On Saturday we were gifted with calm water and warm sunshine for our trip around the beautiful Wembury Marine Conservation Area.
Months of advertising and planning had gone into this Wembury Advisory Group boat trip and it all went very smoothly, with tickets selling out and with sunny weather! After everyone boarded from the two pickup points, the boat embarked and we sailed out of Plymouth Harbour, past hundreds of years of naval history. As the boat past through the waves, commentary was provided by our team of on board experts, who filled the airwaves with information on their respected areas of expertise; ranging from underwater photography to maritime, and from marine biology to ornithology and geology.
Soon we could see the Mewstone; a jagged tooth jutting out of the sea. Those of us new to the Marine Centre have only ever seen one side of the Mewstone. Sailing around the back of this large piece of rock was a bit like going to the dark side of the moon. Once round the other side the view is completely different, there is a ‘mini Mewstone’ – a smaller rock of a similar shape which hides in the Mewstone’s shadow.
The Mewstone is a really important breeding ground for two species of seabirds, the cormorant and the shag: both predators at the top of the marine food web. Only those with special permission are allowed to venture onto the island, as any disturbance to the birds can be devastating to the success of breeding. Our bird expert told us that even boating near the birds that nest on the island during breeding season can scare them off, leaving their nests at the mercy of predators such as the blacked backed gull, which we also found out is a resident of the island.
Seeing the Mewstone and Wembury from the ocean was an entirely different experience from what we are used to. The house on the island felt close enough to touch! Seeing the church on the hills, the beach and the lovely countryside was equally as impressive.
The boat moved past the Mewstone slowly, sailing into the river Yealm. Where the colourful houses of Noss Mayo could be seen perching on the hills.
Upon nearing the old abandoned hotel, the boat turned and we started to head back. Not before we cast plankton nets out into the sea; where children and adults alike had a go at catching the microscopic beasties that are so important in sustaining life in our underwater world: the plankton. Our on board microscope allowed people to see and visualise these clandestine creatures, bringing attention to them (for some) for the first time and giving them the lime- light they deserve.
Over the side in the boats wake the occasional large jellyfish could be glimpsed, before being swallowed in our wake.
As we neared the end of the boat trip and Plymouth approached, we were able to look around at the incredible views and everyone having a good time, confirming that the boat trip was a success.
A huge thank you to everyone who was involved in making the boat trip happen, to everyone who helped organise it and made it happen and to the speakers!