Silurian Blog

Friday 9th September

Published: 19/09/2016


We got up early and left Loch Roe with the intention of sailing back to Ullapool via the Summer Isles, as the weather forecast was severe gale force 9 and we needed to remain reasonably close to the mainland. We moored up at the Isles for a cup of tea but an emergency call on the radio from the coastguard alerted us to a fisherman in trouble nearby. He had got his propeller stuck in rope from his lobster pot. Frazer whizzed out on the zodiac to go and assist, whilst we followed in the Silurian.
The rope was rather mangled round the propeller but sterling work from Frazer and a knife helped free the fisherman who promised to make a donation to the Trust. We then went ashore for a lovely walk on one of the Summer Isles, with beautiful views over the bay. On our return, we were lucky enough to find two lobster from the fisherman on the boat. Sadly, that marked the last stop on our travels before the journey back to Ullapool. We had a deep clean of the boat, followed by a final meal out in Ullapool.


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Thursday 8th September

Published: 19/09/2016


Today was an epic day of sailing from Broad Bay, across the Minch to Loch Roe. With a strong swell and occasional winds of gale force 8, it was a difficult day for sightings but we still had the pleasure of sailing with around 4 common dolphins who came to play on the bow of the boat for around 45 minutes, jumping straight out of the water at times. Loch Roe was a beautiful anchorage, with a large number of grey and common seals visible on the rocks. We had time for a quick walk ashore before a couple of brave souls went for a quick dip in the water before dinner.


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Wednesday 7th September

Published: 19/09/2016


Good weather conditions meant we set off early (just after 8am) for a long day of surveying round the Butt of Lewis and then into Broad Bay. The morning started with sightings of a large number of gannets, sooty shearwaters and even a few puffins in their winter plumage. Cetaceans wise, we started by seeing a few white-beaked dolphins, followed by a pod of common dolphins. Then just as we rounded the Butt, we had our first encounter with a minke whale – a majestic animal which left some in the party literally jumping up and down with delight! We ended the day with some more white-beaked dolphins, with one taking a dive under the Silurian. As we came to moor up, we carefully navigated our way past the 1 kilometre exclusion zone around the oil rig which recently made national news after the it was washed up on the West coast of Lewis. This gave us a chance to hear any noise coming from the rig on the hydrophone. We also picked up noise in the bay from harbour porpoise on the hydrophone although we didn’t make any sightings. In the evening, we had a talk from Frazer about the acoustics.


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Tuesday 6th September

Published: 19/09/2016


After having a relaxed breakfast, with a view over Traigh na Berie beach, we set off for a day exploring Loch Roag and a tour of Great Bernera. Strong winds, including gusts of force 8, limited the opportunity for sightings or sailing so after lunch we stopped at the Callanish standing stones where we were able to take a group photo and enjoy beautiful views over Loch Ceann Hulavig. We moored up in Bernera harbour - to the north of Great Bernera but sheltered by Little Belnera - and finished the day with a plankton party, finding all sorts of interesting beasties through the microscope such as planktonic worms and copepoda.


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Monday 5th September

Published: 19/09/2016


We awoke in the bay between Scarp and Kearstay and immediately wanted to explore the beach and cave surrounding us. We set off toward Lewis at 10:45am. The weather forecasted Gale 8 winds so the Skipper wanted to keep us somewhat close to the coast and out of the open ocean. We were fortunate to escape the rains but the winds had 3 metre waves which were not ideal for sightings, we didn’t see anything other than birds. The winds however were perfect for sailing. We covered 33 NM and ended up in Shiaram Mor at 16:30.


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Sunday 4th September

Published: 19/09/2016


We awoke to an idyllic calm morning with glassy water and what was thought to be an otter swimming in the bay. The day remained perfect for sightings with mild, warm weather and flat seas. We headed across the Minch though the Sound of Harris and were treated to nonstop sightings all day.
Our destination was Borve Bay but there were too many rolling waves for a comfortable night so we continued on to Scarp which added another hour and a half to an already long day. In route we spotted a two-time breach of an unidentified species. With all eyes peeled we spotted three lots of Risso Dolphins. In the end we nestled into a breath-taking bay with rock cliffs on two sides that would offer protection from the winds. With an exhausted crew we had an early night but not without noting the phosphorescence in the water. The strong winds kept some of us awake for much of the night as it blew down the mast and rattled the boat.

Sightings included:
Common Dolphins – 5 lots totalling 172 individuals
Gray Seals – 11
Harbour Porpoises – 26 lots totalling 82
Common Seal – 2


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Saturday 3rd September

Published: 19/09/2016


We were all up bright and early with order to leave the Ullapool pier by 8:30am. Straight away we spotted a grey seal who was bottling in the harbour by the ferry terminal. We were moored in the Ullapool bay by 8:20 where we received boat safety and sighting training. Silurian departed Ullapool around 11am and everyone assumed position “on effort”. Our direction was south with southerly winds headed through the upper Minch toward Gairloch where we would moor for the evening. Around 16:00 we had a great treat as a pod of six Common Dolphins raced with Silurian, bow riding and breaching. This delighted us all and reenergized our efforts.
Throughout the day we counted five grey seals and had four sightings of Harbour Porpoises totalling nine individuals. As we were entering Badachro, Silurian got a call from a previous two-time volunteer Tibor who had just passed his radio license. Tibor wanted to let us know of a super-pod of dolphins that were in the bay. Just then we spotted a few in the distance and suddenly we were witnessing at least 20 Common Dolphins leaping and breaching on both sides of the boat. Once the entertainment was over, we turned back and anchored down in the most beautiful bay at 18:30. After a delicious meal of mackerel that a fisherman in Ullapool gave us and curry by Caren, we took a quick trip to the Badachro pub for a few well deserved beers.


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Sunday 28th August

Published: 06/09/2016
End of Survey 7 - thanks to all the fantastic volunteer who made it possible!



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Thursday 25th August

Published: 06/09/2016


Arrived last night at Vatersay Bay. Proof (don't think we need it though, we already know) that there are nutters on the boat - 2 loons jumped off the back (surprise surprise I don't think -

Bird Man and our ace cartographer) Skipper had NOT announced 'man overboard' drill, so they were completely looney. (Water pretty cold.) Yesterday afternoon Charly Matey lashed Angela to the sail mast, power crazed again. (she's been reading 'Mutiny On The Bounty' so watch out.). Saw 4 common dolphins before arriving yesterday (2 adults, 2 juveniles) - lifted spirits in the rolling weather. Some had a trip ashore to see the beautiful beaches of Vatersay & a paddle & swim for one. Beautiful there. Before bed John had been out on board deck & told us about the super sky, the card players went out (rest in bed) and saw a superb night sky, including the Milky Way.

Day 8 - bright and sunny, a beautiful morning, wonderful! On course for the Small Isles, already seen 2 bottlenose dolphins - normal behaviour (not interested in us). In middle of Little Minch minke spotted, and again another west of Rhum. A question of 'Where is the minke?' (For Inspector Clouseau & Cato fans out there you will know the question & accent - Where is the minkee??? Unfortunately this lot have no idea...born too late!) They keep eluding us. Another corpse on board (this is going to be the Marie Celeste in no time at all). This morning Cutie Carla (the cartographer) was smothered in the saloon with a toilet roll. Not a pretty sight. (This one was a team effort, well done to BM Lewis & maniac whelder of the roll who will remain anonymous for now, actually no blood on the decks this time despite the nose bleed.)

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Wednesday 24th August

Published: 06/09/2016


Day 7 - bright, sunny, lovely morning. Sad to say another member of the volunteers was done for yesterday. In the galley sneaked-up on with a strange cup-like instrument, did Angela end up in the pasta bake? No worries, it was delicious anyway. This was followed by a surprise birthday cake for the dead shipmate. Celebrating her demise, thanks guys. Back to sightings, we heard harbour porpoise in the dark last night, this was after a visit to the pub, the Old Inn at Carboost. (some trying Tallisker for the first time so not sure about the accurate soundings). Also looked at the bio-luminescence which was amazing, buckets of water being thrown to check it out. Also looked at through microscope this morning to see the creatures in a glass of water. Told they are only present to illuminate like this in Scottish waters. Motoring out of Loch Harbour saw a sea eagle (of course spotted by Lewis) Another first for some of us. Headed out of Loch Bracadale across the Sea of the Hebrides making our way towards Barra. (Couple of sightings of harbour porpoise in Loch.) Out in sea, very bright and sunny, and up and under. Loving it!
Mini tornado spotted by Lynsey further out west. Main sail adjusted to take account of changing wind (very strong at times), lots of up and under, so having to be extra careful on board. Got extra salt in my soup! Before lunch pod of really agile common dolphins joined us ( about 20?). These boys could move, doing complete jumps out of the water, moving fast. Giving us a complete show. Lifted everyone's spirits on bit of a wild day. This boat is really unlucky - more incidents in the heads (volunteers ones take note) John had a very lucky escape when sharp antlers were brandished by Freddie (the maniac scientist on board).


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Tuesday 23rd August

Published: 06/09/2016


Here we are on Day 6 ( I think) starting to lose track of time. Grey, overcast with not too much wind. Great start to the day with pancakes made by Carla. Unfortunately we had an incident on board when someone struck Lewis on the head with a winch handle, approriately enough it was actually in the heads. What can you say! One down, 9 to go. Then shortly before motoring out, Manfred was strangled with the range finder on the upper deck next to the mainsail. Not quite sure how the survey work will be properly done with now 4 volunteers. Crew are all still standing but for how long? An attempt was made on skipper's life but to no avail. Thank God, we are therefore still cruising.

Not sure if Charly put a toxic concoction in the Irn Bru or intended to take a swipe at Jamie to wipe him out. That's one way of our Mate getting the top job! (She's power crazy.) 2 sightings of separate sets of Common Dolphins - approx. 6 in second pod. They joined us up at the bow, did some bow waving, fast swimming and clear jumping. Great! And we can identify them fairly easily now, very easily when they are so close to the boat. Yesterday afternoon coming into Loch Eport we saw a Golden Eagle, another wow for us. (spotted by our resident bird expert!) And this morning before setting on effort several red deer on the hillside above our mooring.



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Saturday 20th August

Published: 06/09/2016


It's day three on the boat.... All fit and well and on duty. The sun is shining and there are white fluffy bits, hurrah! We've had a brilliant start to our trip. Day 1 was wonderful, brilliant sunshine and lots of sightings. We set off early as the sun was shining! Plenty of harbour porpoise and then great excitement when we saw a whole pod of what turned out to be common dolphins off Coll. Frazer reckoned there was about 30! They were fishing, turning, twisting, diving and jumping like crazy! Some did join us beside the boat and we got a real close up look at them. Able to see the yellow stripe on some and just wonderful when they did some bow waving and wheeling alongside the boat. They then returned to their main activity and ignored us, which we sumarise was fishing. They were then joined by several birds, gannets etc. We then made our way south from Coll and easterly towards Staffa and the Duchman's Cap. More sightings of porpoise and seals along the way. In the evening we anchored in the inlet between Gometra and Ulva. Just stunning! Most of us then had a trip ashore onto Ulva for a ramble. It was just awesome, stunning views, wonderful sunshine...unbelievable. Before making our way on the dinghy back to Silurian, most of us now stir crazy by the sunshine and excitement, decided to take the plunge - started by Carla. We took off our gear and did some wild water swimming.... (not skinny dipping, yet....kept our underwear on!) The perfect end to a perfect day!

Day 2 was different again, bit wild and wet, waterproofs donned and we were strapped on at the front. Route today was from Ulva across close to Dutchman's Cap and then on through Gunna Sound between Tiree and Coll, then across to Barra Sound to drop anchor on one of the coastal islets off Barra. A few felt queasy today but with warmth and food all safely recovered well. No going ashore this evening, everyone happy to stay on board for good food andentertainment and companionship. Rounded off by a mad game of HAT (Frazer's idea) No one could beat Lewis's magaimpression of Harry P.!


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Sunday 13th August

Published: 06/09/2016


We left Tobermory on the 6th August, returning on the 12th having been sailing for 58.75 hours and covering 286 nm. Our first anchorage was Carna at Loch Sunart. The following day we had to make a brief stop in Tobermory for lunch to dodge the gale force winds, and then headed on to Loch Creran.

Our next stops were Loch Spelve (Mull), Laolas Mor (Oronsay), Gott Bay (Tiree) and Bunessan (Mull) before heading back to Tobermory for our last meal together at MacGlochans.

Despite the recording breaking gusts of 49.3 knots, we had 48 sightings of 64 individuals and 6 species! We had a whopping 21 sightings of harbour porpoises, consisting of 32 individuals, a breaching minke whale, some bow riding common dolphins, 20 seals and 2 basking sharks. Regardless of the wind and the rain, all in all it was a brilliant trip!

Species
Count of Sightings
Count of animals
Basking shark
2
2
Common dolphin
1
5
Common seal
7
7
Grey seal
12
13
Harbour porpoise
21
32
Minke whale
2
2
Unidentified seal
3
3
TOTAL
48
64




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Tuesday 9th August

Published: 06/09/2016


This morning we woke up to see both ends of a rainbow (unluckily we couldn’t sight any leprechauns!) and finally some sun. As we left Loch Spelve and entered the Firth of Lorn, we were all hopeful that today would be the day that we saw Minke whales and dolphins.

By the time lunchtime arrived, no marine mammals were to be seen. However, we spotted our first skua which attacked two large gulls, stealing their fish simultaneously. A second white-tailed eagle was also sighted.

As the end of our day arrived and our anchor point in Oronsay approached, it was safe to say that we didn’t see any marine mammals. But on the bright side, over all 4 days of travelling, we have found no marine rubbish in the 153.6 miles we have covered on the Silurian.

To top the day off we drove ashore to visit Oronsay priory, where we saw more sheep and goats than humans. Although our day of sightings was very minimal, we are still optimistic for what tomorrow brings.


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Monday 8th August

Published: 06/09/2016


After a wild, and rather rocky night in our respective bunks listening to a force 9 gale howling around our well-moored and safe anchorage, we set sail out of calm waters to face yet again strong winds and an exhilarating first hour on what felt like high seas, even though we were sheltered in the sea loch of Loch Linnhe.

We soon had our first sighting of harbour porpoises frolicking in the sea – well, swimming quickly anyway! This was followed by an array of sea birds such as guillemots and gannets, to name a few, and a number of seals showing their usual inquisitive antics at our attempts to monitor their behaviour through mist and drizzle.

The weather soon improved and the early promise of blue skies from our morning rainbow - which that had put in a much celebrated appearance during first breakfast - finally came to stay for the rest of the day.

We traversed the southern shores of Mull, and had more sightings of harbour porpoises, to eventually birth for the night in Loch Spelve. Our moorage this evening is surrounded by mussel farms - which we may visit later if our skipper permits - this time listening to a gentle breeze as we prepare dinner of haggis and tatties. Fingers crossed we are rocked gently to sleep this evening and are not visited by 40 knot winds at 4am again!

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Sunday 7th August

Published: 06/09/2016