Log #16a Scotland-Fraserburgh to Inverness

July 13, 2000 in Log Series 11 - 19, Logs by Series, Series 16 Scotland, The Logs

Log #16a Scotland-Fraserburgh to Inverness

Written July 13,2000
At Scalpay Island, North Harbour
Outer Hebrides

Covers the period June 3 to June 6, 2000

I write this after a night in Scalpay Harbour, where at 0300 we dragged our anchor in 45 knot winds, went on the rocks, and almost stayed there, the closest risk we have had to losing Veleda. This will be covered in detail when I get to the appropriate log, but suffice it to say, we all survived it OK. So today, we are staying alongside Majestic III, a local fishing boat, waiting for the gale force winds to subside, and giving me a chance to do another log.

We had arrived in Fraserburgh, a fishing port only, with no facilities for yachts. We were tied up to a 20 foot concrete wall at mid tide, in a port with a tide range of about 14 feet. This was the first time we had been along a wall in tidal waters, as at marinas there are usually floating pontoons that rise up and down with the tide so that tidal ranges do not have to be considered when mooring alongside. In the Baltic where we were at box moorings (not floating, but fixed docks), the tidal range was insignificant. On this horrible concrete wall with a 14 foot range, we had to set our lines so they would be suitable for the entire range from low to high tide, or else go out every half hour or so to adjust them as the tide rose or fell. We realized now why that sailboat we saw on the other side of the channel was lying 15 feet off the wall. Its lines were slack to compensate for the falling tide.

We were at half tide. That meant that the 20 foot wall we were alongside, would be a 27 foot wall at low tide, or a 13 foot wall at high tide. Lots of fun! We made sure we had plenty of slack in our lines, even though we drifted several feet off the wall. If we didn’t have enough slack, the lines would become taut as the tide dropped, and would hang Veleda above the water or tear out the cleats from her deck, neither alternative being very acceptable.

In addition, the wall was a rough concrete, slime, seaweed and tar covered, fouling our fenders and our lines. On the top of the jetty, bulk cargo ships had been unloading and there was a dusty covering of wheat chaff constantly blowing down on poor Veleda. The decks were a mess, and our lines and fenders soiled and tar covered before we left a few days later.

However, it was shelter! On retrospect, we should have gone into Peterhead, about 15 miles south east, as it would have been no farther to have reached, and it has a full service marina facility. However, we decided on Fraserburgh, the port fifteen miles closer to our objective of Inverness.

The town itself was enjoyable, the people friendly, stores and chandleries well stocked, and a Fisherman’s Mission nearby where an economical full British breakfast and showers were available. It was good to back in the UK where we could read the signs and food labels, use currency we understood, get English newspapers, and use our mobile phone again. It was like coming home to familiar territory.

Repairs!! There weren’t many, considering the hammering we got during the crossing through force 9 gales. We found a piece of rebar reinforcing rod at a construction site that we inserted into the break in our stern rail, and duct-taped it securely. It has held quite well and hopefully will for several weeks or months, until we are in a situation to replace or repair the rail properly. Sprite itself was damaged as well. We had used her for storing my bicycle, lashed beneath the thwart in its bike bag. However all the tossing around caused the bike to wear a hole in the port chamber, and it needed to be patched. We now store the bike on deck. Again we used duct tape to seal it until we could get a proper repair kit for it.

Another problem which occurred while we were alongside in Fraserburgh was with our wind generator. One evening and morning there was a heavy wind which caused a swell to roll down the channel, causing Veleda to wallow on her slack mooring lines to the dangerous point of the spreaders or mast hitting the wall. To our knowledge, such did not happen, but her stern would periodically swing towards the wall, and one of the blades of our wind generator located on our port quarter, was nicked. Not a very big nick, but enough to cause a strange vibration at certain wind speeds, not enough to damage it, but enough to be noticeable. We may see if we can replace the blade, or trim the others to balance them up, or just leave it alone, as it still puts out good power.

We were impressed by the number and size of fishing boats using the harbour, from 300 foot deep-ocean trawlers to 20 foot open skiffs . There was a major harbour expansion under way as well. This is good for the economy, but apparently is associated with drug and other problems. Young people go out and pull in good money each major trip, and then have nothing constructive to spend it on and get into drugs and other kinds of trouble. A church had recently been burned, a murder had taken place, and youth vandalism has become a problem.

We had an interesting tour of their lighthouse museum and lighthouse, which were situated in an old castle sold to the Scottish Lightkeepers. We were able to walk to the top of the old lighthouse and see how the manned lighthouses operated, and how the lightkeepers lived. There is a new unmanned light located on the headland just outside the castle walls. The light here was attacked on a couple of occasions during WW II by enemy bombers, but no significant damage was done. The museum showed the development of Lighthouses in Scotland, the issues faced by the keepers and their families, some good videos of resupply to isolated lighthouses, and the roles played in some rescues and during the wars. We enjoyed the maps and charts showing the different lighthouses we have already seen and those we will be passing as we go on the west coast Highlands and Hebrides, and down the Irish Sea.

We were glad to leave the wall.

It was a light wind, motor sail as we left at 1330 June 5 for the overnight, 87 mile trip along Moray Firth to Inverness, where we were to meet with Judy Johnson from Vancouver and start our trip through the Great Glen, including the fabled Loch Ness. We encountered typical Scottish weather, variable with rain, mist, cloud, some clear patches, and cool. It is obvious why the term “Scotch Mist” was coined. It was raining as we went under the Inverness bridge and alongside at Longman Yacht Haven for a few hours waiting for the first opening of the  Clachnaharry Sea Lock, the first on the Caledonian Canal.  While at the yacht haven, we phoned customs to check in, as we had not been able to do so from Fraserburgh. At least our mobile worked for phone calls, but it gives us trouble when we log on to E-mail with our laptop, allowing us only to receive, not send. A local boater at the yacht haven gave us some good information about the canal and some areas to be cautious in.

The Caledonian Canal starts and ends with sea locks for the transition from tidal to non-tidal waters. In addition to these two sea locks, there are 27 other locks and 10 swing bridges as we pass along the 22 miles of man-made canals and 38 miles of natural lochs (including the fabled Loch Ness) and rivers leading diagonally from Inverness on the east coast, south west to Fort William on the west coast of Scotland. The fee structure is based on a per metre pricing, depending on the length of transit planned. Theoretically, the canal could be transitted in 14 hours, but there are prices per metre for 1, 3, 8, 14, and 28 day passes, and other monthly or yearly arrangements. We took the 8 day pass at a fee of £16.50 per metre for our 10 metre Veleda. A 3 day would have cost £15.20 per metre, and a 14 day would be £19.30 per metre. The lock keeper at the Clachnaharry sea locks registered us and collected our £165 fee, providing us with a strip map of the entire 60 miles of system from Inverness to Corpach at the Fort William end, and a master key which would fit all the washrooms and showers along the canal, to be handed in at the last set of sea locks before exiting.

We motored out of the lock, and as we were heading the 200 yards to the swing bridge we were passed on the canal road by the lock keeper who also had to operate the bridge. A busy but very friendly and helpful man. Now in Muirtown Basin, a half mile long narrow pool, we went alongside the floating pontoons just beyond an old MTB that sat forlornly at the end of the first set of docks. The Seaport Marina was economical, costing only £8.00 per night, and well equipped with toilets, showers, laundromat, and administrative offices for the Caladonian Canal, which provided a wide range of informative pamphlets about places along the canal. It was a good location and we were glad to stay there, as it was also close to a large shopping plaza.

We were intrigued by three or four monohulls and catamarans with a type of inverted “t” style mast that we had never encountered before. These were solidly built aluminum masts, with rigidly attached fore and aft single piece booms. Basically the boom for the main sail and the boom for the jib sail were diametrically opposed. That is, when the main boom would be pointing to the port quarter, the opposing jib boom would be pointing forward to the starboard bow. The whole mast-boom assembly rotated around the fore and aft position. Both sails were rigged with roller furling, and a complex system of lines, pulleys and winches apparently operated to trim the sails. It was a complex, but possibly effective, system for deploying main and jib sails in tandem or separately. Unfortunately, none of the owners was around for us to ask about the effectiveness of such an unusual rig.

As we were carrying our jerry cans to the fuel dock, a taxi pulled up with our friend Judy Johnson from Vancouver. The weather-delayed rendezvous was made at last.