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Quest for Inchgnome

November 30, 2016

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At the end of November, our chums from Ragdoll a Westerly 33, very kindly invited us out for one last sail. They spent the night at Granton, and we caught up with them at 11am on the Sunday morning. We soon formed a loose plan to track down the mystical island of Inchgnome.

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It was chilly, but the weather was really good given that it was only a couple of days away from December. Team Ragdoll unfurled the headsail, however there wasn’t enough wind to make much progress.

Our first stop was directly north from Granton to Burntisland [above].

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We brought a simple lunch with us and we collectively demolished that while we were alongside at Burntisland, including way too many chocolate brownies on my part (unfortunately, I kept unearthing conjoined brownies that would just not be parted). After lunch we took a quick tour of the inner harbour at Burntisland [above].

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Heading west, our next stop was Starleyburn, which is a privately owned harbour well off the beaten track. We didn’t actually stop off, as we weren’t sure what was underneath Ragdoll’s keel. Hat’s off to the skipper for getting us in as far as we did though.

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After getting up close and personal with the most easterly beach at Aberdour, the skipper pointed Ragdoll’s bow west again to the golden horizon out towards Mortimer’s Deep.

Could that warm glow be the fabled Inchgnome?

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Yes, indeed (apologies for the cheesy vfx; I couldn’t resist it). Although we had previously passed near by, Inchgnome (a.k.a. Swallow Craig) had slipped beneath our radar. We circled the diminutive little island, which sits just a few metres east of Inchcolm, and drank in the surreal miniature world that largely goes unnoticed out in the middle of the Firth of Forth.

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It was pretty dark by the time we reached Port Edgar, and the temperature was falling away quickly. The following day, Ragdoll was lifted out of the water and her first season in Scotland was at an end. Although the end of the season is always a low point, our chums have done well, squeezing in six weeks of sailing after we were craned-out.

Thanks very much to team Ragdoll for sharing their final weekend of the season with us.

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High & dry …ish

November 22, 2016

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On-shore life has been hectic since crane-out, but we’ve been squeezing-in boat related stuff where ever possible. Team Ragdoll have been doing their best to gloat about being afloat while we’re high and dry. Last we heard they made it over to the inner harbour at Dysart.

Me …jealous?

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Not to be out done, we decided to get out on the water too.

Yes, it’s fair to say that our choice of vessel was a tad more compact, and had slightly less in the way of creature comforts [such as cabins and engines]…

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…nonetheless, we made it out on to the river, glided majestically past our Macwester Malin, sitting high and dry on the hard [above], and even ventured over to the Ghauts to upset the gulls, curlews, and oystercatchers.

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Obviously there was some work to do too. We performed our usual winterisation processes, making sure that everything is properly decommissioned for the winter months. This year we also had to winterise the heads for the first very time [above].

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As usual over the closed season we go out on regular reconnaissance missions. I couldn’t help but include this “in-seine” snap I took of a snazzy-kitsch-car on a Parisienne house boat in early November. Who knows, we might make it there some day.

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Another post crane-out-road-recce saw us nip over to Fisherrow, which could be on our cruising to-do list next year. On the way back we dropped into Leith docks to have a look at the Windsor Castle and her de rigueur dazzle paint. This is the boat that we totally failed to see during the Battle of Jutland commemorations earlier this year.

Later the same day, we dropped by Port Edgar to find out if team Ragdoll were around, but they were nowhere to be seen. Instead we bumped into our chums on their brand new Grandezza 33, Tight Fit V. We spent a night onboard Tight Fit IV, a Grandezza 27 back in June. They sold Tight Fit IV shortly after, and had been AWOL over the summer, so it was great to catch up and have a tour of their lovely new pride and joy.

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Another cracking day found us back out in our little dinghy. The river was like a mirror and we gently drifted just off the Ghauts as we enjoyed a leisurely picnic in the November sunshine, before heading over to the local pub.

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By the time we reached the steps just across from the pub, the tide was dropping and the wind had changed direction. We decided to head back round to the club harbour straight away, which turned out to be a sensible precaution. The wind picked up during the journey, and by the time we reached the harbour there were sizeable waves breaking at the harbour mouth. Fortunately the crew couldn’t see them rising menacingly behind her.

Note to self; take life-jackets with us next time we head out.

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As well as a walk along to Peatdraught Bay, a road trip to Dysart, and dropping into North Queensferry, we planned to walk out on the [new but rickety] pier at Culross. That didn’t go particularly well, as can be seen above. We expected a high tide given the super moon, but this was an hour after high water and the tide should have dropped to around 5.8m by the time I took this photograph. So by my reckoning, the stone part of the pier [just visible in the distance] is completely submerged at around six metres. As the pier can’t be all that much more than a metre [maybe a metre and a half] above the putty, I’m not all that confident about our aspiration to visit Culross next season.

We’ll see.

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Crane-out 2016

October 20, 2016

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Day one of crane-out was wet, windy and cold. Most of my wet weather gear was onboard, so I had to cobble together an eclectic array of clothing that should have kept me substantially dry.

Like many others, I still got thoroughly soaked.

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By mid-morning I felt something snap on my right hand. My finger didn’t feel broken so I carried on, stopping to check my limp finger tip every now and then. Eventually, I accepted that something wasn’t quite right and went in search of a second opinion. The second opinion I found suggested that I needed to pop over to A&E, and following an X-Ray the diagnosis was something called ‘Mallet Finger’, which means that my tendon had snapped. Treatment was a small finger splint to be worn 24/7 until the end of the year, and then a further month wearing the splint at night. Zang!

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My injury did nothing to prevent the unrelenting approach of the season’s low point.

When the tide arrived the following day, we brought our Macwester Malin over to the harbour ready for crane-out. We had a short 15 minute wait before the dreaded event was upon us.

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The wind had dropped, and the lift went reasonably well. I say ‘reasonably’, because there was some contact between the crane lifting gear, and some delicate equipment at the top of our main mast. At this stage I’m not sure if any remedial action is required.

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Moments later our twin-keel yacht was heading for what will become her home for the next six months. This year we have a slightly different spot, roughly twenty feet away from last year, on more even ground.

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Once our Macwester Malin was safely deposited on her wooden blocks, we stowed some items and checked that everything was present and correct before turning our attention to other outstanding tasks. Above; muddy antifoul paint power-washed a few days after crane-out – it’s a task that’s easier before the mud and paint dry out.

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One of the traditions the crew and I have is rowing our dinghy over to the club one last time, however that was going to be more complicated than normal given the damage to my finger. Hoping to avoid being labelled a finger-malingerer, I was keen to row the tender round as usual …but I was overruled. Instead the club boat did the job for us in a matter of moments.

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As crane-out weekend drew to a close, just prior to heading up to the club patio for a consolation beer, I noticed the view through our sprayhood from our new spot on the hard-standing. In that instance, I knew that it wouldn’t be long until I find myself staring out at that view, gently rocking back and forwards on the balls of my feet.

The long wait for crane-in 2017 begins.

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Last hurrah 2016

October 12, 2016

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Double ketch up at the Bay

October 6, 2016

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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 ; )

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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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