A sail round England, Wales and a bit of Scotland!
Fiddler's Green's big adventure.

(Well that was the plan, see how we did!)

 

Drawing courtesy of Phil, one of my crew!


The big trip in 2013 and now the last leg, sadly now in 2017 put on hold…..

Until the skipper's Kidney stones hopefully will be sorted! ???

John and crew are sailing his Eventide, ‘Fiddler’s Green’ round England, part of Scotland, touching in at Ireland and Wales, maybe the Isle of Man and the Scillies, on the way.

Click the map of the UK above to read the preparation diary. An epic in itself!

Now in 2014 I am adding to this page, as I ready the boat for part II!

(you have to scroll to the bottom of the page of course, for the 2014  and onwards bit!)

 

Alternatively you can view the short video films I made here.

 

Ship's Log

As we set off I will be trying to update this page  on a daily basis, but it does rely on a good mobile phone signal so I can connect the laptop to the web.  There may well be days we cannot connect.

The phone number to call me, please only for urgent queries or maybe to arrange to meet us.

:- 07850 286607.

I also will have an e-mail address, for urgent mails re the trip etc.  fiddlers.green at eventides.org.uk

You know the score, remove the spaces and the word 'at' and replace with @.

 

The latest entry will be at the bottom of the page here, so you will have to scroll down to read the last entry.

(Grab the slider and whiz it to the bottom with the mouse!)

Sorry those of you with iPads will have to make that swiping finger work hard, good exercise though!


 

magic logo provided by Mel of Names4Boats.com!

one for each side of the cabin.

May 15th 2013

This is the first real test of all the new technology!  I am writing this in my boat/s laptop, an old Panasonic 'tough book'.  (it is supposed to be splash-proof!)  It is connected to the world wide web using a modern smart phone!  I am hoping that this will enable us to stay in touch and work on the site, amending the log,  whilst we sail.

Amazingly clever stuff..

I have just spent  the afternoon updating the laptop reconnecting it to the internet, it had not been connected since last season.  Now all the windows updates are on, the new chart plotter program, 'Seaclear' from www.visitmyharbour.co.uk is also on and my Avast updated and adjusted to allow Seaclear to work.  All very whizzy!

I hope to get the laptop onto the boat and connected to the GPS and AIS tomorrow, at the moment grounded, as the Moggy van is in for service.

When I am on board I also intend to wire the new plotter to the AIS output as well will be great to get both AIS enabled.

The last few jobs at base sorted, my oilskins washed, proofed and dried, last bits of clothing gathered up and all the crew primed to meet us for the meal at Bradwell. All we need now is the gales to abate!

If you read this, the system works, as I am about to use my phone to upload this page. 

John

 

Wednesday 15th May 2013.

The system works!  So from now on this page should only be edited from on board using the mobile phone network, next entry on the evening of the 19th then!

John



 'Fiddling  Around'. The log of 'Fiddler's Green' and her crew as we attempt a circumnavigation!

Keith and Brian

Phil with Mo, Val and Sister Sue

Phil complete with regulation lifejacket, note hood and scarf too! It was chilly!

The new cockpit mounted plotter as we pass Pye End

Approaching Harwich, the cranes of Felixstowe. The genoa only sail up all day!

This is when the sun decided to make an appearance too...

Fiddler's Green alongside Halfpenny Pier.

Caught in the chip shop!

Harwich old lighthouse.

19th May 2013

Last night most of the crew and their families came along to Bradwell to meet us,  deposit sleeping bags  etc. then have a meal with us in the marina bar. 

There were a few nice pressies too, including a ball of string  from sister Sue, in case I got lost!  (also nice bottle of rum). Coincidence then that Mike and Anita from the bar presented me with a surprise gift, and it turned out to be a bottle of 'Shrub' my favourite Cornish drink to go with the rum!  Real nice touch.

There were sprinkles all over the tables and good luck cards every where, thank you to all.  The postman brought me one from the crew of 'Bonita' too!.  Karen presented me with a hamper of especially selected goodies, all my favourites too, lovely girl! We bade farewell to wives and family and sorted ourselves out on board for an early start.   A tap on the cabin top a little later and John of 'Misty Blue' dropped by to shake my hand and wish us well, he had just heard what we were attempting! Nice.

So off to bed. early start tomorrow, after we had tested the new showers!

We are off!  0705 this morning Phil and I left Bradwell and mooring lines let go and given to surprise shore side crew, Darian and neighbouring boat owner Brian.  So very nice of them to turn out at that time, to see us off!

We motored out into a rather grey morning with a gentle northerly blowing.

Sadly the breeze stays northerly and on the nose all morning, so we motored for 30 miles, only managing to get the genoa unrolled as we passed the Stone banks buoy off Walton.  We booked on and off to the Thames Coastguard and were wished a safe trip!

As we listened to the 1310 forecast it became apparent that we will probably not be heading north  tomorrow. Forecast is for N 4/5 not good, but add to that dense FOG.  A No No!

We will listen again later.

We have moored at  Halfpenny Pier, just inside Harwich, and as we came along side a former colleague and friend just happened to be making for the same berth in a large motor boat.  We dropped alongside him and when they left a little while later, moored alongside.

We had lunch then walked up into old Harwich town, very quaint, full of history.

Returning to the boat we were able to shift it along the pontoon slightly, in case another boat wanted to berth inside in front of us (there was a dinghy behind us earlier).

I then set to and get the phone to talk to the laptop again, it was a little reluctant at first, but if you are reading this I won!

Opened the fiddlers.green mail to find 4 mails from friends and well wishers. So that is working too. I will now try to down load a few pics from the camera to add to the page.....

OK, spent a little while editing and saving pictures and hope they will load!

John and Phil

Monday 20th May

A non day!  This morning was misty and dull, this afternoon cold, windy and dull

The sun came out for 10 minutes, just before sunset!

We are berthed inside Halfpenny Pier still and in the next berth is the huge and impressive Trinity house vessel, 'Galatea'.  We take her lead at sunset and drop the ensign seconds after her!

We have spent the day tidying and sorting, trying to find better weather, (none found on our EBay page, we did look!). Looks as if the first weather window will be Wednesday, for the long haul up to Lowestoft.  The coast here is a not hospitable, with the entrances of the Deben, Ore and Blyth all tricky. If leaving Harwich and taking the ebb north all would be untenable. So the weather has to be good enough, and F3 Northerly will do.. We will see!

We may well move from here to Leavington for Tuesday night, so we can fuel and replace the gas bottle that ran out whilst dinner was trying to cook!

At the moment it is blowing F6 and Northerly, fortunately blowing us away from the pier as the waves are smacking into the other side and then when they pass us, bouncing off the wall inshore of us and coming back to get us!  Will be rocked to sleep tonight!

Speaking to the pier master today when he came for his £10, he told us that 2 boats from his club did the same trip as we are attempting and motored all the way to Scotland in head winds, only to get westerlies on the nose as they went west towards, and through the Caledonian canal!  Cannot be doing with that.

Phil is of the opinion that May is too soon to start and we should start in August!

Fingers crossed!

John

FG berthed in Leavington

Looks like we are passing him a tow rope!

Tuesday 21st May

We were discussing the weather this morning and planning to move to somewhere quieter for a day when there was an almighty bang and the motion altered. Phil was on deck in a trice, I realised I had to put a pair of shoes on first,  as the jetty was sharp open metal weave. The stern line had parted, 19mm thick braided rope in good order, and it was snapped clear through.

We doubled bow and stern lines, cleared the boat up and watched the motion, seemed OK, may have been a tug or ship... 

Phil dragged me screaming to the cafe on the pier for breakfast! We can watch the boat from there...

We met a couple just off the 'Black Watch', just back from a cruise to Russia, they had been basking in 25 degrees there and were complaining bitterly about the 8 degrees here!  Later 3 ladies came in, on the same trip next time out, they had just flown in from South Africa.  Where's the summer they asked, 'Russia', we said!

Returning to the boat we sorted out and  made ready for the off, 3 Belgian boats came in and berthed in smart order, they had been here before. We singled up and left to allow a 4th boat in.

In half an hour we had crossed the first county boundary and were now in Suffolk, by 1320 we were berthed in Leavington, had topped up the fuel cans and bought the replacement gas. Berthing £20.00 a night here.

We were welcomed by the harbourmaster who has a Classic Buchanan, a Viking Class!  A couple of hours later he is attending lines on the lifeboat just astern of us and says he has already read our log!

We have had a mail from digital yacht with the diagram of the fix for the AIS, just need a 100 nano farad capacitor.  The local electronics engineers understand but they have no bits, so we will wait till we find a Maplin or the free part gets to Brian, the next legs crew, and he can bring it to me.

Phil sorts the stern gland greaser and tops up the tank, now we are off to the Lightship for a meal.

Tomorrow we sail at 0730 and hope to make Lowestoft by 1700.

The wind is still northerly but lessening. However Thursday and Friday there are gale warnings! 

We are going for it.

John  and  Phil

early morning sail down from Leavington, the sun soon went in!

The log is streamed as we leave Harwich

Orfordness

The northern limit of the Thames Estuary.

Wednesday 22nd May.

We left the hospitality of Leavington at 0730 and set sail in a northerly for Harwich entrance. We fought the tide for the first 2 hours rounding outside the red cans and skirting the shipping channel till the recommended crossing place, or close to it. We haul sheets and find to our amazement we can just sail it, well we motor sail, as going to windward would be slow, but with the motor assist we are soon off at 6 knots. The forecast has altered slightly and there is a F4 Northerly.

Soon my chart reads, 'here there be serpents' as I have never sailed further north than the Deben! Always gone south, west or east! We 'boldly go', sailing into the unknown! 

Off Orford Haven there are more lobster pots than you can shake a stick at, a real slalom!

No other boats about again, just the occasional fisherman.

At 11.15 we leave the Thames Estuary at Orfordness, a bleak place!  The streamed log reads a steady 6 knots as we tick off the landmarks, Sizewell power station, Southwold harbour and pier, and then the wind turbine at Lowestoft. The wind pipes up for a while and reefs are set, we are harnessed on all the time. Then the wind goes slightly more westerly, enabling us to sail still as  we round the coast and make a more northerly course.

We enter Lowestoft at 1515 and  hour and a half ahead of my estimate, because we could motorsail, not just plug into it under motor. I book off to Humber Coast Guard, we have moved north a station.

We have berthed in the small Royal Norfolk and Suffolk Y.C. just inside the harbour. Note: you must call the Lowestoft harbour master for permission to enter, and to leave, to and from the marina, as the entrance when leaving is a blind exit.. The H.M. very friendly and chatty, as are the CG.  They have the info that we are trying to go all round (from Thames) and are encouraging!

The Y.C. seems a little up market for us breakfast at £9.00! Will  give it a miss, but they are friendly  enough, 2 nights (as the weather is forecast to be bad), approx £37.00.

Top  up the tank, we have motor/sailed for 8 hours and used 10 litres or 2 gallons. We will refuel cans here.

Eat onboard tonight, starter a mushroom soup, followed by chicken in white wine  sauce with rice and vegetables, desert was rice pudding and apricot jam. (Thanks Karen!). No slumming it on here!

We hear snow is forecast tonight and it is so cold we have lit the catalytic heater. Phil has retired to his bunk to roast!

We intend checking a few things over tomorrow and if the snow is not too deep, walk into town. Still looking for a 100 nano farad capacitor to make the new Plotter work with AIS, but Brian called to say he will also look for one and bring it along with the one Digital Yacht have so kindly offered to send from the States.

Editing a few pics now to add, and hopefully upload.

John and Phil

GH 31 'Felicitus'

On its way from the Humber to Ramsgate, then on to France

FG and Felicitus in Lowestoft.

A musical fountain on the prom next to the harbour, the music was Benjamin Britten's and in celebration of him.

Two stowaways!

One of the rig supply ships passing the marina as it goes to sea. The crew wave as they pass.

Thursday 23rd May 2013

Listen to the sound of hail on deck during the night and awake to a 1/4 inch layer of ice on deck!

In the squalls the wind howls.  We open the hatch to find a Golden Hind moored astern of us!  There is no name on her but speaking to her crew and owners (Believe name Peter and partner, sorry miss never got your name, plus crew.). They are bound across the Estuary for Ramsgate, with the wind on their backs they should make good time, but a F4/5 with the threat of F7 occ 8 later we stay put! A name board, freshly varnished, appears, 'Feliciatas'. Think the sail number was 167, but gave them a flyer and hopefully they will enrol, Peter says he has already found our site!

We shower and use the facilities, cold dribbly shower!  Won't use that cubicle again! We fill a couple of cans with diesel. Phil has already attended to the stern tube greaser, it is sprung loaded and need refilling every 10 hours motoring.

We walk into town and of course, as soon as we step out, the hail comes down again, wild, cold weather! Lowestoft is so similar to many run down town centres, mobile phone shops and charity shops, but we are surprised to find small businesses flourishing, so not all bad. We dismiss the MacDonald's and Wimpy and find 'Poppies' in a side road, what a find! We decide to have lunch there and a snack on board tonight.

We wander round the shops and then back on board. Me clutching a rare LP I found in the record shop. Hank Marvin solo!  Stowed safely under quarter bunk!

When we get back on board we find we have two stowaways! They have secreted themselves into a corner of the chart table, hoping not to be noticed! We get them to sign 'articles' and become part of the merry crew!

 I opt to  walk out to Maplin on the outskirts of town, a long cold walk in the wind and hail, takes 40 minutes, when I get there they have not got the part, and offer an alternative, it was only £0.40p so I bought it, but Brian, the next crew texts to say he now has 3, 2 he bought and another from Digital yacht.  That is good service! My feet complain that I should have had my sandals on not the new sail shoes, but it was far too cold for sandals! Will have blisters to pay for it.

Phil then opts to go for a walk, to see the prom.  I start to do a few jobs aboard.  The 'X alt' charge booster was not boosting yesterday and I called the firm, they advised a simple  procedure and it worked, I also checked the oil and tightened the fan belt. Water OK, no leaks and all fine!  Run the motor up and all the charging system checks OK.

Phil returns laden with goodies, rolls and milk and some onions so he is going to do chicken kiev's in buns for dinner!  Thought we had dinner lunchtime?. Will have to do more walking!

Several ships slowly pass and the pilot and lifeboat are on the go as well, busy little place. On my walk earlier today I saw loads of ships in  Lake Lothing, rig supply vessels. There is also a heliport nearby and little red choppers buzz in and out.

It is evening now and the wind has slackened off, but there was still a strong wind warning. The hatches are now closed again, only to be opened for  the onions to be fried, but the cold has come back. There is the chance of more squally hail showers tonight. Pleased to say though that the new sleeping bag Keith got me and the silk inners (all the way from Hanoi!!!)  are keeping me warm, though I did use the fluffy over blanket last night!  (I was told to chuck all the blankets off to save space, pleased I didn't and so is Phil, who used the one I hid up the sharp end!).

We will look at the weather later, but really do not expect to move till Saturday when the wind may change to be more favourable!  As we are heading North West the current NW 4s plus are no good to us.

We are going to batten hatches now and get an early night, after we have done justice to the chicken in a bun just served up.

John and Phil

Awake to fine Alan Stacey's boat 'Stella Marie' astern.

Alan and crew move Stella to a berth and leave her till the weather improves.

Friday 24th May 2013

Another very cold day, with heavy rain this morning. The wind changed direction, but there was still a strong wind warning out, so we stayed put and it has been so cold we are pleased we did, 4 degrees this morning.

We wake to find 'Stella Marie', Alan Stacey's beautiful Storm Class boat astern of us.

He had been waiting for us but saw the forecast and decided to go into the Broads instead!  Having seen the forecast for the next few days, he decided to leave her here and come back in a weeks time, when the weather should have improved.

Lunchtime we braved the elements to walk to the pier just south of the harbour, the NE wind was bitter so we soon left the prom and took to the back streets, here we found 'Howards', in London Road South, not far from the Coop. With real table cloths and real flowers in the vases and a really extensive and well priced menu. I opted for a Full English, all day breakfast, Phil had a Lamb Shank, both were  delicious! Well done Howard!

We had a few items on our shopping list and stumbled on a 99p store, a big one near the bridge, a lot closer than walking into town to the Tesco. We got all we needed and more, at 99p a time!

We run back to the boat as it was now really cold. Heater on and relax. Plot courses for tomorrow and enter a few waypoints into the old GPS.

Generally tidy up before an egg sandwich for supper! The wind is still howling in the rigging. We are bouncing slightly with a swell from the Easterly to North Easterly blowing, we can see the waves going past the entrance to this basin. End up putting all 6 fenders one side. Adjust lines, but looks as if we will be bounced tonight.

55mile trip tomorrow, 0900 start, to fight the tide for an hour or so then ride it as far as we can towards Wells next the Sea.

Will add pics tomorrow I hope.

John and Phil

The large wind turbine at Lowestoft is a good land mark, however disconcerting when it remains clearly in sight for hours!

Likewise the wind farm off Great Yarmouth!

It got so rough 'Salty' went walkies! He stayed there for some time! Said it was safer!

Saturday May 25th 2013

What happened to our promised light southerlies!!!!

Very brief, will write up on Sunday.

Left Lowestoft 0900, arrived Wells next the Sea 2130. Long day and eventful, but we are in and safe. Feasted from French's award winning fish and chip shop on the quay....now to bed...

John and Phil

Post Script.

We set off Saturday  0900 from Lowestoft with the promise of light head winds, so were ready to motor. What we were not ready for was the immense swell that has set in, waves 2 to 3 metres high and close together, not from the north, where we were heading, but from the blows of the past few days, NE. Punching the tide for 2 hours we made little progress and it was touch and go for turning back.  With my ever optimistic view I opted to continue, could not stand hanging about any longer. The tide picked up and were off at 8 knots, trouble is the boat nosed dived into that many deep and steep waves, with green water washing over the decks, the cabin top and then the spray hood as well,  it was, unbeknown to us, getting aboard via the vent on the foredeck and the chain pipe.

We did not realise this till much later.

We pressed on at 2500 revs but has to increase this to 3000 to make real progress.

I had often wondered how far we could go on a full tank, at full throttle, we found out, 11 hours, as we ran out of fuel  a mile past Blackeney fairway buoy.  We were now sailing west along the north Norfolk coast and the genoa could just catch the breeze and with it we held course and hurriedly put 15 litres of fuel into the tank. As it was so rough I was worried that a roller would climb aboard whilst the filler cap was off, putting sea water in the tank, totally scuppering us.

Next problem was restarting the Beta. I jiggled the hand primer and gunned the starter, after a few false starts she burst back into life and we pressed on. The tidal set across the entrance, of approx 3 knots did not help.

We managed and contacted the Wells Harbour Master who assured us we were safe to enter even though it was now nearly 3 hours after HW and the place draining fast. The swells crashed over the bar beside us and we surfed down waves, slewing wildly as they grabbed us, however after 5 minutes excitement we were into calmer water. Next problem was the fading light and spotting the diminutive red cans. Was fun.  The channel is marked with medium sized visible red cans, but as it corkscrews in and you could easily miss the channel with all the turns, they have added several small red cans between the larger ones, but at about the size of a tin of beans and in fading light, they were nigh on impossible to spot till you were on them!

We berthed at the pontoon at 2130, a passage of 12 hours 30 minutes, 55 miles.

We just managed to get to the chip shop 'French's' in time for our suppers.

I opened my mail to find one from the boat moored ahead of us, Vincent Saunders, an Eventider on passage in a Colvic 26, 'Glayva'!  Sadly we had all turned in before I realised. Hope you had a good passage Vincent.

Mike the assistant harbourmaster was brilliant. We turned in exhausted.  I do not think I have ever been out in conditions as rough, even when working on the rescue boats on the river! Add to that the excitement of the fuel saga!!  Phil was excellent as crew, anticipating me and as I reached for the can or the cloth, it was placed in my hand!  We  got in but were cold and tired.

That's why we opted for a day off Sunday.

John and Phil

 

Fiddler's alongside at Wells next the Sea.

Advert for Talland.

Sunday 26th May 2013.

We rise at 0700 as the H.M. has informed us he has to shift us and swing our boat to face the flood, as is the practice here. We take full advantage of the excellent showers and I even gather all my washing, and a bit of Phil's and use the washer and dryer. For the first time this trip the sun shines and the wind drops, Wells comes alive with hundreds of children crabbing, many hundreds of beach lovers walking to the beach and dozens of bikers here too, for a day at the seaside!

Peter Harold of 'Little Gull' came along to see us, he berths her in the creek. Just came along to say hello!

It was about now we realised the carpets were wet.  I stepped on the carpeted floor in my bare feet...  cold and wet....!!! Lifting the floor we find the bilge full of salt water. Did not take too long to figure out why, the bows were well underwater often enough and water had got in the dorade vent and the hawse pipe...  so forward lockers were emptied and contents dried, if water had got to them. Fortunately most gear was in sealed bags, but enough got wet, including the carpets, to make us look like a mobile laundry!

At this stage a Seagull customer, Mike popped by, realising FG was my boat. He just happened to be here by chance!

We left all drying and went for a walk into town, braving the day trippers.  The most popular item, apart from the crabbing buckets, are realistic 'Pirates of the Caribbean' hats, complete with dreadlocks.  There are dozens of wannabe Johnny Depps in town!  We find a great cafe, the 'Mermaids purse' where we had a great lunch, filled rolls, tea and coffee and cake!

Also find a Chandlery to buy more stern tube grease, as we appear to be doing a lot of motoring and it needs repacking every 10 hours. 

See an advert for the Eventide 'Talland' in the chandlery Window. Wonder how old the advert is.

Return to find all my washing has dried nicely The HM fills our  3 x 10 litre diesel cans and we set too and clean the salt off the boat and fill the water tank.

I sort out the tides and tidal streams for tomorrow, a 45 mile trip to the Humber, to anchor inside Spurn Head, before pushing on to Scarborough.

I note a few suitable waypoints down and will plot them later.

A calm and pleasant evening, several boats here will be off at about HW, including us, all hoping for southerlies to the Humber.

Will be a first!

John and Phil.

 

Wells lifeboat on display for all the Bank holiday visitors.

Charisma sailing well, caught us up at the mouth of the Humber

 

The skipper smiling as we sail along with 6 knots on the trailing log, not many days like this so far!

The picture above was taken by the crew of the Sadler 'Charisma' and published on the Humber Mouth Y.,C. site.

We are entering the Humber and the wind is not 5 to 6 thus the reefs!

Monday 27th May

Brief note to say the anchor is in Yorkshire clay! We ran another 50 miles today, total now at 190 miles just over 1/10th the distance in 10 days. Have to be up early for 50 mile run to Scarborough, weather permitting and as  we had anchored in  a rolling anchorage at Spurn Head, not easy to type. More mistakes than words!  Will come back after tomorrow run, when I hope we will be in a calm harbour!

John and Phil

Post Script...

We left sunny Wells at HW, others left an hour earlier, were caught up very quickly.  There was a little fun as all the boats left from inside of others.

Once out of the tortuous channel, we set sail!  Motor off....A first for us this trip! The wind was not southerly as promised, but westerlies!  And a fair decent F4 too.

We soon catch up with the Sadler 'Charisma' and the Red Fox 'Foxglove', also a Leisure 23 sorry did not catch her name.   think they were a little surprised to be overhauled by an old wooden boat!!  We sail closely together across the wash till they peel off to pass closer to the new wind farm. We catch a lift from the tide and soon they are a mile behind.  'Charisma' takes the challenge and catches us up at the entrance of the Humber! By then we have put 2 reefs in the main and rolled the genoa, as the wind was top end of F5 gusting 6! They hang on to full sails and scream along!  Apparently our pics will be on the Humber mouth Y.C. website soon!  (they were and I have saved one and added it to today's pics!)

It was the best day yet,  50 miles, most by sail. Entering the Humber was tricky, not just because we wanted to cross the heavy traffic to anchor inside Spurn Head, but because the strengthening wind was making rolling surf and steering was interesting to say the least. There is also a live firing range here.  Fortunately for us, no firing today, or we would have had to take a long detour round it....

After dodging several ships we powered across the separation zone northern limit, just outside it, to Spurn Head. The Lifeboat crews live here and there is a busy pilot boat service. We anchor near the two disused lighthouses in 6 metres of water with the Humber VTS giving a tide height of 5 metres, useful.  We are rocked as the wind is a strong SW and blowing into the anchorage, but true to the forecast in an hour or so the wind went to southerly then SE.  However it was still rocky, so typing was out of the question last night, spent more time correcting it!

Set the auto anchor light and hoist the anchor ball and turn in.  The night is calm after the wind shifts, just the occasional wash to rock us.

Before turning in I wrote those few words earlier and worked out the tidal sets and HW times for the trip.  Listening to the dropping wind and reading the latest forecasts, from the Met, wind guru and other apps I use, I was confident we could tick of another few miles....

John and Phil.

 

we anchor off the 2 disused lighthouses, good landmarks to check the anchor against.

In Hull Marina right next to the black painted hull of the Spurn Lightfloat/Lightship.

Wonder if it was black when on station, odd choice of colour.

Tuesday 28th May 2013.

Awake early 0600, only to find ourselves in FOG!  Disconsolate I looked at the forecasts again, the Southerlies has turned into F6 Easterlies! This often brings fog on the east coast....  Harbours on the East coast are also dangerous in this strong onshore wind, so if we went we may have had to come 50 miles back again!.  Seems that progress is slower than ever!  Up till last night we had ticked off 190 miles and that equates to 1/10 of the distance in 10 days, not good but with a few good days still do-able. With every lost day our chances of completing the trip in 90 days looks remoter.

Instead we opt to sail up to Hull.  A 20 mile trip, but a worthy of a visit. We tidy up and check stern tube and engine, oil and fan belt, top up water with an egg cup full of water.  I contacted Driftgate 2000 about the 'Alt X' alternator controller and together we checked all the possibilities to figure out  why it was not cutting in to boost charge. All checked out OK, so it looks as if a battery being old and not getting to full voltage may be the problem. Will check further, but it is not a problem, as today all went well with charging,  Roy at Driftgate taught me how to trick it into working, so the meter beside me reads 90% full, that will do as we have been using electrics for a few hours now, computer and lights, radio and chargers all on!

I am pleased with the WiFi hotspot created by the new phone, wonderful technology. Also have been able to contact Darian any time I have wanted.

I digress. We sailed and had the motor ticking over at 1500 revs just to check the charging. We arrived at Hull Marina about 15 minutes early and as advised called them. No response.  So I phoned, got a recorded message.. called mobile number, turned off.  Hmmm. As the river had been virtually empty all day, lets face it what fools would be out in the cold and wind.....  I wondered if they had gone home!  A little later Martin, the evening shift lockkeeper came on channel 80 to apologise, apparently the day shift had clocked off early!  We spotted a waiting pontoon inside the outer drying basin, so I edged in, got alongside with 1 Metre under us. We waited for the lock to open. Martin shepherded us into the lock and looked after us. Good man. 

It is  1830 3 hours before HW.  We secure on the visitors pontoon and walk into Hull, it is closed! Looks a clean and tidy City, but we did hope for a fast food outlet, fish and chips or something, but no.

We returned to Fiddler's Green and put the oven on!  An hour later dinner was served. Time to write this up and add the pics for 2 days, hope they come out, I have had some problems getting the editing program to work, for some reason the pics are not going into the correct folders, so the links don't work to open them, so I am having to come back and do it manually..  slow, but I get there!

Thanks for the mails everyone, apologies for slow response, but time is restricted and often other matters pressing. One friend rang yesterday as we were reefing and today as I was hanging on the stern line in a lock, so not always easy to answer the phone! But great to hear from you and pleased so many keeping an eye on us!

I expect to be in Hull for a few days, as the forecast is not good, so using the time to change crew. Brian will be swapping with Phil.  Hope Hull is open tomorrow, we will explore...

Off to sort the pictures now.

John and Phil

Hull Maritime Museum and gardens

The pub where they sell Blonde Bombshell!

Church next to pub reflected in building opposite.

Wednesday 29th May 2013

Not a lot to write today.

Hull City Centre is clean tidy and the natives friendly, but there is a dearth of useful shops, could not even buy a pint of milk today. However had great fish and chips, (Haddock) in real ale pub opposite the Argos store. Will have to go back to get name of pub!  Good excuse... Real ale tasted was called 'Blonde Bombshell' the picture on the pump of the blonde reminded me on my Darian!  Will have to see if they have any coasters!

It has been raining on and off all day, foggy on the water. We had to shift berths, as there is a powerboat rally this weekend, racing jobs. We fortunately chose a lull to move the boat. Tent now up and its dryer out in the cockpit, but the cold and damp getting to us. At least the showers are warm..

Have free electric here, so rigged the battery charger up on the shore lead and can trickle charge, certainly not going to get the solar cell to work with the weather as it is!

Had a few mails in, Vincent who was delivering the  boat we saw at Wells, a GRP Colvic, had an interesting trip though, suffered a major motor problem and with the foul tide was making no progress, apparently the new owners were on board and were so ill they had to be taken off and then with no motor and then no wind Vincent eventually got a tow into Yarmouth. Apparently the RNLI were having a busy day!

Jason with 'Ermintrude' was hoping to meet us on the Humber, but his boat got damaged when some one ran into the stern, so he has to get her repaired before venturing out!

The rain is pelting down now, hammering on cabin top....just gone 2300 and time for me to turn in and listen to it!

Apparently rain for next 24 hours!

Crew changeover all sorted for Friday and sunshine ordered!

John and Phil

 

Spurn Light Float

The hand operated windlass!

Spurn's bell

No entry to the heads.

On the River Hull off a back street the trawler Artic Sirius, the last 'Side trawler'.

Interesting name and it turns out to be the earliest named streets in the country!

Thursday 30th May.

Still damp, drizzle persists after overnight rain stops, everything feels damp! We decide to have a look at the exhibitions and museums.  First stop is the Spurn light vessel moored in the marina but accessed from the street, and it's free, as it turns out so are all the museums!  I would not have liked to have manned it, outside the Humber, in rough conditions it would have been a nightmare.

A couple of coal stoves  were the only heat too!

We walked to the River Hull and the museum quarter. Walked round a few exhibits, but sadly the Hull trawler, 'Arctic Sirius' was not open today. We had a very pleasant cafe lunch in an ideally located eating house in the museum area. There were pubs, small quaint ones, up every tiny street, often 4 in sight of one another.

Incidentally the good pub opposite Argos that we ate in  yesterday is the 'Old Corn Exchange'. No beer mats available!

We wandered across the city looking for a pint of milk and to reconnoitre the railway station. No milk till the shop on the platform, but later find a closer shop,  M & S and the milk and other items all available, cheaper!

Hull City is a clean smart place with little litter and friendly people, sad thing is there is little work locally these days though.

In the evening on recommendation from a few people, we visit the  'Minerva Inn'. Excellent home cooked meals and friendly chatty people, chef spends half an hour with us before he goes home, ex merchant navy.

We go out on the river wall and watch a tug extract a ship from a berth just up from the marina, just like old times. Misty, cannot see the other side a mile away. Damp and dismal still.

Back to the boat and cannot get the heater to work as it is so cold the gas will not come through! Sleeping bags beckon!  Butane gas bottles are normally fine for boat use, but propane may be the answer if it is to be as cold as this in future summers!

John and Phil.

Friday 31st May

No pictures today. We have been busy soaking up the sun and changing crew! Brian arrived and Phil has left. Walked back and forth to the railway station twice! The sun has actually been hot today, the first time in 2 weeks!  I leave Brian on board to acclimatise, whilst I walk back with Phil to see him off. Later walk Brian around the marina, show him the facilities and whilst we are doing it fill the fuel cans. Afterwards we wander off to the Real Ale Festival and sample a few before dinner.   I opt for a 'Nelson' and we sit watching the tide rush out.  We opt for an early dinner and again I get to visit the 'Minerva'. I have a great gammon, Brian opts for the steak pie. Washed down with a pint of excellent real ale.

We wander back to the boat at 2000hrs!  and sort bedding and lifejackets etc.

Plan is to stay till Sunday, then drop down to Spurn for Monday, when the winds are due to go southerly and light,  so looking good for a passage north..

Tomorrow I am on a mission. I lost my father when I was 6 and have only vague, happy memories of him.  Some years ago  my mother heard a chap speaking on the TV and said how much it sounded like my father. I was amazed, it sounded like a friend of mine.  David Hunter. The accent was Humberside, friend Dave was from South Ferriby, I had always warmed to his accent!  Never knew why... Then of course I realised this was the next town to where my father was raised, in the National Children's Home at Barton on Humber.  So tomorrow I am going to use my newly acquired bus pass to make a trip to Barton on Humber, to hear the local voices and visit  'Providence House' the former children's home, now Barton's library!

The weather will still be northerlies,  so not losing sailing days.

Just as I was writing this I had a message from friends in Filey, so hope to look them up as well, maybe in Scarborough.

All for now,

John and Brian.

'The Humber Fast Cat' Bus

The building that was the National Children's Home

The plaque that explained a little of the buildings past.

The elegant Humber Bridge from the bus!

Crossing the Humber

Saturday 1st June 2013

Last day in Hull I hope, a very pleasant place, but the weather has changed a high pressure area has moved over us and the northerlies have at least died down and the fog risk has receded.

The winds will still be northerly but very light so hoping to be able to at least motor. Sunday we intend to leave at 1400, the top of the tide and go down to Spurn Head. The light northerlies may help. We will anchor there and leave at 0500 Monday for Scarborough. The wind could be from any direction it seems, but possibly northerly, but light...

Today We took a bus, (using my new bus pass for the fist time), to Barton on Humber and I found the building where my father lived till he was 14. Then the National Children's home. Today it is the Library, but in the intervening years it was a school and I met one chap who went there to school, as we asked for directions in town. Still called 'Providence House' it was an imposing square building and I guess the trees round it were there in 1925 to 1937 when my father was there. I never got inside, as the library closed at 1pm on a Saturday, but never mind, it was good to be there.

We returned to Hull on the 350 bus  called  'The Humber Fast Cat' for some reason,  with a large ginger cat as its logo!  We crossed the Humber Bridge as well of course.

I took Brian to the 'Old Corn Exchange' for a sandwich and pint of 'Blonde Bombshell'. After which we visited the large maritime museum to see glimpses of Hulls past.

A trip to M&S and a few provisions then back aboard. We were asked to shift berths as one of the regulars was worried he could not get out easily in the morn.  He was in a large twin engined motor cruiser...  Any of my former colleagues could have got it in and out sideways.. there is definitely a call for some sort of proficiency test for these big boat boys!  We happily hopped berths for the guy.  I fitted the electronic gismo Brian brought with him sent from Digital yacht.  The tiniest capacitor, but moments later the AIS was working on the new plotter, clever!

Then I put the oven on for jacketing potatoes.

Early night tonight to get us used to an early rise, as we have a very early start Monday.

Hoping to get a few miles under the keel next week. The extra day has helped Brian find his way around the boat.

John and Brian

 

The new plotter showing a ship approaching from astern. Bells ring and warning came up too.

And here comes the ship!

Sunday 2nd June 2013.

The day starts well with sunshine, let's hope. We tidy ship, fill water tanks and sort all loose gear away. We are showered and fed and we wait to lock out, call the lock keeper and instantly we are ushered into the lock. The enforced stay in Hull has been a pleasant one and I can recommend the marina. We found everyone helpful and friendly, in the marina and around the city. Showers are good and the changing rooms warm!

We have lunch before calling the lock keeper.

1400 and high water and we lock out into the river. Seems half of Hull were there to wave us off! (actually there to see the powerboat race).

The wind, of course is right on the nose, so we putter off at 2000 revs and 4 knots.

The tide soon boosts that to 7kts! As we are swept down river in sunshine and with smooth water, a first on both counts, we see the AIS on the new plotter is working magically. The tiny capacitor has worked and soon we get alarm bells ringing and warnings on the screen as ships are found underway, far better than the Sea Clear or Sea Pro plotter programs.

We take three and a half hours to travel the 20 miles to Spurn Head, anchoring in 3 metres, just up from the Pilot station and Lifeboat.

Checking the fuel, we have only used 5 litres, that is good. We rig the anchor light and Brian sets too with dinner, Jacket potatoes again.

The wind is dropping and it is calm. Forecast looks good for a 10 hour motor to Scarborough tomorrow. What wind there is will be so light and variable as not to be much help I feel. We will see. We must set off at 0500, so an early night.

Will load pictures tomorrow!

John and Brian.

 

 

Motoring in the sunshine can be so taxing!

Monday 3rd June 2013.

We set off at 0500, so up at 0400 and in the cold light of dawn raise anchor and motor out past the lifeboat and pilot station.

We have to pass very close to Spurn Head to stay out of the shipping channel, and as the tide was ripping out were very aware that we must not touch, but the water is deep, 14m less than 100 yards off. Amazed to find a young deer on the very end of Spurn, on the beach! Deer was surprised to see us too! Call into the Coastguard.

We steer out of the Humber careful to avoid the area of turbulence, the Binks, just outside and inshore, which at half ebb was extreme! There are five ships close by.... busy place.

Cold, but a clear sky and the sun is struggling to warm us, but we are still cold. The wind today is supposed to be southerly or variable less than 5 mph. and so it is.

We motor north at 2k revs and 5 knots and the tide gives us another 1.5 knots boost.

It is a glassy calm at times, but with a 1 metre high but  long swell. Frequently have to change course to avoid pot buoys. Loads of them all day! Anywhere a small boat can be launched of a beach, there are pots.

I enter the waypoint for Flamborough Head, and arrange to pass 2 miles off, and it is 29 miles away, 6 hours! I go out on deck to see if I can see anything and to my alarm the horizon is blotted out ..... haze, low cloud... no  FOG!!!   As there is no point in trying to turn back against the tide we motor on in hope that the sun will burn it off, and as it happens, when we are much further on, it evaporates, Phew!

We do not have radar, something that small boats like mine rarely do have, and from what I have seen, those who do have it find either they end up staring into a screen, bemused or they have no real idea how it works and leave it off!  I have found though that the plotter I bought, the Lowrance, can have the option of a new type of radar added to it, at a price!  This radar is so different it emits radio waves smaller in power that our phones?  Clever.  Something to add to the next wish list?

As you can see from the photo of the crew, it can get very boring motoring for 10 hours! Seals surface around us occasionally.  At least the sun was now enough to warm us!  Note, no oilskins!

Off Flamborough we stop the motor and unroll the Genoa, not to really sail, as the 5 knot southerly only gives us just over a knot of speed, but to enable me to check the fuel tank and top up. It takes just 10 litres. Not going to run out as we approach a harbour again!. Re start motor and leave genoa out as we are making enough breeze to fill and it stops us rolling. Just then a dolphin surfaces 200 yards off and heading the other way, I try to get it on the video, black fuzzy dot on horizon.

Even 2 miles off, the Cliffs at Flamborough are impressive, white and  over 130 metres high. We alter course to pass Filey Brig and our friends house, I call to say hello and next we know we have a taxi, dinner, baths and my washing organised. Thanks Judy and Charlie, good friends!

As the tide turns our speed drops of course so I increase the revs to 2500 and top speed to 6 knots on the Stowe Log, (thanks Tim!). We now know the motor will be using 2.5 -3 litres an hour at this speed.

At 1515 we are in sight of Scarborough harbour and I call and arrange a berth, ropes and fenders sorted and I embarrassingly drop one of my green fenders overboard. Quick about turn and retrieve it!  I blame the swell! Butter fingers as well! As we are turning a harbour porpoise swims past going south! No chance to get that one on the video, far too busy!

1600 and we are in and booked off to CG. Sadly the over enthusiastic berthing man pulls our bow in sharply and holds us against the timberwork with no fending off or fender so the paint gets scratched! Must be an ex fisherman!   First time in 23 years F.G. suffers this way, bit annoying, but not the end of the world.   By 1700 Charlie has picked us up and we are on our way to Filey.

We are dropped back aboard at 2300. Yorkshire seems to go to bed early, not hardly a car on the road this time of night and no one on the streets!

Forecast is for F4/5 occ 6 with fog tomorrow, so we are staying put for a day.

John and Brian.

Fiddler's basking in Yorkshire sunshine.

Plaque on the wall explaining the butter cross

the remains of the cross. It is attached to the provisions store and the nice lady explained that anyone rattling the railings round it rattles the whole house!

(Of course we did!)

Fiddler's in the harbour with the castle in the background, the medieval part where the cross is  can be found near the left hand end of the wall and just lower down.

Seen in Scarborough, but missed them they went out.

 

Tuesday 4th June 2013.

Still a chilly wind, but the sun is warm. So are the locals, lots of chat from other boat owners, several recognise F.G. as an M.G. and chat.  F.G. stands out in a crowd, not just because of the design, but the colours.  As M.G.'s biographer said, 'West Mersea park bench green and cream'!

Cannot find the berthing man to pay, (he is called the 'lighthouse keeper' as his office is in the lighthouse tower.).

We check motor and refuel, put another 3 gallons/15 litres in the tank to top  it up. Off to chandlers for diesel!?  Only place fuel available...  As it is not open we sit at pavement cafe in the sun to watch the world go by for 20 minutes. When we go back he is still not open, so we go for long walk, carrying the cans, up into town, we must have looked odd.

No provisions available anywhere! Still no lighthouse keeper!

We call back in at chandlers and get fuel, and carry it back to boat. Back to cafe for lunch. Still no sign of our man. Another chap stops us to ask about the boat, a local and I find out where the local provisions store was hidden, in the nearby medieval part of town, just under the castle ruins!   Outside the shop is an odd looking stone pillar, I enquire.  Turns out it is the sole surviving 'Butter cross' in the UK  marking a medieval market.  Real history just off the beaten track....  store is a real treasure trove, I suggest the lady gets some fliers down to the harbourmaster to boost her trade as visiting boats will certainly use this shop, if they knew it was there!

On our return I stow the stores and find the harbour master/lighthouse keeper. Pay our dues £21.00 a night here. Are shown the showers, a tiny dingy cubicle under the lighthouse.... have to pay £1.00 for 15 mins!! May be sampling them tonight as I have done the paper work and we will be away early.  (As it turns out we forgo the delights of the dingy showers!)

Back to boat and write up the log, must not let this slide, too much happening so it may get difficult to catch up!

Plan for just a 15 mile or so hop up the coast to Whitby tomorrow, Fog  permitting!

Aim to leave at LW, 0800, we are informed we are OK as there is a dredged channel, and hopefully take just 4 hours tops to get there. The lighthouse keeper here speaks to Whitby and arranges for us to lie on the 'layby' jetty down from the bridge so we can get out at 0800 the next day for Hartlepool and another new county!

We are  constantly stopped and asked about the trip, others are doing it too, but in much larger boats and have all had the same weather problems. 

A Seagull customer rings, for advice that hopefully I am able to give. He asks how the trip is going and it turns out he is also a folk singer from Kent and of course 'Fiddler's Green' is in his repertoire!

Aim to have a walk ashore for a meal this evening..

Just heard the forecast, hope the fog clears by the time we are due to leave....

John and Brian.

 

Pot buoy spotting, misty conditions.

Approaching Whitby

As we enter the replica 'Endeavour' motors out!

Brian putting his washing out! F.G. on the Lay-by Pontoon.

John using the clever electric Colley pump. Transfers fuel easily and safely.

Whitby Lifeboat backs out of the berth just astern of us.

Wednesday 5th June 2013.

The day started badly because at 0800, as we let go at Scarborough, before we had gone 20 yards we hit an underwater obstruction. It was the edge of the concrete work extending from the quay. Turns out the channel out was no more than 17 ft wide, we had to actually rub alongside another boat to have enough water to get out. Brian suggested lifting the boards, but is was only the port bilge keel that struck.  Made a bang though and stopped us dead. Alarmed boats crews nearby were out in a trice but no harm done!

The wind was still northerly, but supposed to be just a 3,  but was a little more. We had just 16 miles to cover, but it took 4 hours.

We had a Puffin surface alongside and indignantly fly off with a whirring of wings and another 2 harbour porpoises swam past, again bet I missed them with the camera..

Problem today was fog and mist. The visibility was never terrific all day and sometimes ahead it was blotted out, so fog horn ready and navigation lights on.

We spot a flight of gannets about to buzz us, but the video camera battery went flat.  There will be more. Had a nice text from Brian and Mavis wishing us well. We have had loads of messages from Seagullers and Eventiders, thanks to all, sorry if answers are brief, but there seems so little time.

Arriving in Whitby we moor on the 'Bridge Lay-by pontoon' normally reserved for the boats using the swing bridge to the marina, but as we want to be away early at half tide, and the bridge only opens 2 hours either side of HW, we got permission to lay here overnight. Not to leave boat unattended though, so we took it in turns, I went up to pay our dues, £10.00 very reasonable, but no facilities... so maybe not, then visited the Capt Cook museum. I learnt about Capt. Cook at primary school, as he married in our local church in Barking, to Elizabeth Bates, a local girl. The School was attached to the church and made much of it. Fascinating museum and a lot of info about the Barking lass!  Not surprisingly, as a lad, Cook was my hero!

We wash on board and I go off to the 'Mr Chips' to buy fish and chips for dinner, steep slippery ladder to negotiate on my return, clutching bag of dinner. Fish nearly escaped back to sea!

The lifeboat, moored next to us goes out on exercise and we get a friendly wave.  The boat men are friendly too. Even the local children say hello politely!  Loads of youngsters in rowing 4's training, good to see.

I sort the tidal streams for tomorrow, weather permitting, we hope to leave at 0700 and make the 6 hour passage to Hartlepool.

John and Brian

Red Cliffs

The tiny port of Staithes

cluster of AIS  targets off the Tees, the black line with the arrow head is our track and the arrow us. the red line with the circle at the end our heading.

targets on the left are working on the  wind farm.

A couple of those ships off our starboard side.

Fully rigged!

Impressive bow with all the trimmings!

John at the helm coming in.

Thursday 6th June 2013

Today we crossed another boundary and entered County Durham.

We left Whitby at 0700, met the fierce swell in the entrance that the pilot book speaks of, a 'standing wave'  and headed south. There was barely a breath of wind but still a huge swell from the north east. We tried to unroll the genoa, but to no avail, it just flapped. So we motored for 5 hours at just over 2000 revs and made 5 knots though glassy calm but with undulating seas. At times it was difficult to move on board they were so big. 2 metres between crest and trough and diagonal to our track. Every now and again a big one came along as well! We rolled! We passed the well named 'Red cliffs' and the tiny harbour of Staithes.

Wherever a small fishing boat can put out, there are pots, often in 40 metres of water too.

Ahead, a huge pall of smoke hangs in the air, Teesside!  Every now and again we could see the new Teesside wind farm, when the sun came out.

The worst thing to happen today was the jamming of the loo pump. Try as I might I could not pump the loo out, so it was out of bounds for 2 hours. Turned out to be too much paper..... thankfully not too messy a job to clear!  Why is it the skipper always has to clear the heads?

The new plotter was working very well with the AIS, so  well that I did not turn the laptop on today, but relied on the readout from the Lowrance. You can see how good it is from the pics. move the cursor over any of the triangular icons and full info on the ships pops up. Those to port of us were working on the wind farm, those to starboard were anchored, the moving ship went to anchor too.

The tides do not flow as fast as we go north, so we only got just over a knot maximum lift, but conversely they set less against you too when they turn. Today we carried 5 hours of tide and 25 miles added to take the total to 321 so far.

We were locked into Hartlepool before mid-day and booked off to the Coastguard.  We had only travelled 25 miles but the accent had changed dramatically,  gone was the Yorkshire and now we were firmly in the land of 'when the booat coomes in'! Again such friendly people!  Sadly though, Hartlepool marina, for all its 500 berths and plentiful eating houses, the showers were naff! Tiles off the walls and very poor dribbly showers in several of the 5 or 6 cubicles. Expected better.

After checking the motor and refuelling, we carry the cans up and fill them, 15 litres. We then come back with the fuel to have lunch made by Brian, Tomato and Mushroom omelette, delicious.  Used a few items that needed eating!   After lunch a walk to 'HMS Trincomalee', berthed nearby, the oldest British warship still afloat, built in 1817 and still largely (60%) original! ( Unlike the 'Victory', which has virtually been rebuilt!)  A fascinating ship.  Well worth a visit!

We dine in one of the many marina side eating houses, the Indian, good meal at cheap rates!

We are planning to leave at 0730 tomorrow, the last time the lock will open as it would be just an hour or so before LW. That should give us 5 hours of favourable tide for the next hop, 30 miles to Blyth. Today we used just 12 litres of fuel, hope it may be less tomorrow if the breeze goes Easterly instead of southerly, F2!

I plot all the courses, check for other ports as bolt holes and enter a few waypoints. We will double check the weather in the morning.

John and Brian

The weather is so nice today Salty creeps out to have a sniff of the air, he does not stay out for long however, content to curl up on the skipper's bunk.

The brightly painted disused light house. with suitable lift could be my retirement home!

In the dining area of the RHYC. a very cosy and friendly club, recommended!

F.G. sitting quietly in Blyth, the windmill in the background slowing to a halt, all calm and peaceful.

Friday 7th June 2013

Awake at 0600 and sorted and in the lock just after 0700. Out into the  entrance channel and away by 0730.

We steer to clear the Heugh, a headland south of the entrance. Bit bouncy, but not as bad as before. Wind is SE so there is a chance we may get some sail up, but motoring along, the wind is slower than us. We unroll the genoa, with difficulty and realise that there is something seriously wrong, it is sticking....  maybe salt in the bearings, it is a real pain to get in and out.

I call the Coastguard to make the daily safety call.

Brian calls to me, 'Nets'! I am up on deck in a flash, just in time to see the 'floats' fly off!  How does the cartoonist Mike Peyton train these gulls to do it, straight lines of gulls and each 6 ft from the next!

We persevere  with the genoa and though it is not driving us is does damp the rolling. At times it is difficult to move aboard for the motion, takes a lot of effort to do anything. NE swell and SE cross swell.

Motoring at 2.2k revs we make 5.5 knots and the lift from the tide gives speeds of 6.5 to 7 knots. over the ground.

The coast here is peppered with windmills, all gently generating. We pass low cliffs and various little villages and towns nestled into the coast. The prominent red and white lighthouse is disused, but a good day mark. Also the large ports of Seaham and the Tyne. Off the Tyne there are ships waiting to enter, all anchored and we alter course to avoid them.  A large yacht sails out of the Tyne and heads south, it must be the Lottery winners we have heard about,  heading back to Ipswich. Lucky them!

It is here we encounter a new style of fishing. A small boat crosses our course, about half a mile ahead, then stops. As we get closer there are the tiny white floats marking a Salmon net, laid just a few minutes earlier right in our path!  He must have seen us and laid them anyway?!  We hang a sharp right and with the fisherman indicating we go the same way miss them, he waves a friendly thank you.

Later we are called by another fisherman to warn us he has just done the same, we answer, but after the initial conversation he  does not respond. Wonder if this is just a ploy to say he warned us and can he have a new net please!  Continuing on we see several others doing the same and keep well clear.

As we approach Blyth we are looking for the 9 'conspic' wind turbines on the harbour wall. There are plenty of turbines, but only one on the wall. Later we find they took them away when the installed the bigger ones off shore!  Cruising Association almanac please note!

Call the harbourmaster and get permission to enter, in calm waters fenders and lines prepared and we slid gently alongside the Royal Northumberland Y.C. We are greeted by members who take our lines and help berth us.  Nice welcome!

After the kettle goes on and we have lunch, I try to free the genoa, WD40 does help a little but is not the answer. I mull it over for a bit then realise it was a little stiff last year too, what's changed...? New heavier 6mm rigging and  6mm staylock terminal, it is slightly fatter that the older 5mm one and binding on the reefing drum's interior.  Answer, raise the gear half an inch off the staylock.  We manoeuvre the boat round so it is held with the bowsprit to the pontoon and I remove the securing bolt for the gear. It was a neat solution that I made some time ago to remove the mess of 4 shackles that did secure it. I get the shackles back out of the ship's store and put it back the way it had been, Bingo! The sail unrolls and reefs back again, easy as pie!  I still do not like it and later on in the trip, I manage to add a heavy, flat stainless bar to the plates and re-secure all with the neat pinned eyebolt.  So the cruising chute block can be attached to the eye again right on the end of the bowsprit.

With that major job sorted I set too to fill the fuel tank, 5 hours motoring has only used 10 litres today, 2 litres and hour. This is good.   A member, who stops to chat and is also an MG enthusiast, knows F.G. from the Y.M. article many years back. We enquire about the whereabouts of local fuelling place, he says there is not one, but then offers to take me and my can to the garage.

Terry McCann drove me for miles, 20 minutes at least, to  a garage that actually sells red diesel. It is the nearest place for red or white!  Terry is old school ships engineer and a real nice guy. He says he will pop back later for a pint, but he had another appointment, so we were not surprised when he did not show.  If you read this Terry, there is a pint of beer with your name on it waiting for you in the club bar! Many thanks, you are a real gent.  It was a long way to go for just a 5 litre can full of fuel!

The Club house is an wonderful old timber Trinity House Lightship, 1880's vintage. Beautiful down below.  They are trying to obtain funding to do repairs on the hull. Hope they get the funding, it is an historic vessel and worth saving.  In the bar several members speak to us regarding good places to visit and stay overnight. We opt to make a short hop to Amble tomorrow and a longer one to Holy Island the day after, where I have to deliver a rock back for my niece, long story, will explain later. Then a trip to Eyemouth, where we read we have to lay alongside a wall, the fender board will come in handy there.. before the longer haul up to Anstruther.

We sample the excellent but communal showers, caution slippery as well, Brian has the bruises to prove it! And have a wonderful meal before returning to F.G to write this up and turn in. No early start tomorrow, 0930 away from here will do.  Looking out the cabin window in front of me as I sit typing at the chart table, there is a dusty red sunset and water like a mill pond. Wish it had been like this for Phil too!

John and Brian.

 

passing Cocquet Island in calm conditions, about 2 mile off.

Warkworth Castle

FG in Amble

Saturday 8th June 2013.

Up at 0700 again. Even though I did not set the alarm, we have a comparatively late start today as we have just 16 miles to go to Amble.  Should be a simple 3 hour or so trip. We leave at 0900 and motor out onto a glassy sea.

We sort ourselves out and gently set off at 2000 revs towards Amble. As always call into the Coast Guard. We were in Northumbria last night. Did not realise till we had arrived that we had crossed another county boundary.

The sea has small ripples on top of the gentle swells, a faint breeze  from the east, so genoa unfurled, to hang limp! We putter on.

I take the opportunity to clear the inboard log paddlewheel and it is not long before the log is catching up with the towed 'Stow Log', as more debris is washed out, the indicated speed rises on it, but never quite matches the 5.5 knots that is recording.   The towed Stowe log has proven to be extremely accurate.  We can check it at slack water against the equally accurate GPS speeds.  Today we also get a slight lift from the tide.

A haze blankets the horizon for an hour but then lifts to reveal Cocquet island and the prominent light house. We have to avoid it and the shoals around it by some way, 2 miles, before turning west towards the coast north of the island..  All day we are dodging pot buoys, but thankfully no nets.

We alter course to enter the harbour and call Amble, the hand held cuts out? Later I find there is a problem with the batteries, they are flat and will not recharge. Swap one set for normal alkaline but the other spare hand held is placed in the charger and left on charge to see if the led turns to red as it is supposed to, think I may have to buy a  new batch of NiMh batteries for them. 

The lady harbourmaster walks down to see us, and book us in, complaining about our radio signal, I explain.  We get charged for the bowsprit here! Had there been a good sunset think she would have tried charging for that too!

After tidying up and checking the fuel etc, (hardly used 4 litres), we set off for a walk into Amble and find a vibrant little shopping area. Laden with provisions, we unload the stores, then off for a walk to Warkworth and it's castle the other way, up the small river. A look at the castle and a beer later, we walk back.

Then showers, not the best, one choice of temperature luke warm! Dinner on board,  chicken with pasta and a sauce.

I spend nearly an hour plotting courses for tomorrow, tricky one, pass inside the Farne Islands through the narrow inshore passage and then make our way into the anchorage at Lindisfarne.

Just time to write this up and off to bed for an early start.  Leave here at 0700.

John and Brian

Bamburgh castle

Rescue at the Farne Islands

Puffins swimming in groups watch us pass

At anchor in the 'Ooze', supposed to be sand, despite the name...

Skipper catches up on shut eye, which was just as well as it turned out, as he was not getting to bed early tonight.

Brian is standing upright, the boat at crazy angle whilst aground...

Sunday 9th June 2013.

A delayed log sorry, just too busy, then we dried out on what was supposed to be a sandy beach, only to heel over 25 degrees as the starboard bilge keel found the only muddy hole on the beach! Soddes law!

Was all we could do to stand up, no chance of setting up the laptop.

We left Amble at 0700 and went over the cill with 2 metres of water. Today was a tricky one for navigation.  Had to leave before we were locked in by the falling tide, then time  our arrival at Lindisfarne for slack water there as the tides can run at 4 knots. Add to that leading marks and transits and loads of hard bits, rocks!

I work out that if we slow to 4 knots we would arrive at the right time, first problem was 'Sykie' the auto pilot, for the first time ever, she sulked.  First time ever she failed to respond.... Brian fixed it by powering it off and re powering.  Phew, needed her today!  We dodge the pot markers as we leave and set course up the coast. There is again not a breath of wind.  The Sun comes out.

Motoring slowly at 3.5 knots and 1300 revs the tide boosts speed to 4.2kts.

Again no others boats out here.

As we pass inside the Farne Islands there is a full blown emergency. A diver with the bends. The Seahouses Inshore Life Boat responds,  we do not see her arriving but see her later  with the casualty aboard, then a red smoke flare goes off and a Yellow Search and Rescue helicopter appears clattering overhead. They head off at speed southwards, helicopter still with them. Capture a lot on film.  The casualty appears to be reasonably OK and is got to a decompression chamber ashore quickly.

This is certainly the best weather to go inshore of the Farnes. Calm!!

Approaching Lindisfarne there is a bit of tricky navigation and pilotage then we are in. We are warned not to anchor anywhere here without a tripping line, except the Ooze.  The Ooze is a drying anchorage between the small pier and the castle . We chose a clear spot between the dozens of buoys and nudge aground, 2 hours approx after L.W.  1230. A seal sits looking at us from 6 ft away. There are dozens here. Today we have seen 2 more dolphins, hundreds of Puffins, plus Guillemots and Razorbills, gulls of all types and Gannets. Really is a wildlife paradise.

The sun blazes down and we have a Cornish pasty lunch in the sun!

I had to return a stone to Lindisfarne, but as I will have to heave it the 20 yards to the beach and there are lots of people about, decide to wait till evening and the tourists have gone home. The stone is one of many my niece collected from the beach and used at her wedding, her vows were on some I believe and all the place settings had stones with names on them. Not sure if this was a vow stone being heaved back or not! Must be a story behind it, but I did not get to hear it.

Later we took the hard as planned and I prepared to go over the side to check the bilge keel after the incident in Whitby.  However we put the stbd keel in the only muddy patch on the beach and spent the next 4 hours at a crazy angle.  See the picture,  left.  I was able to lean out and see the leading bottom edge of the keel however, as it was waving in midair!  Though we may have lost a little antifouling, it was otherwise intact.

We had checked the fuel earlier and refuelled, used just 5 litres today for 5 hours gentle motoring.

I had a nap in the afternoon, which is just as well because I cannot get anywhere near my bunk till 0030.  Have to be up early as well because we must be out of here before we dry out.

Another 25 miles, total now 397.

John and Brian.

Puffin takes off in a whirling of wings.

A crop of oilseed rape, one of many we have seen, still in flower.

 

 

Monday 10th June 2013

Cold and grey. 0600 up and get organised, 0700 leave, 20 seals wave us off! Tricky rear transits to get out safely.  Tide just outside the anchorage is whizzing out, or rather in. We motor crabwise to keep in the safe water.  A 90 degree turn and we slide past the outside of the island at speed!  Rocks very close and all around us!  Leave the island astern quickly.

We then motor along in a glassy calm. Try several times to get the genoa to pull, to no avail and give up. Doing 4 knots plus the tide. Just 20 miles to Eyemouth and do not want to arrive too early as there is very little water at L.W. in the entrance.   According to the pilot books we will have to berth alongside the wall in Eyemouth, so fender board needed.  As it happened the pilot books were wrong and we later found a new pontoon...  Cruising Association Almanac take note!

We see another boat out today, heading the opposite way, most days we have been out here all alone, with just occasional inshore crab boats visible.

At 0935 an auspicious moment, I hoist the 'Saltire' my local ex/GP Andrew, gave me, (just retired 10 days ago!) . We have crossed into Scotland's waters.

I radio ahead to Eyemouth and get permission to enter. He cautiously asks our draft and at 1 metre says we should be fine, we are, 0.5m under the keel as we come into the tiny entrance. At just 16m wide you would not want to meet one of the big trawlers coming out.

We are told to head for the new pontoon berths and moor anywhere, just as we come alongside he calls us back to say, 'not that one!'. We move along.  He comments that our main radio is not 100%. so when we are in we check the connection on deck, as it was under water, earlier in the trip...  there is some corrosion in the connector near the foot of the mast,  so Brian sets too to clean it up. A test of radio with the emergency antenna fitted tells us the radio is fine and after a clean up of the deck plug and resealing, we have a good signal again.

The H.M. said he was coming to find us, but he must have been detained elsewhere as 4 hours after our 1100 arrival there is still no sign of him. I will go in search of a refill for the 10 litre can shortly, in case we decide to sail to Anstruther in the morning. At the moment the weather forecasts are confusing with some predicting another calm day, whilst others tell of F5's from the north? Got the Tee shirt for those thanks, but no thanks!

We reckon there must be a fish and chip restaurant here so after we go up to the new building with deluxe showers etc, we hope to explore town and eat out later.

Total mileage now 409.  less than 1400 to go!

John and Brian.

 

The narrow entrance looking out from the hill above the harbour you can clearly see a line of rocks outside blocking the entrance, what you cannot see is the other set of rocks behind the big shed that you have to wriggle round as well!

Tuesday 11th June 2013.

Today we have gone nowhere. The forecast for 4 to 5's and occ 6 was enough to convince me, and a  boat coming in with green crew underlined that. Another one just in is a 30ft boat from Tollesbury, 'Moana'. They had a rough ride today!

So we looked round the maritime exhibition, a charity run set up and they charged just £3.00, but I have to say though they tried hard, it was a bit of a mixed bag of maritime information and the 'Tricomalee' was a thousand times better.

Disappointed, we wander the deserted streets of a cold and windswept  Eyemouth, where the occasional local appeared in a Tee shirt, totally oblivious to the cold! And they were cheery!

When I went to fill up a can with diesel, (we had only used 10 litres yesterday and the day before... motor running slowly...) I spoke to a young lad fixing his crab pots. I had been amazed to find them in depths of 40 metres, he told me they often dropped them in twice that depth offshore! He also told me that a pot cost £64.00 and he strung his in 30's as that was all he had room for on board at a time, larger boats may have 60 in a line! I commended him on the way they marked them here, saying about the poorly marked ones further south.  I can see that he did not want to lose pots at that price, so it paid him to put decent markers on them. Very friendly. I was later told that he and a few others were put out of work by EU rules about white fish catch sizes, when boats had to be scrapped, but had switched to crabbing instead. They do work hard for a living.  Later in the trip we met the owner skipper of one of the Eyemouth Trawlers who was forced to sell up. He owns Inverness marina now!

We found a cafe open, a little on the dark and dingy side but the coffee was good. A trip round the Coop and back to the boat. I compared the forecast the H.M. had given me to the ones we get on the net, from 4 different sources. The appeared to agree with him, tomorrow is the day to make across the Firth of Forth for Anstruther. The following 3 or 4 days give F6 and even up to F9! We will change crews in Anstruther!  Nearest Railway station Kirkcaldy. ?  We have already seen the prices on the net for Kirkcaldy to Euston at £64.00. (If booked in advance for a reserved seat or just for that train. No refunds if you miss it!!).

We dine on board on local 'Scotch pies', new potatoes and peas, followed by peaches and custard!  Yummy.

I have done all the calculations for the morning, apart from exiting the harbour here, which is very tight, and missing the nasty rocks all round the entrance channel, it should be a simple exercise. I aim to pass St. Abbs head a mile off shore, then a straight line course to Anstruther harbour. We will be about 5 miles off shore as we cross. We have to time our exit from Eyemouth so there is water and to coincide with the north flowing tidal stream, but bear in mind to time our arrival to Anstruther so we can actually enter the harbour, which dries!

This sort of calculation has to be done every day.

So we leave at 0800 on a falling tide and aim to arrive at 1515 just as we are permitted to enter Anstruther. As the forecast is for F3's southerlies, and we just have to average 5 knots over the ground I have high hopes for a 6 hour sail for Brian's last day sailing.

It is 2100 now and the wind has calmed down a little, still gusty, but hopefully we will have a quiet night and smooth sail tomorrow.

John and Brian.

 

The pinnacle is a hill at North Berwick, the rock on the right 'Bass Rock' covered in thousands and Gannets and their poo!

The Isle of May as we romp past as we romp past at 5 knots, UNDER SAIL!

Safely moored in Anstruther. It blew F6 just after we arrived!

Strange cloud formations over the harbour, illuminated by the setting sun.

A view of Anstruther from west of the harbour. A pleasant harbour town with a great fisheries museum.

Wednesday 12th June 2013

Up at 0700 and sorted and leave at 0800, the crew of Moana wave us off, as well as 2 boats from the Blyth club we met earlier in the trip. Jolly nearly came straight back in, got to entrance and visibility was less than 400 yards.  I hoped the forecast was correct and it would clear so pressed on.

An hour later we were motor sailing in 400 yard visibility still, with all the lights on and still hoping! The mist did not clear for hours! We have main and genoa up and they are pulling, just so motoring slowly at 1200 revs just to make 4 knots.

Rounding St. Abbs Head, or at least the plotter said we were, as we could not see it, we were goose winged, but fickle winds mean several gybes.

About this time I noted the echo sounder reading, 73 metres!  Its getting deeper!  The visibility was about a mile at this stage nothing in sight and nothing on the AIS, (or all day as it turned out).

We motor sail slowly on till we are 15 miles from Anstruther when the sails just hang, so the genoa is rolled and the main sheeted in. No sooner had we done this than a new wind sprung up, from the west. And the sun appeared and the mist evaporated... Broad reaching, we stopped the motor and sailed for  three glorious hours across the Firth of Forth to Anstruther. Blue sea and sky  The wind got to a F4 before gently dropping back to a F2 as I lowered the main off the harbour. We arrived at 1515, bang on schedule and berthed on the visitors pontoons. Half an hour later we had fierce gusts of F6!

Again we saw hundreds of Gannets, Guillemots and puffins, the Bass Rock and the Island of May revealed themselves, we had briefly seen one white sail near the Bass Rock earlier, the only other small boat seen, not till we were nearly in Anstruther did we see another vessel.  A red hulled ship and the cruise liner 'Marco Polo', went up the Forth and several small craft appeared out of Anstruther.  They were too far away to register on the AIS though. (uses line of sight VHF..)

It is very odd to be miles out and sail all day and not see another boat.  Like this every day.

After we had been alongside for a few minutes and the kettle was on and cup a soups downed, Tom the friendly H.M. arrived.  He brought with him the key needed to get in and out and info about showers etc. I asked about fuel, but there was none in the harbour, but a friendly local chap says he will be down to his Westerly tomorrow, berthed opposite us and would give us a lift to the local garage. I enquired about gas and was directed to the local hardware shop.

We walked there. It was like stepping back in time to the ironmongers I knew as a lad when I was in short trousers! Magical place!  A real 'nails by the pound' place, 'fork andles' and all!  Calor was available yes, and oddly he did not want our old bottle, as he had hundreds and Calor were not collecting them??? So we walked back with a new bottle and a quandary as to what to do with the empty? I wondered if Brian would like to take it home on the train with him!  I opt to leave it by the rubbish bins and was pleased to see a couple of locals see it and pounce on it.  Why?  Don't they know there are hundreds going begging just round the corner I wonder?

We go back to the boat and collect our gear, then off for great shower, good hot water, makes a great change. However the draw back is that these are attended  public showers and facilities and only open from 0800 till 2100.  There was supposed to be an out of hours loo opened with a code, but this had been locked!.  It remained locked all the time we were there.  Not good as this meant most boat owners discharged into the harbour..  why lock the loos??

Changing, we walk round looking for somewhere to eat, the favourite Anstruther fish restaurant has the normal queue coming out the door, next one has a party of 40 French turn up just in front of us, the next couple do not do food, they close at 5.  One pub does no food after 3!  After a fruitless wander we end up back at the fish restaurant, where the queue has gone. Grilled smoked Haddock, great! An evening wander round and we realise, for the first time in over 3 weeks, it's warm!  The bitter winds have given way to a balmy westerly. We will pay the price though, as rain and gales are to follow for the next 3 days or so.

So tent is rigged and electrics connected to battery charger, just a 3 amp trickle charge, but enough for the fridge, so all aboard will carry on as normal.

The boat is hard aground upon our return, but bolt upright! The only slight problem this gives is flushing the loo, but with water on tap we simply use a jug of fresh water. (No, we do not flush overboard! We have a holding tank for just this purpose.).  Sadly we note that many local boats do not have or use holding tanks and at LW Anstruther has a nasty niff as loos empty into the mud!

Tomorrow will sort fuel and Brian is sorting his trains for Friday. Keith is already booked to arrive Saturday. Weather due to improve Sunday and Monday.... Inverness here we come!

John and Brian.

Lunchtime and the tide has left us high and dry, we spent 4 hours on the mud in every 12 here. The tent is up as heavy rain forecast.

The 'Fiddling Around' logo with our track picked out in red.

We have been asked if there was a map, thought this would do!

Long way to go yet.

Thursday 13th June 2013.

A day in Anstruther, one of several I suspect as the forecast is dire. We are being buffeted by gusts of F6 all day.

A day to wander over to the lifeboat house and take another look at the 'Kingdom of Fife' 20 years ago I was navigator for Brian on his newly acquired 9 metre Catalac.  We sailed from Lossiemouth  with a crew of 6 to deliver the boat to Tollesbury, we were attempting to do it with minimal stops and we going fine till a gybe caught us out. I had not noticed that there was no kicking strap fitted. I had been so very concerned about fixing a load of other safety items  needed and it escaped my attention. The price was high. The boom lifted, and as the boom was 3 inches too long, it caught the port backstay with force. The shock load went over the top of the mast and though the crew on watch never noticed, pulled the starboard chain plates and bulkhead apart inside the hull. I was on watch later that night when I heard a creaking, groaning noise and discovered it. I hastily lashed up a jury repair making a 'Spanish windlass', using flexible galvanised wire I had brought with me, but it meant the mainsail had to come down. As we had been doing so well it was a shame. We notified the C.G. and aimed to carry on under the 2 motors and a jib to Amble. It was a F3 at the time.

Sadly out of nowhere later that day came an un-forecasted F8.  I was off watch and asleep at the time but was awakened as we surfed down the waves....   Fife coast guard did not believe us when we reported in,  as they has F3 still, till a ship came up to say they had F9 and were only a couple of miles away.  Amazingly the cat rode the waves like a duck and though water spewed though closed windows and managed to dampen clothing and bedding, that was all. The Anstruther Lifeboat was called out to stand by and escorted us to Anstruther. I captured the whole event on video, including the lightning strike alongside the life boat and the fact that all the crew were out aft, as the cabin was rank, the skipper had been so ill below. It was rough.

When we eventually came into Anstruther, under our own power still, the lifeboat crew were terrific. As 2 of the our crew had made their last wills and testaments out there, they moored us, put us all on the lifeboat and set off back to the rough stuff just to calm them. It worked, they both went on to own and sail their own boats afterwards.

Brian and most of the crew have now an affinity with Anstruther and have all been back to say thank you for their services. Today was another 'thank you' day.

After coffee and cake in the 'Fisheries museum', we booked a table at a local pub for haggis tonight and after showering I book an appointment for the next day, to have my feet pedicured!  Never done that before, but there was an offer and I thought, why not!

Back on board writing this, after shifting the boat back so it does not foul the pontoon again tonight with the bobstay, I fill in a little more on our 'Fiddling Around' map. The boat is bouncing as gusts of over F6 rock us. However the wind is again westerly and slightly warmer.

Brian has all sorted for going home,  he is off at 0645, so we will be up early. Bet I go back to bed when he has gone!

Just back from dinner, Haggis, neeps and tatties! Wind is cold again. Close up for the night.

John and Brian.

Midday in the harbour, the lifeboat slip to the right and Fiddlers aground on the left of the picture.

1400 walked round to the end of the harbour wall to take this shot looking over towards Bass rock and North Berwick on the other side, clear and hardly a wavelet!

Half an hour later it was pouring!

Friday 14th June 2013.

Brian left at 0630 and was back in Upminster about 1500!

I spent the day cleaning and tidying, polishing and sorting, to get 'Fiddler's Green' ship shape for next in the crew relay, Keith, the brother in law, due to me Saturday afternoon.

I went for the  'special offer' in the beauty salon. Never tried this before but I have terrible hard skin on the feet, from years of wearing sandals all summer, and wow what  a good job the lady did, she said I would feel like I was walking on air and I did, I could have walked on water!

I wandered about and bought a sandwich, just soaking up the place, then spotted the huge black cloud and hurried back aboard as the heavens opened. Apart from a few heavy gusts of wind earlier today it had been lovely up till then. Tomorrow the forecast is heavy rain, thunder and F7!

With any luck that will be the last of the small depressions passing through and Sunday will be good for the next leg, up to Arbroath, no guessing what will be on the menu there!

I have heard from a few lads from Thames and some customers,  will be great to meet up with some of them. 2 down in Oggiland! Big John at Falmouth and Malcolm, (Wickets or Cornish), in Padstow. Will miss a friend up in Inverness, he will be there Tuesday, I will not be there for a week at least and only then if the weather is fine. Sitting in Anstruther for the last couple of days I have been buffeted by squalls at times, pleased to be in here.

All for now,

John

 

Saturday 15th June 2013.

Try to have a lay in but the H.M. thinks otherwise!  Just wants to know when I intend leaving. 


I sort my self out and then check over the engine etc. I have to sort out dues with the HM before 1200 works out at just over £10.00 a night. Think this place could so easily be so much better with a little thought. It has great potential. A simple welcome pack with info, like phone number of 'Caremore' laundry!  A simple method of allowing people out  of the secure marina area, with a press button on the inside of the gate as at other marinas, and maybe a pub ashore that would be open late and be able to sort out re entry fobs for the electronic locks. The out of hours loo was never available, the number lock worked, but someone had locked the other lock so rendering the security lock useless, so after hours boat owners without holding tanks were turning the harbour into a sewer. Not nice.

Simple info like that would be helpful H.M.  Fuel here is a problem, there is not any, But it can be obtained from a garage about a mile out of town, a taxi ride away. I was lucky to have a local offer me a lift.

I managed to buy a couple of jars of local marmalade, but not till I had a long walk round and eventually found  local made marmalade in a small store.  After all we were a stones throw from Dundee!

Keith turned up in the afternoon, I had just gone out to check the bus times and then walk down the road to the pub to book a table, something you have to do here. I was sitting in the bus shelter when he texted me to answer my query on his location, 'In the boat' he said!  I had missed him.

We sorted out his gear and the bits he had brought for me. I loaded 6 new rechargeables into of one the hand held radios and stood it in the charger, nothing. I then swapped the charger base with the one Darian had sent to Keith, Bingo! It was the base that was at fault. By the time we came back from our meal the 1st set of batteries were charged. I will organise the second hand held tomorrow. Looks as if I can also charge up the old batteries, nothing wrong with them.

Too late to dismantle the gas cooker to replace the gas tap, will do that after the trip tomorrow.

I am aiming to set off at 1000 and make for Arbroath. The weather has settled down again after today's wind and rain and looks fair for the 25 miles.

2300 and just getting dark, stays lighter longer up here.

Turning in.

John and Keith.

 

John enjoying the sun, it was actually hot today. First day for shirts and no sweat shirts.

Keith with sun hat! In the distance behind him is Arbroath. Note sails up and full, though speed just 2 knots!

The gates at Arbroath. a different system. there is just one pair of gates and they are shut as the tide reaches a certain level to maintain 2.5 metres in the basin. They cannot be opened again till the tide makes enough to allow them to open.

F.G. can be seen inside.

Sunday 16th June 2013.

Today is the first real summery day! We left Anstruther in oilies and by the time we had been out an hour of so were in shirtsleeves! (with lifejackets and harnesses) It was a superb day. As we could not get into the inner harbour at Arbroath till the gate could open, at approx 1700 the 5 hour trip was stretched to 7, we sailed, drifted gently, motored and sailed again. We saw distant dolphins and plenty of Puffins and Guillemots etc, the odd Gannet. But all day we again hardly saw a soul.  No boats sailing or motoring anywhere on the horizon...  Odd being out all on your own all day....  you keep thinking , 'what  does everyone else know, that we don't?'

As we left in the morning, we did see  4 boats set off across the Forth for a picnic on the other side, then we had a dozen canoes, after that, nothing, till entering Arbroath.

The AIS did not function at all again today, so wondering if it has packed up or maybe there are no AIS vessels close enough, be a shame if it has packed up.

As we readied to enter Arbroath, 2 dolphins surfaced within 10 ft on our stbd side, they swam alongside the cockpit for 5 minutes and I thought I was able to get some good footage of them, no stills though, too quick! As it turned out I missed them totally, camera needs a sight! (You cannot see the screen in bright daylight so try to vaguely point it in the right direction, did not work too well....)  We were motoring at 4 knots at the time.

Ron Churchill the H.M answered the radio and guided us in to the berth, got fuel for us and loads of local info. His shower was excellent!

We went on his recommendation to The Brewhouse. We really enjoyed the Arbroath Smokies followed by Clootie Dumpling! The two young bar girls were really scatty and lovely with it, asked for a local beer and was offered Peroni! They had no idea, but had  charming smiles and  were full of fun. Oh to be 18 again!  But I'd want to know what I have learnt over the intervening years!

2300 and it is just getting dark. Tomorrow, as the forecast is for less wind than today, we are going to set off early, 0730 and motor for 12 hours to Peterhead. Cutting out the port of Stonehaven if we can, as we would certainly  have to lay on the wall there, no pontoons. So courses are laid in, Tidal streams checked and double checked and waypoints ready to be entered.

So off to bed shortly.

John and Keith.

 

Buttercup sky over the field, looked better in real life!

Slain's Castle. Apparently Bram Stoker stayed in a nearby hotel. He visited the site and apparently used the cliff edge castle as the setting for Dracula's Castle in the book he was writing!

Marina with a beach, nice one too!

Monday 17th June 2013.

Still does not feel like summer! Real chill to the air. We are up at 0600  and sorted by 0730 to exit through the now open gate.  Out of the outer harbour and dodge dozens of pot buoys that must have been laid overnight, right in the entrance, very clever. It is calm and smooth, but the promised southerlies have turned on their head and are of course northerlies. Fenders and ropes stowed and crew off the deck,  with harness clipped onto the Jackstays  of course. (We wear harnesses all the time.).

I call the CG and give them our information, call sign etc and they can then refer to our CG66 form they have on line. I decide to give out destination as Peterhead, 1930hours. If I drop off at Stonehaven instead I will just let them know.

We have 25 miles to go to Stonehaven, but if we can make the longer 65 mile jump, 13 hours, to Peterhead, we will avoid mooring on the wall. At the moment that seems likely, so motor revs set to 2000 and off we go, sea an oily smooth most of the time, slightly ruffled by gently northerlies sometimes.

A ship is seen and I note the AIS is not working. Not best pleased. I tinker with the wiring connections to see if I can figure it out and the GPS goes out. Get it back on and decide to leave till I am in port.  Must be a wire lose somewhere... Where the AIS interfaces with the 2 plotters and the GPS...

Keith alters course radically whilst I am down below, only to find it was for a lump of seaweed!  Well it could have had worse beneath it!  On the Thames we learnt to give anything floating a wide berth as tarpaulins and ropes would often lurk beneath....

Pass a small village and even tinier harbour, 'Johnshaven'! The A91 runs close to the shore here, or rather to the cliff edge, as does the railway, and every now and again we spot a train, we discuss why we say 'cho cho'. One goes the the other way, that is a 'ohc ohc'!  Not many trains make a noise like the trains of yesteryear...

There is a field of oilseed rape in full flower and with the sun is shining on it, a cloud over it has turned yellow, bet the picture does not do it justice!

Again there  are no boats to be seen anywhere on the horizon, hardly a fisherman either, till a spec appears in front of us, dead ahead, a yacht. 20 minutes later we pass within 50 yards on reciprocal courses. It is a large Moody, 'Covazel'. We wave, as you do!  Bet we both had the autopilots on!

After motoring for over 4 hours we stop to top up the fuel tank. I have to stop the motor because I fitted the air bleed from the tank into the same fitting on the top of the tank as the  fuel return. As a result when the motor is running the air bleed does not always allow the level of fuel to settle in the filler pipe, air does not get back in.... so you get a false reading...  So motor off, the genoa allows us to drift at 2 knots, the wind has gone easterly. I dip the tank, 10 litres used, top up. Motor back on and to Peterhead we go. Another 7 plus hours..... We are running at 2500 revs to get 6 knots through the water, the sail just stabilising the boat as she tries to roll,  and not really pulling.

Poor Darian is off to the dentist today, so I text her, but we are out of range here. It will go when there is service. Approx 5 miles off....

I sort lunch and we motor on. At 1500 we are off Aberdeen and there are ships everywhere. In desperation I pull the usb lead from the AIS, out of the laptop under the chart table. The deck plotter instantly comes up with AIS info!?!?.  Cannot see why this should be, but I prefer to get AIS info in the cockpit, so am pleased it is working again. Using the info we work out that one ship, that appeared static, is a weird one, its AIS triangle is back to front, then we realise it is not going astern, it can go either way! The bridge at the bow end has a stern facing bridge as well and the ship heads off into Aberdeen , backwards!

The sea has become more disturbed with a long northerly swell coming in, on top of it is a south easterly wave pattern. The breeze has got up to a 3/4 and the genoa is now pulling, speed on the Stowe log 6.5 knots. With the tide at this stage we clock 7knots, but it soon tails off as the tide slackens and goes foul. We knew this would happen and that is why we tried to go as fast as we could earlier. (Need a longer boat, bigger motor and larger tank!).

Eventually the tide is flowing 1.5 knots against us and our speed drops dramatically.  We crawl along at 4 knots... or less.

Wildlife today included the normal Puffins, guillemots and Gannets, but a bonus was a lone Manx Sheerwater. There are also large terns I cannot identify. We saw 2 pairs of dolphins, but a way off.

It was warmish for a while, then got greyer and colder, got cold hands. gloves back on!!  We have just a few miles to go but our speed over the ground has fallen to 4 knots and the coast seems to crawl by. We sit off 'Slains Castle' for ages.    The inspiration for Dracula's Castle we understand!   Spooky place in the grey light.  We dally even longer by the rocks and light house near Peterhead harbour as the adverse tide is now stronger and slows us even more...... creep up at 3knots or less....  takes an age.

I call the HM who instantly comes back to welcome us to Peterhead! We crab across the strong tide, wary of the rocky islands just down tide and creep into the harbour, accompanied by local fishermen in their pot laying boats, who all come out to wave us welcome. Friendly folk! the fishermen are such a friendly bunch up here, gone are the surly Essex men who seem to despise everyone afloat.  Takes all sorts they say, but the Essex chaps do seem to have a large chip on their shoulders...

Once inside I call the Marina and Bruce answers right away and will be waiting at the pontoons. Pleased to say these conversations were on the handheld, working now after changing batteries and the charger base.

We putter into the marina and have all lines and fenders out in the calm of the harbour. In the marina I am surprised to see a dinghy race going on! However as we get closer I realise they are between the beach, (yes there is a nice sandy beach in the marina!) and the pontoons and the marina shares the space with the local sailing club. Good set up.  Loads of room and a real friendly atmosphere.

A boat from Tollesbury, 'Moana' is here, we wave hello again, met them in Eyemouth earlier and heard they were in Arbroath before us.

After berthing I call in to Aberdeen CG to book off to them, again a very friendly greeting!

There are several ships nearby in the harbour and working, so the sounds of generators and cranes working, with associated bells and bangs from containers, continue into the night.  I will sleep right through it!  Just like night shift on the river!

It is 2330 now and still not properly dark. I realise this is nearly as far north as we will be going, as when we turn west at Rattray Head in a day or twos time, we will also be soon be heading slightly south and then south west through the canal. So it will be all down hill from then on!

I have heard the forecast for tomorrow and with gusts of F7 we will stay put for 24 hours.

John and Keith

I am holding hands with the 'Fisherlass' of Peterhead. When her hubby brought the fish home she would walk inshore to barter herrings with local farmers. A practice that was still happening till 1950!

loved the local sign guides in Peterhead!

Looking down to the marina and harbour entrance from the maritime college cafe.

Modified Eventide found in the marina. Though it has not the 'break in the sheer' it has everything else.

All these trawlers were in use, albeit the daft regulations say they have to spend 15 days a month in harbour.

Most of the Trawlers in the picture above, were moored this way. Would you moor your boat like it? Look closely....

Tuesday 18th June 2013.

I have opted to stay put seeing the forecast and am somewhat surprised to find our 4 neighbours up sticks and putter out just before HW. They are going the same way as us... At the time they left they would have sailed straight into a 2 knot adverse tide?  It was also misty and the F7's yet to arrive, later they did.

Will doubtless catch up with them at some stage.  Or maybe they decided to head south!

We have a relaxing morning, use the excellent facilities and fix a few jobs on board. The HM sorts fuel out for us, he manages to squeeze 31 litres into 2  x 10 litre and one 5 litre can! We comment that other marinas could do to look at what they have here. The loos and clean, the showers good and the shower room heated. There is fuel and Calor available too.

We changed the gas tap on the cooker, an easy job. The new tap is now as smooth as it should be and no leaks, checked with  soapy water.

Checked the motor over and all OK.

We then went for a walk to the local maritime college, they have a great public cafe. After lunch we walk into town, a cold windy walk. Peterhead is still a busy fishing port, but has obviously been busier. There are signs they are regenerating areas, and some places were great. The main streets are pedestrianised and pleasant. We also walked to the trawler dock, still busy too. Note the natty way they moor their trawlers! See picture. Would you trust that.. not me!  Have a close look....

We walked back into the wind, cold.... Chatted to a couple just in with  a Sun Oddessey 47! They live aboard and have just sailed from Lowestoft in one hop, going the same way as us, so I asked for a tow! They have only been a week or so from the Solent! Another chap with a well kitted out Macwester Rowan 24 footer has just sailed in from Shetland, single-handed! He was the smallest cruising boat we had met on the East coast, but he was not going much further.

Another crew in a 40ft boat took just 40 hours to sail from Norway.  Peterhead is a perfect port for passage makers.

On board I tackle the AIS.  After a while I get the laptop working, with AIS, but as soon as I turn on the deck plotter all goes wrong. I realise that despite the claims made by Digital Yacht, you cannot split the feed to 2 different plotters at the same time. I opt for making the Deck plotter, the 'Lowrance', work with the AIS. The lead is disconnected from the Laptop and stowed away, but ready to use if needed, I just have to turn off the Lowrance first, then it will work. So we have a back up.

We eat on board tonight and fire up the heater, it is chilly. I rig up the little electric fan to move the heat from the forward cabin to the rest of the boat, feels nice and warm sat at the navigators table typing this now.

Tomorrow the forecast is for light winds again, no F6 or 7's! I intend to leave an hour after HW here, 1030 to 1100 and take the north going tidal stream up past Rattray Head and into the Moray Firth.   It is great to actually visit so many of the places heard on the shipping forecast, but as it turned out Rattray head was nothing like I expected it to be!    From there it is a , 45 mile run to either Banf or Whitehills. I tend to leave the planning till the day before as you can often pick up local information. In this case we are advised Whitehills is the better bet.  There could be a case for carrying on to Lossiemouth, but that is an extra 25 miles or 5 hours.  One for the next day.

Some will have noted the log was not updated yesterday, sorry beyond our control, no service on the phone last night, I managed to get service this morning, and it uploaded in a trice. May have the same problem tonight, will see.  Not all of the coast is served so well as it is further south.  suspect we may well have connection problems as we head north into more sparsely habited areas.

Looking out the cabin window I can see the port harbour entrance beacon, it is a 10ft tall anchor, with a red flashing light on the top! They certainly have tried to make this harbour attractive, even down to the garden outside the H.M.'s office. Well done Peterhead, top marks!

Time to try loading the pics and then entering tomorrows waypoints etc.

John and Keith

 

Leaving Peterhead, flat calm.

Keith on watch as we leave, loads of pot buoys!

Rattray Head, not what I was expecting at all!

The white on these cliffs is wall to wall gannets!

Motoring gently in smooth seas.

alongside 'Temptress' in Whitehills.

Eventide members Ron and Mary Billings come to visit us!

Wednesday 19th June 2013.

Keith started the day by walking through the cabin, putting the kettle on then going out the cabin door to the showers. Just to make me get out of my pit to turn the kettle off! I'll get him back at playtime!

We have just the stern tube greaser to check before we leave and the best time to go north is 1 and 1/2 hours after HW here. Lifting the hatch we find that the sound insulation pad that I had glued in the hatch lid has fallen out and self destructed on the prop shaft. Keith clears the debris from the bilge.   What a mess!  Chopped foam and waterproof grease!

We leave at 1030, still a little too early as it happens, and have to contend with the last of the south going tide for nearly an hour. It is glassy calm, barely a breath of wind. 2 other boats come out as well, the Norwegian ahead of us and 'Temptress' after us, the 47ft 'Temptress' sails!

The normal call to the CG, and stream the trailing log. Then pump out the holding tank!

The AIS is working well. Identifies ships close enough to be a problem.

We approach Rattray Head. Having heard it mentioned in shipping forecasts for years I was rather disappointed when we got there, a low lying sandy spit with the light off the end.... I expected something grander!  Strange how we make mental pictures from those evocative names in the shipping forecast.

The breeze is northerly and as we start to head slightly west of north we get the sails up. Sea is calm. We are 4 miles off Rattray head so the tide can assist us. Temptress is up the beach! The motor is running at 2 k revs.

Seals pop up alongside to see us. Our speed over the ground increases to 5.8 knots as the tide turns,  we are clocking 5 knots on the log.

Off Frazerburgh we spot a whale.  'Thar she blows', off the Starboard bow!!..  I think it may be a pilot whale but it is 400 yards away so not sure. Temptress has lowered her sails in the calm and powers alongside. They had a close up, just inshore and behind us  and could identify it. It was a Minke Whale and claims it was over 40 ft long! The Norwegian boat had it alongside for a while, longer than his 40 ft boat, Temptress sailed with it. We saw several dolphins and the whale came back again later, but not close to us.  (We find out when checking the books, that Minke Whales only normally get to be 28ft long!  Must have been a granddaddy!).

We sail past cliffs, they are  white, with Gannets. Gannets and guillemots fly past all day, beaks crammed with fish!  See just one Cormorant, it looks lost!

There is a glassy calm and sails are stowed. There are three harbours close together here, McDuff, Banff and Whitehills. We opt for the latter.

Entering I fail to spot the photographer, high up on the harbour wall,  it is the harbourmaster. I had tried to call him on the radio, no answer, but a local fishing boat responds and forwards my call to the H.M. Where else would this happen. We pass the fishing boat, they are long lining. Friendly waves. Entering the tiny harbour, we turn hard left into the tiny outer basin and there is 'Moana' from Tollesbury and 'Temptress', who we though had gone into Banff.

The pontoon is full but  'Temptress' waves us alongside! We moor and the H.M. makes himself known and presents me with the card from his camera. for me to download the pics he took. There are 8 of them, some rather good ones, but all too large to publish without editing and I have not got the right program on the laptop. I did wonder how I could download them, but remembered that the new Navionics charts came with a usb stick card reader and by chance it was the correct one.

We had not been in long when a very sharp NW sprung up, F6. the resultant swell made it very uncomfortable for an hour or two. During this time, an Eventider, Ron Billings and his  wife Mary arrived, in their splendid Morgan sports car. They came on board for tea. Mary was not a sailor and the motion was bumpy for a while, but she managed... I hope I am as nimble as the pair of them are when I am their age!

We eat aboard as, like most places we have been, all restaurants etc seem to close early.

Midnight now and the sky has still light in it.  I know the sun will be up at 0330 too!

Time for bed.

I will add a picture of the map on the cabin side, once I have filled in all the red lines!

John and Keith

Sails set and filled well, we clocked 5.5 knots at one stage, but slowed to 2.5 other times, warmish and with a smooth sea. perfect

Relaxing in the afternoon sun, beam reach and flat seas, one happy skipper.

We are berthed in Lossiemouth's tiny Eastern dock, the entrance is a real 180 degree turn to get where we are laying.

The other side of Lossiemouth, a brilliant stretch of sandy beaches and dunes accessible on foot by a bridge. Very popular in the summer, the ice cream shops popular all year!

Thursday 20th June 2013.

Today I find out why the grease is spilling out of the stern tube sealer, it has worn slightly and just needed moving up the shaft to reseal.

Messy job cleaning the bilge.

The H.M. says he is running low on diesel, so I chose not to refill my can, do not want the dregs.

Have look over Kevin and Susie's home, a Sun Oddessy 47, what a lot of boat. They have plans for real long trips in her and they have fitted her out in splendid style. Wish them well. Doubtless we will cross wakes again as they are sailing our way, but for now they are staying to sample the beauty of Whitehills and surroundings. Very pleasant little harbour with all mod cons. Sadly the local restaurant closed at 2000hrs or we may have had a meal.

We sort the boat for a 1300 start to catch the tide west and arrive at 1700. The crew of 'Moana' have rung ahead and been told not to enter before 1800.  (they are a deep keel boat). As it is a nice day and only 23 miles we will take our time.

Out of the harbour and book on to the CG.  The sea is flat calm, there is a pleasant breeze off the land.

We set sails. Within minutes the motor is off and for the rest of the day we have one of the best sails yet. F3 to 4, no waves or swell, beam reach, sailing at times at 5.5 knots, other times 2.5 knots in the lulls.  Only dampener was the light rain every now and again.  Mike in 'Sea Hawk' (from Ohio) is ahead as is 'Moana' and crew from Tollesbury, all sailing. Apart from the three of us we barely see 4 other vessels all day. Neither did we see any fins and realised the seabirds  did not frequent this bit of coast either. Not sure why.

We passed harbour after harbour, some 2 boat tiny ones, other commercial, plenty of places to go here and many masts visible, but no one out playing boats.

The coastline is beautiful, the mountains in the distance and green slopes and wooded areas on the coast. Eventually miles of sand dune backed by forest and distant mountains.

Mike on 'Seahawk' has spoken to the HM and got berths for us all, earliest we can get in is 1715,  but we all sail slowly on savouring the day. We eventually arrive at Lossiemouth, just as the wind dies, at 1900. Book off to the CG. Walk to the nearby pub and pick up a welcome pack, pay £20 for the berth for the night and get a key so we can get back to the boat through the security gate. Good system, one some other marinas could follow. (Some, if you arrive late you cannot even get out of the marina for a meal or a pint!).

We walk to the recommended restaurant. It is called La Caverna and is in some sort of rock cave!? We later learn it was the stone built salt store for the herring fishery! We opted for the local caught?? Haddock. It was served breaded and was OK, but nothing special.

Returning to the boat in light rain we have a call from Keith's wife, my sister  Sue, she has found the boat on the Lossie web cam and asks why the Queen is still flying!  I tell her sunsets are late in Scotland.  In Essex, the queen went to bed hours ago!

I manage to 'Facetime' Darian for the first time using my little i-touch, nice to see her smile.... What wonderful technology!

Find out that some pics did not load from last night,  so set to and corrected it, I simply missed them.

I will be downloading this page after midnight at this rate.

No fuel hardly used today, not even going to dip the tank!

Tomorrow we hope to make Inverness, over a 7 hour run, but it will be a late arrival as there are a couple of tricky bits where you have to get the tidal timing right or face a 5 knot adverse current! As top speed is only 6 on a good day, not to be recommended. Add to this the Canal will only open the sea locks during office hours, and when there is sufficient water and we soon realise it would be closed, so Mike on 'Sea Hawk' and I opt to go into the nearby Inverness Marina tomorrow night, then a 1 mile hop to the Canal when they are open Saturday morning.

With any luck the light rain will have left off by tomorrow and we will have a pleasant run up to Inverness, or should I say down to....  We are heading south as of tomorrow when we leave this, our most northerly port, Lossiemouth!  I buy the boat a souvenir, a 'Lossiemouth' fishing boat to nestle in one of the cabin portholes and amuse visitors!

I have not filled in the map on the side of Fiddler's, it was raining, when it is dry I will update it and take another picture for these pages. To date mileage 577. We have been going 1 month and a few days and this is very nearly a third of the distance. If we get this better weather and can catch up we should still be on for a 90 day trip and back for my birthday!

Inverness here we come.

John and Keith.

 

Seen in Lossiemouth, a WW but too far away to see the name!

Fiddlers in Lossiemouth, this is the view the webcam had of us.

Just outside, not a breath of wind.

Tornado Fly past.

The oil drilling platform on the move!

Approaching the bridge

The map updated! A lot more red on it now!

Friday 21st June 2013, the longest day.

Not wanting to arrive too early and risk the over-falls and whirl pools in the narrows at Inverness we did not start till 1400.

In the meantime we visited the shops and found a useful Coop and a magnificent traditional butcher. Laden with goodies we stop for excellent coffee and cake at the Harbour Lights cafe and then spend a very enjoyable hour in the little private Fisheries Museum. We are shown round by two delightful ladies, one we later heard  was the granddaughter of Ramsey MacDonald!  Really good little museum.

Niece Clare calls as we motor out, they saw us leave on the harbour webcam!  No hiding places these days!

As soon as we are out of the harbour the log is streamed and I hoist the main, more in hope than anything else as it is like a millpond. About 4 hours later I lower it as it had not done anything all day! We motor slowly at 4.5 knots. Trying to time arrival to miss the strong tides in Inverness Firth.

We turn West and as we do  I realise we have reached the furthest point north of the trip and on the longest day. We are now heading west and inching south at the same time.

Lossiemouth is also the RAF fast jet base and we are treated to several close passes by Tornados! With so few boats about we must be a welcome 'target'!  Great flying!

Today there are a few more seabirds about, Puffins, Guillemots and Gannets, Razorbills and those pretty 'common gulls', (That are not common in Essex!). We are in Dolphin country here, supposed to be more here than anywhere else, but apart from a couple a long way off, we see not a trace. And as the water is so glassy smooth you could see any activity, if there were any.

As we near the western end of the Firth and the coastlines come together, the scenery is more spectacular. Sandy beaches for miles with not a house nor a road, backed by green spaces and woodland with a distant mountain backdrop.

We can see into Cromarty Firth, a deep valley between mountains and the river estuary there. They moor oil rigs there....  Hang on, that one is moving! Sure enough 3 tugs then appear in the haze attached to this drilling rig and slowly but surely tow it out and towards the fairway  buoy we are heading for. The AIS confirms this. We have to alter course or get tangled with it!  Increase speed to  6 knots, our max, and as they are only doing 2 knots, soon we leave them astern, only to see them then stop and  anchor it!

I am monitoring Inverness Port radio as well now.

'Seahawk' calls us, Mike is safe in the Inverness marina and gives us berthing instructions from the harbour master, as he is off for his tea! Great service Mike. We later meet up with Mike and his Heidi in the marina, they are going to transit the canal at about the same time as us. Chris and Wendy on 'Moana' were out of contact today, radio problems but later when we speak to them they are staying here for several days, may see them on our travels, or back in Essex.

As we near the first buoy, before the shallows, I look at all the rocks ahead to port and cannot see the red buoy that must be there to mark them. Think is is bad not to buoy these rocks, so near the entrance, then the rocks moved! They were seals, several dozen at  least and more further on, some swam out to see us, quite unperturbed by us! We never did see the red can buoy that was supposed to be there!

We are now approaching the Narrows and the tide will increase from the half a knot to more than 4 times that as all the water tries to get through a narrow gap. I relieve 'Sykie' the auto pilot, on the helm, (she sounds like the dog Sykie from the 'The Life of Bliss' radio series of the 1950's. Anyone remember that?). (Similarly daft as the other radio series 'Educating Archie' that starred a ventriloquist and his talking dummy, on the Radio????)

I digress. We are swirled port and starboard by the strong eddies and at that moment, whilst grappling the helm I spot 3 dolphins swimming about 200 yards away, so now I am also trying to get the video camera out of my pocket. Maybe it was the resultant pirouettes we did that attracted them, I  don't know, but they turned round and came to say hello. They then swam by us, either side, crossing under our bow to reappear on the other side and back, the water was so clear I swear they were looking up at us! I managed to film them for a minute or two, then they were gone. Or I thought I had filmed them, sadly I missed them as the camera lens seems to point other than straight forward and the viewing screen is difficult if not impossible to see in daylight....   Disappointing.

On the shore there was a group of people standing at the waters edge, the water is 40 metres deep a yard or two away from the edge! The dolphins were jumping and splashing alongside the people. Must be a regular place as there were 25 plus people there.  I thought I heard one say, 'So long, and thanks for all the fish'. (What? You never read 'the hitchhikers guide to the galaxy' by Douglas Adams ?? You missed out there!!)

Suddenly we were out of the over-falls and whirlpools and into calmer water. I looked at the echo sounder, it reads 5 metres! All day it had been reading 50! We were into a large shallow area and as the area widened, it shallowed to depths not regularly seen on the echo sounder since East Anglia...  thus all the turbulence!

Over to the north there were ranges of mountains, then it got cold, not windy at first, just cold. I looked at the mountains through the binoculars, yes, there was snow on them.... mid summers day!?!?

The Kessock bridge hove too on the horizon and using the chart on deck with the plotter we piloted ourselves to it.

Did not look as if we could get under it, but there was a ship 10 miles astern of us coming through it, so of course we could. The headroom was 29 metres, but approaching it you would not think it!

As we approached our speed increased from the 5 knots were motoring at, to 8 knots, and the water swirled past the bridge supports. We had to turn sharp left after the bridge into the River Ness, as we did do the speed went abruptly from 8 to 4 knots and we hit the water rushing OUT of the River Ness! The boat was again trying to turn round in the currents!  You could see the colour change as the cold fresh water hit the salt.

Then gently into the tranquillity of the Inverness Marina and berth as directed by the H.M. via Mike on 'Sea Hawk'. Trouble was all the visitors berths were full so we found a berth with a large 'Reserved' sign and said that must be for us!

Keith got dinner on straight away and I tidied up the boat. A couple of chaps came by to admire Fiddler's, in conversation I mentioned my Seagull business. He called to a  crew member to come over. Yes he was a customer of mine. He thanked me for my assistance in getting his Seagull going! Small world.

Mike and Heidi called by on their way to 'Sea Hawk'. We will be seeing them tomorrow in the canal!

As the evenings are so light here it is easy to forget the time, I have, it is now 0100 so time to add the pics and turn in before the sun wakes us in 3 hours time!

One last thing before I close down, today not only have we gone as far north as we are going, not only is it the longest day, but also we have clocked up 611 nautical miles, over a third of the total mileage I expect to have to cover. (just under 1800 miles).

John and Keith.

Fiddler's alongside in Clacknaharry lock.

Roger, on the left, an ex colleague comes to visit!

Why was the Seagull Cross I wonder?!

4 boats in company! All so different but with so much in common!

Saturday 22nd June 2013.

Today we left Inverness marina at 1100. I found out before we left that the loud  splashes in the marina last night were the dolphins playing round our boats!

We readied for leaving, after calling the Sea lock on Channel 74.  A very jovial character answered up and told us that if we hurried we could make the next lock in before the bridge had to be closed for the train!

He locked us in and secured the boat with us before escorting us to the office to pay for the transit. I opted to pay for the Crinan at the same time, after a reminder from Keith, as this would save £30.00.   It did however give us a deadline to get in there by. The total cost was £210.00 far cheaper than I had anticipated. I had been given information in the guides and almanacks  suggested that it would be well over twice that!

We waited a few minutes for the trains to pass, then the rail bridge was opened for us and we went into the next lock. A few minutes later and we were in Muirtown basin and moored to a brand new set of finger pontoons, so new that the water and electricity were not on, but strangely, as it got darker all the courtesy lamps came on.

A little while later there was a call, 'Ahoy Fiddler's Green!'  and when I looked out I could see a blue flag that I recognised so well from my years spent flying it on the Thames, and it was being held by a face I also recognised. Roger Read had found us.  He was standing outside the security fencing!  I found the key and a gate to let him in.  I last saw Roger in 1978 at Blackwall in my days on Thames.! He came aboard for coffee and a chat!  good to see him and chat about good times at Blackwall!

We had not been moored long before Mike and Heidi on 'Sea Hawk' and Chris and Wendy on 'Moana' moored with us. Later in the day Suzy and Kevin with 'Temptress of Down' also moored.

We walked to Caley marine for a new log book and then the heavens opened, really opened!!!  So we ended up trapped in there for an hour, so I browsed.   I found and bought a bright, kelly green anchor tripping line float and a  special switch I needed, double pole on-off-on.  What were the chances of finding one of those!!!   Perfect! I rewired my solar panel switch and married it with the charge controller. So I can turn the panel off and the 'Alt X' charger on in one simple switch.

On our return we briefly visited the Coop and then arranged to pick up fuel with the  Waterways Board guy in control of the basin.  20 litres bought. Full up again.

Keith was to cook Fajitas tonight and set to as I cleared all the east coast charts and pilot books from the navigation area and packed them into plastic bags. Out came the next set for the canal and the western part of Scotland.

Chris popped over just as I stepped out to see him, I had a chart of Skye he may have needed, but he had it. He invited us to join them at the Clacknaharry Inn as it was a real ale pub! Great idea, he asked Mike and Heidi and  I offered the chart to them, as they had not got it they accepted it, just in case! I told Susie and Kevin of the pub plan and so it was just after 2000 eight of us walked down and took over a corner of the pub for the evening!  Roaring log fire!  Good beer too, Thrapple something and Jelt.....? Had grapefruit in it! Nice.

2300 and we walk back via the railway crossing. Sort of circuitous route..

We said our good nights and as we all had different plans for the next few days, so we said our goodbyes.  Maybe we will cross wakes again, hope so, new friends.?

Tomorrow we will move off and hope to be in Loch Ness all day. It could well be that we will be able to sail too, we will see. So long as it does not rain as it did today, proved I need a new lightweight waterproof jacket, or some water proofing! (I had to ditch the jacket on my return it was  past redemption!)

No courses to plot nor waypoints to enter tonight. Hope the rain stops though.

John and Keith.

Wendy and Chris on Moana, we have heard that pronounced so many ways!

Heidi and Mike on Sea Hawk. A Colin Archer design that Mike single handed across the Atlantic.

In the relatively narrow canal we are greeted with what looks like a sea going passenger ferry!

The gorse here has more flower that we have ever seen, you can smell it a way off too.

With 200 metres under the keel we are in the middle of the Loch. keep to the middle as it's hard at the edges!

Weird happenings off the Castle...

Nearly 40 years on the campsite Keith and I used was instantly recognisable.

We did not stay long then, would not today!

Sunday 23rd June 2013.

We survived Loch Ness! Just. No Nessie, actually we did not see a living creature in the loch, it was as if it was devoid of all life. Odd after all the encounters we have had with wild life. Strange smell too, not the pure smell of salt water. 

We started the day by running out of water on board! We carry 25 gallons in the tanks, but were unable to fill up for a few days, and after morning coffee, the pump sucked air! We showered and readied, good showers. Breakfasted and moved to a berth alongside the wall with water. Fill tank. The first opening of the swing bridge at Muirtown was not till nearly 1100 so we had time. You cannot hurry if you wanted too, on the Caley!

We were beckoned through the bridge as it swung, joined by 'Sea Hawk' and 'Moana' and a couple of others, the crew of 'Temptress' cycled past as we left, to wave us off. We saw them again further along, on their way back from the chandlers, it did not open on a Sunday!!  Scottish hours!

We soon all got the hang of the way they worked on the locks here and we walked our boats through, but you did have to really hang on to the lines as the water came in, an extra turn on the mooring hooks helped.  We all were about to leave when 'Sea Hawk' had a problem, the motor failed to start. They walked it to the pontoon outside the lock to sort it, the marine engineers were there. I suggested to Chris, who was stopping there too, to check the stop button or stop pull.... just in case....

We and another boat were told the bridge ahead was waiting for us, as it should have closed down at 1200. The message did not quite get to the Dutchman in front as he motored on at 2.5 knots, dawdling all the way...  The bridge man was waiting. Twiddling his thumbs...  As were two other craft. One, a hire boat actually bounced off both sides of the canal, then they got stuck broadside on in the bridge hole, eventually after a few gesticulations from the bridge keeper, zig zagged through, other boats wisely hung back.  At the next lock, Dochgarroch, there was no response on Ch 74 from the lock keeper so he was at lunch, so we stopped for lunch, astern of the hire cruiser, who was now having problems mooring, when we stopped we realised he had left the motor in ahead. All the time they had lunch the motor was running, in gear!  It was still running in gear as they tried to let go. They then jammed the lines with wonderful knots too!

'Sea Hawk' and 'Moana' arrived and I motioned to Mike to beware.

There were some people being taught how to paddle Canadian canoes, and having great fun. Next they were fleeing for their lives as the hire cruiser heads to the bank where they have assembled, to avoid blocking the fairway. The lock keeper is jumping up and down and the cruiser then collides with the wall out side  the lock! After bouncing off the sides it eventually captured by the lock keeper. We then begin to move in and find the only grumpy and downright unpleasant person we have met on this trip. Maybe he has had a bad day before the hire cruiser, but the Dutch gent who got the sharp end of his tongue was not impressed, nor was I. Think he should consider alternative employment!

We let the hire boat set off first..... He was then at the head of 5 boats and swerving all over the place at 3 knots.  As soon as I saw a clear space we opened up and overtook him. He then headed straight at a boat coming the other way forcing him into the weir stream.  What a menace!

We were pleased to find we were soon in the open water of Loch Ness and we all got distance between ourselves and him. As we entered the Loch the light drizzle became a persistent down pour!  Stayed like that for the next 20 miles! The wind, that had been northerly for weeks, and I hoped would allow us to sail, went to the SW right on the nose and the rain became cold and almost sleety. Not nice.

We motored on. We saw 'Moana' peel off to go to Dores and, as the wind got up, thought their idea of a dinghy trip to the pub may not have been such a good idea, they caught up with us later.. no trip ashore!  'Sea Hawk' got his genoa unrolled, it sort of pulled, then the wind went round the clock and he was off!

A little while later we saw him hoist the main in a lull. 20 minute later he was caught in a blast of probably F6 and was laid over at 40 degrees. We wondered what Heidi thought of it! As the rain increased we lost sight of them and never saw them again, so assume they found a mooring or anchorage somewhere. (We were not worried about Mike, a real sailor!). Oh by the way he admitted to me it was the stop button! As he said, think of the simple things first... and he didn't till he had bled it through!  Duhh. He smiled when he told us! Sadly Chris on 'Moana' had not passed my message on to him, may have saved a lot of time and effort....

I have to say Loch Ness was a disappointment.  Apart from the lack of boats on it, you could count them on one hand, the rain and the heavy Forestry Commission planting has transformed the Loch. After you have seen the first 100,000 fir trees they get a bit of a muchness! All the mono culture has probably destroyed the biodiversity. Thus no birds, no wildlife of any sort visible....

The only entertainment was watching the echo sounder, 89m, 90m, 99n then, 'No Echo' as the sounder went off the clock at 100m. The actual depth on the charts is over 200m!  Once or twice we got 15 metres, or 20 metres, as we got a double bounce, but the depths on the chart were 214 metres, that's  deep!

We did have another odd thing happen, just off Urquhart Castle, half way down the loch, we noticed the GPS plotter go haywire. First it showed we were heading off at right angles to our course and a quick look at the wake dispelled that, then our speed increased from 5 knots to over 20 and all up down the scale.. After a minute it came back to normal, but not before the plotter had left a really odd track on the screen.  According to the plotter we had nearly gone round in a circle at great speed!  Nessie?

As we neared the bottom end of the loch, Keith and I found the camp site we used in 1974! Now full of camper vans and tube or barrel shaped huts and chalets. Our memory was of ground so rocky you could not get a tent peg into it and a 10 ft drop from the campsite edge to the water of the Loch. With two 2 year olds, even on harnesses it was nerve wracking, we only stayed a couple of nights!

As we approached Fort Augustus it became still and quiet, but the rain did not stop, just got gentler! The Menaces had moored up on a rusty steel wall on the entrance, but with no fenders! We found all the pontoons full, so moored to one of the many hire boats, empty and unoccupied, that were lining the pontoons. Easy to moor to, loads of permanent fenders and straight boxy sides with cleats at the corners!  Did seem strange that all the berths were full, yet no one was about....

The stove went on and the potatoes went in, the heater was lit and wet gloves and hats etc laid out to dry on the engine box,  I cracked open the engine box lid and put a few items over it to dry.

Dinner was washed down with a rum and shrub, thanks to Keith and  Mike and Anita at Bradwell marina bar!

Keith investigates the showers etc and we close up and settle down for the night. 'Moana' putters past and rafts up slightly further in, but no sign of 'Sea Hawk'. I leave the radio on dual watch, listening for him, nothing. He will have found a snug berth somewhere!

Mileage since Inverness just 27 miles.

We hope for less rain tomorrow and maybe a gentle breeze instead of the fierce squalls we had today, we will be climbing to the summit and then descending to the west...

John and Keith.

Keith at Cullochy Lock, we are now at the summit, 32 metres above sea level.

Invergarry castle ruins in Loch Oich. This had to be the most picturesque of all the lochs.

Aberchaldy swing bridge, operated by on of the few ladies working on the canal.

Looking back up the Great Glen from the lower end of Loch Lochy. From now on just canals till the sea.

All the available alongside mooring places were filled, but a quick glance round and we found the perfect boat to come alongside, one of our bigger sisters, a Golden Hind.

Monday 24th June 2013

Nearly wrote January as sometimes it feels like it! Today we saw Ben Nevis, and it and all the mountains round it have snow on them! Tonight as I write this we are  moored in the shadow of Ben Nevis and can feel that air coming off that cold snow!

Today we left Fort Augustus and locked up towards the summit, we were briefly in company with 'Sea Hawk' again, but they stopped off to dally above the locks.  Heidi told us she lost a shoe from the cockpit the day before when they were laid over at 40 degrees in the squalls on loch Ness. It was seemingly secure in the cockpit but was flung out!

We carried on into the River Oich and into loch Oich, this has to be the prettiest part so far. The lockkeepers were chatty and today one even sang a few bars of our song. (Fiddler's Green!!)   Cullochy Lock at the top of the flight into loch Oich has the man who sang and whistled our song all the time he worked the lock for us!  We were passing old Gaffers going the other way and one lady on a red traditional boat sang a verse as well!

We moored for lunch just inside Loch Oich, near the old bridge.

Star prize for lock keeper today has to go to Linda at Kytra, she appeared as a rather stern figure, till we were all safely locked in, then she wandered round to chat and awarded us a gold star each for wearing our lifejackets! Lovely lady. We have met or heard a couple of ladies working on the  canal today. Margaret runs the swing bridge at Laggan and was friendly and cheery too.

There were cyclists, walkers and canoeists out, but few hire boats and just a sprinkling of private boats. The one thing we noted was the pontoons for stopping and exploring were often full of abandoned seemingly 'local' boats, barring the mooring to others. The local shops suffered as we could not easily stop and shop..

Moy swing bridge was different, as only half swung from one side, the bride keeper had to get in a dinghy to reach the other part if he needed to open it!. For us he only needed to swing half though! We motored all day again, loch Lochy the last deep loch  was full of squally showers all on the nose! So no sail was hoisted in the whole system. Again no wild life, with the one exception of a Red Breasted Merganser, never seen one before and one circled us at the southern end of the Loch.  A quick scrabble for the bird book to identify it!   OK there are a few ducklings and cygnets too, but not many...

Today we travelled another 20 miles and eventually moored, alongside a moored Golden Hind, in Banavie basin, at the top of Neptunes Staircase. Tomorrow we are taking the 1100 lock time to get down to the bottom and under the next two swing bridges. We do not want to  get out the Sea Lock late in the day as the tides will be wrong, so we have to moor overnight close by and lock out at 0900 Wednesday for a 6 hour trip south to Kerrera and Oban marina. Then the next day a 5 hour run to the Crinan and a run through there.

Friday hope to be heading out the Crinan towards Largs  or another marina suitable for a crew change. Nowhere near as far south as I wanted to be but the logistics of locks and working hours  0800 till 1800hrs, less lunch breaks and allowing for road bridges and rail bridges that cannot be opened for boats unless safe, or out of rush hour, means the trip through the Caledonian will always take at least 4 days. (Though they do say you can do it in less??).

I do hope the weather bucks up or I will be up a gum tree.

At Banavie, I dip the tank and find we have used less than 15 litres in 2 days and over 40 miles.  I top up and we will have to fill the can tomorrow. I lubricate the stern tube greaser and note we have a small amount of water in the bilge from the stern tube 'Deep Sea Seal' I will have to keep an eye on that. I do have the old one I took off a few years back still on board, (there was little wrong with it but they recommended  renewing every 7 years....).

I also get the spanners out and adjust the tickover, as it has become a little slow and the engine shakes, increase back to the 850 it should be, was down to 600, far too slow!

Mileage to date 668.  Just 4 miles to go to the sea lock.

I will add pictures tomorrow. Late now, just back in after rather nice meal my crew treated me to, haggis starter and venison and black pudding sausages for a main!

John and Keith.

The locks are large on the Caley, they were designed for 1800 vintage frigates. So you have to throw lines up a long way and walking the boat through is easier. On this occasion the lockkeeper took the stern line but I had to motor it as he was not going to pull.

From the Neptune's Staircase you got glimpses of the distant sea.

Snow on Ben Nevis. The lock keeper suggested it would now stay there unless there was a heat wave!

We heard the whistle and were just in time to smell the coal!

Waiting in Corpach basin for the morning tide.

Tuesday 25th June 2013.

Very brief note today as we set off early tomorrow for Oban, and some tricky navigation etc. Fierce tides. Need the shut eye.

We set off at 1100 today we opted out of the 0800 lock time. We traversed the 9 locks of the 'Neptune's Staircase', to drop down near to sea level. It took over an hour and a half to get through the locks then the railway and road bridges. There were so many camera clicking and we were the only boat in the locks or through the bridges. We did have to laugh though, as the bridge master stopped the traffic, but then about 30 people ran onto the bridge to get pictures of us, he had to get out of his cabin and shoo them off the bridge before he could open it! Coach load of Japanese tourists!

Arriving at the bottom basin we were shoe horned into a corner next to the biggest yacht we had seen, we looked like it's tender. We walked to nearby shops and stocked up, filled the water tank and sorted out on board. In the evening we walked the mile or so back into Fort William to find a recommended pub for a meal. We were crossing the road in the middle of nowhere when I spotted Mike and Heidi coming out of a footpath on the other side of the road! They had sought out the fish and chip shop and were taking chips back to have with the Arbroath Smokie they had also bought. We chatted for a while then waved them farewell, again! Do wish the pair of them well, lovely couple.

We had a good meal, and then walked back to Fiddler's along the canal. I sat down to do the chart work for tomorrow and read the pilot book and sailing instructions with growing concern. A couple of routes through the islands  I had chosen have tidal streams of 8 knots in them and were to be avoided at all costs.  I have had to recalculate.

I have sorted tomorrows route, still with at least one 5 knot narrows, but think we are OK. As for the next day, I will worry tomorrow. Hair will be grey by the time I get back!!!

So just 4 miles done today and 12 locks, All  60 of the Caledonian ticked off.  Oban Marina next target.

John and Keith

 

waiting in the sea lock 0900.

sailing in Loch Linnie.

the speed increases in the narrows, but only by a couple of knots, at half tide it is 5 knots. At half tide it can be 5 knots.

Odd shaped ferry just for the narrows slipways.

A castle in loch Linnie

Old Gaffer making her way up towards Corpach sea loch no doubt.

Yet another fairytale castle....

Can you pick out the green and cream boat? Taken by Keith from the top of the hill above the marina.

Wednesday 26th June 2013.

We are in Oban. We left Corpach Sea Lock at 0900 HW, and motored down Loch Linnie, passing through the narrows 2 hours after HW and with just an extra 2 knots in the narrows, could have been 5 if we were later, as it was we had to steer by hand as we were swept all over the place.  Now imagine how I feel about tomorrow, where we will have to ride the Dorus Mor at maybe 8 knots!!  There is no way of avoiding one or other of these races.  I am not looking forward to it.

Today the challenge has been narrow passages between islands and rocks, tomorrow we have to add strong tides!

The scenery has been wonderful, will publish pictures in a day or two when I get time. There is no comparison to the east coast of Scotland. This afternoon the wind eventually stopped toying with us and we sailed, close hauled at first, then broad reaching into Oban marina bay, which is not in Oban, but on the island of Kerrera opposite. A free ferry takes boat owners back and forth and many leave boats here.

Today we have the wildlife back, seals, gannets and guillemots and the pretty and un-common, 'Common Gull'.

We have also had other boats in view all day, most sailing. However sailing here is tricky as the wind funnels between the mountains and can come in fierce gusts. Sitting here in the marina, we have been in flat calm for an hour, then a F6 gust hits!

We hoped to shower and fill up with diesel here, (we only have a 10 litre can empty, but I like to keep all full!) However there is no water on the island and no diesel! Being an island they are dependent on rain, and they say they have not had any.  The amount we have seen so far that appears strange...  Even the loos had buckets of sea water outside for flushing... We did get a coffee, not sure how they managed that, hate to think.....

We retreated to the boat and Keith cooked steak with oven chips and broad beans. Another problem with the gas cooker. Now this is not an old one, a modern Plastimo Neptune 2000, but once again a gas tap stuck. In the on position!  This time I had to remove it and change it for the one I had already removed as it first stuck then developed a leak. (fixed the leak), but it still is sticky, so we have lost one top burner. 

I have now figured out that the valves overheat, and when they do they stick. Later stoves seem to have larger heat shields, so maybe a job for this winter is to cut some ali plates and rivet them to the existing heat shields to see if I can cure this.  Have to say it is only a problem now because we are using the stove to it's full extent, and often have all the burners on.  But it should be able to cope.  We have never had a problem before.  strangely in Caley Marine they had the later model of my stove in  a Sale, £500.  Maybe I should have bought it!

After fixing that and plotting all the waypoints and courses for tomorrow I realise we did not have desert. Hey ho. Keith went off for a walk whilst I grappled with the charts. There is a novel house, hut really, with grass roof! He walked up to a nearby monument and back. The taxi boat buzzes back and forth all evening.

Another 29 miles today.

Hoping for a calm day tomorrow.  Crinan next port of call.

John and Keith

In the drizzle little is visible till close.

Fladda island light, at this point we were speeding up from 4 knots to an eventual 10.2 knots over the ground. (that is 6.2 knots of tide!!!)

Sykie our auto helm just could not cope with this turbulence, Keith steered!

Suddenly we are into the tranquil waters of the canal and all is calm and quiet.

This bridge is half way down a lock and is a rolling bridge on rails. Used every day!

Others had dedicated keepers who seemed to live on site in pretty lock side cottages., This bridge was wound by hand!

The canal had been cut from the rock!

Thursday 27th June 2013.

We are sat in a canal in the most tranquil of places, at the summit of the Crinan.

The day started at 0920 when we left Oban. It had been gently raining for hours and was of course cold with it. No showers, as they had no water and was looking forward to shower at the entrance to the Crinan, didn't happen...

As we set off the visibility was about a mile in the rain, we set course out only to be instantly confused by the buoyage. It was not as the chart and it took a while to realise they had buoyed 2 channels within sight of each other with the same red and green lateral buoys. A double check on the direction of the buoyage and we altered course rapidly!  A silly mistake by the local harbour controllers!

The visibility did not improve during the day, the cloud base came down to the sea, fog. We could not see half a mile and at one stage just 400 yards, then less, worrying. Boats would pop out of the murk and we realised that for the first time on this trip there were others out there quite as mad as the skipper!

I had timed our exit and the speed of our journey to try and miss the fierce tidal race at Dorus Mor, where it runs at 8 knots with much turbulence. So we puttered head into the F3/4 drizzle. till we got to Fladda that is,  where the tide passing through the gap between the islands shot us out adding over 6knots to our speed, max 10.2!!  The swirling waters were impressive!  No way could an autopilot cope here!

As we approached the Corryvrekan I was watching for more turbulence, we saw lots, as if 100's of fire hoses were playing across our bows, but as the visibility dropped at this stage to 200 yards or less we could not see into the race. Nor could we hear it, the fog dampened all sound..  We did see one bright orange inflatable, with a half dozen life jacketed passengers heading towards it though!

Heading for a small gap between 2 islands, that we could not see for the mist, I had a knot in my stomach. Had I got it right? Were we in for a rough ride or would it be smooth.??

Yes, the Dorus Mor was tranquil and calm! Half an hour later we were at the gates of the Crinan. A few minutes before my ETA of 1400. I booked off to the coastguard. They had obviously been handing us on station by station and informed us that Belfast Coastguard would be our next contact when we exited the Crinan into the Clyde. Nice people. I very nearly joined the local Coastguard when I moved out to Tillingham, a really rewarding job, but with my business taking off I could not give them the time they wanted.... now they have closed it down!

The contrast from the sea to the canal was dramatic. The only black mark was the neat sewage that spewed out at us from a pipe in the starboard wall of the locks entrance pier. As it was dead LW springs I bet that pipe is never normally seen. I have spoken to the staff who promise to look into the matter! (Whilst holding their noses!)

According to the pilots you have to work the locks yourself, but can employ a helper...  We were told that we would be escorted as a matter of course and gave us a special pennant to fly so lock staff would help.  So once again the pilot books are not as up to date as one would like...  Seems no one is allowed to work their boats through now.   Within moments we joined another boat in the next lock and started up the canal, 3 hours later we were half way through and moored above lock 8 on the summit section. Tomorrow at 0830 the lads will be back to lock us through to the sea lock.

We walk down to the Cairnbaan Hotel and have an excellent dinner, before wandering back past empty cottages, most to let.  George from the other boat comes over to ask what time we are moving, as they had no idea what the lock keepers were planning and their skipper did not know. They will join us again or rather we will lock down one lock to join them, so we can carry on together. Saves water and energy.  Sadly we are a long way from the shower facility here, so that will have to wait, again! Flannel and washbasin job for now!  The gentle rain becomes heavier and lasts all night.

Tomorrow, if the weather is OK we will lock out and head for Largs.

John and Keith.

John tackling another problem with the Plastimo cooker. Yet again a jammed on/off valve! We fix it but it needs a replacement....

In the sea lock at Ardrishaig. The wall is curved and we fitted perfectly! Photo by Keith.

Friday 28th June 2013.

Sorry for the pause in communications, we were berthed in the most remote part of the summit section of the canal and there was only enough service to text. This will happen, trouble was it happened on the day after we were traversing one of the most tricky bits, Soddes Law!  Sorry if some were concerned..

Today it has been wet wet wet! Add to it F7 squalls, so  we are pleased we decided to stay in the canal today. As it happened we would not have got to the sea lock before 1400 anyway, lunch breaks!  You cannot race through these canals!

We were ready at 0830 standing in the rain all booted and spurred with the boat engine running and the wash boards in to keep the weather out, and the lock keepers had an emergency call re the excess water coming in from the rain... We got going at 0900 and it took as long as it took. When they stopped for lunch, we stopped. We made one extra stop to find fuel. Surprisingly there is no fuel available on the canal. A pontoon had been put in near the garage at Lochgilphead, but it was 40 ft above the garage with a slippery grass slope! Fun getting down and even more fun getting up with a couple of cans of fuel! There was a good grocery there so I bought all sorts of goodies! Pot Noodles! We needed them today warm and filling, heavens knows what's in them!

After 3 days without a shower we hit the showers when we got to Ardrishaig Sea Lock Basin. I will also admit to having a 2 hour snooze, I was knackered!

Keith worked wonders in the galley and with what we had in the fridge we feasted on a beef steak stir fry and rice. He had wandered off whilst I snoozed and came back with a couple of tubs of yoghurt, (Rhubarb for me!) and a couple of bottles of the local Arran beer. Finished off with a caffetiere of coffee, we know how to live here!

The rain has stopped, and the wind subsided. We have travelled just 9 miles in the last 2 days, but  as we have already found, you just cannot hurry canal travel. The total to date stands at 735.5 miles.

Tomorrow we will lock out at 0900 and have 33 miles to cover to Largs for the crew change over.

Pleased to say Andrew and Fiona from our village have texted us with information re Largs where their boat is. They will see us there. My Jenny has been texting and today phoned, she is back in the UK and off to the Brecons for a day and on to me Sunday in Largs. Hopefully Keith can arrange train travel for Sunday, back to Essex. We are not booking tickets in advance, just in case!

Keith has given me the chip from his camera, I took no pictures today, battery went flat. So I hope to add a pic or two.

All we need now is that Azores high to build and bring us warm settled weather for a month! Some hopes, its Wimbledon week, got to pour!

John and Keith.

In the Ardrishaig sea lock, preparing to leave.

About the only good picture I managed to get of the scenery, because of the mist!

Sgat Mor, half way to Largs.

Andrew and Fiona's beautiful boat. The name 'Caladris Alba' is clever, sounds very Scottish, but is in fact the Latin for Sanderling!

Saturday 29th June 2013.

We are moored in Largs, the largest marina in Scotland with 750 berths, and within 4 boats are our friends from Tillingham.

We set off this morning at 0900 from Ardrishaig along with a beautiful twin screw diesel yacht, 'Juliet Kilo' (wondered if it were Miss Rowling's?), and a Hunter Sonata with three young people on board. Out into Loch Fyne with not a breath of wind. We motored at 5 knots for a while till a gentle breeze enticed the genoa out. We played with sails for ages, even hoisted the main, and had several brief spells under sail, all to end abruptly as the wind either died or headed us. During the day we spotted several harbour porpoises in a group, one was a small one. The best sighting of the day was a Basking Shark swimming harmlessly past about 100 yards away, I hope I caught it on the video. Sadly Keith looked, but could not see it at all. There are rafts of guillemots and gannets, swimming not flying?

There were also boats all round us, all day, in the distance. A difference from anywhere else on our travels so far. The scenery is stunning, were it not for the drizzle.  Water as far as the eye could see in all directions and all astoundingly deep, the echo sounder regularly went off the scale at 100 metres!

Andrew and Fiona texted to say they would be there to take our lines and that they were treating us to a meal!

As we got closer the wind went SE and headed us again so we just motored on with the main up, out of no where the wind piped up and we were suddenly flying . We entered the Largs channel at 6 knots and flew up towards the marina. As we got further up the seas diminished and we could take time to check out the scenery. At the entrance to the channel there was a large power station that looked like a copy of the nuclear one at Bradwell. It was being closed down as the Bradwell one was. Then there was a ship unloading coal that  was being loaded into waiting trucks, they import coal from the USA?!?!

Just outside the marina, anchored was the VIC32. We passed round her stern and through the cloud of smoke she was making, real coal. A Clyde Puffer! There used to be one on the London River years ago, crawled all over it. Just like the star of the 'Tales of Parahandy' remember the 'Vital spark'?    Loved those films!

As I am breathing in the fumes of reminiscence, my Jenny calls. Sadly as I was on the phone to my Jenny at the time I did not get the camera on the Vic 32!  Jenny is joining me tomorrow and will come back with exact times. Our friends here, Andrew and Fiona will take me to collect her from the station... ( and deliver Keith there tomorrow morning!). Now that's great!

We enter the marina and it is huge. Takes a few moments to find pontoon J, but once we do we putter up the rows of moored boats, looking for the berth, No 14, and there is Andrew waving!  They welcome us in taking our lines! Nice welcome..  They understand and retreat back to their boat, inviting us to join them once we are sorted. Always takes a little while to get all the sailing gear properly stowed and the boat back into harbour mode!   We join them on board their beautiful Moody 38 for coffee and maybe something stronger. After a tour and coffee etc we go and get sorted for dinner, and they take us up to the complex inside the marina where there are 2 restaurants, a chandlery, boat sales , supermarket etc great set up.  Bradwell take note!  I check in at the office too.

As ever, every day I check in with the Coast Guard and today we are with Belfast Coastguard. We are welcomed to their area! Seems we are indeed being passed on watch by watch, and they look forward to hearing from us again as we sail south, nice!

We spend a pleasant evening with Andrew and Fiona, who spoil us rotten. Keith has his details of the rail journey texted to him and Andrew and Fiona  organise to take Keith and I into Largs, Keith for the train, me for the supermarket.

The wind is still whistling around at times, gusty, but most of the time it is quiet. The Scotch Mist envelopes everything in a clammy dampness.  Folk here seem to accept it as the norm!

Have to go south till the butter melts!

Crew change over day and wash day for me tomorrow!

John and Keith

 

Sunday 30th June 2013.

Day spent in Largs polishing and cleaning and doing the chores. Largs marina is top class, all facilities and good ones, laundry showers etc, add to that a couple of restaurants, chandlers, boat repair, deli, dive shop, everything.

Andrew ran Keith and me to the station, and then on to the supermarket for provisions. Good place for a crew change.

I dip the tank and refuel, another 10 litres. Re fill can. I also sponge a couple of cup fulls of water from the bilge. Rain mostly, but I bet some came in through the stern gland, so I refill the greaser on that too.

I scrub the boat then I am called over for a traditional Scottish dish, Flat Sausage! Never heard of it, but is is like a burger, square in shape is beef and round is pork. With it you have either red or brown sauce, not ketchup and HP, but amounts to the same! Delicious! I spend the afternoon in the laundry, it tips it down, and down, Andrew says the forecast is just lots of different ways to say its going to rain!

I test the showers whilst the dryer rumbles on... Great showers and washing facilities here!

Eventually I get back to the boat and get an invite to join Andrew and Fiona for dinner aboard. I nip over to say 'yes please' and invite them aboard first to see our little boat, for coffee etc.

A plate full of Shepherds pie later and Andrew runs me down to the station again to pick up my Jenny. The rain has stopped but it is only 13 degrees, learn it is 27 at home!  Andrew gives me a quick tour of Largs town, pleasant looking place with a few interesting places to visit....

I leave the heater on not just to dry the collars and cuffs of my washing but so the boat is warm for Jenny.

On time, her train rolls into Largs and she is whisked back to the boat. So nice to have such friends here!

Fiona comes over to say hello....then leaves us to sort Jenny's gear out, how understanding!

It takes a little while to do it but eventually all gear sorted and stowed and her bed made ready.

Forecast is still F6 for tomorrow so no sailing planned yet, but Troon will be the first hop I expect..

No pictures today either, too darn wet!

John and Jenny

Back by popular demand, the map!

The Largs 'Pencil', easy to see how it got it's name! From a distance that is just what it looks like!

Yummy ice cream in Nardini's.

Fearsome Viking warrior wench.

This Viking's hat fell over his eyes!

The comical Viking wench, a great guide, recommend a visit there!

When we came out of the exhibition summer had arrived. View is looking back south, the way we came into Largs. Could not see half of this then, misted out.

Monday 1st July 2013

July and it is still cold, but not as cold as it was and this afternoon the sun came out, giving real warmth, provided you were out of the F5/6 that blew at times! It would have been right on the nose for the next leg, so that is why we are still here.

Tonight its going to blow and pour and all day tomorrow too. So we are staying put. Wednesday looks OK.  The Azores High looks as if it will build and if it does we should have a few weeks good weather with light winds, looking forward to getting south and onto the south Devon coast. Long way to go yet though.

So today we walked into Largs, stopping off at the 'Pencil' and then I took Jenny to Nardini's.  The famous Art Deco Ice cream parlour and Italian café. We feasted and so much so that even having walked it off we could not eat any dinner tonight!

We also went into the 'Vikingar' exhibition and had great fun in there, now we understand what the 'Pencil' monument is about! Marks the battle site in 1263 when the Scots, of Viking descendents finally over threw the Norwegian Viking king who laid claim to Scotland. Was the last Viking battle, and the Scots won.

The girlie who showed us round was terrific and when she left us alone in the Viking longhouse for a few minutes was pleasantly surprised to return and find we had not only picked up and handled all the props as instructed, but were doing our own re enactment of the battle of Largs! She loved it!

On the walk back to the boat the sun blazed and we were told it had been the best afternoon this year! More to come we hope!

Our friends Andrew and Fiona are leaving for home tomorrow, with a small parcel for Darian, she thinks it's my dirty washing!

Will try and spend the day preparing, with Jenny sorting her new oilie jacket out fitting the lifejacket to it and then practicing knots and chart work. If the rain holds off we will be going round the deck familiarising her with the boat again, been a long time since we have sailed together.

Looking forward to getting on the move again, and high pressure dominating the weather for a time.

John and Jenny.

The picture does not do it justice, but it was raining so hard it flattened the ripples on the water!

Tuesday 2nd July 2013.

The rain has been relentless today, since  early. Wind rocking the boat... Midday it fell in stair rods, before the wind got back up to F 9!  The Skye bridge was closed and the Ferry to Dunoon was subject to delays too.

Andrew and Fiona left early and I wondered if they would have had a wet  journey, but no, they had found a dry window and were just in Scotland still and still dry.

We have spent the day doing revision on chart work and knots! The heater is on low with the electric fan gently spreading the heat round the boat and trying to keep us dry, the dampness gets to you otherwise.

Jenny disappeared up for a shower at the height of the rain, so she had 3 showers, one on the way there, one there and another on the way back. She was testing her new oilie jacket! She then produced a belated fathers day present, cakes from the deli! That was lunch!

The marina is deserted. Only seen a couple of people brave the elements! The wind is due to abate tonight and hopefully we can leave for Troon or Ayr tomorrow lunchtime. The forecast for tomorrow is not bad at all, westerly F 3/4, so we should be able to sail.

It is 1800 now and my daughter Jenny has taken over the galley, she has emptied all the lockers to see what is aboard and reckons we could live off the contents for a month! As she is vegetarian the remaining Fray Bentos pies are all mine!

Tonight there are a couple of beef links in the oven along with the butternut squash and sweet potatoes I bought Sunday! (links are what we would call sausages!).

Suddenly the boat rocks and another squall screams through!

The weathermen have predicted a hot spell for July, I do hope so....

I am very pleased to have had lots of mails from the guys I worked with, as well as Seagull customers and friends, all interested in the log. Pleased you like it folks! Jenny has decided there has to be a comedy picture every day, but not today, just rain.!

John and Jenny.

For a change the visibility was great. This dot on the horizon to our south is Ailsa Craig, or 'Paddys Milestone'. Half way to Ireland!

The law enforcement vessel that tailed us for a couple of hours.

Jenny at work in the Galley. Nigellea watch out!

Sunshine and wine, and texting the boyfriend, Oly. All I hear all the time is click, click, click as the keyboard rattles!

Wednesday 3rd July 2013.

We are in Troon. We arrived in a heat wave. The layers of oilies were very quickly shed and the cold beer came out!  The weather was really as hot as it has been on the trip, hotter than any other day so far.

The morning started with us walking round the deck going over all the gear, checking fender positions and rigging etc. We filled the water tank and made ready for sea. Jenny even made sandwiches....

We did not cover a great distance today, but most journeys start with a small step and this was Jenny's first step.

Jenny soon had the Auto helm sorted and the new plotter. Lowrance! Everyone has liked this bit of kit!

We motored out of Largs in a calm, headed down the approach channel into a light head wind but soon were able to unroll the genoa as we bore away to the west and towards Ardrossan and Troon. We cut the motor and sailed under just Genoa at 4 knots for a while, but after an hour or so the wind gently dropped.

Then.....  Off Horse Island, Jenny was beside herself as 3 harbour porpoises swam past us! She was already getting excited over the gannets and guillemots! I videoed her, not the porpoises, it was more fun!   Hoping for more wildlife encounters as we go south.

We were shadowed by a large vessel at this stage, the 'Sir John Murray' on the AIS,  and when I checked it, it simply said 'Law enforcement'.  When we gave up on the genoa and put the motor back on it lost interest and overtook us, looked like an ex trawler and had survey on it, odd...

As other days on the west coast, we always had half a dozen or more vessels on the horizon, wide as it was. We could see for miles, despite the threat of fog in the forecast the clouds rolled away and the sun came out revealing the Scottish islands and mountains in all their majesty!

We were welcomed into Troon just as nicely as we have been greeted everywhere in Scotland. We have met nothing but smiles!  Troon harbour is also full of the sweet smell of pine wood. The harbour has many barges full of newly felled pine trees from the Forestry Commission's plantations. Great smell, then there is also the waft of fish and chips from 'Wee Hurries' the famous  local chippy, as you cross the outer harbour....  we have to visit!

After a quick check of the facilities, WOW great showers etc!!!  We went back to Fiddler's and opened the beer. We sat in the cockpit and  I had to strip off a few more layers. Checking the log I note the mileage is now 786.5 miles, loads to go... but if it is a warm as this it will be nicer.

Jenny has taken over the galley. Last night it was roast Butternut squash with pecans, philly cheese and thyme, today it is stuffed mushrooms! (I also had a few 'links' that were left.)

An excellent dinner.

We have retreated into the cabin now as it has got suddenly chilly, but it is 2130!  and the midges are about, just a few, but enough to get Jenny below.

Forecast for tomorrow has F8 in it so we are staying put! We are heading SW down the coast to Stranraer and guess which direction the wind will be coming from in 2 days time!!!

All for now,

John and Jenny

Looking across the marina there are huge stacks of logs waiting shipment to the saw mills.

In town we found 'C Gulls' a café serving great coffee and cakes.

The view across the marina, yes we are the only green and cream boat!

I particularly liked the name on the lorry, 'Logistics'! Piles of logs wherever you looked!

Thursday 4th July 2013.

We sheltered in Troon today as F8's whistled round us, SW gales. In July! The forecast for tomorrow is for SW 4 or 5, no good to us as we have to head SW and punching into that  is not on. The day after F6! And so it goes on.

So we had a walk round Troon today, went out onto the southern beach prom to brave the winds and soon came back into the shelter of the town. A sign in town told us the temperature was 21 degrees, not on the prom it wasn't!

Saw a café called 'C Gulls' so had to go in for coffee! Nice cake too.

We did a little shopping and sorted out a few odds and ends on board when we returned.  We intended to visit 'Wee Hurrie' the recommended  fish and chip shop but when we arrived there at just gone 2000hrs, they had just closed. However we had a bracing walk there and back as the place was right at the end of the harbour.

On the way we saw the saw mills where all the timber coming into the port was taken. Not a bit is wasted, all is sawn, shredded and collected, there were lorries laden with timber everywhere. A large wood pulp paper mill is also nearby, lots of jobs. A ship came into the dock with more timber and 2 tugs ferry barge full's about. Big business. Smell of pine everywhere....

Jenny treated me to a meal in 'Scotts' when we came back from our trip to 'Wee Hurries' . It was great, we actually got a table overlooking the boat in the marina too. Very tastefully presented meals... We ambled back to the boat, then realised it was 2230 and it was still light. Fooled again.

Have met some really nice people up here, which has made the bad weather bearable!

The phone connection for the net and just calls has not been so great here and the website editing has been difficult, hope I can get this loaded. Some text messages did not get delivered for several hours yesterday. I think the gale force winds must have something to do with it, they are all struggling to get south against the wind, just to get home!

Sipping hot chocolate with rum now!

John and Jenny.

 

The map shows the trip round the coast that we have  completed with the last days as an artistic impression of the return ride!

I am well pleased with the achievement, even if we did not do a full cuircuit.

Friday 5th July 2013

Today had to make the hardest decision so far on this trip, and that was the one I have been putting off for a while.

Calling it a day and bringing the boat home.

I nearly did it when Phil and I were in Lowestoft with ice on deck and again shortly after we got a pasting off Norfolk. The 5 days in Hull were trying too.

But now, having covered about 800 miles, I have had a wonderful adventure, but time to stop. With the help of all my friends and family I  have had a ball! The boat has proved her worth a thousand fold and I feel I have gained a lot from the experience too. I feel sad for my Jenny as she has not done many miles, but she now has a boyfriend and is keen to spend time with him so there is a side bonus for her....

Must say a thank you to all those who have wished us well over the past 2 months, the boat has had so many mails from well wishers! Been great to met up with some of them too.

Sadly I will not be meeting up with others.. not this year.. Had been looking forward to meeting friends in Padstow,  the Scillies, Falmouth, Fowey, Plymouth, Dartmouth, Brixham, Poole, Eastbourne, Newhaven, Dover etc. So many contacts!!

The weather we have had has also hit others, apparently the boat transporters are very busy returning boats to the south! 

My problem has been the inability to sail, either because the wind had been so contrary, or on some days non existent... but at least on those days we managed to put miles under the keel....  But at some cost.  I had not figured on the extra fuel costs,  £30 a day, put me way over budget. Add to that the time wasted, waiting for decent weather, and my 3 months were slipping away. I have just over 1 month left and about 800 miles to cover, so not a a viable project any longer..

So today, after sorting the transport, with the help of my Darian's  Michael and his contacts,  we have stripped the sails off her, slackened the rigging and sorted all the deck gear ready for the mast to come down and the trip home. The lift out is booked for Monday, the lorry will take Fiddler's and myself south and by Tuesday I will be back in Bradwell.

My Jenny is off in the morning to Brixham and I will have the day to pack gear away down below and make all ready for the road.

Already told the crew of my plans and true to form Keith says he will be at Bradwell to help me re rig her, good mates I have!

Sodd's Law of course and the temperature has at last risen in the North West, to 21 again today. After all the grey days of 10 to 13 it has been a joy today  to feel the sun and the marina and boat yard has suddenly come alive!  Up till now all the places we have been have been virtually deserted!

It has been a great experience and Scotland an eye opener. I can really see why so many keep their boats up here on the Clyde, when the sun comes out you cannot beat it and the Scottish hospitality has to be experienced to be appreciated, second to none!

I will be restarting SOS as soon as I am home, but I will take a week in August, to take the grandson, Brandon out!  He is looking forward to it.... and his dad, Paul may join us too.

Might just add a post script regarding the lorry trip, but closing down now, and back to reality next week with Seagull spares and catching up at home.

John and Jenny.

 

Like to think this is what the trip was about, bringing friends and family closer! Great to have my Jenny aboard! We will do it again, but perhaps in warmer climes!

Having let a few friends and crew know before I published this page, I instantly had this back from friend Richard! Yes, I had a go, and I did not make it right round, but I had a go and feel good for doing so!!

President Theodore Roosevelt
In a speech titled "Citizenship in a Republic" given at the Sorbonne, April 1910

It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.

Brings a lump to the throat!

Troon Yacht Haven lifting FG onto the flat artic trailer. Brian the driver would have preferred the boat to be further forward, but because of the low cross beam on the lift this was as good as it got.

Brian wanted strong points to strap down to, do not get much stronger than the samson post, one strap to port, one to starboard.

Same for the tabernacle and also the stern samson post in the middle of my stern deck. She never moved a millimetre on the 475 mile trip.

Ready to roll.

Dinner stop, good honest food and cheap prices!

Brian's home for the week, his Mercedes. 450hp tractor unit.

Brian the jovial Scott who brought me home and allowed me to travel with him!

Tucked up for the night in Cambridge Services!

0830 and Ian and Dave are there waiting for us at Bradwell.

All washed off and looking as if she had never been anywhere!

Shiny paintwork and a clean bottom!

Friday 12th July 2013

Well I am safely back at Bradwell now.  Has been an eventful week.

I will add pictures to this section when I go back to the boat and get the usb lead!

Having made the decision to call off the attempt the next day or two was a whirlwind of phone calls.

Jenny had to arrange transport and I was also looking.  Jenny was going to fly from Glasgow to Gatwick, so she could meet the boyfriend, going with 'Flybe', a 'cut price' airline, it worked out at over £200! Seems that, as the plane was going via Belfast, they charged twice for the luggage!  Eventually she decided to go National Express coach Glasgow to Paignton, almost all the way home. but their web site crashed every time she tried to pay! A call to them and the guy reluctantly booked it on the phone, saying it really must be done on line!  Duhhh! Like how???

At this stage I was wondering how I was going to get home, but the transport firm, 'Gault Transport' came back and said the driver, Brian, was quite happy for me to travel with him!  A real bonus. However I had to find my own overnight accommodation.  I laughed and said it would be the load!  Of course, they said, and that's where I slept on the stop over!

So Friday, before Jenny left on Saturday morning, we removed the sails and all the green sticky tape on the rigging and slackened off the rig.  The boom was lashed down on deck on foam pads. All was prepared.

That Friday evening we thought we would try again to get to the recommended fish and chip shop, the 'Wee Hurrie'. This time we were in good time and joined the queue at the door. A good natured crowd were willing Murray on in the Semi final, I looked to see if I could spot Andrew and Fiona in the crowd, no chance! 

Found out a day later what the 'Wee Hurrie' meant.  Seems it means 'little shelter', and that is just what the building had previously been, right on the end of the harbour wall! The portions were extra large, Jenny had a vegetable Tempura,  I had Haddock, all very good!  We walked the half mile back and ate on board. The seagulls and the brisk wind made sitting on a nearby bench uninviting!

Next morning Jenny's taxi arrived to take her to Troon, but the taxi driver told us the trains were disrupted, so I got him to take her direct to Glasgow Bus station.

I heard from her several times during the day and she was picked up by her mum late that night.

Sunday I sorted the boat from end to end and got an early night.

Monday morning I was up with the lark, showered and breakfasted and  manoeuvred the boat round the marina and stern first into the lift.  0900.

By 1100 we were loaded and Brian the driver and I had her lashed down securely on his flat bed artic.  She never moved a millimetre on the road...  We double checked the height of the load, under 14ft.  The load height had to be known for low bridges and is displayed in the cab!

We set off for home.

I learnt an awful lot about lorries and transport generally on the trip. I did not know they were limited by law to 40mph on single carriageway roads. Tell that to the hell drivers round the Essex lanes! The tacho-graph has come a long way, it is now a digital box, and the firm knew where we were every minute as there was a hidden tracker! I had no idea what 'Addblu' was either, or what it was for!!. (There is a tank full on modern trucks and it is injected into the exhaust to reduce emissions...)  I was introduced to the new longer artics, now legal on our roads, with rear wheel steer and some of the little courtesy's the drivers use to one another on the road!

We stopped at a truck stop  for dinner, just £7.00 all in, huge portions and coffee and desert!  You can see why a few canny motorists use the truck stops!

After a couple  stops we neared Cambridge. We passed lay-bys full of parked up lorries, many with the backs open to expose the loads. Brian explained it was easier to do that than leave them locked and have potential thieves damage locks, or have covers sliced open, and if the load was not what the thieves wanted they would look elsewhere!  Where on earth were all my former colleagues?  We used to sit on observations for hours to catch these crooks and we had  little crime as a result, now, it appears, it is rife.

We pulled into Cambridge overnight service stop and found the last free space in the lorry park.  I climbed up onto the boat for the night, Brian said we would be on the road at 0610, the first moment he was legally allowed to be driving again!

Really odd being up on the lorry, looking out of the portholes, as the scenery changed from orange to green one side and blue to Yellow the other, as lorries either side moved during the night.  There was a constant movement of trucks.  But it was secure and well lit with a security patrol. 

The driver in the truck parked next to me was surprised to see me emerge in the morning though! Stowaways!

0610 on the dot we were off.   First Brian walked round the truck and kicked all the tyres!  Approaching Mayland a car coming towards us was furiously flashing head lights, Brian waved! So did I when I realised it was my Darian!  She had a feeling she would see us on her way to work, she told me! 

We reached Bradwell at 0830 and the marina workshop lads,  Ian and Dave were there waiting for us. By 0930 the boat was off and the timbers nailed to the truck bed to sit the bilge keels were all removed and   sorted and Brian on his way, off to Felixstowe to pick up a container to take north. He would probably not be home till Friday night, if he was lucky. His cab was his home and was immaculate, 53,000 miles in the 6 months he had driven it since new. A Mercedes and very swish, all mod cons, including his bed and heating etc. Thanks Brian, for your hospitality!

As we were unloading the boat, crew members Keith and Phil arrived, I had heard Keith may swing past but had no idea about Phil. He was due to be off on holiday the next day!  Phil promptly set too to wash the road and canal grime off the topsides. When clean, she looked as if she was as newly polished as he had been at the start of the season. Apart from a couple of tiny marks on the heavy Afromosia rubbing strake, (which is what it is there for!), the boat was virtually unmarked. Not bad for over 800 miles and 2 months hard use!

With their help the mast was re stepped, (by crane) and then the boat launched. Once afloat the rigging was tensioned to get the mast upright athwart ships and the 3 inch bend  I like to get into it, fore and aft!

All the rigging was secured and re taped up and the sails bent on the spars. We stopped only for lunch and Doug from 'Dougaljo' joined us  to congratulate me with a bottle! What a kind thought.

By 1500 the boat was all ready to sail again. A couple of berth holders came past and asked if we had problems, as we had not been seen in our berth, they were very surprised to be told we had sailed to and round most of  Scotland in the last 2 months! They had not moved!!

We were sat in the cockpit drinking coffee, the lads having retrieved their sailing gear they had left aboard, when Darian turned up from work, the lads discreetly left!

Darian and I emptied the fridge and loaded the car with a few bits and that really was the end of the adventure.

I must say a big thank you to all my crew and their wives, Phil and Val, Brian and Mo, Sue and Keith and Jenny and her boy friend Oly. A special thank you to Darian for signing my chitty and letting me go.

Then there are thank you's to the  people who helped along the way, to Judy and Charlie in Scarborough and to Andrew and Fiona in Largs. To the well wishers from Bradwell, Mike and Anita and friend Richard who enquired after us every day!

We met  Eventide owners and heard from many more, had offers of help from them and Seagull owners and met up  and heard from colleagues of mine from Thames Division. Was good to speak and meet with all of you.

I had half an idea to carry the trip over for a year and set off in the opposite direction next year, and maybe when I get to Troon, hop back on that trailer!  After all we have already sailed Fiddler's to Cornwall and back, so she knows part of the way there! A circumnavigation in two instalments!  Anyone want to sign up?  Will not be doing it in 2014 though, we have a special wedding anniversary mid summer, and anyway I will have to save up again!!  So how about setting off again in 2015, with any luck!!

John.

Post Script.

I will add a few thought here about the trip, the boat, the gear, the scenery, the ports and passages we made, the wildlife and the overall experience.

I have to go back down the boat first though, as I have already written a lot of it out in the logbook, and that is still aboard of course.

So will be back later to finish off this section and to add the photos I took  during the last few days.

John

Saturday 13th July 2013.

Thoughts about the adventure.

Really to do this trip sensibly and comfortably, a larger boat than our 27ft, is needed, just for peace of mind. Coping with heavy seas and head winds was difficult.   At least 30ft, or even larger. We were the smallest boat that we found trying to sail round the UK and we encountered many doing the same trip and all falling foul of the weather just as we had. 35 to 45 ft long was average!

Along with a larger boat, of course  a larger motor and larger fuel tank. We ran out of fuel in dire circumstances and were lucky to retrieve the situation. Motoring flat out for 13 hours depleted the 36 litre tank....  I had not expected that....  (don't motor into a F6 for hours, not worth it!)  If I try to complete the circumnavigation another season, extra tank  capacity will have to be fitted, somehow?

On the plus side, being a bilge keeler, this opened up many harbours and anchorages to us that others dare not use, very useful.  A real bonus!

One of the real plus points was our loo holding tank!  With our Lavac Loo it really was a simple matter to get the plumbing right. I fitted this five years or more ago and it has a 60 litre capacity, enough for 2 for about 6 days.  Means we were self sufficient, even when aground! Useful when on the back of a lorry too! Was surprised to find many larger boats without and shocked to see raw sewage filling small harbours, as owners discharged into the sea.  Not nice.

For fuel transfer, the small handheld, battery powered (C cells!) Colley pump was a real asset. When it was rough it was easy to transfer fuel from can to tank without any spills. (provided the fuel filler hole on the aft deck was not being swept by waves!)...

The New Lowrance Chart Plotter linked with the 'Digital Yacht' AIS, was liked by all the crew and a great reassurance that the navigator was doing his stuff correctly down below! The daylight viewable screen, approx 7 inch diagonal, was big and bright enough to be seen from anywhere in the cockpit.  We could see the ships around us and if we had a doubt pull up their course and speed info as well as see the dotted line of their intended course clearly displayed.  Once the 'Digital Yacht' AIS receiver was modified with the tiny 40p capacitor, so the Lowrance unit could see the info, it was brilliant.

The fridge and the extra batteries for services and fridge worked brilliantly, never had a battery problem, even when the sun did not shine for the solar panel, we could top up with our simple 3 amp battery charger in most marinas for free.

What would I change?

Fuel tank size I have already discussed. We have just a 36 litre (8 gallon)  s/s tank on the starboard side near the stern.  For normal sailing it has been fine for over 20 years....  But maybe I can add a 20 litre or more extra tank space under the cockpit floor, linked to the main tank... will look at that.

Sealing the cockpit floor. I thought I had, but in the persistent rain we kept getting, water would percolate through to the bilge. An annoyance that I have to cure by lifting and resealing the cockpit floor, maybe after fitting that extra fuel tank...

This winter I will replace the Deep Sea seal on the prop shaft. I had to adjust it as it dripped,  not a problem, just 7 years fair wear..

The Plastimo Neptune 2000 Cooker, a quite modern, an all s/s cooker with flame failures on all burners. However when the grill and oven in use, as well as the top rings, the taps jammed, just the heat, but was then unusable as it had to be turned off by the bottle or cooker main tap to cool down...  Later models I have seen have better heat shielding, just a larger ali sheet that cold so easily be added....  had to replace another tap, (did one tap  enroute) and investigate the over heating problem.

Actually decided that I will replace the cooker. Though for 'normal' use it is excellent, when every burner was on, it was not and on this trip several times we had the lot on, unusual, but there you go. I have short listed the 'Spinfo Nelson' as a replacement...  we will see. I already have someone wanting the Plastimo stove!

My laptop power lead that raises  the voltage from 12 to 15.5v overheated a couple of times, so a more reliable one must be found.

Perhaps I should carry a larger 12v battery charger, the 3 amp one was OK, but as I now have 500 Amp hrs of battery, maybe twice that might be appropriate.  (The solar panel seems to cope well in harbour if the sun shines).  The Alt X alternator controller gives the batteries the charge they need under motor of course.

Reefing. This is a tricky one. Several times I had to be on deck, fully booted and spurred with oilies, lifejacket and harnessed onto the jackstay, to reef the main at the mast. It was sometimes very difficult. I have investigated the possibility of leading lines back to the cockpit, but think it may prove impractical as there would have to be so many ropes. 3 reefs, halyard, topping lift, down haul...  But maybe I could fit lazy jacks to catch the sail when lowered..... should be easy to fit these.

All in all not many modifications to be considered, so we just about had it right. Food for thought anyway.

Conclusion.

I think we made a pretty good job of getting all prepared for the trip and the 800 odd miles we covered was all done safely. (With the exception of the hairy moments off the Norfolk coast maybe, but we managed, thanks to capable crew!!).

The trip was full of adventures, a new harbour and new challenges almost every day and all tackled and dealt with to my satisfaction. The boat coped brilliantly, I had no qualms about her at all, but having built her I knew she was strong. We look after her ourselves  and she is maintained to a high standard, not just for me but for the safety of all aboard. She repaid us for that effort.

We saw brilliant sights, landscapes and seascapes, met great people, encountered wonderful wild life, (I will try and get some stills of the dolphins from the video camera to add to these pages.) We met nothing but kindness and made many new friends.  Was it worth it, even though we only got halfway?  Yes of course it was!  I have already sailed to Cornwall so know the way that far, so maybe joining up chart of our  coast from the other direction is not such a silly idea.

A circumnavigation in two parts maybe... Yes I plan to set off the other way now in 2016!

Nothing has put me off, that's for sure.  Nor I think any of my gallant crew!

So I will probably continue to 'Fiddle Around'!!

John,

proud owner and builder,  the Eventide 'Fiddler's Green'.

********************************************************************