Puffin-fest @ Aberdour

July 8, 2019

Okay… …you got me. That’s not technically a puffin, but HMS Prince of Wales [Ahem, Prince of Whales to you Mr President], which is typically the first floaty thing I snap when we’re heading down river. Be assured that the gratuitous fluffy-puffin shot comes later.

We set off late afternoon, it was a bit overcast, but very settled. We unfurled our Macwester Malin’s genoa when we set off, but brought it back in within minutes as there was no useable wind.

We started spotting puffins between St. David’s and Dalgety Bay, which is further west than normal. The admittedly more ‘fuzzy’ than fluffy puffin above was snapped at Aberdour, further east than normal. We typically see one or two puffins crossing Mortimer’s Deep, but we must have spotted six to eight, which is the most we’ve seen since the puffin wreck a few years back – good news!

The settled weather continued and the sun put in an appearance not long after we arrived at Aberdour. The crew presented me with some raw poultry plus matches, and it slowly dawned on me that I had better dig out my chef’s hat.

A passing fisherman very kindly presented us with a freshly-caught, recently-deceased mackerel, which went straight on the barbie. I’d like to tell you that it was the most wonderful mackerel that we’ve ever tasted, but it was dreadful. It was rubbery and dry …next time, it’ll be wrapped in foil with some herbs and butter.

The crew and I enjoyed doing nothing in particular; going for walks, catching up with local club members, and basically just taking it easy.

We watched the wildlife including herons, ducks, and thousands of tiny fish thread their way through the scenery surrounding our yacht. We saw sea swimmers swimming across the bay. We read. We played cards. We watched box set VoD.

During a discussion on the pier, the local harbourmaster told us about diving boards over to the west of the beach at Aberdour. We had wondered about these decaying structures for many years, but didn’t realise that these rusty relics had originally been diving boards. In the photograph above, you can make out the remains of two diving boards [left and centre] as well as steps that have been carved out of the rock.

It was cloudier on day three, and we managed to squeeze in some sailing without using the engine on the journey back home against a light westerly. Neither of us were keen to leave; as usual we were back home all too soon. Still, there’s always the next trip to look forward to!


Dalgety Bay at last!

June 25, 2019

Towards the end of June, we headed for Dalgety Bay on a bright Friday evening. The shot above shows the underside of the new Queensferry Crossing, with a glimpse of the ‘old’ Forth Road Bridge in the bottom left corner.

It was unusual for us to have the sun late in the evening in the little harbour, but this was just a couple of days after the summer solstice …so we soaked it up and enjoyed a long night out on deck.

The weather continued to behave itself, and as usual we went for walks around the coast. Predictably as the sun was out, I got to burn stuff for our evening meal on the Saturday night – always entertaining.

I couldn’t decide whether to include the photo above, which shows our Macwester Malin in the harbour with the Forth Bridge in the background [the original ‘rail’ bridge]… … …or the photo below, with a wider view and the beach in the foreground.

In the end, I decided to give you both …now, don’t let me hear you say I’m not good to you!


Early June send off …and more

June 18, 2019

As is always the case on this blog; no names, no faces, no pack-drill. Which makes the first part of this particular post more of a challenge, as half-a-dozen club yachts mustered to support team Calloo with a final farewell to our dear friend and club ex-Commodore. He is sorely missed by us, family and friends.

In addition to Calloo and Indefatigable Banks [us], Joint Venture, Fyne Thyme, Louise, and Maverick were also out on the water, just off our chum, the ex-Commodore’s back garden.

Eagle-eyed readers may spot a figure mid-ships [above] peering into the water. Not satisfied with spreading ashes that day, one of the crew decide to cast his wife’s new mobile phone into the drink too [oops].

Our guests onboard for the day were ladies from Jambel and Solveig. We rafted up alongside Joint Venture, and while the ladies enjoyed something frothy, the Joint Venture crew gave me the opportunity to taste their Glenkinchie 12-year old, which I have to say was appropriately special. In fact, the whole final send-off was moving and special – we were honoured to be invited along …just as we were honoured to know our friend. After returning the yachts to their moorings, assorted crews reconvened in the clubhouse bar.

A few weeks earlier, the crew and I had both stood on our dinghy seat at the same time. That was a mistake which needed some remedial work. After a bit of sawing, sanding, and painting, I managed to make and fit a replacement without too much of a palaver.

Although, when I extracted myself from the mud, it was clear that the oil spill clean-up operation [earlier in the year – see here] really hadn’t removed all of the oil from the harbour and surrounding areas.

Wellies off and back in the car with a clear view of the dinghy, we watched as a loutish crow flew down from nowhere and pranced gleefully all over my newly painted seat. It only flew off when the heavens opened and a relentless deluge of water added insult to injury. Anyhoo, the following weekend, we tested the new dinghy seat taking Twindefatigable Banks out for a trip to the Ghauts when the tide eventually decided to put in an appearance.

We made best use of weekends that for one reason or another meant that we couldn’t be away sailing. Including a trip to the East Pier Smokehouse at St. Monans, where we both predictably ordered the hot-smoked sea bass.

As usual, the food was great, and we’ll be back for more before the end of the season [St. Monans harbour pictured above]. After leaving St. Monans we headed over to check out the Elie chain-walk, but weren’t convinced we had the right tide window to make it all the way to the end and back …so that’s one for another day.


Port Edgar open weekend

May 13, 2019

Well-behind on my blogging, so I’m cracking out updates when I can. On the second weekend in May, we had an early-morning start to catch the tide and make our destination – which for the first time this season was Port Edgar marina.

We didn’t plan it, however it was the marina’s open weekend, which meant that it was busy …very busy. No doubt in part due to reasonably good weather. The marina pontoons have restricted access, so apart from the occasional stray tourist, it was business as usual away from the retail hub (above).

The crew took forever to spot that the landmark Port Edgar crane had been dismantled. It’s a pity, but the reality is that it had become a bit of a liability …so had to go.

One definite plus of the marina open day is that we got all six lifejackets checked by the RNLI – we were pleased to learn that they’re all in good condition. Later, we had a great night catching up with our chums onboard Tight Fit V.

There had been wall-to-wall sunshine for much of the weekend. Leaving our berth didn’t go to plan, as we pivoted on a snagged fender and very quickly ended-up reversing out. Not ideal, but the crew spotted an opportunity for me to pull-off a J-turn and we were back on track.

On the way back home we passed by HMS Prince Of Wales (Prince of Whales, to you Mr President), and HMS Queen Elizabeth, who’s captain was under scrutiny at the time and was subsequently replaced by the time she passed under the Forth Bridges just after midday on 23rd May 2019

The sun was getting low in the sky by the time we made it back to our mooring, but there was still more than enough visibility.

The following weekend was very useable, however we had other commitments which meant that the best we could do was to squeeze in some time onboard, pottering and reading…

…and getting some rowing exercise in too. All-in-all, May proved to be a bit like April and June, which were unfortunately lacking in actual sailing.


Easter Shakedown ABC

April 30, 2019

The weather was kind to the UK during the Easter weekend for our first outing of the year, and we set sail on the Friday plotting a course for Aberdour. It was chillier out on the water than we expected, despite that typically being the case.

I use the term ‘sail’ however we motored all the way. As can be seen in the photograph above, we had little choice as we had no genoa or main sail, plus we were heading into an easterly. Before we left, we got the mizzen fitted so that we had a back-up plan should there be some sort of shakedown problem with our Macwester Malin’s diesel engine …fortunately there wasn’t.

There was however a hiccup when it came to docking. Aberdour Boat Club crane-in had taken place just two days earlier so the pier was really busy. We motored far up the harbour, to the only vacant berth, where we were rapidly running out of water. This shallow berth meant heading for the pier at a steep angle, and then using the thruster to avoid hitting the harbour wall at the last minute. We managed that, but in the process, the thruster made a worrying noise, so I stopped using it and knew that I’d have to go check it out when the tide had dropped [see above].

We had four days of cracking weather, and we set about getting the rest of the sails on, along with one or two other early-season tasks. Our chum, the friendly harbourmaster made an early appearance to fill us in on all of the Aberdour news from the closed season.

A couple of yachts from our club appeared later on Friday, on their way to St. Monan’s. Wildcat stayed out on her deep water mooring, but Chiron came into the harbour. Unfortunately Chiron was taking on water. That appeared to be the result of an oversight by the skipper and soon the drama was over.

Unfortunately, while I was along helping with Chiron, our Macwester Malin took the ground a little far from the pier, with no ladder accessible …so the crew couldn’t get off, and that it transpired led to the loss of any brownie points I had amassed by arranging wall-to-wall sunshine. In fact, those brownie points were quickly replaced by big black stars plastered inside and out of my pop-up doghouse. The solution [see fender step above] failed to make any appearance amidst the mire of disappointment until the following day …and so scuppered any chance of rum cocktails onboard Chiron that night.

Probably just as well, as there were a few sorry heads shared between those who had spent the night onboard Chiron. With their technical problems in mind, Chiron and Wildcat changed their plans and set sail for Dysart instead. We stayed put and enjoyed the weather. We went for walks out towards Starleyburn, and treated ourselves to soft-scoop ice cream round at the other beach – which was absolutely mobbed.

We managed two barbecues, and had a surprise visit from our west-coast chum and his son who had strayed further east. Unbelievably [to us anyway], it had been five years since they had last visited us [en bateau], which just happened to be in Aberdour. Our sailing life just seems to vanish before our very eyes …as did the four days we spent in Aberdour.

All too soon, we said our goodbyes to our friends, who helped us cast off, and watched as we motored out of the harbour past the club moorings. With the wind directly behind us, we made 4-5 knots on the genoa so left the main and mizzen under wraps.

It was an uneventful sail home …but that’s a good thing when you’re on a shakedown sail!


Pre-season & crane-in 2019

April 7, 2019

There were quite a few things on our pre-season to do list this year, including replacing the V-belt on our Macwester Malin’s Lombardini diesel engine. Fitting was easy enough, it’s just a case of slacking-off a couple of bolts, slipping the new belt on and then tightening the bolts back up again. It’s do-able with two hands, but three hands would be easier.

I really struggled to find a direct replacement for the Dayco branded original V-belt [6633 2440360 05 186 057 05 186 058], so after some help from the lovely staff at Gates in Belgium, I opted for a Gates 6261MC which only cost around £5 or so from the internet.

Replacing the stern gland was more expensive at just over £250 for the parts [old and new shown above], then there was the cost of fitting over and above that. We purchased a Deep Sea Seal Manecraft set 4 high-speed configuration which is good for almost 3000rpm. Our Lombardini LDW1003M is capable of revving to 3600rpm, however the throttle is set to max-out south of 3000rpm.

Fitting the seal was straightforward enough, although the alignment of the face that you can see shining above is always time-consuming, because it moves out of alignment as the jubilee clips are tightened. Other jobs included fixing the dinghy floor, replacing the rear 12mm mooring chains with 16mm chain as part of installing the mooring tackle. Obviously we also recommissioned the heads, and anti-fouled the hull. I’m in the processing of sourcing an engine anode, as the one we have is nearly depleted.

I wasn’t particularly happy with the amount of water that our Jabsco pump was chucking-out of the exhaust when I was de-winterising the engine. It’s a Jabsco 29470 2531C 05K. Apparently the 05K is a date code, and so I imagine that the pump was manufactured late in 2005, although it was fitted after that along with the new engine.

Having consulted friends at the yacht club, I switched the plate around [see above]. While there wasn’t much improvement on the hard, the pump worked well enough after crane in. A new pump is north of £200, but that’s nothing compared to the cost of cooking our Macwester Malin’s engine, so we have ordered one and will replace it during the season if we feel that’s necessary. Otherwise, it can sit on a shelf ready to be swapped-out as and when required.

With hindsight, arriving at the club by 7am was a waste of time as the crane got stuck on the way, and then rather predictably broke down where it was stuck. More than two hours were lost waiting around in cold and damp conditions.

While we were waiting, we watched HMS Queen Elizabeth [R08] slowly make her way into Rosyth dockyard to meet up with HMS Prince of Wales [R09] which can be seen to the left of the photograph above.

Much later than planned, our Macwester Malin, Indefatigable Banks was lifted from her winter resting place and lowered on to the putty. She spent one night on the north pontoon and we popped her back on her mooring the following day. Thanks to our chums for picking us up in the club rescue boat, as our dinghy has yet to get her freshly-painted bottom wet.

We still need to get some sails on, plus complete a number of other mundane tasks, so a shakedown sail isn’t on the cards yet …soon though!


Closed-season black and blues

March 22, 2019

As usual when our Macwester Malin is sitting high and dry on the hard, we spend lots of time at the coast. The new V&A building above was a little smaller externally than we envisaged, and having ventured inside we felt it was short on museum and big on cafés. Don’t get me wrong, it’s an impressive building; it’s just not very good at being an actual museum.

We walked to the Falkirk Wheel on a very cold and foggy day [above]. Each and every time we visit there, my mind drifts back to a project I worked on in the early 90s. It wasn’t really our bag, but the client wanted a 3D-animated pre-viz of a massive rotating boat lift that would be built in Falkirk. Now obviously pigs would fly before a massive rotating boat lift would be built in Falkirk; however despite my doubts about his sanity, the client was persistent and we were persuaded to produce the pre-viz nonetheless. Hats off to you Jim!

The day we walked across the Forth Road Bridge was also chilly and dull, but the visibility was better. Typically, the weather was brighter on several walks between Aberdour and the recently re-modelled [flattened] Starleyburn.

During a trip to Dysart, we walked all the way east along the coast to West Wemyss, a walk that includes a breath-taking, steep [really breath-taking] incline. We also made it across to Crammond Island via the Dragon’s Teeth [above] when the tide was out.

With the club flag flying forlornly at half-mast, we were subdued, and did what we could to console our friends …which in the end really wasn’t all that much.

We took a trip through to James Watt Dock, where Drum sits …waiting. We also returned to Greywalls over in Gullane, and spent a few days for a birthday celebration. We visited North Berwick, Dunbar, and after a long, soggy walk just about made it to one of two X-class midget submarine wrecks on the beach at Aberlady. If we had skipped breakfast we would have beaten the tide… …but we didn’t skip breakfast… … …hence the sub-optimal pic above… … … …sorry.

The shot above is taken on a sunny afternoon looking west across Pittenweem. Our favourite East Neuk eatery closes over the winter, so there was no hot-smoked sea bass on the go. Baa-humbug!

Meanwhile, back at our mooring there was oil pollution that meant the beach and surrounding area was closed to the public. The black sticky stuff was everywhere. In total six-hundred tonnes of it were removed, taking several weeks at a cost of £600,000.

Well-done to Fife Council, who managed to get the worst of the pollution cleared; thankfully a week or two before crane-in. Yes, our dinghy mooring was trashed in the process, and yes there’s a layer of oil just below the surface of the putty …but they turned it around pretty quickly.

Hard hats at the ready! Pre-season and crane-in up next.


Disturbance Level – minimal

November 24, 2018

Things have been pretty hectic this year [2018], and regular readers of this blog will have noticed that I’ve been behind with my updates. With our yacht winterised, we booked a week in Seatown [Gardenstown] at the very last-minute …to squeeze in some much-needed R&R later in November.

While not technically afloat, the cottage that we went to is about as close as it’s possible to get to the sea; with the seawall doubling as a single track road that runs along the front. As we stayed at the very same cottage last year, we knew what to expect. Nonetheless, driving along the seawall in the dark isn’t for the faint-hearted.

It wasn’t warm, however the weather was better than expected and we managed to get out and about every day. On the few occasions that it rained, we retreated inside with the coal fire to keep us toasty. Most evenings we nipped outside in the dark, with a drink in hand to experience the waves crashing against the seawall, and peer through the darkness to the navigation lights bobbing around just offshore.

We visited many little coastal villages including Portsoy, and the lovely Sandend. We typically ate out at lunchtime, including treating ourselves to one of our favourites, Cullen Skink …which was okay, but fell a tad short of our expectations given that we were actually in Cullen and the restaurant claimed to serve the world’s best Cullen Skink. However, the waves down on the beach were pretty awesome that day [above].

Awesome, but not destructive like the waves that hit Tenerife that week. I mention this, because we had been booked-up for a fortnight in Tenerife that very week, but the travel agent cancelled our trip at the last-minute …hence our quicker than expected return to Gardenstown.

Similarly, we didn’t expect to be back in Pennan so soon, however we enjoyed being back. Having changed mobile operators since our last visit, I managed to get a signal and called the phone box. It was reassuring to hear it ring, and now I know that on the [rare] occasions that I call from back home …I am actually making the phone box ring in ‘Ferness’.

As for the aurora borealis; I was much better prepared on this trip, having downloaded a real-time ‘Aurora Watch’ app to my iPhone. Unfortunately my early optimism was built on shakey foundations that ebbed away with the mobile signal. The nearest signal was over 500m away from our broadband-less cottage, and so the text message that I would receive when the northern lights would be visible at our location …would never be received.

Oh well, looks like a trip to Reykjavik is on the cards!


Crane-Out 2018

October 15, 2018

Crane-out arrived far too soon for us, and we felt more than a little cheated that our season had been curtailed in August. Time, tide, and indeed the crane driver waits for no man, so we forlornly sailed our Macwester Malin around to the club harbour …and waited for our slot.

We had a temporary landing [above] before we eventually reached our final destination, which ended-up being in a less-fragrant [good], but much breezier [bad] spot. Still, we were safely on the hard without incident and that’s a result as far as I’m concerned.

We chose a calm, sunny day to row the dinghy over to the club via stopping-off at the Ghauts for the crew to get her wellies wet, and to somehow extend our season just a little bit longer.

It didn’t take too long to reach the west-facing ramp at the club and we dragged the dinghy up with the help of our chum, who has recently opened up a yacht chandlers [ VisionMarine ]. It’s early days, however we wish him the very best of luck with his new venture.

With our Macwester Malin’s hull power-washed, the heads and engine winterised, sails, sprayhood and cockpit tent stowed, plus having uninstalled our mooring tackle. We took some time to enjoy the coast from the land.

One of our first stops, was the East Pier Smokehouse @ St Monans before they closed down for the winter. We managed to wangle a sunny day with little in the way of wind, and so were able to sit outside on their terrace and enjoy the 360° views. As usual we both opted for the smoked sea bass with fries – yum!


First race, last sail

September 26, 2018

After much faffing around, we managed to get off our mooring and make it to the start of our first ever race onboard our Macwester Malin, just in time to see the field burst across the starting line. By the time we threw up our sails and found the wind, we crossed the start line ten minutes after the start of the race – not the best of starts to our racing career then.

It was late September, and the crew was feeling well enough to try a trip on the water, however we had additional crew for the day in the shape of our yacht-less chums from the club, one of whom is a naval architect. It wasn’t too long before we were heading directly into the front-runners on their way back down river.

Firmly in last place, we were nevertheless enjoying ourselves and having started ten minutes after everyone else, we had already accepted that our Macwester Malin wasn’t going to make it anywhere near the silverware cupboard on her debut. I spent quite a bit of time out on deck getting up close and personal with a pole, trying to ensure that we could goose-wing our way down river. Lunch was good, and the apple brandy that our guests had very-kindly provided was even gooder (that’s a real word; if you don’t believe me look it up).

The half-way point was the welcoming bar at Blackness Boat Club. While we were in there, the wind picked up from the west, and that would make leaving more of a challenge than we had imagined when we arrived alongside. In the end, we had to wait for Calloo to leave the end of the pier for fear that we might be blown into her. With Fyne Thyme inside us acting as a floating starters hut, this meant that we were the last yacht across the starting line for the return leg too.

Fortunately we had much catching up to do (socially), and amongst other interesting conversation, we heard about our naval architect chum’s new electric tender model [see here], one of which was being auctioned for charity over at the Monaco Yacht Show a few days later. I haven’t been onboard the new model, but the predecessor was a hoot when we went out for a spin back in 2014 [see here]

We had a choice to make, and at the cost of missing the opportunity to get back on to our drying mooring, we opted to finish the race. Unbelievably, we didn’t finish last, and I reckon our time might even have managed a whiff of respectability if we had started at the same time as the rest of the field. For us though, it wasn’t about the racing, it was about making it out on to the water one last time during the season …and the great company. Thanks to the owner of Louise for the shot above.

A few days later our chum’s electric tender sold for a whopping €1.8 million at the charity auction. Well I was impressed anyhoo.

%d bloggers like this: