OK, I may have eaten too much smoked cheese.
The day dawned with a warm breeze blowing from on shore. The Admiral and I walked around the bay to Gairloch harbour and reported in at the Hebridean Whale Cruises office in plenty of time to don the supplied appropriate clothing. Then, with another 10 excited passengers, we boarded the Orca 1, HWC's RHIB (rigid hull inflatable boat), for a two and a half hour trip out into The Minch.
The previous evening I had been in something of a quandary. What camera kit to take on a whale watching trip? With the RHIB low down in the water, would cetaceans be close to the boat? Close enough for a standard 55mm lens? Or would they be hundreds of yards off the starboard bow, requiring Very Wrong Len and his new friend, Juan Pointfour-Converter? The Admiral, with several Biscay trips of experience to call upon, was firmly of the opinion that size was everything, opting for his 100-400mm telephoto. I wasn't so sure, but then again, I would say that, wouldn't I? In the end, Juan was left at home, Very Wrong Len made the team and a standard lens went into my rucksack, in case I dared carry out a sea-borne transfer.
After the safety briefing and the even more important information that a certain BBC film crew were on a competitor's boat, we sped out into Gairloch Bay with a calm sea and improving light. From reading the tour literature, I knew that our destinations would be several deep trenches in the sea bed where whales are known to feed. But would luck be on our side?
So far during the holiday, we had seen few of the sea birds that we would have expected on a Scottish coast. Now, at last, we spotted Puffin, Guillemot, Razorbill, Fulmar, Kittiwake, Black Guillemot, Gannet and Storm Petrel. That's better!
The RHIB's complement were distributed in four rows of three. I found myself in the centre of the third row, which meant that my optics stayed dry but visibility wasn't optimal when under full throttle. However, the occasional sea bird drifted overhead as we progressed towards the Isle of Skye, so, as long as I had my wits about me, there was a chance of a photograph. Yeah, right.
|Gannet, Morus bassanus|
|Minke Whale, Balaenoptera acutorostrata|
|Great Skua or Bonxie, Catharacta skua|
|Storm-petrel, Hydrobates pelagicus|
|... and again|
|Common Dolphins, Delphinus delphis, (with calf?)|
|Where's those Cormorants, then?|
Second Born then collected two happy chaps from the quay and took us further around the bay to the Badachro Inn for lunch. Afterwards, she drove to Red Point, where we wandered through the dunes to a sandy beach looking across to Skye. Here we snoozed in the heat of the afternoon, a pleasant, contented sleep, conjured up from some sublime cetacean sightings, good food and a pint of An Teallach.
Apparently, it was still raining in England.