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YOU DONT WANT MUCH, DO YA LADDIE This comment was accompanied by the rasp of a weathered thumb over greying beard, and a whimsical look from the small, dungareed figure of our skipper.
Picture a Scottish fisherman, oozing the wisdom of the Western Isles while peering over half-moon specs, and you have in your head an exact image of Paul from the good boat Silver Swift.
The plan was to putter about the Isle of Mull for four days, and I had just presented Paul with our ludicrous list of target species.
Top of this list was the basking shark. The second largest fish in the sea, the basker essentially swims around for most of its life with its mouth open, treating everything in front of it as an all-you-can-eat buffet.
These things are massive, and yet have a brain about the size of a rats. Stick one in a pair of shorts and a scrum cap, and you have an uncanny resemblance to any one of the forwards from the Old Bristolian 1st XV.
Leaving Paul still peering anxiously at our list, we drove off to our B&B. Pleasingly, this was once again precisely how you would imagine a B&B in somewhere called Tobermory to be - picturesque in the extreme, with the occasional stag peering through the flowerbeds, and run by a landlady who was 4ft 10in tall.
I know this because she rather proudly told me when we met, although initially I had no idea where the voice was coming from, and peered about me wildly before looking down and spotting her.
The next morning saw us all scanning a grey horizon optimistically as the boat weaved around the islands.
The problem with looking for basking sharks is that although they are 10m long, only the very tip of the dorsal fin shows at the surface, leading to excited shouts every time anyone saw a distant puffin.
Our assembled dive team stuck to the job manfully, squinting through slitted eyes into the ubiquitous Scottish rain as it hissed into a bleak and choppy sea.
The team consisted of an eclectic mix of cameramen, lantern-jawed ex-military types, and hardcore technical divers.
This disparate group had a vast range of experience, and the powerful unifying factor of consistently finding the act of breaking wind amusing.
Our tranquil passage through the Western Isles, for so many years an inspiration for scholars, poets and writers, was therefore punctuated by peculiar parping noises, followed immediately by roars of mirth and mutual congratulation.
By now the rain was the classic horizontal Scottish variety, and it seemed to me that every living thing was cowering in whatever passed as home.
Only idiots like us were out in the teeth of the squall, and hope was waning, as any basking shark would be deep in the gloomy water beneath us.
Voicing my fears to Chris Holt, an ex-Royal Engineers mine-clearance diver the size of a well-fed bison, he looked at me witheringly and said something splendid.
Monty, I reject your reality of not seeing a basking shark, and I insert my own. At precisely 12.30 we will see our first shark.
Turning smartly on his heel, he returned to his post, rain dripping from a granite chin thrust defiantly into the sheets of rain. If the boat had sunk he would still be there, grimly scanning the horizon while stood to attention as he slipped beneath the waves.
And at 12.28, what do you know Russ (large unflappable commercial diver who doubles as my brother-in-law) said: Whats that and pointed at two fins moving through the waters surface. The sun burst from behind a cloud, the water miraculously stilled, and suddenly we were surrounded by basking sharks.
It really did happen like that, resulting in us all standing with our mouths open, remnants of the rain steaming off waterproofs, pointing wordlessly in 10 different directions.
Its actually pretty intimidating approaching basking sharks, as one is messing with a fundamental, visceral instinct. Generally when floating on the waters surface as a large fin approaches, the standard reaction is to soil oneself and flee to the boat.
Basking sharks are of course filter-feeders, but to see one pass beneath your twitching fins like a submarine still awakens some fairly primaeval urges.
After a while we all relaxed, sharks included, and began to enjoy each others company. Fabulous stuff in the sun-kissed Western Isles.
As a very brief footnote I should point out that I took Chris - aforementioned large ex-Royal Engineer - to a local golf course on our last evening. My golf experience - considerable. Chriss golf experience - nil. As in he had never, ever, picked up a club.
After a brief and intensely patronising introduction to the subtle arts of the game from myself, we teed off.
Fast forward to the ninth hole. Chris is now striding the undulating course, head up, swinging a golf club as an impromptu walking stick, inhaling glorious Scottish air extravagantly through his nostrils and telling me that this is quite the finest evening he has had for months.
I am trailing several yards behind him, muttering darkly to myself, and kicking stones. Quite unreasonably, he has in the interim cracked a series of 250-yard, arrow-straight drives down various fairways, and is thrashing me. Each of his glorious shots is greeted by a truculent mumble from the surly git I have miraculously become, and a beaming smile from him.
We end up on the final green with me staring at my shoes, shaking his outstretched hand in much the same way as a man would respond to being handed a turd.
And so we leave Bonnie Scotland. I feel elated at our basking-shark encounter, and yet curiously unmanned by the humiliation on the final evening.
On to Tonga, where I understand humpback whales lurk, and golf courses are few and far between.

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