26 August 2009 | SYH
Day 86. Sun 23 Aug. Moored in Lowestoft.
Well, we had good intentions of getting up with the lark to catch the spring flood down to Harwich. But, in the event, the alarm went off at 0515, the wind was howling in the rigging (from the South, of course), so with a sigh of relief, we turned over and went back to sleep for another three hours.
Then we had a leisurely breakfast and started working up the plot for an evening departure, in the expectation that the forecast wind reduction would come through. In spite of the wind, it was a lovely warm day, in fact the first day for over a month where it was warm enough to wear shorts! By mid - afternoon, it was clear that it wasn't going to, so we went shopping for food for the extra day.
On returning to the marina, we passed Hilary Lister's boat again, and had a close look at how it all worked. Overnight, Garth and I had both been thinking about trying to convert a boat to a similar specification for use by disabled sailors on the East Coast, and then thought about converting one of EAST's old squibs. So we got hold of Hilary's project manager, Toby, and got him to show us all the controls, and then talked to Hilary herself for almost an hour - definitely a project to work up over the winter, if we can get funding.
Day 87. Mon 24 Aug. Lowestoft to SYH. 51 miles.
Today the forecast and actual weather were near enough in step, with a wind from just East of South of Force 4/5. We left Hamilton Dock at 0600, and hoisted the mainsail in the outer harbour, before proceeding to sea. We still had the two reefs in from the leg down from Whitby, but decided to leave these in until we could get a feel for the conditions outside. We then motored for the first two miles to the Newcome Sand buoy against the last of the ebb tide, and then unfurled the jib to start motor-sailing. The SSE slant to the wind gave us a long-and-short beat down towards Orfordness, and we took a reef out of the main, but then soon had to roll up part of the jib.
We passed the Sizewell power stations at 0920. This caused a few comments about Finn McCool's golfing prowess, and how he had always seemed to be ahead of us - Dounreay, Fylingdales, Sizewell B, to name just a few of the golf balls he has left behind. The tide had now turned in our favour, and as we tacked out to clear Orfordness, and get a good angle down the Sledway, we turned off the engine, and were still making over 8 knots over the ground. We carried the tide right down to Harwich, and then up the Orwell, starting the engine again at the Collimer buoy, ready to enter the marina.
We tied up at 1500, after 2,061 miles in 87 days. On 24 days we stayed in port, and had a maximum leg of 157 miles, and minimum of 1; the average was 33 miles. Of the 87 nights, we spent 55 on pontoons, 11 on moorings, 15 at anchor, 4 against harbour walls and two under way.
Now to decide where to go next year!
23 August 2009 | Lowestoft
Day 78. Sat 15 Aug. Moored in Sunderland.
With the wind howling in the rigging as per forecast, we took the easy option and stayed in bed - at least until we got up for a late breakfast. All day there were heavy showers to accompany the Force 6 to 7 SW winds, so there was little incentive to leave the boat to explore the city, let alone sail anywhere, so we had another make-and-mend day - with limited success. At least we cured the leaking inlet pipe on the loo, by taking out the broken fitting for the bottle of "blue". We also put more sealant into the babystay fitting, and tried to mend the fridge, which had inexplicably stopped working.
In the late afternoon, the weather improved a little, so we walked round the marina and past the yacht club, where we stopped to chat to member who was lifting out his dinghy using the club crane.
Day 79. Sun 16 Aug. Sunderland to Hartlepool. 16 miles.
The weather forecast had improved slightly to W to SW Force 4/5, and the wind had clearly moderated, so we decided to make progress. We left the berth at 0930, to make full use of the South-going tide, and hoisted the mainsail in the outer harbour, unfurling the jib at the entrance.
Fairly soon afterwards, it was very obvious that there was a lot more wind than forecast - 5 gusting 7, so we put in the second reef and wound in a lot of jib, and we had a really invigorating sail, reaching The Heugh off Hartlepool by 1200. We then started the engine for the last mile to windward, and were in the marina lock before 1230, and in the berth by 1245, having averaged over 5 knots for three hours.
After lunch, we walked round the dock to the historic ship collection, and went round HMS Trincomalee - the oldest warship afloat. She was built in India just after the Napoleonic wars, and restored in Hartlepool in the 1990's. This was very interesting - both the ship and the dockside exhibits.
Day 80. Mon 17 Aug. Hartlepool to Whitby. 25 miles.
With a Force 5/6 from the West, forecast to back southerly tomorrow, we set off for Whitby. We locked out of Hartlepool at 0900, as soon as there was enough water in the channel, to give us as long as possible to get to Whitby before two hours after high water (1500), so we could get through the swing bridge into the marina. Today, we didn't bother with the mainsail. With the wind on the beam, we tried sailing under the jib alone, and soon we were averaging more than six knots over the ground - touching 8.4 knots at times - without any stress.
There was plenty of commercial traffic entering the Tees, and several ships at anchor, but these did not cause any real anxiety, other than the possibility of poor visibility, as rain clouds threatened. In the event, the rain held off, and we made rapid progress down the coast. Off Staithes, we were the proud recipients of our own "Securite" message, as the guardship for a marine survey operation made an "All Ships" call to vessels in the Staithes area. Being the only one there, we called them to negotiate an acceptable path to Whitby, and sailed past them close inshore. By 1315, we were in Whitby harbour, jilling round, waiting for the 1330 bridge opening.
We were allocated a berth opposite the dry dock, and right by the marina gangway. After lunch, we did the laundry, visited the supermarket, and spent a long time chatting to the marina manager, then started tidying the boat, ready for the extra crew arriving tomorrow.
Day 81. Tues 18 Aug. Moored in Whitby.
Once the boat tidying was complete, Garth and I climbed up to Whitby Abbey (all 199 steps), and looked round, and had lunch in the tearoom there, before returning to the boat via the chandlery, where I bought a new hand-held VHF set. I then collected my daughter, Sara, from the railway station, which is about 200 yards from the marina, just beyond the supermarket.
Sara had brought a fruit cake with her, so we had to sample this. It was delicious, but my slice had a nut missing from the top - apparently Sean ate this, since he wasn't allowed a full slice.
Wieland arrived on a later train, and we bought fish and chips on the way back from the station.
Day 82. Wed 19 Aug. Moored in Whitby.
In spite of now having a full complement of crew, we stayed in Whitby. The weather forecast was for a strong Southerly wind, which was not only straight on the nose, but also looked as if our planned destination of Scarborough would be very exposed.
Garth and I had produced a long list of things we don't do, which included - force 6 and above, strong head winds, unfavourable tides, rain, snow and hail, thunderstorms, harbour walls,....... Garth, of course, doesn't do walking. It's surprisingly how many of these we had already broken, but we were not prepared to break them today, so we had another day doing touristy things in Whitby.
Wieland climbed up to the Abbey, whilst Sara, Garth and I went on a tour of the Grand Turk. It was interesting comparing her to the Trincomalee, which is a 100-year newer design, quite a lot bigger, but essentially a floating museum. On the other hand, Grand Turk is a replica of an eighteenth century frigate, modified for film work, but is a working ship, with an exhibition on board. I paid a quick visit to the public library to find an internet connection, and upload the blog. We then adjourned to the Middle Earth pub, across the river from the Marina, for a lunchtime drink, which we followed with a lazy afternoon. This was disrupted by the arrival of a large new motor boat, which needed help parking in the marina in the gusty winds. They had set out from Hull on a maiden voyage to Scarborough, but had been refused entry because the harbour was full. This made us very pleased with our decision to stay put.
Day 83. Thurs 20 Aug. Moored in Whitby.
The wind was still Southerly, blowing Force 6 and over, so there was still no incentive to move - so we didn't. However, we started planning for the better weather expected on Friday. This was for a window of South West winds, Force 4 to 5, occasionally 6, before reverting to South to South East on Saturday. SW would give a fast reach all the way to Lowestoft - more than 150 miles, but missing out our planned stops at Scarborough, Grimsby and Wells-next-the Sea, whereas SE is dead on the nose (see rule 2). Also, rather than leave when the bridge opened two hours before high water in late afternoon, we could leave two hours after high water in the early morning, on a passage likely to take around 30 -36 hours, and so arrive at Lowestoft in daylight. So we checked that the bridge would be opening at 0600, and planned accordingly. Wieland paid a couple of visits to the library to get detailed weather forecasts off the internet, and I went to the supermarket to buy the ingredients for ship's stew for the overnight passage. This was then cooked in the pressure cooker, so it just had to be heated through.
Days 84/85. Fri/Sat 21/22 Aug. Whitby to Lowestoft. 157 miles.
We duly left Whitby at 0600, and put up the sails at the North Cardinal buoy just outside the harbour. The two reefs were still in the mainsail from the leg to Hartlepool last Sunday, and we left them in - the forecast was for SW winds, Force 4 to 5, occasionally 6. In the event, the wind was a steady 6 from the SSW, with squalls of F7, so we were glad they were there. We divided into two watches straight away, with Wieland and I (both left-handers) taking the port watch and Garth and Sara the Starboard - three hours on and three off, and this worked well.
The wind was harder on the nose than we would have liked, and when the time came for a decision whether to divert to Scarborough, we were in the middle of a particularly nasty and wet squall. However, just then I received a morale-boosting text message from Bill, our resident on-shore weather forecasting service, and my nerve held. From Scarborough to past Flamborough Head, we had to punch the tide, but were still making over 4.5 knots over the ground, but the sun was out and it was a lovely day again. At one time, the wind dropped right away, and we shook out a reef and put the engine on to maintain speed, but within half an hour the reef was back in, and the engine off.
By 1500, we were approaching the Humber. We were coping well with the occasional squall, and the sky was almost cloudless; it was an easy decision not to divert to Grimsby. The tide had turned in our favour - in fact we carried the tide all the way to the Norfolk coast where it turned against us with a vengeance, and touched 9+ knots at times. Crossing the shipping lane was straightforward; there were plenty of ships on the move, but only one was close, so it was easy to keep clear.
The sun set as we sailed down the Race Channel, and we lowered the mainsail and unwound the rest of the jib to give ourselves a more easily manageable rig for the night, although the wind had dropped to the forecast 4/5 level. This made very little difference to our speed. Venus in the rigging was much easier to steer by than any instrument. In fact, the stars were a magnificent display. Down the Race Channel, we had the sea to ourselves, until we suddenly noticed the Hull to Rotterdam ferry catching us up rather rapidly. She had obviously seen us on the radar and kept well clear.
On change of watch at 0030, Wieland resisted all attempts to wake him, including prodding in the ribs, so his place was taken by Chris, the autohelm, for the first 90 minutes, when he surfaced, suitably embarrassed. After nine hours of favourable tide, this now turned as we approached the Sheringham Shoal, and our speed over the ground dropped to about three knots, which seemed like standing still after the good progress we had been making. The passage inside the Shoal was very busy with small commercial traffic, but we were outside, so well out of their way. We put the engine on again, to get round the corner past Cromer, and with the wind now Southerly, kept it on all the way to Lowestoft, although the tide turned favourable at North Scroby, and the last twelve miles flew past (including the two thousand mile point off Great Yarmouth).
We tied up in the new marina in Hamilton Dock at 1000, alongside Excelsior, the last of the Lowestoft sailing trawlers, now used as a sail training vessel for disadvantaged youngsters, and due to be taking a dozen of them to Holland in the evening. As we strolled ashore for a walk to the Ness, Britain's most Easterly point, we saw the Hilary Lister team caravans on the quayside (see Days 25/6). Hilary was on passage from Wells, and expected to arrive in four or five hours' time, but was having to battle against both wind and tide for the last ten miles from Great Yarmouth.
Sara now caught the train back to Birmingham, via Cambridge. It had been lovely to see her for a few days, and she had the enjoyment of doing what turned out to be the longest leg of the trip. An hour or so later, David turned up again for the final leg home. The four of us went to a Chinese restaurant for supper and returned to the boat suitably replete.
19 August 2009 | Whitby
Day 71. Sat 8 Aug. Peterhead to Stonehaven. 47 miles.
With quite a long leg ahead of us, and with the wind from the South, it was important to get a reasonably early start in order to make the most of the tide. Unfortunately, when we left the marina at 0900 for the fuel berth, it was too foggy to see the harbour entrance, less than a mile away. We filled the fuel tank, and returned to the berth for another cup of coffee, whilst waiting to see whether the fog would lift.
By 1130, we could see clearly across the harbour, so set off again. Even then, though, the fog rolled back in when we were half way across the bay, but this time, we carried on, and once we were outside the breakwater, the sun broke through, and we started motor-sailing on a course slightly West of South, in a light wind from the SSE.
At 1300, we were off Cruden Bay, and the wind had increased to Force 5, gusting 6, with some nasty seas in wind-against-tide, and these lasted past Aberdeen, and until the tide turned against us. By 1730, it became clear that the sails were no longer helping, so we took them in and motored the last few miles to Stonehaven, where we arrived at 1920, and moored alongside a fishing boat on the inside of the breakwater - the harbour itself dries out. However, Downie Point is close to the South of the harbour, so even the breakwater was remarkably sheltered - from a southerly wind. (The harbourmaster did mention that in an easterly gale, the breakwater and even the harbour itself is submerged.)
After supper on board, we went for a stroll round the town - very picturesque, but obviously where the yuppies of Aberdeen come for an evening out.
Day 72. Sun 9 Aug. Stonehaven to Arbroath. 30 miles.
We had to move the boat during breakfast to allow the fishing boat to go out. Once again, we planned to use the South-going flood tide to help us on our way, but by the time we had finished the washing up, we were in danger of being caught in the harbour by the falling tide, so left at 0915, a couple of hours earlier than intended. The wind was still from the South, but much lighter than yesterday, so we motored down the coast punching the tide.
Off Montrose, the wind backed round to SSE, so we started motor-sailing, arriving at Arbroath at 1515 - just in time for the end of the Seafest weekend. We moored in the inner harbour amongst lots of boats dressed overall, and almost alongside a wooden yawl, "Dowsabel of Ipswich". We got chatting to the owner, Clive, who had bought her in Falmouth a few months ago. She is a Whisstocks yawl, built in Woodbridge in 1956, a few years before Garth started his apprenticeship there. I left them having a guided tour, and went to pay the harbourmaster and buy smokies for supper. The harbourmaster told me I had missed meeting up with Mike and Solas by a day. Mike had left this morning for his home port of Port Edgar, to complete his circumnavigation of Scotland. When I returned, they had been joined by Andy and Norena. The three of them had just returned to Arbroath, their home port, from a cruise to the Orkneys in Andy's Westerly 33 ketch, Adastra, which he bought from Garth's friend Paul Stevens at Ramsholt last Autumn. We adjourned on board Adastra for tea and cake, before returning to Chelena for smokies.
Day 73. Mon 10 Aug. Moored in Arbroath.
The day broke with heavy rain and a southerly wind, so we decided to have a day in port, to do the laundry, fix various problems on the boat, and to explore Arbroath. The chief problem was a leak in the fo'c'sle, which had given Robin a wet sleeping bag back in Scilly, and had now made the mattresses wet. We soon tracked this down to the new babystay chainplate fitting, which had been inadequately packed down when fitted immediately before launching. Luckily, I had some Sikaflex on board, so Garth was soon on the case. We then went round the boat tightening various jubilee clips which had worked loose. It was then time to test out the shower block and remove several days' growth of beard.
After lunch, we went in search of a launderette; there was no facility at the harbour, but one about ten minutes' walk away, where the manageress offered to put the clothes through the machines for us. This gave us a few clear hours to explore the abbey, and hear all about the Declaration of Arbroath, before returning to pick up the washing, beautifully folded. There was no sign of any wifi point so the Weeks 9 and 10 of the blog remain unposted.
Day 74. Tues 11 Aug. Arbroath to Eyemouth. 45 miles.
The inner harbour in Arbroath is fitted with gates which open three hours either side of High Water, providing this is between 0700 and 2000. With quite a long passage planned crossing the Firths of both Tay and Forth, we left at 0730, almost as soon as the gates opened. The wind was Southerly force 3, but was forecast to veer towards the West, so we hoisted the sails, and motored for the first hour. Then we started sailing close-hauled towards the South East, just avoiding the Bell Rock lighthouse, and turned off the engine shortly afterwards.
An hour later, the wind had increased, whilst veering SW, so we put in a reef, and this was shortly followed by a second, as it was now blowing W Force 5, gusting 6 as we passed Fife Ness. So we had a really good sail, making better than 6 knots, until the wind died as we approached St Abbs Head on the southern shore of the Firth of Forth. We quickly shook out both reefs, and then started the engine as we approached Eyemouth. Here there is a very narrow channel between the piers at the entrance, but luckily, no fishing boat was coming out as we went in. The harbour was packed, and we eventually rafted alongside a Stella, Four Bells, owned by Chris Davey. Chris was sailing single-handed on a delivery trip from Falmouth to Troon, and had arrived in Eyemouth the previous day. One of the dive-boats in the harbour, Scimitar, then very kindly offered to move a few feet up the pontoon, and we were able to squeeze alongside. Chris then came aboard for a glass of wine and a chat, before we went on board his boat to look round. During these proceedings, we were joined by Simon, the local organiser of the Sadler Association, who was very interested in our voyage. His wife was also sailing round Britain.
Day 75. Wed 12 Aug. Moored in Eyemouth.
We are now several days ahead of schedule, having had better weather than planned, albeit the wind has been mainly on the nose for the last week or so. So we needed to contact Wieland and David, who are due to join us in Whitby, to see whether they could get there any earlier. So we decided to spend the day in Eyemouth, with the top priority finding a wifi connection to post two weeks blog, pay off the credit card, etc. The first attempt at a very pleasant cafe on the waterfront, proved unsuccessful, but we were able to use a computer in the public library. We walked up to the headland to take photos of the harbour entrance, and to the opposite headland to get a mobile phone connection, and in the afternoon visited the local museum, which has a big display about the tragic storm in about 1880, when over 100 local fishermen were drowned.
Day 76. Thurs 13 Aug. Eyemouth to Amble. 40 miles.
Unfortunately, the weather forecast was predicting Force 4+ winds from the South overnnight, so we had to abandon our original plan to anchor at Lindisfarne, and aim for somewhere a bit more sheltered. Of course, when we left Eyemouth harbour, conditions were totally different - with a force 2 wind from the North. In these conditions, Chelena's mainsail makes very little difference to the boatspeed, but adds a lot of noise as it slams about. But we got out the cruising chute for the first time since Day 2, when (unreported in the blog for some reason) we had put it up and ripped a corner out of it before taking it down again in a bit of a hurry. Since then, Bill took it home with him from Lymington, and gave it to Jim to repair, before Will brought it back to Arisaig - many thanks to all concerned.
Jim's patch looked very neat, and the sail did its job well, enabling us to keep pace with a much bigger boat which left Eyemouth a few minutes ahead of us, using just white sails. Off Berwick, the wind started to veer, so we hoisted the mainsail as well, and off Lindisfarne, we switched back to the jib - then started the engine as our speed against the tide fell too far. We tied up in Amble Marina at 1930; this had a visitor's pack waiting for us on the fuel berth, from which we were able to choose a berth, pick up an access key to the pontoons and shower block, and read various brochures on local attractions - very different from the welcome at Waterford!
Day 77. Fri 14 Aug. Amble to Sunderland. 32 miles.
And still the wind blows from the South, although only about Force 3, rather than the 4/5 we were forecast! This was accompanied by a grey, overcast day, with occasional drizzle.
Before leaving Amble, we bought a gas refill, and topped up with fuel, and we were away by 0945, with about four hours of favourable tide. A local fisherman told us there was plenty of water for us in the Coquet Channel, so we followed his advice and saved a couple of miles by taking this short cut between Coquet Island and the mainland. After clearing this, we hoisted sails and started tacking down the coast, keeping the engine running to maintain speed. Off Tynemouth about 1500, the wind headed us, so we furled the jib, keeping well off the coast to avoid the firing range at Whitburn. Once clear of this, we headed straight for the pierhead at Sunderland, lowering the mainsail in the outer harbour at about 1630.
We then headed for the marina, calling them on Channel 80 on the VHF, as indicated in the Almanac, but getting no reply. We selected an empty berth and went to check in. "Why didn't you call us on the radio?" we were asked. Apparently, they still use Channel 37! This was soon sorted out, and we were made very welcome, and given a berth pointing into the strong winds forecast overnight.
Following a recommendation from a fellow sailor at Amble Marina, we ate ashore in the Italian restaurant upstairs from the marina office - Trattoria Due - and this was an excellent choice.
12 August 2009 | Eyemouth
Day 64. Sat 1 Aug. Moored in Stromness.
Most of the morning was taken up with domestic chores, such as laundry, shopping, cleaning the boat thoroughly, and tidying up ready to receive visitors. I was then able to spend the afternoon relaxing, after trying and failing to update the blogsite at Stromness Library.
Garth duly turned up at about 1800, and we started making plans for the next few days. The weather forecast was passable for Sunday, with westerly winds of Force 4-5, occasionally 6 - more than we wanted, but at least from an acceptable direction, but then going into the SE for a couple of days. So it looked as though we either had to leave for Wick on Sunday, or be stuck in Orkney for a few more days.
The timing of the tides through the Pentland Firth meant that we either had to leave Stromness at 0200 and navigate Scapa Flow in the dark, or take the afternoon tide, arriving in Wick late in the evening. We opted for a lie-in.
Day 65. Sun 2 Aug. Stromness to Wick. 46 miles.
Today's forecast confirmed last night's diagnosis, but after a leisurely breakfast, we had time for a stroll round Stromness to show Garth some of the sights, before setting sail at 1030. We set off on a broad reach across Scapa Flow in a nice westerly force 4, but when we started coming on the wind down the eastern shore of Flotta, we realised that it had increased to Force 5, gusting 6, and put in a reef before reaching open waters. As we crossed the top of Flotta, we watched a skua mobbing a young seagull, which had already learned some pretty advanced aerobatic skills, such as stall turns and slalom. Eventually its plaintive cries brought its parents to the rescue.
The recommended way of crossing the Pentland Firth is to go West hugging the coast for a couple of miles, wait for the tide to turn at Aith Hope, between the islands of Hoy and South Walls, and then head South. We passed Cantick Head a couple of hours early, and with a strong wind against tide, it looked very unpleasant, so we went back in, and into Long Hope, on the North side of South Walls, and picked up a visitors mooring, whilst we had lunch and considered our options.
By 1630, the wind seemed to have moderated, so we set out to try again, this time with two reefs. We reached Cantick Head for the second time at 1710, by which time the tide had turned, and everything was a lot calmer. So we decided to go for it - heading about South West, with engine ticking over, until we were on the recommended track - pointing South, and being carried South East by the tide, and turned off the engine as we were swept past Swona. The passage through the Outer Sound was actually quite uneventful, apart from the stress of trying to avoid a ship coming the other way - every time we thought we were across its bows, it turned towards us! In fact it continued turning, passing straight down the middle of the channel, passing at least half a mile in front of us, but I would very much rather he hadn't been there.
Off Duncansby Head, we narrowly avoided two fishing floats which were being forced under water by the 6 knot tide, but the wind had died, so we shook out a reef, to keep up the speed -some 9 knots over the ground. Off Noss Head, the second reef came out, and then we started the engine again for the run into Wick. Unfortunately, the oil pressure alarm came on, so we stopped it again, and topped up the engine oil - something I had meant to check in Stromness, and forgotten. This didn't stop t he alarm sounding, but we had little option but to continue to motor the last half mile into Wick, in spite of this, and we tied up in the inner harbour at 2100, had supper and went to bed.
Day 66 Mon 3 Aug. Moored in Wick.
The forecast for today had already warned us that it was likely to be a rest day - winds of F6, South to South East were too much and in the wrong direction. So we took advantage, and had a lie-in, then went into Wick to catch up on shopping, buy a new gas cylinder, etc. We thought the town was a bit quiet, but had completely overlooked the fact that it was a bank holiday in Scotland. In the afternoon, we went to the museum, which had been recommended - but was closed for the holiday, so wandered round "Poultenay-town", on the South side of the Wick river. This had been built in the mid-nineteenth century as an estate to service the rapid expansion of the docks and industrialisation of the town on the back of the herring fishing.
Day 67. Tues 4 Aug. Moored in Wick.
The wind was still just as strong, so we were able to get to Wick Museum after all! This was started about twenty years ago by a team of volunteers, who managed to obtain possession of a row of about six houses, including a herring processing yard and works, and has received donations of all sorts of artefacts connected with the town. These have been set out in a glorious organised jumble, which the guides attempt to explain, and the whole experience is utterly charming.
We walked down the harbour towards South Head, and watched a local rib tripper-boat venture out of the harbour carrying out engine trials. This confirmed the wisdom of staying in port. The entrance to Wick is a narrow funnel- shaped bay, totally exposed to the South East, and the waves were coming straight in and building up into a mass of white water.
We finished the day with a visit to the harbour fish and chip shop, where the haddock was well up to standard.
Day 68. Wed 5 Aug. Onwards from Wick? 5 miles.
By this stage, we were getting a little restless, and since the forecast had improved marginally, we decided to go outside to have a look, with a view to sailing to Peterhead in one hop - about 65 miles.
It was certainly better than yesterday, but still very bouncy in the bay. Nevertheless, we persevered until we were clear of the bay itself, and hoisted the mainsail - or rather tried to! The halyard had managed to repeat its trick of getting caught round the radar reflector (see day 18!), which meant getting out the bosun's chair and sending someone up the mast. This would have been distinctly unwise in those conditions, so we returned to port to fix it. On the way back, we both looked at each other and said more or less in unison that it would be a good idea to wait another day, rather than beat such a long way in those conditions.
Back on the berth, we started getting out various tools to have a make-and-mend day. The first item to get attention was the hand-drill which had got broken in Arklow (Day 24). After some lateral thinking, we managed to take the chuck apart and remove the broken drill bit. This then allowed us to start the list of jobs held over from Arklow. Garth took off the instrument panel in the mainhatch garage, and fitted the retaining batten, to allow a water-tight seal for the instruments. I fitted similar battens to the back of the shelf fitting in the heads, to turn it into a secure handhold, then fitted a shock-cord retaining strap for the loo seat. Meanwhile, Garth had got out the manual for the wind instrument, and checked the wiring to try to establish why it wasn't working. He established that there was a broken fuse, so we then had the challenge of trying to obtain a new one. The harbourmaster suggested a couple of likely places, neither of which could help, but one then suggested the lifeboat coxswain, who works for an electronics company. So we went to the lifeboat station to find out - unfortunately he couldn't, but showed us the local weather forecast for the next few days. Tomorrow is going to be significantly better - wind still from S/SE, but a lot less of it.
Sometime during the day, we even managed to send Garth up the mast to free up the halyard!
Day 69. Thurs 6 Aug. Wick to Fraserburgh. 63 miles.
We got up bright and early, put up the mainsail in the outer harbour to avoid a repeat of yesterday, and left the harbour at 0630. The sea was definitely a lot calmer, but the wind was still S to SE force 3 to 4 - dead on the nose for Rattray Head at the eastern corner of the Moray Firth. We made reasonable progress to start with; indeed for the first couple of hours, the wind was southerly, so we could head almost straight there, but this was not to last! We needed to keep the speed up to at least 5 knots, so most of the time we had the engine on.
By 1930, we were still about 15 miles North of Rattray Head, and the tide turned against us - so we were now fighting both wind and tide. Having been on the go for 13 hours, we were just beginning to get tired, when our spirits were lifted by a family of dolphins, probably a mother with two young, who played in our bow wave for upwards of half an hour. However, our speed was now down to about three knots, and we were over twenty miles from Peterhead, with the adverse tide still building. We decided to divert to Fraserburgh - in spite of the pilot book suggesting that it is a busy fishing port that did not encourage yachts. Even so, it was 2115 before we tied up in Fraserburgh Harbour. Whilst there are no yacht facilities, we were found a berth without any hassle, and it was no worse than Scrabster, moored against an old dumper truck tyre suspended from the harbour wall.
Needless to say, we were too tired to investigate the night life, and had an early night!
Day 70. Fri 7 Aug. Fraserburgh to Peterhead. 20 miles.
What a difference a day makes! Today started cloudy, but the sun gradually burned through to give a lovely summer's day, with a light northwesterly wind. I even managed to get a new fuse for the wind gauge in an electronic engineers on Fraserburgh waterfront.
We left the harbour at 1045, and drifted eastwards with wind and tide down towards Rattray Head, arriving at slack water - just in time to pick up the South-going tide down the coast to Peterhead. The tide must have been running at about 3 knots, and we had to tack down-wind to give ourselves any steerage way. It was the first time for a month that it was shirt-sleeve weather, which made a nice change, and Peterhead came abeam almost too quickly. We tied up in the marina at 1430.
Garth spent a happy afternoon smashing the boat - well, the cockpit drinks tray - and then as a pennance continued his efforts to mend the wind gauge.
12 August 2009 | Eyemouth
Day 57 Sat 25 July. Kinlochbervie to Scrabster. 62 miles.
This time, we followed the pilot book recommendations, and left Kinlochbervie at 0545, in company with Sonas and Gluckspilz. I hoisted the mainsail in Loch Inchard, and unfurled the jib at the entrance. The wind was force 2-3 from the North West, which gave us a good sail for the first 14 miles up to Cape Wrath.
The approach to the Cape was deceptively easy, with just a light Atlantic swell, but the overfalls on the exit were something else. Ewan on Sonas said later that at one time it looked as though only Chelena's keel was left in the water, but unfortunately his camera was safe below, so he was unable to take a photo. Suffice it to say that the waves seemed like the Deben Bar in wind against tide, but four times the size, and lasting about two miles. But we were going along at 8 knots over the ground, so in reality the excitement was soon past. Definitely not a pace to linger in bad weather! I duly celebrated rounding the corner by having a cup of coffee and the last slice of the cake Nick had brought with him.
Now we had wind and tide behind us, there was insufficient wind to sail, so I lowered the mainsail, and just kept the jib up to improve stability. The rest of the leg proved uneventful, and I tied up in Scrabster Harbour alongside Sonas at 1630, and had a cup of tea with them before they went on to Wick. Gluckspilz arrived about an hour later, having tried sailing a bit longer than we had.
Mooring in Scrabster is an interesting experience. The harbour wall is plain concrete at the top, but exposed steel piling at low tide, and at springs the tidal rise and fall is about 4.5 metres. I duly took lines as far forward and aft as I could, and found a weight already hanging from the harbour wall, with which to tension the bow-line. The cockpit tray was brought into use as a fender board - bottom side to the harbour wall - thus proving I was right in saying there was no point in wasting time varnishing it, and I then fastened a loose rope from the side rail to the harbour ladder, so I could get off the boat, and on again. I was then ready for the force 6 winds forecast overnight.
Day 58. Sun 26 July. Moored in Scrabster.
The shipping forecast on Saturday evening had effectively ruled out the early start necessary to catch the tide for Stromness, so I was able to justify a well-deserved lie-in, and a leisurely cooked breakfast. In fact, it was raining hard, and there were squally winds, so even then, there was little incentive to open the hatch and look out.
Scrabster consists of a deep water harbour, with ferry terminal, a pub, two restaurants, and the Fishermen's Mission (which is closed on Sundays!). All other facilities (including a railway station!) are in Thurso, a couple of miles away. By mid-morning, it had stopped raining, so I went over to the harbourmaster's office to pay my dues, and to seek his advice about my onward trip. He was very friendly, and looked up the weather for the next few days on the internet. Whilst the Sunday evening tide would have been possible, the Monday morning weather was very much nicer, so I decided to stay in Scrabster another night. He then drove me to a supermarket in Thurso, where I was able to buy a Sunday paper, which took care of the afternoon.
Day 59. Mon 27 July. Scrabster to Stromness. 26 miles.
This leg involves crossing the Pentland Firth, and entering the western end of Scapa Flow at Hoy Mouth, where there are very strong tides. Therefore the recommendation in the pilot book is to get there at low water, or 0900. Unfortunately, Hoy Mouth is 22 miles from Scrabster, so I had to get early and leave in the dark - at 0420. But this gave me the opportunity to see the sun rise over Dunnet Head, the northernmost point on the British mainland.
As forecast, the wind had died down overnight, and was now blowing force 2 from the SE - yet again a light tail wind - too light to sail, although I had them up to make myself more visible in the dawn. By 0800, I was motoring up the western side of Hoy, and went within about half a mile of the Old Man of Hoy - the tallest sea stack in the UK.
Ninety minutes later, I was tied up in Stromness Marina, ready for a second breakfast and a nap, before exploring the sights of Stromness. I now have a few days in tripper mode, waiting for Garth to join me on Saturday evening for the home leg down the East Coast.
Day 60 Tues 28 July. Moored in Stromness.
Sightseeing by bus to Kirkwall. The first problem of the day was that the first time I came to use my new bus pass, it didn't work so I had to pay the full fare in cash. Once I had got over this shock, the journey to Kirkwall took about 40 minutes. Orkney from the bus is surprisingly pastoral - agriculture, and particularly animal husbandry, takes up most of the land space of Mainland, the main island.
I looked round St Magnus Cathedral and the harbour front before being inexplicably drawn towards the Highland Park distillery, where I had a one-on-one tour. The distillery was in fact closed for summer maintenance, but I was still able to see how it all works, get my sample dram, and visit the inevitable shop. But thanks to our efforts last week in Kinlochbervie, my stocks of Malt were low anyway. On the way back to the bus station, I had a tour of Tesco's too!
Day 61. Wed 29 July. Moored in Stromness.
Today, I went for a trial dive on the Churchill Barriers. Here, ships were sunk in both the first and second world wars to block off the channels between the small islands on the Eastern shore of Scapa Flow. These wrecks now form an ideal site for diving in sheltered water of around 10 - 12 meters. One of the instructors, Lindsey, turned out to be the chairman of Stromness Marina, so we had an interesting conversation about this, how it compared with others I had used, and so on.
The dive itself proved less successful. I found myself quite unable to get the hang of breathing through the regulator, and my co-ordination was all over the place. Reluctantly, I concluded that I am forty-odd years too old to take this up as a new hobby.
Day 62. Thurs 30 July. Moored in Stromness.
The day was bright and sunny, although there was a strong westerly wind. I decided to hire a bicycle and visit Scara Brae, a 5,000 year old village a few miles North of Stromness. This was fascinating - and a particularly good feature was a time-line of plaques between the visitor centre and the village itself, illustrating just how much older the site is than Stonehenge and the Pyramids. The village consists of ten dry-stone buildings, all built in a sort of compost heap, presumably for protection against wind and cold, and connected by stone-roofed passages. Each house has a stone dresser, and stone bed-frames. The village is right on the edge of the Bay of Skaill, and was discovered in 1850, after a particularly bad storm stripped the grass from one of the sand dunes.
I cycled to Birsay on the North West corner of Mainland, but the tide was wrong to cross to the Brough of Birsay, another historic site on a tidal island, so I returned to Stromness, now with the wind behind me. The farmers were busy collecting hay and silage, taking advantage of the sunshine.
I had dinner in the Stromness Hotel. The food itself was all right, but nothing special, but the two waiters were interesting. One had a pink Mohican haircut, and the other chewed gum throughout proceedings. Neither was particularly attentive, but the manager came in to check up - clutching a large mug of tea.
Day 63. Fri 31 July. Moored in Stromness.
Having done the bus, diving and cycling, today was a day for walking - round the Ness and along the North shore of Hoy Mouth - bracing in the wind, which was again strong from the West. I returned to Stromness from the back - descending to the main street through narrow cobbled streets and steps, reminiscent of Cornish fishing villages, but without the trippers (myself excluded!).
I took the opportunity to refill the boat's fuel tank in preparation for the voyage South, and had a few minutes' panic when the engine would not start. However, this proved easy to fix by bleeding the fuel filter.
30 July 2009 | Stromness
Day 50. Sat 18 July Arisaig to Inverie. 14 miles.
Day 51. Sun 19 July. At Inverie, climbing mountains (12+ miles by foot!)
Day 52 Mon 20 July. Inverie to Kyleakin. 22 miles.
Nick very kindly volunteered to write up the blog for the long weekend he was on board. This now follows in his own inimitable style, and some of it actually happened. Whilst he mentions the major plumbing repairs, and their cause, he didn't give full justice to some of the culinary highlights - the delicious steak he cooked on Saturday night, when it was lashing down with rain, and we didn't fancy the row ashore, and the "end-of-weekend" celebratory meal we had in the King Haakon Bar in Kyleakin.
He also didn't mention the dinghy's wild antics coming up the Sound of Sleat in a heavy following sea - several times I wished I had deflated it before we set out.
Nick won't be known to many readers so here is a quick introduction. He's a landlubber at heart, a climber, and an enthusiast for many strange things. He has a disarming tendency to promote conversation about abstruse things, so it's no simple matter to keep him "on board". He has a tendency to liven up dinner by chatting up the waitresses; but he's a loyal guy and he can be really quite civilised half way up a mountain in the mist (as we'll see).
The plan with Nick was to sail around to the nation's most remote Munro peak, anchor by, climb it, and return to civilisation and a glass of Malt Whisky at the earliest opportunity. We met as planned in Arisaig on Friday night, drove to Mallaig (where Nick, with a soft preference for a motionless bed, had checked in to a B&B) and enjoyed a fine fish dinner together. Nick spotted the waitress' South African accent (Tim had thought it Skandivanian, apparently a common error for this girl) and we enjoyed a pleasant exchange before retiring for the night.
Saturday morning was grey and none too promising. You won't want to hear the exact detail of why Tim had to spend an unenviable twenty minutes dismantling and re-engaging the plumbing in the sink area by the fo'c'sle but he was genial enough to accept Nick's apologies. These were reinforced by gifts from the South. Nick had brought Ship's Biscuits, Ship's Grog (a bottle of Macallan), Ship's Cake (cooked by his good wife) and even a Ship's Cat. This last, he said, was a cheap option, being a wooden replica, because a non-sea-trained live one might have been heavily seasick (Nick was well acquainted with this problem as you may have appreciated) and in any case his family had not reacted positively when Nick had enquired if there were a spare one at home to take with him.
After the modest exertions of the morning's sail, an afternoon nap was appropriate. Nick later cooked dinner and our two heroes went to bed well fortified by the whisky selection.
Come Sunday there was nothing for it - despite the gloomy weather forecast - but to take to the mountains and climb Lyarven (formally Ladhar Bheinn). A 6 km approach walk gave way to a climb up the southern slopes. Tim's land legs were to prove as dubious as Nick's sea legs, for two thirds of the way up Tim had to hold up a hand and say enough was enough. We found a sheltered spot for a cheery lunch (the weather had proved much less challenging than feared) and retraced steps to Inverie, location of the nation's most remote mainland pub (thanks to complete absence of access by any other means than sea or a massively long walk).
Now the complications began. Tim was by now expecting Nick to converse with the waitress. She was good looking in all respects, a charming young lady from Vermont called Marissa who, it emerged, had emigrated from America to Scotland with her artist father twelve years previously. Tim joined in, pleasantly surprised at the bonhomie involved, and answered in detail questions about the yacht and its name. Marissa then disappeared and we were served for the rest of the meal by other waiters. Nick rather sadly made two attempts to check in to a local B&B (to be fair to him the bay was distinctly choppy and Chelena relatively exposed) but in the end had to make do with Chelena thanks to the local options all being full.
Now, reader, you may find this surprising but Nick at least was determined to insist that it was absolutely no surprise to him to find, as the two of them returned to Chelena somewhat the worse for wear after a fine dinner at the Old Forge of Inverie, that there on the starboard couch, curled up as comfortable as a cat, was Marissa. Cue a whispered exchange between Tim and Nick. What were we to do ? It was slightly surreal. Marissa was to all intents and purposes asleep and it did not seem gentlemanly to shake her. We drank a glass of Macallan, still speaking in whispers, drank another, and eventually decided to retire to sleep ourselves.
So it was that Marissa came to sail with us up the Sound of Sleat the next morning. The weather was tough again, blowing force 7 the whole way, and the swell was a good two metres for much of the trip. Nick helmed, Marissa stayed below, and Tim kept a weather eye out, doubtless wondering what would happen at Kyleakin. The narrows at Kylerhea are a serious obstacle to sailing unless with quite exceptional engine power, for the current flows 8 knots when flooding south and almost as much going back north. We timed our run as it happened pretty much for the turn, so we had relatively little trouble with it, and happily the wind too seemed to abate as we turned in. So it proved relatively uneventful, indeed even anticlimactic. Nick was cheered to be beating up close-hauled for the last stretch into Kyleakin against fiendish rain and a fierce force 7, and we were duly able to relax for the remainder of the day and even to appreciate a touch of sunshine at the end of it. Tim was finally able to post Nick back towards Arisaig courtesy of the Armadale bus (and the Mallaig ferry, and the Arisaig train) the next morning and thus close off three invigorating and happy days.
Reader, I know you will be wondering what became of Marissa. Of course she continued on with Tim. Was there an emotional farewell to Nick ? Well, that could hardly have been, for I feel sure that the most Nick would have had from her was a wooden stare. As you perhaps have guessed by now, a modest coincidence had arisen. The waitress from the Old Forge, to the best of our knowledge, had never left Inverie; and the still and serene presence on the starboard couch was none other than our Ship's Cat, named Marissa.
Day 53 Tues 21 July. Kyleakin to Gairloch. 37 miles.
Nick duly departed on the 0930 bus, and I spent an hour or so in the internet cafe catching up on correspondence. Then I crossed the narrows to Kyle of Lochalsh to refuel and buy gas. The latter was successful, but luckily there was no-one around to record my antics in trying to moor to the railway pier at the Kyle, to refuel. This is a full sized commercial pier, with no concessions to yachts, so I had to make fast to an access ladder, because that is all I could reach. I had just succeeded in doing that, when the oil-man appeared, and asked me to move to the next ladder, so his hose would reach. When I had done this, he realised his hose was leaking, so we had to fill by can anyway. I took on two cans before he got bored and decided it was lunchtime.
After this, the passage to Gairloch was fairly uneventful. At the start, there was virtually no wind, but after a few miles, it filled in from the North - right on the bow, so I continued to motor. For two brief spells, the wind veered to NE, and I unfurled the jib, but then it was time to head into Gairloch. By this time (about 1800), the wind was blowing hard, gusting force 6. I turned into the Badachro anchorage, but it was very full and not very sheltered, so I continued to the Flowerdale pontoon a bit further up the loch.
This pontoon was also crowded, but at the third attempt I successfully rafted up to an S&S34, Pennant, itself rafted to a Dufour 40.The crew of Pennant were very friendly, helping me moor up, and then inviting me on board for a drink - which I readily accepted.
Day 54 Wed 22 July. Gairloch to Lochinver.
By morning, the wind had gone completely, and what little there was was from the SW. The forecast showed this was likely to continue all day, but strong northerlies were expected tomorrow, so I decided to press on. However, as the next few ports of call were planned to be marinas, I deflated the dinghy, and lashed it on the foredeck before setting out. Once again, it was a long session under engine, with the sea an oily calm, although the swell was quite pronounced at the Rubha Reidh headland - suggesting that the pilot book had it about right in stating it was not a place to be in bad weather.
By 1630, I was safely moored on the pontoon at Lochinver, ahead of Sonas, which had set out from Flowerdale an hour or so ahead of me. After supper on board, I was invited aboard Sonas for drinks. Mike and Ewan are also going round Cape Wrath towards their home port on the Forth, so we compared notes and plans. They are doing a "Round Scotland" trip, having gone through the Forth-Clyde Canal. They kindly offered to sail in company round Cape Wrath. Ewan runs whisky tasting sessions, so I asked him to run one on Chelena tomorrow.
Day 55 Thurs 23 July. Lochinver to Kinlochbervie. 27 miles.
I attempted to re-fuel before setting off, but the harbourmaster's office was deserted at 0745, so I decided to empty the reserve can into the tank and press on to KLB - about half an hour behind Sonas in a flat calm. Apart from heavy swell at Point of Stoer, the sea was smooth with a sort of light oily swell. A few miles further on, I saw a whale - apparently a Minke - about 30 feet long, dark grey, and with a small fin.
By mid-morning, the wind had filled in from the North, but I managed to sail the last five miles or so into Loch Inchard, and tied up on the pontoon in Kinlochbervie at 1230. After lunch I moved to the fuel pontoon, and took delivery of 53 litres of diesel from a spout designed for a deep-sea trawler. Most of it went in the tank!
The whisky tasting session was duly held, and the tasting committee marginally preferred Ardbeg to Macallen. I was one ahead of the others, having had tinned haggis for supper (with neeps and tatties, of course).
Day 56 Fri 24 July. Kinlochbervie onwards. 1 mile.
We had decided to leave for Cape Wrath at 0800 - quite a bit later than recommended by the pilot books, but we didn't fancy an early start. I left first, but had only gone half a mile when the engine died. Luckily Sonas saw my plight, and Mike very kindly towed me back to the pontoon, taking the inevitable incriminating photos on the way.
Apart from the concern over the engine, I wasn't too upset to see them set off again - it was raining hard and there were some quite heavy squalls, but the harbour is so sheltered it is quite difficult to get a true indication of conditions outside. Meanwhile, I got on with examining the engine. It was clearly a dirty fuel problem, so I cleaned out the primary fuel filter, and replaced the engine filter. However, this did not solve the problem, since no fuel was coming through the pipe. A quick phone call to Peter Smith (the second of the voyage - see day 3!) produced a choice of possible answers, the more likely of which was an incompetently assembled O-ring on one of the filters. At this stage, I decided my enthusiasm had outrun my competence, and I sought out an engineer, who confirmed Pete's diagnosis, and fixed it - with assistance from Mike - Sonas had by this time returned to the pontoon, having shipped enough green water to put them off continuing.
I spent the afternoon cleaning up the mess from mending the engine, doing laundry and food shopping, before having a shower to remove the worst of the smell of diesel.
In the evening, the whisky tasting resumed, with help (and plum schnapps) from Heinrich from Gluckspilz, which had rafted alongside Sonas, and was also bound for Cape Wrath.