My lucky Tilley hat

by on Jul.26, 2012, under North Sea, Northumberland, Northumberland Coast

It protects my head from attack by Arctic Terns on trips to the Farne Islands, it prevents me getting sunburn, but now it seems to have developed an additional, almost mystical, power…

With a spell of settled weather, and incredibly obliging sea conditions, I was full of optimism as I arrived at Seahouses Harbour for the first of this year’s Northern Experience Pelagics Farne Deeps trips.  We boarded Ocean Explorer and headed offshore, in search of Minke Whale and White-beaked Dolphin.  As always we found birds close to land, and then a period with little wildlife other than an occasional Gannet gliding by.  With land-based trips you learn to ‘read’ the habitat and weather conditions.  At sea, you don’t have that luxury; whatever the sea bed is like, the surface always looks pretty much the same 🙂  The wildlife itself provides the visual clues, and splashing in the distance simply didn’t look right for diving Gannets. Alan slowed the RIB and I scanned the horizon.  Again the same splashing, and it became obvious that there were lots of Gannets sitting on the sea in that area as well.  The first dorsal fins began to appear, and soon we could see a small pod of White-beaked Dolphins heading towards us.  Then more appeared…and more…and more.  Eventually we had between 60-100 dolphins bow-riding, breaching, feeding and generally providing excellent entertainment for all on board.

White-beaked Dolphin [Lagenorhynchus albirostris],whale watching,dolphin watching,Northumberland

White-beaked Dolphin [Lagenorhynchus albirostris],whale watching,dolphin watching,Northumberland

White-beaked Dolphin [Lagenorhynchus albirostris],whale watching,dolphin watching,Northumberland

White-beaked Dolphin [Lagenorhynchus albirostris],whale watching,dolphin watching,Northumberland

White-beaked Dolphin [Lagenorhynchus albirostris],whale watching,dolphin watching,Northumberland

The dolphins, Gannets and the fish they were feeding on drifted away so we sat with engines off and had our own meal break.  Just over half an hour later we encountered the dolphins again and they charged headlong towards the boat.  After another long session of breaching and bow-riding, we stopped the engines and let the dolphins head off to whatever they were planning to do next.

We were heading back to shore at just over 30knots when my Tilley hat was lifted from my head by the breeze and landed in the wake 🙁  Now, one of the things about a Tilley hat is that if it falls in the water it floats.  Alan turned the boat and a few minutes later we recovered my hat 🙂  After nearly 4 hours of staying firmly on my head, it was a surprise that it had suddenly departed seawards…

We’d just started heading again towards the shore when Sue said that she’d seen a fin and thought it might be a Harbour Porpoise.  Alan slowed the boat right down, and the fin surfaced again.  Much better than a porpoise though, it was a distant Minke Whale 🙂  We watched it surface several times, and then it became obvious that although everyone on board was watching a Minke Whale not everyone was looking in the same direction!  There were at least two, and possibly three, whales around us and, even though the dolphins were spectacular, there was something really special about watching these huge marine mammals as they surfaced with a stunning sunset, and the distant Northumberland coast, as a backdrop.

The best pelagic that we’ve organised? Probably…

We’re heading to the Farne Deeps again on August 15th (from Royal Quays) so give us a call on 01670 827465 to book your space before it sells out.

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