Chris Nicholson is known to his friends as a man with an excellent eye for detail and planning. True to that reputation the phone rang whilst we were at tea at a Berwick hostelry, it was Chris with the offer of a lift back to the boat with yet another harvest of shopping (this time at the Coop – that is just for the record). Our crew have been such a pleasure along the way and so far the planning has been impeccably realised. Now its time for the next leg of our adventure having shown Chris the nightlife of Eyemouth. That took about ten minutes but we did enjoy an excellent seafood supper.
The weather forecast is showing signs of a real improvement with XC Weather, Windguru and even the Met Office showing predictions of some warmth and light winds. Still the winds will be from the north of course but now bearable, one hopes.
Because of time constraints and the wind direction we felt it necessary to make a second adjustment to our plan. We had intended to divert up the Forth to Edinburgh and to stop for a few days there, but being somewhat behind schedule and having been to Edinburgh quite a few times we elected to move on straight across the Firth of Forth and northwards.
So on the 1st June we set off in light airs (guess where the breeze was blowing from) and made passage for Arbroath under engine in company with another yacht we had met up with in Eyemouth. It’s a boring passage with nothing much to see except the Isle of May in the distance. Fife Ness is a distant dot and St Andrews is also out of sight around the corner. We had to make sure that we got in to Arbroath in the very narrow window which on this day was only one and a half hours. Not because of the tides, you understand, but because this is a local authority owned harbour and the staff only work office hours. In an emergency: anyone’s guess. The result was that we pottered along on tick over for ages and then a breeze suddenly filled in from the south and out with the genoa. Our jib is 140% so it tends to darken the sky and makes us go rather too fast at times so in the absence of a suitable drogue it had to be brought in until it was little more than a small hanky. We were still ahead of our time slot so heaved to again but finally made it in with some trepidation – the sounder reading zero for about the fourth time this trip.
Arbroath is a nice little harbour with a very prominent transit which needs to be kept to, a sharp turn to starboard, through the gap, then to port and you are in. The only problem is that the crew have been so busy advising the skipper, taking video, doing the washing up and adjusting their make up that they have forgotten to put out the lines and fenders so the only thing to do is panic. There is nothing like a good panic to concentrate the mind so we were soon out with the gin bottle after 45 miles of semi boredom.
A lay day in Arbroath was well rewarded with a visit from our HPO Cairns Birrell who most kindly made a special trip down from Anstruther where he lives. He imparted no end of useful hints and presented us with a copy of a very interesting pilot book that we had not seen before. Over fresh coffee, not the instant sort, we pored over the charts and picked up no end of information. One particular piece of information proved to be a gem but more of that later.
With farewells to Cairns completed and another nights’ sleep over we cast off our lines and headed for Peterhead in company with three other boats, still motoring. It transpired that the two new arrivals were members of the Maldon Little Ship Club although the body language was not particularly encouraging.
The passage to Peterhead is about 65 miles and that is a lot of engine noise although almost for the first time we basked in warm sunshine, the Admiral making sure that the crew had suitable supplies of suntan lotion carefully applied. Your skipper had made solemn promises to Marina that Chris was to be returned in good working order and we would not of course want to upset Marina, would we?
Montrose and Aberdeen swept by, the latter with several ships anchored off, and we arrived in good spirits at Peterhead after ten hours at sea. Peterhead is a large commercial harbour full of oil and gas field service vessels although we had a very friendly reception from harbour control who directed us to the marina at the back of the harbour. It is a well equipped marina in very good condition with fuel and gas available and an efficient marina manager. The sun is still shining and the Azores High continues to build so we still have thoughts of making it to Wick within our time frame. But the fun is not over yet!