Silurian Blog

We have entered the final days

Published: 26/06/2016

Yesterday brought a metric $#!t ton of white beaked dolphins and playful common dolphins. It ended with a humpback sighting - but it was moving too fast for us to keep up. There was also an unsuccessful trip ashore on Lewis in search of a pub.

Our last full day of surveying began with an early minke sighting. We came across a pair feeding just outside Loch Shell, one of which was kinda enough to give us a little swim past the side of the boat - giving us a great view of it under the water.

Once again we saw common dolphins, in a bit of a feeding frenzy. We hopefully got some good photos, but we pretty much just left them to their dinner.

Our final anchorage is a pretty spot between Raasay and Fladday. Some chanced a chilly dip in the water, a barbecue was had and some product testing carried out (we haven't made it to human trials - more to follow through the season hopefully).

Tomorrow brings the short trip back to Kyle of Lochalsh and lots of cleaning to be done.



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Hello humpback

Published: 23/06/2016

Thursday 23rd June -  
We arose to a fine morning in fine weather in Durness, which will be the furthest east that Silurian has ventured so far. Just before we rounded Cape Wrath we had a sighting of unidentified large dolphins. We then headed south west towards Lewis and on the way we encountered six white-beaked dolphins, who visited us three times to bow ride within 30 mins. They got a good look at us and us at them. One promptly defecated near the bow. After going back on effort, we saw porpoises in the glassy water. After recording all the data, we continued on and were joined by 12 Risso’s dolphins (7 adults, 2 juvenile and 3 calves). One leaped completely out of the water and we observed a calf having a tail-slapping tantrum. We then continued on enjoying the best sighting conditions so far. Our next encounter was a triple sighting. It began with a large group of suspected Rissos’s to the right and a feeding frenzy of hundreds of gannets to the left. There were over 100 common dolphins feeding amongst the gannets and then we saw the blow. We saw three further blows and were then convinced that turning left would be the right decision as we saw the tail fluke descend. This confirmed that it was a humpback whale that we were fortunate to watch for over an hour. It was lunge feeding within metres of the boat, tail slapping and swimming under the bow. The common dolphins provided a great marker for where it would surface by riding just along it’s front. Kenny raced up the mast to shout out where it was surfacing while we all snapped away taking photos. It was brilliant to watch the whale and relax once all the data had been collected and on the way into our anchorage in Broad Bay we saw many harbour porpoises. To complete the day, Edd cooked us a wonderful, late dinner and the main toast of the day was to the humpback.



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Sweedish frog song

Published: 22/06/2016

58º34'.308N
04º44'.739W
22/06/2016

Små grodorna
Är lustiga att se

Ej őron, ej öron
Små svansar havar de
Koakaka-koakaka



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Somewhere up north

Published: 22/06/2016

Hello! Minda here to tell you about what we are doing these days at sea. Or truly I'm sorry I'm just going to write for today. Lets get trough the most important part to write down to this blog. Are you ready? Okey: Today we travelled from Loch Roe to Loch A'Chadh-fi. I know that there is no reason to say that it was bad weather, but really I saw the sun two minutes, it was windy and cold. But then during my second round on effort we came to this fantastic bay!!! Loch A Chairn Bhain... With the phone playing beyonce from my pocket, and the sun shining for those two minutes and the breathtaking scenery. If you go there, come by sea, because you won't get the same astounding views from the car. Then we saw some porpoises on the way up north, when we sailed in 1.5 metres waves.

Now to some more important things to bring up. Today I have seen creatures I have never seen before: the white tailed eagle. I did something I have never done before: stretching in 1 metres waves. I ate something I have never tasted before: Frazer's risotto ( 10/10 points)

Yes, that's it.

Good bye!!!



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Great scenery

Published: 20/06/2016

20 June 16
51.7 nm
9 hours 51 minutes

58º09'. 944N
05º17'. 367 W

Starting from Loch Ewe heading out to sea in drizzly and chilly weather condition. Catching quite nice sun and wind off the coast. Sailing north along the wonderful Scottish coast with a bit of difficulties downstairs in the kitchen caused by some quite big waves: Busy Charly preparing second breakfast ended up on the floor, so did bread and eggs, oh dear.  Gruinard Bay was wonderful & sunny spells aigain. Sightings: 4 Harbour Porpoises and 3 seals. Enjoying anchoring ground in the cosy Loch Roe now.
Rahel



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Superpod!

Published: 20/06/2016

19/06/2016
57º 46.262N
05º 36.495W

The day started off with a rather unfavorable weather forecast of rain, wind & choppy waves that thankfully never came to fruition after we left Loch Mariveg. A very energetic group of short-beaked common dolphins was soon sighted off the starboard bow. It didn't take long for us to realise that this was actually enormous group of over 300 dolphins! The dolphins were fairly spread out over a considerable distance and many took an interest in the Silurian to bow ride, providing us with a wonderful opportunity to take photos. After about 30 minutes they moved on. Our next encounter involved a minke whale which gave some good photo opportunities. Conditions were still favourable as we headed for Poolewe and we recorded a good number porpoise on the way. Colin and Bill



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One every ten minutes (or The whale with the bad breath)

Published: 14/06/2016

For our last full day yesterday,  we left the Shiants island surrounded by fog lying low on the calm sea. In this eerie atmosphere, we had our first encounter with Minke whales. We had to track the position of two animals at a time, sometimes relying only on the sound of their blows! All this under the silent watch of hundreds of puffins sitting on the sea. This magical moment was followed by a very rich day: seals and porpoises appeared around us all along our way, and we recorded on average one sighting every ten minute! We met two other Minkes in the afternoon, with one of them actually coming closer to our boat to check us out. This gave our skipper Edd the rare chance to get a whiff of the breath of a whale : apparently not a very pleasant experience...The day ended in a beautiful sheltered anchorage by Caol Fladda. Some of us (the bravest, or those that needed a shower the most) had a dip in the water (refreshing) before the excursion to shore. A cuckoo kept us company in the evening,  and a family of deer was seen crossing on the causeway between two islands. A scrumptious dinner of haggis neeps and tatties (and a tipple of whisky for those who wanted) was followed by a science talk from Frazer explaining what the data we collected can be and will be used for. Another glorious day for our crew, who went on to get a well deserved night of sleep.



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One more on the list

Published: 13/06/2016

Today we left our anchorage in the turquoise waters of Taransay in very good Scottish weather (overcast and only slightly damp) for a 40 mile trip back in the Hebridean sea. On the way we encountered multiple grey seals and harbour porpoises, but the highlight of the day was certainly our encounter with a pod of Risso’s dolphins, adding one more species to our list! The group of 8 or 9 animals surfaced in pairs, probably mothers and calves, and were kind enough to check out our boat closely before going away, giving us an unforgettable moment. We finally anchored for the night in the Shiants, or, as they could be named, Puffinland. Puffins are everywhere here, flying of the rocks, as well as a good deal of razorbills and skuas. The weather being still excellent (even sunny!), the whole crew took the dinghy to walk the little island and watch the birds up close, before coming back to Silurian to be treated to Peggy's sausage and beans, and a nice chocolate cake in honour of Laura's birthday. We don't have a present, but today has certainly been a treat!



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Quiter day today

Published: 11/06/2016

Well the good weather has definitely left us with a period of low pressure
However we still saw two Minke Whales and two white beaked dolphins after leaving the monarch islands. Overnight there we were kept an eye on by the resident seal colony
We have dog legged out to whale rock today and are now moored on loch na h-uidhe with an exploration on to the island of Taransay this evening



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Wow! What a day of firsts!

Published: 10/06/2016

Today we saw our first Minke's of the trip, as well as a sighting of White-beaked dolphins! What a day! We traveled close to 69 miles from Lochmaddy to Poll Bame in the Monarch Islands. The day was choc full of sightings in addition to the two Minke sightings and white-beaked dolphin sighting, we saw 2 harbour porpoise and 4 gray seals. But the fun didn't stop there- as we pulled into the Monarchs, we have found oursleves anchored in the middle of a thriving gray seal colony. They have been swimming up to the boat, checking us out and giving even the slowest of photographers a chance of capturing one. The "go pro" is in the water. Hard to guess what fun footage it will yield. The adventure of a lifetime (helps you forget the cold rainy bits). Grateful for the day!



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First day fun

Published: 08/06/2016

We left the Kyle of Lochalsh in good time and the early mist lifted to give a mostly fine and clear day
The highlight was undoubtedly the common dolphin spotting of twenty five animals feeding together with gannets which even got the crew excited!
We covered 41.9 miles in 8.5 hrs finishing at Duntulm Bay
57º41'.33N 06º20'942W
Our 11 sightings were 5 of common seal 3 grey seals 1 unidentified 1 harbour porpoise of two animals as well as the spectacular dolphin spot
We had better also come clean and admit to the detection equipment telling us we missed 17 harbour porpoise detections
Quite an eventful first day



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Filming with WWF

Published: 06/06/2016

06-06-2016 13:42
Sound of Sleat
57º03'.142N
05º52'.902W

During our passage up to Kyle of Lochalsh we have been joined by a film crew, beautiful weather and heaps of minkes! So far we have had 5 sightings of 8 individuals, including a group of 3 just north of Canna last night. We have managed to get good photo id of all the animals along with some fantastic footage.

Frazer



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SMRU group 2

Published: 29/05/2016

We were welcomed to the Isle of Mull and the Silurian by a delicious homemade dinner and then a drink in the pub to say goodbye to the last group. The first day we headed around the Isle of Mull and towards the south west of the island. Within the first hour we had a minke whale appear, but unfortunately he didn't want to come and say hello. As we sailed down the island we started to see a few dolphins and we soon realised we had a pod of over 300 common dolphins surrounding the boat. They were bow riding and leaping in the air! Amazing! That evening, whilst still gleaming from our fantastic day, we got to explore the island of Erraid and its white sand beaches.

Not knowing how we could top our first day we off to a good start on day two as we saw a minke whale as we sailed towards Tiree. We got to see quite a few close surfacings giving everyone a great view of the shiny grey body! It all went quiet for a few hours but then far in the distance tall dorsal fins were spotted. As we approached with fingers crossed that it could be Rissos dolphins we saw the scarred bodies and blunt faces and our hopes were confirmed. There were 15 dolphins leaping, tail slapping and swimming close to the boat. It was a fantastic sighting and one we were all ecstatic to see! After a long day surveying for nearly 11 hours we were all so happy with an amazing day. But how would that be topped by day 3?

Well.....flat, calm glassy seas and super pod containing hundreds of common dolphins bow riding and whistling next to the boat did the trick! Additionally, the flat clam seas meant we all had the opportunity to see the inner Hebrides and its marine mammals from the crows nest, giving us a fantastic view from meters in the air!

The trip exceeded all expectations, not only were the sightings and sea conditions amazing but the crew were warm, friendly and extremely welcoming! Frazer, Ed and Mikey were brilliant; cups of tea were delivered throughout the day to keep us going, cakes were baked, the second breakfasts were always amazing, and during dinners and evenings we were entertained by some hilarious stories! The trip would not have been the same without them! So thanks HWDT, Silurian and the crew for an lovely trip!

Clare, Janneke, Miranda, Sarah and Raffaela
(SMRU group 2)



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SMRU training

Published: 27/05/2016

56º26'.867N
07º06'.901W

Southeast of Tiree

2nd group of SMRU marine mammal masters students

Well group 1 we shall take your sightings and raise you 300 common dolphins!



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Monday 23 May 2016

Published: 24/05/2016

Anchorage: Camus Fhionnairigh, Loch Scavaig, Isle of Skye (57 09’ N, 006 09’ W)

This morning we set off from Tobermory on the Isle of Mull excited and ready for our first day of surveying at sea. Before we set off we used a laser range-finder to train our eyes in estimating distances of boats in the harbour. Having accomplished this fairly successfully we felt sure we would be ready to estimate the distances of any marine mammals we saw at sea. We left the harbour and were treated to exceptionally calm, mirror-like seas and clear blue skies which made for ideal sighting conditions. Throughout the day we rotated around all of the jobs, observing for marine mammals, recording seabirds and boat traffic in the area, and recording all of this important information on the computer.

After a quiet start we saw a grey seal bottling in the water near the coast, easily distinguished by its large roman shaped head. This started our run of sightings for the day and we soon saw harbour porpoises swimming along in groups of one or two past the boat just visible by their dorsal fins above the small wavelets. After passing the Isle of Rum we saw a minke whale, just metres from the boat. We came ‘off-effort’ in order to try and get pictures for photo-identification. Whilst we were circling the area the boat became surrounded by harbour porpoise as they swam around foraging all around us. They were so close we could hear them exhaling every time they surfaced. They were so speedy it was almost impossible to time the perfect picture. We saw the Minke whale surface a few more times before we lost it.

We then continued sailing around to Loch Scavaig on the Isle of Skye where we anchored for the night. We were all hungry and windswept after 9 hours of on survey effort over 60 nautical miles. We had had 16 sightings over the day, 10 harbour porpoise, 1 minke whale, 2 grey seals and 2 harbour seals. The hydrophone towed behind the boat and had acoustically detected harbour porpoises on 15 occasions. We finished a very successful first day with two of the group braving the sea for a swim followed by a hearty dinner and competitive games of Bananagrams.



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A Very Exciting First Day!

Published: 12/05/2016

12/05/2016
56º35'.065 N
006º37'.590 W
Approximately 25 Nautical Miles travelled
We were blessed with gorgeous weather today, shorts and t-shirts all round! A Harbour Porpoise was logged almost immediately that we set off, and later we took a small detouring loop to see if we could re-spot a Minke whale that a keen eyed volunteer noticed.
There have been sea birds a plenty and some seals, but the crowning moment must absolutely be when we met a small pod of Common Dolphins.
I was down below on a break when they were sighted, and we quickly spotted them breaching along side the boat. A mad dash ensued to get life jackets on so that we could go top side for a better view!
We circled around a few times to get some good shots on the cameras while they played by the boat. At one point they swam directly under the boat at my feet, showing off their vibrant yellow sides. As someone for whom Common Dolphins are a favourite animal, it was a truly magical experience, hightened only by the beautiful sunshine we experienced!
We anchored in a small bay on the South end of the Isle of Coll and had a lovely dinner of bangers and mash with an onion, apple and honey sauce.
The day ended with a trip to land where we watched the sun set and were accompanied back to the Silurian by a pair of seals.
All in all it's been a fabulous day and I am very excited to the rest of the trip!
Aisha Sollars



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Nigel's post

Published: 05/05/2016

2016 05 05
56º20'.293N
6º17'.334W
44 nautical miles covered

A delightful evening was spent in the bar of the Jura hotel introducing our 18yo Swedish volunteer to the pleasure of 10 yo malt whisky, distilled about 50 meters away! Supper , haggis, neaps and tatties had been interrupted by a Great Northern Diver cruising past the boat. The following morning we sailed south into a significant southerly and then turned to starboard up the sound of Islay. The raised beaches of Jura were pointed out before we turned into the relative solice of Loch Tarbet. Some of us went ashore and found an owl pellet, which was duly analysed. The skipper had prepared a most tasty curry which was enjoyed by all. The next morning, time was spent photographing the Silurian under full sail , a dramatic sight, from the tender, before setting off . I think that none of us will ever forget the day! To say that we encountered 4 metre waves with gusts of wind reaching 42 knots will give an indication of the conditions. We were all clipped on and, following a 180 degree course change due to the inclement conditions, were most relieved to sail past Iona Abbey before anchoring in a sheltered bay near Bonessan on Mull.



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Day 2 - Porpoises and Gusts

Published: 05/05/2016

It was our second day on the fine ship Silurian today, with gusty winds and rolling seas. Surveying up front felt like a mini rollercoaster! Luckily the new boating attire works a treat at keeping everyone warm and dry.
The cetaceans were hiding today amongst the waves but were definitely there - we were surrounded by Porpoises at one point (according to the hydrophone data)!
Tonight a trip to Jura awaits after a very Scottish dinner of neaps and haggis :)



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Frazer's first trip

Published: 02/05/2016

So we have arrived at our first anchorage of the first day of our first season's survey! My long winter wait has finally come to an end and my expectations have certainly been met.

There is a lovely eager crew onboard willing to learn how to survey for cetaceans. Silurian with her winter refit looks great and all the new equipment is working well.

Now I'm looking forward to a delicious stew with local muscle starter. To a beautiful Scottish back drop of eagles and rainbows.

Frazer, your new onboard biodiversity officer.



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Sunday 11th October 2015

Published: 19/10/2015

Latitude: 57 00,819’N
Longitude: 006 16,016’W
Anchorage: Loch Scresort
Distance Travelled: 51.9 NM

Hello,
Here is the last post of this trip written from a frenchy who joined the adventure at the last minute (Please be indulgent for the English…).

This day started wonderfully with a departure on a flat sea within the beautiful sunrise lights. Most of the sailing has been between Isle of Skye and the Mainland. Despite the navigation with the engine running in this narrow passage, it’s been an intense moment due to the meeting of many groups of Harbour Purpose and curious Seals who got closer to the Silurian to watch these strange bipeds shouting “Sightiiiiiing…” Surrounded by the mountains the crew’s gaze has been amazed by the old volcanic landscape reflecting in the glassy water surface.

The usual routine that the crew got the last days has been broken by a message received two days ago about a stranded whale in a bay on the Sleat peninsula. The sharp look out from the Silurian drifting close to the area didn’t pay off and the tender had to be launched for a patrol along the rocks. Sparing the details we’ll just summarise we found the dead body and some samples were taken in order to define the origin of the death.

The weather got worse and worse as the volunteer rotations of the Survey. The wind got stronger. Just in time! Due to a high temperature alarm the engine required to be shut down the time of the investigation. The ship continued under unfurled genoa and mizzen with one reef, well balance at a pretty good speed and course. Half an hour later the engine started again and we continued under the rain and the progressing dark to Loch Scresort where we currently are. It’s now heavily raining and everyone enjoy the quiet of the warm messroom.





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Saturday 10th October 2015

Published: 19/10/2015

Latitude: 57 25’.785 N
Longitude: 05 49’.321 W
Anchorage: Applecross
Distance Travelled: 54.3 NM
Title: Oh what a perfect day!

Dawn stravaiged gently over the horizon wearing a soft red cloak that metamorphosed slowly, gradually into an orange, then yellow mantle. Gruinard Bay peeked through the musk rain like a shy girl unsure about being seen in the cold light of morning and as she gained confidence she revealed her island child, now cured of the Anthrax ailment. Encouraged, Ben Ghrobhlaig came forward, teasing us with her shapely silhouette, flanked boldly by An Teallach’s great mass to the east and the long sloped Coigeach Ridge, the high prow of Suilven and the many topped shoulders of Quinaig to the west.

An Otter couple sat on a rock by the shore and broke their night’s fast, watching the animals in the recently arrived blue and white rock, breaking theirs. Later, as Silurian floated over the small rippled surface, myriad Harbour Porpoises greeted the boat from afar whilst the more gregarious Dolphin families leapt in welcome, gliding sleek and firm muscled through the Gin clear water to ask if anyone was coming out to play. Their boisterous streamlining below and around the boat drew no playmates and, tiring quickly of their new playground, they left. Others of their kind came, repeating the invitation to play as Silurian coursed west then south, en route to Applecross but none stayed long and all soon abandoned us.

As the soft wind carried morning towards afternoon and the gently rolling waves lulled the crew into a mild torpor the First Mate mused aloud and daydreamed his arms round the scaly tail of the soft voiced Stornoway mermaid called EMSEEAY whose siren call forever beckoned him west. “Oh Jon, Jon” she cried, “this gale warning is for you and only you.” The Skipper, the Science Officer and their volunteers gave the apparentness of “being on whale” whilst the shame faced reality was that they gazed transfixed at the undeniable beauty of the hills of Assynt, the stark drama of Torridon, the mighty form of Slioch “the sky piercer” and the coolness that is the Cuillins.
After such a journey, arrival at Applecross might have proved a disappointment but even here the land and waters of the west presented with bold, deep autumnal colour; here a deep gold hilltop, there a long auburn hued slope. And here also, a far cousin of our earlier encountered Lutra Lutra, appeared to bid us “welcome” to Torridon.

What a perfect day, but what made it so was the people and ……I’m glad I spent it with you!




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Friday 9th October 2015

Published: 19/10/2015

Longitude: 05 32’.205 W
Anchorage: Gruinard Bay
Distance Travelled: 48.2

Tonight we are surrounded. After catching glimpses of warships in the Joint Warrior exercise over the last few days we are anchored in Guinard Bay with three for company. They obviously heard about the quality of the food on board the Silurian.

The day started with a visit from a pod of around sixty Common Dolphins who joined us for a bit of bow riding. After that our only other marine mammal was a sleepy seal in the line of the ship (don’t worry it woke up and moved) However there was plenty of bird life to keep us busy - Pomarine Skuas, Eider Ducks and Hooper Swans all joining the usual suspects of Gannets, Gulls, Kittiwakes etc… The ‘other’ column of the bird sightings got good use today.

A less welcome visitor was the rain, but still it remains only an occasional drizzle. So the Scottish weather is doing its best to pleasantly surprise us.


Let’s hope it stays that way for another few days.


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Tuesday 6th October 2015

Published: 09/10/2015

HWDT 13
Day1
Latitude: 56 49’.8 N
Longitude:  006 13.4 W
Anchorage: Port mor, Muck
Distance Travelled:  19 miles

Hello! There’s a new crew on the Silurian. This blog post is coming to you from Ceri, though I’ve already stopped responding to my name as Kerry the Biodiversity Officer is who we mostly call out for to ask everything from “so how should we flush the toilet?” to “I just saw a fin and I know you just told us but I’ve forgotten how to log it already!”

Due to a poorly Skipper the Silurian spent last night at Tobermory pontoons, awaiting their new skipper Brian. The rain had started lashing down but we were blessed with a surprisingly calm night.

The morning was spent learning the diverse fauna of the hebridean sea and how to collect the data. After lunch we set off north, taking turns in different aspects of surveying.

 Our first “sighting!” came from John who spotted a ‘probable’ porpoise.  A few more definite Harbour porpoises were seen speeding past. As we left Mull things got a bit quiet. Feeding gannets, spearing into the water,  but were not joined by cetaceans. All we had was Eigg ahead of us, teasing us with its shape of a gigantic whale… until out of the blue (literally) “SIGHTING!” Dolphins. Common dolphins, heading straight for us to play in front of us, six individuals including a few young.  As suddenly as the appeared they vanished.

Our anchorage tonight is the isle of Muck where we were greeted by grey seals. Fingers crossed for another amazing day tomorrow.

PS. Ted would like everyone to know we rounded Ardnamurchan point, the most westerly point of the British mainland.

PPS. WE GOT VENISON! Can’t wait to taste Dougs much talked about dish tomorrow! Stay tuned.

PPPS Hwyl am y tro oddiwrth ni gid ar y Silurian! (…you can take a girl out of Wales onto a boat in the Hebrides…)



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Thursday 8th October

Published: 09/10/2015

Anchorage: Staffin Bay, Isle of Skye Lat: 57 38.3 N Long: 06 13.7 W Distance Travelled: 51.5 miles

Speed Bonnie Boat

But for the occasional roar of a rutting stag, we spent a tranquil night in the tiny inlet of Moll a Tuath on South Uist, and island famous as the meeting place, more than two and a half centuries ago, of the fugitive Bonnie Prince Charlie, still smarting from his calamitous defeat at the battle of Culloden, and the twenty-three year old Flora MacDonald, who would later disguise the prince as her servant girl and accompany him to Skye, over a sea bristling with ships of English navy, intent on his capture.

Today we too were headed to Skye, and possible encounters with ships of the English navy, though hopefully not quite so hostile ones.

The morning began with an optimistic weather forecast from Stornaway Coastguard. Shortly afterwards the sun rose into a pretty-well cloudless sky. We upped anchor and set off in dazzling summery autumn sunshine with a warm Southerly wind on our tail. The sails went up and before long the breeze was strong enough for Brian to cut the engine, and we sped very rapidly Skyewards, dipping in and out of the swell, hearing only the roar of wind and the waves.

For John, Ceri and Aimee this was their first experience of fast big boat sailing. The military kept a surprisingly low profile, until mid afternoon when we were buzzed by a Tornado, and inspected by a low flying spotter plane. Finally, still in sunshine, we rounded the top of Skye, past the ruins of Duntulm Castle, and the Tolkienesque rock formations of Quiraing, and into the shelter of Staffin Bay.  

Dinner this evening was the much awaited and hyped venison stew, prepared by our repeat volunteer Doug. It certainly lived up to expectations, it was deeeelicious!



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Wednesday 7th October 2015

Published: 09/10/2015

  Day 2
Is that superman?
Latitude: 57 18’.179 N
Longitude:  007 13’.138 W Anchorage: Molla A’ Tuath, South Uist

The day started with a surprisingly beautiful morning. The air was fresh, but the sun was out. After an energetic first breakfast at sea and gearing up with layers, we were ready to go.

It was Ted’s 60th birthday, and Kerry made it extra special by decorating the cabin. Ted brought along some of the gifts he received and opened them with us during breakfast. What a great way to start the day.

Afterwards, John and Brian got the boat ready while Kerry explained to us the different type of birds and boats, a lot of new species to identify, particularly for someone from the tropics like myself.  

I was up for the first shift of sighting, and only a few minutes in a common dolphin popped up on the right to say its hellos. As the day continued with unexpectedly good weather, we all tried to spend as much time on deck as possible.

On the next sighting shift it wasn’t one, but a whole pod of about 5 dolphins that came and swam along the bow of the boat, riding the waves we made.

And then a minke seems to have surprised us from the back, gliding away with only one of us having a glimpse of its fin. We waited there for a while to see if it would honour us with another view, but sadly it was gone.

A few more dolphins and birds later, we had our first glimpse of the warships. They were off on the distance, sending messages on the radio, and there were new clear sonar sounds on the hydrophone. The situation causes mixed feelings, because as much as you want to see cetaceans, you don’t want them to be exposed by these harmful sound waves. And yet I could hear the distinctable whistle when it was my turn to listen on the hydrophone.

Suddenly we changed to passage effort to pick up some balloons. I was inside the cabin and couldn’t believe that they had organised a balloon delivery for Ted’s birthday, but much to my surprise it was actually a gift from the ocean, or should I say a gift of ours to the ocean by picking them. Distinctly decorated birthday balloons were floating a sea, not the first to be rescued Kerry explained. In any case, a little decoration for the cabin on Ted’s special day.

At the end of the day I was happy to get my feet on steady land, and joined the small group of us that headed to the small island behind our anchorage after a good day. Although short, it was a lovely walk on Scottish grass, with a view of the Silariun in the bay. As we got on the dingy to come back, John our first mate sacrificed his feet, by getting wet, so the rest of us didn’t have to. We happily paddled back to the boat and sang happy birthday through the kitchen window, while Ted cooked us dinner.

After a lovely dinner, we went for a look on deck, and oh what a surprise to see the most amazing light show on Earth. The universe decided to prize us with a unique spectacle many fly miles away to temperatures under -30 degrees to see, and here we were on a sailboat in the Hebridean waters watching the sky prize us with curtains of green dancing lights, with a tinge of pink every now and again. In the background, lovely instrumental Scottish music to complete the scene, and it did seem the aurora borealis was dancing to its rhythm.

October 7, 2015 will be a day to remember. You do a small thing for the nature, and it gives you so much more back. It doesn’t matter what you believe in, the undeniable beauty and power of the environment we live in is a reminder of our role and responsibility within it. The more blessed we are, the more we should give back; and at the same time, the more we give, the more we receive. The powerful positive circle of life, no matter who or where you are…



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