DAY 38 – Friday 27 May 2022 – Arbroath to Aberdeen

Miles logged: 42
Total miles logged: 1,100
Days since leaving Fleetwood: 38
Days at sea: 23

After a rest day and two weather days at Arbroath we were keen to get back on our way. We had decided to call weather days at Arbroath because of the high wind but the direction of the wind had been favourable for the passage to Peterhead, our intended next port. The forecast indicated that the wind would soon turn against us, meaning that the long haul to Peterhead – about 62 miles – would have to be either deferred or attempted into the wind. Neither option was attractive. Deferring could mean several more days at Arbroath.

This morning the Met Office’s Inshore Waters Forecast indicated that the wind would be westerly or south-westerly for our planned passage, and force 4 to 6, so ideal for a fast leg. We had to wait until 0915 for the lock gate at Arbroath to open so we left then. Conditions outside did not point towards a comfortable sail although at least it was sunny. We managed to sail for five hours, making reasonable progress which was, as we knew would be the case, constrained by the foul tide we had to punch for the first few hours. As the hours passed the wind veered further and further away from a broad reach, eventually to a very fine reach, and the strength grew considerably until we very uncomfortable with our yachts crashing into waves, with spray everywhere and occasional slamming of the hull into the sea which caused everything to shudder alarmingly. We still had over 20 miles to go. There was no doubt that the conditions were far worse than the Met Office had forecasted.

Going well for the first few hours. Fine views of the cliffs north of Arbroath

We could have continued but it would have been misery and we would most probably have arrived at Peterhead after dark unless the wind direction had changed considerably. We knew that we would have favourable tide, which would help, but we were becoming tired and certainly we had both had enough of the leg with still three or four hours to go.

Bubble heeling as the wind blows up
The wind has blown up. This is the view ahead as I huddled in the cockpit under the spray-hood

So we considered our options. We knew that there were two bolt-holes; they were in our passage plan. Stonehaven was a last resort on the basis that we could not stay afloat there and would have to lie on our keels against the harbour wall. I was not keen on that in these conditions. The other refuge was the large commercial port of Aberdeen, but we knew that the almanac makes it clear that there are no facilities for yachts there and that visiting yachts are not encouraged. My pilot book echoed this but suggested that if one really needed refuge in Aberdeen then the harbour authorities were generally helpful. So Mike called Aberdeen VTS on the radio and the news was good. We were to make for the fairway buoy and call again. On calling we were directed to enter the harbour and wait off the control tower for the obligatory pilot launch to meet us in order to guide us to our berth. As we entered the harbour we enjoyed a most unexpected display of dolphins jumping around our yachts; one jumped entirely out of the water. We were busy so there was no time for photographs.

The friendly pilot crew took us past lots of ship berths at which vessels from all over the world were lying. Eventually we reached the far end of a dock which was used for tugs and wind farm vessels, along with the odd fishing vessel. There are indeed no yacht facilities so we were required to raft up against a steel-piled wall. But at least we would stay afloat all night and would be away from the swell.

Seen from Pagets Lady, Bubble is rafted alongside at our berth in Aberdeen

We cannot linger here in Aberdeen so the plan is to leave at 0600 tomorrow, at which time we can join the north-east-going tidal stream from here to Peterhead. That should give us a knot or more advantage. The wind will still be high and we are not expecting a pleasant sail, but it will be short and should be fast.

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