We set off on the morning of the autumn equinox and have arranged to meet our Skipper Iain on the pontoon at Helford Passage. It’s early enough in the day for the quietness that covers the Helford River to still be in place, and wisps of morning mist still cling to the surface of the water.
A friendly wave from a rib weaving through the moorings announces the arrival of our boat, Harbinger. After hopping in we don our lifejackets and run through a safety briefing. We’re faced with two options for our trip, one heads towards Falmouth for an exploration of the harbour, another takes us out to sea in search of dolphins. With two ten-year-olds (and two very excited grown-ups) aboard there’s no question- so it is out to sea we go…
We make our way towards an oil tanker anchored out in the bay. These tankers are a common sight at the edge of the horizon seen from the seafront in Falmouth, so getting up close and seeing the scale was fascinating. As we pass along, Iain tells us the meaning of the term ‘Falmouth for Orders’ whereby large ships wait in Falmouth Bay for fluctuations in the price of their cargo or for instructions of where in the world to head out to next.
Flashes of white on the surface of the water beside the tanker are revealed to be gannets, huge birds which spear fish from the skies at speeds of up to 60mph. They swoop past the boat, giving us a close-up view of their blue bills whilst Iain regales us with snippets of insight into the wildlife of the bay. Iain lives alongside the Helford River and knows how to expertly navigate the area.
It isn’t long, however, before something else distracts us from the tankers and the gannets. Fins break through the surface of the water up ahead, and we spot what we’ve all been looking for. Hearts aflutter with excitement, we’re joined at sea by a pod of dolphins!
There’s a code of conduct for watching marine life in this way, which Iain at August Rock respects and adheres to like a true sea-going gentleman. One must never follow a pod of Dolphins, but simply pass on by. If the dolphins show interest, they’ll likely swim beside the boat to ride the bow-wave. If the dolphins do not deviate from their route, it’s safe to assume they have somewhere important to be and are best left to it.