“ Boat Trip. Address: Hawes Pavillion, South Queensferry, West Lothian EH30 9TB. Tel: 01620 890202 „
While I have been staying here in Edinburgh with Dave (he is still working up here) we went on an adventure and it was so brilliant I just had to tell you about it!
We went on a Seabird Seafari!
Where is it?
The trips depart from the harbour in North Berwick next to the Seabird Centre. The website address is http://www.seabird.org/boat-trips.asp where you will find lots of information about the trips. There are two boat trips to choose from - one goes to Craigleith and then on to Bass Rock taking about an hour overall and the other goes to the Isle of May where you have at least two hours ashore. We did the shorter trip this time but aim to go back and do the other one as soon as we can!
How much is it?
The trip that we chose cost us £22 each which sounds a lot but it really was well worth it. You are advised to phone and book in advance as these trips are really popular and since the boat can only carry twelve passengers at a time it soon gets filled. You can also hire a pair of binoculars for £3 but we had our won so we didn't bother with that. You will be asked to arrive at the harbour about fifteen minutes before the departure time of your trip for reasons which will become obvious in a minute!
What is the boat like?
The boat is a rigid inflatable of the type used by the RNLI and the Royal Navy and carries a maximum of twelve passengers. The seats are the type where you sit astride which makes you feel much safer when the boat bounces over the waves. You just need to relax your knees a bit and you feel completely safe and comfortable too! There is a handle at the front of each seat as well if you feel the need to hang on at any time.
And the crew?
The boat is crewed by two people one of whom drives the boat and the other sits at the front facing the passengers and gives information about the islands and their history and the wildlife that you will see on your trip. The guide was a man who had lived in Berwick all his life so he really knew what he was talking about.
Are there any safety precautions?
You bet your life there are! We were all given waterproof trousers and jackets with hoods which we had to put on over our normal clothes. We were then all given a lifejacket to wear. It was one of the lightweight ones which doesn't impede movement at all but will inflate automatically if you enter the water. We were also told how to inflate the lifejacket should it not inflate automatically in an emergency.
I will just mention at this point that the trips are not suitable for pregnant ladies or for people with back problems. Children under eight years old are not allowed on the boats either. Children between eight and fifteen years of age must be accompanied by an adult.
Full third party liability cover is provided for passengers but not for any personal effects which are carried at the owner's own risk. If the trip is cancelled because of adverse weather conditions passengers will be offered the chance to rebook or a full refund if this is not possible for any reason.
All decked out in our waterproofs and lifejackets we made our way to the end of the jetty to the boat.
To get on board we first had to step onto the rigid edge of the boat and then onto the floor of the boat itself. The two crew members stood one on the boat and one on the land and held onto us all as we boarded so even I felt safe and I am usually a bit of a wuss about that sort of thing!
We all sat down and were told that the only rule was that we were not to stand up at any time during the journey. Then it was engines on and off we went to Craigleith. The boat went at about thirty miles per hour and it bounced a bit but not very much as the sea was calm the day we went.
When we got to Craigleith the skipper dropped the speed and we circumnavigated the island at a slow speed whilst the guide told us all about the island and the wildlife. He was really interesting and he was watching all the time to try and spot things to show us. We saw kittiwakes, cormorants, shags, seals (although they only popped their heads out the water to see who was there!), fulmars and more together with the more common gulls who were as usual behaving like hooligans. Of course we also saw the stars of the show for me at any rate - the puffins! We saw them on the island, in the air and swimming in the sea around the boat, it was amazing.
Then we went on to Bass Rock and again slowed down to go round the perimeter of the rock. This place is home to a colony of over 150,000 gannets and it was an awesome sight indeed. Most of us put our hoods up at this point as the gannets were flying overhead and I don't need to paint a picture do I? Luckily no one got splattered as far as I know. The smell as we got near to the rock was interesting too - Dave called it a fishy poo smell! You can always trust him to get to the heart of the matter! I was concerned that it would be overpowering but, although it was obvious, it didn't detract from the enjoyment of the trip.
The guide gave us a lot of information about the history of Bass Rock and the prison that used to be there and we saw the ruined remains of the buildings. There is also a working lighthouse on the island but it isn't inhabited any longer; it is operated by computer from the mainland.
After this we headed back towards the mainland where we were given more information about the history of some of the buildings on the shore.
When we returned the tide had come in farther and we were able to disembark in the harbour itself again ably assisted by the two crew members.
As with seemingly anything these days we had our photographs taken - the first ones were taken on the harbour side after we had dressed in our protective garb and then more were taken as we were sitting in the boat and as we set off on our journey.
When we returned we went into the reception to take a look and whilst our photographs were all good we thought that twelve pounds for a photograph in an ordinary frame was a bit much so we said no thank you. We had already taken photographs of one another anyway!
I was really looking forward to this trip and it exceeded my expectations. The boat was comfortable and safe (well if it's good enough for the RNLI its good enough for me!), the crew were excellent, the information was interesting and comprehensive and the views were amazing!!
I can't wait to come back and do the Isle of May trip!