DAY 39 – Saturday 28 May 2022 – Aberdeen to Peterhead

Miles logged: 25
Total miles logged: 1,125
Days since leaving Fleetwood: 39
Days at sea: 24

We called up for permission to depart from Aberdeen at 0600 but were refused because a ferry from Shetland was about to enter the harbour. We were allowed to leave at 0630. It was calm and sunny where we were berthed – deep within Aberdeen’s dock system – but outside there was a fresh wind from the NW. It was a little too much NW, and marginally too strong, for us to sail close-hauled, so we had to motor. The tidal stream atlas indicated that we should have a little fair tide with us all the way to Peterhead but we barely noticed it; I think the official atlases are designed for shipping, which sails much further offshore than we do in our yachts. Perhaps we were affected by eddies within the long bay between Aberdeen and Peterhead. Whatever the reason we enjoyed no significant lift, and we had to push into the strong wind too. The wind built steadily until it was uncomfortable for us as it was on the previous passage. If there was slightly less wind there was certainly more rain and as we progressed northwards in the strong wind it was unpleasant standing with one’s head above the spray-hood. So more huddling in the cockpit, checking the chart-plotter incessantly in the hope that we had somehow magically made a few more miles and were nearer the comfort of the marina.

Aberdeen, under a rainbow, recedes into the distance

In better weather the coast would have been interesting and attractive, offering sandy beaches and impressive red cliffs. A large ruined castle looked down on us shortly before the headland behind which Peterhead is nestled.

By the time we approached the leading line for entry to Peterhead I was concerned that I was becoming too cold and tired to maintain safe command of Bubble. This was after a very short leg, such were the conditions and their effect on me aboard. We had been advised to join the leading line two miles out then call harbour control. It became clear, even two miles out, that this was indeed a major fishing port; the smell of industrial-scale processing of fish hung in the air even that far offshore. 

Harbour control could not hear me due to the wind affecting the VHF’s mic at Bubble’s wheel, so I had to do my usual trick of placing a sock over it. We were then given permission to enter. By now the wind was at least Force 6 and there was a big swell around the entrance to the harbour. Once past the entrance lighthouses, the marina could be seen in the distance off the port bow, a few minutes’ motoring away across the enormous harbour. Between the harbour entrance and the entrance to the marina I was called by the marina’s berthing master who here, as subsequently, could not have been more helpful to us.

About to enter Peterhead harbour. It was difficult to hold the phone still for this photograph

The conditions did not allow us to leave our cockpits to fix the fenders and lines before entering so we both entered the marina with this chore undone. Unfortunately there was little space for it once in and the conditions made the job quite a challenge. I had to reverse into a clear area to fit my fenders. The berthing master gave very clear hand signals as to where to berth but I couldn’t berth immediately as my lines were not fixed. I think that because I was cold and tired I did not do this automatically when fixing the fenders. I hope we don’t find ourselves in this situation too many more times before we return to Fleetwood.

Mike berthed safely with the help of the berthing master and I managed to reverse into a clear berth a couple along from Mike. Happily there were several berths to choose from so I felt confident that I could safely get into one of them. The berthing master had most thoughtfully selected berths for us which faced into the wind, so that the wind would not blow into our cockpits when the washboards were removed. Of course, as I prefer to berth stern-to, I was unable to take advantage of this kindness. It took a while to fix all the the lines and, given the wind, I spent some time fiddling with them until I was happy that Bubble would lie reasonably comfortably over the coming blowy night.

The marina is very well equipped with top-class pontoons, as they need to be in the conditions experienced up here, decent amenities and very helpful staff. It is inexpensive too – around half the price of the posh marinas on the south coast where we sometimes were required to raft.

The marina is in the distance, off the port bow. Masts can be seen and the entrance is just visible to the left of Bubble’s aft-most shroud

We expect to be here for a few days until the weather settles. Neither of us has any appetite for more long legs motoring into the wind and rain. We are contemplating making for Wick via Whitehills Marina and then from Wick to Scrabster, before making our way along the north coast.

It is my birthday today so I will try to find an attraction in Peterhead to visit. Peterhead Prison Museum, though perhaps not entirely apposite on a day of celebration, sounds interesting. The town is large and the fishing port enormous – the largest in the UK and one of the largest in Europe – but otherwise the atmosphere of the town is perhaps best caught by the Peterhead Live website, which advises us that the town has ‘very beautiful coastal views.’

The berthing master has made a bit of a effort to cheer the place up with this charming, nautically-themed garden outside his office
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