Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Sail to Santander

It's something I have wanted to do for a while and eventually I focused myself on booking a berth on the Brittany Ferries Pont Aven cruise ferry for an overnight sail to Santander.  I had heard that Biscay is rich in marine-life with a third of the world's species having been recorded in these waters.  The combination of the shallower waters around the British and French coasts, with far greater depths of around 4500m beyond the continental shelf provide the variety of cetaceans that over the years have made this a popular route for nature lovers.

 On board, the presence of the Orca team are primed and positioned to pick up all occurrences of mammals and birds encountered en route.  Their work provides vital information toward the protection of our sea-life.

The Pont Aven, is a floating behemoth and by far the largest vessel I had ever travelled on.  Despite the complexity of the boarding process, the mix of passengers, vehicles including freight, we left ten minutes early and trundled down the Solent between the mainland and the Isle of Wight.  It was a still evening, cool, with high cloud, and quite peculiarly, I was quite looking forward to this.

The night drew in quickly, and a half hour spent on the top deck (level 10) yielded a couple of Mediterranean Gull close in to the vessel.

The boat is extremely comfortable with plenty of distractions on board to entertain the occupants.  It wasn't full by any means, and neither was it opulent or high-class.  At times it felt to the contrary.  This surprised me a little.

We ate and retired early, the tip was to arise at first light and hit the deck.

It was serene.  Progress was languid, and as the sun emerged lazily in the east, it cast a mirrored sheen across the water.  It was a wonderful sight.  On the water, small pods of Common Dolphin were observed around the boat, where the first blows of Fin Whale were also seen, a few emerging distantly before heading down into the depths.

By far the most numerous birds were Great Shearwater with over 50 individuals seen as they glided alongside the boat.  There were also a few Storm Petrel and Gannet.

The day was spent out on deck, the weather was perfect, and the sea an agreeable calm throughout.  We picked out a total of 15 Fin Whale, around seven Pilot Whale, and numerous Dolphin.

Inevitable, the total count was greater than this, with watchful eyes concentrated on both sides of the ferry of the wonderful and accommodating volunteers on-board recording every sighting.

En route, a Yellow and White Wagtail were seen flying alongside the boat, a significant distance from land, but committed on their journey south.

The ferry eventually made it's way into dock at Santander after a full twenty-four hours on the sea.  Time sailed by - so to speak - the end of the beginning of a really fantastic journey.

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