DAY 42 – Tuesday 31 May 2022 – Peterhead to Whitehills

Miles logged: 36
Total miles logged: 1,161
Days since leaving Fleetwood: 42
Days at sea: 25

The original plan had been to sail from Peterhead to Wick in one go, without entering the Moray Firth at all. That would have meant a leg of 72 miles which, even in ideal conditions, would be a very long sail. If the conditions were to change en-route it could be punishing. Neither of us has any time constraints and neither of us particularly wishes to set sail in the cold early hours, nor arrive at a new marina in the cold late (or even early) hours, so we decided to break the passage to Wick at a port on the south coast of the Moray Firth. There is a choice of two marinas, several drying harbours and various anchorages; we considered the marinas at Lossiemouth and Whitehills. Whitehills was warmly recommended and two or three of our fellow visitors at Peterhead were intending call there, so Whitehills it was. There is a practical advantage of Whitehills for our particular purposes in that it takes us less out of our way, in view of our aim to reach Wick, than would a stop at Lossiemouth.

We planned to leave at 0900 but whilst I was visiting the Museum of Scottish Lighthouses yesterday in Fraserburgh Mike learned that the other boats heading towards Whitehills were leaving earlier, so we brought our departure forward for fear of arriving at the marina and there being no free berths. We slipped our lines at Peterhead at 0800 but the other yachts were long gone. It was a pleasure to cross the harbour in calmer weather after the difficult, cold and wet entry a few days earlier. Once out of the harbour we set sail in near-ideal conditions. We sailed beyond Rattray Head – the point at which the coast turns eastwards towards Inverness – then had to motor-sail for the rest of the leg when the wind dropped and we were unable to maintain passage speed. We could have continued sailing but we had to reach Whitehills in time to enter no later than two hours before low water, as was the harbourmaster’s advice. 

Sailing past the lightouse at Rattray Head. There are sand-dunes here, not cliffs
This fishing-boat was pulling up mackeral one after the other. The birds knew that a feast was immient

We passed close to Fraserburgh and saw the two lighthouses, the fog-horn and the musem I had visited the day before. Then, as we headed westwards, there were steep cliffs which, as ususal, were teeming with bird life. One cliff-face was, from a distance, white. This was not due to the birds’ droppings; at closer inspection the white areas were made up of thousands of white dots, each one of them a sea-bird. And the air around was swarming with birds too.

The old (left) and new lighhouses, the old fog-horn and the Museum of Scottish Lighthouses at Fraserburgh
The cliffs were turned white by the thousands of sea-birds

We contiuned past Macduff and Banff, the weather becoming increasing gloomy, then tried to spot the entrance to Whitehills harbour which, as was the case with Eyemouth, is hidden until one is almost ready to enter.

I called up the Whitehills harbourmaster, as directed, an hour before our arrival and our fears regarding free berths were not entirely allayed. It was made clear that we would have to raft but this is never a problem for us as we are used to rafting. But when we arrived, and Mike entered first (his is the bigger boat so Bubble rafts onto Pagets Lady, not the other way round) and was directed to an impossibly small alongside berth on the visitors’ pontoon. Mike made it clear that the berth was too small and he was directed to raft against another yacht – one we knew from Peterhead. So our plan was foiled; the harbourmaster quite reasonably did not wish us to raft three deep, so when I entered the small outer harbour, where the visitors’ pontoon lies, some quick thinking was required. The harbourmaster directed Bubble so the same small free alongside berth. I thought that I might be able to squeeze Bubble in but felt I should try to do so in reverse so that the bow, as it tapers, might slip in behind the yacht berthed ahead. Well into this manoeuvre it was obvious that Bubble, also, was too long for the berth so I had to abort and leave. In doing so my ensign staff struck the anchor of another Bavaria 32 (also from Peterhead and also a crew we have got to know) and it snapped at the base. So, once safely berthed, I had to borrow Mike’s drill and fashion a repair using a piece of stainless steel studding and plenty of epoxy.

Entering Whitehills harbour

I was then directed to raft to a Dutch yacht. The helm was very helpful taking my lines but ruined the sense of relief when in safely by advising that he was planning to leave at 0700 in the morning. That would mean (a) I will have to be up by then, and ready to take control of Bubble, and (b) I will have to do more manoeuvring, on my own, in the very limited space here. All this will be even more difficult if the weather is bad. I have already resolved that I will not mount the newly-repaired ensign staff until Bubble is safely on her new berth. Yachtsmen accept these situations as the way things are for us, but I would far rather have been rafted to Mike for the duration of our stay. Eventually the Dutchman offered to leave at 0800, for which I was grateful. With a bit of luck I will be able to take his berth, although that exposes me to be rafted onto should more visitors arrive tomorrow.

About to turn to port to enter the outer harbour, where the visitors’ pontoon is to be found. Pagets Lady is directly ahead, prior to moving to her rafted-up berth further along

We will rest here in Whitehills tomorrow then, when the weather is suitable, make for Wick. Now that we are here, and are no longer it Peterhead, Wick is a little under fifty miles away … in reasonable conditions, a comfortable day’s sail.

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