As we bore away from the coast we again hoisted all sail and set of at speeds up to 9 knots (that's a lot, almost 11 mph!) and sped across the Firth. We passed close by this yacht on her way south. Although this area is meant to be dolphin central, we only say a few fins, sadly no pods of leaping dolphins in our bow wave. Another day maybe. We did sight a whale, probably a Minke, but only briefly.
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Thursday, June 30, 2005
June 29 - Peterhead to Portmahomack
Leaving at 7:15 having gained a weather forecast via Ian's PDA - the wonders of modern technology - and we cleared the harbour and hoisted all sail despite light 10 knot winds. With a good tide running under us, we were making the required speed and could have a quiet breakfast without the engine running.
After breakfast - bacon butties, OJ, toast, coffee - the wind had risen nicely and we started what would be a glorious broad reach all the way to Fraserburgh Head, where you turn the corner into the Moray Firth.
We passed Rattray Head - and I think how neat it is to be up here passing all the places you hear on the shipping forecasts. The Radio 4 forecast has always had a capacity to make the hairs stand up on the back of my neck, that odd flood of emotion that catches you unawares. I think it dates back to sitting in the kitchen at home in the summer of 79 listening to the radio reports of the unfolding Fastnet tragedy, and realising that the sonumbulous lilt of the weather forecast actually meant more, as much as life and death to some who head out to sea. Then later, as I crossed the North Sea on Brighteyes, a 41 foot raching yacht, in our own force 9 gale, sitting at the chart table listening to Radio 4 playing 'Sailing By' whilst waiting for the 05:50 forecast to see if we were in for more of the same. We were.
After we round Fraserburgh, the route brings the wind forward and we are reaching (wind at 90 degrees to the boat) under all sail - and it's fast. We soon have a steady 25 knots so we take a reef in the main and drop the mizzen, the boat is nicely balanced and no slower. Glorious sailing. We took the opportunity to sail in close under the cliffs and look at the rock structure and bird life.
Peterhead Deeply. On the days we aren't sailing, the science team goes ashore and investigates a place 'deeply'. this means looking beyond the obvious, noting the little things, getting an impression on the large scale to the small. On the local history side, this involve a lot of talking, or rather, listening, to people. In addition, there are coastline geologies to study, plant and animal life, and water samples to be taken. It's a busy day involving a lot of effort and thinking, plus writing up in the evening. this is one reason that it's useful to have a sailing skipper along, so Ian doesn't have to worry about naviagation and maintenance on top of the research and expedition management.
So whilst they were off around the, rather grim, town of Peterhead, I enjoyed a productive day pottering around Gallivanter. There is nothing as satisfying as simply messing about in boats. I fixed the wind instruments, and glued together a navigation lamp that had come out the wrong side of an argument with Dunbar quayside. Then it was time to sit on the quay and gently sand out the scuffs and scratches from the hull. A pleasant way to spend an afternoon with a pleasingly visable outcome.
In the afternoon, the fog, or har as it is known, closed in, giving Peterhead an eerie feeling with the rig ships appearing occasionally through the mist. It didn't bode well for the morning, but I suspected the forecast SE winds would blow it away before we needed to leave.
Rounding off the evening with a spaghetti bolognese and good bottle of Rioja before retiring in advance of an early start. 80 miles tomorrow to Portmahomack (pron. Portmahumuk), so we'll leave at 7am.
Tuesday, June 28, 2005
We tidied the boat, congratualted each other on a successful trip and cooked up a dinner of lamb steaks, new potatoes, carrots and other veg, with a good bottle of Californian Zinfandel. It was only a 30 mile trip today but it felt good to be under way. The sun set, eventually, over a very calm Peterhead harbour containing a contented Gallivanter.
Under full sail, we made a gentle 6 knots with the ebb tide helping us along in the afternoon sunshine. After a few hours of very pleasent sailing, the wind shifted into the north and we took the opportunity to sail close inshore so we could see the bird life on the cliff faces, then turned on the iron topsail and motored the final couple of hours into Peterhead.
Woke up at 5am with the dawn light streaming in the portholes of my cabin and sounds of Greg thowing up in the heads just the other side of the bulkhead. Mmm. I really really hope that wasn't the chicken. I got back to sleep for a bit then couldn't resist the daylight and promise of a sailing day. The trawlermen were getting going at 7am as I sorted out the passage planning for the day. We were to leave at midday.
Greg surfaced slowly, his malaise certainly not due to my cooking, thankfully, and Ian funished us with a decent cup of coffee. After breakfast, I set off for a wee shopping trip to get the provisions for the next few days. It was odd to be strolling through Aberdeen on a completely different purpose, but I guess we resort to what we know best, as I wimped out of exploring enough find a new supermarket and walked past my usual mid-weekly residence of the Premier Lodge and onto the Morrisons I walk past most weeks. It served the purpose, and I spent equal amounts on a large amount of food and a cellar full of wine and whiskey. I think we may survive the torments of the next few weeks.
A taxi ride back to the boat, some short preparations and we dropped lines for departure. Aberdeen is a very narrow channel serving a busy harbour, and the rig vessels queue up outside waiting for permission to come in. We were let out in a brief gap between boats a hundred times our size.
Monday, June 27, 2005
Aberdeen is a large, industrial port, dominated by rig supply vessels. We are moored in the fish dock, where we can observe the comings and goings of the trawlers and lobster boats - far fewer than there must have been even just 10 years ago. The bright colours of these workboats reminds me of my years growing up around the North East coast of England, places like Amble, Seahouses and Craster where the brightly coloured cobles showed a classic design shaped by the curve of a wave and years of, probably bitter, experience. I always wondered whether the bright colours make up in some way for the tough life and dangers associated with making your living in a small boat.
Sunday, June 26, 2005
After an easy and early flight I walked through Aberdeen airport and almost forgot to collect my bag because I never check in luggage when I come here on business. After remembering that, I caught the bus right to the city centre and 10 minutes walk along the docks brought me to Gallivanter and a warm welcome from Ian and Greg.
After an early morning swim with the kids, things were much better and we headed to Luton to catch the Aberdeen flight and say goodbye. It's odd being on this flight for pleasure instead of the usual weekly commmute for work, and I felt like a completely different person sitting on the plane in casual clothes and holiday mode. Before we left, we all had lunch at the airport, before I gave Gesa and the kids a big hug and walked away for 2 weeks without them all. I'm oging to miss them, but am also very grateful to have such a wonderful wife who lets me go away for so long on holiday! (or maybe it's easier when I'm not hanging around...)
Sunday started slowly and with a noticable headache. I blame our friends Cosmos and Evelyne, although they are some thousands of miles away in Palo Alto. When we got married 5 years ago, they gave us a bottle of Margeaux, which was finally drunk last night as I cooked 'surf'n'turf' for Gesa and our friend Char. The girls helped out with the Chablis that went with the prawn starter, but after a taste of the red, they decided it was excellent but they weren't drinking any more. Being away for 2 weeks, I couldn't put the cork back in and couldn't face wasting such a good bottle....
Saturday, June 25, 2005
Getting ready to go...
For those that don't know, I leave Cambridge tomorrow to go back to Aberdeen, but rather than the weekly work commute, this is holiday time! I'm going to join the yacht 'Gallivanter' (see earlier entries) to be her skipper for 2 weeks as we go from Aberdeen, round the top of Scotland and down to Mallaig.
This is part of her trip around Britain for the research project 'Around Deeply'. For this part of the adventure, there will be four of us on board, and we are hoping for some amazing sailing through some of the wildest parts of mainland Britain, as well as a visit to Skye.
I'm gathering a small arsenal of electronic kit so that, O2 mobile permitting, I can post entries and photos to this blog every couple of days. To this end I have digital camera plus 2 lenses, laptop, mobile, bluetooth widget, card reader, wireless mouse, battery chargers and power cords, chart software, imaging software, tidal software, MP3 converters (to keep me in music on the night watches) and a few other things besides.
Sailing, of course, is about getting away from the complexities of modern life....
Anyway, keep an eye on this site for updates, and I'll have thousands of photos to bore you all with when I return.