© Findochty water sports club
© Findochty water sports club
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What we do 2012
Sailing at Hogmanay
The sailing at the end of 2011 was not bad at all. Starting the day after the crane
out I managed a number of short sails during October and November.
One of the highlights was 20th November. Neither of my regular crew could be
tracked down and I found my self heading out in beautiful Autumn Sunshine with
the type of very light wind you want when winter sailing.
In the distance I could see a pod of Dolphins moving away from me. In the light
wind they were moving much faster than me but it was too nice a day to try and
catch up with them. I need not have worried as about half an hour later another
pod surrounded the boat, and stayed with me for about 40 minutes.
I got the impression that they may have been a bit disappointed in me as although I
had dropped sails and started the engine I was not going fast enough for bow
riding, although an occasional group looked as if they were coming in to try.
Luckily on this occasion I had my camcorder and Digital SLR so got some excellent
shots of them. Click the following to take a look.
The week after the weather turned and December was one storm after another. Destino was
wrapped up in a cats cradle of lines and safely rode out these storms, unlike some yachts ashore,
which just makes the point that it isn't just for boat security that we should take our boats ashore.
Ashore and afloat both have their dangers. I shall continue to crane out every other winter for
maintenance work. The plan was to have a short sail on Boxing Day or the day after, but you may
have noticed one of the worst storms of the winter on Boxing Day, so we eventually managed the
final sail of the year on Hogmanay. We were not out much more than an hour but we had a good
south wind and the temperature was mild with a weak sun. As they wind appeared to veer to the
west we decided to celebrate Hogmanay by sailing all the way into the harbour but as we
approached the harbour the wind backed to South and we were headed. Admitting defeat I put the
engine, which had been ticking over just in case, into gear and motored in.The sailing may be short
and far apart in the winter but you will remember most of them for years to come.
Bob Chapman
On 3rd February Neil and I were invited for a sail with George Craigen on About Time,
Bavaria 32 that berths at Whitehills Marina. The forecast predicted "wall to wall
sunshine" in and around the Moray Firth and that is exactly what we got.
The decks were a bit slippery with ice prior to our departure due to the dip in
temperature overnight but we donned our all in one flotation suits which we
purchased in Norway a few years ago and we were as warm as toast, well everything
apart from our fingers!
We headed out into Banff Bay
a south, southeasterly breeze
6 knots and once we got the
sails out, A.T. was ambling
along at 4.4 knots of boat
speed. Our mission for the
day was to take at look at the
Maersk Resilient jack up rig, which was lying 1.5 miles north of Tarlair. The rig had been
there for a couple of weeks at N 57deg 42' by W 02deg 27' whilst awaiting a tow to a
drilling contract with Conoco Phillips in the North Sea.
Lunch consisted of Mairi's
homemade broth and we ate
this whilst sailing along in the
warm sunshine towards Tarlair at boat speeds of 4.7 to 5 knots. The radio was on scan
and we hard the anchor handler "Pacific Blade" chatting with the oil rig, George knows
the skipper of the boat so he called them up on the radio and they confirmed they were
waiting on site in order to move the oilrig. After taking loads of photos of the rig from
just outside the 500m exclusion zone, we headed down to Collie Head, just short of
Troup Head where we finally lost the wind and turned around to head back up the coast
towards the oil rig which had
now been joined by the anchor
handler, Highland Valour and
the tug, Bugsier 9. We passed
by the rig again on the south side at 5.4 knots of boat speed and 191.8deg south by west
wind, which was now blowing at 8 knots. The temperature was a balmy 8 degrees!
However, as time wore on the temperature started to drop. Despite the blazing sunshine
the temperature dropped to 3 degrees when we still had 2.9 miles to sail back to
It was a great day out and we had a loud blast (with sing along of course) of "Wish you
were Here" by Pink Floyd on George's Ipad as we passed Banff Marina. The total distance
covered by About Time for the day was 18.26 miles and we were out on the water sailing
for 5 hours in total.
We have had a cracking spell of sailing weather of late and I hope that some of you have managed to get out there and enjoy some of it. In the
meantime, Neil and I can't wait to get Fusion II back in the water and get sailing again.
Mairi Innes
First sails
Due to going back offshore on the 22nd of March and being away for club craning day along with having Fantastique almost ready for lifting in at
Loch Creran on my return, we decided to see if MacDuff shipyards had a crane passing while I was at home to lift Fusion 2 into Finechty harbour
once again.
The crane was available on the Friday afternoon around 3pm so Fusion 2 and Big Mac of Southpool were lifted in on a cracking day for the time of
Bert was available to step our mast with his "A" frame so we had the mast secured by dark on the Friday evening and Fusion floated off the beach
and across to her berth.
Saturday morning Mairi, George Craigen
and myself were down for an early start
to tension the rigging and get the sails on
in the hope of getting out on the water
for a while. By mid morning we were
ready to go and with a good fresh
westerly breeze and we decided to head
down to Whitehills along with George in
"About Time" who had spent a couple of
overnight stays in Finechty while helping
us to get Fusion 2 ready. Banff Sailing
Club had a quiz & pizza night at the
clubhouse that night so we set off out of
Finechty to blow away the winter
cobwebs, and blow away they did with
around 20 & occasionally 25kts of
westerly behind us. With just over half of
the jib unfurled we were soon seeing a
steady 6kts boat speed as we headed
down the coast having a half hour sailing
in the shelter of Cullen bay on the way
We were in Whitehills mid afternoon and
had a couple of refreshments before
getting showered and heading round to Banff to the quiz night which was good crack and as always great to catch up with some of the Banff squad
once again.
Sunday had a mixed forecast and before we went down there we thought that we might have to leave Fusion 2 on the visitors pontoon until the
start of the week so when we woke up to a really bonnie sunny morning with a light Southwesterly we decided to make the most of it and have a
coffee then head back while the going was good so we set out of Whitehills set full sail and had a great sail back up the coast to Finechty, it was a
cool air although sunny but it felt brilliant to be back out enjoying some effortless sailing on such a fine day.
I had mentioned to George that I was thinking about taking Fusion up to Lossie for the 3 weeks I was due to be offshore so always ready for a sail
George was there and ready to go at 11am Monday morning. We left Finechty in a fine SW breeze of around 10 - 15kts and it was dull but mild,
having set just under half of the jib and 3rd reef in the main as the forecast was for the wind to freshen we were soon underway and before we
could stop the engine it stopped its`self. After a couple of minutes I fired it up again and it ran without a hitch for the next ten minutes so
thinking that whatever the problem was it had seemed to clear and everything was running fine so we shut it down and continued on our way.
As per the forecast it got fairly squally crossing Speybay and we were making quite a bit of leeway to the North of Lossie harbour and a couple of
miles off, the wind was gusting in the 30knts + & sea conditions were picking up so we decided to start the engine to assist us getting in to Lossie
and that's when the problems started.
I started the engine which ran for about a minute and stopped, started it again and same problem so I checked to see if there was fuel getting
through the fine filter and nothing, I tried priming with the lift pump while George helmed and not a drop of fuel was getting through so checked
my way back through the fuel line to see if I could find the problem with limited success so decided on a change of plan. I had recently bought a
fuel primer bulb from Ebay to keep in the tool box in case of such an event so now was as good a time as any to try it out , I cut through the fuel
line where it exits the tank and first pumped air through into the tank to make sure that the suction line was clear then fitted the bulb the right
way round to pump fuel through to the engine, having disconnected the fuel line from the water trap first. I asked George to pump the fuel bulb
so that I could go below and see if any fuel came through but as he pumped the primer bulb it started to pressure up then a couple of lumps of
black diesel bug shot out of the fuel line into the bilge. I reconnected the fuel line and opened the bleed screw on the fine fuel filter and once
again George pumped fuel through with the primer bulb, in no time we had a fine steady flow coming through so closed the bleed screw and after
a few attempts the engine started and ran without a hitch. We motored for about 15 minutes outside the harbour entrance to make sure that
everything was Ok and I called Duncan at the harbour office to let him know that we were running a bit late due to the fuel issue, Duncan kindly
offered to come out on the Rib and escort us in just in case we lost power again on the way into the harbour so within minutes himself & Charles (
his new assistant ) were alongside and secured the rib to the side of Fusion 2. As it happened we motored in with them alongside with no further
issues but it was good to have them there for peace of mind.
I went up to Lossie next day to do a few jobs and let the engine run for about 4 hours, it started and ran without a hitch and has been no problem
since. Having the fuel primer bulb onboard certainly saved the day as far as starting the engine was concerned as the amount of pressure applied
to clear the blockage in the line would not have been possible without it so that was £5 well spent and onboard when I needed it. You never know
when a problem like that will occur so I just thought I would let everybody know how such a cheap and basic tool helped out on the day. Our
options with the fresh SW wind was a sail back into Buckie but that would have been a lot of hours on the water to just get a couple of miles along
the coast.
Fusion 2.
St Kilda? Can Do!
In the weeks leading up to our cruise on the Oyster 46 "Can Do" any planning was kept
deliberately flexible for a number of reasons. The boat was available for two weeks and
pressure of time was not really an issue for any of the crew. The general objective was not to
plan anything over-ambitious but to enjoy cruising in a yacht, the like of which most of us
could only dream of owning. In any case, "Can Do" was based on the Clyde, an area which
offered plenty of scope for day-sailing and short hops between fresh anchorages and marinas
for a fortnight if required. The eternal question "How far can we get?" had been floated
beforehand and St Kilda had been mentioned as one of a number of possible destinations, but
the answer remained like the length of the proverbial piece of string - it would all depend on
the weather.
Our crew, comprising four bus-pass holders
and a sprightly fifty-something year-old, gathered together at Largs Marina at about 2 pm on
Friday 25 May. The weather forecast for the next few days was excellent with an area of high
pressure sitting to the North of Scotland showing little signs of shifting. After a very brief
discussion it was decided unanimously that it was just too good an opportunity to miss. We
would make the long passage to St Kilda and then cruise gently back South via the Hebrides and
the Small Isles. It was agreed that on the return passage it would be essential always to keep
time in hand in case of any delays, change in the weather, and so on.
We were very fortunate, of course, to be able to draw on the knowledge and experience of
James Calder at all stages of passage-
planning throughout the trip - something
that was greatly appreciated by the rest of
the crew.
It was also decided that we should set off as
soon as possible. Skipper Peter Rankine and Charlie had travelled south a day earlier to make
the boat ready and to take on fuel and water. All that remained was to make a quick visit to
the local branch of Morrison's to stock up with enough provisions for about a week. The arrival
of our two over-loaded trolleys at the check-out attracted a few quizzical stares and banter
from the Largs Friday shoppers. A couple of females even asked if there was any chance of an
invite to the party! The unfortunate check-out girl also looked decidedly panicky as she asked
Charlie, who had been press-ganged into the job of ship's purser: "Would you like a hand with
your packing?"
At 5 pm we left the pontoon at Largs marina. It was a warm, sunny evening with a 16 knot
Easterly breeze and slight sea state - ideal for a course south towards Pladda Lt. on the southern tip of Arran. These conditions were also perfect
for Sandy, Charlie and Bill to become acquainted with the impressive array of deck equipment
available for handling the boat under sail. Peter and James were already familiar with the
beefy electrically-operated sheet winches and the boom brake, as well as hoisting and reefing
the in-mast furling mainsail, which at first sight looked frighteningly large!
After a tasty hot meal prepared by James, it was agreed that Sandy and Bill should take the
first watch from 8 pm until midnight while the others tried to get a bit of shut-eye. As the sun
began to sink lower in the sky, the wind eased gradually and we had to switch on the engine
now and then in order to maintain a steady 5 - 6 knots. By the time Peter and James took over
the watch we had passed Sanda Island to starboard and altered course ready to round the Mull
of Kintyre. This marked the start of a
long and largely uneventful motor-sail of
about 130 miles to the next waypoint.
The weather forecast for the area was for a North or North-Easterly Force 3-4 but the actual
wind remained light during the night. When the sun rose in a cloudless sky on Saturday
morning it was obvious that we were in for a beautiful day. The breeze came and died away
again throughout the day and it was possible to give the engine a rest from time to time.
Visibility was very good and we were able to make out first Colonsay and then Tiree away in
the distance to starboard.
At 1700 hrs we were approaching the Sound of Mingulay with about 65 miles still to cover
before St Kilda. The wind died away and it was decided to fire up the engine. Just at that
moment two basking sharks were spotted just ahead. Sandy, who was on the wheel at the
time, eased the throttle right back so that cameras could be brought up on deck and we could all get a good look at them. The sharks stopped
their "sweep" and started to swim around close up to the hull of the boat. The larger of the
two looked about 25-30 feet long, the other possibly just over 20 feet. They hung around the
boat, seemingly unconcerned, for about 5 minutes or so. It was noticeable, however, that the
smaller shark always tried to keep close to the larger one and was starting to get a bit agitated
before they suddenly decided that they had had enough and disappeared from the scene. After
this brief excitement we continued on our way north, managing to maintain a steady 6.5 knots
under engine and sail. James and Charlie took over the watch at about midnight and at 2.30
am, with only 18 miles to go, cut the speed so that we would not arrive at St Kilda while it was
still dark. The rest ofthe crew awoke later at 4 am to find "Can Do" pointing up into Village Bay
as dawn broke on a flat calm sea. There was almost an eerie stillness about the place as we
nosed in gently and dropped anchor as
quietly as possible, trying not to disturb
the occupants of the yacht "Elicea", the
only other vessel in the bay.
After an early breakfast Sandy, Charlie and I went ashore in the dinghy for a look around
while Peter and James stayed aboard. We weren't sure if we needed permission to set foot on
the island and were a bit apprehensive when we spotted a large notice on the landing jetty as
we approached the shore. It turned out, however, to be a National Trust welcome notice,
together with leaflets for visitors to use on their tour round St Kilda village. As we were
making our way back to the dinghy we came across a few people who were obviously
members of a National Trust work party who devote time to maintaining and repairing the
cottages and other buildings which were once home to a vanished island community. It was
gratifying to see that this work continues and that St Kilda has not been allowed to die. By 9.30 am Peter and James had completed their visit
ashore and we were all back on board ready to weigh anchor.
After leaving Village Bay we spent a very interesting and enjoyable hour and a half
circumnavigating the islands of St Kilda. There was little or no swell, so we were able to sail
quite close inshore. It is no exaggeration to describe the rocky western coastline of the islands
as awe-inspiring. Hirta's scenery is particularly magnificent. Although in parts no more than
one and a half miles long and at no point more than one and three-quarters miles across, it has
five peaks, three of which are more than 300 metres high. Conachair rises to 430 metres and
its sheer cliffs are the highest in the British Isles.
The islands of Dun to the south and Soay to the north are both separated from Hirta by a
narrow passage of Atlantic sea. The remaining island, Bororay, lies 4 miles to the north of St
Kilda, rising steeply from approximately 100 metres on its south-westerly coastline to the 400
metre high cliffs of its north-facing coast. Bororay's main claim to fame is that it is home to
the world's largest colony of gannets, with around 60,000 breeding pairs. The archipelago also includes a number of 'stacs' - giant rocks that rise
majestically out of the sea to spectacular heights. Stac Lee and Stac an Armin lying close to Bororay are particularly impressive, the latter being
the highest stac in the British Isles at 191 metres above sea level. The stacs add a mystical quality to the island scenery which, as one of the crew
aptly remarked, was reminiscent of a scene from a Harry Potter film.
As we finally headed away northwards towards the Butt of Lewis on a course set to pass close to the Flannan Isles, there was time to reflect on
how fortunate we had been - not only to have been able to get as far as St Kilda, but also to do it in ideal weather conditions and in such a
comfortable, well-equipped boat as "Can Do". Most of us could recall being on sailing holidays in the past on the West Coast, having to cancel
planned trips because of poor weather and even sitting around for days on end in some marina or harbour, feeling wet and miserable and wishing
that we were somewhere else! At that moment, however, we were looking forward to another day of fair winds and good sailing and, with a bit of
luck, enjoying a day in Stornoway before the start of the second half of our trip.
Bill Douglas
Part II
Sunday 27 May:
As "Can Do" headed away from St Kilda on a course set to pass close to the Flannan Isles
and then northwards to the Butt of Lewis the crew were all in good spirits. We had
achieved what we had set out to do - in my own case after a couple of failed attempts,
a dream fulfilled - i.e. to sail as far as St Kilda. I think we all realised, however, how
fortunate we had been - not only with the fantastic weather conditions but also to have
done the trip in such a well-equipped craft. "Can Do" was an Oyster 46 with an
impressive "spec" both above and below decks. Her comprehensive array of deck
equipment was designed to make sail-handling easy - the electrically-powered sheet
winches and anchor windlass were tailor-made for elderly winders! With three cabins
and a very spacious saloon life below decks was very comfortable to say the least. The
captain's cabin aft enjoyed its own en-suite facilities while the two cabins forward
shared a WC with a wash-basin and shower.
For most of the rest of the day there was little or no wind and the sea was like glass. The boat's 75 hp Volvo purred away, however, keeping her
going at a steady six knots until well into late afternoon when the Flannan Isles hove into view and the wind piped up to a force 3. What a relief
to switch off the engine and get a decent sail for a while! In fact it turned out to be the best sail so far and we hoped that it was possibly a good
omen for the rest of our trip. We should have known better however. Not long after, it was back to motoring in hot, sunny conditions through
windless blue water.
At midnight Can Do had the Butt of Lewis lighthouse on her starboard beam and James
and Charlie took over the watch. At about 2.45 am I was wakened from my slumbers in
the forepeak by a noise of rushing water. I popped my head through the hatch to ask if
all was well and if they would like a cup of tea. James reported that the wind had
freshened to around 23 knots and the boat was sailing fine at 9.5 knots. He and Charlie
were obviously enjoying themselves, By 0400 hrs however the wind had dropped and we
were motoring slowly in a fairly thick fog which came and went intermittently for the
next hour as we made our approach towards the entrance to Stornoway harbour. James's
experience and local knowledge proved a valuable back-up to the GPS in determining
our position, enabling him to identify a number of unmarked rocks in the poor visibility.
However, conditions gradually improved and soon we were able to see the lights of
Stornoway and open up the entrance to the harbour.
At approximately 0500 hrs we were abeam of Holm Island and the
infamous rocks known as the "Beasts of Holm", the site of one of the
worst peacetime maritime disasters in British history. At 2.30 am on
1st January 1919 the Admiralty yacht "Iolaire" struck these rocks and
sank. Most of the 205 passengers who perished were servicemen
returning home from the horrors of the First World War, only to lose
their lives one mile from the safety of the harbour. Another historical
reminder is provided at Arnish Point in the shape of two large gun
emplacements, which together with the observation tower and other
out-buildings formed a World War II gun battery.
Arnish Point Lighthouse itself has guarded the entrance to Stornoway
harbour since 1853. Designed by Alan Stevenson, who also designed
Covesea Lighthouse, it is unusual in that it is made of iron and
marked the Stevenson family's first attempt at a prefabricated
At about 5.00 am we moored up in the inner harbour, just ahead of
the yacht pontoons opposite Lews Castle. We tied up alongside the fishing-vessel "Strathspey II", which James immediately identified as the
former "Orcades" BCK 67, which was built in 1969 at Thomson's Boatyard in Buckie. It was rather sad to see a once fine looking craft in such a
state of deterioration - a depressing reminder perhaps of a once thriving industry and whole way of life.
After a few hours of sleep and a late breakfast we decided to spend the day in Stornoway and get a good night's rest before heading across the
Minch for Lochinver the next day. The first destination ashore, however, was the nearest supermarket. As the next few days in our flexible
passage-plan were going to be spent cruising in the more remote parts of the North West coast, we thought it advisable to stock up on fresh food
supplies. Despite our mammoth shop before setting off from Largs Marina only 3 days ago we seemed to be going through the victuals at an
alarming rate - we must have been eating well and probably managed to put on a few pounds!
For a town of its size Stornoway has quite a lot to offer the
visitor. It provides the ideal base for exploring the scenery and
culture of the rest of Lewis and the other islands. There are
plenty of attractions in the town itself. Apart froma museum
and a number of historical buildings, it boasts a new sports
centre and also the "An Lanntair" Arts Centre overlooking the
harbour. This imposing building, which houses an art gallery,
auditorium with a cinema and a large restaurant, is a principal
venue for exhibitions and entertainments events, etc.
Tuesday 29 May:
It was time to say farewell to the fleshpots of lovely Stornoway.
The weather forecast for sea area Ardnamurchan Point to Cape
Wrath for the next 24 hours was very good: N/NW Force 3-4 -
just right for a pleasant reach across the Minch to Lochinver
about 37 miles away with an estimated passage time of no more
than 7 hours hopefully. We decided to leave early and have our
usual full breakfast underway.
It looked as if we were going to have yet another fine sunny day. Unfortunately there was not a lot of wind and, as had happened quite often
during the trip, the engine had to be switched on in order to maintain a decent turn of speed. At around 3 pm however we were sailing between
Rubha Robha and Soyea Island at the entrance to Loch Inver. The view into
the loch with Suilven and its unmistakable round dome top must surely be
one of the finest on the West Coast. Half an hour later we had passed the
distinctive port and starboard marker buoys and moored up at one of the
recently installed deep water pontoons. There was a quick change of plan,
however, when Peter came back from the Harbour Office and announced that
we could top up on diesel at the pier beyond the fish market before they
finished for the day.
Returning to the pontoon we tied up astern of the yacht "Sensitosa" - a 46
foot Taiwanese imitation of a Swan. We were to meet up with this vessel
again on a couple of occasions during our trip.
After an evening meal on board we went for a stroll through the village. The
main street runs along the eastern edge of the loch, with a spectacular vista
around every bend in the road. We ambled only as far as the single span
stone bridge which was built in 1821 at the mouth of the River Inver. The harbour was extended and upgraded in 1992 and is at present the
busiest of all the harbours in the Highland Council area. There was a fair bit of activity at the fish processing plant next to the fish-market. Tied
up alongside were two trawlers and a fish-transporter vessel - none of which was from the UK.
On our way back to the pontoon, however, somebody noticed a couple of smaller fishing boats lying at the ice-plant pier so we went to have a
quick look. One of the boats happened to be the BCK registered "Blue Sky" which was taking on ice. Aboard was crew member "Fred" Calder from
Findochty who was busy mending a net and unfortunately had no time for anything more than a wave and a brief "Aye, aye!"
Wednesday 30 May:
With no significant change in the weather forecast we decided to head south round into Loch Broom and spend a night in Ullapool. This would be
our shortest trip to date - about 30 miles with an estimated passage
time of about 6 hours.
As we were making ready to leave, a local skipper who had been
working at his creel boat moored on the other side of the pontoon
came across for a look at "Can Do". While we chatted, he inquired
about all the various items of deck equipment, the size of the engine
and the accommodation and facilities below. Charlie and I did our
best to answer his questions. Although he appeared to be quite
impressed he said nothing - until he spotted the bow-thruster.
"A bow-thruster too?" he remarked with a broad grin. "Well, well! And
you call that sailing, eh?"
I shudder to think what he would said if we had told him about the
ironing board and the steam iron!
We let go our ropes at 8.30 am and made our way out of the loch. A
course was set with a waypoint to leave Soyea Island to starboard and then out to clear Rubha Coigeach. The wind stayed very light and the
prospect of an exhilarating sail that day began to fade quickly. While this was a bit frustrating we decided to make the best of the situation - i.e.
we would just relax in the bright, warm sunshine and absorb the beautiful West Coast scenery. Life can be rough sometimes!
Once we had rounded Rubha Coigeach and opened up Loch Broom the clicking and whirring of digital cameras really began in earnest. The
Summer Isles, with their constantly changing views are indeed a photographer's paradise. With a gentle northerly breeze on the port beam we
enjoyed a leisurely sail past the various islands over the remaining 12 miles to the Rhu Lighthouse at the entrance of the loch proper. Tanera Mor
is the largest of the 17 Summer Isles and also the only one which is inhabited. It has a sheltered bay anchorage on its east-facing coast, which I
think Sandy may have used sometime during his many trips to the West over the years. Apparently the residents on Tanera Mor also have their
own postal service and print their own stamps!
At about 2 pm we were abeam of Isle Martin and about a mile from Rhu Lighthouse. The views here are particularly spectacular. The entrance to
Loch Broom is overlooked from the north by Ben More Coigach (652 m) and from its south side by Ben Ghobhlach (743 m). An hour later "Can Do"
was secured to one of the blue visitor moorings adjacent to the Sailing Club slipway and James, Sandy and Charlie went ashore in the dinghy for a
brief visit. In the evening we enjoyed another of our chef's cordon-bleu creations accompanied by a glass or two of wine - a fitting end to another
fantastic day!
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