We are now in Eyemouth, our final stop in Scotland, having attained a new speed record and a collection of excellent jokes (none of which can be published here!). On Monday we left Inverness passing through the narrows at Fort George, with High Barbaree leading the way through the drizzle.
The following wind and a confused, choppy sea, made for a long and uncomfortable passage in the Moray Firth to Whitehills, a small harbour built at the end of the 19th Century and established as a Trust Harbour (owned by the residents) by an Act of Parliament in 1895. In the fading light we followed the sectored light to guide us to the narrow channel and even narrower harbour entrance at right angles to the channel and therefore unseen until the last moment! Chased in by a strong tail wind and a big swell we passed the point of no return and seconds later were safely in the well protected harbour. The next morning, drinking coffee in the friendly harbour café, we wondered what all the fuss was about!
The next day we motored uneventfully to Peterhead, the large commercial fishing port, for an admin stop and a visit to the Life Boat. As we go around Britain we are collecting signatures from the crew of all the stations that we visit; these will all be bound and placed in the RNLI Museum in Poole. This has been a welcome excuse to visit and chat with RNLI crews who have been ready and willing to show us around with professionalism and pride. The 2nd Mechanic at Peterhead Station even gave us a lift back to the Marina!
We had a fantastic sail to our next destination, Stonehaven, a delightful harbour with local fishermen and harbourmaster ready to take the time to chat and advise on……everything!
We moor up on the harbour wall and are later joined by Vlieter and Cygnet and enjoy watching the evening activities; sea cadets training in the harbour and dinghy racing in the bay.
The next morning we have time before the favourable tide to head off up the hill following the signs to ‘The Castle’ with excellent views over the harbour.
On the way we came across an impressive circular, temple-like War Memorial on a hill overlooking the harbour, the castle and surrounding coast line. The memorial is unfinished, to represent, it is said, the unfinished lives of those it commemorates.
The ‘Castle’ turned out to be Castle Dunnottar Dunnottar, home to one of the most powerful families in Scotland, the Earls Marischal. One of the darkest chapters of Dunnottar's history is that of the Whig's Vault where, in 1685, one hundred and twenty two men and forty five women, whose crime was their refusal to acknowledge the King's supremacy in spiritual matters. They were imprisoned with little food and no sanitation from 24 May until the end of July in the gloomy, airless cellar. We thought it wasn’t too bad with its spectacular sea view!
We set off behind Cygnet but just before Vlieter in favourable conditions and are soon sailing with all four sails set. Vlieter is sailing too – have we got a race?
In Arbroath we are joined by Vleiter’s skipper who presents us with a beer saying that we won. No start or finish but the fact that he couldn’t catch us qualified as a win – we love Dutch pragmatism! In Arbroath we found an excellent fish and chip shop (there are in fact several) owned by a Frenchman where Duncan was able to conduct a lengthy conversation, even understanding the Parisian accent, much to the intrigue of the locals!
Up early the next day in time for the lock gates that keep the inner harbour flooded at low tide. It’s a nasty, rainy day and the temptation to stay here for another day is strong! We go and after a couple of hours it begins to clear and the wind steadily increases. One reef, then the second and then we furled the jib. Force 6 was forecast and that’s what we got, surfing down the waves at 8+ knots.
The approach to Eyemouth put us all on our toes as we picked out the leading marks and an elusive cardinal buoy to guide us through yet another narrow channel between rocky reefs. Once in the shelter of the bay we could drop our main and head for the harbour entrance feeling that today had been epic (in a good way!).
Here we say goodbye and thank you to John and Duncan who, as two experienced sailors, have allowed the Skipper to have a holiday! As other Gaffers arrive for a gathering on Monday, we put Capraia to bed for a few days. We won’t be leaving Eyemouth, with a new crew, until Friday 5th July but the harbour 'pet' will be keeping an eye on things...
If you want to follow our progress on the combined map for all the RBC Gaffers go to: http://oga50.herokuapp.com/map/