Friday, 29 June 2012

Lowestoft Haven Marina, the previous night


Jean says: Being in Lowestoft so early in the week meant that we had enough time to get down to Shotley and meet Janene and Jules there. They keep their boat Temptress in Shotley marina, and we sailed with them from here a few years ago. Despite predictions of quite gusty winds, we had a really great sail all the way down the coast, and the sun was lurking behind the permanent mist that shrouded the coastline. We could see very little, but caught a glimpse of Sizewell looking like something out of a sci fi movie.

This is all we could see of the Sizewell B nuclear plant. Can you see it?

To safely enter the Felixstowe/Harwich area you have to follow a designated route just outside the main shipping lanes. You can see why. It's a very busy commercial shipping port and you would want to keep well out of the way. We formed a crocodile with a few other yachts following the same route, and weaved our way up to Shotley, which is sensibly placed on a picturesque promontory overlooking the whole harbour.

Felixstowe on the way in.

Janene and Jules were waiting to take our lines in the marina. What a treat!
We spent the rest of the evening chatting, eating and drinking, and there was a lot of boat talk. There is one thing that we can do very well after this trip, and that's boat talk. It's not difficult when you've been on one for three months. I hope we can think of other things to talk about when we return home, otherwise people may avoid us. Tomorrow, Janene and Jules are coming on Bella Rosa to try her for size, but also take us round all their local haunts. I've told them that I'd like to be a competent crew for the day and have a day off thinking while they make all the decisions.

Bob says: everyone knows how the Shipping Forecast can stir the imagination, Dogger, Fisher, Sole, Fitzroy, German Bight...... A little feature of this trip has been hearing the different coastguards broadcasting safety and weather information over the VHF and being reminded how far from home we've been: Clyde, Stornaway, Fort William, Stromness ....... Since being in the southern part of the North Sea we've begun to pick up Netherlands and Ostend, but yesterday we also had a real reminder of how close to the end of this odyssey we've come when we heard from Thames coastguard for the first time!

We're in Shotley marina and that's just inside Suffolk, but sometime tomorrow we'll actually be in Essex and then it's Kent, really getting close to home.

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Jean says: Lowestoft - good place to stop if you have to. We're at Britain's most Easterly point. We've gone from Geordie to Yorkshire to Cockney in two large steps. There's something very familiar about being here, and a strong feeling that we're nearing the end.
After surviving the Whitby to Lowestoft passage, we feel we've done all the really big stuff (by our standards), and are completely relaxed about crossing the Thames estuary (hopefully not mistakenly), which at the beginning of this journey seemed like it might be an ordeal. After that, the South coast is familiar home ground territory, and we sailed along most of it when we brought Bella Rosa back from Holland. A lot of water has passed under the keel since then.
We're in a rather strange marina which is the sister marina to Lowestoft Haven, several miles away. This is an annex really, and used to be the Hamilton Dock before it was converted. You need to phone the main marina to get any help from a member of staff, and they come over by launch. They had to make a special trip to bring me tokens for the washing machine. When I couldn't get the washing machine to work, they had to come back again on the launch to bring me a replacement token. When I suggested that it would be easier for them if the machines ran on pound coins, they said they couldn't risk it because it's rather remote here, and people would break in to rob the machines. It's probably best not to dwell on that too much.
Lowestoft town is yet another struggling fishing port. The old high street is dying and has been replaced by a more modern street of shops, but it doesn't look much better, despite the bunting. The annex marina that we're in is quite industrial. There's no-one else here, and we're surrounded by corrugated iron rooves, warehouses, cranes, a wind turbine and large metal storage tanks. We were after variety and this is different yet again. Today has been really warm and we've both been in short sleeves for the first time since being in the West of Scotland. We left Lymington on a sunny day though, and would really like to arrive back on a sunny day. I just thought I'd get that message out to the universe in good time! We haven't got a specific day in mind for arriving back yet, but if all goes well, it should be around the middle of the week after next.

Bit short of decent photos of Lowestoft, so here is a postcard...

Jean says: On Sunday night I had a strong intuitive feeling that we should leave Whitby the following evening, and sail through Tuesday night to Lowestoft, as opposed to waiting until later in the week. I woke up on Monday thinking the same thing. There was also some hard evidence to back up this idea in the form of a weather forecast. Stronger winds, mist and fog were predicted later in the week and we really didn't fancy risking a night sail along an inhospitable coastline, in poor visibility while expending vast amounts of energy dealing with gusty winds and both having to be on duty all night.
The least time for the journey would be 24 hours, and we wanted it to be as trouble free as possible with the opportunity to do sleep shifts. Wednesday was also a possibility, but the predicted mist was worrying me, and we didn't want to risk getting stuck in Whitby for a week - no offence to Whitby which is lovely, but home beckons.
We weren't able to leave until the bridge opened at seven in the evening, so I went off with Bob to have a look at the Benedictine Abbey on the hill above the town. The abbey was sited along with the ancient church, at the top of what they call the '199 steps'. I was happy to discover that I didn't have any trouble walking up them, despite the fact that my muscle mass must have reduced to nothing after ten weeks on the boat. Bob had already sprung up them like a gazelle, and was waiting at the top for me, so nothing has changed in that respect.
The Abbey is steeped in very significant religious history and had a huge influence on the forming of the Christian church. It was here that the original meeting was held in AD 664, to discuss how, rather than be fragmented and in conflict with each other, the different strands of Christianity could be
brought together as one cohesive system. The meeting was called The Synod of Whitby. It's not just all fish and chips and slot machines in Whitby you know!

View of Whitby from the top of the 199 steps.

The Captain Cook Tour on it's way out

We left Whitby harbour knowing that there was no going back, and keeping our fingers crossed that our first night sail with just the two of us would go smoothly.

Two sunsets beyond Flamborough Head as we headed South East towards the Humber estuary.

The dark hours were to be spent along a piece of coastline that we judged to be quite quiet. How wrong could we be. When I emerged at 1.00 am for my shift, we were surrounded by numerous anchored cargo ships and other large vessels making their way up and down the coast. While Bob slept, I had to change course twice because a ship was heading towards us, and several ships changed course to pass us from behind. There were lights and boats everywhere, but it all made complete sense, so there was nothing to worry about.

The sun coming up in the early hours of Tuesday morning as we approach the Humber area.

In some ways, night sailing seems more straightforward than day sailing. Everyone has specific lights so that you know exactly what they are and their position in relation to you. Big ships at anchor are required to switch all their deck lights on, and you can see exactly where they are because they're lit up like a fairground. We both felt that once we had the measure of things, there was something quite exciting and special about night sailing. Another good thing about night sailing at this time of year is that the dark doesn't last long. It was dark by 10.30 and at 3.00 in the morning, you could see the light forming on the horizon in the East. The overall best reason to night sail though is that you can have extra rations like chocolate and bacon butties, and that because it's dark and you can't see what you're eating properly, none of it counts.

Once it was light, the seas became less busy until we were near the Norfolk coastline, where we came across a huge wind farm under construction. Bob's done a video of us sailing past it, and some photos on a different page. Apparently, once a wind farm has been completed, you are allowed to sail amongst the turbines because the blades are supposed to be a lot higher than the average boat mast. I have no intention of putting this to the test, although I can imagine that it would appeal to Bob.

The early evening Norfolk coastline.

We were so glad to arrive in Lowestoft before seven in the evening, having had a manageable journey with no unexpected tricky moments. It had been a long and tiring journey, but it's easy enough to keep going when you know it's only for one day. We were never that excited at the prospect of this 24 hour trip in unknown territory, knowing that refuges were minimal, and not always safe or convenient. We were however, very keen to experience a night sail just by ourselves, and had little choice anyway. I don't think either of us would choose to do this journey again, mainly because there is little to attract us to sail any of the North East coast a second time. Any future visits will be by car! Having said that, we came away having learnt even more about various sailing conditions and decision making, and were very glad we've experienced it this once. It's all been an essential part of our challenge.
We're now looking forward to meeting up with our friends Janene and Jules this weekend, either here or a bit further down this coast.

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Whitby and Lowestoft

Given the long passage from Whitby to Lowestoft things aren't necessarily going up in order, but here are a couple of photos from the last 24 hrs or so

First, entering Whitby harbour, copyright Chris Beezley!

The structures they employ to construct the wind farms. Good view of the blades before they go on the stands. Frank, if you see this do you know if these turbines are yours? It's the Sheringham shoal wind farm in the North

Sheringham wind farm, and it wasn't even on the charts!

YouTube Video

Location:Like the circles that you find in the windmills of your mind

Monday, 25 June 2012

Newcastle to Whitby

Bob says: we left Newcastle on Sunday morning with a forecast of light winds, rain and squalls and that's pretty much what we got. We were heading southish with the winds northish, so although the gusts were at one time up to 20kts we were on a nice broad reach and the windy parts of the day were comfortable. We had periods of very light winds when we had to motor, but overall it was a satisfying day's sailing. The nasty parts were the squalls when the rain fell like a monsoon. It was unpleasant getting wet, but it gave us some fantastically dramatic skies. Here's a shot to illustrate the point

We arrived in Whitby in time to get to the Magpie cafe for their famous fish and chips AND to get to see 'the big game'. We got chatting to a very nice Aussie couple sitting next to us in the restaurant, which meant we missed the first half. As we all now know, I didn't miss much. As John (Heath) rather aptly put it to me: 'did you see Italy's practice game against England?' Their 35 shots on goal to our 9, a bit of a gulf in class!

I'll leave Jean to tell you more about our day in Whitby today (Monday) but right now we're on our 24hr sail from Whitby to Lowestoft and it's my turn to go on watch and give Jean a break. I'll just put up one of the photos of Whitby Abbey, which was well worth the clamber up about 199 steps. Whitby is also worth a visit generally. Compared to a few years ago it has got a lot more sophisticated, there's even a piano bar, possibly the only one in Yorkshire (joke, haha)!

This isn't the piano bar, it's the interior of the church on the hill adjacent to the ruined Abbey. It shows a 3 tiered pulpit and the church's solid fuel stove!

Newcastle to Whitby

Bob says: we left Newcastle on Sunday morning with a forecast of light winds, rain and squalls and that's pretty much what we got. We were heading southish with the winds northish, so although the gusts were at one time up to 20kts we were on a nice broad reach and the windy parts of the day were comfortable. We had periods of very light winds when we had to motor, but overall it was a satisfying day's sailing. The nasty parts were the squalls when the rain fell like a monsoon. It was unpleasant getting wet, but it gave us some fantastically dramatic skies. Here's a shot to illustrate the point

We arrived in Whitby in time to get to the Magpie cafe for their famous fish and chips AND to get to see 'the big game'. We got chatting to a very nice Aussie couple sitting next to us in the restaurant, which meant we missed the first half. As we all now know, I didn't miss much. As John (Heath) rather aptly put it to me: 'did you see Italy's practice game against England?' Their 35 shots on goal to our 9, a bit of a gulf in class!

I'll leave Jean to tell you more about our day in Whitby today (Monday) but right now we're on our 24hr sail from Whitby to Lowestoft and it's my turn to go on watch and give Jean a break. I'll just put up one of the photos of Whitby Abbey, which was well worth the clamber up about 199 steps. Whitby is also worth a visit generally. Compared to a few years ago it has got a lot more sophisticated, there's even a piano bar, possibly the only one in Yorkshire (joke, haha)!

This isn't the piano bar, it's the interior of the church on the hill adjacent to the ruined Abbey. It shows a 3 tiered pulpit and the church's solid fuel stove!

Jean says: I left Bob behind today, which was a strange feeling, as we've been fused together for the last ten weeks. The way to get to Newcastle City centre was to take the metro, and the nearest stop was quite a walk from the marina. I crossed over the lock and walked through some very well designed and attractive housing developments, joined up by a web of pathways and thoughtful landscaping. Before long, I found myself in the middle of a secluded park, and suddenly felt a bit vulnerable. Remembering that I was dressed like a deranged bag lady, wearing the world's most unflattering hat, I was reassured that no-one would be interested in coming near me, let alone running off with my back pack. They'd have been more likely to press some money into my hand and suggest I treat myself to a cup of tea. All the same, I put my phone and purse into an inner pocket.
Feeling more confident, I asked directions from a man accompanied by four boisterous dogs of unidentified breeds. He told me the way, and then laughed and said don't forget to watch out for the Appaches. I didn't like to query it and smiled back and said that I would. Sitting on the Meadow Well platform, I kept a close watch all around me for anyone resembling a Red Indian, but managed to get to Newcastle without encountering even one.
It was only later that I discovered that Meadow Well is a very rough area, there are gangs and people get robbed. Perhaps this is what he meant. It's amazing how well tended foliage can lull you into a false sense of security. When Bob came to join me later, he said he had felt a bit threatened, despite the cheerful sunshine yellow that they'd painted the metro station. It might have been better if he'd worn some of those Newcastle United shorts.
Emerging from the metro at The Monument was like returning from a long retreat. I stood on the pavement for a while and looked around me. There were all the familiar shops that are on every high street in England. This is what can make so many English towns so boring. The only thing that identifies one place from another is the architecture, and configuration of the streets. Newcastle is nevertheless, a striking and handsome City. The buildings are very grand, with a large Georgian influence. The main streets converge at the Monument, which makes a very good focal point. After having had a bit of a mooch around some of the shops, I went off to the Laing art gallery for some inspiration and a culture fix. It's been a while since I've seen some good art, and they have some valuable works on show.
When Bob arrived, we went to the pictures and having been starved of this kind of entertainment for so long, saw two consecutive films; Prometheus, a silly sci- fi film, and The Five Year Engagement. We liked the second one a lot. After that, it was dinner in Ask, and a bit of people watching. There were numerous hen parties, stag parties and pub crawls, all feeling the need to make an exhibition of themselves. We stood out from the crowd with our warm and sensible unobtrusive outfits on. Trouble was obviously expected quite early in the evening, because a police car and ambulance were standing by ready to act. In Bath, they come much later in the evening. We took photos of the revelling masses, and managed to do it without being beaten up.
Why do so many British girls think that looking glamorous and sexy means squeezing yourself into something shapeless, tasteless and much too small, revealing as much flesh as possible, while trying to walk on a pair of spiked breeze blocks that pass themselves off as shoes. The threat of having your foot crushed to a pulp, or pierced must deter all but the hardiest of men, but then Geordie are hardy. The girls can't walk properly, and when the fire alarm went off in the Multi entertainment complex, no-one moved, but they wouldn't have made it very far anyway. Luckily, it was a false alarm.

Saturday, 23 June 2012

Images of Newcastle:

Here come the girls....

The Geordie gentleman.......

Waiting for Trouble on Saturday evening.....

A smart Georgian City.....

The Monument.

Bob says: a day when we returned to civilisation with a bang! Jean went off early for some retail therapy whilst I had some work to do pre a conference call in Whitby on Monday. I joined her later and after a short wander about we went to The Gate entertainment complex in the city centre. Nandos, Pizza Hut, Ninos, McDonalds, Orbit night club, you name the places where the cool dudes go, The Gate has it. It also has a multi screen cinema complex and since we couldn't agree which of Prometheus (my choice) and Five Year Engagement (Jean's) to see, we decided to go to both! I told Jean that Five Year Engagement would be rubbish and it was ...... actually, very good, very funny. Prometheus meanwhile was formulaic rubbish. The skipper was right again (damn it, says not so Admirable Bob in hushed tones).
Newcastle on a Saturday night was everything that the clich├ęs and stereotypes say about it. Wall to wall hen parties, police cars playing at Miami Vice and guys in sleeveless T shirts and tattoos.
Whitby tomorrow, so fish and chips and poss England vs Italy if I can get to a pub in time.
Jean will be posting some piccies she took

Friday, 22 June 2012

Thurs: It was pouring with rain, so we ditched the idea of a long walk and had a day of domesticity instead. We're talking about a space 30 feet by 8. Household chores are a breeze on a Bella Rosa, as everything you need is within one short stretch away. Bob was wedged in our tiny galley cooking three dinners Remoska Style, and I went off to mess around with the washing machine at the marina. The marina also has a proper bath, and so I had my first Bath since being in Dartmouth, which was sheer luxury. The accent here sounds very Geordie to us. It's hard to believe that forty miles North of here, everyone speaks with a Scottish accent. It makes you wonder how people who live directly on the border speak. Maybe they chop and change depending what mood they're in.
I never really knew what constituted a Geordie, except that it was someone who came from near Newcastle and spoke like Cheryl Cole. So as not to be too misguided, I looked it up. There are various theories about the origin of the term. The first one is that it referred to the supporters of King George the second during the Jacobite revolution of 1745, and that it included those from Newcastle and the surrounding counties. I don't think it was meant as a term of endearment. Another theory is that when George Stephenson invented the miner's lamp in 1815, the miners from Newcastle who used them were subsequently called Geordies. Today, parochialists say that it's only those born on the Northern banks of the Tyne and within a mile of the city centre that are true Geordies. Anyway, as far as we're concerned, it's all taramasalorh*a to us, and long live Ant and Dec, Lindisfarne, Gazza, curry, half the cast of Auf Wiedersehen Pet, wearing Newcastle United shorts in arctic conditions and Newcastle Brown. I think I've already mentioned Cheryl Cole.
After eating one of Bob's 3 dinners, we were feeling the need to stretch our legs. It was a bit foggy outside, but the rain had reduced to a drizzle. We walked along the river bank to Warkworth Castle in the ancient town of Warkworth. Warkworth was definitely worth the walk. It's a small town that bursts with character, with its thriving and authentic olde worlde pubs and its well appointed bed and breakfasts. We went in one of the pubs to dry off and had a couple of games of pool before heading back home.

Warkworth - worth the walk.

Friday: The plan was to get up early and have a look at the conditions before committing ourselves to leaving Amble. There was no sign of life from Dawn Treader, who had also arrived in Amble the previous evening. We've noticed that they have a tendency to appear on deck about two minutes before leaving, still clutching a mug of tea, looking like they're not ready to go anywhere, then, before you have time to say 'what time are you leaving', they've cast off and are a mere spec on the horizon. How laid back can you get?
Our verdict this morning was that It wasn't too windy, and as the fog had lifted, Newcastle was our next stop! The route out through the Amble estuary was flat and calm, but the sea between the two pier heads at the entrance to the harbour transformed into quite a substantial swell. It was just after high tide, so we weren't going to hit the bottom in the troughs of each wave, but an hour later it would have been too dangerous to attempt to leave.
It was only twenty miles to The Tyne, so it was an easy day for us. We had a very acceptable few hours sailing, and on arrival, were followed into the harbour by a huge cargo ship. Once inside we were told off very politely by the port authorities for not asking permission to enter. We must have missed the small print in the almanac. We could see their point. It could be very risky for an idiot yacht to get in the way of something so huge, that has so little manoeverability. We've left a post it note up to remind us to ask for permission to leave.
The Tyne is such an easy port to enter. The main channel is wide and accessible at all states of the tide, and so is the marina. The marina has a lock at its entrance, but access is available 24 hours a day. Sometimes it's good to arrive in a place that is so straightforward, and that doesn't involve much forward planning or uncertainty. We'll be here for a couple of days now, and given that we are only about two to three weeks away from the finish, we're going to start easing ourselves back into normal life. We're starting tomorrow with a visit to the cinema and a mooch round the city centre. There's got to be a Marks and Spencer here somewhere.
Our next port of call is Whitby, and like so many places on the East coast, it has limited access and is to be avoided in the wrong winds. Long live North Shields, Newcastle upon Tyne, polite officials on channel 16, posh marinas, Gazza, Newcastle Brown...................

The offending cargo ship and a tiny yacht that followed us into the Tyne. ....
Does size really matter?

The Lock entrance to Royal Quays Marina. We're tied up alone on the right...

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Jean Says: After we'd cleaned Arbroath out of smokies, it was time to clear out of Arbroath. Next stop was Eyemouth, which sounded like it would be full of Scottish East Coast promise. We had to leave Arbroath at the earliest time possible in order to get to Eyemouth before it was too shallow to get in. This seems to be the way down this East coast. Getting the right timing to be able to leave one port in time to get into the next one can be tricky. Also, the slightest swell in the wrong direction can prevent boats from entering or leaving many of the harbours on this coast. It pays to plan where you wouldn't mind being stuck, and once we'd seen Eyemouth, we decided to leave on the next suitable tide the following morning.
Eyemouth is a traditional and busy fishing port, but it appears to be quite run down, and even the large fisherman's mission is for sale. The pilot book states that 'the quayside taverns still reverberate with nautical swagger, so an amusing evening is guaranteed'. We went in search of a bit of nautical swagger and found that many of the taverns were out of business or in bad need of repair. We were quite relieved really because it meant that we could go to bed early, but were disappointed to have had a less amusing evening than we'd been led to expect.

Next Morning:
We were awakened by frenetic squawking. All the trawlers that we'd seen leaving the previous evening were returning. The sun was out and the harbour had come alive as the trawlers tide up and off-loaded their catch.
Seagulls were swirling around madly, or standing in droves on the quay walls looking for a chance to get an easy breakfast.
We need to get out by 7.00 at the latest to have enough tide to allow us to sail over the sand bar at the entrance of the harbour. It explained the timing of the grand exodus of the trawlers the previous night and their return early this morning. They had the same tidal constraints as us. Once out in the bay, the sea was lovely and calm, so we had coffee while we floated gently along the coast. Sitting in total peace on deck first thing in the morning in the middle of a calm sea with no-one else around is one of the many joys of boat life. The seals were out in force this morning, and you can't help thinking that they have an enviable life, swimming or languishing lazily in the water with an endless supply of fish suppers.

A Bob Joke:
What do you call a very small catamaran?
See below for answer......

We were looking out for any celebrities that might be checking in here....
(note the hotel's name)

Seagull City

We had a fairly leisurely day ahead of us and we wanted to see and anchor in the Farne Islands and have lunch there. Farne was a swirling mass of very stinky birds, which put us off staying for long. A quick look was all we fancied, before we carried on to Amble. The wind increased enough for us to sail smoothly along at a relaxing pace, and we finally crossed the invisible border back into England. From our comfortable 'gin and tonic' seats at the back of the boat, we were able to watch the soft green and pleasant coastline go by with its numerous ancient Northumbrian castles, and endless long sandy beaches. For us, that's sailing at its idyllic best.
Amble is a surprising place. The Geordie accent is very strong here, and yet we're only forty miles South of Scotland. The marina is friendly and attractive, but in the town, many of the shops have metal shutters, there's the odd smashed window and there are a lot of tough looking characters around. Vandalism could be a problem.
Amble used to be a coal mining town, but the last colliery closed in the 60's. After that, fishing returned as an important part of the economy, and that's in evidence everywhere. Looking at the number of expensive boats in the marina, there is obviously a contingent of wealthy people here. We're going on a walkabout tomorrow to find out more about Amble's culture and history. First impressions can be deceptive.

Answer: A Kittenmaran.

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Jean says: No wonder they changed the phrase 'British Summer Time' to 'daylight saving time'. In these litigious times, someone might have been tempted to sue, although it would be difficult to determine who was responsible for the original outrageous porky. We set off from Peterhead at 04.30 in daylight saving time grey, (that could be a good Farrow and Ball paint name). We carried on sailing in grey, and it was drizzling grey rain. We did hourly shifts to stay warm and dry. I was wearing 2 pairs of socks, 6 tops, 2 pairs of thick thermal leggings and have topped it off with the full oilskins. I couldn't have got any more layers on if I'd tried. Bob was colder than I was, which is unusual. He was wearing 6 tops, put on his thick waterproof salopettes over a pair of trousers, and his day glow yellow hood up. He talked about bacon sandwiches a lot, until I eventually decided to make the fantasy a reality. There's nothing like a hot bacon sandwich to lift the spirits, but to have them at their best, they should be eaten during outdoor pursuits such as camping and sailing. The fresh air is the vital extra ingredient, because they really don't taste as good in an ordinary kitchen. I left Bob on deck with his life jacket on and a 'fastfind' personal beacon. He can be prone to wandering around the deck without the safety gear on when I'm not looking, so I decided to put a stop to it.
Our destination was Arbroath, the home of the famous 'smokey'. The pursuit of the authentic smokey was our main reason for visiting Arbroath. We'd seen the 'Coast' episode about them and we wanted to live the dream.

Goodbye Peterhead Harbour at 4.30 this morning.

Passing Slains Castle from the sea - even spookier!

Hello Arbroath... That's more like it. The sun is out at last!

Arbroath appeared out of the gloom like a chirpy little brightly coloured toytown. The sun came out just as we arrived, and we nosed our way carefully into its quaint little harbour. You can only enter or leave close to high tide, otherwise you'd be grounded. You can't enter at all if there's a tidal swell because the entry channel is narrow, exposed and lined with rocks. At low tide, the lock gates are kept closed to keep enough water in to keep the boats afloat. Our friend Chris from Bath was going to watch us arrive on the Arbroath harbour webcam. We were to wave just as we came into the harbour, and he'd try to get a 'screen grab' off the webcam. We both brushed our hair and practised smiling, which is usually quite difficult to do when about to park the boat.
Chris managed to get four great birdseye photos of us, but you couldn't see our hair or our smiles. Bella Rosa was winking cheekily though! She's getting to be a natural when it comes to a photo opportunity.
The air was pungent with smells of smoked fish, and you could see the smoke curling it's way out of the open windows of small converted sheds at the bottom of tiny harbourside gardens. The process is that pairs of haddock tied by their tales are suspended over square 'barrels'. They are hot smoked and cooked right the way through. Apparently, each family has their own secrets about how they are smoked and the practice of smoking haddock has been carried out here since 1820s. An EU directive states that Arbroath smokies cannot be called Arbroath smokies unless they've been smoked in Arbroath. Seems reasonable!

Here are some photos of the real McCoy at M and M Spink.......

Lovely helpful staff....

In their raw state, ready to go into the oven...

Showing us the smoker in action.....

A close up of the pairs of smoking haddock....


They were absolutely fabulous hot and straight out of the smoker, and worth travelling 1600 nautical miles round Britain to taste. We're thinking of moving here.

Monday, 18 June 2012

Arriving at Arbroath

Our friend Chris has been keeping tabs on us today and managed to spot Bella Rosa coming into Arbroath harbour on their webcam. The first screenshot shows Bob on the helm expertly following the leading line into the harbour. The second shows us in the marina itself. You probably can't quite make it out, but just behind the quay is Stuart's Smokies, the best in Arbroath apparently. We'll tell you when we've tried them!

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Jean says: Yesterday, we discussed leaving at 03.00 this morning to be able to get into Arbroath by midday today. We sensibly opted for plan B, which was to go to bed and stay there. Plan A has been re-scheduled for tomorrow morning, but the timings have moved forwards one hour, so 4.00 doesn't seem quite so bad.
We've now had a 3rd day of rest and feel much better for it. The highlight of the day was possibly the short walk to the Spar shop attached to a garage. We felt that one visit to the Peterhead Town centre was sufficient in a lifetime. Once we'd located the entrance to the Spar which was between a pizza take out shed and a greasy spoon cafe, we managed to find a cucumber and some kitchen roll. This enabled us to create a very Greek style salad, but without the Feta cheese, and wipe up efficiently afterwards (we already had some tomatoes). It can't all be high jinx and frivolity when you're on the high seas.
The rest of today has been spent reading, relaxing and planning where we can go when we head South from here. Next stop is Arbroath for the Smokies, and then Eyemouth. After that we'll be back in England for the first time in weeks. The whole time we've been in Scotland, we've had no trouble from midges. They've only got two more days to attack before we cross the border......

They may be good at marauding, but these Vikings aren't much good at parking!

Saturday, 16 June 2012

Jean says: We took the number 263 bus to Cruden Bay to see Slains Castle which inspired Bram Stoker's 'Dracula'. He'd visit the castle and then headed off to the Kilmarnock Pub for a pint where he would write up his ideas. We wanted to follow in his footsteps but in reverse, so pub first and then castle.
After checking out the historical value of the pub, we walked a mile to the castle along a rough track, and found it perched on the edge of a cliff, completely open to the public. How refreshing it was to find that not only was there no visitor centre or charge to see it, but there were no concessions to health and safety either. There were no barriers, no danger notices, no legal warnings or yellow and black tape. There were wobbly walls, dodgy arches, teetering turrets, precarious pathways and deep and treacherous precipices. The castle was virtually hanging over the edge of the cliff. We could have been back in Belgium.
We found the castle gratifyingly spooky, and we're puzzled why it's potential as a tourist destination hadn't been exploited at all. We really enjoyed the freedom of being able to wander around something so old, dramatic and historically interesting that has been left to its own devices. We'll eventually get over the disappointment of not being able to buy a Dracula tea towel or a crucifix fridge magnet.

Slains Castle

I may be smiling, but this place gives me the creeps.....

In need of a bit of interior decoration

Friday, 15 June 2012

Jean Says: You wouldn't want to be out there today. It's cold, damp, windy, and you would think it was the depths of winter. I feel intermittently frozen to the core and Bob is wearing trousers, which means pretty much the same thing. Despite the cold, people smile a lot in Peterhead. I think this is what they classify as good summer weather. To alleviate the miseries of the Northern Scottish bite, we went in search of cake. On our arrival last night, we quickly realised that you have to approach Peterhead with an open mind, so imagine our surprise when we came across the delightful Mrs Bridges coffee shop, which was warm and inviting. The cakes were the best we've come across since being in Ireland, and so we had an orange and poppy seed slice each, and immediately forgot about the howling wind outside.

Mrs Bridges lovely Cafe in Peterhead...... "Why go anywhere else?"

Crucial rations when trying to circumnavigate anything.

Dawn Treader said that they'd signed up for the guided tour of the prison which overlooks the marina, but I think they were joking. I'm wondering whether this is the place to get my hair cut.

Photo of Bella Rosa

Photo of Bella Rosa taken by our friends on Dawn Treader as we sailed from Lochinver to Kinlochbervie


Bob Says:
Well, we're storm bound (again) in Peterhead, but as ever all these new places have something about them to make you think, smile or generally to find stimulating. The port here used to have 400 fishing boats hauling in white fish of various sorts and of course 'the Herring'. Today they have about 70, the fleet reduced by a combination of EU regulation and the disappearance of the fish for whatever reason. The North Sea Oil supply opportunity has filled part of the gap and ships and shore based facilities geared towards that service are very in evidence. But you can't avoid the feeling here and a number of other places we've been that these once proud and prosperous towns are struggling.
That's not to say that the irrepressible human spirit isn't also in evidence. We called in today to the Peterhead Project office to ask about things to do in the area and spent the next 30 minutes being told all about their work as a social enterprise (seriously impressive) as well as all the local attractions. The idea we particularly liked was a bus to Slains Castle near Cruden Bay followed by a walk to the Kilmarnock Arms. The castle is reputed to have inspired Bram Stoker to write Dracula and the pub is where he stayed when he wrote it. They glossed over the claims of half a dozen other places here and in Transylvania where Bram Stoker went on his writing holidays! If we go we'll no doubt tell you about it here.
Peterhead is quirky and different in a number of other ways, here are a couple of photos to illustrate what I mean.

Ever seen a shop that is part fishing tackle and part knitting supplies? Could this be the next retail concept?

And next door, the evidence that even the fishing business needs to look to eastern Europe to recruit.