Blog

blog for the captain and the crew

The life of a Seafari guide may appear to some to be all adventure and fun but there is a lot that goes on behind the scenes that you probably don't know about.

Our mornings can sometimes start very early if we have an early morning Whirlpool Special trip. None of us ever complain about the early start though as a Whirlpool Special is always a great (if rather wet) way to start to the day.

Corryvreckan Whirlpool Special
Carolyn and the crew enjoying an early morning Whirlpool Special.

Our commute to work took some getting used to. As we all live on Easdale island we use a small dinghy to get across to Ellenabeich for work. The crossing only takes a few minutes but can be interesting on a windy day.

Once the shop is opened up it's then all about getting ready for the days trips. Waterproofs need sorting, boats need fueling, emails need answering, tickets need writing and seagull poo needs cleaning up. You'd be amazed at how much mess a seagull can make in such a short time.

During quieter days when we are not all on trips there are always chores to be done. Most days the boats need refuelling.  The boats also need regular checks, maintenance and cleaning (did I mention the seagull poo?).

Freezer delivery
When you live on a small island getting big stuff delivered can be a bit tricky.

Some of the more "interesting" jobs we have had when not on the boats include aquatic gardening (clearing seaweed from the harbour walls and pontoons), replacing mooring chains, painting the perches and transporting a huge boat trailer using a tiny dinghy (i'm sure the boat is supposed to go on the trailer, not the other way round).

Claire de-weeding underneath the pontoon.
Claire de-weeding underneath the pontoon.

At the end of the day when the guests have all gone home there is still work to do before we can put our feet up. There is the shop and the trailer to close down, wet waterproofs to go back over to Easdale Island to be hung up in the drying room and the days photographs to go through. Taking the waterproofs to the drying room is a chore on its own. With no roads on Easdale we have to transport anything heavy with a wheelbarrow.

Sarah using the crew wheelbarrow - the only for on transport on the island.
Sarah using the crew wheelbarrow - the only for on transport on the island.

In the evening the crew like to unwind in a few different ways. Sometimes swimming in the quarries, running around the island or doing circuits in the hall.

Sarah & Claire swimming in the quarry
Sarah & Claire swimming in the quarry

Don't be fooled into thinking we are really healthy and adventurous, we enjoy our fair share of visits to the Puffer or Oyster bar and the odd West Wing DVD marathon. We've even ventured out as far as Oban for a night out once but it was a little strange to start our night out by checking tide times, making sure we had life jackets and torches and asking the ferry men to move our dinghy further down the jetty to make sure it wasn't stranded when we got back.

The Seafari crew heading out in the dinghy for a night out in Oban.
The Seafari crew heading out in the dinghy for a night out in Oban.

Today's blog by Roy.

Wildlife photography while stood on a boat as you can imagine has some advantages and disadvantages. When going along next to the islands you can definitely get much closer to the different species living on land than if you had walked towards them trying to get a photo. The animals seem to be curious about the boat rather than seeing it as a threat so species like Red deer will stand and stare which makes for a great photo, of course the wildlife doesn’t always stick to the script and instead of being curious just ignore the boat altogether which gives a much more natural feel to the photographs.

Customers photographing a common seal.
Customers photographing a common seal.

Another huge bonus of using a boat to take photographs is the varied amount of wildlife you get the opportunity to see, from Red deer to Wild Boar on land, White Tailed Sea Eagles, Gannets and Golden Eagles in the air and from Common Seals to Bottlenose Dolphins in the sea. When you also add in the amazing landscape there is endless opportunity for capturing moments.

Red deer are often spotted on our trips.
Red deer are often spotted on our trips.

The main problem with capturing good photographs is the movement of the boat, using a tripod on board is out of the question as any movement of the boat will also move the camera so getting used to taking the photos from hand is a must, this way you can track your subject much easier as it moves across the landscape or through the water whilst also trying to counteract the movement of the boat. A skill much more difficult when you take into consideration you should have three points of contact with the boat so sitting or leaning against something is the best way to combat this problem.

Who's watching who?
Who's watching who?

Getting to go out on the boat every day taking photographs also helps with keeping tracks on certain wildlife for conservation reasons, we work with the Hebridean Wildlife And Dolphin Trust and send them all our records when we get Cetacean sightings with any photographs we have taken. This helps with their records and to see how far certain species are travelling and any habits that they have.

Bottlenose dolphin
Bottlenose dolphin

Today's blog by Jess.

Gardening is one of my passions. Leaving my Perthshire garden of 25 years with its rich soil was a wrench. It supplied our growing family with fresh fruit and vegetables for much of the year. How was I going to restart again on an island battered by wind and sea spray and virtually devoid of soil?

"Celtic Gardener" - Jess.
"Celtic Gardener" - Jess.

I was told that during the quarrying days that Irish Puffers arriving at Easdale to collect slates carried peat or soil as ballast to temper the motion of the unladen vessel. The peat being removed from the Puffer into the tramway trucks prior to loading. The peat was then deposited in various locations around the island adjacent to the tramway system. Where to site my new allotment? Armed with my shovel and knowing the basic route of the old tramway tracks I carried out a series of test digs before deciding. There were, and remain, very few people working a vegetable garden or allotment on Easdale yet during the quarrying days most families worked the land, and the walled areas can be clearly seen.

17 years ago, I naively thought the three foot high slate wall on the northern aspect of my chosen area would be sufficient protection for my vegetable plants.  I grossly underestimated the strength of the wind particularly when you least expect it, mid July. Before the wind my carefully nurtured runner beans were in full flower.  After the wind the soil was red, covered with the flowers had been stripped off during the night. The canes were at a jaunty angel too.

A hedge was the only answer. I was kindly offered cuttings from an established escolonia hedge in Ellenabeich.  The cuttings rooted obligingly, along with some New Zealand holly, and were planted in the autumn around three sides of the plot. I also laid carpet on an area of grass alongside one side of the fledgling cuttings, to create an onion bed.  The field mice moved in under the carpet over the winter and grazed on the new hedge cuttings just beside their abode. Potential hedge on one side was devastated but regrew. The storm of January 2005 literally blew my quietly establishing hedge away. Only a few sticks and stalks remained. I was very despondent.  Over time the hedge has re- established itself. The condition of the soil continues to improve with copious amounts of seaweed and rock dust. Organic animal manure is in short supply so I compost everything and encourage our crew to do likewise.

Jess' allotment in fine fettle in 2005.
Jess' allotment in fine fettle in 2005.

I tend to grow the vegetables we like but it is always a bit of a lottery as to what does well. It definitely differs from year to year for whatever reason but my guess is wind, rain and temperature. One year I bought a book and tried to plant everything according to the correct phase of the moon. It made little difference.  ‘Over wintering’ anything is hit and miss, the elements, particularly wind, can have a devastating effect.  Leeks are often “ helicoptered” to stumps. Purple sprouting broccoli and sprouts flattened to horizontal despite being carefully staked.  Whatever we do get to eat tastes so much better than anything you can buy in the shops. It is worth the effort, and I feel I am doing my bit in a small way, to reduce my carbon foot-print on this planet.

Spring 2017 - after a cold winter, ready for the off !
Spring 2017 - after a cold winter, ready for the off !

You would be hard pressed to have an allotment with a more stunning view. There is a tendency to lean on the spade a fair bit and contemplate the day.  I have become quite philosophical about gardening on Easdale Island and over time the phrase ‘there is always next year’ is at the forefront of my thoughts.

An allotment with a view !
An allotment with a view !

Today's blog by Sarah.

Last week here at Easdale we had a rare and wonderful moment when bottlenose dolphins came to play in the sound, much to the excitement of the new crew. As if by prior arrangement they were there in time for Roy’s morning Corryvreckan Wildlife Tour, Carolyn was also on board, whose reputation as a cetacean repellent can no longer be held against her, whilst Sarah and Claire were in the shop. The call came over the radio and permission was given to shut up shop and view the action from the harbour, so after a frantic scramble to find the keys, which turned out to be in Carolyn’s trouser pocket, Team Seafari were either on the jetty or on the boat to enjoy these fantastic animals doing their thing.

The Easdale ferrymen were also getting first class seats to the performance as they sailed to and fro with delighted passengers on board, and kayakers from Sea Kayak Scotland had the enviable experience of being within touching distance. If the crew had been on a day off they would have been throwing themselves into the water, wetsuit or not.

Dolphins playing with Easdale ferry.
Dolphins playing with Easdale ferry.

There were 5 or 6 dolphins, apparently in the sound for the mere enjoyment of playing amongst the boats, ‘bow riding’ in the slipstream and following the ferry right in to Easdale Harbour at one point. They must have seemed trained to our Seafari customers, as they were there again for Sarah’s afternoon trip, and made another boatload of people very happy. Claire, on the other hand, was still in the office feeling rather put out, particularly as everyone was very vocal about how wonderful it had all been. Luckily for Claire, the pod stuck around for a few days and were seen off the west coast of Lunga whilst Claire was crewing the tours !

Crew member Sarah with dolphin.
Crew member Sarah with dolphin.

Bottlenose dolphins are widely distributed around the world; they can be found in cold temperate waters to tropical seas, but Scottish ones are the largest and fattest of them all which will come as no surprise to those of you who have swum in our brisk waters. The Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust have identified roughly 28 individuals in this group, but as they are nomadic and can be found travelling from Islay to the North of Mull, it is difficult to judge the pod size exactly. Individuals can be identified by scars and notches, particularly on the dorsal fin. One dolphin in this pod was seen last June with severe propeller damage to the tail, and last week it was seen again by Claire and Steve, fully healed but with slightly hindered mobility – we reported the sighting to HWDT who are trying to get more information on this animal.

Example of dolphin fin unique scratches and nicks.
Example of dolphin fin unique scratches and nicks.

 

Today's blog by Claire.

Here at Seafari we are always happy to look after well behaved dogs whilst their owners are out on the boat. Of course some dogs are better behaved than others.

Polly the labradoodle was on her best behavior for Claire yesterday. However whilst Claire was back at the shop looking after Polly the rest of the team and Polly's owners were having a great time with a pod of dolphins that turned up right here in the sound.

Polly the labradoodle.
Polly the labradoodle.

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The 2017 season is now well under way now with the new crew continuing their training and whirlpool specials starting up again this week.

Yesterday saw Explorer head out with Steve and Carolyn and new crew Claire, Sarah and Roy for an early morning Whirlpool Special in the famous Gulf of Corryvreckan. What a fantastic way to start our whirlpool season.

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