Boat Entanglement.... But better us than a Whale!
I had intended to begin writing this blog as soon as our boats were in the water and we were taking passengers out, unfortunately both lack of time and my poor memory has meant I didn't get round to it. So instead of my first post being about the fantastic encounters with Puffins and Eagles on the Shiant Islands, or how our lovely friend Charlie Phillips from Whale and Dolphin Conservation and his equally lovely wife joined us for their first trip on our new research boat Seaquest MRV, or the fabulous Porpoise and Minke Whale sightings we have been having, my first post is actually to bring sad news that Seaquest will be out of action for a couple of weeks!
On one of our trips out we detected quite a bad vibration and noise coming from the Port side of the boat, a little look beneath, using a go-pro underwater camera on a stick, revealed some very thick rope entangled round our Port propeller, propeller shaft and shaft support bracket, the the spin of the propeller had caused it to wrap tightly round.
Unable to remove the rope underwater (Yes, Ian donned his wet-suit and snorkel gear and very sharp diving knife in hand did attempt such a feat), we had no choice but to put her on the old stone pier in Gairloch harbour and try again once the tide had receded and she was sat out the water. It was at this point we realised that the strain on the shaft support had been too much and it had cracked, so we contacted a friend and they came out within the hour and welded the support back together. Happy that they had done a sterling job and that it was a very strong weld, we re-floated her that afternoon.
However it didn't take long for us to detect the vibration had only lessened not disappeared and on further investigation we discovered that the propeller shaft itself had also bent and wasn't running true.
In order not to cause damage to the engine we had no option but to take her to the boatyard so she could be lifted out on to the shore so we could replace the shaft. As she was there we decided that she should have both shafts replaced and her propellers cleaned and balanced at the same time. She was removed from the water using a big trailer and a truck at 12pm Tuesday, when the tide went out, and so for us, what turned out to be a mammoth job began; involving lots of spanners, WD40, an angle grinder and sheer brute force, 8 hours later Seaquest MRV was relieved of her propeller shafts and propellers and we could go home for the day (night... it was nearly 9pm). While we had been working hard, our relief skipper Drew had been running 2 hour trips on MV Starquest and spending time in the company of 6 Bottlenose Dolphins, Porpoises and even saw a Hunting White-tailed Eagle being mobbed by Cormorants and Shags as it strayed far too close to their nests for their liking!!
We hope to have Seaquest MRV back in the water within a week, or two at the very most, but unfortunately we have no 4 hour cruises until then. In the mean time MV Starquest will be taking Seaquest's passengers and we will be offering 2 hour cruises at 3pm instead of 4 hour.