Thursday, 15 November 2018

HMS Ascot

On remembrance day I was asked by a friend if I could take a few family members out to the shipwreck HMS Ascot so they could pay their respects.

It was a really easy answer and it was the least I could do for all those who fought in the war and what a better way to remember all the people who died in the war to look after our country.

HMS Ascot was the last boat to be sunk during WW1 and it was the day before the Armistice was signed. She was torpedoed by a German submarine, UB-67 off the coast of Seahouses about 6 miles away.
Fifty Three servicemen tragically lost their lives in the sinking of the minesweeper vessel. Despite the best efforts of the Seahouses and Holy Island Lifeboats, no survivors were found.  

One crew member John Matthew Postlethwaite of Liverpool (below) was one of those to lose their lives. The able seaman's descendants returned to Seahouses to mark the centenary of the sinking on Saturday afternoon but before we went out to the ships last resting place, the Seahouses Lifeboat and all her crew had a small remembrance service outside the lifeboat station conducted by Rev Carol Fields.

It was a lovely service and Paul King, whose late wife was the granddaughter of seaman Postlethwaite read out all the names of the HMS Ascot who died on their way home. After the service was over the Seahouses Lifeboat was launched and myself, Ian Clayton, who is a spokesman for the RNLI and the family steamed out to the site where HMS Ascot was last laid to rest. Great granddaughter Wendy Thompson then left flowers above the wreck site, while Rev Carol Fields gave a heart warming pray to those who perished serving our country. 

I think as you get older you realise how brave all the men and boys were and then you think how lucky we are today and this is one of the main reason's I tell my kids to respect their elders as if it was not for them we might not have been here today. I also would like to thank those who worked hard back at home, which was mainly the women as they did a great job and sometimes they tend to be forgotten during this dreadful time.

When I got home that night I put on a film that might have been a bit to much for my 6 and 12 year old but I thought they needed to see how bad it was and how lucky they are today. Yes, they know about it and they went to the service to learn a bit more but sometimes a film with the hard truth works a little bit better and when you have to keep on pausing the film because they are asking questions then I think it might have worked.


Saturday, 10 November 2018

Black Guillemot and friends

Myself and Chris spotted our first Black Guillemot of the season a few weeks ago, which was really nice for me but Chris was well chuffed as it was the first one for him ever. Chris joined us this year for the first time and even though he knows about boats he was never into his birds as much as we were, so everything he see's is his first time. Yes he's seen a good few birds before but everything is new to him and he's really enjoying it.

Andy and myself have seen a good few Black Guillemots before but on this occasion it was our first. Yes we saw two together and for the Farnes its quite unusual to get two as we tend only to get one lingering during the winter but to have two together was a special moment for us.

We also came across a small feeding frenzy so we decided to stop the boat and have a look. Well I did and you could tell by Andy's face he was thinking "what the hell has he spotted now", but he was really pleased I did as we had two Manx Shearwaters in the middle of the frenzy and they must have really full bellies as they did not budge at all so Andy got a few nice pictures. You see it was worth stopping.....

We were really enjoying the day and with some lovely guests on board it made it all the better. When we past the Inner Farne on the way home we also spotted a lovely female Peregrine falcon sitting on a kittiwakes nest enjoying the sunshine whist keeping a close eye on us and a close eye on her lunch which was not far away. Yes she is just one of the birds of prey that keep our pigeon population under control.

So over all a really good day a the office and fingers crossed many more to come.

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Tuesday, 6 November 2018

Hello World

During our trips on Monday there were a noticeable increase in new born seals on Brownsman, Wames and Staple Island compared to the last few days. We did not get out on Tuesday due to the weather but when we returned on Wednesday we were gob smacked as there was an explosion of pups everywhere. Guessing a few hundred were born in one day and when the National Rangers eventually got out to do their seal counts on Thursday the result was very evident, with 504 seal pups in total. What a great start to the season for the pups and long may it last.

We have also witnessed a new born which was incredible and then seen the awful side of nature with 2 gulls eating a still born. I know its nature and its not nice to see, but I suppose one hand feeds the other. The blood on their bills is something out of a horror film but again we might not like it but its how other they survive. I was talking to a diver a few weeks ago and he said that he saw a still born on the seabed during one of his dives but it did not phase him at all, as he watched a sea urchin, and starfish eating the decomposing body so it was helping them to survive as well.

At first we thought she had miscarried due to the amount of blood, but as we passed again on a later trip we saw the pup and it was covers in blood too.

We also watched a mother feed two seal pups. Our first thought was that the born mother must be dead, but as we watched it longer and longer we realised that this was not the case. The mother was feeding her own child but was then hitting the other pup to tell it to go away. She then turned over in such a manner that her own pup got some milk but the other pup got none. Again cruel but the pups mother would not be to far away.

We have also seen the very cute side too with some pups enjoying a little sleep in the sunshine. I swear the last seal pup picture was dreaming about something nice as it cuddles into the stone by the little grin on its face.

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Friday, 26 October 2018

New Arrivals

Well its that time of the year once again and as we near the end of the season new arrivals are starting to appear. Yes, I'm taking about the new born seal pups.

We had a few early ones this year but unfortunately they did not make it but the ones that are starting to arrive now seen to be okay. I think the ones that were born early were premature or just not strong enough, so lets just hope the weather over the next few days does not reek havoc on the new born's and they find a sheltered spot and muddle through it.

Its lovely seeing the pups and its lovely seeing our guests faces when they see them for the first time. All we here is ahhhh aren't they cute. They might look cute but I would hate to be born on some rocks in the middle of the sea at this time of year. Its bad enough in the summer never mind now but I suppose it nature and that's what they have done for as long as they been here and they will now better than me why they wait until the winter.

It's funny over the last few weeks as I have been taking divers out to play with the seals and they have been having a great time and you get to hear lots of little stories when their dive. They are so playful I have never laughed as much in years. They love yellow fins. These are just some of the comments I've heard lately but little do some of the diver know is that they are as horney as hell, this is why they are so playful. I don't know how many times I've heard them say, they love yellow, black, blue fins (flippers) and they think they are special because they love that colour. I don't have the heart to tell them that it does not matter, just as long as they have fun and enjoy every minute in the water that's all that matters.

Lets hope the weather is kind to the new arrivals this year and I will keep you updated with all the numbers etc.

A new born Atlantic Grey Seal pup enjoying the sunshine.  

A new born drinking its mothers milk on the waters edge.

A new born's mother keeping a close eye on her child as we watch from a distance. 

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Until next time


Sunday, 23 September 2018

Roseate Terns

I know the Roseate Terns are not on the Farnes but a good friend of mine has worked and studied them for many years now, and I could listen to him for hours and never get bored. The reason I decided to write this blog about the Roseates was because I have just seen a few Sandwich Terns pass the harbour while I sit on the boat waiting for the water to come in so I can get my guests. I reminded me that I never seen any this year on the Inner Farne, but there was a good few on Longstone Island before they left for warmer climates. The other reason is that they had a great season and they broke records once again, but most of all they are just a lovely seabird.

Myself and Andy were lucky enough to see a good few close up on the Longstone this season and it was really nice to see them with their young too. We managed to get close to some of them and it was really nice to see loads had been ringed.

I gave Tom, my friend and ringer of the terns a shout and he told the there were 118 pairs on the Coquet Island (near Amble) this year, the highest total since 1970 and they ringed 119 chicks, which is amazing news. 20 adults were also fitted with data loggers/tags to track their migrations. These will need to be re-caught to retrieve all the data but it will be exciting to find out the results for me next year never mind the guys who do all the hard work. Fingers crossed its all good news.

Over all it has been a great year for the Roseate Terns and I cant wait to hear the results when they return next year.

Monday, 10 September 2018

New Arrival

We have been waiting for a good while now but she is eventually here and she looks mighty fine too. Yes you guessed it, our new vessel "SERENITY"

She is the same hull as Serenity II but a little bit bigger and holds a few more passengers too. There is a few changes from Serenity II but nothing major really. We have raised the wheelhouse a little bit for better viewing and moved it back a little bit too. The toilet has been moved to give that little bit extra on the deck and we have added a couple more hatches on the deck for storage in the hulls.

We have also added an extra door on the port side just in case the harbour ever decides to put another set of steps in, which would a great help to all the boats. You never know it might happen one day and then hopefully there will not be as many delays as we have now when the tides are big. Miracles can happen honest....

While we are all excited about the arrival of the new boat and it is exciting times ahead, we are really pleased, chuffed and proud of Tony and Jimmy, who have passed their licences to become skippers.

Tony has been with us for 5 years now and has become a big part of the Serenity team so it just made sense for him to move forward and become a skipper. Since the arrival of Serenity III he has virtually looked after the boat anyway and he knows it inside out. Its been a big change for Tony and his wife to come to a village and fit in so well, but I suppose being a Fireman and the stress of that job it must have been the perfect time for a change. Now he has stress from another direction and its not from the boat but myself and my brother now. Ha Ha. Only joking....

Jimmy, arrived on the wrong boat and ended up in Seahouses working in a pub until he met my brother and he decided to join the team. Jimmy is from down under and to be honest for a young lad he has fitted in really well too. Being a bit sarcastic helps and I have to take my hat off to him for fitting in so well. This is Jimmy's second year and he loves the wildlife and was so keen to become a skipper too. Both Tony and Jimmy love the Farnes and all its wildlife so I suppose in a way its an easy stepping stone for them. Its not really but you know what I mean.

So on that note from everyone at Serenity well done lads we are proud of both of you.....Now get out there and get some work done. lol.

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Thursday, 30 August 2018

Risso's Dolphin and Sunset

On Wednesday evening we had the boat ready to go for our sunset cruise and with all the guests on board the boat we headed out of the harbour and towards the islands.
My crewman Chris was chatting to the guests while I steered the boat to the islands. When Chris came back into the wheelhouse he made himself a cuppa and sat down then all of a sudden he said I think I've just seen a harbour porpoise.

I quickly stopped the boat and waited to see if it would come back up again. We both kept on looking when Chris said there it is, but we knew there and then it was not a porpoise but a dolphin. All our guests were getting excited by now, and then it just disappeared. We waited for a little while and then it surfaced again. My jaw dropped to the deck and I ran back into the wheelhouse, grabbed my camera and started taking pictures. After it surfaced a couple of times, I looked a Chris and said I'm sure its a Risso's Dolphin. In fact I'm positive it is.

It was on its own and gently moving through the water very slowly only surfacing on occasions.  When we did get a good look at it you could see the white scars covered along the side of its body and of course the most noticeable thing about it was it's bulbous forehead with no beak. It also had  tall dorsal fin which was also covered in scars and I have later read that the more scars it has, the older the dolphin is, but to be honest in the heat of the moment I was not bothered how old it was but more excited about seeing such an unusual species. It was my first and if it was not for Chris spotting it in the first place I would never have seen it, so thank you Chris.

I have also found out that the last time a Risso's were sighted at the was back in September 2014, so if we were never out on a sunset cruise we would have never seen such a beautiful mammal, and the Farnes would have missed a great record. This is only the 7th sighting and is rare for the Farnes and the last sightings were in 1996, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2011 and 2014.  I also received a text saying that Risso's were seen of Howick, St Mary's Island and Newbiggin in early July and I was also told that they are not keen on boats so they will avoid detection for long periods of time. This would make total sense and this is why we waited and waited before it surfaced again, but eventually we lost it in the evening sun so we continued with our sunset cruise with massive smiles on our faces. Well I was anyway.

During the cruise I could not stop thinking about how unusual looking it was compared to Bottlenose Dolphins and it made me realise what a special place this is and I get the opportunity to do it every day and as the sunset cruise came to the end we topped it all off with a cracking sunset over Bamburgh Castle on the way home.

I have to thank Chris for a great spot and to all our guests who joined us last night. Thank you and if I have the wrong dates or wrote something wrong please let me know as I would love to learn more.

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Saturday, 18 August 2018

Sunset and Skuas

During our sunset cruise on Wednesday 8th August, we stumbled upon a beautiful Great Skua (Bonxie) as we were heading to the Longstone Lighthouse. In fact it was our newest crew member to the Serenity Team, Chris who spotted it and causally asked me what was that bird eating. As I glanced over I saw a Great Skua feasting on a young Kittiwake. Yes, I know its not nice to see but its nature and was more bothered about the skua than the bird it was eating.

Now you might know by now that I do like skuas as there is just something about them that does it for me. That's sounds so perverse but not in that way of course. Its just the bird itself that I like and on the sunset cruise it was looking even better in the evening light. As we got closer and closer it was not bothered about us at all, but when we got a bit to close, it eventually did fly away but only went a short distance as it was not leaving easy food lying in the water and who can blame it.

After taking a few pictures and explaining to the guests about the bird, we continued with the trip around the islands while enjoying the beautiful sunlight on the seals, seabirds and of course a great sunset behind Bamburgh Castle. The light  (the golden hour) sometimes is just so lovely, it shows the

As you might already know I do enjoy the sunset cruises and if everything goes to plan you can't beat it ending with a cracking sunset behind the castle, and even if you don't get the sunset then there is something about the evening cruises I love.

Ok here is some pictures for you and sometimes I think the pictures explain things better than I can.

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