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Emerald Tales
Spring / summer 2014: Algarve to western Med
Big Swell
Nichola / Cloud, some sun
30/08/2011, Eyemouth

Photo: Waves crashing over the sea wall at Eyemouth

Tuesday 30th August
The photo shows the waves crashing against the sea wall at Eyemouth, yesterday afternoon. Although we hadn't had very strong winds in Eyemouth, a deep low pressure further north had created a rough sea, that was now filtering its way southwards.

We'd planned to head on to Blyth today, but with the swell in mind, we were up at 6am this morning and before we did anything else we took a walk to the end of the harbour. The swell looked moderate but then every so often some big rollers would come in - if we got caught in those it could have a bad ending for us as the approach to the harbour is lined with jagged rocks. So, we decided to stay safe and stay another day in Eyemouth and try again tomorrow. A high pressure is coming in over the UK which will mean light winds, but this may give us an opportunity to visit the Farne Islands.

By the time low water arrived at 10am we were sitting quite high out of the water with Emerald displaying a severe case of barnacle bottom. Colin took the opportunity to give the keel a scrub - maybe this will give us a few fractions of a knot of extra speed. There is definitely still a swell out there; we are surging about on our lines against the pontoon with the squeaking from the fenders enough to send anyone insane!

2011: Around the UK
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Sightseeing in the Borders
Nichola / Sunny
30/08/2011, Eyemouth

Photo: Berwick-Upon-Tweed's Three Bridges

Thursday 25th August
After a good lie in to catch up on lost sleep, we made the most of the warm, sunny weather for a quick trip to England and back. Berwick-Upon-Tweed is a 25 minute trip by bus just over the Scottish border. It's a town that has been fought over many times by the English and Scottish, resulting in some impressive defensive walls. We walked along the river admiring the three bridges spanning the river Tweed before wandering around the town walls and battlements and enjoying an ice cream sat in the sun.

Friday 26th August
We were up early for the bus to Edinburgh on a grey morning. The bus took nearly two hours to get there but was the best way to travel given that we had to get to Berwick to get the train and the buses and train times didn't match up! We arrived at rush hour in Edinburgh and were soon wending our way through the people on their way to work as I vaguely remembered my way around from when I lived here nearly 20 years ago.

The central atrium of the Scottish National Museum
Photo: The central atrium of the Scottish National Museum

We headed first for the National Museum of Scotland which had recently reopened and been on the Scottish news. We spent over 2 hours there but it was no way long enough - it's a beautiful museum with a big open, central atrium all the way up the middle of the floors. In side rooms are various displays with wildlife, natural world, Scottish history and many, many amazing objects from around the world. There are lots of interactive areas with touch screens and actual objects you can touch. For me it's the best museum I've even been too and even more so for being free!
Inside the Scottish Museum
Photo: Inside the Scottish National Museum

In the afternoon we visited some comedy as part of the Free Fringe Festival. The first guy, an Irishman called Ian Perth, had a packed room, with people standing round the sides. It was his last show of the festival and he was really good, he had us all laughing for most of the hour. When we left it was raining so we ducked into the venue next door as there was a show about to start. This one used photos as part of the show and was ok, a few laughs but not as good as the first. The last we choose based on it being from Yorkshire (we'd been to a comic from Colin's home country so we thought we'd try one from my home county). I wish we hadn't had bothered - it was pretty poor. One guy I felt myself cringing for, I don't think he said anything funny in his 15 minutes. It was redeemed by some excellent card tricks by another guy but when we left we did feel we'd wasted an hour! We had a wander amongst the street performers on the Royal Mile before heading back for our bus.
Fringe performers
Photo: Fringe performers on the Royal Mile

Saturday 27th August
Colin set about investigating our broken port nav light which turned out to be a fault in the light unit itself rather than the wiring, which means we now have no port nav light unless we can get a temporary replacement from the chandlery on Monday. The broken light is a LED Lopolight which we bought for its claims of long life, so we're a little disappointed that it's broken after only 3 years of use. I did suggest using my rear light from my bike as a replacement but in seriousness we can always use the tricolour even if we're motoring.

I watched lots of divers getting their gear ready and loading it onto the dive boats berthed in front of us. Having dived extensively for 10 years through the 90's, I haven't dived now since 2001 (for lots of long and mostly boring reasons) and I had a few vague feelings of wanting to go with them. But the thought of having to sort out all my kit with its seized up inflate valves keeps putting me off. Maybe when we're somewhere warm I'll feel more motivated.

The Eyemouth lifeboat had a 'BBQ and Brass' afternoon so we felt it would be wrong not to support them - after all we may need a lifeboat's help one day (but fingers crossed we won't). We had a look around their lifeboat and sat in the 'rescue' seats where rescued passengers sit, right down in the bow of the vessel with no windows out - unsurprisingly there was a stack of sickbags placed close by!

We had a pleasant few hours eating burgers and cream teas, drinking wine and beer, listening to the band and chatting to the locals. It's a very friendly place here but the down side was we didn't win anything in the raffle!

2011: Around the UK
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03/09/2011 | Phil Owen
Hi Guys, Gald to read you are both ok and your advetures are continuing without too many mishaps. Although upsetting the wind gods wasnt a good idea :-) When I read the first part about the first major damage I immediately cringed and for a split second though of sails, hull, broken wine bottles... but it was just a light ?? Once again you can tut and look to the sky when I ask "whats the problem with a light missing ?" and what is a tricolour ( three cloured flag ) ? Although we have not been to Edinbugh during the Fring we have been for the four day Hogmany festival and agree Nichola that it is a great place to visit. As well as the castle, royal mill etc we visited Holyrood House and watched huskey racing by the parliament building. As for the diving I still love the thrill of diving into the water........in the Maldives !! I never did much diving in the uk and so never got into the whole dry suit thing. I feel sure that it will take little to give you a buzz when all you have to do is slip on a shorty to get up close with coral critters.. big and small. :-) Take Care guys.
05/09/2011 | Nichola Wright
Hi Phil - thanks for your comment hope the following helps answer your questions. The light is important on a night trip for other boats to see and identify us and we needed to do a few night trips over the next few journeys. Ifwe're motoring at night we're supposed to have a white light up our mast, a white light on the stern, a red light on the port side (left side) and a green light on starboard (right side). If we're sailing at night we're supposed to just have the tricolour on - this is a 3 colour light at the top of the mast.
Huskey racing sounds fantastic! Did they have artificial snow or was the sledge on wheels?
Most of my diving has been done in the UK (over 10 years in the 1990's) and pretty much all drysuits and heaps of gear so I'm looking forward to some warm water diving where I only need a t-shirt to protect against coral stings :-)
Heading on South
Nichola / Dry; sun then overcast
30/08/2011, Peterhead to Eyemouth; 100nm travelled

Tuesday 23rd & Wednesday 24th August
On the way back from a morning trip to the supermarket for supplies, we realised the wind was blowing perfectly so we hurriedly got the boat ready, had lunch and we were off. We had to warp Emerald around the pontoons to get out of the tight berth we were in but all went well despite it being low water.

There was a swell rolling in through the harbour mouth which made progress slow with the wind on the nose until we cleared the skerries off Peterhead and could point south to Eyemouth. We had a good few hours of F4/F5 close hauled on port, the sun breaking through the clouds making it pleasantly warm. The wind continued from the south east sometimes F5, sometimes F3 but enough to keep us ploughing onwards on our course.

By 10pm the wind had died off to F2 and the forecast gave no indications of returning. The sea state was smooth but there was still a meter or so swell which with Emerald's low speed meant we were wallowing and the sails slatting which would have made it difficult to get any sleep. So, reluctantly the engine came on but at least that meant we were able to get some sleep on the off watches.

It was a dark night with partial cloud cover and no moon and very little other shipping. Colin saw a huge shooting star whizzing through the sky. We suffered our first major damage of the trip - the port side nav light had stopped working, so we had to run under tricolour instead.

A pink and orange sky announced the arrival of dawn which turned in to a bright morning and we arrived in Eyemouth about 11am. With a bit of white water breaking over the rocks lining either side of the entrance we nervously approached the harbour entrance. We'd called up the harbour master who was waiting for us on his bike and rode along the quay to direct us where to go - which turned out to be a very cosy spot rafted up to a 38ft Westerly. With a huge fishing boat chasing us in it was a nerve wracking time especially on reduced sleep. A friendly local came to help the harbour master and they performed the task of bow thruster for us by pulling us in sideways into the just big enough gap between rafted fishing boats.

The sun came out and we spent a lazy afternoon dozing in the warmth before a quick walk around the town. Eyemouth is a busy fishing harbour with an alongside pontoon for yachts. The fishing boats unload just on the harbour wall opposite to us and to start with we watched nervously as they performed 180 degree turns in the narrow channel of water next to us. After we'd seen them do it a few times we relaxed a bit and trusted that they knew what they were doing!

For those who ventured to the cold, southern place with Colin, there was a surprising connection to Eyemouth. The Biscoe Kid, a tender from the RRS John Biscoe, the predecessor to the RRS James Clark Ross, is here and used as the harbour master's launch. One of the harbour masters, Ivan, also has a connection having worked on the RRS Bransfield and travelled south on it in 1971.

2011: Around the UK
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A Tale of Two Halves
Nichola / Sun and showers
22/08/2011, Wick to Peterhead; 73nm travelled

Sunday 21st August
It was still dark when we left Wick at 5am on a still morning. I wasn't worried about getting out of the harbour like I'd been on the way in, as we'd just passed high tide. Out into the North Sea we picked up a south westerly breeze strong enough to blow us along, so it was all sails up and Victor off. The sky was covered by a blanket of flat, grey cloud with the rising sun making its presence known as a slash of glowing orange in a break in the clouds, like molten lava in the sky.

It was quite mild and as the sun got higher in the sky the clouds moved off east and it got pleasantly warm. The south westerly wind came and went; at times dropping off to F3 then increasing to F5 gusting F6. F5 was perfect to maintain a good speed, F3 wasn't ideal but we still bimbled along at around 4kts. At lunchtime the wind dropped to F2 but we kept sailing albeit at 2kts, at least I wasn't lurching about as I made lunch. Unfortunately no amount of wishing, whistling and eventually swearing at the sky brought the wind back and we reluctantly fired up Victor. What was most annoying was the weather forecast had been prefect for us and reality was nothing like what was forecast.

The sailing half of the trip was great, in contrast to a dull motoring half punctuated by some slow moving showers and the wind dying completely; but at least this flattened off the sea and we were able to see and avoid a big tree trunk floating in the Moray Firth. We also spotted, just in time to get the engine into neutral, a huge length of floating line from a pot buoy, trailing many meters from the buoy itself. We picked up some positive tide around Rattray Head to help us along and we were pleased to arrive at Peterhead harbour at 8pm arriving just after a cruise ship had left.

We're aiming for Eyemouth next, which at 100 miles will be an overnighter. The forecasts for the next few days aren't showing us anything that will give us a good blow all the way there, so it's a choice between a rock and a hard place of burn diesel motoring or paying in a marina whilst hoping for a better forecast to come along. Whilst in Eyemouth we'd like to try and visit Edinburgh and catch the end of the festival so I think our decision is made as it ends at the weekend!

2011: Around the UK
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Wicker’s World
Nichola / Mostly dry, some sun
20/08/2011, Wick, Caithness, Scotland

We had a few days wandering around Wick, taking walks along the coast to see Old Wick castle perched precariously on the cliff edge and inland along the river. We visited distillery number 11 - Old Poulteney - and spent an hour looking round the Wick Heritage Centre run by some very vigorous old ladies!

We thought Wick was quite a pleasant town with a river running through the middle. It rose to fame in the 19th century when it was Europe's biggest herring fishing port. There are photos in the heritage centre showing hundreds of the herring boats crammed into the harbour where Emerald was now tied up on the pontoons. Thomas Telford designed the south side of the town to house the thousands of workers required to catch and process the 'silver darlings' as the herring were known. The streets are wide and the stone houses are impressive but it's sad to see how many are empty. The heritage society is in a row of six houses and they are working to restore and maintain the last herring sheds and have an old herring boat the Isabella Fortuna.

The pontoons and services at the harbour are good, with free wi-fi which has been great for us having had to put up with GPRS for months now. The shower facilities are a bit tired although they were clean and certainly not the worst we've seen on our travels. The harbour authority had a grant to improve them but lost it. However, the welcome we received from the harbour master certainly made up for any lacking in shower facilities.

Friday 19th August
Compared to the rugged west of Scotland, the north east corner is far more gentle and rural. Travelling on the bus to John O'Groats took us past fields dotted with hay bales or with cut grass waiting to be baled. Further west the land rose slightly and became more moor-like; in the far distance we could see the distinct mountains of the north-west pointing skywards.

John O'Groats was touristy as we'd expected; what was sad was how many of the shops and craft units were closed. The signpost had been taken away due to the threat of theft and vandalism and was only on site when the photographer was present. We didn't spend much time there; the sun was shining and the beach along the path to Duncansby Head looked very inviting. One beach was absolutely covered in shells of all shapes and sizes; it was impossible to walk along without crunching them underfoot. Then strangely, the next beach just around a rocky corner was completely bare of shells - not a single one did we find - how odd!

The sun was nice and warm now so I rolled up my trousers for a quick paddle - and it was quick as the water was freezing! I dried off in the warm sun wiggling my toes in the soft, golden sand; sitting and eating our lunch, watching the tidal rip called Hell's Gate churn about in front of us. It was a windless, flat calm day yet there was still a good patch of white water. A yacht rocketed through with the tide on its way south.

Up on the cliff tops we admired the rugged cliff edge marked with geos - inlets with perpendicular sides - and 'gloups' -holes where a cave has been eroded out by the sea and the earth above fallen in, leaving a small piece of land across its seaward face. Fluffy fulmar chicks were nesting on the vertical edges of these geos pulling out lumps of fluff to reveal their adult feathers. The views across to Orkney were excellent and we could see Wideford Hill next to Kirkwall which we'd climbed up a week or so ago.
Fluffy fulmar chick
Photo: Fluffy fulmar chick

We continued on the cliff path past the lighthouse to the stacks of Duncansby, the stunning coast line dotted with caves, natural arches and bridges. Fulmars swooped around us and the sound of squawking seabirds drifted up from the sea. We took an unofficial route pack to the the bus stop across the heather and bog which wasn't such a good idea!
The stacks of Duncansby
Photo: The Stacks of Duncansby

On the way back to Wick we stopped off to see the Caithness Broch Centre where there is a display of artifacts discovered on archeological digs. Brochs are large stone towers built over 2000 years ago and the area we were in has the largest concentration of them in Scotland. The remains of one stands on the cliff edge in front of the Broch Centre - the problem was when we tried to see it was the cows with calves sat completely blocking our path. With reports of people being trampled by cows in the back of our mind we edged slowly towards them; one by one they got up and moved away a little allowing us to get through. We had a look around the remains of the broch and the memorial built by the excavators in the 19th century and then turned to leave - to find a cow had now wandered along the narrow path we needed to go back along! With a fence one side and a cliff edge the other we had nowhere to go and waited hoping it would come back to its friends - which finally it did!

We head off tomorrow for Peterhead with an early start - yuk!

2011: Around the UK
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24/08/2011 | Phil Owen
Hi Nichloa, Enjoyed your blog about Wickers World. The photo of the sea stacks reminded me of a piece of coastline called the 12 Apostles on the great ocean road in Oz.
24/08/2011 | Phil Owen
Oh and I forgot - Again your bit about going for a paddle reminded me of a trip we made to Scotland 25 plus years ago. We went to a place called Nairn on the north coast. It had a stunning long beack with beuatiful sand backed by dunes. It was a bright sunny day and the sea had a deep blue colour topped with persil white waves tops. It was so inviting to go for a paddle, but a few steps in the water was freezing to the point of being painful !!!...... so we limited our day to walking along a beautiful beach ( not even any floatsm ) and had a picnic watching the birds floating around on the gentle breeze and the odd small boat drift across the horizon.

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