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.
As instructed by the skipper we got up early to run through a quick breakfast as we geared up to sail back towards our base since we did not want to go thru any hiccups (specially the weather) reaching back on time.
Thankfully we had a beautiful weather which helped us to do our monitoring and surely an eventful ending with lots of sighting of porpoises both by the crew and the volunteers.
The winter being an extended one, this year has been really tough though for all the research boats with no exception to ours. But it was surely a paid off effort to still do the survey on tough conditions and still having a hearty smile on everyone’s face at the end of the trip.
We anchored at the base with all of us gearing up with no signs of lethargy to clean up the boat and it was a job well done by everyone to see Silurian shining bright in its glory after living like a small family for the last 10 days.
We did manage to do the same at a good speed to give the two lady volunteers time to bid farewell since they had to catch their flight early tomorrow while the others stayed on board for the night before they also bid farewell towards their respective destinations.
Surely some magical moments, lots of fun and undoubtedly an experience of a lifetime.!!
Percy, volunteer, India
Total distance covered: 287 nm
Wednesday 24th May, 2006
Anchorage: Loch Ailort (Goat Island)
Position:56°51’.931 N 005° 46’.829W
Distance covered: 29 nm
The threat of bad weather did disappoint the skipper, the crew and the volunteers as they woke up to a beautiful morning at Lock Nevis with no hurry to run through the morning routines and breakfast waiting for the weather forecast to be given by the coastguard.
As expected we had a disappointing weather report which forced us to cancel our adventurous plans of going northwards but re-route ourselves towards south so that we could reach our base easily.
We did make a bold effort to sail out of Lock Nevis but it was short lived since it was too windy and we had to anchor again till the winds calmed down surely doing some good since we had time for a nice lunch (hot soup n bread) and lots of chats, cards and of course a bit of surfing.
At we started off heading towards south admiring the beautiful coastlines of Scotland. Unexpectedly the weather was good and though we did not do much of our data collection for the science expert but it did give amateur like me to have a go being the helm’s man. It was smooth sailing I presume since I found most of my mates having a good nap while the crew got some time to plan up for the projects ahead.
After around six hours of sailing we decided to anchor ourselves amidst the beautiful mountains of GoatIslands (skipper obviously choosing it to refresh some of his nostalgic sailing days) surely one of the countless creative excellence of our creator.
We had a great end to the day with a great meal as usual and some wine (specially prepared by skipper himself). Cheers!!Goodnight!
Tuesday 23rd May, 2006 Anchorage: Loch Nevis 56° 58’.400 N 005°38’.300W Distance covered: 41nm
We had two choices today, partially due to rough weather. Option 1. We either stay in Loch Moidart, and go for a hike up the hills, and visit an old Scottish castle. It is rumoured that a world famous business magnate owns the island, and wanted to restore the castle in his summer home. Option 2: We sail out for another 5 hours, zig zagging past the island of Eigg, to Loch Nevis. We could bypass quite a bit of the weather that way. Loch Nevis was known to have been a site for dolphins.
After much argument among us volunteers, ranging between castle envy all the way to that warm feeling associated when one thinks of dolphins, the decision was made. We went for the sail.
The trip was rough most of the way, past Eigg, and transected towards the Loch of Nevis. The weather significantly improved, as the hills on either side of the waterway, of the Loch, protected us from strong winds. We surveyed the loch for dolphins, but no cigar, despite Mike getting sent up the crow's nest.
Following another IT catastrophe, Raihan was once again summoned to the captains office and saved the day. Raihan finally found acceptance among the crew and was promoted to Cabin Boy. However, captain Duncan was now short of 1 victim for serial beasting and consequentially, the green gilled Percy (once again suffering the ill effects of deep ocean) was summarily 'strapped to the mast'.
Dinner time arrived and found Percy praying for something with rice and spices; English food was taking its toll as the man from India was finding the local cuisine unpalletable and the 'gang' were showing concern over his rapid weight loss. However, Rob (chef for the day) showed no such concern as he announced 'good old Italian Spag Bol for dinner' and we watched Percy sink to his knees in floods of tears .. maybe we will have curry tomorrow. An early dinner, and the day came to an end. We have a short two more days, and a lot of distance to cover. It is possible that we could end up missing all the return ferries, trains and subsequent flights, due to bad weather on the return. We are all sticklers for risk by now.
Monday 22nd May, 2006 Anchorage: North Channel, Loch Moidart 56° 48’.967 N 005°50’.200W Distance covered: 8nm
It was a gorgeous day, with sun beating down although the icy arctic wind blowing from the north chills to the bones.
As we needed to refill our water tank and wait for the tide to come in (not wishing to repeat the journey into the bay on low tide where we were watching crabs ducking from the bottom of the boat as we shaved the bottom of the approach inlet), we spent three hours in the morning being educated with another one of Susie’s highly interesting presentations about logging data and acoustics (Susie’s impression of snapping shrimps left us feeling we were sitting on the sea bed).
The crew decided to stay in the boat to wait for the water tank refilled while the volunteers took a walk in the town and had lunch on shore during which, Raihan, the computer geek (but claims to be a ‘people person’) spent half of his lunch time internet surfing. Mike, Sam, Emi and Percy took the opportunity of visiting a traditional English café as a photo shoot opportunity (much to the consternation of the ‘local’ diners) and within minutes had cleared the top floor of all other customers. As we were having lunch upstairs in the café, our captain Duncan and his Marine Ranger, Susie, were walking up and down the street, packing half a dozen packs of crisps and looking like a pair of homies.
At approx 15:00 we finally hit open sea and yet again were forced to endure mountainous waves and an icy north wind as we headed across the Sound of Arisaig to the Island of Shona. In such conditions, Percy and Raihan are known to wilt rapidly and captain Duncan manned the wheel with an evil grin on his face and ropes in his hand ready to once again, lash the afflicted to the mast. But today, Raihan experienced a Damascene day. With captain Duncan’s PC crashed and as dead as a dodo, he spied his opportunity to redeem himself and prove he could add some value to the ship’s complement. Like a cyber warrior he battled wicked seas, damaged operating systems, unhelpful helpdesks and overcame the dreadful sea sickness to finally restore full computer operations. For this he completed his first crossing without being strapped to the mast and ‘beasted’ by the captain.
After we anchored the boat, captain Duncan was crushed and resigned to his bunk to rest while uncle Mike, having no previous cooking experience, bravely took up the role of chief chef preparing a traditional fish/prawn pie for dinner knowing that an experienced cook, Emi, was on his side. This may seem like a simple enough task but after 2 hours preparation an SOS was sent out and Sam and Emi were called on to rescue the situation. As the whisks came out in a desperate operation to rescue the white sauce, all other crew members were banned from the kitchen (what were they trying to hide down there???). While the fish pie was prepared, a team effort endeavored to produce a culinary work of art in the gastronomic delight ‘apple tartar’, which was achieved with no major hiccups.
Sunday 21st May, 2006 Anchorage: Loch Nan ceall, Arisaig 56° 54’.400 N 005°51’.400W Distance covered: 40 miles
We woke up in the majestic shadow Gunna island's imposing hill. Looking out of the cabin window we were greeted with the happy smiling faces in the colony of grey seals we had shared the bay with. We had a quick breakfast and cleaned our galley to captain Duncan’s exacting standards then set sail tacking upwind up the passage of Tiree towards Ardnamurchan Point. We came out to the east of islands Muck and Eigg before cutting across to Arisaig (sounds simple doesn’t it). The weather was changeable, starting out with a light breeze, glorious sunshine and calm sea. We start collecting data, two on the deck, one on the bird research and one for the record. Percy did a good job, he spotted a porpoise as did Raihan (success well-deserved through the tough journey.) A few hours later as we passed Ardnamurchan, the weather took the dramatic turn to the worse. It was just after lunch time when Duncan made a great curry tasting blended parsnip soup. As you imagine, two people was being sick. (I cannot tell exact names but once again, Raihan was strapped at the mast and Percy laid on the deck near the bucket.) I thought what a tough job crews had. They drove the ship in the bad weather while acting as nurse maid to group of incompetent sickly volunteers. We finally anchored in the bay of Loch Nan ceall, Arisaig. We were totally exhausted at that moment, so we decided to go to the shore to have nice warm proper dinner at local hotel. We came back to our boat at 10pm, then we went straight to bed. Amazing thing was I and Sam heard someone in the galley and making toast. Perhaps, it was Duncan and Rob!!! I just want to ask to them “ Have you had a full stomach before?”
Saturday 20th May, 2006 Anchorage: Gunna 56° 33’.700 N 006°42’.800W Distance covered: 34 miles
The Silurian cast off from Craigaig Bay, bound for the island of Gunna, between Coll and Tiree, which was known to be a great spot for cetacean sightings.
The heading paid off, because shortly after we set sail, Percy spotted a basking shark (Way to go Percy!). We kept our inclination to crowd at one point of the boat, because the Skipper promised to bring the Silurian about, to take a closer look, which we did get. The shark came up less than 10 metres from the hull, and so we got a fairly close look at the fin and tail. The fin marks, can be used to come back again in future, and identify whether it’s the same shark again or not.
The weather was only rainy half way, and then it was seamless sailing through tolerable waters, and calm/sunny skies.
The destination? Paradise… in this case it’s the Hebridean Island of Gunna. Like the most exquisite painting you would find in the finest gallery, come to life, the island was a perfect synergy between beaches, black rock, emerald waters, grasslands (constantly perked up by winds), and a group of seals (about 11 spotted).
There was one lone house on the island, belonging to the owner of the island, supposedly a Marcus D Farrenti. So, we figured, why not go out there and see of Marcus is home? We went onto the island with the Silurian’s tender, for exploration, and knocking on the door of Marcus’s house. Alas, no one home. Rob gave a small lesson on the anemones, barnacles and limpits that were stuck to the rock. Quite interesting.
Boarded the boat, enjoyed the teriyaki that Sam and Emi worked on, and called it a day.