Posts Tagged ‘Queensferry Crossing’

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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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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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Westerly breeze to Granton

September 14, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Many thanks to Team Ragdoll for their hospitality!

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Day sails; Bridges & Blackness

September 13, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Summer cruise 2016 – Part 2

September 1, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Over all too quickly.

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Limekilns River Festival 2016

July 5, 2016

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We’ve been busy with life ashore over recent weeks, and so haven’t made it out on the water all that much. We did manage to squeeze in a ‘quiet’ night over at Port Edgar a couple of weeks ago. Well, at least it was supposed to be quiet, however when a fellow club member parked a trolley-full of drink at the end of the pontoon, I should have realised that we were in for a long boozy night. We collectively ended up on a lovely Grandezza 27 until 3am.

The next morning ‘the crew’ [who had called it a night early on] harvested oodles of pleasure* from my delicate disposition, and the large colourful flag that our new chum from Ragdoll, a fin-keel Westerly 33, had hoisted up our mizzen mast at some stage the night before. Later that day, we sailed back up river to our mooring complete with flag et al.

*Don’t worry, I’ll get payback somewhere down the line.

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Two weeks later, we brought our Macwester Malin into Capernaum on a falling tide towards the end of the first day of the Limekilns river festival. Reaper, a Fifie herring drifter, and four or five yachts, mainly from Blackness, had arrived the day before [above].

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The bow to the left of the photograph above belongs to Reaper. In the evening there was live music in the marquee and we enjoyed a good night with friends from far and wide, although we did bail-out a bit earlier than planned.

About 11.30pm, just as we were settling down for the night I heard the deep burble of a yacht manoeuvering at close quarters. It was still pretty windy, but fortunately I could hear help was at hand ashore, as if it had been down to me to provide assistance, I wouldn’t have had time to get my kit back on.

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The next morning we were greeted with the welcome sight of Ragdoll sitting off our starboard quarter. They just about managed to make it to the bar before last orders the previous night. Above; our Macwester Malin with Ragdoll just behind taken from Reaper’s bow.

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The shot above, taken from the pontoon shows the threatening clouds, and the colourful flag that drew a complaint against Ragdoll’s crew, although we also heard that the complaint was about the EU flag. Who knows? Either way, apparently when the woman who made the complaint had zero joy with the organisers, she intended to call the police. Given that neither Starsky nor Hutch put in an appearance, it’s probably fair to assume that any complaint wasn’t taken too seriously.

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We had three guests aboard for the sail past, as our friends’ Westerly Centaur, Jambel had engine-cooling problems. We were ready to roll about ten minutes ahead of schedule and were all eager to get out on the water. In the end, we made a break for the harbour entrance first, and cleared the way for Reaper to set off.

After thirty minutes of mustering, we headed west for the sail past. The shot above from the left shows Reaper, Joint Venture, Calloo, and Fyne Thyme.

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A tug had made the journey up from Hound Point, and set off her water-cannons as we sailed up river. I use the term ‘sail’, but we were all under power. It was choppy, with the wind occasionally above 30 knots.

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Above; Ragdoll off our port with some giant figs hanging from her stern [they must be keen vegetarians].

Although it was windy, it was pretty invigorating and everyone aboard appeared to have a good time. I certainly did, even when I got a face full of salt water at the helm just as we were heading back into our Macwester Malin’s mooring.

Why I hear you ask?

In no small part because ‘the crew’ was out on the fore-deck at the time. She got absolutely drenched. It might have taken me a couple of weeks, but revenge is undoubtedly a dish best served cold.

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Battleships & Bridges

June 1, 2016

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It was an early start on the Saturday of the long weekend. We set sail about 15 minutes after half-a-dozen yachts from our club set-off on a race down river to Granton. With the tide and wind against us, our Macwester Malin ketch managed a respectable 6.5 knots over the ground on the way to the bridges.

In the distance [circled above] we could just about make out HMS Kent which was lying in front of Inchgarvie.

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The 436ft long frigate was on the Forth as part of the Battle of Jutland commemorations. Tragically, HMS Indefatigable (1909, obviously not the later aircraft carrier of the same name) was sunk in the first few minutes of the battle with the loss of over one thousand men. Later, the dazzle-painted Windsor Castle would also make an appearance.

While the club racers carried on to Granton, we sailed north-east towards St David’s Harbour before turning back to Port Edgar for lunch.

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The weather brightened, and we had a relaxing day in and around the marina …and beyond to South Queensferry. Most of the yachts from our club that had been racing to Granton arrived at the marina around 5.30pm, and before long we had all congregated on Joint Venture (a Salty Dog) which was berthed alongside us. By my reckoning there were thirteen of us on a twenty-six footer, so it was pretty cosy in the cockpit.

We cooked and ate on board Indefatigable Banks while the others headed-off to an eatery in South Queensferry. Although there was more stuff and nonsense to be had on Calloo later on, we opted for an early night.

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Early the following morning (Sunday), we heard our chums all set off for home. We thought about that momentarily, and quickly decided to spend the day pottering around in the marina instead.

Having managed to find the right size and shape of spring (above; at last), I replaced a missing spring from one of our Macwester Malin’s cupboards, so we can now heel over without fear of the contents making a riotous bid for freedom. Hurrah!

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Later on Sunday afternoon we decided that we would head back to our mooring. We took it easy, only unfurling the genoa, as the wind and tide were behind us. By the time we reached Rosyth (more naval hardware above) we partially furled the genoa to lose some speed, as we were well ahead of time. In the end, we were still about an hour too early to access our mooring, so we spent the night at Capernaum.

As the haar smothered Port Edgar, we were happy with our decision to leave.

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We opted for another late start on Monday morning, so we missed the opportunity to pop our Macwester Malin back on her mooring, and spent another day pottering around. Still seeking to finish-off the heads, I had sourced a rubber/cork solution (from Tiflex, the same company that provided the Treadmaster flooring), to cover the veneer that had been ruined when I removed the seating that was originally situated there. The new rubber (left-hand-side on the bulkhead above) was a substantially lighter brown than I had hoped, but tonally it was a reasonable match for the paint to the rear of the heads, so I trimmed it up and installed it.

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It was about ten pm on Monday night before we popped Indefatigable Banks, our Macwester Malin back on her mooring. By then the light was beginning to fade, and we knew that we had squeezed just about all we could out of our long weekend.

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