Archive for the ‘Comment’ Category

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Boats n’ ho-ho-hos

December 24, 2017

With the party season well under way and the big day just around the corner, the crew has been asking me what I want for Christmas for several weeks now. I had been considering a sailing watch; I looked at digital ‘smart’ watches with GPS features, but didn’t see anything that floated my boat.

In terms of more traditional watches for sailors, I’m not personally convinced about the way the Rolex Yacht-Master Rainbow watch looks [see here]. For a start I think I’d prefer a metal bracelet strap to the rubber one that comes with it. However for this 2017 pre-owned example even with the £5,000 discount currently on offer, the reduced sticker price of £74,950 still costs substantially more than our yacht. So even if the Yacht-Master Rainbow was to my taste …at that price I think I’d be replacing our yacht not my watch.

This year regrettably we failed to make it to the local for a festive meal with our chums from the club, but there will be other opportunities over the holidays. Besides, at this time of the year a trip to the local without bumping into a couple of our friends would be virtually impossible. By my reckoning crane-in is now just over three months away, so if we spend enough time “topping up” in the pub …we’ll be back in the water in the blink of a bleary eye.

Over the holidays we plan to head off on coastal road trips checking out potential cruising destinations that in all likelihood we won’t make it anywhere near during the coming season, but at some point in the dim and distant future we might just visit. Pointless? Well it keeps us out of the aforementioned pub and gives us a boat fix of sorts.

With the winter solstice now behind us, season 2018 is gradually drawing closer. In the meantime fellow sailing aficionados there’s some partying to be done – a very Merry Christmas to you and yours. Sláinte!

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Rescue ends with soggy cox

November 22, 2017

With most of our winterisation tasks completed by mid-November we waited for a weather window that would let us row our tender back to the club. When that opportunity arrived, it was cold but there was hardly any wind. It also happened to be lunch time, so we had a picnic as we floated around freestyle for a while out on the river.

By the time we had finished lunch, we had strayed too close to the local pub’s gravitational field, and no matter how hard I rowed in the opposite direction …the gravitational pull was just too much to overcome.

We parked our dinghy at the bottom of the stairs (first photo, left-hand circle) and enjoyed the panoramic view of the River Forth on a soft day, as we sat outside the pub (first photo, right-hand circle). Inevitably the coldness started to penetrate our winter layers, so we reluctantly left the pub behind us.

I warmed up again after a few minutes rowing but the crew, who was promoted to cox for the day given the traditional layout of a small rowing boat, remained a bit on the chilly side. The next waypoint on our late season adventure was a nearby beach to rescue a stray dinghy that belongs to one of our chums from the club. The plan was simple enough; retrieve the dinghy and tow it back to the yacht club. An oil tanker passed five or ten minutes earlier and we were expecting a large swell, but there really wasn’t much wash at all as we made our final approach to the beach.

Obviously I was rowing backwards unsighted. The cox encouraged me to get on with it as she was cold, and the wisp of ‘ambience’ that had followed us from the pub was dissipating by the second. As luck would have it, just as I was beaching the dinghy the tiny waves breaking on the shore reached a crescendo and two teeny-little waves broke over the transom in quick succession. The cox took a direct hit and she got totally drenched.

The good news is that I managed to escape without much more than a couple of damp patches above the welly line.

The cox wasn’t ‘feeling’ the good news.

The cox was cold, wet, and still wasn’t seeing the funny side; although in fairness to her she refrained from tipping me in when an occasional smirk broke free …and ran screaming from one side of my face to the other like a streaker desperately trying to evade the rozzers. Somehow her soaking turned out to be my fault, because I was rowing.

We successfully retrieved the wayward dinghy and completed the rest of the journey in silence. At least I refrained from sniggering like a cad in the way that Timothy West does when Prunella Scales catches a mouth-full of trees in the title sequence of Channel 4’s ‘Great Canal Journeys’.

With the cox up in the clubhouse drying-off in front of the fire, I got both dinghies back up the slipway with the help of a couple of friends from the club.

Reflecting on the minuscule waves breaking into the dinghy over at the beach; while it was funny and we were never in danger, the dinghy was half-way to being swamped by two very small waves in less than ten seconds. Another couple of tiny waves over the transom and, with the weight of two adults on-board, the dinghy would have sunk; again not a problem in the shallows a couple of feet from the beach. As usual, we had our life-jackets on, but in truth given the flat-calm nature of the river that day I briefly thought about not bothering with them. Whether you’re a supporter of the nanny state or not, it seems to me that life-jackets are a sensible precaution no matter how benign the conditions are. If you already have a life-jacket, it doesn’t cost as much as a penny to wear it one more time …and only takes seconds to throw on.

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Macwester Malin …as seen on TV

March 9, 2017

With just one month to go before crane-in, we got a surprise reminder of the adventures that lie ahead over the next few months, when we spotted our very own Macwester Malin, Indefatigable Banks in a fleeting, background shot roughly 14 minutes into BBC1’s Heir Hunters (Series 11:8) shown yesterday.

The footage was shot by a film crew onboard Christina II on her way back up river, while to the best of my calculations, we were heading away on our last sail of the season.

The Christina II crew did well; coming away with all of the fame …but none of the fortune this time.

Imagery copyright of the BBC.

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In search of Ferness

February 13, 2017

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Regular readers of this blog will know that if we’re not sailing, fixing, or fettling our yacht, we’re typically checking out possible cruising destinations.

Early in February we set off on a road trip with an aspiration of seeing the Northern Lights, but predominantly to find ‘Ferness’; a fictional fishing village that was the setting for Bill Forsyth’s 1983 film Local Hero. As it turned out, there was nowhere to actually stay in Ferness (a.k.a. Pennan) as the Pennan Inn was closed until March and there was no availability at any of the rental properties, so we rented a small cottage in Seatown; the oldest part of Gardenstown just a couple of miles west of Pennan.

We arrived in Seatown well after dark. The photograph above shows the shore-front road to the small car park, 100 precarious metres beyond our cottage [to the left of shot]. The dark area to the right is the North Sea.

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When we eventually made it out of bed the following morning, we were surprised at just how good the weather was. Yes it was cold, but it was very bright. As the forecast wasn’t amazing for the next few days, we headed directly over to Pennan, and we did all the things that tourists do on arrival. We took photographs of each other in the phone box where ‘Mac’ called ‘Happer’, took photographs outside the Pennan Inn, and also down at the harbour steps where the Russian character ‘Victor’ arrived by rib.

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Later that day, we walked to Crovie which proved to be a hidden gem [above]. Crovie feels like it hasn’t changed much over the last two or three hundred years; for example Crovie doesn’t have a traffic problem – as there is no road. Again the weather was fab, in fact it was so bright that all of the photographs I took were bleached out, so the shot above was taken a few days later when the sun was less generous with its rays.

The weather on Saturday was poor. We headed over to nearby Portsoy in the morning, but didn’t stay long as the crew wasn’t enjoying the freezing, blustery wind. The inner harbour was calm, but it was lumpy out on the open water. Days later, we realised that the helicopter that woke us up in the middle of the following night (Sunday night) was searching for a missing kayaker that set off from Portsoy late Saturday morning; precisely the same time that we were there. Unfortunately it’s not possible to wind the clock back.

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The weather improved again by the time Sunday rolled around. We were compelled to return to Ferness/Pennan as, having re-watched Local Hero the night before, we realised that although we had taken photographs outside the Pennan Inn, and in the Pennan phone box, these were not in the same places as the hotel and phone box in the movie. It turns out that the Ferness phone box was a prop, and the hotel was two houses joined together with some add-ons to make it look like a hotel. The real phone box is now a listed building (despite not being in the film), while the Pennan Inn is actually fifty metres to the right of the shot above, which shows the two houses that were used for the hotel exterior shots in the film.

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With this in mind we took lots of photographs of us outside the film set hotel and in the non-existent film set phone box. The top photograph of the pair of images above shows Pennan, and the image below shows the fictional Mackaskill Arms of Ferness, that I’ve roughly reconstructed (digitally) for no good reason that I can think of as I type.

Before we left Pennan, I abandoned the crew in the general vicinity of the phone box and headed off by car in search of a signal for my mobile. I drove for miles, and miles, and then even more miles. Eventually I found a signal and speed-dialed 01346 561 210 [‘Ferness 261’ in the movie].

At the very end of Local Hero, ‘Mac’ calls the Ferness phone box from the US but poignantly there’s no answer. When I called the phone box, the crew let it ring for a while and then we talked for a moment or two.

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With the exception of the wet and windy Saturday, we ventured outside every night at twilight and had a couple of drinks while the coal fire was warming-up our wee cottage, and the waves were doing their best to soak us. Our rental cottage was the pale blue one to the left of the shot above. It’s just possible to make out the livingroom window that faces north – the waves were bouncing off that on the Saturday night. In fact, a local told us that the waves were crashing over the roof tops just a week or so before. We were spared such excitement.

We had a great time in a lovely part of the world. If like us, you’re a fan of Local Hero, then Pennan should be on your bucket list. If we find ourselves up in that neck of the woods onboard our Macwester Malin over the coming years, we’re definitely going to spend a night or two in the harbour. Maybe we’ll be lucky enough to see the Aurora Borealis next time.

Right, I’m off to call 01346 561 210!

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Bridging the generation gap – Part 2

February 4, 2017

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My earliest childhood memories come from blissful days onboard my late grandfather’s boat Dara. Recently, I was given some old plans and charts that belonged to him. The large plan above for example is the rigging arrangement from the T.S.S. Clan Chisholm built by the Greenock & Grangemouth Dockyard Co Ltd. The blueprint is dated 27th September 1937, and after doing a little Googling I discovered that the 463.8 ft ship was launched on 05/08/1937, completed in October 1937, and sunk by torpedo on the 17/10/1939, about six weeks after the start of World War II.

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One chart in particular caught my eye.

Over the last thirty years, I have occasionally tried to rediscover the precise location of my grandfather’s mooring. I always understood that Dara was moored off Clynder. I had previously looked at the cine footage, looking for clues in the background (such as the house above), but was never able to translate that into tangible results on location in Clynder.

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The chart that I was given proved to be the holy grail; it gave me the missing detail that solved the puzzle. I had been looking in the wrong place, and with the map to hand, the crew and I found the house above, which is the same house that can be seen in the cine film …albeit with 2017-style hipster foliage.

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With chart in hand [see below], we positioned ourselves with the aforementioned house to our backs and the wall ruins to our right …and looked out on to where my grandfather’s boat sat all those years ago [above]. My recollection of the scene was clearly warped by my diminutive size at the time. The stones on the beach are large pebbles, whereas I remember them as heavy boulders. Nonetheless there was something comforting about having rediscovered the location of those early happy memories.

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In a mind-bending twist; one that really took me by surprise, on what was after all a journey to somehow reach out, through the formidable barrier of death, to my long-lost family sailing heritage …we then walked south to the peninsula two hundred metres away. Not visible on any map or chart that I had seen previously, we looked back over to my grandfather’s mooring from Limekiln Point.

Kismet, karma, whatever you choose to call it, I felt that somehow I had made some sort of improbable connection with my grandfather. Sure, you could put it down to coincidence that his boat was moored just off ‘Limekiln Point’, and that we randomly stumbled upon and subsequently chose ‘Limekilns’ on the other side of the country decades later; whatever your thoughts might be, on this occasion …I allowed myself to read something more into it.

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Bridging the generation gap – Part 1

January 20, 2017

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When we first heard of the new Queensferry Crossing we were thrown into disarray. We hadn’t foreseen a third bridge linking North Queensferry to South Queensferry, and that development threw a major spanner in the works of our informal naming convention.

If we had known, we wouldn’t have labelled the existing bridges ‘Jeff n Beau’. Instead, we might have called the Forth (rail) Bridge – ‘Lloyd‘, and the Forth Road Bridge – ‘Beau‘, which would have left ‘Jeff‘ free for the new bridge.

Quelle Domage.

Given the circumstances, I’ve unilaterally decided that the new bridge will have to be called ‘Kevin‘.

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With that thorny issue now resolved, I can proceed.

Roughly 47 years ago my late grandfather sailed his boat Dara under the yet to be completed Erskine Bridge (on the River Clyde), about 50 miles due west of ‘Kevin’, a.k.a. the new Queensferry Crossing (on the River Forth). My late grandfather captured the journey that he made on cine camera, as they passed under the bridge [above].

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Given that the seed for our sailing activities was planted by my earliest memories on board my grandfather’s boat, I thought that it would be appropriate to somehow re-enact his journey …albeit it fifty years later, on the east coast …and with a completely different bridge.

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The cine footage is in pretty poor condition, and obviously there’s no sound. Granted, it probably doesn’t mean all that much to others, but to me it’s one of the few scraps I have to connect me with my family’s sailing heritage. I like to imagine that my grandfather would have been proud of us taking up sailing, and crossing the North Sea back in 2011.

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The Erskine Bridge was completed in 1971, and the Queensferry Crossing should open later this year.  Despite this 46 year gap, if you compare the imagery, on the surface it looks as though the construction techniques haven’t actually changed all that much.

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Building work on the Queensferry Crossing has been going since we first took-up sailing (2011). We both fondly remember the Beamer Rock lighthouse [above] from our first season, but it was demolished later in 2011/early 2012 to make way for the new bridge.

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Ever since then the riverscape has been constantly changing. Although we miss the Beamer Rock lighthouse, we don’t particularly miss the protective covers that used to shroud the Forth (rail) Bridge 365 days of the year, as can be spotted in the photograph of the Beamer Rock lighthouse above.

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It’s been interesting to watch the new bridge slowly stretch across the river during the last five years. At some stage this year, ‘Kevin’ will be completed and the river will settle down once again. That new normal could prove to be a little strange, but I’m sure we’ll adjust.

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Tender trouble July 2016

August 2, 2016

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We hit a snag right from the first moment we arrived at the pontoons at the weekend. Our tender wasn’t attached to the link line at the stern, and by design there was no way of pulling the bow all of the way into the pontoon.

After much faffing around, we managed to get our dinghy within reach.

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It didn’t take too long to figure out that the problem had been caused by third-party interference. Somebody had been on board, and presumably in order to get on board they had tied the 2m stern chain around the pontoon. This meant that as the water level rose, there wasn’t enough slack in the system, and the U-bolt had been wrenched out of the transom.

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Looking at the evidence, it seemed clear the uninvited guests had been adolescent or adult-sized rather than small kids. They left a trail of mud inside the dinghy, on top of the mud they freely distributed on the exterior of the hull. They also removed or otherwise disposed of our trusty bailer.

I reckon that our dinghy was targeted because she was moored stern to, and (because we use her a lot), much less rain water had collected in her compared to most of the other tenders.

We spent some time on board our Macwester Malin ruminating, and given there wasn’t much we could do as the horse had already bolted, we decided on a change of scenery.

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Good call. We headed over to Aberdour by car, where the annual ABC regatta was under way. We met up with friends and spent some time on board Joint Venture, followed Chiron, both yachts from our club. The crew on board Chiron had already munched their way through the provisions, and were a little embarrassed that they couldn’t offer us as much as a biscuit (no need). Amusingly, we were offered a falafel sandwich to compliment a Singapore Sling …both of which we opted to pass on.

Later we had a couple of drinks in the ABC clubhouse while the prize-giving ceremony was underway …and the crew from Joint Venture picked-up one of the two cups up for grabs.

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Meanwhile back at the ranch, the following day we decided to take swift remedial action to resolve the dinghy problem. I made a temporary repair to the transom so that it’s water tight again, and then I more or less reinstalled the running mooring solution that we had in place in previous years. By my reckoning I could fix the transom and there would be absolutely nothing to prevent the very same twit from turning up for another party on our dinghy a week later. At least now, our dinghy is much less prone to interference.

Hopefully out sailing again soon!

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