Thursday, 28 August 2008

Diary of our journey on Silurian!

Here is the blog we kept whilst sailing around the West Coast of Scotland. It can also be found on the HWDT website.

Monday 18th August 2008
Location: Tobermory
Position: 56 37.7 N 06 03.4 W
Distance Surveyed: 0 nm yet!
Day 1:
We arrived in Tobermory and congregated at the local pub. After hauling our luggage from Bristol, Wolverhampton, Birmingham, Tal-y-Cafn, London and Burton-On-Trent we finally arrived at the Silurian. Met fellow Ecowarriors and were shown the ropes, literally. On seeing the lovecube, Gemma and Lucy got cosy. We studied long into the night and are now prepared to spot any brave creature that dares pass us! Then went to the pub to avoid the twenty five pump action toilet on the boat.
Div of the day: Louise (biology teacher) for asking whether there are Great White Sharks in the Hebrides.

Tuesday 19th August 2008
Location: Loch Spelve
Position: 56 23.2 N 05 41.3 W
Distance Surveyed: 24 nm
Day 2:
Following Scotch porridge with salt (a revelation to some) and a serenade by the local bagpiper we visited land on a mercy mission for chocolate hobnobs, but found 'Tiffin' instead (cake!). Set sail at midday and soon had our first sighting. Our luck continued throughout the day with a sighting of harbour porpoise, seals, birds and much litter. We paired up and rotated around duties of observing at the mast, relaying sightings and recording the data using LOGGER. All of us were overwhelmed by the amazing scenery. Tonight we had venison and vegan chilli (not actual vegans…). We had a lesson in how to identify different types of sea birds we may see tomorrow. Then we identified two types of seal (Gray and Common). Cormac informed us that Gray Seals look like they have been smacked over the head with a frying pan and Common Seals have been smacked in the face with a frying pan. A top tip for all future lesson plans!
Div of the day: Liz for asking whether seagulls eat whales and later asking whether gannets eat dolphins. Oh dear!!!!!!!
Overall, an awesome day!

Wednesday 20th August 2008
Location: Scalasaig, Colonsay
Position: 56 04.3 N 06 09.9 W
Distance Surveyed: 38.5 nm
Day 3:
Woke up to a serenely calm loch and had a science and geography curriculum ‘thought shower’. Through the morning we sailed to the end of the world through endless mist which felt like a simulator with only 500m visibility. The crew were awesome. A porpoise was spotted at 100, no 200, no 300, no 400 metres away. Our distance estimation getting no better. Seabirds including Cormorants, Gulls, Kittiwakes, Guillemots, Shearwaters, Penguins and skuas were spotted- spot the mistake! Gemma and Liz enjoyed soggy egg and bacon rolls and soup at the mast - a messy combination involving soup whizzing off the spoon into Liz’s face! However, the bread that flew overboard was paramount in enticing the two porpoises we then saw. Lucy was the first to succumb to the sea sickness due to the 10m swell and 50kt winds. Thankfully by the time Lou and Lily were on watch the sea was perfectly flat. Much like their singing… A few porpoises were spotted and lots of deceptively whale-like waves. Moored up in Colonsay and saw some terrifying sheep and seals in the harbour.
Divs of the day: Lou for getting stuck in the boat’s window after failing to throw a pear overboard and Liz for not realising that soup could be drunk from a mug whilst on watch.
Overall, an alright day!

Thursday 21st August 2008
Location: Ardminish Bay, Gigha
Position: 55 39.8 N 05 43.4 W
Distance Surveyed: 50.6 nm
Day 4:
We woke up and had our third education session, starting to plan our lessons. We then set sail to very nice weather, but after yesterday, were prepared with our sexy waterproofs. Much to Lou’s discontent, we were sailing toward “impending doom” and this soon struck…. Brave Lucy went up to the Crow’s nest for some extreme sailing and all was well until the shouts of “What the hell was that?” were heard. It turned out to be Lucy’s SLR camera making a dash for ocean freedom after a freak gust of wind, down a 100ft drop just missing killing Lily. These shouts were soon replaced by expletives from the Crows nest. Thankfully the camera was in a waterproof bag. We are hoping that it will be returned by tomorrow by a porpoise, or a seal, or balancing on a piece of litter, or anything…because today, we saw…..NOTHING.
This afternoon’s entertainment was provided by a slippery deck and many 20ft waves causing near death experiences for all, this did at times cause serious amusement for everyone accept Lou and her wellies. ALSO we were all in awe and wonderment at the air raids of the Gannets, pretty incredible to see.
After mooring up at Ardminish Bay Lucy and Lily set about making dinner. An amazing chicken curry for us carnivores and chickpea curry for the herbies. The curry had a distinctive shampoo taste, this may have been due to the mass of locks that had somehow embedded everywhere – Uncle Ben we know you’re secret – yum!!
We also all got in trouble for fiddling with Glen’s knob…
Div of the day: Lucy for asking who that famous dolphin was…Kipper? (For those of you unsure, it was in fact FLIPPER, who is now dead!!)
Also, Liz for keeping quiet about whether she had fiddled with the important knob, thus causing Glen and Davey to tear the boat apart trying to fix the mystery problem. However, not what the photograph says Liz!!!
Overall an amusing day!

Friday 22nd August 2008
Location: Tayvallich, Loch Sween
Position: 55 56.3 N 05 40.8 W
Distance Surveyed: 38.3 nm
Day 5:
This morning, with full batteries and the taste of shampoo washed clean from our mouths, we departed Ardminish Bay and headed north and out into the Sound of Jura. Our concerns over the lack of sightings were abated when we stumbled (not sighted, stumbled) upon 2 basking sharks. We got some really nice looks as both animals were feeding and headed our way, giving us a fine look down their gobs. Great white sharks behind us…we started zig-zagging our way back and forth across the Sound trying to satiate Cormac’s obsessive appetite for porpoises.

The sun shone as we zorrowed our way slowly north. Our fears over the sightings were eased slightly by Lily when she spotted a minke whale! We stuck around for 3 surfacing and got to enjoy the long surfacings before the animal disappeared behind the increasing waves.

Tonight we’ve been enjoying the alcoholic stylings of Tayvallich’s finest. Lily and Lou decided to sample Tobermory and Oban’s offerings to the whiskey-world while Lucy was steered towards a “whiskey and coke”. One 12 year old Bowmore and flat coke later, we all decided that it was a tiny mistake…though we also agreed that Guinness and blackcurrant is an abomination.

Now we’re back on Silurian and someone has been hoovering up the Honey BBQ crisps so we’re off to bed hungry…
Div of the day: Lucy for taking some of the finest whiskey in the world and ruining it with flat sugary rubbish…oh and Liz for trying to lift a picnic table while everyone was sitting on it…
Overall an astonishing day!

Saturday 23rd August 2008
Location: Loch Creran
Position: 56 22.3 N 05 33.0 W
Distance Surveyed: 34.9 nm
Day 6:
Due to the whisky and wine last night and the shoddy forecast which came four hours late, we had a lie in this morning. We were delighted to find out that we were going to head into the storm today! We departed Tayvallich heading for gale force winds, but still managed to sight a few porpoises, seals and rubbish. Whilst on effort we enjoyed some meat and veggie Haggis, hmm, really quite nice! Lucy and Lily seemed to enjoy their aerobics session at the mast.

Lou and Lou were stranded at the mast with tsunami style waves lashing over the side and were struggling to maintain their balance. Fortunately for them, Cormac came to the rescue! Much to everyone’s amusement, everyone ran for shelter and pointed and laughed at the Lou’s! However, the Skipper was not so amused and told us all to grow up! Ironic that the teachers had to be told off. We then ate some tasty scones baked by Hilda, as a reward for our bad behaviour.

Much of the afternoon was spent planning what we are sure will be amazing lessons! Here we are on a Saturday night, stuffed full of vegan and venison casserole and listening to the sound of the generator!
Div of the day: The weather forecaster.
Overall, an abysmal (weather) day.

Sunday 24th August 2008
Location: Loch Creran
Position: 56 22.3 N 05 33.0 W
Day 7:
Well, it’s been a frustrating day stormbound here in Loch Creran. Strong winds have been forecast for the past few days and it certainly blew hard yesterday so maybe being at anchor wasn’t so bad. We started the day with a late breakfast before the teachers dove straight into lesson-planning work with Hilda. With a good bit of work behind the teachers, we all got stuck into bacon/egg/hummous sandwiches prepared by Glen and Davey then we headed ashore to stretch our legs on terra firma. Cormac headed out for a run while the teacher team headed for Benderloch (via the largest bull we’ve ever seen) and the rewards of civilisation. They returned with copies of OK Magazine, Closer and Now magazine…the pillars of civilisation indeed! The mighty News of the World was also purchased and then disposed in minutes while Lou expressed her displeasure over the lack of ‘Veeeellah-related’ news in the Scottish rag. Liz knew which side her bread was buttered on for she immediately went into the shop and bought red wine and Minstrels…the latter of which was dispatched swiftly expertly. Never far from an educating opportunity and clearly energized by the chocolate coursing through her vains, Liz marched into a fish farm processing plant to get a picture of men at work (not the band) to use in her class.

Everyone returned to the boat and processed to flick through their new purchases and tuck into some carrot cake which was followed up nicely by a top-notch spag-boll and an awesome blackcurrant and apple crumble made by the fair hands of Davey and Hilda.

Everyone is heading for their bunks with their bellies full and the promise of left-over crumble for breakfast…

Tomorrow will be our last survey day though shocking weather is forecast so I don’t know what we’ll see beyond the waves…
Div of the day: Lou for banging her head 4 times in the galley in an hour.

Monday 25th August 2008
Location: Tobermory
Day 8
Short and sweet really as it's our last day. Set off from Loch Creran after being there since Saturday night. Another very windy and wet day at sea. Off effort all day! Cormac reminds Liz of what happened to the girl that cried 'Killer Whale!' We all enjoyed a nice hot shower at shore. Went to the local pub and for a curry in the evening. Then enjoyed some Trivial Pursuit (Glen is the dude!) and Charades (in which Cormac gave an interesting impersonation of synchronised swimmers!) in another local before heading back to the Silurian to sleep (at least attempt to sleep) in our cabins for one last time! We will all miss the condensation dripping on our heads.

Tuesday 27th August 2008
Location: All over the place
Day 9
We get up early, enjoy our last breakfast together, purchase our maps, say our farewells (very sad!) and head off on the bus to Craignure where we get the ferry to Oban. An amazing, awesome, absolutely astonishing time!

The photo above shows evidence of our curriculum planning! There is scope for a whole scheme of work but I will be teaching two lessons based on my voyage around the inner Hebrides...A Fantastic Fishy Plaice!

I have also included a link to the HWDT website here. The Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust (HWDT) is dedicated to the conservation of Scotland’s whales, dolphins, and porpoises and the Hebridean marine environment through education, research and working with Hebridean communities. Take a look at their website for more info.

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