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Our Big Day at Whiteness Spit!

Another calm day, though we've lost the sunshine. I get up early to take the boat out of the harbour before we lose the water over the bar and get stuck in the harbour for the day. It's nice to be out on my own so I head up to the

Bar, east of Nairn. Flat calm, good wildlife weather, dolphins off in the distance. I anchor the RIB in plenty of water and swim ashore. The bar is hard to access- the sands across the bay are dangerous and it's a long walk along the beach around the estuary and out to the bar. Formed from westward longshore drift, the bar is made of parallel lines of banks of stones, with grass, lichens and coastal plants colonising over the years. In the troughs between the ridges is the rubbish, almost certainly not dropped here, but vomited up by the ocean with the winter North Easterlies when the icy wind whips the water up and the waves crash up onto the stony bar. Deteriorated and brittle, there is plenty here to deal with- plastic bottles and broken things...but I need to get back as we have a big day planned. Today we will be launching all 8 club training dinghies and the Nairn Sailing Club RIB.

Word went out the night before to the sailing club that we had a weather window and I have a few friends who have been on standby waiting for the call. As we start to trolley the dinghies down to the beach, we are joined by more helpers from Nairn Sailing Club, suited up wearing bouyancy aids and ready to go. We load up the helpers and the kit and head off to the Whiteness Head Spit where the four of us were yesterday, 8 miles away up the sandy beach, 8 miles from the nearest road access point- an unfrequented place. I drop off the first load of helpers and head back to the harbour for the rest of the dinghies and people. We have 14 helpers!

As we saw yesterday, the broken down industrial waste covers the spit, blown off from McDermott's Yard, which was a massive oil rig construction site from 1972 to 2001. The site is empty now and cleared of machinery and buildings and nature is reclaiming its place, but the evidence on the spit remains. On the seaward side of the spit, the debris has come in from the NE, a different type of rubbish- more recent and less industrial.

We anchor the RIBs, pull up the dinghies up onto the sand, get out our 100m survey tape and Marine Conservation Society sheets and start cataloguing every piece of debris and rubbish we find in the survey area. More rope and sacks that look solid, but fragment as you touch them. Anika finds a huge black rope- one of our helpers is ex Royal Navy. He raises his eyebrow and comments that not even the Navy has ropes like that. It is maybe 50 long, with an eye splice at one end, and looks exactly like the kind of thing you would choose to tow an oil rig out to the North Sea with during a winter's gale. Anika gets a glint in her eye. She has been doing quite a bit of boot camp recently. She heaves and it barely budges. We start hauling on the thing, inch by inch we drag it to the shore. Others come to help. It takes a while, partly as we are laughing, but eventually we cheer as it lies heaped into an Oppy like a slain mythical sea beast. That's one boat full, and gradually we fill the others with ropes and debris of all kinds. Within an hour or two our 8 dinghies are full. One with sacks from our survey sites, the others with the biggest pieces of debris we could find. The wind has picked up a bit as we climb back into the RIBs and sort out the tow ropes, keeping the weight centralised in each dinghy. Paul brought some nets to throw over the sacks and fasten down, and the dinghies bounce along behind us. We pull away from the shore, leaving the area to the birds and the seals, and to nature to slowly do its thing.

Matt joins us with his RIB, he has come straight from work. As the chop is getting worse and we have a 15 knot headwind, we slow down the tow and Matt is helpful with his non towing RIB, able to go alongside the little boats and adjust the bags further aft when some water starts to come in over the bows. A mental note for the future- keep one RIB free without a tow!

We are all feeling really happy - we estimate each dinghy is carrying something like 100kg of rubbish...if so, we have collected and removed somewhere approaching a ton of waste out of the marine environment! Our method works! And we've had a great day out. Calum does an impromptu interview with our two youngest helpers, Adam and Toby (aged 11 and 7) as they bounce along on the RIB with big grins on their faces. By the time we get Toby has been bounced asleep.

Soon back to harbour where we are greeted with some funny looks from the fishermen on the pier as our little flotilla passes. The dinghies are heavy now, as we get them back onto the trollies and up the slipway. We dump everything in the sailing club yard for sorting the next day. It's an impressive haul, but now we've landed it, we have to deal with it!

So pleased this has worked- that we had the weather, that the sailing club were supportive, that friends dropped their Saturday plans to come along...and that we have successfully trialled Action Optimist as per the plan!

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