During the course of his 43-year career as a charter boat captain, Nigel Prescott has been hired to host a variety of events, from romantic dining cruises to golf championship award ceremonies to luxury weddings. But even for the owner of Tam- Marina and Ladyboats, turtle tagging was a first. In 2010, Captain Prescott was chartered by an accounting firm to observe and record the tagging and weighing of turtles by a Government of Bermuda research vessel. Tagging turtles is an important means of measuring the growth of the population and determining whether the turtles stay in Bermuda’s waters over time. Together with a representative of the firm, Captain Prescott set out aboard the 46-foot Boss Lady, one of three boats in the Ladyboats fleet. It proved to be a remarkable experience for the veteran skipper. Within an hour and a half, the research vessel had rounded up 37 turtles. It was a complex process that involved a net, a diver and a whaler. As each turtle became ensnared in the net, the diver would rescue it before it drowned and transfer it to the whaler. A struggling turtle, Captain Prescott explained, quickly runs out of air, requiring a speedy rescue. Once on the boat, the turtles were laid upside down on foam noodles that were looped and tied into circles. Researchers would then rub each turtle’s belly until it went to sleep. Only then would they weigh the animal, measure it, tag it (and look for tags that had been previously applied) and take a blood sample. This latter step was the only way for researchers to determine the sex of the turtle. Returning the turtles to the water was an equally complex task. Researchers had to wake them, turn them right side up and, to use Captain Prescott’s words, “get them in a swimming mood again” before placing them back in the sea. Again, a diver had to remain on hand to make sure they didn’t drown. Chartering the Boss Lady to observe the procedure proved to be a sound decision: The researchers were able to use the swim platform on Captain Prescott’s boat to return the turtles to the sea. It also gave Captain Prescott a unique appreciation for the delicate art and science of turtle tagging.
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