FOR those travelling to the famous Bass Rock, exposure to the elements has always been par for the course.
Boat trip passengers visiting the gannet colony happily risk seasickness, a soaking from a rough sea or even an unpleasant delivery from above.
But from this summer they will be able to make the journey in relative luxury when a new £300,000 catamaran takes to the waves.
The fibreglass boat, which will operate out of the Scottish Seabird Centre in North Berwick, will be covered, offer room to walk around and even boasts an on-board toilet.
It will have room for 50 passengers – more than four times the 12 people the Seabird Centre is currently able to show around the rock at one time.
Tom Brock, chief executive of the Scottish Seabird Centre, said: “We introduced the Seabird boat trips in 2007 and they have gone from strength to strength.
“We’ve been looking at getting a new boat for years. It’s an exciting project – the boat is a new tourism asset for Edinburgh and the Lothians. It will create a new and different wildlife-watching experience.
“Scotland is a world leader in wildlife tourism and the Bass Rock is getting more and more spectacular with the number of gannets on it. To see it close up is an amazing experience and we thought it was worth investing in a custom-built boat.”
The environmentally-friendly catamaran will offer improved facilities for photographers, who will be able to use the extra space to snap wildlife from different angles.
The finishing touches to the boat, which has been funded by Seafari Adventures, are currently being made in Southampton, before it is transported north in time for the summer season.
The route the new boat will take is still being finalised, but it will pass the Bass Rock and the island of Craigleith.
A public appeal has been launched to find a name for the new vessel.
The person who comes up with the name will be able to take their family out on one of the boat’s maiden voyages.
Mr Brock added: “We’re looking for a name that’s appropriate and relevant. It should sum up what a trip is all about and reflect the wildlife and history of the area. We are looking for people of all ages to get in touch with their ideas.”
Colin Aston, managing director of Seafari Adventures, added: “This has been a very exciting project which represents a major investment in East Lothian’s tourism.”
Entries for the naming competition can be made in writing to The Harbour, North Berwick, EH39 4SS, or by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org by May 31.