Friday, 14 May 2010

'Swanning About'

The school kids up here are very lucky in that they are so close to the great outdoors and have lots of opportunities to get out during school time and learn about and enjoy it. One of these occasions happened on Wednesday at Uyeasound when 'The Swan' came up to take the kids out for a sail for almost 3 hours. 'The Swan' is an old sailing trawler (Fifie) that was built around 1900 down in Lerwick which has now been restored and is used to teach and inform young and old about the techniques on how to sail and maintain her. For much more information check out their website here - . On this occasion, I had been asked if I would like to join them for the trip around Uyeasound. Last year they sailed from Uyeasound up the east coast of Unst to Baltasound, but due to the sea conditions it was decided not to take the children on this route. The day was fine, but not much wind - not good for a sailing ship ! We did managed to get one of the sails up, but due to the age of the children it wasn't really practical to hoist any more up considering the work that was involved. Despite this, we had a very pleasant trip around the sound and out in to Bluemull Sound a short way. Birds were in abundance, Tysties, Gannet, a few Guillimots and loads of Fulmars. We also saw a a couple of pairs of Redthroated Divers and also a summer plumaged GN Diver.  Even though I could take a few photographs, I was also there as an extra pair of eyes to watch the children so using the long lens was out of the question which was a shame as the water was fairly calm.

'The Swan'  (taken in 2009)

Arriving back to the pier, the children disembarked - but I stayed on. I now had the chance to sail (motor) up to Baltasound where she would tie up for the night before taking some children out from Baltasound school. As we headed east out of Uyeasound, I changed the lens for the long one in the hope I'd get some shots of birds taking off from the water as we passed by - not easy from a moving boat that is also rising and falling in the water. No divers alas but I did get a few Tysties.

Tystie or Black Guillimot

The rest of the trip up to Baltasound was uneventful as far as wildlife goes but it was a great experience. I had sailed on an old sailing trawler before a couple of times many years ago in the nineties. On that occasion it was an old Brixham sailing trawler that a time was based on the west coast of Scotland near Oban, she was then called 'Lorne Leader' - My little 'adventure' however, was not yet over. Andrew the skipper, asked if I'd like to go with them on the return journey the following afternoon back down to Lerwick, I didn't need asking twice !

So at 3pm, I arrived at the pier all ready to go. There was also another guy waiting there who was coming down on the trip. He had been coming here for many years on holiday and as it turned out, came from Stratford Upon Avon which is only about half an hours drive from where I originally come from. (Ed and his family, run a number of the boats that carry tourists up and down the river there). The wind had now swung around to be southerly which meant the trip wouldn't be sail assisted sadly (yesterday going to Baltasound it was northerly and had the same effect). The weather was fine with sun occasionally breaking through the fairly cloudy sky and with the wind made it feel quite cold. Shortly after passing the southern end of Balta Isle, I picked out at least 8 or 10 fins breaking the surface some way from the boat. My first reaction was maybe female Orcas, but after a better look, I realized that they were a large dolphin species. I grabbed some pictures - in between the pitching and rolling of the boat - and later came to the conclusion they were most likely Risso's Dolphins.

Further down the coast of Unst, I saw a number of G N Divers congregating offshore. I could only estimate 12 - 15 but in the past 50 or more have been seen in late spring off of Unst. Our route then took us south down between Fetlar and Yell and then onwards to towards the island of  Whalsay. Surprisingly, the numbers and variety of seabirds was quite low, mainly Tysties, Shag, Gannet, Fulmar and the occasional Puffin or Guillimot. Passing through the sound between Whalsay and Mainland, we did encounter a number of feeding Gannets that were plunge diving for fish. Due to a number of reasons (being on a moving boat didn't help) I didn't manage to get any diving but did get a few circling between dives.

Whalsay is always noted as being where the 'millionaires' live on Shetland and judging by some of the large boats we saw berthed I can see why -

The rest of the journey down to Lerwick was uneventful - but it was a great trip all the same. The sun was now getting lower in the sky and the air had turned decidedly chilly as by now the wind had picked up a notch. One of my favourite types of landscape views  is something called atmospheric recession and on the final part of the trip there were lots of views with this as the sun sank in the west. Not all were photogenic and getting a better viewpoint was not really practical on a moving boat !

We arrived back in to Lerwick just after 8.30pm. Earlier on in the afternoon, I had asked Andrew the skipper, what time he thought we'd be back in town; his reply was about 8.30 - that's why he was the skipper !

The last three were taken on my camera phone.

Arriving in Lerwick



Anonymous said...

Whalsay millionaires who earn absolutely every penny doing the hard job they do.

robbieb said...

Why do I get the feeling that you may live on Whalsay ? With regards to the fishermen, they do earn every penny and I didn't say they didn't earn it, I certainly wouldn't do it. So how about you saying who you are ?