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September sunshine in Port Edgar

September 20, 2016

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The forecast for the weekend had been poor, but improved substantially towards the end of the week. With crane-out less than a month away, we set sail at lunchtime on Friday.

We weren’t 100% sure where we were going (or to be more accurate, I wasn’t 100% sure), however it became clear that the crew was pretty keen on Port Edgar, so she called ahead and arranged a berth.

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I recently read in PBO or Yachting Monthly that it’s good practise to give a diesel engine some beans every now and then, therefore as we were approaching the Queensferry Crossing we powered up our Lombardini LDW 1003M diesel, and after letting the engine warm up, opened the throttle all the way. That turned out to be 2900 rpm, which falls short of the stated 3600 rpm max. This is because the throttle cable is no longer set-up to max the engine out. Any-which-way 2900 rpm translated into 7.5 knots through the water. Not sure what additional pace the extra 700 rpm (20%) would deliver.

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Letting the revs drop down below 2000 rpm we motored under the Queensferry Crossing, which (on the southern middle span) appears to only require one more section to close the gap.

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On turning in towards our berth for the next couple of nights, we spotted a Macwester Malin ketch called Lady Mac. I think that’s the first time we’ve encountered another Malin on the Firth of Forth.

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Our Macwester Malin’s berth for the weekend had one of the newer pontoons in the marina. It really makes a difference having solid pontoon fingers that are long enough for the yacht, instead of the stern sticking out well beyond the end of the pontoon finger, as is often the case at Port Edgar.

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From time to time we listen to our favourite playlists during evenings onboard via an iPad and chunky wireless speaker. Sometimes as the evening progresses, we embark on a game that has evolved over time, that (given we don’t have a name for it) I’ve just decided to call ‘Cheesy-Chunes’. Not the most sophisticated of names, granted however it captures the essence of the activity.

At first we started out with Eurovision tracks like Ding-A-Dong by Teach In, and like a pair of willpower-free junkies we became hooked, until before we knew what had happened we were listening to Saddle up by David Christie, Automatic Lover by Dee D. Jackson …and yes, at the weekend we stumbled upon a sordid Soft Cell classic via Spotify (above).

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We had a fab and late breakfast of bacon and eggs, albeit with an uninvited Marc Almond still ringing in my ears. It took days to get that tune out of my head, so take heed and don’t be tempted to Google it.

Actually; really don’t Google that tune …because I seriously doubt that any Soft Cell track will feature amongst the top results.

Back in Port Edgar, Saturday was a cracking day, so we walked along to the harbour at South Queensferry in the afternoon to find out about the QBC muster, but there was very little activity underway.

The image above shows the view looking north-west towards the Forth Road Bridge and the Queensferry Crossing in the background taken from the little beach at Queensferry harbour. Later, we caught up with our friends onboard Miss Louise, a 29ft Dufour, prior to them going out for an evening sail.

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The weather was a bit on the dull side on Sunday, but that didn’t prevent us from enjoying the day. By mid-afternoon we set sail back west. Passing Capernaum, we spotted half-a-dozen Port Edgar yachts. Above; Erin a 49ft Jeanneau closest to the wall, then Yesnaby a 40-something-ft Dufour sandwiched in the middle, and Dreamcatcher a 36ft Hunter Legend. Other Port Edgar yachts were further along the pier wall (out of shot).

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On the way back to our mooring we spotted that it might just be possible to pass through the Ghauts for only the second time (first time here). On our approach a couple of jetskis scooted in front of us, giving me just enough of an opportunity to have a quick squint at the tide table. High water was still over an hour away, but I reckoned that there was enough water …so we went for it.

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Thankfully we made it through.

Once we shut our Macwester Malin down, we popped along to Capernaum to socialise. Erin was busy, but there was still plenty of room onboard. We enjoyed a glass or two of the fizzy stuff and caught up with friends.

One of Erin’s crew mentioned that our yacht had two masts, while Erin only had one. Fearing a Top Trumps style crushing defeat on all fronts except mast and keel count, I downplayed that fact and quietly changed the subject.

Three weekends afloat left before crane-out.

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Reccy to Seacliff

September 15, 2016

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The day following our trip to Granton on Ragdoll we decided to go on a reccy by road to Seacliff.

While we were up in Anstruther a couple of weeks earlier, we had spent a few hours onboard Pearl Fisher, a LM27 currently up for sale @ 29,500 via Boatshed. The LM’s skipper told us about a fabulous beach just south of Bass Rock, and so we thought we would check it out.

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I had seen a photograph of the harbour a few years back, and quite fancied the idea of squeezing in. However once we were actually there, it became clear that it would be a tight squeeze.

A very tight squeeze.

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So tight in fact that we’re gonna need a smaller boat. Theoretically our 32ft Macwester Malin might, just about, somehow fit inside the harbour, but the only way she could get in is by crane …as the harbour entrance is less than the Malin’s beam.

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To make things worse, the approach is just as narrow and goes around corners, nooks and crannies.

So Seacliff harbour is definitely off our cruising destination list, however the beach is fab and would be a great place to anchor for lunch …or possibly even take the ground given the right conditions.

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Westerly breeze to Granton

September 14, 2016

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Our Macwester Malin was left high and dry on Saturday morning as the crew didn’t fancy the early start required to beat the tide. That being the case, we headed over to the chandlers at Port Edgar, before returning to strap on our wellies, walk out on the putty, and perform some outstanding maintenance …or at least that was the plan.

Instead we bumped into our chums from Ragdoll, who were heading for a ketchup-soaked hot breakfast at the marina cafe. One thing led to another, and before long we were all heading out for a short day sail onboard Ragdoll, a fin-keel Westerly 33.

Above; A new section of the Queensferry Crossing was about to be lifted.

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Within a hundred metres of leaving Port Edgar, Ragdoll’s very experienced skipper was in trouble with the crew of Nicola S, for vaguely heading in the direction of “the lift”. Quaking in his boots, the skipper opted to abandon plans to head up river, and set a course east instead.

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After a short spell sulking on the naughty step, the skipper installed me on the helm and the Ragdoll crew threw up their spinnaker. We headed out towards Dalgety Bay, via Hound Point where we shadowed the RS400 race that was underway. From there we changed course and made our way over to Granton at a healthy pace in light winds.

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Approaching Granton, Ragdoll’s skipper took the helm once again, just in time to navigate an irregular course through the VXOne Nationals race that was underway. Above; a close encounter off the stern, but Ragdoll’s skipper handled it well.

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With a bit of manoeuvering, we made it through the pack and continued on our approach. This was a first for us, as we previously hadn’t sailed into Granton.

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The harbour wall offers good shelter from a westerly breeze, and coming alongside the pontoon was uneventful. Just the way I like it.

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We left Ragdoll parked on the end of the pontoon (above) and headed up to the Royal Forth Yacht Club for a late, light lunch. On the way back we bumped into the crew of Wildcat (and dog Stumpy), who had arrived shortly after us.

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The pontoons were much busier on our return and we also met a couple of friends from Elie. It was good to catch up on all the insider gossip from Elie, the East Neuk and beyond.

We set sail into a light westerly, and back on helm duty I was impressed by the way Ragdoll sailed into the wind. Her skipper put that down to Ragdoll being a fin-keel.

Out on the water, Ragdoll’s skipper invited the ladies in turn to leave the safety of the yacht and venture out on to the hull using nothing but a halyard and harness to keep them above the sharks. Second in line, my crew wasn’t overly keen, however the smile on her face when she came back onboard spoke volumes.

With much better weather than forecast, I got a little sunburn. My head was more burnt than a little pink marshmallow that slipped off Beelzebub’s toasting stick. Meanwhile progress up-wind slowed, and by the time a large cruise ship appeared at the bridges, the skipper decided it was time to motor back to Port Edgar. Unfortunately, just as we were arriving back in the marina, we got call(s) alerting us to a family problem back home, so we had to make a hasty retreat rather than shoot the breeze. Nonetheless, we had a great day out.

Many thanks to Team Ragdoll for their hospitality!

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Day sails; Bridges & Blackness

September 13, 2016

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We squeezed in a couple of day sails recently between a busy onshore schedule. The first was a quick dash down to the bridges with family. We had a four-hour window to get everyone onboard, prep, nip to the bridges and back, prep and eat lunch, and finally disembark and shut the yacht down again.

Above; visibility onboard our Macwester Malin was poor despite it being a fine day.

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By the time we rounded Inchgarvie (above), we knew that we were on schedule so we could take our foot (or should that be feet?) off the gas. There wasn’t all that much time to get sails up, but we did switch off the engine for quarter of an hour or so.

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The new Queensferry Crossing is getting ever closer to meeting in the middle. Three of the four gaps have yet to be closed, with both middle gaps remaining. Above; heading for the southern middle gap.

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At the time this post is being published, there looks to be only one final section to close the southern middle gap, which I’d imagine will be closed this month (September 2016). The above shot shows progress at the end of August.

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A week later, we decided to head to Blackness Castle. There was no noticeable wind, so we motored through the silky water. A fat, mellow seal seamed pretty relaxed as we eased closely past him. We’ve noticed quite a few more seals up the river this year, which we’re taking as a good sign.

The wind picked-up a little as we reached Blackness Castle, which made our next move a tad more difficult. We were planning on going alongside the stone jetty at the castle. Unfortunately one of the ladders is at the west end of the jetty (right hand side of jetty below), and the other is just on the left corner.

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Attempt number one failed, as we approached from the west and I couldn’t get our Macwester Malin’s stern in close enough to the wall. We swapped fenders around and tried from the east, however despite trying three times the bow kept being blown off by the westerly wind, and was simultaneously pushed away by the current despite my best efforts on the thruster.

While we were attempting to land, the occupants of the castle were doing their very best to discourage us. Canons and muskets were constantly being discharged in our direction. It was only when the crew took a bullet and very publicly expired out on deck that the reenactors were sated …and as I couldn’t single-hand on to the jetty, I decided to beat a hasty retreat.

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Miraculously, the crew came back to life, so we threw some sails up and meandered around for a while. Out on the water we met up with the club rescue boat which was waiting to rendezvous with Ramillies which was towing a defunct Westerly Centaur down from the Kelpies.

We enjoyed both days out on the water. I guess the taking of Blackness Castle will just have to wait for another day.

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Summer cruise 2016 – Part 2

September 1, 2016

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We spent a full week on the pontoons in Anstruther. Another couple of visiting yachts arrived the day after we did. There was Maisy, a Westerly Storm 33 from Amble, and Seannachie, a Hunter Channel 32 from Port Edgar. The weather was changeable, but there were plenty of sunny spells, and most nights were calm. The photo above was taken by me after dark through the starboard aft cabin window of our Macwester Malin. Reaper wasn’t in her berth (left, out of shot), as she had suffered damage further up the coast when she tipped over on taking the ground.

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We did a fair bit of walking around Anstruther and west to Pittenweem (above). The crew also walked to Crail and back. My father came to visit us on the Saturday; we dropped into Pittenweem again, and also popped over to the East Pier Smokehouse in St Monans for lunch by road (not by sea as I had originally planned). I ordered the hot smoked sea bass with fries, and assorted trimmings. While I’m not a huge fish aficionado (can you see what I did there?), it was truly awesome. The best fish and chips I have ever eaten by a country mile.

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By comparison, the award-winning chippy in Anstruther was a poor second. The local Indian restaurant didn’t perform too well either, however the artisan butchers was fab and the crew really enjoyed her ribeye steaks, while their duck eggs hit the spot for me.

Above; Anstruther’s riposte to Plop. Perhaps, in some ways, Plop and Feckin Boat sum-up the difference between Elie and Anstruther.

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Given that we had family commitments back home, and we knew that we didn’t want a rough ride back up river, we kept a weather eye on the… … …umm …weather. We were very keen to make it to St Monans by sea, and when the tide and wind were favourable, that’s exactly what we did. The arrow in the image above shows the right turn at entrance to the outer harbour, which is where the visitors berths are.

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This was our first visit to St Monans. It’s a cracking venue, but it seems to me that Fife Council haven’t got the pricing right. The cost is roughly on a par with Anstruther, and like Anstruther there’s an entrance fee, so that equates to north of £27 for the first night for a 32 footer like our Macwester Malin. However, unlike Anstruther there’s no pontoons, no shore power, and no showers in St Monans, and the public toilets are awful (even worse than Anstruther’s). With all of those aforementioned facilities available just a couple of miles east in Anstruther, St Monans is typically going to be a one night stop …and as a result the entrance fee distorts the cost for a single overnight stay. The council really should provide facilities or drop the entrance fee, and if they did …I have no doubt St Monans would attract many more visiting yachts.

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We took the ground late morning, went for a walk around the village and then headed back to the East Pier Smokehouse, which is the blue building that can be seen on the far left in the photograph below. This time, we sat out on the raised sun terrace with 360 views over the village, harbour, and the Isle of May.

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The crew and I both opted for the smoked sea bass. The sun was shining and the food was great, so we took a long (really long) time over lunch. Later we pootled around the village for a while, then the crew lay out on our Macwester Malin’s foredeck enjoying the sunshine. You can just about make out her legs dangling over to starboard in the photo above.

We were only in St Monans for 24 hours, but we really enjoyed our time there. Well worth doing at least once.

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The following morning, a light haar had descended over the east coast of Scotland. Our plan was to leave on a falling tide and head back home. This would mean we wouldn’t be able to access our mooring until eight hours later.

There was little to no wind in the first few hours, and we only averaged about 2 knots. Eventually, we had to concede defeat and revert to motoring. We spotted a handful of puffins crossing Kirkcaldy Bay, but none sporting their colourful beaks. By the time we reached Kinghornness, the wind had picked up a little and there was a noticeable swell. The photo above shows our approach to the Forth Bridge, with Inchcolm on the right, and thicker fog concealing the bridges.

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Unbelievably, we were spotted in the thick haar passing just south of North Queensferry by the eagle-eyed skipper of Ragdoll who was preparing to set sail from Port Edgar for a mini-cruise a few hours later (you would think he’d have better things to do).

We eased-off, as we had made up the lost ground and were ahead of schedule again. In the end we decided to sneak into the harbour mouth at Brucehaven for dinner, as we reckoned there would be just enough water. There wasn’t much below our keels, however we made it alongside even if that required a little bit of putty-surfing. We spent an hour or two stowing things and tidying, before we set sail again for our mooring.

Although we hadn’t quite managed the full fortnight, due to a family member arriving from London early the next morning, we had crammed in as much time afloat as we could.

Over all too quickly.

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Summer cruise 2016 – Part 1

August 30, 2016

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Around the middle of August the weather looked promising, so we decided to set off on an extended cruise to the East Neuk. First stop was the fuel berth at Port Edgar, before heading over to Aberdour. We were longer than planned at the marina having met a chum from our club, and with the tide falling quickly, we only just scraped into Aberdour at the very end of the pier. We took an early night as we had an early start in the morning.

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The next morning [Sunday], the journey across Kirkcaldy Bay against the tide to Elie, took us just north of 3.5 hours using the engine. Sailing simply wouldn’t have delivered the pace that we required to make it into Elie before the tide receded once again. Above; Transocean Prospect one of three rigs we passed.

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We spent three nights at Elie. We had mainly cloud-free skies for the duration, although the edge was taken off the hot summer sun by a cool easterly. The shot above was taken from on-board our Macwester Malin looking east to the cricket match on the beach, just in front of the Ship Inn.

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The visitors berth was sheltered in the easterlies, but the Granary, a large building just a couple of metres to the south of the berth, cast a shadow over our yacht from about 11am for three or four hours. You can just about make out the shadow of the building’s roof in the water to the left of our yacht in the image above, and you can see the offending building itself below, with our Macwester Malin just visible in its shadow.

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Shadow aside, we took advantage of the good weather every day, strolling barefooted along the beach in the sunshine, meandering in and out of the water. The distant bell that rang out on the hour every hour was a welcome companion through the night, but was never intrusive enough to actually waken us. The same can’t be said for the freezing cold showers at the yacht club which showed no mercy to sleepy sailors in the mornings.

Most of the time we dined on board with supplies from the Elie Deli. On the only occasion that we ate out, we ventured a few hundred metres along to the Ship Inn, against local insider advice and opinion. The best bit about the meal [apart from the company of course] was the view over to the harbour, and a dove nestled in a rustic iron gutter just a couple of feet away outside the window we were seated at.

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The food was a disappointment… … …however, here’s a photograph of ‘Plop‘.

Not sure if I’m including ‘Plop‘ here with reference to the disappointing food, or just to move the narrative along and make me smile.

Anyhoo, we took the opportunity to walk to St Monans which is about 2.5 miles east of Elie, as we had plans to make the village our next destination. I was keen to take the crew to the ‘East Pier Smokehouse’ for a fishy meal to make amends for the below-deck experience that was the Ship Inn.

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By the Wednesday, four days of hyper-excited, screaming tweens jumping in and out of the water, a few metres from our Macwester Malin proved to be enough. At times it was a bit like holidaying on the edge of a busy urban swimming pool. Besides; the weather was due to go downhill for a few days, and we decided that we had better head to St Monans while we could.

As it turns out, the sea state was much lumpier than we expected and we reasoned that it was unwise to make an approach through the narrow harbour mouth at St Monans, so unfortunately that destination fell off the chart table. Above: leaving Elie, before it got lumpy.

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We carried on directly to Anstruther. It was bright, but breezy and we were heading into an easterly. We spent a lot of time dodging our way through chaotic fields of lobster pots. One small fishing boat ahead of us was dropping lobster pots directly into our path, but this wasn’t too challenging for a skipper of my abilities …as I mastered Mario Kart many years ago.

It was particularly lumpy on the approach to Anstruther, and while personally I found it exhilarating, the crew was no longer feeling 100%. In the end we had to power our Macwester Malin into the outer harbour at speed to minimise the risk of the swell sweeping us off course. The good news when we reached the inner harbour was that for the very first time …the carnival was not in town.

Hurrah!

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Summer storm stops play

August 8, 2016

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Originally, we had expected to be away on our summer cruise during early August, however the forecast of unseasonal gales led us to cancel our plans. While this was obviously a disappointment, the alternative was a soggy, blustery, stressful break …that we decided we would be better off without.

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There was, however, a brief calm before the storm and we decided to squeeze in another trip to Dalgety Bay. A fickle wind was off our Macwester Malin’s stern and was constantly changing, so we spent a lot of time making adjustments in order to maintain a half-decent pace. By the time we reached the Forth bridges, we were behind schedule and with a falling tide on the cards, we opted to motor-sail. The image above shows our approach to Dalgety Bay, with Donibristle House on the far left.

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Our chums from Calloo, nipped over to spend a few hours with us on the first night (Thursday 4th). We had a smashing time, which ended earlier than it otherwise might have ended if it had been the weekend, but alas it was a week day.

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The following day we walked west towards the Forth bridges in the morning, and then east towards St Bridgette’s Kirk in the afternoon. The image above shows the view looking east towards Inchcolm, with our Macwester Malin in the harbour on the left. In the centre of the image, there’s a channel of water between the mainland and Inchcolm called Mortimer’s Deep, which is the route we typically take to reach Aberdour.

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On the Friday night, we listened to an eclectic music playlist and reminisced about our childhoods. From the depths of her mind, ‘the crew’ recalled a song called ‘Crambone’ from an old Tom & Jerry cartoon, performed by Shug Fisher, which she proceeded to stream (several times). While this isn’t in any way related to sailing, if you have a couple of minutes to spare you can find a clip here.

Later, one of our Dalgety Bay chums saved us from total-retro-meltdown by inviting us along to the clubhouse. It was much quieter than we expected for a Friday night, but pleasant enough.

The following morning we walked east again, although this time we walked past St. Bridgette’s Kirk to the old pier across from Inchcolm. The Fife coastal path seemed to come and go a little, and progress was slow, but eventually we made it and saw Mortimer’s Deep, the aforementioned channel which separates Inchcolm from the mainland, from a completely new angle.

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With gale warnings in place for Sunday, we set sail on the afternoon tide, just as the heavens opened. Despite keeping our cockpit tent substantially closed, we got a little soggy round the edges, however the rain eased by the time we reached the bridges.

Above; I eventually lost patience with the bargain-basement R2D2 that I purchased from Gumtree and chucked it overboard just off Rosyth.

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Later on Saturday, our Macwester Malin was safely back on her mooring. We battened down the hatches ahead of the storm, and left her to face the brunt of the weather by herself …while we were warm and cosy ashore.

Not exactly how we hoped to be spending early August, but sometimes mother nature has her own plans.

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