Filming turtles on Poilão Island

Fionn and I have just got back from filming turtles in Guinea Bissau. It’s probably the remotest place I’ve ever been – Poilau Island, way out in the Atlantic – 2 days on small open boats – it doesn’t even feature on a Google search. Here’s a photo.
Poilau Island

Poilau Island

Turtle Island…

Totally uninhabited – and it’s a sacred island so we weren’t allowed anywhere but the beach. You can walk round it in 30 minutes. No water, a tiny generator for us to charge our cameras. They didn’t even have a radio to contact the mainland should anything go wrong.

We accompanied 2 scientists and 2 local rangers and slept in tents on the beach. The rangers caught fish every day for us to eat with rice. It’s so far out into the Atlantic we didn’t see another boat large or small all week. But every night 1000+ green turtles come ashore to nest. Awesome. They grow up to around 160kg so they are huge. This shot is of a turtle laying its eggs in the nest it has excavated

Turtle laying eggs

Turtle laying eggs

And this shot of a turtle heading back into the sea shows how many turtles have left their tracks in the sand overnight

Guinea Bissau

And Guinea Bissau is interesting – one of the world’s poorest countries and according to the US State Department a no go area and a narco state. Despite those State Department warnings we found the people very friendly and the country intriguing.
So we are going back there soon to film the nests that we saw being laid now hatching. And we also plan to film salt water hippos on another island – the only salt water ones in the world.
Plus more destinations, more species of turtles, and more fascinating science.
This promises to be a great documentary

Well a year in the planning and the Paddle Against Plastic Pollution finally happened. At dawn on a perfect July Monday morning the team set off from Porthcurno Beach at the very west of Cornwall to head for Scilly. We mentioned the plan in a blog over a year ago. And at last conditions favoured us… Here is Mike Lacey‘s teaser for a longer film he will be making about the project:

The Mission

The purpose of the mission was twofold. Firstly to highlight the increasing issue of plastic pollution in our seas. And secondly to raise sponsorship monies for Surfers Against Sewage.

Check the piece about the crossing here in Cornwall Live

The Hazards

I have nothing but respect for all the paddlers who took part. And apart from having to battle against strong northerly currents that plagued us most of the way, and the hazard of crossing two busy shipping lanes.

Shipping Lanes between Lands End and Scilly

Shipping Lanes between Lands End and Scilly

There was even a close encounter with The Scillonian, the ferry from Penzance to the Isles.

Scillonian passing Kelvin Batt en route to Scilly

Scillonian passing Kelvin Batt en route to Scilly

One of the unanticipated issues that more than one paddler had to deal with afterwards was sunburnt feet!

We even had visits from a pod of dolphins during the crossing. Plus a visit from a big lone bull seal, who was a very long way from the nearest land.

It was an extremely long 13 hour day at sea. Long for us on the support boat and excruciatingly longer for the paddlers. So we spent the following day relaxing and enjoying Scilly at its very best. And in the late afternoon we headed back to the mainland, passing on the way back the iconic Wolf Rock lighthouse, with its ever present seal colony.

A day to remember for all of us!

The long road home…

When planning the trip, Finland’s Archipelago Sea had intrigued me. Have a look for yourself on a map. The more you zoom in the more islands you discover. It reminded me of staring at the sky on a clear cloudless sky. The longer you look, the more stars you see… It’s the sort of place you could spend a whole summer cruising and never staying in the same anchorage twice.

We left the Archipelago Sea on yet another flat calm day and cruised through the Swedish archipelago to Stockholm.

But home was calling – National Geographic had asked for a re-edit of our Truk Lagoon film 

And they wanted it ASAP. So although we had planned a homeward route through the Swedish Canal system from Stockholm to Gothenburg, that would have added an extra week to the trip. Reluctantly we decided to save that for another year and head back through The Baltic for the Kiel Canal.

 

The final leg of the trip…

Eddie left us part way back – like us he had jobs piling up back home. So Elliott Harrison and I made the last part of the trip together. Bad luck with the weather close to the Kiel Canal turned to worse luck once we were through, and eventually we had to leave Cecienne in the marina at Breskens. We returned a couple of weeks later and on glass calm seas completed the voyage home to Falmouth.

And now the best part of the trip…

So far the trip has had its ups and its downs. Particularly in the early stages! My fault – we left too early in the Baltic boating season to get the best out of it. As a result we encountered empty harbours, closed fuel stations, and not the best of weather. But we had succeeded in our mission – taking my Princess 39 to St. Petersburg. Well after St. Petersburg we left Cecienne in Helsinki in the care of Mats Carlson, the Princess agent there. And a month later I returned with a new crew to complete the voyage. And when we returned it was to a very different Baltic. Here’s what happened…

The Archipelago Sea

Stretching from Helsinki islands spread the whole length of the coastline. So despite windy and choppy seas we could always find somewhere to shelter in the 3 days that we threaded our way to Turku, the most southwesterly city in Finland. And then we jumped off into the amazing Archipelago Sea. Because this is one of the most beautiful places I have ever been, countless thousands of islands seemingly stretching for ever. And every night we found a quiet anchorage all to ourselves.

Cecienne at anchor somewhere in the Archipelago Sea

Cecienne at anchor somewhere in the Archipelago Sea

The wildlife was incredible

Floating nest at Kumlinge

Floating nest at Kumlinge

And the anchorages countless and totally deserted – can you spot Cecienne in here?

Cecienne at the perfect anchorage among the islands of the Archipelago Sea

Cecienne at the perfect anchorage among the islands of the Archipelago Sea

 

St. Petersburg's Golden Domes

St. Petersburg…at last!

After all the rollercoaster of departing from Estonia – will we or won’t we make it? – yes, we make it to our Holy Grail of this trip – St. Petersburg. According to the shipping agent we are the first of only 4 boats from the UK that will visit the city this year. But it is worth every second of the trip. And here’s the video.

 

History and beauty

And what an awesome city! I don’t know what I’d really expected… something from a 1960’s spy movie with cigarette smoking men in long coats following us everywhere we went! Instead we found a vibrant and beautiful city, with an incredible history.

Everyone knows about Stalingrad in the Second World War, but the story of St. Petersburg – then Leningrad – is just as horrific. Besieged by the Germans and effectively totally cut off from the world, during the two and a half year siege around a million and a half died of starvation.

Secret filming…

After all the warnings and worries, the border formalities were no worse than anywhere in the world – and way better than some – though I don’t think they would be happy that I snuck a couple of photos on my phone!

Marine Border Crossing Point Fort Konstantin

Marine Border Crossing Point Fort Konstantin – secret phone picture from stern of Cecienne

Our marina berth…

Our marina berth was just inside the River Neva, and immediately opposite the St. Petersburg World Cup Stadium.

St. Petersburg Football Stadium

St. Petersburg Football Stadium

Military Museum

And one of the highlights for me was our visit to the Military Museum where the weapons on display I’d only ever seen before on Cold War newsreels!

St. Petersburg Military Museum

St. Petersburg Military Museum

Here’s the second of five videos charting our trip on Cecienne to St. Petersburg in Russia last year.

Things start to get a bit sketchy and I begin to doubt if we will ever reach St. Petersburg…

And we have our first run-ins with Frontier Police – maybe a taste of what is to come if we leave the EU?

Cheesy title but that’s what the magazine are running the series of articles and videos under.

Part 1 is in this month’s Motorboats and Yachting Magazine, and here is the link to the first video of last summer’s Baltic adventure!

Stage 1 of the voyage – after a smooth trip up Channel and through the Kiel Canal we have our first taste of The Baltic

 

Rustler 37 in the Helford River

A favourite client…

One of my favourite clients is Rustler Yachts. Filming boats for them is a guarantee of a great day at sea.

Rustler 37
Rustler 37 at anchor, Carrick Roads

Rustler have a reputation for handbuilding high quality yachts. Based in Penryn, Cornwall, just a few miles from our studio, it’s always a pleasure to work with them.

Rustler’s workshop alongside the River Fal is crammed with skilled craftsmen of every type. It’s companies like this that keep the art of boat building alive. No GRP production lines here as you find in the huge French yacht manufacturers. Here at Rustler they give every detail minute and skilled attention. That’s the joy of owning a Rustler yacht.

Filming at sea

Well, so far our films have focused on individual boats. We wait for perfect conditions at sea off Falmouth and spend a day at sea filming by drone and boat-to-boat as one of their skippers puts a yacht through its paces. Here’s a clip of their Rustler 42 that we made for them.

A film brief with a difference

But the latest project – although still fun  and still filming boats – was very different. In the Penryn boatshed Rustler are building their biggest yacht to date – the Rustler 57. So we came up with the idea that we would film that critical moment when they laid the deck on the hull and attached it.

And of course there is a great deal of work done before that happens. But it’s still a great moment to capture. So with the help of some of the craftsmen, Fionn and I set up 3 Go-Pro cameras each filming different angles of the process.

It’s not dramatic – in fact it’s a precision process that the craftsmen have carried out many times on other boats. They have raised and lowered this deck countless times already to ensure that when the final time comes the fit is perfect. But in time-lapse it’s still great watching that moment when the deck is finally lowered and then fixed in place.

Here it is!

One of our niche skills is marine filming – filming at sea whether drone filming, boat to boat, or even underwater filming. Working with Princess Motor Yachts gives us a great opportunity to showcase these skills.

Princess Motor Yachts  are one of the UK’s foremost builders of luxury motor yachts. The statistics are impressive. According to Wikipedia, “Princess Yachts operates in 119 countries and employs over 2,600 people worldwide. Whilst their shipyards cover a combined area of over 1.1 million square feet.”

2018 French Rendezvous

Based in Plymouth, they have been a client we have been keen to work with. Particularly as I own a Princess boat – Cecienne – albeit the very smallest of their range. Over several years Fionn Crow and I have taken her from Africa to the Antarctic, and on those voyages have developed a considerable expertise in marine filming – an expertise that I am happy to say Princess have recognised.

Each year they arrange a cross-Channel adventure for Princess owners. Last year was from the Solent to Guernsey, an event that we filmed for them. So I was delighted when we were invited to film this year’s event – from The Solent to Cherbourg and then on to …

With my crew of Elliott Harrison and Reef Slack, we headed up to the Solent River, where we had an overnight mooring arranged for us. We arrived in good time for the skippers’ briefing by Jon Mendez, who had led last year’s Guernsey trip. Then an early night ready for an early morning departure.

The crossing

To get our drone footage, we ran ahead of the rest of the flotilla. Conditions were perfect for drone filming.Jon organised the boats into an arrowhead formation passin