Sunday, 26 July 2009

A little bit of mackerel and a jump lead

Eyemouth in a drizzle. Marvellous. On the east coast just a few miles north of the English border, it's an atmospheric place with narrow alleyways and a harbour with a fishing fleet and a colourful collection of other boats. But never mind all that, I recommend finding the fish van man down by the harbour. For a pound or two he'll give you a bag of mackerel bits and access to his set-up, which comprises an old jump lead tied on a rope attached to a wooden pole. First, clamp your fish into the jump lead jaws then dangle it over the harbour wall and lower it to the water. While most people along the wall are trying to pull fish out, you do the opposite. Its sort of un-fishing.But its well worth it when 25 stones of Britain's largest carniverous mammal breaks the surface and grabs your bait.

A small group of grey seals loiter in the harbour waiting to be fed. If you aim right (unlike in this picture!) you can get them to haul out onto a makeshift pontoon to grab your fish, giving fabulous views without having to go through the embarassment of throwing up on the boat trip out to the nearby Farne Islands.

It's a great opportunity to study the animals close up in comfort. The nostrils are fascinating I find. If you spend 80% of your time under the surface, a watertight nasal orifice is pretty important. The normal relaxed position is closed and water pressure during the dive presses them even more firmly shut and when the seal surfaces, muscles have to contract to open them up.

Their adaptions for diving are intriguing too. Although the typical routine is dive for 5 to 8 minutes, surface for a minute and repeat ad infinitum, when pushed or threatened they have been recorded staying under for 30 minutes. How? Well I read that they actually expel air from the lungs before diving. Oxygen is stored instead in the blood and in the muscle.
Avoids the bends too I suppose.


  1. Cheers, great idea for a day out to entertain the kids.

  2. Am I correct in my assumption that you're a fellow seasickness sufferer? I recently took the boat trip to the Farnes and managed all but the last two minutes because of a 'traffic jam' in the harbour. What a lightweight! Plus I had to suffer the indignity of 2 passing outbound boats laughing & mocking as I revisited breakfast. Charming. The things we do for nature! L

  3. Oh dear, bad luck that. Lets just say I wasn't in the queue when the sea-legs were handed out. I've survived the Farnes to date but Bass Rock was a struggle. Both are a breeze though compared to the trip to Orkney, believe me!