DAY TWO ON BOARD - Sailing out to the wilderness
This morning we sailed out of Palma harbour towards the beautiful island and national park, Cabrera, at 5.30am. By 6 we had scrubbed the deck, had our breakfast by 7, and had been briefed on the cooking, cleaning and watch rota, all by 8am. Captain Ricardo Sagarminaga, and founder of Alintak, runs a tight ship, as the saying goes, but at the same time, he makes it feel welcoming, warm and relaxed. He has been running these expeditions over the last 30 years. During this time, Alnitak has been able to gather significant data on marine species and pollution, engage a wide variety of people on our oceans, and make some incredible progress with the fishing community. There is something very special about the Toftevaag, that’s for sure. I hear people talking about it being magical. I think part of that is the speed it goes; it glides through the water at a very pleasant, slow, 4 knots an hour. An almost meditative speed, which makes it feel like part of the ocean, instead of some of the smaller boats we saw in the harbour. As the saying goes, the slower you go, the more you see. And that certainly seemed to be true....
By 10 am we had seen enormous bluefin tunas jumping out of the sea, chasing diesel blue and silver mackerel. Not only were they beautiful, but it was amazing to see them after they have been overfished for so long in these waters. They are now recovering thanks to strict EU quotas and controls. By 11am we had seen incredible Swordfish also jumping out of the sea, presumably chasing fish. We also spotted a lot of plastic and ghost fishing gear (left behind by various fishing fleets) and we picked up what we could that was within our range. I loved picking up the plastic, and appointed myself “key plastic catcher” with the net and stick we had onboard! We also jumped off to pick up larger items or things that were too difficult to get with the net. I found this enormously satisfying!! Removing plastic was a much-needed antidote to watching so many people use plastic straws and cups and everything else back in London.
A key part of our work on the boat, was keeping watch, to make sure we made as many sightings as possible of both pollution and wildlife. We were given a rota of where we should be to keep watch; port, starboard and up the mast! Being an old fishing boat, the masts were very tall, and I was terrified about going up! One of the other volunteers, Connie, was not afraid of going up there, though. She climbed straight up there, sat on the tiny little seat, harnessed to the mast, and wobbling around in the wind! I didn’t even hear her protest as she climbed up. I was so in awe of her! Bravery was clearly important to her as she had a tattoo, which roughly translated reads "the secret to happiness is freedom, and the secret to freedom is to be brave." I love that! And I think I need to take that onboard in my life too.
Connie was volunteering for the week with her mum, Suzie. Both of them are from Munich. They had chosen this trip because they wanted to see whales together and Connie had promised that she would take Suzie to see them when she turned 30. But they did not want to chase them as part of a tourist boat: they wanted to take a more respectful and involved approach, helping to protect them. Suzie’s father had owned a boat; this really showed, as she was also fearless on the Toftevaag – jumping in the water all the time and sitting right up the front, on a hammock on the tip of the bow. (I tried that, and again, not for me, I am such a scaredy-cat!) They were an impressive pair, and it was so special to see how close they were, sharing this amazing experience.
by Georgina Stevens