Posted by: Ray | September 9, 2008

Arbroath to Whitehills.

The next two postings cover a week’s passage of 207M from Arbroath to Seaport Marina, just into the Caledonian Canal near Inverness. I am feeling very pleased at being close to achieving my first year’s goal and bringing Christine Marie and her crew safely through some very challenging weather and incidents. These included very fast changing wind conditions and an overheated engine, due initially to passing through a bank of weed.

This entry covers the passage from Arbroath to Whitehills.

Arbroath to Stonehaven: 35M, 6.5 Hrs

Liz and her friend, Frances, drove up to Arbroath by car and joined me in the marina on Friday (30 Aug 2008) for a week’s cruising. The forecast for Saturday was SE F4/5, sea slight or moderate, but with fog patches developing. By mid-morning Saturday the visibility was reasonable at Arbroath, so we said our farewells to the harbour manager and made arrangements to leave through the lock at the earliest opening at 1130.

Once clear of the harbour, visibility was about 1/2M and there was no wind so we raised the full main sail and continued under engine on course 034°M for Stonehaven, a passage of 30M up the coast.

Until Stonehaven the passage was clear of dangers: we could only just make out the shoreline as we followed it 1/2M off-shore towards our destination, so we kept a careful lookout and ‘eye’ on the visibility, noting it in the hourly log entries. The mist did clear a little towards mid-afternoon, but the poor visibility spoilt the day and we knew we were passing some scenic coastline. Frances, however, did have one highlight when she briefly saw a dolphin following in our wake.

Christine Marie at anchor alongside the quay at Stonehaven

Christine Marie at anchor alongside the quay at Stonehaven

 We arrived off Stonehaven at 1730, dropped our main sail and started our approach along the leading line to the harbour. We had our pilotage plan prepared; the approach to the entrance is straight forward, although there are rocks to the South at the entrance and a sharp turn to starboard to enter the narrow channel into the harbour.

As we approached the turn, a fishing vessel came out suddenly from behind the wall at high speed, but passed to our port as we made our turn into the harbour. At Stonehaven, fin keel yachts like Christine Marie lie alongside the harbour wall near the entrance where there is sufficient depth. We made our shore-lines firm allowing for the 2m rise and fall of tide, then enjoyed a meal together on board in our new, but very misty harbour.    

Stonehaven Harbour

Stonehaven Harbour

 

 

Our next passage took us to Peterhead, 36M and 7 hours further up the coast. In the morning the visibility had deteriorated, so we decided to stay put and to explore Stonehaven. In the morning Liz and I explored the harbour and walked around the town, replenishing supplies.  

Stonehaven harbour through the mist from the cliffs.

Stonehaven harbour through the mist from the cliffs.

 

 

The mist held all day, but in the afternoon Frances and Liz walked along the cliffs towards Dunnottar Castle, whilst I completed passage planning to Peterhead the following day. Despite the poor visibility, some good photos were taken by Liz and Frances during their walk.

  

Dunnottar Castle, Stonehaven

Dunnottar Castle, Stonehaven

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stonehaven to Peterhead: 42M, 9 Hrs 

At 0800 next morning, one hour before low water with a fair tide North until mid-day, we slipped our lines. The deep water channel within the harbour at low tide is narrow and close to the harbour wall, so we motored astern into deeper water before making our exit to sea. Once clear of the harbour approach channel and dangers, we set our sails and made course to Peterhead. 

Liz and Ray 'poling out' the headsail

Liz and Ray 'poling out' the headsail

 

The wind was light and from astern, so full sails were deployed ‘winging’ with a preventer on the main. The forecast was for variable winds becoming SW F3/4, increasing F5 for a time, sea slight to moderate. The head sail was flapping occasionally in the light winds, so Liz and I ‘poled out’ the head sail, not something I do very often, so it took us a while to get it right! 🙂

‘Poling out’ the head sail helped set the sails and we were soon all enjoying a great sail in the sun and light winds. 

Frances and Liz relaxing as the autohelm does the work :-)

Frances and Liz relaxing as the autohelm does the work 🙂

 

 

At 1030 we were passing Aberdeen / Girdle Ness Lighthouse on our Port beam and changed course slightly to 026°M that would take us to our WP 1M off Peterhead. We set the autohelm to hold us on course for the remaining 30M passage and relaxed.

 

 

Naval ship carrying out safety exercises off Aberdeen

Naval ship carrying out safety exercises off Aberdeen

The lighthouse and spire at the mouth of the River Don soon came into sight and we were alerted on the VHF by a Canadian naval ship that she was about to carry out emergency exercises shortly after she passed us. We watched the ship ahead of us, slightly disappointed that we saw or heard nothing more until they broadcast that exercises were completed. The ship returned, passing us on their passage back towards Aberdeen. 

Conditions were good as we continued our passage with light winds and a slight sea, passing several castles on the cliffs along the scenic coastline. We decided to keep sailing and enjoyed ‘lunch on the go’. By 1300 the tide was turning and I made my routine log entry and plotted our position on the chart. As I rejoined Liz and Frances on deck, I commented that the barometer had dropped 2mB in the past hour (6mB in 3 hours, expect strong winds!) ….. but it was a lovely day, not a cloud in the sky and a nice F3 wind. 🙂 ……

1345 the wind started to increase rapidly and we needed to reduce sail fast …. with wind now from the SW 25 to 30Kn we furled the head sail. Liz and I went forward to remove the spinnaker pole, not an easy task as Christine Marie was hurtling along still under control of the autohelm, with Frances keeping a watchful eye on it and helping us from the cockpit. With the pole safely stowed, we put three reefs in the main ….. but conditions were still very lively sailing on main alone, so we dropped the main sail and continued under a small head sail.

Passing Staines Castle on passage Stonehaven to Peterhead

Passing Staines Castle on passage Stonehaven to Peterhead

 

 

Now under control and sailing well in the stronger winds, we made good progress on the remainder of our passage. The seas built and we experienced some choppy seas as we passed Staithes Castle towards Buchan Ness.

 

   

 

Clearing Buchan Ness into Peterhead Bay

Clearing Buchan Ness into Peterhead Bay

 

By 1600 the swell was moderating and the wind had eased to F4 as we sighted the lighthouse and tower at Buchan Ness and rounded the headland into Peterhead Bay.

Peterhead is a busy fishing port and all vessels are obliged to contact Harbour Control on Ch 14 when entering the bay. We made contact and were told to contact them again on our approach to the harbour. 1M off Peterhead Harbour we changed course to 318°M onto the approach to the harbour entrance. Harbour Control was busy with local fishing boats and we were somewhat amused that we could not understand a word the skippers of the fishing boats were saying! 🙂

Christine Marie Moored at Peterhead

Christine Marie Moored at Peterhead

 

We finally were able to make contact as we neared the entrance and were given permission to enter the port and to proceed to the marina. The marina is in the SW corner of the harbour, with the pontoons just inside the entrance. Rocks close to the entrance are marked by a green SHM. The marina staff were on the pontoon to welcome us and to guide us to our berth. By 1745 we were securely moored, enjoying a drink together and reflecting on an active day’s sailing and the passage ahead to Whitehills.

Peterhead is a nice marina with good facilities. It has good transport links and is ideal for crew changes or leaving the yacht for a few days, but I was keen to press on towards Inverness whilst I had the support of Liz and Frances. New crew were joining me there for the passage through the Caledonian Canal.

Peterhead to Whitehills: 52M, 9 Hrs

Refreshed in the morning , Liz (who has her RYA Day Skipper) helped me to complete planning for the 10 hour passage and pilot sketches to enter Whitehills. WP’s and route were entered into the GPS to clear headlands and dangers. These were checked and also marked on the charts. No weather forecast had been received during the night on my Navtext receiver, but the marina staff were able to provide a printed copy when received at 0900.

The wind was very light, from the SW (as forecast), when we gained permission on VHF from harbour control to leave Peterhead. Our passage plan for the day had earlier been logged with Aberdeen Coastguard on the CG66 Scheme. We had a foul tide for the first half of our passage, reaching 2 Kn off headlands, but fair with us rounding Rattray and Kinnairds Heads to our destination.

Skipper keeping a watchfull eye out :-)

Skipper keeping a watchfull eye out 🙂

 

 

It was a lovely sunny day and once clear of the harbour we set full sails and headed north, but progress was slow with very little wind and against the tide, so the engine was started and we motor-sailed with the engine on 2000 revs helping us to maintain 5Kn through the water.

 

 

 

 

 

Passing Rattray Head Light Tower

Passing Rattray Head Light Tower

 

Our course took us along the low-lying coast, keeping at least 1/2-3/4M off until we rounded the headlands where we increased the offing to 1M. By 1130 we were passing Rattray Head light tower with the sand dunes along the beaches clearly visible. Since leaving Lowestoft it was interesting how few yachts we saw on passages, especially compared to my normal cruising waters in the Solent. 🙂 

 

Under Tow

Under Tow

 

 

Shortly after rounding Rattray Head we sighted two vessels to seaward starting to converge with us towards Kinnairds Head. The larger vessel was transporting wind turbine masts and was under tow. We held our course, passing slowly to their port side.

 

Passing Shipwreck

Passing Shipwreck

 

 

A little further along the coast we passed to seaward of a wreck showing above the surface.

 

 

Rounding Fraserburgh & Kinnairds Head

Rounding Fraserburgh & Kinnairds Head

 

By 1400 we had passed Frazerburgh Harbour and rounded Kinnairds Head. Soon the coastline changed and we were passing some lovely unspoilt scenery. With a fair tide we were now making good progress in the light winds and enjoying the scenery. Liz and I decided we would practice ‘poling out’ the head sail again after our difficulties the day before. This time we added a line aft from the pole that gave us control of the pole separate from the head sail: it made it much easier to furl away the head sail and remove the pole. 

Passing Banff

Passing Banff

 

 

We passed the towns of Macduff and Banff and by 1830 were making our approach to Whitehills Harbour.

 

 

Narrow entrance to Whitehills Harbour

Narrow entrance to Whitehills Harbour

 

 

Sails stowed, our approach due south to the harbour entrance cleared the rocks to the east into the narrow channel between the harbour wall and two beacons marking rocks on the south side of the entrance.

 

  

On our own in Whitehills Harbour

On our own in Whitehills Harbour

 

By 1900 we were moored in Whitehills outer basin alongside a pontoon and were met by the harbour master.

We were amused when told that local restaurants and pubs did not serve food except at weekends! The only option open to us was a phone call to Banff where we could order a Chinese takeaway! 🙂 We decide to take an evening walk around Whitehills and go for a drink in a local pub. When there we checked on food … no, none served until Friday … but the pub was friendly and the beer was great! 🙂 Back on board, we cooked a meal and retired for the evening.

Whitehills is a lovely harbour, friendly and helpful and the facilities are excellent, a credit to the harbour master who looks after them … there is even a cosy meeting room that visiting yachts may use.

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