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Aberdour sortie July 2017

July 12, 2017

When we set sail on Saturday afternoon, we weren’t entirely sure where we were going to end up. We sailed down river under the three bridges, enjoying the sunshine en route, and eventually set a course for Dalgety Bay. When we arrived, a 26/27ft yacht was already in the small harbour. We considered squeezing in ahead of the yacht, but unfortunately she was badly parked and even although our twin-keel Macwester Malin only draws a metre, it was doubtful there was enough water. So we reversed back out and headed further east towards Aberdour.

There were loads of yachts racing in Aberdour bay as ABC, the local club’s regatta was in full swing, so we kept our sails under wraps and picked our way through the field.

Once we had tied up, we were delighted to hear that the local harbourmaster had bought Vaago, a Macwester 27 over the winter. We found out later that our chum on Joint Venture was the overall race winner. The next day a handful of yachts from RFYC over in Granton turned up for lunch, but didn’t stay. Sunday was a pretty drab and dank affair all day long, but there were breaks and we made sure that we were out and about ashore when we had the opportunity. Whereas when the rain was on, I spent my time carrying out some minor repairs that needed to be done.

The remedial work included replacing the deck fitting for the navigation light at the bow (above), and coming-up with an interim solution to keep the aft cabin hatch open and out of the way until I organise a proper stainless steel stay. This will allow me to use the helm seat (which sits on top of the aft cabin’s lower washboard), that I made a few weeks ago.

We sailed back home on Monday afternoon. Ten minutes after leaving, not far out of the harbour, we spotted our first puffin of the season. He was pretty close, but unfortunately didn’t hang around until I was able to photograph him. Pity. Anyway, with plenty of time in the bag to reach our mooring, we sailed leisurely towards the bridges.

Just north of Hound Point, we heard a shout out over the VHF from Aberdeen Coastguard. They asked if there were any craft in the vicinity of Hound Point as they wanted to follow-up a call for help that they understood came from a small boat near an oil terminal in the Forth Estuary. They ‘thought’ it might be Hound Point.

We couldn’t see anything near Hound Point, but let the coastguard know that we could just see a small craft off Braefoot Bay terminal back at Inchcolm which looked as though it was drifting aimlessly. The coastguard asked us to turn around and go check it out, so we brought our sails in and headed back east. About thirty minutes later we had reached the boat we had spotted and it wasn’t in any trouble. So it proved to be a bit of a wild goose chase …but I guess it’s better to be safe than sorry. After the coastguard had told us we could stand down, we made a beeline for our mooring, as the oodles of time that we previously had in hand were now sadly MIA.

Back on our mooring with the tide receding, we didn’t have time to leave our Macwester Malin in the neat and tidy state we would have liked, however we sorted that out a couple of days later …along with spending some time out on deck with a sundowner in the sunshine (view from our deck above).

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Focaccia the police

June 27, 2017

Early on Monday the 26th of June, we learned that HMS Queen Elizabeth was due to leave Rosyth for the first time later in the day. After a bit of homework, it became clear that the timings would allow us to be out on the River Forth onboard our Macwester Malin at the same time. We slipped our mooring at 5pm and headed down river via the Ghauts. At the bottom left-hand corner of the shot above, you can just see the Ghauts in yellow on our chartplotter, which ties in with the view I had through our sprayhood.

There were other yachts out on the water when we arrived, but for some reason we were the only ones that were on the north side of the river. We kept a respectful distance from the new aircraft carrier, under the constant gaze of several police craft. Eventually, I switched off our Macwester Malin’s engine and just drifted while we watched the operation unfold. We were joined by friends in the rescue boat from our club which was full, followed by Christina II. Calloo and Chiron would put in an appearance later.

The crew was out on deck when a police rib took a wide arch around our bow over to our starboard, presumably to check us out. While they were about 15 maybe 20 metres away the crew asked them whether they wanted a snack, by holding out the aforementioned snack and saying “focaccia bread stick?”. The police officers’ demeanour immediately changed, and they had very stern faces as they drew alongside, at which point the crew cheerily re-offered the bread sticks. The penny dropped and the officers’ faces lit up, as they realised that she wasn’t shouting profanities at them after all.

They asked about our movements, so we told them that we would need to be back on our mooring by 7.15pm, and that our plan was to walk over the Forth Road Bridge around 11.30pm at low water when HMS Queen Elizabeth would be passing below. Thankfully, they told us that the bridge would be closed to foot passengers (which seemed like a sensible precaution), so we dropped that from our itinerary.

As it transpired, I would actually be shouting profanities aimed at the very same police officers later on, when I noticed the black marks their rib had left along the length of our gelcoat. However, by then we were parked on our mooring, and the police were well out of earshot.

For a while near ‘Dhu Craig’ (a buoy) it seemed to get quite busy, with tugs manoeuvring left, right and centre, the police craft darting about, and boats from our club milling around, including Calloo shown above. It was a bit reminiscent of mustering for the start of a race or flotilla. Eventually Calloo set a course over to the south side of the river, and we decided to follow.

We have actually been a lot closer to HMS Queen Elizabeth on several occasions over the proceeding years, but she was always partially hidden behind the outer walls of the dockyard at Rosyth. This was the first time that we had crossed in front of her bow without a barrier between us. Fortunately she was at anchor, not angrily steaming towards us at 25 knots.

As time was slipping away we slowly started heading back towards our mooring, but then a couple of choppers approached from the north. They circled HMS Queen Elizabeth and flew over towards us, so we turned and slowly motored back down river for a better view of the action.

Then the helicopters repeated the same manoeuvre, but this time one flew almost directly overhead while the other peeled-off and headed over in the direction of Calloo. It was a fitting end to our time on the river. As we were now a tad behind schedule, I pressed on towards our mooring until I was comfortable that we had some time in hand. Calloo arrived before us, but as they knew we had less water at our mooring, they kindly let us have access to the harbour first. We shut the boat down quickly, and were ashore with time to spare.

In the car it became clear that we all enjoyed our evening out on the river, and rather predictably I couldn’t help but crank-up some NWA from way back in August 1988.

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D-Day 2017

June 25, 2017

We headed over to Port Edgar on the Saturday morning, with just the genoa pulling us along at 5 knots, ahead of D-Day the following day. Obviously not the original and substantially more important D-Day from WWII, but “Dad-Day”.

Yes okay, admittedly it’s more often referred to as Fathers Day, but then the title “F-Day 2017” would arguably set the wrong tone for this post.

As we piloted our Macwester Malin into the marina under ominous skies there was a heavy police presence. Given that we’ve probably only ever spotted one single police craft on the Forth over the previous six years, it was a surprise to see seven or eight [above]. Several days later the online rumourati concluded that ‘the rozzers’ are in town to close down the river west of the bridges when HMS Queen Elizabeth leaves Rosyth for sea trials. More recently a Notice to Mariners clarified that a 200m exclusion zone was in place for the big event.

With the wind in the high teens / early twenties all weekend, we deployed our Slapsilencer for the very first time. Essentially, it’s a bit like one half of an XXXXXXXL padded bra that’s deployed around the yacht’s stern. It’s supposed to stop the constant slap-slap-slap of the waves that can drive you nuts at 2am …and 3am.

Not forgetting 4am.

Having tossed it around in my head for a while, I reckon that there was an 80-85% reduction in noise and we had a quiet night uninterrupted by the racket that would undoubtedly have kept us awake without the Slapsilencer being deployed …so it gets a big thumbs up from us.

Oops; that’s getting a bit close to being a useful consumer review. I’d better move along.

So …moving along, early the following morning we hosed-down the Slapsilencer and put it out on deck to dry. Just after lunch the guest of honour arrived along with other family members. It was blustery but sunny as we set off for Inchcolm, where we arrived around low tide to find a couple of yachts at anchor sheltering from the westerly breeze.

My plan, given that it was D-Day, was rather predictably to attempt a landing, but the tide was so low that there was no means of securing our Macwester Malin to the wooden jetty [see above]. Instead of anchoring, we opted just to pootle around for a while.

We picked our way through very shallow waters around Inchgnome [above], and then headed west again, south of Inchcolm. Later we passed under all three bridges for the benefit of our guests, then back in Port Edgar we ordered some Chinese food to go, before setting-off on a late evening sail back to our mooring.

The weather the following weekend was poor with high winds forcing sailing off the agenda, including the cancellation of the Fife Regatta. That actually worked out well for us, as we had shore-based commitments. Our boy Harry was up from London playing a Friday night gig in Glasgow, as a warm-up for two sets they were playing at Glastonbury a couple of days later. They stayed the night chez nous, with 21-year old Matt even giving us a tinkle on our piano in the wee small hours. Despite downing more than a couple of shandies, he managed to knock out an impressive ditty. Come to think of it, listening to the lyrics of ‘As the world caves in‘ you might be forgiven for thinking that D-Day could easily stand for Doomsday.

Here’s hoping for fair winds next weekend.

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Homemade helm seat

June 19, 2017

The cockpit on our Macwester Malin is deep compared to most centre cockpit yachts that we’ve seen, and as a result when you need to keep a close eye on things there’s really no substitute for standing behind the wheel.

On longer journeys we either stand, or sit on the raised, padded cockpit cushions. Having made good use of the helm seat on Ragdoll during our Irish Sea trip (here) earlier in the season, I decided that it was time for us to have a third option, and so set about making a helm seat from leftover material that I had stored away. As you can see from the photograph above, I didn’t have any suitable hardwood for the seat top and given that the seat is detachable, I used softwood instead. If that becomes a problem, then I can always make V2 from hardwood.

I didn’t faff around with anything too complicated. I just took some measurements and then cut, shaped, and joined pieces of wood until they were robustly constructed, finally fine-tuning the aggregated item to be a snug fit over the lower washboard from our aft cabin. I purchased some waterproof-backed canvas-like material for about £7.00 from eBay, and my step-daughter crafted a simple cover for the leftover foam that I previously cut to shape with a sharp Stanley knife. I used velcro to attach the cushion to the wooden base. Total spend less than £10.

The finished helm seat doesn’t look entirely out-of-place. Yes it’s fair to say that the new navy blue cover isn’t a precise match for the existing blue canvas wheel cover, but the wood staining and varnishing isn’t too far away.

I tested the new seat over the weekend and it worked well, with no movement in any direction whatsoever. So I’m pleased with the fit, even if the finish could be a little better.

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Festival flotilla fail

June 13, 2017

Preparations for this year’s river festival had been going on for months, and it must have put a smile on the organising committee’s collective face to see things taking shape on Saturday morning. It’s a pity that the weather forecast for the weekend was poor, with rain and gusts over 30 knots.

The main task for the crew and I was helping with the river golf. Our job was to collect the balls after they were struck by the paying public. This meant a three-hour shift in a dinghy, which at some point was interrupted by the arrival of Wave Spirit from Port Edgar. With two 500 hp water jets, we could feel the hum of her engines permeating every inch of our bodies. Yes, I’ll have one of those please!

After our river golf shift was completed, we dried ourselves off and spent some time catching-up with friends on the pier and in the garden. The sun came out for a while, and it started to feel like June. At the bar, the barman gave me a choice of beer from the local brewery. It wasn’t until later that I realised the barman owned the local brewery, and that my favoured tipple would probably have been available too. This would come back to haunt me.

Our plans was to bring Indefatigable Banks, our Macwester Malin round later in the day once the rib trips had stopped. We had a window of about 30 minutes to leave our mooring before the tide would leave us high and dry. I spent a lot of time mulling over the conditions; the wind was picking-up and there were waves coming into the harbour from the south-east. In the end the conditions, the deteriorating forecast for the following day, plus the lack of space to manoeuvre in a busy harbour meant that I decided on the safe option and left our yacht on her mooring.

We enjoyed a good night with live music and our friends in the marquee. As usual, time vanished and I didn’t get to catch up with everyone that I hoped to. With no yacht alongside to sleep onboard, our chums from Calloo kindly put us up for the evening (thanks again team Calloo). Unfortunately the crew had to put up with me keeping her awake for what was left of the night, as three hours in a dinghy obviously represented more exercise than I’m used to, and I had leg cramps all night long. The following morning I was hobbling around like a ninety-five year old cartoon crack-whore who’d been a life-long-nookie-neighbour of Glenn Quagmire.

Giggity-giggity.

We all headed back to the club to help clear away the fixtures and tidy-up the litter left behind the night before. The flotilla was planned for mid-afternoon, and the raft race would take place following that. Although we’re no quitters, with the rain tipping down it became clear that our collective lack of sleep, my ongoing leg cramps (I should really be fitter), the hangover jitters from the local hooch …and the pressing requirement for me to be near conveniences (which again I put down to the local bitter rather than the very mild chicken curry) …meant that sailing in challenging conditions wasn’t the most sensible thing to do next. I guess that makes us light-weights; not heavy-hitters.

As the crew didn’t have a bullet to hand, she scooped me up and took me home for a warm bath. While that was disappointing and represented an epic flotilla fail …sometimes that’s just the way the cookie crumbles.

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Port Edgar quickie

June 4, 2017

The crew and I were down in London for a couple of days in late May, and I took the opportunity to rattle round some old haunts, catching up with family and friends. I also managed to squeeze in a trip to St Katherine’s Docks, and was really surprised to see that the red-hulled Macwester Malin I spotted back in 2013 when we were down for three months [see here], was still berthed in the innermost harbour. At 32ft long, she looked diminutive compared to the larger boats surrounding her.

It was after midnight before we got back from the airport on the Friday night, but we were keen to make the best of what was left of the weekend, so we set course for Port Edgar as soon as the tide allowed on Saturday. We left a moody, pregnant sky behind us and yet it was remarkably bright by the time we reached the marina. Unfortunately there was a newbie in charge at the marina office and we ended-up having to move three times from our allocated berth due to returning owners amongst other issues. While that was a pain, we accept that the challenges of a new role can be …umm …a challenge. We ended up berthing our Macwester Malin alongside Copepod, a Hallberg-Rassy 43 (see above, lower right of image).

To their credit, Port Edgar subsequently took steps to remedy the situation and we were not left with a sour taste in our mouths. That said, two hours moving the boat around when we had other things to be doing, knocked the edge off our overnight stay, and the inaugural outing of the crew’s newly-purchased disco ball will have to wait for another weekend.

The following day we slowly tacked our way home into the wind, however we eventually chucked in the towel close to Rosyth and pootled the rest of the way back to our mooring using the engine.

Once we had gone through our mooring procedure, there was time for something cold out on deck, while the sun was making a reasonable job of convincing us that summer was on the way.

The following weekend we also squeezed in a quickie to Capernaum. The weather was changeable, but I managed to achieve my goal for the trip which was to construct the basics of a helm seat that will sit on the lower washboard of the campanionway to our Macwester Malin’s aft cabin.

With neepy tides, unfortunately we couldn’t take up the offer to go racing on Calloo, as the window to get back on our mooring was just too tight. That was a pity, as with a noticeable south westerly, the race was very exciting. In the shot above you can see Calloo just this side of Joint Venture. Seconds after I took this shot, a big gust of wind caught Calloo and she momentarily rounded towards Joint Venture. It must have been more than a little bit hairy onboard.

On second thoughts …perhaps it’s just as well that we couldn’t join the Calloo crew afterall.

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Single to Dalgety Bay please

May 25, 2017

As the crew had prior commitments, it was down to yours truly to get our 32ft Macwester Malin to her destination for the weekend on the Friday. I had work to complete on the engine bay hatch (see previous post here), and therefore I set off in the morning so that I had the afternoon to get my head down.

There was very little wind on the journey east, which suited me as this was easily the most adventurous single-handed sail that I’ve tackled. As luck would have it, an unwelcome swell appeared out of nowhere just as I was coming into the harbour at Dalgety Bay. Fortunately things settled a little as I rounded the end of the pier. It was a neep tide and having overshot the stairwell, I realised that the leap up on to the pier was too risky, and so had no choice other than to manoeuvre astern …using the thruster to keep the bow steady. It was all good.

I worked on the engine bay hatch until the crew arrived by road later in the day. It was a peaceful evening, however that peace was shattered in the early hours of the following morning by some late-night revellers intent on revelling. With raised voices for an extended period, I got up and kept a look-out for upwards of thirty minutes.

Saturday was mainly soggy and we didn’t venture out apart from a trip to the local store for provisions. There was a brief spell of sunshine late afternoon, but that was followed by increased winds on Saturday night. Despite this, the weather didn’t dampen our experience too much, as this was the first trip away from our home port this season, assuming that our voyage from Whitehaven to Largs on the west coast a few weeks ago didn’t count.

Sunday morning came around all too quickly. We set sail as soon as we floated and headed west towards the bridges. On passing under the Forth Road Bridge, I presented a wooden boomerang to the crew. She momentarily paused, before throwing the boomerang back towards the bridge in an act of commemoration for a close friend’s son who had leapt from the bridge a few weeks previously.

Leaving the bridges behind us, we threw our genoa up and pressed on with the motor to meet friends from our club at Blackness. We arrived just about the same time as everyone else, which was a pleasant surprise as we weren’t at all sure that we were even going to make it given the neepy tide.

With almost nothing under our keels and the tide falling, there wasn’t time for much more than a handshake and a quick beer at the Blackness Boat Club bar. The shot above was taken from our Macwester Malin’s stern as all the club boats made a hasty retreat.

Thanks to Blackness Boat Club for their hospitality. Hopefully we’ll have more time to spend the next time we visit.

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