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Scottish Boat Show 2014

October 13, 2014

McLaren650Sengine

As usual we made the trip over to the west coast of Scotland to Inverkip for the Scottish Boat Show. The event seems to be growing, and that obviously translates into congestion in one form or another.

We made our way through various sports cars including a gaudy green McLaren 650S. I like McLarens, and I’ve even been to the deeply impressive McLaren Technology Centre, but to my eyes you might as well have stapled together a thousand wart-covered toad skins, and hastily sellotaped those to the McLaren’s bodywork.

It was just too …green.

Flyboarding

We looked at a couple of yachts, but there was nothing that stood out on the list of boats available to view at this year’s show. When I say nothing, obviously there were plenty of £250,000+ dream boats, but we’re typically interested in looking at yachts around the 30-35ft with a five-figure price ticket. After a bite to eat and a couple of minutes watching the flyboarding, we popped on board Old Pulteney (see below). It was interesting to see the cramped and spartan conditions below the decks, and with a brief glance at each other we unanimously agreed that racing a 70ft Clipper around the world wasn’t for us.

Old Pulteney clipper 70

A couple of hours after arriving at the show we decided that we had endured enough of the crowds and we nipped over to James Watt Dock Marina, where we looked at a couple of yachts for sale including a nice centre cockpit Moody 35. It was good to see a proper aft cabin like the one in our Macwester Malin, rather than a padded storage hidey-hole under the cockpit.

Later we met up with old friends and had dinner in Glasgow’s west end.

sun setting in west from dinghy

The following day we headed to our club to start the post-season chores. We got our mooring tackle up from the mud, power-washed it, and put it into storage. Next we took the sails off, checking for damage. There’s a small tear about the size of a five pence coin on the genoa, so that’s something we’re going to have to get fixed. Finally, as the sun was beating a retreat over to the west, we brought our tender round from our mooring and lifted her out for winter storage. We were in no hurry whatsoever, as it was warm and the river was calm (see above & below).

Dinghy nears destination

Of the two days we achieved more on day two, and although we were tired after completing our chores, I reckon that we both had a better time on the Sunday too.

While the boat show offers an alternative day out for the masses, I’m not convinced that the crowds, the helicopter rides, and the burger stalls actually equate to an enhanced boat-focussed experience.

So that begs the question; will we go next year?

A …probably.

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Crane-Out 2014

October 6, 2014

Approaching harbour from south

The weather was set to deteriorate as Sunday unfolded, so we were keen to get our Macwester Malin alongside sooner rather than later. We arranged to park our 32ft ketch on the club’s north pontoon ready to be manoeuvred into position on demand.

Plan B: As we were in the process of entering the harbour, we were told not to head for the pontoon as another yacht was unexpectedly ensconced there. Instead we were to raft alongside our chum’s Westerly Konsort, which was sitting at the south end of the harbour (just at the entrance, to the left of the chap with the yellow jacket in the shot above). We got a stern line over to the Konsort, and I used the thruster to help get our Macwester Malin’s bow round, (a bow thruster is a fantastic asset for that moment when Plan A slips through your fingers). However half way through executing Plan B, we heard a voice from the pier informing us that we couldn’t raft up to the Konsort after all. Instead we had to revert to Plan A, as the yacht on the north pontoon was in the process of leaving.

Alongside north pontoon

We slowly motored north and soon we spotted that the pontoon had not in fact been vacated …so we slowed down even more. As we continued, we were rapidly running out of water and had nowhere to go other than the pier wall (where all the craning-out was taking place). With just moments to spare, the maverick yacht cleared the pontoon and we got alongside as planned …that’s as planned in Plan A. Before long, the crew and I both got back to helping with crane-out, leaving our yacht quietly waiting for lift off.

About three-quarters of an hour later the weather had deteriorated and our Macwester Malin was straining at her leash, almost as though she was as unhappy as we were about being craned-out. One or two of the fenders were riding up, and it became evident that she needed some immediate attention. We had plenty of help, and one of our friends retrieved and fitted a large round buoy to help protect against her truculent bucking. Amidst all of this we were informed we were next up for lifting. That was easier than I feared as we had at least two club members on each warp, and I motored backwards into position. It was really good to have so many hands on and off deck.

Macwester Malin crane-out 1

I popped the washboards back in, and within seconds the strops were in place and I jumped over on to the pier. The first few feet are always particularly stressful, but all was looking good. We had three lines on our yacht; two at the bow and one on the stern, however the wind dropped while she was lifted.

Macwester Malin crane-out 3

Above: edging slowly to our twin-keel Macwester Malin’s place on the hard standing. Below: As usual we took a bit of time at the end to make sure that the blocks were all in the right place before the crane driver dropped the full load and the strops slackened off.

Macwester Malin crane-out 4

The lift itself went smoothly and within a couple of minutes our bilge-keel Macwester Malin was firmly planted on the hard, where she will sit out the next six months. The contrast between her straining at the leash and being completely motionless was not lost on us later, as we left her rooted to the spot and headed back home.

Portpatrick aerial

The following day I found myself flying over the Scottish coastline and spotted the pretty coastal village of Portpatrick far below. That’s the very spot that we decided to take up sailing back in the autumn of 2010, and sparked our search for a yacht. A search that reached all corners of the Scottish coast before ending up in the Netherlands.

Spotting Portpatrick and reminiscing about searching for our first yacht helped me see the bigger picture. Sure, we’re incredibly melancholy about the season being over, but wearing my big rose-tinted optimistic pants for a moment …we’re now one full day closer to crane-in 2015!

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Closing Cruise 2014

October 1, 2014

River Forth heading east

With the weather turning a noticeably colder but still better than could be expected for late September, we squeezed in one last overnight before crane-out. Not knowing precisely where we would end up, we set sail down river thinking that we might reach Aberdour. The wind was gusting over 25 miles an hour from the west, so we kept our Macwester Malin’s main and mizzen under wraps and were easily making 4 knots on a well-reefed genoa. The crew wasn’t feeling too great so we brought in the head sail and motored the rest of the way to the bridges. We also changed our destination from Aberdour to South Queensferry.

Unsurprisingly we bumped into some chums not long after arriving, and were told that the forecast was for a force 8 overnight. That wasn’t in line with the forecast I had checked, but nonetheless I increased the number of warps and put out additional fenders. Fortunately the high winds didn’t turn up and we had a comfortable night.

Peatdraught Bay and Forth bridges

The following morning we set off for a long walk to Peatdraught Bay while the tide was out (see view to the west above). It was interesting to see what lies beneath the surface especially the rocks; I’ll have a better idea of what to avoid next time we anchor there (looking north to Hound Point below).

Peatdraught Bay rocks and Hound Point

By the time we made it back to our Macwester Malin the tide was well on the way back in, and we reluctantly set course back to our mooring (see below).

Macwester Malin mooring

If you have noticed that this post is a little flat, that reflects how we felt all weekend. It was a bit like eating the last mouthful of a yummy hot chocolate pudding; impossible to relish because your mind is relentlessly gravitating towards the imminent disappointment of being left with nothing but memories, calories, and sticky fingers.

Next stop crane-out and six months of endless darkness.

Baaa-humbug!

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Forth Bridges Festival Part 2

September 15, 2014

ForthBridgeFireworks01

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.

ForthBridgeFireworks04

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.

ForthBridgeFireworks03

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.

ForthBridgeFireworks06

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.

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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.

SmallSteamBoat

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.

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Summer Cruise 2014 [part 2] – Fife Riviera

August 13, 2014

Leaflet

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.

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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!

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