It might not be easy to get on and off the island just now, but there are ways, and this was one of them. I had seen a post on FB saying that Shona Boats would be offering boat trips to the Calf of Man, either landing and leaving you there to have a wander, or giving you a full onboard tour of the the whole island to show off its wildlife and spectacular scenery.
I knew I was unlikely to see much wildlife, but I thought there may be seal pups at this time of year, but perhaps not too many birds or cetaceans. One of my fellow passengers was hoping to see puffins but I knew that was out of the question, and we didn’t even see the decoy puffins designed to lure real life puffins on to the Calf.
The weather was mediocre, an overcast day, a little cool but not too windy, so we could expect a fairly calm boat ride. Our trip was delayed slightly by one of the passengers getting held up by a road traffic accident in Douglas which meant a detour for them of some distance to reach Port Erin. Soon we spied their car zooming along the promenade eager to catch us before we left. We were a little short of time, as we found out when we returned. Had we been much later we would have missed our landing berth on the Raglan Pier but as it was all was well and we disembarked using the last possible steps.
I had attired myself suitably for gusty winds and spray, and was wearing various layers and had hat, scarves and gloves in my rucksack, all of which got used during the trip. We set off around the buoy that marks the edge of the old pier where once upon a time cruise ships would unload their passengers who would then spill into Port Erin to see the wondrous sights our lovely bay has to offer. This jetty has long gone, and I have only ever known this area to be a mass of rocks that spew up water magnificently in windy weather in winter and serve as a perch for shags and cormorants.
I have walked this coastline to the Sound from Port Erin many many times, but it is interesting to see the gullies and rifts in the rocks from a different perspective and to see how the land at the top mirrors or does not mirror the lower reaches of the cliffs. We were soon at the Sound and Kitterland where we saw our first seal, and another popped its head out of the water curiously wondering what we were looking at. Then we followed the eastern edge around the Calf to the Drinking Dragon, and from hereon, this was new territory for me as I have never gone all the way around this tiny island. It was here that the wind picked up and everyone reached for their winter woollies. I would tell you some facts about the Calf but unfortunately I couldn’t hear the guide as I was perched on the outer edge of the seating area and everyone else was in the middle, so naturally enough he talked to them and his words were lost in the waves to me. I wasn’t too concerned as I will do this trip again sometime and then I will remember to sit in the right place. It would have been good if he had used some kind of headset, but he didn’t. However, I caught a few words here and there about the shipwrecks in these treacherous waters and the longtails swimming across to the Calf.
There were quite a few seals and their pups, but there was very little else except Choughs, Oystercatchers, Gulls and Shags. We had some good and unusual views of the 4 old lighthouses and a few cliffs later we left the island and made our way back to Port Erin, feeling considerably cooler than when we set out. Even so, it was such an enjoyable experience to see the Calf in its autumnal state, and I had a sense of getting away from everyday life and an opportunity to be off the island for a couple of hours.
We were so unlucky. The group that went out the next day were escorted by some bottle-nosed dolphins back to Port Erin; instead we had the quiet of the sea and the gentle rocking of the boat as we reentered the harbour waters.