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Going Round the Bend!

Inverness (57.47 78 degrees N, 4.22 47 degrees W) to Arbroath (56, 55 91 degrees N, 2.59 15 degrees W)

07-13 August

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Welcome back Crazysails readers

In this blog post we reflect on the last few places we visited in the Scottish part of our Round Britain odyssey. Each place had its own individual character and as we moved across the length of the Moray Firth and finally turned south, heading for the English border, we really felt we’d hit a great milestone on our journey. Sadly, the beautiful scenery of the Argyll Highlands and Islands had now disappeared  but, on the plus side, there was a definite improvement in the weather on the eastern side of the country with slightly less wind, rain and better visibility – oh well you can’t have everything. We also received some photos of our Scottish competition winners proudly modelling their Scottish themed prizes – thanks for the pics, Sue and Ray.

Another thing we had to be happy about is that our fundraising total for the National Autistic Society is slowly increasing towards our goal of £2017 and with a number of offline donations we are actually now over 80% of our target – just got to work out how to record the offline donations so this shows in the figure raised on JustGiving! Very many thanks to all of you who are helping us to support the National Autistic Society, who are doing such good work to help raise awareness of the challenges of autism and to help those diagnosed as being autistic and their families.

Before we go on to talk about our recent travels, we’d just like to share with you one parent’s experience and how the NAS service have helped her family. Imagine hearing that a child at school has been paid extra pocket money NOT to play with your son! How heart breaking would this be and yet this really was the case. Mrs W has agreed that we can share this with you, for which we are very grateful. She says that its moments like this when you need some advice as to how best handle both the situation at the school as well comfort a confused, anxious little boy that the NAS Helpline is really important. She and her husband have also used the National Autistic Society’s Earlybird programme, the Education Rights Helpline and other support services to help with a range of issues from support with an Education Authority Tribunal to her son’s crippling anxiety, toileting, eating, sleeping and behavioural problems.

She is one of thousands of people who access the services in the UK each year. To give you an idea how your donation can help:

£50 means ten people can access the Autism Helpline, £500 can buy gardening equipment to help up to 50 adults at one of the NAS adult centres, £100 gives specialist play equipment to help over 50 children in one of the NAS supported schools and £2500 gives a person with Aspergers syndrome the opportunity for full-time supported employment with companies such as Boots, HSBC, M&S and BT.

So, thank you again to all who have supported and encouraged us on our challenge, most recently to Scottish Canals and those who supported us in Scottish Harbours plus those important on and offline contributions…..and do keep saving your pennies; every penny helps towards our target.

But now…our journey continues!

Inverness to Lossiemouth (57. 7216 degrees N 3.28 03 degrees W)

Tuesday 07 August

Having waved Sophie and Neil off on the next part of their Scottish adventure we had a speedy okay from the Sea Loch at Clachnaharry to enter the lock and pass through the swing bridge. We were just in time as the next bridge opening wasn’t for a couple of hours and we really needed to be on our way. Thanking the loch keeper who also told us about a pod of whales seen in the bay, we headed out into the Moray Firth. The scenery had evened out to gentler hills and a flatter coastline, the visibility was good and the wind a very light breeze from the south west which allowed us to sail the mainsail, as we made our way eastbound.

Pretty soon, we noticed a couple of dolphin watching tripper boats circling around and as we passed the lighthouse on the far side of the bay we noticed a long line of people looking out towards us. We were fairly sure it wasn’t us they’d come to see (nice though it would have been) so we scanned around to see if we could spot anything and sure enough, off our starboard bow, about 300 metres off, we soon picked up a whole group of pilot whales swimming along. These whales were blacker in colour, with snubber noses that the Minkes we had seen in the Irish Sea. Later a couple of paler whales came swimming towards and then disappeared under the bow of the boat. It was a great sight but quite hard to photograph so the tips of the fins in my photographs don’t really do the experience justice. We also saw dolphins and seals during this passage but, to my frustration, all of them proved more than a little camera shy successfully avoiding my lens, leaving me with a lot of pictures of empty sea, which would not be interesting to the reader so had to be deleted.

Other than seeing what looked like an oil rig, the 41 mile voyage to Lossiemouth was otherwise uneventful and we arrived at the harbour mouth on the rising tide. Mr ‘Local Knowledge’ (who seemed anxious to befriend us after Simon had helped his wife when she twisted her knee, after falling on the pontoon at Fort Augustus) pre-warned us (via the ship’s radio) about the hidden harbour entrance, followed by a sharp turn to port to get onto the visitors pontoon. Our entry was therefore tight but straightforward, whereas Mr ‘Local Knowledge’, who followed us in, ran aground and had to wait for the tide before he could make the pontoon – maybe we shouldn’t have trusted so much in his tips, though they did come good for us. He also informed us about the local pub – The Steamboat, where you signed in for the marina, picked up the shower codes etc. Robin King at Oban had also suggested we have a drink for him and Sam at the pub, so we headed up there. Unfortunately, there was a power cut so it was very quiet in there and didn’t look its best but the barmaid was helpful and the map tables were interesting.

 

Around the harbour there has clearly been some work done to renovate the buildings and turn them into apartments and after wandering along the sea wall we discovered a couple of nice restaurants overlooking a beautiful sandy bay and we enjoyed a lovely meal at the 1629 Restaurant, which was very atmospheric, with excellent home cooked food and great customer service. We didn’t linger too long after dinner and hurried back to the boat as we had a long trip to Peterhead planned for the next day.

 

 

Lossiemouth (57.72 16 degrees N 3.28 03 degrees W) to Peterhead (57. 5081 degrees N 1.78 41 degrees W)

Tuesday 08 – Wednesday 09 August

We set off on the 59 mile sail to Peterhead on the morning tide, leaving the harbour as soon as we could, to maximise the time available. We had considered stopping at Banff but had then heard we couldn’t because the harbour wall had fallen down and, spurred on by a desire to round the headland and begin to head south, we decided to just go for it and aim for Peterhead that day.

We had a usual wind on the nose situation as we continued eastbound but hit an exciting milestone when we checked the mileage just at the exact point we did 1000 miles! As we rounded the bend past Fraserbrough the wind picked up as did the sea swell but we still managed our photo with the NAS flag to mark the farthest NE point of our sailing challenge and just round the tip we celebrated the fact that we were now heading SOUTH (pictures showing 180 degrees on the compass). The tide remained with us, though the wind went round southerly, so we had a wind against tide situation (something that has become all too common coming down the east coast) but we progressed doing an average 6.7 knots, as we neared Peterhead.

Well, what can I say about Peterhead? It is clearly a commercial port with large trawlers and boats servicing the oil industry. Much of the (very large) harbour area is surrounded by silos, warehouses, cranes, huge ships in various states of repair and disrepair and smaller tired looking fishing boats. There is nothing pretty or atmospheric about Peterhead.  Life there looks tough and the buildings in and around the town reflected the harshness of life there, being sombre and grey with many shops having closed down. There were signs of a resurgence in the fishing trade however, with some large new trawlers and a new fish market being constructed.

Having searched for a nice café for brunch we had the choice of Wetherspoons in the centre of town, the Dolphin Café which did fish and chips opposite the fish market and the Seaman’s Mission. It may (or may not) surprise you to find out that we chose the Seaman’s Mission. Situated near the commercial harbour in an old building that had clearly seen some renovation, the Mission had a jolly café area, which clearly doubled up as a church at times. The tables were decked with checked (plastic) tablecloths with small vases of flowers, there was a good menu of home cooked food and good prices and the staff were friendly and helpful. The toilets even had flowers and hand cream! So, in the unlikely event that you are ever looking for a tasty, reasonably priced lunch in Peterhead, do try the Seaman’s Mission – which is also a good organisation to support.

The visitors’ pontoons in the marina area are across the other side of the harbour and are a good walk or taxi ride from the main town and the nearest shop for milk etc. is the local garage. There is a fuel jetty which we made the acquaintance of but it was easily the most challenging fuel jetty we have had to use. Situated between two very large vessels on the high jetty, with nothing to tie onto in the swell of the tide it was not the most welcoming place we’ve been. Fortunately, Simon had the foresight to pay in advance or I could still be waiting for him making his way back from paying at the very distant harbour office!

The grey houses you can see in the photo were like many we saw throughout Scotland from Oban and Fort William to Ardrishaig and here in Peterhead. At times the Scottish architecture is powerful and impressive or cosy and cottagy, as are the crofters houses, but when you see hillsides covered in a multitude of gloomy grey boxes you wonder if Scotland is the land that the architects forgot!

The weather brightened up but got ever more blustery while were in Peterhead and it was here we decided to change how we described the wind and from now on it was not to be blowing a 4 or a 6 or even 16 or 24, it was to be a two peg, four peg or even up to 8 peg day which identified how many pegs we needed to put onto our towels when we put them out to dry, obviously  the more pegs the windier it was  and in Peterhead we maxed out with a full eight pegger. Clearly it was a day to stay put, rather than venture out into the North Sea.

It was not with any regrets that we said goodbye to Peterhead but certainly with a lot of respect for the touch seamen who make their living there. And so on we continued our journey southbound to Stonehaven.

 

Peterhead to Stonehaven (56.96 37 degrees N  2.20 93 degrees W)

 Wednesday 09 -Saturday 12 August

Stonehaven lies around midway between Peterhead and Arbroath. We had considered doing a very long run down to Arbroath but having read up about the tides, access through the lock gate into Arbroath Harbour and knowing how inaccurate the weather forecast has been, particularly in the afternoon, we decided to do the shorter run to Stonehaven. This was a lucky decision as just past Aberdeen, the wind (yet again) exceeded the forecast and instead of a gentle westerly 8-10 knots went SE and went up to around 28 knots (another 8 pegger). This was a classic wind against tide battle with Kairos crashing down into the waves; we really felt we’d met the North Sea proper today. An amateur photographer, Robert Lenfern, happened to be taking photographs as we came into to Stonehaven and he managed to capture some of Kairos in action, which he kindly sent to us – many thanks.

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It was therefore, not without some feeling of relief that we entered the sanctuary of Stonehaven Harbour. Stonehaven is a lovely traditional fishing harbour with the typical hidden entrance behind high harbour wall, clearly designed in years gone by to offer protection from the fierce North Sea. It didn’t read particularly well in the pilot books because what is on offer is a berth against the harbour wall and there are no facilities such as electric, water, Wi-Fi (in short supply in most places) or fuel. But what it did offer is a very warm welcome and a helping hand to get moored up against the high harbour wall, beautiful views, a comfortable, safe berth with clean showers (and hot water) and toilets and some lovely restaurants and bars around the harbour. It is an active picture postcard harbour with small fishing boats, sailing boats and a very busy lifeboat going in and out. The harbour master, Jim Brown, keeps his own beautifully refurnished old fishing boat in the harbour and he proudly showed us around, at the end of his shift – something man of wood, Simon, really appreciated. He was also very interested in and supportive of our sailing challenge and support for the National Autistic Society – so many thanks to Jim for a wonderful welcome.

The main town of Stonehaven was a short walk down the coastal path or through the streets at the back of the old village area. Not quite so pretty but well stocked with all the usual shops, it enabled us to get stocked up. The worst thing about the mooring was when the tide went down, the boat dropped around 3 metres which meant a long way up and down the harbour wall ladder which, being rather afraid of heights, was not something I relished. Needless to say, during our two nights against the harbour wall, I tried to time my trips ashore with times of high water!

 

We only had one neighbouring yacht in Stonehaven, which was a Dutch boat we had also seen at Tobermory and Seaport Marina at Inverness. A chat with the skipper revealed they were also planning to leave on the following morning tide but they hoped to reach cross the Firth of Forth any reach Eyemouth in the one sail as they were on a deadline to get back to Holland the following week. Also on a deadline but not quite so tight, we decided to stop at Arbroath on our way down the coast and then the following day continue to Eyemouth or Berwick on Tweed.

 

Stonehaven to Arbroath (56. 55 91 degrees N 2.59 15 degrees W)

Saturday 12- Sunday13 August

A beautiful sunrise accompanied us out of Stonehaven Harbour. This little port had been a delightful surprise offering us a pretty, sheltered and safe haven tucked snuggly behind the harbour wall but now it was out into the North Sea again and a relatively short 30 mile trip down the coast to Arbroath, home of the ‘Arbroath Smokie’ and our last stop in Scotland.

Unlike our trip to Stonehaven, the 35 mile sail south to Arbroath was calm, the wind was a light E/SE and we sailed with the mainsail up the whole way. The biggest challenge was arriving in Arbroath and looking for a suitable place to turn into the wind to drop the sail – there were lobster pots EVERYWHERE! We had been warned to be careful of the approach into Arbroath due to excessive pot laying but this was really something else! Where-ever you looked little flags waved and small buoys bobbed precociously daring us to get our prop anywhere near them. We finally chose a spot, did a speedy sail drop then negotiated our way cautiously through the maze of pots to the harbour entrance. We arrived just as the lock gate was opening for the afternoon tide and we slipped in to be greeted by the friendly harbour master, who welcomed us taking our lines. We did mention to him about the quantity of pots and he said it was pretty uncontrolled at the moment and was ‘like the Klondike for lobsters’ in the bay. He invited us to complain as not only is it challenging for those coming into the harbour but the sustainability of future stocks was also in danger from overfishing in the area.

Arbroath itself was another small, pretty fishing harbour. Known for Arbroath smokies which are smoked haddock, the town had several smokers which were open, even on a Sunday afternoon. There was also signs of recent investment on one side of the harbour, with new cafés and restaurants overlooking the seafront but as with many seaside towns, especially on the east coast, once you got behind the seafront there were also some tired, closed up buildings, indicating an eradication of the local economy – perhaps it is no wonder then, that the locals have resorted to mass lobster catching. No harbour wall for us in this port though, in Arbroath we had a pontoon berth with electric and water but sadly, still no wi-fi. Soon after we came in the weather changed so we put up our cockpit enclosure, ensuring a dry, cosy night for our last evening in Scotland. We had decided that tomorrow we would head for Berwick-on-Tweed which marks the border with England. Although it didn’t read as well as Eyemouth, there was entry at all states of the tide and psychologically we felt we needed to get back into England to feel we were making continuous progress. Mmmm……. perhaps we should have read the entry in the almanac more closely – but that’s another story!

For now Crazysails readers, it’s waterproofs on and off on the next part of our journey. Thank you for your feedback and support.

With best wishes and happy sailing from

The Kairos Crew

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