With the weather forecast looking bleak, we thought it would be no problem that the R/V Selkie was in for maintenance. But when we awoke to Thursday being a relatively “workable” day, Grace wasted no time in trying to secure us another boat for the day. That boat came in the form of the R/V R3, borrowed for the day from the Southeast Fisheries Science Center (SEFSC) along with Tony Martinez, Operations Analyst with the Protected Resources Division of SEFSC and our captain for the day. Based on the transect lines of the aerial survey team we were planning to track with, and in order to minimize potential transit times to any mother/calf pair they might see, we decided to launch out of Mayport. The seas were a bit chunky, but we considered it still workable. Of course after all our hard work to get out, there were no mother/calf pairs sighted at all that day…very disappointing. But at least we were able to be out on the water and at least we had a chance to get out on the R3 with Tony, which was a lot of fun. The R3, by the way, happens to be very SU orange.
Sunday was yet another day that ended up being a lot nicer than forecast, and our friends from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Committee (FWC) stepped in to help. They were nice enough to let us borrow their boat for the day, the R/V Orion, along with Jen Jakush, a Biological Scientist with FWC. The waters were (mostly) smooth on our way out, and pretty soon the plane had a mom/calf pair for us ~17 nautical miles away. It took us a little while to get there, but we made it and we were able to locate the pair. Unfortunately, we were unable to get a tag on. We did however have the calf pop up unexpectedly right next to the boat for a couple of breaths before joining mom again. Too bad he didn’t stick around just a bit longer, as we were not quite fast enough to get the hydrophone over the side. Luckily, Alex had his GoPro camera on and Jen had the video camera ready, so at least we were able to capture this exciting moment on film.
Soon after our encounter, the wind began to pick up and we decided to start our long trek back before the seas picked up too. The weather won’t be nice enough to go out for a few days (theoretically), but by then we will have our Selkie back. In the meantime, we were certainly appreciative of the help we got from our friends down here!