1115 BST 19th June DIARY
We are in Peterhead. We came through the Pier Heads at 0305 BST yesterday morning having left Eyemouth at 1000 BST the day before.
Peterhead Harbour Radio were grumpy. Sailing almanacs should write what port control require from us if it will make things smoother.
I try to be brief and concise on VHF and this time I called 1.5 NM from the Pier Heads
“‘Talisker 1′ inbound permission please?”
Where are you? About a mile south of you I replied. Call again when your half a mile away. I was obviously a nuisance. Calling half a mile out there was no response for twenty seconds or so before JUST an instruction came to proceed straight to the headmasters off… errr the marina. OK …. Good Morning to you too.
But Billy Proctor is here. Billy is the most friendly face coming up this coast. He’s the deputy Harbour Master. Billy was here last year when we were sailing these waters. Peterhead Bay Marina everything is, as usual, in tip top order and the facilities are again immaculate. I can really recommend this place as a perfect stop over going north or south. It’s also a good harbour to set off for Scandinavia.
I enjoyed Eyemouth. Gordon and his staff were really helpful and kind. We moved three times but the last time was due to a Cruise Ship tender offloading passengers and needing pontoon space.
The sail here from Eyemouth was an interesting 100 NM with variable winds predominantly from the SW. At times they were quite strong and we were reduced to a reef in the main and the stay sail. Gosh that works well. Daylight was clear blue skies and in the shade of the spray hood it was hot. Exposed in the cockpit it was cold…er. But shorts and a jacket were fine.
Occasionally the wind almost died but we nursed each other along maintaining speed with sail changes. At one point with the wind off the port quarter the genoa, with a few rolls, was poled out well forward to port. The main was set on the starboard side on a preventer. I added the stay sail which filled nicely behind the main which amazingly added a knot in speed through the water. Interesting. (see picture below)
The stay sail on a furler has meant a new life for the crew. I always had to think if I wanted to hank on the stay sail and often did not, just thinking about the work entailed getting it up and down. Now, I can experiment. It’s away in seconds if its not required.
I’ve got problems with batteries. The sail from Eyemouth was marred when the autohelm reported at 2110 ‘pilot low ships battery’. The battery bank had been fully charged all day from the solar panels. The panels had slowly lost their effectiveness after about 1800. Checking the battery bank I saw they were down to 10.3V so it was engine on.
We were now motor sailing and certainly we would have been sailing without engine if the batteries did not need the alternator’s support to support the instruments running off the domestic battery bank.
At 2300 the batteries showed they were fully charged and I switched the engine off. Bliss!
At 0145 the pilot gave the warning again and this time the engine was running until we arrived in Peterhead Bay Marina.
Bar the battery problem and running the engine for 4.8 hours to charge them it was a lovely sail.
Billy tried to get batteries from a local supplier but they seemed expensive. I’ve ordered online next day delivery so tomorrow we should have two new domestic batteries.
Since Scarborough we have run the engine for 7.7 hours including the unnecessary hours of motoring.
The battery website said next day delivery. I’m told that a delivery to Peterhead could be as much as three days delivery time! So the order is cancelled.
0830 BST 20th June DIARY
Through Billy, yesterday afternoon the new batteries arrived. Billy drove me to collect them. They are sealed acid 100 AH. I HOPE it is JUST batteries.
1645 BST 21st June DIARY
We arrived Wick at 0100 this morning.
We spent far too long yesterday sailing out in to the North Sea close hauled on port and by the time the engine went on at 1400 BST we were no nearer Wick. It ended up a long motor but we are here nonetheless. We’ve crossed the Moray Firth.
Looking at todays weather we could have sailed, but there was a possibility of strong south easterlies and the Wick entrance can be tricky in easterlies.
Leaving Peterhead there was a loud whistle from the fuel pontoon. Billy waving us goodbye. A kinder more thoughtful HM would be difficult to find. Peterhead language amused me. When Billy spoke to me he was a perfectly articulate Scot. When he spoke to battery supplier Michael on the telephone he became a foreigner. I didn’t understand a word.
We have batteries. I am lacking confidence in myself. The Felixstowe beach incident is still on my mind.
The Duckies are hopefully in Peterhead tomorrow night. I hope they catch up soon as I’m thinking of going to Faroe.
Wick is another well run marina and harbour. Malcolm Bremner and his staff are very efficient.
We are thinking of Orkney tomorrow.
1910 BST 22nd June DIARY
We are in Stromness and in a great berth.
Chris and Caroline Gill arrived from Scrabster an hour after us with ‘Cornelia ll’. Frances Barnwell is with them.
Arriving in Stromness marina, a charming American from SV ‘Endeavor’ took our lines. David and Candy Masters have sailed here from Seattle via S America, the S Atlantic islands including the Falklands, Tristan de Cunha, St Helene, Ascension, the Caribbean, the eastern seaboard of the US, Newfoundland and Iceland. They arrived here from Faroe and David has encouraged me to sail to Faroe.
There is also a smart Rival 34 called ‘Hirta’. He’s sailing alone.
Having come in to our berth bows first, we then backed out of our berth and reversed in so our bow is facing the southerly gales that are due. That should keep the carpets dry! It looks like we will be here until Sunday.
Leaving Wick I was pretty certain of retracing last years route to Deer Sound and on to Kirkwall but with the wind variable and due to decrease mid afternoon I checked the tidal atlas for the islands again and felt the Pentland Firth was possible. The tide was perfectly in our favour right through Scapa Flow to Stromness.
With Chris, Caroline and Frances making for Stromness it would be good to catch up with them.
The currents in these parts are the most powerful around the UK and we fairly flew leaving Pentland Skerries to starboard and on between Swona and Barth Head. Speeds over the ground touched 13 + knots. Another yacht was flying too, making great speed over the ground close in to Swona. BUT they were going in the opposite direction. How weird is that? The pilot books tell you that even with tidal atlases we will often be left scratching heads.
Coming out of the maelstrom of currents we were then entering Scapa Flow from the south with the huge concrete gun emplacements on Hoxa Head.
When I was coming in to Lerwick, Shetland, this time last year I palpably felt the history. Today was the same coming in to Scapa Flow.
I thought back to the men who had manned the guns that these concrete gun emplacements once contained. Scapa Flow felt eerie as though the ghosts of so many ships and men were haunting this beautiful place. I could sea the might of the Royal Navy riding at anchor in this wonderful natural harbour. The captured German fleet were here at the end of the first world war and their crews scuttled the lot. Today, the only occupants were two oil rigs and a couple of small local fishing boats. What a site it must have been?
We turned to port to head for the western exit to the Flow. More gun emplacements still remain on the slopes and hills that descend to the waters edge along with what is left of the tricky foot paths the soldiers had to scramble down to reach their posts. Lively sheep now walk these paths and they, together with a busy tractor were their only company today. I visualised a warship at anchor and the soldiers guarding them from their vantage points on land.
I wondered how far the walk was to these bunkers in what must have been for the most part of the year a hostile environment. The treeless green landscape tell the story of the weather in these parts and the very long summer days now only reflect how very short the hours of daylight are in winter that are accompanied by the relentless gales. How difficult, in such conditions, to keep watch, on land, or on the deck of a ship? Is it little wonder an enterprising and brave UBoat Captain brought his ship in to the Flow and caused such devastation sending the Royal Oak (the wreck is now a war grave) and over 800 courageous men to the deaths.
What is courage? Sacrifice! Something worth fighting for! Those men of the navy at the bottom of Scapa Flow and indeed those many others in their watery graves throughout the world were among many, both civilian and military, in the air and on the ground, who lost their lives ridding the world of a very terrible evil. An evil, that brain washed its own people and brought out the worst in humanity.
What would those who laid down their lives then have thought of todays world?
During the second world war my mother could see Sheffield burn from her home in Barnsley as the Luftwaffe bombed the city. Thankfully, my maternal Grandfather was born in 1900. He missed conscription in the first world war and the second world war due to his DOB. Grandpa Freeman would have unquestionably done his duty.
My paternal Grandfather fought at the Somme in the medical corps. I still have his service pistol. I now slightly forgive his behaviour which could be …. well let’s just say for time being … odd. Grandpa never spoke about his time in France and my guess is that it will have taken him through unspeakable horrors in human suffering.
My father and his three brothers survived WW ll.
Uncle Michael was diverted to Ceylon when on his way to Singapore and witnessed the Japanese attack in April 1941 on the Island. Michael Tomlinson wrote a book to record a missing piece of history. Churchill was later to say that the attack on Ceylon was ‘The Most Dangerous Moment’ (the title of my uncles book) of the war as it would have linked Japan with Germany in North Africa. Uncle Michael missed out on Singapore. I doubt he would have survived as a POW. Uncle Michael did not fly due to poor eye sight. He was an intelligence officer in Bomber Command. We are certain he flew on missions as an observer.
Uncle Peter force landed his Spitfire in Holland flying a reconnaissance mission. Peter was a POW for the rest of the war and for some time the family will have thought the worst.
My father, who held a private pilots licence before the war, returned from his RAF training in Canada expecting to fight. He looked down a list of names with either Bomber or Fighter next to each name to see Instructor next to his. How lucky was he?
Uncle Paul survived a terrible prang in a night take off in his Beaufighter. Only the incredible bravery of the ground crew saved his life. Guy Gibson wrote about this incident in his book ‘Enemy Coast Ahead’.
Looking at the world today I am filled with dread. As the world resources diminish the human race become more selfish. So many, wanting to impose themselves on others.
I’m having supper on ‘Cornelia’.
Andrew Sandham’s Bavaria is here too. So there are three Orford cruisers in this harbour. Andy has deserted his ship and headed home …… work!
I am expecting strong winds over the week end. ‘Talisker 1’ will not be going far.
0930 BST 25th June DIARY
A very deep depression has kept us in harbour.
Winds have gusted over 40 knots on occasions and the unsettled weather looks set to continue.
We had peoples on board last night for some supper. Chris and Caroline Gill and Frances Barnwell from ‘Cornelia ll’ and David and Candy Masters from ‘Endeavor’.
I accompanied Chris, Caroline and Frances on a tourist trip yesterday. We visited the incredible neolithic village at Scara Brae overlooked by the splendid Skaill House.
Still privately owned it really does look lived in. It must have been a wonderful place to live even in the long dark winters with perpetual gales. The tragic death of the young heir, William Scarth, from a riding accident, aged 14 in 1948, was a poignant moment when I saw his portrait in the library.
The wind was gale force outside the Italian Chapel on the eastern end of Scapa Flow. Looking at the Churchill barrier it was not difficult to imagine how tough the building of the barrier was for the prisoners of war.