Monday, 19 August 2013

Zippedy Dooh Dah! we blooming well did it!

It started with a phone call from  Mr Davies of Harbour Village early this morning.  He said there were two dolphins in the harbour and they seemed lost and confused. I scanned from the Ocean Lab  Slipway but could not find them, so started to drive to the other end of the harbour only to find several people by the Stena roundabout watching them

So then it began. The tide was ebbing fast and the dolphins were muddling about in the area of the remains of the medieval fish trap a triangle of sharp rocks. If they ended up in there with the tide dropping they would be cut to ribbons thrashing about trying to escape. There was nothing else but for to wade in and try and herd them out. Its moments like this when I wish i was twenty years younger and five stone thinner. Even though the water was quite shallow and they were disorientated it was a matter of wading chest high and moving fast enough to push them out. It was always three steps forwards and two back. I just about got them into deeper water when they turned again and I was so exhausted I almost cried. Thankfully just as they headed back towards the dreaded fish trap, Hannah turned up with a guy called Chris in a small rib to help. They cut the dolphins off at fisherman's quay and then started to get them into the safety of the deeper water.

Eventually they looked safe but still in the harbour .Common dolphins are creatures of the open sea. We have seen them in the area several times and on three or four occasions in the harbour generally they find their own way out and once I was lucky enough to have the Fishguard Ladies gig rowing team and Ian Hotchin in his boat to shepherd them out. Chris was running low on fuel and I thanked him for his help but we were left with the problem of what to do next. Dan Worth of Razorbill Ribs had been keeping an eye out from the shore and our old mate Terry Leadbetter of Pembrokeshire Marine Mammal Rescue came along and we had a bit of a think. Some other guys working around the harbour said they had been in there for at 
least two days.

We were now watching them from the quayside and they had worked their way back in, and were muddling about just off the Ferry berth with the Stena Europe  just coming in on its return trip from Rosslare. The dolphins seemed almost more confused as the great ship inched into its berth.Instead of fleeing the 30'00 ton ferry as I hoped they were wallowing around dangerously close to its propellers Thankfully they were not harmed but they definitely were not going to be shifted.  It was obvious that as soon as the tide came back in the dolphins would be back where they started back in the danger zone. We needed to get a boat/s and drive them out into the relative safety of the open sea, Unfortunately Dan's Boat was high and dry on its mooring.

 First port of call was Rodger Taylor of the RNLI and he manged to get us a couple of guys with boats willing to help but unfortunately unable to launch at low tide. Fortunately Mike, Eddie and the Bar Five fishing boat came to the rescue. Painfully slowly with Hannah and Terry on the bow and Dan directing things from the shore via their phones, Our rescue team began to make progress. every time they made a few yards in the direction of the harbour mouth they would try and escape but Eddies skillful boat handling began to pay dividends. I was now watching from Lower Town  Harbour where we were hoping  to be joined by Richard Nichols as soon as his boat had enough tide to float. As I waited and watched , the Stena Europe sailed out again on its way out. Maybe the huge boat approaching gave the extra momentum needed but all at once the dolphins stopped resisting and edged out of the harbour. According to Terry and Hannah they suddenly came to life surging away at seed breaching and seemingly  overjoyed to be back in the open sea!

So a happy ending, and what a great community effort from start to finish!  Tomorrow we are out on the Celtic Wildcat with Nick o'Sullivan searching for Fin Whales. hopefully we will have more good news, although I hope we never get anything that big in the harbour!