Postscript

 

The folk here are very friendly and although this is not the most picturesque of places, it is very tempting to stay. All of us need to be back in the south over the next few weeks and we spend some time cleaning and washing,

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but we resolve to keep Heydays here for a while and come back from time to time to explore the little harbours and distilleries of North East Scotland in whatever autumn cruising we can get.

The Peterhead lifeboat moors up next to us while the crew do some training and exercises by jumping into the water to be rescued. Ally, the full time mechanic on board, shows us round the Tamar class boat with its twin 18L 1000HP engines. We are immensely grateful to the RNLI and their utter dedication to all of us foolish enough to put to sea for whatever reason.

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Thursday August 18 the final leg…for now…

 

We had hoped to catch the early morning (3am) tide ot of Arbroath, but the lock keeper doesn’t open up until 11.30. With a 12 hour sail to Peterhead and some foul tide potentially making it longer, we prepare ourselves for half a night sail. Chris is off into town to buy a suitable baking dish and by the time she returns Yee Tak has a pasta bake ready for the oven. As the lock opens we wave goodbye to Dave and Pam and the family and the pasta comes out ready to be heated later for our evening meal at sea.

The coast here is spectacular (allegedly) but we only catch glimpses as most of it is shrouded in coastal mist. Out to sea there is bright sun and clear skies and we make the most of the opportunity to stretch out with the autohelm doing most of the real work. Gannets are our constant companions and they wheel and soar around the boat, just skimming the waves with impunity.

Hot pasties for lunch with sun and a fair wind…what could lift the spirits more?

As we approach Aberdeen we see at least 10 large boats heading directly for us. We alter course to pass behind the closest but it seems to take an age to pass, meanwhile the others are getting closer and threading our way through them in the wrong direction would seem to be an act of folly. A pilot boat comes zooming out of the river and then it dawns on us…they are all at anchor! We resume our course with some relief and start to feel the welcome tide turn in our favour. Heydays is almost surfing down the waves at 7kts and we have over a knot of tide. This is almost reckless speed for us, but it brings our eta at Peterhead down to before midnight instead of the early hours of the morning.

The forecasts begin to talk of fronts coming over and the settled easterlies of recent days turning to strong south westerlies…perhaps Peterhead will be as far as we get this time.

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The sun sinks lower in the sky and the hot pasta bake tastes like a gourmet meal against the rising moon. We manage to disturb a flock of roosting birds who take off angrily, probably wondering why of all of the bits of sea in all the oceans in all the world we have to sail through theirs (or maybe Gannets don’t watch old movies) …

Peterhead shows up like a Christmas tree from well over 10 miles off and we watch the Buchan Ness lighthouse sink astern in the dying light. Soon we can just make out the entrance lights to guide us in and we negotiate past fishing boats and oil rig support boats to Peterhead Bay Marina.

As proper sailors (in our eyes) we get Heydays snugged into her berth first, before cracking open some fizz to toast the end of this part of the odyssey.

Wednesday August 17…going forth?

 

6am alarm is very unwelcome. Part of us hopes that the forecast is poor, which will give us a great excuse to stay acquainted with our duvets. However, the threatened force 6 is not there and we make the decision to go. We are still taking a childish delight in sailing in waters we have only heard on the radio: Thames, Humber, Tyne and now Forth. We are in the land of Rattray Head to Berwick upon Tweed. Places which sound so romantic and adventurous, when heard in the deep tones of the shipping forecast in the early hours. Will we get to Cromarty this trip? The Dutch boat which had been moored in front of us has already gone and so we are feeling a bit slow off the mark as we slip our mooring at 7 and join the small procession of fishing boats leaving harbour.

A seal pops up to check as we slide between the harbour walls but loses interest too quickly for us to take a photo…or so we thought.

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We are headed for Arbroath on the other side of the Forth and just a little up from Dundee. It should only take around 7 hours, but the lock into the harbour shuts two and a half hours before low water. We need to get there before 6pm and in theory we have loads of time. However the tide is not great for us and the variable wind arrives sooner than expected, dragging our speed over the ground to a shade under 4kt. This could be tight. There is a bit of a swell running which makes for an uncomfy motion and we are a bit concerned about the entrance to Arbroath. Dundee is an alternative but not brilliant either. We press on and motor sail to maintain speed. We hang some fishing lines over the back but it seems that no mackerel is inclined to join us for dinner.

Towards Fife Ness the tide turns in our favour and we radio ahead to Arbroath to ask about entry conditions. They are very reassuring and so Dundee will have to wait. By 3 we are receiving permission to enter the harbour although a big dredger with very battered sides is moving in the narrow entrance to add to the fun. The broad Scottish accent over the radio is a challenge to our southern ears, but we do what we think we are told and we end up next to Dave and Pam in their Westerly Seahawk. They are also circumnavigating the UK. But in the opposite direction. They have their son (a very experienced sailor who lives in Canada) and his family for company.

With almost indecent haste we are off in search of some of the famous Smokies for a late lunch. There are loads of fresh fish shops and plenty with signs like ‘Today’s Smokies ready from 12.45’. The Old Brewhouse by Danger Point not only has fresh smokies, but also some nice Orkadian beer. The smokies turn out to be succulent and juicy and worth a trip to Arbroath in themselves.

The bay and the beach here is stunning and we wish our camera skills could do more justice to the landscape. We wander off through town with half a mind to find a pot big enough to cook crab and lobster, but sadly not on this trip. The chimneys tell a story about the winters past…and to come?

Arbroath Abbey is shut but we get a strong sense of the history which was made here, as Robert the Bruce drew up a successful petition to the pope to grant Scotland nation status. This text was later used as the basis for the American constitution. The harbour is still focused mostly on fishing and the old Signal tower was used to house the Bell Rock Lighthouse keepers’ families and to signal to the lighthouse itself.

Back on board we get chatting to Dave and his son and we begin to think about revising our plans. Originally we were going to head for Inverness for the winter, then through the canal to the Western Isles. They sow the seeds of going right up round the top via Cape Wrath and the Orkneys. There is a real attraction in this and it would be a shame not to use the chance to see the islands by our own boat rather than by ferry. As the evening wears on the weather forecast for the next few days suggests that the relatively settled period is coming to an end and that we won’t get much further than Peterhead before it breaks. Our plan starts to look like winter in Peterhead or Lossiemouth before heading north in the Spring.

Tuesday August 16…flying the Saltire.

 

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We leave Amble marina and some great memories of parts of England we would never normally have visited. It has been a voyage of discovery for all of us, challenging pre-conceptions and opening our eyes to the beauty to be found in the most unlikely places. It is far too easy to be seduced by foreign places and exotica…who would have thought we would have found delight in Grimsby…

With a decent tide and at last a wind with more south than north in it, Heydays is soon creaming along at over 6 knots. The coast is hazy and Bamburgh Castle is only just visible and we have a view of how this might have looked to the Vikings so many years ago.

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We are safe and comfortable in our modern plastic boat with electronic charts and accurate weather forecasts. We wonder what drove people to set out into an uncertain North Sea, to an uncertain coast…and then to fight.

Our original plan had been to anchor around the Farne Islands for lunch, but while the SE wind is good for putting miles under our keels, it is not so good for the anchorages. With some regret we leave them astern in the haze, but not for the first time we feel the almost spiritual side of Northumbria and have just a little understanding of what drove people to escape here for contemplation of bigger issues. Berwick and the Tweed pass by and then…the border. We rummage around for our flags and decide to fly the Saltire as a courtesy and the gold stars of the EU as solidarity. Fortunately there is no-one to hear a shaky rendition of Jerusalem and some badly remembered Scottish songs.

With our speed up we can hope for a landfall at Eyemouth in the last of the daylight. This proves to be a real stress reliever, as even with some light we can only just make out the rocky entrance at the last minute. With two electronic charts as well as paper ones, we had to convince ourselves to head for what appears to be a certain grounding on the rocks which line a very narrow channel in. Another yacht seems to hang around to watch our progress first. Four pairs of eyes peering into the gathering gloom…so no pictures here!

We step ashore in Scotland for the first time and the feeling of another major milestone in our trip round the UK. We had originally thought that Eyemouth would just be a quick tie up and sleep before a relatively early start on Wednesday. In the event, we still have time to get ashore for a drink. In the pub we meet a group of Canadians and Chris gets pangs of home. The late forecast is slightly more worrying with some strong winds promised later in the day. We resolve to get up early for the morning forecast and make a decision then.

Sunday August 14…the end of England…

 

Alarm at 5 and dressed and under way at the harbour entrance by 5.30 bound for Amble, but with other possibilities along the way should mood or weather dictate otherwise. Some early fishing boats follow us out into the dawn as we say goodbye to Whitby.

Today’s navigation is the simplest so far. Turn left out of Whitby, sail straight for 60 miles with some decent tide under us then turn left. Our actual track turns out to be rather more complicated as yet again the wind refuses to play nicely. The sea turns out to be slightly more lumpy than expected and stugeron becomes the friend of some of the crew. The sail is exhilarating at first (for most) although not completely in the direction we wanted.

As the day wears on the wind eases and becomes ever more fickle, playing with our emotions…suggesting it will blow us easily to Amble then chasing us back to Sunderland. The sea gradually becomes glassy smooth…almost oily in appearance and we thread our way through some coasters anchored off the Tyne.

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As we close the coast once more, the mix of light and sea have an almost ethereal feel and Northumbria draws us into an altogether different mood. We see Coquet island from some way off and begin to feel the sense of anticipation at another new landfall. As we round the island some fishing boats leaving the harbour helpfully show us the way in.

We are approaching just before low water and the channel runs close in to the harbour wall…and some fishermen with lines. They don’t take their lines in and we can’t move out …we collect some gear along the way and one of them says “thank you” but it was probably ironic! The sill into the marina shows a depth of 1.4m (just) but we (James) has a go anyway… very slowly. We touch lightly but a burst of engine can’t get us over. Even James admits defeat and we slink away to wait for the tide.

We tie up just outside and dine on poached salmon, stir fry veg and some great garlic potatoes we ‘doggy- bagged ‘from Whitby. A lovely sunset behind Warkworth Castle (plus a dodgy forecast for Monday) enticed us to stay for a day and explore.

Amble is yet another coastal town whose main purpose in life has long gone. Once it was a thriving port transporting coal from the Northumbria coal fields, complete with rail heads shunting yards and busy wharves. Now it is struggling reinvent itself, with some craft huts and what turns out to be a brilliant bar/seafood restaurant called The Old Boatshed. Another reason to stay. Unbelievably they are almost full on Monday night and can only just squeeze us in at 5.30. The manageress has a wonderful accent, which to our ears is Geordie. She says it is definitely Northumbrian and we spend some time wondering how our relatively small island still has so many local accents. Just in our trip we have heard clear distinctions from Essex twang to Suffolk burr, followed by Grimsby, Cleethorpes, Whitby and York (with apologies to the folk from those areas) and now the far North East. Will Eyemouth, just a few miles up the coast, bring our first hearing of Scotland?

On Monday we have an unaccustomed lie-in and potter around doing stuff which boats always seem to need. We decide to tackle a niggling slow puncture in the tender. This turns out to need some two part adhesive which neither we nor the marina have. However they phone around and find some in Morpeth. Not for the first time we are bowled over by northern generosity as they offer to go and pick it up for us. By the time we get back to the boat from our walk around the castle it is waiting for us. This is brilliant service and the marina staff really do go the extra mile to help. The castle, by the way is worth a visit, but even more special is Bertrams café in the village. Our opinion….give the castle a glance from the outside and head for the great cakes.

We decide to be lazy and take the bus back to Amble to set ourselves up for dinner.

Some entertainment is laid on by the RNLI practising rescuing in the river and yet another stunning sunset. We realise that the light and the contrasts up here remind us of those crisp autumn days when the sun is low yet bright in the south…but it’s August!

The Old Boat Shed is understated but don’t be fooled, the fish is stunning. This will be our last meal in England for a while as tomorrow we head for Eyemouth.

Saturday August 13…Hogwarts

 

John and James take the car back to Middlesbrough and yet another train back to Whitby just in time to go back in time on the steam train to Pickering. We feel like we are overdosing on old railways and it is difficult to avoid clichés, but there really is something alive about a hissing, vibrating, smoking engine. We do all the usual tourist stuff including sticking our head out of the window and then forgetting just how many cinders these things chuck out. We even had sweets to match from the ubiquitous John Bull…peanut brittle, pineapple chunks, rhubarb and custard and cinder toffee. This could be a scene straight from Philip Larkin (if he wrote about sheep instead of weddings) with rural life floating past with the steam and smoke from the engine working hard up the gradient to the top of the moors. We have to stop ourselves slipping into mock Yorkshire (as along with the Chinese, there are probably some real ones on the train) as pretty stone stations complete with porters’ barrows slide past the old BR windows.

Pickering enabled us to top up on some warmer clothes, especially some snoods. They can look a bit like you are wearing underpants on your head, but who cares at sea as long as you are warm. Heydays crew not noted for sartorial elegance on the water. We also got to have a great lunch at the Black Swan including some beer and lager brewed on the premises.

We had to stop at Goathland Station on the way back as it was used for Harry Potter and various daughters/nephews require photos. It also came with a man in a uniform who clearly liked the power of station master; marching up and down shouting at people not to run jump spit smoke or swear. He failed to include heavy petting in his list of restrictions.

The moors are beautiful and we can’t resist a brief hike up…

Forecast for Sunday looking promising for a trip to Amble. This means getting through the swing bridge when it opens tonight at 23.30 and then grabbing a few hours’ kip in the inner harbour before a dawn tide. Wandering through Whitby we come across Magpies Café (along with quite a few others who are queuing outside). Although we are not soviet era Russians we join it anyway. This turns out to be one of the best fish meals we have had so far (apart from our own crab and lobster).

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We are the only boat holding up the traffic as we slide past the swing bridge onto a mooring pontoon just a bottle’s throw from the Saturday night hen and stag dos.

Friday August 12….York and Chris…eventually

 

Whitby in the morning light was beautiful and we are not sorry to be staying a couple of days.

Chris was due to get to York on the train around 1ish. Time for some lunch, gentle sightseeing etc. We thought that it would be easy to pick up a car in Whitby and drive to York to meet Chris. Turns out that we had to catch a train to Middlesbrough for the nearest rental, but the journey across the moors was delightful and it convinced us to take a ride on the North York Moors steam railway tomorrow.

Chaos on the East Coast main line meant that Chris had a rather fraught journey up while we spent a happy couple of hours in the National Railway Museum. Not only a great place for railway enthusiasts, it also provides a great social reflection as railways developed then declined and then started to rise again. Funnily enough, the old advertising pitch ‘This is the Age of the Train’, did not mention a certain disgraced DJ. There was even some nostalgia for Yee Tak as one of the exhibits included a monstrous Chinese steam engine (although actually built in UK) and a Japanese bullet train.

York was a great place just to wander and people watch and stroll by the river and Chris was even offered two canal boats plus bikes, chairs etc. for £70k…oddly she didn’t have the cash on her.

Dinner at Vertigo near the Shambles was great but John was clearly sickening for something as he couldn’t finish his ox cheek…or was this the Yorkshire Pudding we had first? This is unknown.

Thursday August 11…utter bilge.

 

It doesn’t take us long to find out the cause of the salt water problem. It turns out that the bilge pump shares the same sea cock as the fresh water tank overflow. Not only was our coffee last night salty, but it had also been sloshing around in the bilges for a while to add flavour. A trip to the excellent East Coast Marine for some brass fittings and we once again have fresh water.

The exit from Scarborough was a much less exciting affair than yesterday and Heydays punched into the last of the swell with ease and the sailing was glorious.

Pot buoys were a constant menace and one fishing boat was clearly of the opinion that we were too close, steering at us to make us change course. We felt like going back later to ‘borrow’ a crab or two… As castle rock fell away, we could make out Robin Hoods Bay, the imposing ruins of Whitby Abbey and then very faintly the entrance to Whitby.

We had half a mind to carry on to Hartlepool, but a strengthening wind on the nose and an increasing swell made up our minds for us and we started to look forward to a stay in Whitby, which several people had recommended anyway. The swing bridge to the marina only opens around two hours before high water so we moored at what we thought was the waiting pontoon and took the tender ashore to book a space in the marina and find a drink or two and some snacks as darkness fell and Whitby lit up.

A Contessa 26 called Me-Mo moored alongside us in the marina having been given the brush-off by a rather snooty lady in a big motor boat with a huge flat screen TV. We had seen Me-Mo in Grimsby although not to talk to, and we invited Mike and Diana on board for a few drinks and to compare notes. They are much more heroic than us and seem to tackle long rough passages with ease although there was a slight disagreement whether it was an exhilarating sail (Mike) or more of an endurance(Diana). Home for them is Amble and we hope to catch up with them again there.

Tuesday August 9 to Wednesday August 10…Night passage to Scarborough

 

Another day of pondering the forecasts and whether we can make Scarborough reasonably comfortably. In the end we decide that we can make the 60 mile or so overnight passage when the fish dock lock opens at 9pm. The alternator comes back with a clean bill of health but John, who is a local member and semi-retired engineer, ran it in to have it tested for us and then had to be persuaded to accept some reimbursement even for his petrol. Our impression of the Humber Cruising Association, already high, is further enhanced when we ask the yard master for directions to Tesco. ‘Not a problem’ he says, ‘I’ll run you in’. Maybe we will meet this level of friendliness and service elsewhere, but have certainly not encountered it ‘down south’. Grimsby has something of a bad press and several people suggested Wells instead, but for the passing sailor, the HCA is well worth a detour in our opinion.

The lobster and crab shells had been turned into a very rich stock by Yee Tak and this went in to the risotto for our meal before the sail to Scarborough. As the light faded we locked out of the dock and said goodbye to Grimsby and the Humber. The trip down the river to Spurn Head turned out to be more exciting than we had planned, with huge amounts of ship movements up and down the multiple main channels.

We finally scuttled across to the relative safety of Spurn Head as darkness fell and picked our way cautiously around the Binks shoals. The seas started to build but once we were into deeper water the swell became quite long and Heydays settled into a slightly easier motion. Wind farms were our companion for several hours and made steering very straightforward. As the night wore on the wind and seas were on the nose with an uncomfy chop added to the significant swell. Dawn was a mixed blessing. It is always good to see the light appearing in the sky after a night at sea, but it also meant we could see the waves as they approached. Off Flamborough Head we were estimating the height between 3 and 4m but Heydays never once faltered, rising smoothly up and over and only occasionally burying her head briefly on the plunge down the other side.

Spotting pot buoys became almost impossible and even the few fishing boats which were out disappeared into the troughs, re-appearing minutes later with (un-life jacketed) men hauling lines on board.

We could see the waves breaking heavily on the shore and started to think about the entrance to Scarborough. This shoals towards the shore and requires a sharp turn to make the harbour. We did not fancy the prospect of breaking seas close in and started to consider the unappealing prospect of continuing to Hartlepool as the only safe refuge on this stretch of the coast.  Perhaps it was tiredness or just the optimism of seeing our landfall, but one more surprise was in store. The town which we had convinced ourselves was Scarborough was in fact Filey…the wrong side of Filey Brigg headland. A course correction and gradually the real Scarborough opened up, glinting deceptively in the morning sun. We radioed the harbour master and received both reassurance and directions for the best approach. He even said that he would meet us on the dock to take lines and be ready with all the usual key fobs and toilet codes. Coming from the sea dressed in all our wet weather gear we were soon very over-dressed compared to the shorts and T-shirted holiday-makers watching us from the sea wall as we made our entrance. True to his word, the harbour master greeted us cheerily on the pontoon and once Heydays was snug we caught up on a night’s sleep pondering the vagaries of forecasts and especially the surprising seas which had made their way to meet us from the earlier gales off Scotland.

Scarborough turns out to be a funny mixture of fishing port (still a few traditional trawlers active), traditional seaside town with endless arcades and fish and chips, candy floss and do-nuts, topped off  with some real grandeur in hotels and gardens.

We were in and out of a few bars searching for some decent beer and eventually found it in the delightful Golden Ball, which also turned out to be the closest to Heydays. Dinner on board tonight…smoked mackerel, avocado, tomato and olive oil to start, with the last of the ratatouille and pasta to follow….and an early night. The bedtime coffee tastes strangely of salt…so does the tea…so does the ‘fresh’ water in the newly fitted tanks. We’re too tired to do anything about it tonight but this will have to be sorted in the morning….can’t wait!

Monday August 8…beside the seaside, beside the sea, or a trip back in time.

 

Our original passage plan is to leave tonight for an overnight passage to Scarborough. The ever smiling Carol Kirkwood, or whoever creates the weather has clearly not been receiving our messages, as the forecast is for strong north westerlies (bang on the nose) with gales just to the north of us. The choice this time was easy and we stay put. James has not spent enough time in the cockpit locker recently and so he and John decide to tackle a niggling fault with the alternator. Once again the helpful folk here come to the rescue and off it goes for testing…

So, a day at leisure in Grimsby. Cleethorpes is recommended and we take a train to see the sea. Next to us are a couple…she in a fifties dress he in rocker gear with a Hells Angels motif on the leather jacket. His badge says ‘Arthritis Club…Ibprofen Chapter.’ How we identify with that…

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We step off into a world of yesteryear. Replace the cars with Ford Prefects and we could be back in the fifties. John and James are instantly thrown into their childhoods of sand castles, rock, gritty sandwiches and fish and chips for supper. Back into this century and the T shirts give away the holiday makers with Liverpool, Man U and City all well represented. We all have grins on our faces as we stroll past the donkey riders, the sand tunnel diggers and the Dads ‘burying’ their children.

Resisting the crazy golf and the grab a cuddly toy machines, we take a miniature steam train along the front and back…even waving to complete strangers as we pass.

We had thoughts about walking back along the sea wall to Grimsby but are seduced by fish chips and mushy peas sitting on a bench on the front. The seagulls here are much better behaved than the greedy b*****s in Bridport and only a passing husky takes any interest.

Oddly, a pub called Willys with a microbrewery persuades us to wash down supper with some Willys Original before we catch the single coach train back to Grimsby. Would we ever have made a specific trip to Cleethorpes…probably not. Would we recommend it to anyone reading this…absolutely.

Over coffee and cognac the forecasts start to look good for Scarborough tomorrow night. Hopefully we will be joined by Chris there before continuing up to Hartlepool, Amble, Eyemouth and Arbroath and beyond. Space for two more on board!!!