches! Somehow (no idea how), during the "jabbley" weather as we left Jura, a spoon managed to make its way into the mixture and was subsequently baked into the brownie. This made for a rather comedic moment as Matt discovered the spoon whilst he tucked into the brownie "lollipop" at dinner! Brilliant!



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Friday 20th September 2013

Published: 21/09/2013

Anchorage: Loch Tarbert, Jura West Coast
Position: 5557N 00554W  

We left Jura behind this morning, well, the East coast of Jura anyway and headed for Gigha in search of sea life and fair weather.

A few porpoises and seals en route were spotted and lots of seabirds including a sooty shearwater which totally made Matt's day.

Managed to get all three sails out and turn the engine off as we rounded Cara and made for the sound of Islay. A fast tide took us past Port Askaig as Dawn elegantly clambered up to the crow's nest for the best view onboard.  

A new view of Jura emerged as we rounded the west coast and picked our way into the remote anchorage of Tarbert, very scenic and peaceful until we arrived… rumour has it there may be some swimming later.  

So far no swimming…but a rather amusing moment with a chocolate brownie has had us all in stitches! Somehow (no idea how), during the "jabbley" weather as we left Jura, a spoon managed to make its way into the mixture and was subsequently baked into the brownie. This made for a rather comedic moment as Matt discovered the spoon whilst he tucked into the brownie "lollipop" at dinner! Brilliant!



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Thursday 19th September 2013

Published: 19/09/2013

Anchorage: Craighouse, Isle of Jura
Position: 55°50.168'N, 005°564'W Distance travelled: 0 NM  

Back to school! Today was brought to you by the letter R (for rubbish weather), and the number 0 (for zero sightings and miles covered, which kind of explains it).
The Silurian remained anchored off Craighouse, within sight and smell of the distillery, as high winds and a rough sea stopped play.  

The day kicked off with an ID lesson on birds and boats (an exceedingly indulgent hour for Matt….bird sounds galore!), before the team swung into full Blue Peter mode for the Great Silurian 2013 Art Competition. We each chose a word which was then put into a hat. Later we all re-picked one of those words to assorted groans as we all wondered how on earth we are going to try and create a masterpiece based upon that word…  

A shore trip followed, particularly valued by those team members who were slightly greener than normal - one volunteer fell to her knees, gave thanks and kissed the concrete! Various pottering around Jura ensued, and our first shark sighted (sadly a dead dogfish munched by an otter).  

Back in the classroom, we gave presentations on our chosen whales and dolphins, before Anja and Kerry demonstrated their universal knowledge of all things cetacean with a run through all the other species in the world (almost).

A brief break in nacho-scoffing was taken to admire a splendid sea eagle cruising over the bay, but food and cards filled most of the early evening.  

The pressing business of dinner (part 1) dealt with, the team presented their creations for the Art Competition. The standard of artworks was unbelievably high, with models, stories, paintings, drawings, poems and a stylish teapot named Rosie all making an appearance. Flushed with success, we fell on dinner (part 2), a delicious blackberry and apple crumble with brambles picked fresh from the Jura shore. All in all, a day low on cetaceans but high on fun.  

Finally, a very happy birthday to Kirsten, 20 today!



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Wednesday 18th September 2013

Published: 18/09/2013

Anchorage: Craighouse, Isle of Jura
Position: 55°50.168'N, 005°564'W
Distance travelled: 40 NM    

With last night's Birthday caterpillar muffins and the rare sighting of a ‘moonbow' just a distant memory we were up bright and early for day two.  The Sea Eagle was still fishing in the bay as we finished breakfast and headed off.   We made a good start, spotting two common seals within the first 10 minutes setting sail, unfortunately, this wasn't to continue and the rest of the day was limited to creel spotting.

The weather was a little changeable (!), ranging from sunshine to 57 knot winds and driving rain, so the waterproofs were well tested!  The worst of the weather was as we travelled through the sound of Jura with the Corryvreckan whirlpools fairly hidden from view as we passed.  

Although sightings from the mast were few today, the acoustics were more successful, identifying six porpoise.  A further porpoise was also spotted off effort.  

We anchored in a windy Craighouse off Jura in company of the Hebridean Princess and are currently waiting for the wind to die down for a trip ashore and maybe sample a dram of Jura's best ….. just to keep out the cold you understand!



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Tuesday 17th september 2013

Published: 17/09/2013

Happy birthday skipper!  

Anchorage: Loch Spelve, Isle of Mull Position: 56°24.505'N, 005°44.414'W
Distance travelled: 26.7NM

Having Arrived on Monday evening to be met by Volunteer co-ordinator Morven and her own "wee passenger", six brand new volunteers were ushered onto the Silurian to meet the crew and get to know each other. Along with skipper Tim, who apparently has a significant birthday on the 18th, the crew consists of First Mate Tom, Science Officer Anja and Assistant Science Officer, Kerry.  Volunteers consist of Caren, Lynsey, Matt, Libby, Dawn and Frank.

First evening was spent on essential briefings and shopping for equally essential supplies. Of course this meant calling into a local hostelry on route back to the boat. Having been suitably refreshed and  nourished with Tom's excellent bolognese we called it a night and squeezed into our cosy bunks.  

Monday night has thrown a wee bit of weather our way so it was good to see that the wind had dropped a little whilst we sat down to commence ‘volunteer training'  This process is by far overshadowed by the concept of first breakfast and second breakfast that preceded and followed it.    

Fully skilled up on visual and acoustic survey techniques, we head off in a southerly direction down the Sound of Mull where a Golden Eagle was spotted. It wasn't too long before Matt had spotted the first seal of the day that was to earn him the accolade, of "Matt the seal spotter" although he did add a porpoise to his tally later in the day. Apart from this the tally included a large number of creels, one plastic bottle, a Sea Eagle and a number of otters (not to mention the male Hen Harrier) and, a dead adder.  The dead adder, however was not spotted whilst ‘on effort' but whilst ashore later in Loch Spelve to secure some fresh mussels as a starter to Caren and Matt's magnificent stew.   There is a rumour that the evening may involve birthday muffins but more of that tomorrow.  



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Monday 2nd September 2013

Published: 03/09/2013

Anchorage: Plockton
Distance travelled: 31.9nm  

A good first breakfast as usual to set us up for the day. We took up our positions wondering what the sea had in store for us today. Loch Torridon was so beautiful, the fish farm sadly unbelievably loud over the headphones! Open sea was surprisingly kind as we tried to contact the range to cut over to the east side of sky.  There was some interesting bird activity with a great skua dive-bombing a pair of cormorants, and they made a hasty escape under water.  The afternoon was one of much spray but still no sightings. Eventually as we cut back across to the mainland into more sheltered waters a rash of sightings with 19 harbour porpoise in total and a few unknowns (probably porpoises). Anchorage tonight was Plockton once more where we shared the bay with a huge yacht Gordonstoun and the Navy. Trip ashore tonight was accompanied by full oilskins after our soaking of the previous evening. Will the clothes ever dry?  Dinner revealed that Tom, as well as having all those first mate skills, was also an excellent potato masher!



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Sunday 1st September 2013

Published: 02/09/2013

  
Anchorage: Loch Torridon Distance travelled: 24.8nm  

A shorter day today, we are now heading back south with the aim of getting closer and closer to Tobermory each day. The wind direction is coming from the south/south-west so we will be heading into it over the next few days. As we came out of Gairloch and into more open waters the swell appeared to have picked up even more since yesterday, and the winds were still over 35 knots with gusts up to 47 knots. We rounded the corner to Torridon and stopped visual surveys; everyone sat at the back of the boat. Back in the sheltered waters of Loch Torridon we were able to get on the mast and continue our surveying. One grey seal was spotted and 7 harbour porpoise detections were made on the hydrophone. The wind was still gusting hard and when we arrived at our anchorage just before 2pm everyone was looking suitably windswept. We passed the afternoon with a presentation from Adam about Biosphere and then went ashore for walks and to see the local pub. The tender ride back to the boat was incredibly wet and the next half hour was spent finding places to hang our things to dry. The Chilli prepared by Fiona and Kitty soon warmed us up though and after a chat about our survey tracks for tomorrow we all headed to bed.



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Friday 30th August 2013

Published: 02/09/2013

Anchorage: Plockton
Distance travelled: 40.2nm  

Today was wild, wet and windy - quite an experience for all, but particularly for those at the mast!  The skipper told us in the evening that the wind had been up to 55 knots.  The sail into Loch Duich, past the beautiful castle, Eilean Donnan, provided a lovely respite, and we spotted three adult porpoises with a calf in one area and another couple porpoises nearby! The tidal flurries at the Glenelg crossing yielded good grey seal sightings, whilst the skipper asked the captain of the ferry to be aware of our hydrophone.  After a quick nip ashore for some of us to the local pub, Peter and Tim served up sausage and mash. Despite everyone declaring that they were far too full for Denise's fruit crumble, the mention of custard soon changed their minds. With full bellies we retired to our bunks ready for another day tomorrow.



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Sunday 1st September 2013

Published: 02/09/2013

  
Anchorage: Loch Torridon Distance travelled: 24.8nm  

A shorter day today, we are now heading back south with the aim of getting closer and closer to Tobermory each day. The wind direction is coming from the south/south-west so we will be heading into it over the next few days. As we came out of Gairloch and into more open waters the swell appeared to have picked up even more since yesterday, and the winds were still over 35 knots with gusts up to 47 knots. We rounded the corner to Torridon and stopped visual surveys; everyone sat at the back of the boat. Back in the sheltered waters of Loch Torridon we were able to get on the mast and continue our surveying. One grey seal was spotted and 7 harbour porpoise detections were made on the hydrophone. The wind was still gusting hard and when we arrived at our anchorage just before 2pm everyone was looking suitably windswept. We passed the afternoon with a presentation from Adam about Biosphere and then went ashore for walks and to see the local pub. The tender ride back to the boat was incredibly wet and the next half hour was spent finding places to hang our things to dry. The Chilli prepared by Fiona and Kitty soon warmed us up though and after a chat about our survey tracks for tomorrow we all headed to bed.



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Saturday 31st August 2013

Published: 02/09/2013

Anchorage: Loch Gairloch Distance travelled: 45.6nm  

We left Plockton at 9am and headed towards Scalpay and up the Sound of Raasay. Whilst we were in sheltered waters the sea state was quite high with those on the mast experiencing a steady 35 knots of wind with gusts up to the high 40s. We passed Portree on the Isle of Skye and also passed the Old Man of Stoer, the east coast of Skye provided some fantastic scenery for us. As we came out of the Sound of Raasay and headed north east towards Gairloch we got to experience ‘unsheltered' waters. The swell was around 1m high, the spray was coming over the bow and the bowsprit was dipping into the sea at some points. The squeals coming from the mast could be heard from miles away. When we rounded the corner into Gairloch there was some much welcome respite from the swell. Everyone headed ashore. We came back to the boat and had dinner, the left over crumble and some of us even got a shower. Tomorrow the winds are still looking to be high (gales 8 predicted) but we are keeping our fingers crossed.



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Friday 30th August 2013

Published: 31/08/2013

Anchorage: Plockton
Distance travelled: 40.2nm  

Today was wild, wet and windy - quite an experience for all, but particularly for those at the mast!  The skipper told us in the evening that the wind had been up to 55 knots.  The sail into Loch Duich, past the beautiful castle, Eilean Donnan, provided a lovely respite, and we spotted three adult porpoises with a calf in one area and another couple porpoises nearby! The tidal flurries at the Glenelg crossing yielded good grey seal sightings, whilst the skipper asked the captain of the ferry to be aware of our hydrophone.  After a quick nip ashore for some of us to the local pub, Peter and Tim served up sausage and mash. Despite everyone declaring that they were far too full for Denise's fruit crumble, the mention of custard soon changed their minds. With full bellies we retired to our bunks ready for another day tomorrow.



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Thursday 29th August 2013

Published: 30/08/2013

Anchorage: Isleornsay
Distance travelled: 44.7nm  

It was a really special day.  When we saw the 3 killer whales - Comet, Aquarius & Lulu, we followed them for an hour.  We kept a safe distance from them.  
We watched them shamelessly cavorting on both sides of us.  These three are part of the west coast community, which is nine in total.  This community differs from other north east Atlantic communities in their size, markings and their teeth. It was a delight to see Olivia, our researcher, so chuffed as it had been a year since she had seen this group of animals and this is her last journey on the boat for a while.  The skipper commented that he could see her smile on the back on her head!  We all had smiles to match. The killer whales were not the only creatures we saw today and 9 harbour porpoises were spotted as well as a seal. Whilst only 9 porpoises were visually sighted there were 34 acoustic detections throughout the day, with 7 of these occurring during the killer whale sighting. Eek.   At the end of the day, with smiles still on our faces, we anchored in a small bay on the Isle of Skye, climbed down into the dinghy and then headed for the local bar.  Greeted by a warm fire we savoured the local brew.



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Wednesday 28th August 2013

Published: 30/08/2013

Anchorage: Loch Scresort, Isle of Rum
Distance travelled: 29.4nm  

Day one of surveying: After our training in the morning by Olivia we set sail north heading around the Ardnamurchan peninsula and towards the Small Isles. We saw plenty of porpoises along the way to test our newly acquired identification skills. Some seals were also seen and just north east of Muck we spotted a minke whale. A great start to the survey. Squeals were heard from the mast as the minke whale surfaced just 30 metres in front of the boat. We waited for the animal to resurface again but unfortunately it didn't. We went back on effort and carried on surveying until we reached our destination for the evening: the Isle of Rum. Dinner was prepared and everyone went for a walk ashore, some stopping for a shower along the way others heading past Kinloch Castle towards the shop where chocolate could be purchased. We returned to the boat where Heather and Denise had prepared a fabulous curry. We all ate very well and after some chatting we retired to our bunks.



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Friday 23rd August 2013

Published: 24/08/2013

Distance travelled: 42.8nm Anchorage: Oitir Mhor Bay, Kerrera  

All-in-all, another lovely day at sea.  Weather was nice, even though we had some gusts at the beginning (57 knots at one point).  But, for most of the day, jackets were off and maybe just a jumper (which is a sweater to those of us from the US).  Several rather large groups of harbour porpoises were sighted to the excitement of all on board.  ADDs were also heard through the acoustics much of the day, much to the annoyance of the volunteers (and probably the porpoises)!   Friday night was our last night at sea for the trip, and it showed.  After a sumptuous dinner started by houmous and naan bread, followed by veggie lasagne and salad, Fraulein Eva treated us all to apple pancakes with cinnamon sugar (some with whisky!).  Some wine and whisky was consumed and everyone was relaxed and just having fun and some laughs.  While most were a bit tired and headed to bed a wee bit early, we've all had a good time, made new friends and crewmates, and accomplished some good science.  Satisfied, we all slept well, except poor Karen who had to contend with the blood American (me) who was snoring away next door.  No privacy on board a 16 m boat with 10 people aboard!



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Thursday 22nd August 2013

Published: 23/08/2013

Distance travelled: 56.8nm Anchorage: Loch Tarbert,  Isle of Jura  

Today it was like a spring day in southern California and the skipper was calculating the days to get to the Caribbean, a bit shorter to the Azores. But why all of this if you have a weather like the one we had today in the Scottish Hebrides. Maybe because James tried Marmite 2 days in a row ;-) We sailed down the Firth of Lorne, passing the Garvallachs and circled Colonsay and magical Oronsay. It was idyllic as was the food and company.  The sea state was so pleasant, that we could use the crow nest the first time for searching. Unfortunately from there we got only a rubbish sighting, not a sighting of a whale or dolphin but the view overlooking Colonsay was beautiful. We tried to get a glimpse of the distillery on Jura. We ended up in Loch Tarbert, a remote anchorage in the Inner Hebrides and nearly as narrow as spectacular.   It had been a day of pink faces and glare factor 50 finished off with a great meal and the Silurian version of Bananagrams. Only words associated with the boat were allowed so we had ahoy, rod, stern, jibe, tender, basker, carbost (nearly) and exotic fox (for some reason known only to James). Unfortunately the excitement was too much for us and we had to be sedated. A lot of Zeds followed (or Zees for our American cousin). Night night.



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Wednesday 21st August 2013

Published: 22/08/2013

Distance travelled: 48.3nm Anchorage: Loch Spelve, Isle of Mull  

The day started out pleasant.  But, as the skipper says about Scottish weather: "If you look west and you can see very far, It's going to rain.  If you can't see very far, it's already raining".  In the end the day was variable- rain, fog, mist and sun.  All-in-all, the seas were kind to us, especially towards the end of the day when the sun really started to shine.  We saw fish farms and heard their ADD devices, designed to scare the seals away, but possibly scare harbor porpoises far more effectively and drive volunteers a bit loony too!  Even without the headphones on, you can hear the sound of their banging away like a woodpecker all throughout the boat below deck.  But at the end of the day, we managed to get far enough away from then and got some harbor porpoise sightings from the mast.  Always fun!  And if you're wondering if "harbor" is misspelled and missing a "u", it's not; an American wrote this bit!     In the evening the sea state became nearly plain, so that we can enter the crow nest to have a look around the beautiful landscape of Loch Spelve. The day ends with a rainbow, a colourful sunset and a bright full moon rising over the hills. As this would not be enough there were amazing fresh and delicious mussels steamed in white wine, cream and garlic for dinner..mhhhh….



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Wednesday 21st August 2013

Published: 22/08/2013

Distance travelled: 48.3nm Anchorage: Loch Spelve, Isle of Mull  

The day started out pleasant.  But, as the skipper says about Scottish weather: "If you look west and you can see very far, It's going to rain.  If you can't see very far, it's already raining".  In the end the day was variable- rain, fog, mist and sun.  All-in-all, the seas were kind to us, especially towards the end of the day when the sun really started to shine.  We saw fish farms and heard their ADD devices, designed to scare the seals away, but possibly scare harbor porpoises far more effectively and drive volunteers a bit loony too!  Even without the headphones on, you can hear the sound of their banging away like a woodpecker all throughout the boat below deck.  But at the end of the day, we managed to get far enough away from then and got some harbor porpoise sightings from the mast.  Always fun!  And if you're wondering if "harbor" is misspelled and missing a "u", it's not; an American wrote this bit!     In the evening the sea state became nearly plain, so that we can enter the crow nest to have a look around the beautiful landscape of Loch Spelve. The day ends with a rainbow, a colourful sunset and a bright full moon rising over the hills. As this would not be enough there were amazing fresh and delicious mussels steamed in white wine, cream and garlic for dinner..mhhhh….



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Wednesday 21st August 2013

Published: 22/08/2013

Distance travelled: 48.3nm Anchorage: Loch Spelve, Isle of Mull  

The day started out pleasant.  But, as the skipper says about Scottish weather: "If you look west and you can see very far, It's going to rain.  If you can't see very far, it's already raining".  In the end the day was variable- rain, fog, mist and sun.  All-in-all, the seas were kind to us, especially towards the end of the day when the sun really started to shine.  We saw fish farms and heard their ADD devices, designed to scare the seals away, but possibly scare harbor porpoises far more effectively and drive volunteers a bit loony too!  Even without the headphones on, you can hear the sound of their banging away like a woodpecker all throughout the boat below deck.  But at the end of the day, we managed to get far enough away from then and got some harbor porpoise sightings from the mast.  Always fun!  And if you're wondering if "harbor" is misspelled and missing a "u", it's not; an American wrote this bit!     In the evening the sea state became nearly plain, so that we can enter the crow nest to have a look around the beautiful landscape of Loch Spelve. The day ends with a rainbow, a colourful sunset and a bright full moon rising over the hills. As this would not be enough there were amazing fresh and delicious mussels steamed in white wine, cream and garlic for dinner..mhhhh….



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Tuesday 20th August 2013

Published: 21/08/2013

Distance travelled: 53.8nm Anchorage: Tobermory, Isle of Mull  

We tracked south with the threat of stormy weather in our minds. Passing Neist we were hopeful of sightings but the rain and wind made it more difficult. As we passed between Rum and Eigg a common seal poked his head up but then was gone. A solitary harbour porpoise made an appearance as we tracked south passing Ardnamurchan and then into the Sound of Mull. There were more fishing vessels about and a flurry of harbour porpoise sightings as we approached Tobermory, damp and in search of a warming rain-free shower. The promise of a hearty meal of veggie haggis was appealing especially as we had seen them frolicking amongst the sheep on the hillsides earlier in the day. A local hostelry was also mentioned…



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