Forth Bridges Festival Part 2

September 15, 2014


There were lots of yachts from our club at Port Edgar marina for the finale of the Forth Bridges Festival. We had arrived back a couple of days earlier, and along with sailing around the vicinity of the bridges, we spent time in South Queensferry as the excitement was building.


By the time that the fireworks started (after 10pm on Saturday the 13th), there was a party atmosphere on the marina pontoons. On reflection it’s amazing that nobody ended up taking a bath, especially given that we had been getting into the spirit of the occasion …in advance.


The fireworks were set-up on the east side of the Forth Road Bridge, and the marina is to the west, however this didn’t appear to dampen the experience too much. We completely missed the torchlight procession which had taken place before the fireworks, but it’s feasible that we just weren’t paying attention.


In the end, the fireworks only lasted for around ten minutes, but it was a pretty impressive ten minutes. Easily the best firework-fest that our crew have seen.

Shark Toy

On top of the fireworks, I had been given a shark with a frickin’ laser beam attached to its head to play with, so I was having more fun than most.

As the fireworks subsided, we ended-up on our friends’ Moody 31, where an enjoyable if rowdy night was had by all. It was a fitting end to the season …even although it wasn’t quite the end of the season.

Sink Outlet Renewal

The following day, I discovered a leak under the galley sink, so it was back down to earth with a splash for me. Anyhoo, I did all that I could in terms of remedial work and eventually left the various bits of plumbing disassembled until I could source replacement parts. A few days later the new parts arrived, and by the following weekend I had replaced the sink outlet with shiny new components.

Macwester Malin at Blackness Castle

The weather remained better than could be expected for mid-September, so we eagerly squeezed in another great weekend before the end of the season, which now looms less than a fortnight away. Above shows us approaching Blackness Castle from the north-east.

Hopefully we’ll get one more weekend before crane-out.


Forth Bridges Festival Part 1

September 9, 2014

forth Road Bridge 50

With the celebrations to mark the 50th anniversary of the Forth Road Bridge due to kick off with a 180-boat flotilla on the River Forth on Sunday the 7th of September, we took some time out in the late summer sunshine at Port Edgar marina on the run up to the event. As well as cleaning our Macwester Malin, we went for walks along the coast to Hopetoun House and other nearby destinations. South Queensferry got busier as the week progressed, and before long the big day had arrived.

Flotilla Reaper

We were in column two of three columns, and our column lead was Reaper, a large wooden Fifie herring drifter. The muster point was on the east of the Forth Bridge (the original, rail bridge). The start of the flotilla was delayed and most of the boats were anxiously schooling like sardines. Eventually we set off, and ten minutes into proceedings things settled down and we were able to relax a little. That said, my head continued swivelling back and forth checking we had enough space, like an owl watching a ping-pong championships final.

Forth Road Bridge flotilla

The flotilla passed under the road bridge and the waving crowd above, and continued out passed what will become the Queensferry Crossing. On the way up to Dhu Craig buoy, Jacarah, a Seadog ketch from our club (see here), had a gearbox failure, and she broached side on to the flotilla just ahead of us. We, along with a hundred other small craft, managed to avoid T-boning her without too much trouble. The rescue boat was with Jacarah very quickly and she was towed back to Port Edgar without any further drama.


The rest of the flotilla made it up to Rosyth and performed a 180 degree turn to head back through the bridges once more. The sun came out for the return leg, and that brought an even bigger smile to the crew and guests onboard our yacht. As we came under the Forth Road Bridge, there was a cacophony of klaxons, but the sound that stuck with us were the happy whistles from the two little steam boats that had made the journey. The one in the shot above is called Talisker.

Forth Flotilla Erin

We rounded the Forth Bridge (the original, rail bridge) including Inchgarvie and headed back up river. On our short journey back to Port Edgar, we spotted what initially looked like human-shaped flags on ‘Erin’, a 49-foot Jeanneau Sun Odyssey, but on closer inspection, we realised that there were actually two enthusiastic souls dancing around on her spreaders. Back in Port Edgar the party atmosphere continued, and along with lots of members from our club we enjoyed a lively evening.

Macwester Malin & sick Seadog

South Queensferry remained a busy place at the start of the week, and we ventured on-board Reaper. At 70ft long and with a 20ft beam, she’s a voluminous boat, however the conditions below are very cramped. By mid-week we had well and truly recovered. However the same could not be said for Jacarah, the Seadog that was berthed alongside us. Her gearbox trouble was terminal, so we gave our chum a tow back up river (see below).

SeaDog ketch

As we approached Capernaum Pier, we brought the Seadog alongside and rafted up. Rounding the end of the harbour a small battalion of club members were waiting at the pontoons. We took it easy, letting the gentle easterly do most of the work with a short burst from our Macwester Malin’s bow thruster here and there. Everything went according to plan, however it was reassuring to know that we had more than enough help in reserve in case things hadn’t gone well.

Charlestown Harbour

We spent a further couple of days pootling around up river, including nipping into Charlestown harbour (see above). We didn’t stop, as there was lots of flotsam and jetsam lying on the surface, so we performed a gingerly 360 degree turn and beat a hasty retreat back out to the river.

Macwester Malin return Port Edgar

After giving our Macwester Malin yet another clean with a power-washer, this time to remove the overly-generous gifts of a thousand berry-eating swallows, we set a course back to Port Edgar for the last weekend in the Forth Bridges Festival.


Summer Cruise 2014 [part 2] – Fife Riviera

August 13, 2014


The weather improved as we reached Aberdour and as ever, we received an enthusiastic welcome from the friendly and helpful harbour master …he’s a real gem.

As it happened, the annual Aberdour Festival was due to start the following day, and would run for over a week. We reviewed the festival programme and were told that a handy map existed that showed the various venues. It’s fair to say that I performed a classic double take, accompanied by a rather colourful expletive when we eventually got our hands on the elusive map (see left), as unknown to us, our Macwester Malin ketch was centre-stage on the map’s front cover, with the strap line “The jewel of the Fife Riviera” underneath.

Looking closely at the details, we reckoned that the photograph had been taken during our first season in 2011. Possibly on our very first visit to Aberdour (more here), as the location of the berth looks about right.

Macwester Malin Aberdour

We spent a week in Aberdour, catching up with friends and going for walks. It was the most relaxing part of our time away. Aberdour is a well-protected harbour and we didn’t have the same problems getting a good night’s sleep as we did in Elie. The shot below shows the view looking west from the harbour across to the Black Sands.

Aberdour looking west

Towards the end of our stay we spent a bit of time considering a visit to Inchcolm, which is something that we have wanted to do for a while, but hadn’t quite managed to get the weather and timings to work for us. The harbour master helped us with insider advice, and we left Aberdour with enough time in hand to make an attempt at landing.

Approaching Inchcolm (video grab)

We managed to avoid the many rocks that litter Inchcolm’s periphery and after a bit of hesitation we parked our Macwester Malin on the wooden jetty on the north-east side of the island.

Macwester Malin Inchcolm

As we weren’t sure how fast the tide would come in, we took the bow as far up the beach as possible to avoid the prospect of the jetty being submerged when it was time to leave.

Inchcolm Abbey 2014

We were only on the island for around an hour. In that time we explored much of the west side by foot, but didn’t make it all the way to the far side and an unbroken view of the bridges, as there were too many agitated gulls becoming even more agitated if we tried to pass near their full-sized offspring. We thought it best to retreat and leave them alone.

Macwester ketch Inchcolm

After an enjoyable lunch on-board in the open air (tent-down) centre cockpit of our Macwester Malin, we reluctantly left Inchcolm behind us and set a course for home. Looking back towards Inchcolm, we became aware of a sinister-looking craft that was gaining on us with alacrity. Best we could tell, it was some sort of Darth Vader-style ‘death’ ship (see insert below).

Olympic Challenger passing under Forth Road Bridge

By the time we reached the bridges, we could see that the mystery vessel was in fact the Olympic Challenger, and she looked as though she had cargo intended for the new Queensferry Crossing. She gave us a deafening honk from her air horns as she passed.

The crew and I agreed that our next boat would need to have a helipad, as that has the potential to bring an added dimension to our cruising season.


Summer cruise 2014 [part 1] – East Neuk

August 11, 2014

Macwester Malin 32 ketch

The first stop on our summer cruise this year was Port Edgar marina. We spent three days there including celebrating our recent marriage with champagne and canapés for 15 on-board our Macwester Malin. It was tight for space, but the sun was out and everyone had a great time. Tying the knot with the crew was something that started back in 2011 when I got down on one knee in the middle of the North Sea, and led to us re-naming our yacht Indefatigable Banks; which is a region roughly 100 miles off Grimsby. Click here for more.

Next stop was Elie (see above) where the good weather continued. We had hoped to spend several days in Elie, but on arrival we discovered that the local sailing club was holding a 50th anniversary celebration that weekend, and given that at 32 feet our Macwester Malin was taking up more than one of only two visitor berths, we decided we would move on to Anstruther the following day.

By the morning, the east coast haar had descended upon Elie, however it wasn’t dense enough to prevent us from setting sail. The crew kept a look-out for lobster pots, as we tried to keep the coast in sight. This cautious approach proved to be wise, as we waved to the crew of a passing motor boat (called Mary Doll), which the Anstruther lifeboat would subsequently be launched to free from the minefield of lobster pots that we managed to navigate through.

As expected, the carnival was in town.

Anstruther Marina

Nonetheless, we settled into our new surroundings and began to unwind. Later in the day I was out on deck relaxing with a cold beer, chatting to a Westerly Konsort owner when all hell broke loose on the other side of the pontoon. A heavy (well over ten tonnes) blue boat coming into berth ploughed straight into a motor boat in the adjacent berth. I couldn’t believe my eyes as I watched it happen. The blue boat didn’t slow down or take avoiding action …it just smacked straight into the motor boat, which shot backward into the pontoon and then started to crumple and rise out of the water at the same time. I leapt over on to the motor boat that had been hit, and took a line from the skipper of the heavy blue boat. He later claimed that he had lost power when trying to put his boat in reverse, nonetheless I couldn’t understand why he hadn’t at least taken evasive action. Perhaps he froze when Plan A didn’t go to plan.

Later, when the tide receded, we were able to see why the skipper was unable to reverse …that’s when we spotted his propeller several feet away in the mud (see above).

Pittenweem harbour

The following day we met up with friends who came to visit us on-board our Macwester Malin, and we subsequently visited them on-board their Moody Eclipse. As usual, we went for coastal walks to Crail and Pittenweem (shown above). To be frank, we had always viewed Pittenweem as a bit one-dimensional; you know the kind of place …a drinking town with a fishing problem. However on this occasion we really explored the village and were surprised to discover that it is much more. In fact, I’d go so far to say that if we were to live anywhere in the East Neuk, it would be Pittenweem ahead of Crail, Elie or any of the other picturesque towns along the coast.

Elie Harbour sunset

Despite this revelation about Pittenweem, with the weekend behind us, we headed back to the visitors berth we had vacated at Elie. The shot above shows Elie harbour at dusk. The visitors berths are in the corner, adjacent to the prominent Granary building. If you look closely, you can just make out our Macwester Malin ketch.

Elie visitors berth

The weather in Elie was changeable, and there were a couple of really blustery days which made us question why we left the much better shelter available at Anstruther. We kept our eye on a Seadog ketch from our club which was berthed alongside the west harbour wall (see above; right of picture), it had been left there when the owner had taken ill during the 50th anniversary celebrations. We speculated that the illness might have been caused by a dodgy burger from the BBQ, and if so then it’s just as well we left when we did.

Kirkcaldy Bay & Inchkeith

By the end of that week, we set sail west across Kirkcaldy Bay. Towards the far end of the bay, it got a bit lumpy and the crew got soaked by a particularly large bow wave which gate-crashed our centre cockpit.

Puffin off Kinghornness

Once passed Kinghornness, things calmed down a little and we sailed through a flock of puffins. I’ve been trying to capture these shy birds on camera every season, but they’re forever scampering beneath the waves before I can deploy my camera phone. The above shot is the best I’ve managed to date. I’ll probably need to invest in a half-decent camera if I want better results.

Next stop Aberdour!


Out with the old…

July 21, 2014

HMS Illustrious River Forth

There’s been a lot of heavy metal moving around the Forth recently. HMS Illustrious was alongside the UK’s newest aircraft carrier in Rosyth for the naming ceremony, before being moved up river [see above and below].

HMS Illustrious River Forth July 2014

‘Lusty’ left the Forth at the weekend heading down to Portsmouth where she’s to be decommissioned.

HMS Queen Elizabeth dry dock Rosyth

HMS Queen Elizabeth is one of two replacements for the Invincible-class ships. While Illustrious dwarfed our Macwester, HMS Queen Elizabeth is three times the size of Illustrious.

HMS Queen Elizabeth floats

At the moment HMS Queen Elizabeth dominates the skyline in the Forth, even substantially blocking out the view to the bridges from Capernaum Pier.

HMS Queen Elizabeth bow

We sailed past her this morning [see shot above]. Not at all convinced I’d want to be in the way of 65,000 tonnes travelling at 25 knots. We were thankful that she was caged inside the dockyard at Rosyth.

HMS Queen Elizabeth Disney look-a-like

The shot above shows HMS Queen Elizabeth parked alongside a handful of nuclear subs [see the black line about half way along her port side].

Having made it safely past, we speculated what HMS Queen Elizabeth’s nickname might be …and from a distance we mischievously thought that she looked a little bit like a Disney pooch. Pluto was our first guess, but then we noticed the snaggle teeth on the bow and we realised that she looked more like Goofy or possibly Preston from Wallace & Gromit from that angle. Given what we had felt just a few moments earlier, we reasoned that this must be a strategic attempt to lull the enemy into a false sense of security.

Reckon I’d still be tempted to run away …fast!


€27500 “project” Macwester Wight

July 16, 2014


During one of my recent interweb meanders I spotted an amazing-looking Macwester Wight for sale in the Netherlands and thought that I’d share it here. It’s an incomplete “project” boat, with the seller claiming that she’ll be valued at €48500 when she’s finished. I’m not sure how long the link will be live, so have a peek at the photographs while you still can by clicking here.

If you’re in the UK and the English Channel is too much of a barrier for you, then there’s another less complete “project” Wight for sale at the moment too which can be seen here. A lot less money, but quite a lot more to do.


Polypropylene thruster buster

July 2, 2014


Polypropylene rope

Last time out on our Macwester Malin, our Max Power CT35 bow thruster started making a noise like a handful of memory sticks in a blender. After taking advice and running some diagnostics I concluded that the drive leg was the most likely suspect.

Power Max drive leg & propellers
With this in mind I spoke to A R Peachment, the very helpful Max Power UK main dealer and as they only had the CT45 spare part in stock, I opted for that. They explained that the only difference between the CT35 and the CT45 is that the 45 has two propellers; the electric motor is the same spec.

The drive leg is an oil-filled sealed unit, so once it’s broken it needs to be replaced. Complete with two propellers that added-up to just short of £500. ‘Fiddlesticks!’ I thought; that’s an unexpected expense that I could have done without on the run up to the holidays.

Power Max CT35
Over the next few days I familiarised myself with the installation instructions, and spent a few hours going through the process, but stopped short of removing the existing drive leg until I was sure I understood the challenges. As part of the dismantling and re-assembling the component parts, I found a small amount of polypropylene was wrapped around the shaft of the defunct drive leg, and I wondered whether that might have caused the failure.

Power Max CT 35 drive leg removal
Having purchased some CT1 to seal the gasket on the basis that it can cure underwater, and given that I planned on swapping the drive leg, anti-foul the tunnel, drive leg and propellers between tides …I was ready to go as soon as the tide started to fall.

Once I had freed all of the bolts, I used a wooden bung and a mallet to nudge the old drive leg free of the hull. I then headed down into the mud to sand down the tunnel before painting it with fresh antifoul and fitting the replacement part. I should have foreseen that the old gasket was likely to disintegrate, and removing it from the underside of a tunnel that’s knee-high was a lengthy, back-breaking task. Actually fitting the drive leg was easy enough, however there was no way of knowing which way to fit the part, as both shafts/propellers were identical. I reasoned optimistically that I had a 50:50 chance of getting it right.

Protruding propeller
Unfortunately while there is little technical difference between the CT35 and the CT45, there is a difference in installation. The CT35 motor has to be installed offset to the tunnel (to keep the single propeller in the centre), and the CT45 has to be centred. This meant that after converting from the 35 to the 45 configuration, the starboard propeller occasionally protruded from the tunnel by about 5mm when rotating. With this in mind I trimmed about 5mm off the propeller where this occurred. Not ideal, but repositioning the motor wasn’t an option between tides, and I will have to think long and hard about the pros and cons of centring the motor during the winter ashore.

Power Max CT45 bow thruster
Having reassembled all the parts and waited 24 hours for the CT1 to fully cure, I eventually tested the new drive leg. It was 100% successful… … …apart that is from the 50:50 chance of fitting the drive leg the right way …which rather inevitably turned out to be 100% wrong.

Wire swapping
I spent further time looking at diagrams, reading the installation instructions and researching online, before I swapped the brown and blue wire leading to the control panel and that fixed the problem.

Back on the water
While the process took me much longer than it would have taken an engineer, an engineer’s time would probably have cost around £500, and they would probably have wanted the boat to be lifted in and out of the water to do the job, which would have cost another £500. So all in all, I guess that fixing the issue myself (while upgrading from the Max Power CT35 to the CT 45) saved around £1000.

If you’re thinking about tackling similar remedial DIY work, there was nothing technically challenging in the process, but it is important that you start as soon as the tide drops, ensure that you have all of the required components and tools …and have a plan B should things not go to plan while the tide is out.


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