Last hurrah 2016

October 12, 2016


Early on Saturday morning, just as our chums from Calloo were returning from Port Edgar, we were heading over there for our final overnight trip of the season. It would have been great to catch up with them, but unfortunately it wasn’t to be.

Out on the water, we passed Christina II, and spotted a solo seal basking in the autumn sunshine on Dhu Craig.


As we passed under the Queensferry Crossing it seemed likely that the gap would close soon; in fact that turned out to be the following day (although there are still two gaps yet to be closed elsewhere).

Our berth for the weekend was on the east side of the marina, which is closest to the Forth Road Bridge and gets much less protection from the breakwater. Not ideal. We had asked for a better berth that we knew was free, however the staff refused claiming that it wasn’t available (not surprisingly the berth we requested lay vacant for the duration of our stay).


We had no fixed plans for our time in South Queensferry. I checked that our new wheel cover fitted (which it did). We strolled around the pontoons after returning from the local mini-market. Later, the crew hosed down our Macwester Malin one last time.


It was peaceful, uneventful and enjoyable. After dusk it became apparent that we weren’t going to get a decent sleep in the aft cabin (due to our bumpy berth), so we moved the bed linen through to the forepeak and spent the night there. That was after I nipped round for a quick chat with our friends on Ragdoll, who had arrived late on Saturday. Team Ragdoll were getting up early in the morning and heading over to Granton with the skipper of Solveig, a Westerly Konsort.

Latterly, we decided not to tag along, and opted instead for a relaxing day in the marina.


The next morning, we chomped through our ubiquitous bacon and eggs for breakfast. The shot above shows Inchmickery and the Cow and Calves, (the three dark blobs) in front of Inchkeith, which I snapped on our way to Granton.

It took us until around 10.30 to accept that we both really wanted to be out on the water. After all, with crane-out the following weekend …it was our very last chance.

We noticed the depth beneath our keels fade away to just two metres as we left Hound Point behind us and passed over a sandbank. I say ‘passed’, however what we actually did was slow to a crawl …and then gingerly retreat in the opposite direction.


A while later, as we approached the pontoons at Granton, it became clear that there wasn’t much space for us. In fact, there was no space at all. What’s more, Ragdoll and Solveig weren’t sitting on the pontoons as we expected.

That being the case, we decided to turn around and head back east. We thought that we might have one more attempt at landing on the pier at Blackness Castle before the end of the season.


The photograph above, shows our Macwester Malin’s bow pointed towards Inchkeith, which if you know the Firth of Forth at all, is in totally the opposite direction to Blackness Castle. I can only put our abject failure to do what we planned to do, down to fevered, last-day-of-the-season madness.


Fast forward thirty or forty minutes and RagdollSolveig were rafted up just a few metres away from the harbour at Inchkeith; we joined them there. We had a couple of drinks and spent some time shooting the breeze. Apparently our friends on Pampero, a Moody Eclipse had also stopped off on their way up to Anstruther.


Eventually our thoughts turned to mugging fish, and before long a couple of rods magically appeared. The crew (my crew) was new to fishing and didn’t have much luck. Time for me to step up the mark and show the lil lady how it’s done.

Yup, I didn’t catch anything either. In fact, nobody had a bite all afternoon. Personally, I blame the seals; there were more congregated off our collective sterns than I’ve seen for many a year.


We probably spent more time at Inchkeith than we should have. Understandably, we didn’t want to think about heading back up river, however we knew that it would take 2.5 hours motoring and twice that sailing given the lack of wind. A couple of hours before dark, we reluctantly slipped our lines and pointed our Macwester Malin’s bow back west.


As we sailed under the Queensferry Crossing, the small gap that we saw the day before had been plugged. In plugging the gap, the Queensferry Crossing entered the record books as “the largest freestanding balanced cantilever in the world”. More here.

We pressed on, and once again stumbled across Erin just off Rosyth [above]. The light was beginning to fade as we reached Brucehaven, and we made for the harbour wall. As darkness enveloped us, we ate a fishless meal and waited until the tide reached our mooring.

We set sail again about 7.30pm in total darkness. Once our eyes had adjusted to the night sky, we still couldn’t see a damn thing. Nonetheless we navigated our way to our Macwester Malin’s mooring and promptly ground to a halt about 15 metres short. Having looked at the tide tables, I reckoned that we should have had a meagre 10 cm under our keels by 7.30pm, but tide tables are just predictions …and we evidently didn’t have enough water.

Unfortunately it was too dark to see where the tide had actually reached. We tried again taking a different route, but it took a third attempt to make it on to our mooring. Obviously, there was no physical damage to our yacht as our mooring is nestled amongst thick, soft mud …and any damage to my reputation might actually represent an improvement of sorts. So it was all good.

With season 2016 relentlessly drawing to a close, next up for us is crane-out.

As ever, that has come around way too soon.


Double ketch up at the Bay

October 6, 2016


With just a fortnight until crane-out we were keen to get out on the water at the weekend. We had planned to be sailing on the Friday, but for one reason or another that didn’t happen. Instead we motored east into a light easterly, with Christina II [above] keeping us company on the way to the bridges that cross between North and South Queensferry.


Our chums from Ragdoll, a Westerly 33 ketch had plans to anchor off Inchcolm overnight and asked us if we would like to join them. Overnight anchoring doesn’t sound like a recipe for a great night’s sleep and there’s not much scope for shorepower, so we decided to pass opting for Dalgety Bay instead.

We moved our Macwester Malin, which floats in just a metre of water, further up the small harbour than usual. We could get to within about five metres of the beach, which looked a little surreal.


Approaching high water, Ragdoll arrived from Inchcolm to the east, and had no problems getting in behind us, despite having a 1.7m draft and taking a somewhat sub-optimal route in (over some sizeable rocks).


The weather was really good for early October. The harbour master dropped by for a chat and we enjoyed what was left of the afternoon in the sunshine.

We had dinner onboard our Macwester Malin and didn’t make it to the clubhouse this time around, opting instead to have drinks onboard.


The following morning, we had bacon and eggs onboard for breakfast, and then went for a walk west towards St. David’s Harbour. By the time we had talked to some of the local club members who wandered along to see the yachts, it was time to get ready for sailing back up the river.

We waited [tum-te-tum, have we really finished all the crosswords?] until Ragdoll had reasonable clearance so that we could sail west together. Yes, there’s no absolutely doubt a fin-keeler is quicker, but then if we were truly racing …we would have been across the finishing line before Ragdoll even floated! In orange text for Ragdoll’s skipper ; )


Out on the water there wasn’t all that much wind. We were only making about 2-3 knots over the ground, and given that we hadn’t left as soon as we floated [did I mention that we waited for Ragdoll?], I handed the helm over to the crew and started calculating how much time we had to reach our mooring. It was sunny and given that the crew had everything under control, I cracked a cold beer which had been popped into the freezer from the fridge as we were leaving. It was so Jean-Claude Van Damme cold my brain stopped working momentarily.

When I was eventually ‘back in the room’, I managed to work-out that we needed to do some motorsailing, so we switched on our Macwester Malin’s Lombardini diesel engine and doubled the pace.


By the time we reached Dhu Craig we had reverted back to just using sail power. The shot above shows Erin, the 49ft Jeanneau we spent some time aboard the previous weekend, heading back east.


With no engine power, our pace dropped back down to around 2.5 knots. Ragdoll passed to our port as she was heading into the harbour at Brucehaven for an hour or two, before heading back to the marina at Port Edgar.


On the final approach to our mooring, the skipper of Solveig and his son came out to greet us in their dinghy. At the time we weren’t sure what their dinghy was called, so we christened her Smallveig. They were having a great time.

Just one more weekend to go until crane-out, so fingers crossed that the weather holds!


September sunshine in Port Edgar

September 20, 2016


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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).


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.


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).


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.


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.


Reccy to Seacliff

September 15, 2016


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.


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.


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.


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.


Westerly breeze to Granton

September 14, 2016


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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.


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!


Day sails; Bridges & Blackness

September 13, 2016


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


Summer cruise 2016 – Part 2

September 1, 2016


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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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