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Seafari Oban launched a new RIB to add to their current fleet of 2 open RIBs and 2 cabin RIBs today from their workshop at North Ballachulish.
Thanks to Pete Hanger and Tony Higgins for their help in putting Celtic Explorer together and to Philip Beckwith of Yampower Ltd. for fitting the twin 300hp Yamaha engines.
And yes - the sun was shining at 6:30am this morning as was launched onto the water!! :)
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To complete the seasonal staff bios, here is mine! I single-handedly increase the average age of the crew by decades - I shall be in the booking office until May.
Having been a passenger on Seafari’s Whirlpool Special a couple of Octobers ago, I was stunned with this spectacular corner of the west coast. Consequently, we found a plot on the island of Seil and built an eco-house; I moved down from Inverness in June.
My background is in physical geography (glaciology) with research and expeditions in the Arctic; I am a past president of the Scottish Arctic Club. I was a keen dinghy sailor in my youth, turning to rowing eights at university. I sailed on the very first girls’ crew on the tall ship Malcolm Miller, with the Ocean Youth Trust to Iceland and then on a 40 foot ketch to South Africa.
Edited highlights since then include being the expedition coordinator at Brathay Hall, Head of Geography at Gordonstoun where I ran the Inshore Rescue Unit, and as a zodiac driver/wildlife guide/expedition leader/ lecturer for the past 20 years on expedition cruise ships in the Arctic, Antarctic and around Britain. I edit and publish the digest, SCENES (Scottish Environment News).
Over the past winter, I have been very involved in the community building, and painting, of the St Ayles skiff on Seil which will be rowed by four with a cox. See us at the World Coastal Rowing Championships at Ullapool in July!
I am thoroughly enjoying living by the sea on the west and am looking forward to sharing the new house this summer with my husband, who has been in the Falkland Islands for two years running Falklands Conservation, and my marine biologist daughter, who has been working in Antarctica with the British Antarctic Survey. I do hope that they approve of the house!
I grew up in the small commuter town of Woking in surrey – a world away from Easdale! From as soon as I can remember I’ve been coming to the west coast for my holidays, spending most of my time in Tighnabruaich in the Kyles of Bute. This is where I had my first taste of the wonderful marine life that these waters have to offer and also where I learnt to sail on the family Drascombe, before eventually becoming a dinghy instructor. Family holidays also meant camping trips to several of the Hebridean islands. I realised later in life that these destinations were chosen for the rare birdlife that might be found and not just for the hours of enjoyment that the open spaces and beaches provided, not to mention their stone skimming potential! I now consider myself incredibly fortunate to have seen and experienced these beautiful places and it was the enjoyment of boating and a passion for wildlife that led me to study Marine Biology and Oceanography at the University of Plymouth.
While studying in Plymouth I had the opportunity to do a professional diving qualification as part of my course. I soon found that after so many years being surface bound, I was just astounded by what I could see under the water. I was also able to spend a significant amount of time playing on boats and could further advance my practical skills with specialist courses including sea survival and advanced first aid, which I then extended to a diver medic qualification. This in turn led to the chance to work as a medic at events all over the south west of England, resulting in a realisation that no matter what the job I’m doing, I’m happier when it’s outside.
After I graduated and moved home to apply for jobs, I returned to part time work at my local ice rink and also took on a voluntary position with a charity. A few months into this I saw the position with Seafari advertised. The job sounded perfect for me and I was straight on my email to apply. Just two days later I had the job and was going to be moving to Easdale. I really couldn’t believe my luck as I was going to be working in an area with so much brilliant wildlife and some of the most amazing oceanographic features in Britain. What more could I ask for?
Now that I am here the job is certainly living up to my expectations. I defy anyone not to love a job where you get to see Britain’s largest bird of prey and are regularly dropped into the world’s third largest whirlpool! I can already tell that this is going to be a very good year
For as long as I can remember I have had a keen interest in the outdoors, particularly seeking out wild places. I grew up in Inverness in the Highlands. My father is a keen hill walker, so a lot of my childhood memories involve exhilarating ascents of peaks in the Cairngorms or the Cuillin Ridge in Skye. He also has a little rowing boat so there were many trips around the beautiful coastal bays and inner lochs of North West Scotland. These early experiences gave me a real affinity with the stunning scenery Scotland, in particular the west coast, has to offer. On these trips we would regularly spot wildlife such as seals, dolphins, otters, deer, etc, in their natural environment.
When I was 19, I spent some time volunteering on Handa Island in Sutherland for Scottish Wildlife Trust. This experience gave me a keen interest in conservation work and gave me the chance to learn conservation skills in the field. I really loved the chance to live on a remote island, which is part of the reason why I think the job as crew with Sea.fari is suiting me well so far.
When I left home, I moved to Perth in Tayside to study Countryside Management at Perth College UHI. This course was a mixture of theory and practical skills in conservation, science and tourism, amongst others. I found the wildlife tourism modules particularly interesting, so spent a lot of time looking for jobs in this field.
When I saw the Sea.fari Crew Member post advertised, it was exactly the opportunity I had been looking for. I didn’t have much of a turn around between applying for the position and moving to the island of Easdale but didn’t need much time to consider the offer. The season so far has been really enjoyable, with my personal highlight being a close up experience of an otter feeding on crabs in Easdale Harbour one evening. Also, seeing the white tailed sea eagles on Jura for the first time was unbelievable. I had to restrain myself from climbing on to the roof of the boat to get closer to them! Having never spent much time on boats before now, it’s been a steep learning curve to gear up for the busier weeks over Easter but I’ve already learnt so much and feel like I am making good progress. I’ve also enjoyed the community atmosphere on the island, including taking part in a family ceilidh along with darts competition nights and themed food evenings in the island’s pub. I’m looking forward to watching the wildlife change in the course of the season, particularly as we start to see more basking sharks and minke whales later in the summer. I haven’t had many opportunities to see them in the flesh before now!
I feel as though I have adapted to island life quickly and feel very much at home on Easdale. I love how no two days are exactly the same here and of course you never know for certain what you are going to see!
So here’s to a great season and lots of good memories to take from it!
My interest in marine biology started as a small child, with my parents constantly having to drag me out of rockpools in front of “Granny Beach”’s house in south-west Scotland. I spent the majority of my school summer holidays testing out the theory that ‘the bigger the rock, the bigger the crab under it’, as my older siblings led me to believe. I think it was because of this, along with dreaming of being the next Tooni Mahto (a female marine biologist and presenter in the BBC series ‘Oceans’), that I decided at the age of 11 I wanted to do a degree in marine biology. At 17 I headed for the bright lights of St Andrews, which I had heard hosted one of the top marine research programmes in the UK. I graduated in 2011 with a first class BSc Hons degree in Marine Biology, having spent a considerable time volunteering within both the Sea Mammal Research Unit and the Sediment Ecology Research Group, in between working for the local aquarium. I filled every other minute of my free time by playing rugby and scuba diving, first learning in the chilly depths of Loch Creran, near Oban. Scuba diving has brought me over to the west coast of Scotland many times, from the Summerisles, to the Kyle of Lochalsh, to Oban (and indeed Easdale), as well as the slightly more tropical waters of Indonesia, the Red Sea and Australia! During the scientific diving course in Indo, I was amazingly lucky to be accompanied by the BBC cameraman extraordinaire Doug Allan, who sparked my interest in photography, particularly underwater. Diving also led me to complete my RYA powerboat 2 qualification, having developed a keen interest in skippering the dive RIBs for the university dive club.
Having always loved the west coast scenery, my next step following graduation was to apply for a Masters of Research degree in ‘Ecosystem-based management of marine systems’ which split our time between Australia, St Andrews and the Scottish Association for Marine Science, near Oban. Through this, I had the great pleasure of completing my research project on bottlenose dolphin behaviour, filming a resident pod in the Sound of Barra, in The Outer Hebrides, for the month of June last year. This experience, as well as a period in Orkney catching seals for tagging, helped to solidify my love for boats and remote locations, and also introduced me to a previous Sea.fari crew member and skipper, who recommended the job and put me in touch with the company. Having blagged a free trip last August, during which I was amazed to see otters, porpoises, seals, white-tailed sea eagles, goats and deer (to name but a few), I was completely sold on the area and the company, and secured the job in January having kept fingers and toes crossed for the previous 4 months. I can’t wait for the summer season to get into full swing and am looking forward to some amazing experiences over the next 8 months in Easdale! :)
If you’d asked me at 2pm how much I was enjoying my work with Seafari yesterday (18th March), I most likely would have made a half-hearted effort to pass our snorkelling work off as ‘fun’. It’s definitely fun to get back in the water having had a break from diving recently! Our task for the day was to clean off all of the marine life fouling Seafari’s pontoon, mooring buoys, ropes and chains and weighing them down. Armed with paint scrapers, we made short work of our task, only mildly delayed by a much needed tea break…
However, in truth, even with our drysuits, neoprene hoods, gloves, thermal underwear and woolly ski socks, it would be fair to say that Ted and I were starting to feel the cold of the freezing 5oC water of Easdale Sound. Not to mention the fact that the animals we were scraping off had tiny stinging cells so our cheeks (the only exposed part of our bodies) were starting to get a bit of a rash. Determined not to be deemed wimps, and having finished the pontoon, we headed out to the mooring buoys in the Sound to get the job finished. The ferry passed by and gave me a friendly wave whilst I sat twiddling my thumbs as boat support for Ted in the water. Returning from Seil Island with a boat full of kids on their way home from school, I heard a lot of excited squeals and saw the kids pointing. To start with, I thought they were merely astonished by the fact that anyone in their right mind would be floating around in the water at this time of year.
It wasn’t until I realized that the kids weren’t pointing in our direction that something else caught my attention. Fins!! Bottlenose dolphin fins! I scampered to the front of the dinghy and clapped and shouted to Ted, whose hearing was hampered by his hood and the water. At least 3 dolphins were headed straight towards the dinghy and more were playing around by the ferry. Cursing the fact that my underwater camera had just run out of battery, I quickly put my mask, snorkel and fins back on and jumped into the water. Ted and I were then treated to a great underwater display including whistles, with one dolphin swimming round him for ‘at least 2 minutes!’ (time stands still in these situations, so it was most likely closer to a few seconds…). The longer we spent in the water, the more dorsal fins I spotted, agreeing on a total of 7 animals in the end, the cold and stinging faces long forgotten. Ted and I both jumped back in the boat and headed across the Sound, alongside Tony (our boss) and Fin (another crew member). With dolphins bow-riding both boats as we went, this was a real treat for us all.
Bex on the bow of the dinghy. Can you spot Ted in the water by the boat?
The dolphins spent at least an hour around the area of the Sound, retiring to the outer areas to perform aerial acrobatics after a while. They must have spent a good half hour playing around near us in the water; something which I’m told is very unusual, and it certainly made this the best day of my job so far! They do pop through on a pretty regular basis though, so it’s definitely worth a trip down to Seil with your binoculars, or better still, book yourselves onto a Seafari Adventures wildlife tour to increase your chances of coming across this nomadic group!
Bex getting her fins on to get into the water
Seafari Marine Services Ltd has been rewarded the contract to supply Boat Services to Northern Lighthouse Board until December 2017. Based from NLB’s Western depot at Oban, the main role is to transport engineers to remote locations for routine maintenance to be undertaken as well as to provide a first response and support for ‘light outages’
Seafari’s skippers demonstrate excellent boat skills and sound local knowledge landing engineers on what many would describe as difficult sites in sometimes not ideal conditions. Seafari’s commercial boat services business Seafari Marine Services Ltd is experienced in many types of operations including marine renewables where it has recently been working on windfarms, wave machines and tidal turbines at sites from Orkney to Brest.
It was not the nicest of days at the beginning of January 2013, but it didn’t dampen the enthusiasm of those who turned up to help with the beach clean at Seaview beach on the Isle of Seil. It was organised by Alasdair Steele on behalf of Surfers Against Sewage and he asked for assistance from the local community in the project. About a dozen folk donned gloves and set to clearing about a half mile stretch of foreshore of all flotsum and jetsom - mostly plastic. Numerous bags were filled and larger items removed also. Everyone felt it was a job well done and thanks to all who turned up.
Seafari Adventures (Oban) return all the rescued seals which have been brought back to health by the Scottish Seal Sanctuary. An atlantic grey seal had been recovered from a beach on the Kintyre peninsula on 3rd November. The SSPCA were alerted. All abandoned or injured seals throughout Scotland are sent to the Seal Sanctuary’s excellent hospital facility just outside Oban.
The dedicated animal welfare team assessed their new patient to be about a month old. On arrival he was placed in a dry pen so moulting could be completed before being allowed to join Macey, Pippa and Lora the Sanctuary’s other seals in the outdoor pool.
The Seal Sanctuary auctioned a prize which included naming the seal and to be present at the release. Chloe and Antony from Poole along with mother Deborah joined us today for the release. The name chosen by Chloe was Zebby. They had set off from Poole the previous day and after spending the night at The Ranald Hotel, Oban it was an early start to meet Zebby.
Zebby’s day had stared even earlier. The seal pool had to be drained before Gareth and Barbara from the Welfare Team could finally catch Zebby, load him into a crate and transport him to Seafari’s base at Easdale where everyone boarded the cabin RIB Celtic Nomad.
After a short tour to some of the islands Zebby was released in a sheltered location just south of Cullipool off the Isle of Luing. Zebby was obviously uncertain of the new surroundings as he spent some time with his head out of the water looking at his new environment. Before long he was off at some speed closing some rocks and resting before finally disappearing.
The area selected for Zebby’s release is one of food rich waters and strong tidal currents with many rocks and islets, ideal seal territory and well inhabited with both Atlantic Grey and Common seals. We are sure Zebby will quickly settle to this area.
It’s a team effort to return injured wildlife to their natural environment and Seafari Adventures are proud to be part of the Seal Sanctuary Rescue Programme
These trips are a blast, you cannot really describe to anyone what the Corryvreckan is like on a really big tide, so you will have to experience it for yourself!
Date Trip Departs Date Trip Departs
23rd June 18.55 24th July 20.10
24th June 07.15 25th July 08.30
24th June 19.40 7th Aug 19.25
25th June 08.00 20th Aug 18.35
25th June 20.25 21st Aug 07.00
22nd July 18.50 21st Aug 19.15
23rd July 07.10 22nd Aug 07.35
23rd July 19.35 23rd Aug 08.10
24th July 07.50 24th Aug 08.45
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