Saturday, 14 October 2017


Oh for the open sea again!  Having negotiated the final lock, Taipan relishes a fresh dose of salt water under the keel after a couple of weeks in the fresh water of the wonderful Caledonian Canal. 

Leaving Inverness down The Moray Firth involves a bit of convoluted navigation around shoals for approximately 10 miles. There is quite a tidal range in this part of Scotland so judging your departure time to coincide with an outgoing tide is essential.  Once past Channonry Point Light on the left the impressive  Fort George Highland. looms large on the opposite bank. This large Star shaped fort has been in continuous use as a garrison since it was built after the Jacobite Rising in 1715.

Channonry Point Light

Navigation is more straight forward after these narrows and our first stop was a run of 40nm to Lossimouth. Entrance to some of these ports needs to coincide with a suitable tide. Many harbours on the east coast dry out. We judged Lossiemouth was one such harbour and were fortunate to get a berth just inside the entrance. The east coast harbours are often battered by huge storms out of the North Sea so there are massive protective groynes at the entrance. The entrances can be alarmingly narrow and in fact in bad weather it is impossible to enter many of these ports. There wasn't enough water for Taipan further in. Once and important fishing industry thrived in Lossiemouth but serious overfishing and the consequent depletion of stocks has seen the death of the industry. The major employment in the area now is with services to the Royal Air Force which has a station just out of town.

Weather remained fine and our passage south continued the following morning with the destination being Peterhead, 58 nm south east. Peterhead is one of the few all weather ports on the coast and has two massive breakwaters enclosing a port area of over 300 acres, inside of which it is possible to drop sails and prepare the boat for berthing without having to be out in the unprotected waters. The first harbour was constructed here in 1593 to support a growing fishing industry. Fishing remains very important here still, with the port being home base to over 550 fishermen. Peterhead also has a number of other industries including food processing, textiles and service industries for the extensive oil and gas and wind farm installations popping up along the coast and in the North Sea.

We berthed Taipan in the small marina in the south west corner of the harbour and after an early night we headed on south while weather held. It was just 35 nm south to Stonehaven and we made good time sailing close to the coast past Aberdeen, another busy port servicing the North Sea Oil platforms. 

Stonehaven inner harbour dries completly

Stonehaven is another of the shallow drying ports however we were able to berth on an outer breakwater in plenty of depth. Stonehaven was a charming little seaside town with a nice strand and an interesting history museum on the waterfront. Entertainment was provided by the arrival and deployment of a couple of big life boats which are used as training boats for workers on oil platforms. They arrived, each on a truck, from a service facility and were dumped into the water where, once started, smoked their way around the inner harbour for a while before being hauled out reloaded on the trucks and driven of. Presumably for a bit more work on the engines!

Dunnotter Castle appeared on the dramatic cliffs just a short sail south of Stonehaven. This impressive medieval fortress is well defended by cliffs which plunge 50m into the restless North Sea and the only landward approach is via a narrow strip of land up a steep path to the gatehouse. Seen from the seaward side it looks impregnable and it’s easy to imagine why the Scottish Crown Jewels were secreted away here to prevent Oliver Cromwell getting his paws on them. 
Dunnotter Castle

Our destination lay just another 30nm south. Arbroath’s outer harbour dries at low tide so we entered the inner harbour over a sill and lock. All this requires quite a bit of timing and research. 

We were made very welcome on arrival by Charlie and Greg, a couple of local blokes, who greeted us to secure our lines and hand us a beer each and half a dozen fresh caught mackerel which we immediately bar-b-qued for lunch. The weather closed in and kept us tied up for 3 days. Arbroath is a very quaint town and we had plenty to keep us occupied. 

Arbroath Abby is just a short cycle from the marina and it has an excellent interpretative centre. Founded in 1178 by King William the Lion for monks of the Tironensian order it was abandoned during the reformation and material was pilfered for building within the town. What does remain though is beautifully presented. Interestingly a lot of pink sandstone was used an the architecture is strikingly similar to the St Magnus Cathedral in Kirkwall Orkney.

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Several fishing boats still work from the harbour and David managed to negotiate for some amazing local scallops. Arbroath "smokies" or smoked herring a local cottage industry, are smoked all around the harbour. The weather here can be ferocious and the harbour becomes impassable. At times the sea has broken over the main breakwater and 60 years ago six life boat volunteers  lost their lives when their boat was overturned whilst trying to return to the harbour after a failed sea search. This horrifying event was watched by their family and friends. It serves as a reminder of the danger into which volunteers place themselves in their service to seamen.

Bambourgh Castle

With still some distance to travel we had to press on as soon as the weather abated. Farewell to Arbroath, loaded with "smokies" and scallops. Next stop, 45nm to Eyemouth, our last port in Scotland. More lovely beam reaching weather saw our arrival in Eyemouth with time to explore the town. Eyemouth has an alarmingly narrow entrance and shallows at the mouth. The tide and timing were critical but the harbour masters in all the ports were very informative and helpful.

This photo of Lindisfarne Castle from Wikipedia without all the scaffolding

We discovered a great website for the UK and some of the French and Dutch coasts at Visit My Harbour. It is very informative and has lots of well written additional information and links to more charts and sites.

Eyemouth to Sunderland is 65nm roughly and once again in lovely weather we sailed south. Sailing close inshore of the Ferne Islands, we passed Holy Island and Lindisfarne Castle, built around 1550, now privately owned and currently undergoing restoration. A short distance south is the impressive, fully restored Bamburgh Castle, also privately owned. The first written reference to the site is in 547 when there was a fort located here. It was later destroyed by Vikings and has been rebuilt and modified over many years by a succession of owners. It is open to the public but we didn’t stop. 

Sunderland was our first anchorage in quite a long time. We were able to anchor inside the harbour breakwater as there was no swell. Luckily we chose a spot not fouled as we later discovered when we visited the local yacht club. A wreck lies a couple of hundred meters to the north of our position. Some yachts were racing in the afternoon and called by to invite us up to the clubhouse. Very big tides here and this meant a long climb down a slimy ladder to our dingy at the end of the night though.

Sunderland south to Scarborough is 55 nm. Its a pretty time of year with the countryside a patchwork of ripe  cereal crops, fallow ground, hay and new winter wheat emerging. We sailed in close to the coast for the views. From Scarborough we struck south in a good weather window to the Deben River just north of Felixstow. It was 180nm and one of the nicest night sails I can remember. There was very little traffic, few wind farms, and a big starry sky with full moon to light the way. Our arrival in Deben was a little anxious as the pilots make it sound rather daunting but we cleared the bar, navigated the narrow channel and were safely anchored well before dark. 

Orford Ness Light. Nearly there

Our journey south almost complete now we rested up for a couple of days on the anchor and then made our way up the Orwell river into Ipswich  He we have some work to do and a survey to complete for Insurance. After which we plan to sail up the Thames to the centre of London. Until then its all work and no play.

More Photos from the trip south.