Well the story starts in the early hours of Friday morning…. now the standard orchestral work … the wind screaming through the masts and rigging of Arbroath Marina. In the dark it always looks and feels worse…. the portents were not good. Sure enough The Met Office put out a strong wind warning, plus the red line for our inshore waters area… Rattray Head to Berwick upon Tweed. The number 7 was in it… but it is a huge area and we were planning to spend most of the day in the Firth of Forth.
When we examined other forecasts…. Wind Ghuru, XC Weather, Coastal Passage Planner plus SWIS ( Sailing Weather Information Service )… yes they said the winds would be up to 35 knots in the early morning …. then ok and strong again in the evening. The Met Office was not clear on timings…. so we agreed to depart our berth at 8.30am.
After a quick shower in the really excellent Arbroath Crew Room suite and a quick bowl of porridge ( me ), Mike toast and cornflakes…. we made ready for sea. I walked out of the marina to the harbour master’s office at about 8am …. office lights on but locked. A voice said “hello can I help?”
It was the friendly, helpful Grant… the Marina boss…. standing with two other gentleman looking down the harbour wall into the marina. I went over to the side of the marina where they were gathered and reminded Greg that we leaving and that we would be on the fuel berth at 8.45am. Then I stopped…. looked down and realised what they were all staring at.
“Oh my goodness” I said…. but not in those words. All you could see was the foredeck, pulpit and deckhouse roof and aerials of a fishing boat…. it had clearly sunk and most of the vessel was on the bottom with its bow pointing up at a horrible angle. Its mooring lines were still attached to the harbour wall… but were all very tight, bar the stern line which had clearly ripped out a cleat on the boat. A very sad sight.
Grant was happy to tell me the full story. The fishing boat was made of wood and clinker built ( each wooden length of wood in the hull overlapped the one above… as opposed to carvel built where each plank butts up against the next one )…. and had been in the local boat builder’s yard for a long period for an extensive refurb programme.
It had only gone back in the water yesterday… and had sunk on its moorings overnight. The owner lived in nearby Dundee and was on his way after the phone call. He had taken possession of his boat once back in the water the previous day and remained there until nightfall… with pumps in place and working. Clearly something had gone wrong…. and the boat had sunk overnight.
This immediately reminded me of family …. Carol and David from Exemouth in Devon… both sailors and boat owners on the River Exe. They recently bought an elderly classic wooden sailing yacht from Dartmouth which had been out of the water…. and spent days and days if not weeks gradually “wetting” its timbers so that they would swell and seal any leaks….. long before it was deemed seaworthy. In a later conversation, it was revealed that the Dundee guy had been advised not to put the boat straight back in the marina …. but to berth it on the slipway in shallow water. Whatever…. not a nice thing to happen. Very sad.
When Poli Poli has been out of the water in the boat yard for 8 to 10 weeks…. I always spend the first 12 hours on the boat once back in the water, checking everything under the floorboards ( sole boards ) and all the 19 holes in the hull where there are seacocks, transducers, speed paddle wheel etc etc…. to make sure there are no leaks. Then come back within 24 hours for further checks. And Poli Poli is not made of wood…. but we check all the same. A tiny ingress of water means there is going to be a problem.
So much to think about after we had left the fuel berth in Arbroath and headed out along the leading line….. avoiding all the lobster pots of course. Re the previous conversation about fisherman and the positioning of lobster pots. Just to clarify…. sailing yachts can of course defend themselves against a lobster pot rope/line snagging the propeller. Poli Poli is equipped with a serious piece of kit….. a razor sharp rope cutter fitted on the inside of the prop…. this employs a series of blades to instantly cut any snagged rope or such like.
This of course is fine if the lobster pot rope/line gets snagged on the propeller. What happens if the rope/line snag a rudder? Lost steerage can be disastrous in waters where rocks or shoreline prevail. With a prop snagged you could still manage to employ your sails to move the boat out of danger. Propulsion by engine would be lost but not steerage or the ability to make headway to safe waters. Fortunately, up to now, our rope cutter has never had to do what it was designed to do. With the ever increasing number of pots, our luck or ability to spot in time and alter course, will not last.
The journey from Arbroath to Port Edgar…. south along the coast, passing the estuary of the River Tay …. where Dundee is located, passing St. Andrews, Carnoustie, Leuchars, and the major headland of Fife Ness…. to the Firth of Forth. It was a somewhat bumpy ride… winds of 30 knots were recorded near the quaintly named Isles of May, stinging rain blowing in from the west, and grey, steely blue North Sea sea spray …. cold and icy coming over the bow… smacking you in the face and dousing your oilies in cold wetness.
Not pleasant but we ploughed on…. Poli Poli dealing with the waves in her customary confident fashion. Cold it was, wet it was, bumpy it was, but we still made good headway and the 50 nautical mile total distance slowly but surely decreased as we motored south ( not safe to have any sail up in winds of 30 plus knots ).
South of the headland Fife Ness we made our turn into the huge estuary known as the Firth of Forth. Past the Isle of May, we were able to just make out the land on the south shore of the Forth…. but this became difficult in ever decreasing poor visibilty. We now had a head to wind situation… the wind had backed to the west… and we were able to present minimum profile to the wind… ie head on. To start with we were punching tide in pouring rain…. but as we moved westwards the tide turned from ebb to flood and we made good progress up the Forth.
At a point south west of Kircaldy we entered the north side of the official shipping channel marked by green and red buoys all the way to the Firth of Forth railway bridge just to the west of Edinburgh. Visibility became so poor …. almost fog like in the rain and mist, that we had to put all navigation lights on. As practice dictates, we proceeded west on the right hand side of the channel…. meaning we “buoy hopped” from one green to the next.
Not long after we had entered the shipping channel, we spied the black top of a conning tower above the black upturned hull shape of a submarine. Not sure whether or not this was a nuclear sub or not….from where we were did not seem big enough. This we observed through the rain and mists with some interest. Then there appeared a tug which had been stationary for some time. Once we passed the tug…. it followed us for a while… so we surmised it was the MOD security tug looking after the submarine on possibly a training session…. so we held our course and proceeded in the channel west towards Edinburgh.
The tug followed us for about twenty minutes… and presumably once it was sure we were departing the area ….. turned back. We then saw that the submarine had crossed behind us from north bank to the south of the Firth of Forth. Again we were left puzzled. Clearly we understood the events in NW Scotland in the submarine area near the Kyle of Lochalsh…. but both the gas pipelines ( south of Fraserburgh ) tug and this one in the Firth of Forth failed to identify themselves…. hence the puzzlement.
Soon after the tug incident, the rain eased and the choppy seas calmed somewhat…. no more icy spray over the bow….. and visibilty improved. The reds and greens were easy to spot…. as we hopped from one green to the next. As we approached one particular green buoy we noticed that the conical green top shape was mounted on a flat platform at its base….. and a small grey seal was taking a rest…. watching quite happily as the likes of Poli Poli….. plus great big oil tankers, coasters and ferry boats of all descriptions went by. He or she just flapped his or her tail at us…. no fear, no fright and no leap into the water.
The first of the famous three bridge trio was sighted soon afterwards…. the iconic Forth Bridge, the great arch spans of the red steel railway bridge comes first just after the city of Edinburgh had been sighted on the south shore. A dying westerly wind brought calmer waters….visibility improved and thank goodness…. the rain actually stopped here.
Poli Poli approached the first of the three Forth bridges trio…the railway bridge.
Poli Poli’s bow was pointed for the centre line of the middle span…. and under we went… our air draft of 22 metres or so making no impact on the 58 metres of the Forth Railway bridge. Mike looked up quizzically …. just checking!
Mike looking at the Forth Railway Bridge at about 4.45pm on Friday. Hat, gloves, jumpers, oilies on …cold and so grey.
Then a ship appeared on the other side so we held station and let her pass. Did not even say thank you! So next we aimed for the highest part of the central span which carries the Forth Road Bridge…. the A90…. but again our 22 metres passed under the air draft of the bridge which was 31 metres. Lower but still a large gap. I looked up this time…. the bated breath was unnecessary.
Mike looking at the second bridge of the three…the Forth Road bridge carrying the A90. Beyond is the third new 2017 Queensferry Bridge.
The marina…. Port Edgar is just west of Edinburgh on the south bank of the Forth. Within the last five years, a third Forth bridge has been constructed…. right next door to the other two. This third bridge…. named the Queensferry Bridge carrying a motorway opened in August 2017 and is of a completely different design to the other two. The marina is located between the two road bridges…. so we only passed under the first two and were not bothered by the air draft of the new Queensferry bridge.
We had pre-booked our berth at Port Edgar… so we had a trouble free entry into the marina, were able to locate our starboard side to E10 berth….even better we managed to reverse into it….. so that there would be no sea symphony played out under the aft cabin at night. Peace at last!
You can just see the blue bow of Poli Poli sticking out of E10 berth at Port Edgar.
We berthed at 5.30pm after an eventful day….. the ladies, Christine and Margaret, were spotted on the pier walkway at 6.30pm. They had caught the 12 noon Edinburgh train from King’s Cross, London…. 4 and a half hours via York, Newcastle and Berwick Upon Tweed. Not bad…. our journey of 50 n.miles on Poli Poli had taken 8 and a half hours.
Total distance sailed from Arbroath to Port Edgar…. 54 n. miles.
Total distance sailed from Eastbourne….2,123.80 n. miles.
Today…Saturday 15th September was a rest day in Port Edgar…and details will follow on Sunday morning.