16th to 27th June
Reading Time: Ten Minutes
15th June 2023
I met Ray at Inverness station, and we struggled to find a quiet pub because Scotland had beaten someone in football. We crossed the river and found the best of a bunch. After a few pints Ray decided fish and chips were in order and he stopped three girls dressed for a night out to enquire where the best fish and chip shop was located. We happened to be standing right next to it. It was the Fat Buddha Chinese restaurant which they said was brilliant, but you had to ask for “Chippie Chips”. We did just that and enjoyed a first-class fish supper with “chippie chips”.
Due to strong head winds Ray and I decided to wait a day before leaving on our sailing journey to Buckie. It was a Sunday so the delights of Highland Industrial Supplies would not be open. Instead we took a stroll along the river and called in at the Eden Court Theatre for a browse.
Ray had toured there with Scottish Opera, and I had supplied the theatre with some hardware. Whilst in the foyer, a chap shouted out “Ray Hain!”. It was Bob Shanks, the Head of Technical at the theatre who recognized Ray instantly. Ray introduced me to Bob, and he spoke warmly about the “Flints” catalogue that his staff enjoy reading. We were treated to the backstage tour of the very impressive facilities.
We continued our walk along the river and enjoyed the riverside paths with linking suspension bridges. This was definitely the posh side of town.
The Passage Inverness to Fraserburgh (77.4 nm)
It rained heavily over night but had cleared by the time we set off late in the morning. We motored out into the Firth an hour early because were bored waiting. The tide rips and rapid waters at Chanonry Point were non-existent as we coincided with slack water.
A breeze built up so I hoisted the sails. I felt the breeze increasing rapidly so I kept two reefs in the main. This was a very good move because the wind, generated by a large black cloud grew to around force 6. Once the dark clouds had rolled on by we settled down to a mix of sailing and motoring.
We decided to skip Buckie and push on. The wind at Rattray Head was forecast to be a stiff head wind so we opted to stop off a Fraserburgh instead. To be honest, it was a good call!
We saw no other yachts and hardly any other vessels during the whole journey.
20th June 2023
The Almanacs describe the harbour as not encouraging yachts. This may be because there are not many spaces for yachts, just the one hammerhead pontoon with room for two yachts – just. I am sure they would find space, if necessary, but it would be hanging off a wall or suchlike. When I called, they did have space on the hammerhead pontoon in the South Harbour and they couldn’t be more helpful. The harbour is complex and packed with brightly painted fishing boats of all sizes. It makes a refreshing change from the stereotypical yacht marinas. We really enjoyed the vibrant industrial nature of the town.
We visited the Scottish Lighthouse Museum and introduced Ray to his first ever Wetherspoons where we had a slap-up breakfast. Despite Ray’s political views, he had to admit it was great value nosh. Ray is now accusing me of introducing him to Wetherspoons, an accolade I would rather not have.
The only downside to our stay was that the showers were not working, and they looked like they hadn’t worked for a long time. The mooring was £30.50 for the night, which is the most expensive so far, so a shower would have been handy. We still loved the place.
Fraserburgh to Stonehaven (57 nm)
As usual, we calculated carefully the best time to set off and then set off two hours early because, once again, we got bored. The tide kicked in as we approached Rattray Head, and we were swept around at 6.5 knots. The slack head wind meant we motored all the way partly due to laziness and partly due to the imminent threat of thunderstorms. I didn’t fancy flying the genoa in those sudden gusts. Our approach to Stonehaven in the dark was cheered up by a pod (is that what they are called?) of dolphins escorting us towards the harbour. At times they were jumping clear of the water!
Once again, during the whole trip we saw no yachts.
We moored against a fishing vessel with lots of stuff overhanging the gunwales, making the operation somewhat tricky. In the morning we moved to another fishing boat which was simpler to moor against, but it had a fairly dicey rope ladder to climb up onto the harbourside. Other yachts lay along the smooth concrete harbour walls on long warps. The Harbour Master is very helpful and seems to enjoy yachts visiting. There was a spotless shower in a portacabin next to the Harbour Office. Fees were £25.00 per night.
21st June 2023
Sumara visited Stonehaven in 2010 en route to Bergen and Jan Mayen. I have an old friend who lives there so we are always made very welcome. It is a great small town with a holiday feel to it. They are slightly embarrassed as being the home of the deep-fried Mars Bar but another claim to fame is that the inventor of the pneumatic tyre lived here.
During the day I took a stride out to the spectacular Dunnottar Castle and then had a quick swim from the long beach.
In the evening we were joined by Wendy and her husband Dave. Wendy works in a refill shop where you bring containers and get them filled, saving the planet of plastic waste. They also do excellent veggie boxes, and we were treated to one as a present. Not only that they bought along fish supper and cold beers which we enjoyed in the warm evening sunshine whilst sitting in Sumara’s snug cockpit. Wendy used to work for the Cruising Association (when it was in St Katharine Docks) so we discussed old sailing friends. I always forget to take a photo to mark these wonderful occasions.
We had an early night as we planned to try to sail to Arbroath in the morning, despite the F4 southerly wind.
Stonehaven to Arbroath (32 nm)
The forecast wasn’t ideal with a F3-4 headwind. We could have tacked right out but with the foul tide we were unlikely to make much headway. Our dilemma is that you need to arrive at a certain time to catch the gates into the inner harbour. As enjoyable as a long tack out to sea would have been we decided to motor along the shore close to the cliffs and hoping that the boat wouldn’t hobby horse in the short waves. It was a close call but eventually the boat settled into a nice rhythm with the Beta 16 hp engine just slightly above normal cruising revs.
Yet again, we saw no other yachts.
We arrived 8.25 hours after departure and moored on a hammerhead at 15:15 GMT. Fees were £25.00 per night.
Arbroath and Dundee
23rd to 26th June 2023
We were keen to visit the Discovery in Dundee and there is a connecting train line from Arbroath. We paid our £9.20 for day return tickets and jumped on the train on Saturday morning. On arrival we found that the poor ship is in need of some TLC but funds are short, so the trustees are struggling to keep on top of it. We could spot several areas of rot and a sprung plank even as we walked up the gangway. Nevertheless, it was an interesting way to spend the morning before moving on to the Verdant Mill Museum across town. Dundee was famous for its jute mills. They could build the ships capable of bringing the raw jute from India and already had the technology from years of linen production. Flax to make linen was becoming harder to obtain so the swap to jute fitted them perfectly.
A woman in her eighties showed us the various machines and then started them up, one by one. The machines were totally unguarded and looked like a massive health and safety hazard, but the lady had been volunteering there for 27 years and was still in one piece, so I suppose it wasn’t as unsafe as it looked.
On Sunday we browsed around Arbroath before I was led astray by Ray to drinking three large bottles of Peroni on the terrace of a posh restaurant. Well, that’s my story, and I’m sticking to it. Once again fish supper rounded off the day. We decided not to sail on Monday morning due to strong headwinds coming out of the Firth of Forth. Our new proposal was to depart just before the gates close in the evening and arrive in Granton on Tuesday morning when the winds were due to slacken.
We have tried to contact Granton with no success. I have phoned every number in both my almanacs and left a few messages plus I sent an email to the RFYC but no response just yet. We would prefer someone to say I is OK rather than bowling up and being told there is no room at the inn. I then discovered the RFYC website and booked our berth for three nights online. This was promptly followed by a detailed email covering all my concerns. So that’s definitely the way to go!
Arbroath to Granton (45 nm)
Once again we set off earlier than planned. There was a good breeze and we could take it on the beam. With two reefs and the Yankee we shot off toward Fife Ness at 6 knots. However we were aware that our luck would run out and we found ourselves unable to clear Isle of May. Not wanting to lose too many miles we motor-sailed to clear the island. Soon the wind began to drop off and we eventually motored into Granton at 06:30 in flat calm. It was 2 hrs 15 minutes before HW and we had plenty of water. We tied up on the really long pontoon and grabbed a few hours sleep.
We saw one yacht but the Firth of Forth was quite busy with shipping.
The mooring cost £62.00 for three days.
26th to 30th June 2023
I’ve never come across so many gate and door codes. This is due to two yacht clubs being involved to cover 24 hour facilities. We never managed to break the code for the Corinthian Yacht Club but the Royal Forth Yacht Club codes worked fine and they were very welcoming.
After surfacing from our nap we walked to Leith to visit the Royal Yacht Britannia. It was a very well organised and interesting visit – how the other half lives! It cost about £18.00 each. We then took a stroll around “The Shore” in Leith and inevitably we ended the day in the Yacht Club bar. The area around Granton Harbour looks a bit industrial and we suspected it would be devoid of shops until we found, only a couple of hundred yards from the boat, a most fascinating East European Supermarket plus a MASSIVE Angling shop and a huge Go Outdoors. I’ll need to lock up my wallet! I later discovered Lidls was only a short walk away.
Ray is from Edinburgh, so the following day I was treated to a special tour of the town. My father was also from Edinburgh so I have visited several times, but the purpose of this trip was to find out how the city connects with the sea. We climbed up Calton Hill to see the signal tower overlooking the Firth of Forth. I could now place Edinburgh as a seaport. I won’t describe the rest of our walk around town as this is a sailing blog, but Dean Village, Leith Walk, Newtown were all covered and great new areas to me.
Ray has now departed and tomorrow I will collect Grit and Tilman from Waverley Station (on the handy Number 16 Bus). I might also meet up with Matteo, who is still trying to persuade me to enter the “Slownet” race!