NCI watch procedures call for all vessels passing through our sector to have their details manually logged for SAR (Search and Rescue) purposes, if ever required. That being the case, imagine the feelings of our poor watchkeeper when they saw this on their scope.
The 62 (!) yachts participating in the 2017 Mini-Fastnet race were observed passing the Wolf lighthouse, before heading off to round the Fastnet light (“The Teardrop of Ireland”) and then, finally, back to West Brittany.
Fortunately for our watchkeeper’s writing hand, NCI procedures also allow large flotillas of boats to be logged as a single entry since, normally, they are being tracked by their own race controls. Accordingly, our watchkeeper was able to quickly record the flotilla details and then return to their primary role of maintaining a visual safety watch on local marine traffic and walkers on the South West Coastal footpath (which passes right in front of the watch)
- Our watchkeeper observed a cargo vessel crossing into the Traffic Separation Zone of the Lands End/Isles of Scilly Traffic Separation Scheme, from the Northbound lane, and then traversing the Southbound lane at a 45-degree angle. Falmouth Coastguard were informed and they immediately contacted the vessel in question. It’s master reported that he’d had to alter course due to encountering excessive rolling in the Northbound lane. Although rules are rules, a master must navigate their vessel as they see fit because, inevitably, the weather always has the last word!
- Our watchkeeper informed Falmouth Coastguard about a French trawler, observed to be across the middle of the Southbound lane of Lands End/Isles of the Scilly Traffic Separation Scheme whilst, somewhat worryingly, showing an Automatic Identification System (AIS) status of “Not Under Command”!
West Cornwall is a land of myths, legends and folklore but visitors who thought that the only startling sight which they might see at the Cove was Aidan Turner with his kit off (!), might have to think again. As the picture below (courtesy of Kayley Barron, St Aubyn Estates Holidays) shows, we appear to have our very own Monarch of the Cliffs - definitely not what we expect here!
There have been several sightings of this guy (a mature Red Deer stag) on the cliffs around the Cove area, quite often in the company of grazing cows. Our wildlife officer says that, although there have been regular sightings in the area, for the last 3 years, of a small group of 4 Red Deer, nobody knows where they came from, and there don’t seem to be any more around. So, maybe he’s just lonely.
Anyway, if you’re walking in the area of Gwennap Head and suddenly think that the heather has sprouted a [big] pair of antlers, don’t worry, you’re really not seeing things …..
Mar - Apr
- Our watchkeeper informed Falmouth Coastguard about a vessel observed breaking the Lands End/Isles of Scilly Traffic Separation Scheme rules, by trying to enter the Southbound traffic corridor, partway down and at a 45-degree angle
The Wreck of the Torrey Canyon:This month (March), fifty years ago, one of the first-generation supertankers, the Torrey Canyon, ran aground (in broad daylight!) on the Seven Stones reef, between Land’s End and the Isles of Scilly, spilling more than 100,000 tonnes of crude oil into the sea. The resultant oil spill generated an eight-mile long slick, which grew to 20 miles long within 24 hours and, later, affected large stretches of British and French coastlines.It remains Britain’s biggest oil spill at up to 117,000 tonnes, or 1,231-times more than the amount leaked by a North Sea platform last year.
In an effort to reduce the size of the oil spill, the British government decided to set the wreck on fire, by means of air strikes. Bombing continued over several days until the Torrey Canyon finally sank. Ultimately, a total of 161 bombs, 16 rockets, 1,500 tons of napalm and 44,500 litres of kerosene were used!
In total, hundreds of miles of coastline were affected by the oil spill, killing about 15,000 seabirds as well as causing enormous damage to marine life and the livelihoods of local people. However, although described as the UK’s worst environmental disaster, it taught invaluable lessons about the response to disasters (especially methods for containing and cleaning oil spills), resulted in the toughening up of shipping safety rules and finally led to changes in the way people viewed the environment. Nevertheless, ask any local what they remember most about the disaster and, inevitably, they’ll still vividly recall the awful choking stench of oil hanging in the air for days on end….
- Coastguard helicopter 924 contacted our watchkeeper on VHF channel 65 (the dedicated NCI Coastwatch channel) as part of an impromptu training exercise. Our watchkeeper stood ready to assist as the helicopter winched down a man and stretcher onto the rocks near the watch, and then successfully recovered both, before departing
- Our watchkeeper made urgent contact with Falmouth Coastguard after observing a cargo vessel, half a mile from Wolf Rock lighthouse, on an apparent collision course with it! FCG contacted the vessel which then altered course, accordingly. However, as can be seen from the track below, there wasn’t a lot of sea room to spare - this is definitely not considered a normal course for vessels sailing past the Wolf!
- More canine capers! As they came on watch, our watchkeeper observed three dogs running around on the cliffs near the watch, with no owner in sight. Later two of them were seen in the vicinity, again, definitely unaccompanied. One of them remained in the area so our watchkeeper contacted the police on 101 in case there were reports of anyone (or any dog!) missing A PCSO attended and ‘felt the collar’ of the miscreant (literally!), who was then ‘banged up’ in the watch An ‘identity parade’ failed because the suspect had no ID collar so arrangements were just being made to call out a dog warden with a chip reader when a passing dog walker said “Oh, that’s Bella, from the farm up the road”. The police were then able to return her home but, since she’s known as a habitual offender, her description is now posted in the watch, in case of further ‘transgressions’
Jan - Feb
- A man was observed walking his dog, off the lead, on the cliffside near the watch, in 40-50mph gale force wind! Since, by no means, could this be considered safe walking conditions, our watchkeeper kept an eye on the pair and was perturbed to later observe the dog leaping around the cliffside, with its owner nowhere in sight. This carried on for 15 minutes or so and, fearing the worst, our watchkeeper asked an off-duty colleague doing some maintenance work at the watch to go and investigate. The colleague did so…..and found the man sitting on a ledge just below the cliff-edge (presumably, sheltering from the wind), having a conversation on his mobile and totally oblivious to what his dog was doing! All’s well that ends well but, really, is the edge of a cliff in a 50mph gale the best place to have a phone conversation while your dog runs around free on the same cliff edge?
- Our watchkeeper observed a vessel making a very sharp turn into the Northbound lane of the Lands End/Isles of Scilly Traffic Separation Scheme. Whilst this manoeuvre didn’t contravene the rules of the TSS, it did serve to bring the vessel onto a 1-mile collision course with a vessel already in the Northbound lane! Our watchkeeper informed Falmouth Coastguard who monitored the situation and broadcast a suitable warning. Both vessels then manoeuvred in such a way that both had clear water.