On board Silurian
Silurian is HWDTs research and
Most weeks April through October she is either monitoring
the waters of the west coast of Scotland for whales, dolphins, and
porpoises, or serving as a floating classroom for one of the many Argyll
island primary and secondary schools.
log below to find out what Silurian and her crew have been up to each
week and all about the whales, dolphins and porpoises they spot!
To find out about the latest marine life sightings spotted elsewhere,
If you would like to send the crew an e-mail with your questions click here.
Click here to view the Silurian Log archive.
Tuesday 27th September
Having spent a day yesterday in the relative shelter of Craignish learning lots about chart reading, and knots (rope ones), we were all ready for some action. We listened to the coastguard forecast which was no better than either yesterday or tomorrow giving gale force 7, 8, peaking 9 at times, and discussed our options . Having all proved ourselves as good sailors and becoming quite blasé about sailing in gale force winds, we decided to make a run for Tobermory in one go having ascertained that the wind and tide were flowing in the same direction, so there would be minimal dangerous turbulence. The route has some wild water danger zones. The morning was bright after a cold clear night where the stars twinkled through the cabin skylight. Chris cooked bacon & eggs for everyone and then it was ‘action stations.’ I was on chain locker duty again. I opened the hatch to the bows of my cabin, lifted out the huge red buouy , had a few bounces on it, and climbed up onto the shelf into the cupboard, ready to coil the heavy anchor chain. The chain gang on deck started to haul up the anchor & it soon became evident that the anchor had dragged through a LOT of mud. The chain, as it slithered through the hatch had a liberal coating of the evil smelling oily stuff, which spattered me generously as it rattled down.
The brand new Italian anchor winch had apparently never worked, and as the operation became stinkier and the deck got muddier the Italians were cursed loudly at regular intervals. A big clean up operation ensued. As the anchors lifted clear it was a rocky ride even in the shelter of Loch Craignish, and as we hit open water, open water certainly hit us!
Lifejackets were donned & we all fastened our harnesses to the deck including Skipper Dave (must have been bad) The sea got very choppy and ‘confused ‘ as we headed West through Dorus Mor notorious for its dangerously heavy currents and tidal sweeps then headed North for the Sound of Luing missing Corryvrekan (another danger zone) by a mile. Then as we traversed the Sound of Lorne we hit huge swells, and squalls sending the wind speed to 42.7 Gale force 9 and travelling at 7 nautical knots . In between the rain, the sun came out and showered us with vivid rainbows, porpoises leapt between the rollers only glimpsed for a few moments before they disappeared again beneath the waves but causing great excitement. The hydrophones picked them up the rest of the time. Needless to say no-one was put ‘on offort’ observation at the bows, and funnily enough no one volunteered to go up the crow’s nest. Andrew lost his bet that it was going to be a wonderful day for sighting killer whales, basking sharks,& dolphins, but unfortunately we hadn’t put money on it.
We made Tobermory in remarkably good time, and moored on a buouy at about 5.30. While the guys stayed aboard to cook a Thai chicken and rice, us girls went ashore in the rib to the YHA for hot showers and a hair wash .Bliss. Yaay……Girl power. Back for a delicious meal, good crack with bottles of wine & rum & black and so to bed.
Log by Britt
monday 26th september
Limerick to Skipper Dave to redress past wrongs.
There was a young skipper called Dave
Sailed Silurian on the ocean wave
“When you’re feeling seasick don’t try to be brave
“USE A BUCKET” said our skipper called Dave.
He plotted our course through force seven eight and nine
Even found us ONE day that was sunny and fine
Put on Cherokee sunblock and goolagong hat
Drove the rib to the pub although blind as a bat
in the dark did our skipper called Dave.
He taught us charts and knots and how
To save on water gas and power
“Don’t waste the water we’re getting low !
(as down the outpipe it did flow)
shouts our caring skipper Dave.
He shinned up the crow’s nest to keep me safe
As I reached the top and gave me faith
To meet the challenge I’d set myself
For a sponsored climb of untold wealth
Did our splendid skipper Dave.
He taught us lots about life aboard,
Strapped us tight to the mast to prevent “Man overboard!”
As we surveyed the seas through 10 ft. waves,
In a force 8 gale……..more fun than a rave.
With our gallant skipper Dave.
Day 7 out of 12 we’ve survived so far
Seen porpoises from the boat hurrah !
Seen a huge rare jellyfish swimming by
Seen an old welly boot floating high
On the waves …….and skipper Dave !!!!!!
Limerick by Britt
sunday 25th September
Today had been forecast to be a day of respite from the storms so far experienced.
Chris got off to a good early start (06.30) by “headbutting” the top bunk bed. After a period of blood mopping and more usual waking activities, he retreated back into bed for another hour, leaving Britt to take up the morning lead. Chris was first to consume breakfast and once finished, re-commenced fishing, this time from the pontoons. A total of one dogfish and three Mackeral were landed.
We said goodbye to Peter who was back off home to Maine USA and our departure from the mooring was at 10am. The weather just got better and better……….and the layers of clothing, lighter and lighter. Observation did not reveal any cetaceans (whales or dolphins) but there was one period of intense sonar activity recorded by the hydrophones that indicated close encounters of porpoises. Chris (under the watchful eye of Skipper Dave) took on the challenge of some “tight” navigation, under sail, through the narrow passage known as the Sound of Luing , where the presence of shallow rocks were revealed by the strong eddies and rough water. Travel continued past Corryvreckan and Dorus Mor.
As we neared Loch Craignish and the afternoon turned into a perfect “picturecard” kind of day, Andrew threw caution away with the wind and decided to scale the mast to the Crows Nest, complete with oilskins, life jacket and climbing harness.!! Once there we could not get him down and there was an interesting juxtaposition when Juliette climbed up alongside him adorned in only T-shirt and jeans. Chris recommencds trolling for fish in the hope of snagging a stray salmon but Debbie refused to drift our 60ft sloop at 1 knot through the centre of the nearby fish farms.
Andrew eventually spotted something before everybody else from his vantage point, a huge jellyfish taxonomically known as Rhizostoma octopus, Once we arrived at our deliberately secluded anchorage, Andrew returned to terra-firma (or rather terra-marina) and Jill took her courage with her to the top. This now left Chris and Debbie as the only virgins ………but not for long……….Dave conned Chris into thinking that he was going to the pub and then when he got outside the cabin, he slapped on the climbing harness………and so in a blaze of hesitancy and foreboding Chris joined the ranks of the “experienced”. However, the finest sighting made so far on this trip was when Jules and Franke jumped from the cabin roof into the water and completed a circuit of the Silurian.
Dinner was Chilli con carne followed by chocolate crisps and a short ride in the rib and walk to the Marina Inn, where real ale was available (well draught 80% bitter any way). The day ended with careful battening of all hatches as we awaited the arrival of storm force 9 winds and officially classified “phenomenol” seas………... ………..to be continued.
Log by Chris
Saturday 24th September
Ardantrive Bay, 0800 hours.
Brit beat Chris to being the first up. Skipper Dave was last up. The outlook was good (at least if we ignored the storm warnings on the radio). We had a nice breakfast and Chris caught a dogfish. We all cheered.
A ‘phenomenal’ event took place in the early morning when Brit took to the mast like a pro and, for charity, climbed to the Crow’s Nest. We all cheered.
Frankie and Siobhan followed Brit’s example and scaled 7 metres to the tiny platform, and yes, once again, we all cheered.
Departure from the pontoons was delayed when Dave spotted a rogue object under the keel and it was deemed necessary to assess and possibly rectify the problem before embarkation. Juliette went swimming to identify alien element – apparently an errant rubber strip on the hull had come loose. We could now leave the pontoons. We all cheered.
Debbie was needed to help with leaving the bay so Andrew finished prepping the Flapjacks (for consumption later in the day). They went into the oven for the recommended 20 minutes. By this time the Silurian was into the Sound of Mull and heading north for the more sheltered waters of Loch Linnhe. 20 minutes later everyone cheered – the flapjacks were ready and they were once again very nice.
On effort observations began and for some time no one saw anything (not even Frankie, who had once again scuttled up the mast for some quality freezing.) Then, while passing Glensanda, somebody (I can’t recall who, but it was Peter that identified it) spotted a Sea Eagle. It was a magnificent sight and we all cheered once again.
The weather was graceful and at times actually quite pleasant as we progressed north past Lismore, and we even spotted a couple of porpoises (Frankie again) off Shuna. Rounding Shuna and heading south past Castle Stalker brought a different kind of weather but nonetheless it was nice. Until, during Siobhan and Chris’ watch the wind kicked up quite a storm and threatened to chuck unlifejacketed Siobhan overboard. And everyone nearly cheered.
We struck out south to return to Ardantrive Bay and managed a rather graceful landing at the pontoons. Chris was once again fishing (and caught another flaming dogfish and Jill made stew for dinner (which was really really nice, by the way). She even managed to include a label for Dave. Tea was followed rather nicely by an hysterics match where just about anything anybody said made people laugh like ‘hysterical things’. Siobhan added Narwhal to her wish list, everyone swapped daft drinking stories, Andrew pointed out hot pads look like giant oatcakes, Juliette giggled a lot, Dave should have gone to specsavers; I think you get the idea behind the maturity of the following conversations and stories. Dave and Juliette fixed the dinghy from making unwelcome noises and Yes! Everyone really did cheer!!