Fife Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride, 2018

On the 30th of September, 2018, a bunch of hairy and disreputable Fife biker types donned their least scruffy clothes and thundered up the coastal road from Kirkcaldy to St Andrews as part of a fundraiser for men’s mental health and prostate cancer. 

Waves were given, dogs were frightened, and a stupendous amount of money was raised. Many thanks to all involved.

It’s probably a little early to say it’s the last event of the year (and what a year it’s been!), but things are certainly beginning to wind down a little. The little boat comes out of the water on the 5th so there’ll be the usual winter maintenance to look forward to. As the colder weather creeps in, I should really see if the car still works. I’ll ride in anything except ice – been there, done that, bounced off the tarmac 🙂

So, I expect I’ll be hanging up the outdoor gear and replacing it with good beer, good food, good books, open fires, and good company for a few months.

Tjullahop!

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Caledonia Dreaming

Oh man, what a summer it’s been. As well as doing a bit of sailing, it’s seen my long overdue return to motorcycling – my first love. Having covered some two thousand miles in a little over six weeks it’s safe to say that there’s some life in the old dog yet. I’ve actually been making good use of holiday time (for a change) too, seeing some nice trips to Skye in Scotland and La Manga in Spain. Surprisingly, Skye was only a little cooler than Spain was! 

The real revelation, for me, has been getting out of the central belt. The roads north of the Forth are magnificent and quiet, compared to the semi-mobile car parks of the Lothians. It’s like another country over there – long, sweeping curves through glens and over mountains; little windy roads going through coastal fishing towns; all within a half-hour’s ride of where I live. Even over on the west coast (once you get past Glasgow) is quieter. 

Look at that! Actual blue sky! In Scotland! We’ve had a solid run of about 6 weeks of lovely weather, including about three weeks where it was actually hot! What’s not to like? Course, full leathers can get a bit sticky in the sunshine, but I’ve discovered kevlar lined jeans – all the abrasion resistance of leather but breathable. It puts a whole new spin on the thing. 

Then again, a change is as good as a rest – particularly when the change in question involves spending a week reading in the sun, pottering in the sea, and blethering with good company. This is easily the best summer I’ve had for years. Here’s to many more of them.

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Further plotting and scheming

Well, the weather forecast seems to have settled out and it’s looking good. For one thing, we have solid Northeasterly winds for the entire four day period, so I can pretty much do a straight close-hauled run for the first leg, given the Forth runs East-West. The Northerly route to Dysart can be done close-reached, and then the long leg back to Limekilns will be a straight training-run back up the Forth in glorious sunshine. On top of that, the wind has risen to force 3-4 gusting 5-6, so it really is perfect sailing weather.

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Plotting and Scheming

Currently doing preparation work for a little 4 day jolly over the forthcoming bank holiday weekend. No major distances involved, but some nice stops – particularly as the weather forecast is looking really nice.

Currently, the plan is to do the first leg – Limekilns to Musselburgh – on the Friday. Musselburgh is very tidal, and there isn’t much wind forecast, so if I don’t do the distance within a single tide then instead of overnighting at Musselburgh harbour, I’ll aim for Inchkeith island and spend the night there with the ghosties and seabirds. There are some advantages to overnighting in Musselburgh; for one thing, I’ll be able to spend a sunny afternoon lounging on the foredeck with beer and a book in full view of my workplace. For another, there’s a damn good Indian restaurant and some nice pubs within staggering distance of the harbour.

Next stop is Dysart in Fife, where I plan to spend what remains of Saturday until Monday morning enjoying the local food and good company. It’s a fairly short trip and as it’s across the mouth of the estuary isn’t likely to be as short of wind as further upstream will be. If I’m at Musselburgh overnight, I’ll be leaving on the morning tide and heading straight over, but if I end up overnighting on Inchkeith, I’ll most likely leave a bit early and take a more roundabout route along the Vows and Long Craig.

Monday morning is likely to be interesting – it’s the longest leg, Dysart back to Limekilns, and Dysart doesn’t have a huge tidal window. Which gives me a choice of leaving at 5am on the ebb and having a ridiculous amount of time available in case I have to tack all the way back up the Forth, or waiting until after lunch and keeping my fingers crossed against having a long wait until after midnight to get back in to Limekilns. The forecast, as it stands, is predicting fairly steady Northeasterlys for the whole 4 days, so I don’t imagine getting back will be too much of a problem – it’ll be a straight run downwind.

So, I have courses (and alternatives) plotted and ready to go. Cleared all the winter gear out of the back of the car, and have most of the summer stuff already stowed on the boat, so I’m pretty much good to go.

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Jailbreak!

Following his jailbreak attempt at the end of April…

This cheeky little bugger is consigned to quarters until I can decide what corrective action is appropriate.

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Bridgey-Widge

What a busy weekend! Was out on the Forth both days – first day, a quick blast around the Limekilns area getting used to Aqua Vitae’s handling under sail. She really does go like shit off the proverbial shovel. Handling at low speed, approaching a mooring, for example, is very good. Which is just as well, really, as Brucehaven harbour at Capernaum Point is very crowded. On the Sunday, we decided a more gentle sail up through the bridges was a good plan. It was a lovely clear day with next to no wind, but we were still clipping along at 5 knots or thereabouts.

The nice thing about sailing through the bridges is the weird range of conditions you get. There are all kinds of odd currents and wind patterns roaming about in there and there’s usually a fair bit of traffic so you have to keep on your toes. Yesterday, though, was very calm and fairly quiet. We did pass by the Maid of the Forth and got some waves from touristy types.

Conditions were lovely for the whole five hours we were out. It was a gentle force 3 Easterly wind with next to no gusting. Doing downriver meant a lot of tacking, but with the whole width of the Forth to play with, that generally means more sitting back and relaxing then frantically switching sails around. Had my crew downstairs making coffee at one point – Aqua Vitae is no problem whatsoever to sail solo.

After scooting around the bridges, coming back up-river was beautiful. The tide had changed by this point, so even with the wind at our backs on a training run, the tidal effect limited us to around 3 knots for most of the way. But running with the wind gives you a beautiful calm run, with no wind on you, lovely sunshine, and the gentle lapping of the water. It looks, from the boat, like you’re stationary, but making steady progress. Once back at Capernaum Point, we were spotted on approach and, as the newbies, immediately attracted an audience, hoping to see some comedy mooring. Sadly (for them) the observation of the owners of all the really expensive boats packed into the harbour does a wonderful job of focusing the attention and we managed to pull of the most textbook and elegant mooring manoeuvre to date. Happy club-mates, happy sailors, and happy insurance companies. It was a good day.

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In the water

Aqua Vitae is in the water at last, as of Saturday. It was an extremely busy day, with around 70 or so yachts being moved from the top of the pier into the two harbours at Capernaum Point and Brucehaven. Fortunately, there was a great turnout of club members mucking in and the whole process went off without a hitch. I’ll add a bunch of photos as soon as we’ve finished mucking around with them and removing the rude ones 🙂

It’s good that the season has started, though it’s particularly rough that today is a great day for sailing and I’m stuck at work. But such is life 🙂

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Imminent Dooking

Extremely busy week ahead in preparation for crane-in on Saturday. There’s a little bit of painting still to do above the waterline – the anti-fouling is all done now. I imagine this idyllic scene is going to look an awful lot busier on Saturday. Wednesday, Thursday and Friday are going to be spent doing last minute jobs – checking the mooring shackles and getting them cable-tied, making sure the strops are sound now they’ve been in the water for a week, and giving Delphine the Duck a little clean as the poor wee lamb is still a little muddy. There’s still desk painting to do and a helluva lot of work needed down-below, but that can wait for nicer weather (assuming there IS nicer weather). Main thing is the mooring check through the week will give me an excuse to get the tender in the water and test out the action camera.

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All things move towards their end, of that you can be sure.

Sunday afternoons are perfect for those little bits of maintenance needed to get everything ready for crane in. One of the oars for my tender had a bit of a screw malfunction which was preventing the sheath for the handle fitting snugly, so a judicious bit of turning, adjusting, and finally battering with a hammer saw the problem solved.

I have a little bit of painting left to do on the rudder, but that’ll have to wait until the rain finally stops. Assuming the rain DOES finally stop.

My giant rubber ducky mooring buoy passed his sea-test (in the bathtub) with flying colours. He was deployed at my mooring at Capernaum Point on Sunday. The mud in the harbour is utterly horrendous and really difficult to work with. Hauling chains, attaching shackles and strops, and running link lines while bogged down in a foot of sticky nasty slime is bloody hard work!

Anyway, with the mooring constructed, I fitted the giant rubber ducky and left him sitting sadly in the mud, looking like just another mooring buoy. I dashed off on an errand or five to give the tide a chance to come in as final proof that he was indeed seaworthy and up to the task. I got back to the marina to discover it in a little bit of an uproar as more and more club members caught sight of the little yellow chap bobbing about on the waves. LOLs were generated, chuckles shared, and the world became a happier place.

I do intend to fit a ‘proper’ buoy before crane in, but ducky will still be out there, watching over my little boat and making people smile.

Next job is to get the tender inflated and take a row out to the mooring for a few last checks. I guess the most important check is the seaworthiness of the tender – it’ll be good to know that it’s survived the winter and actually still floats 🙂

Oh – I also serviced the outboard on Sunday. It’s a nice little 4HP Yamaha 4-stroke circa 1998 and it runs like a dream. A lot quieter than many outboards I’ve heard. Need to get it on board and stowed in the locker next weekend. That’ll be an interesting job because it weights a ton and will need to be lugged up the ladder. I’m sure I can convince a passing club member to hand it up to me. Failing that, I’ll sling a line over the boom and haul it up using raw man-grit. Or something.

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Hello? What’s this then?

Oh dear. I haven’t really been keeping my blog very current, have I? I guess things have been a bit strange over the last few months. I think that’s what the Chinese curse about interesting times means. It has certainly been interesting. But one door closes and another eighteen open. Sometimes you just have to cut your losses, make some changes, and get on with life. So, I had a surprise holiday for some people booked as well as a chunk of savings put aside for a life event  and a change in circumstances made it no longer appropriate or necessary, so what to do? Give the tickets to someone who would appreciate them and blow the spending money and savings on a yacht of course! 🙂

So that’s what I did! This here is Aqua Vitae, a very pretty little Pandora International, currently specced for racing but I’m working on getting a nice balance of racing and cruising. I’m moored in the Forth Estuary, where I plan to get a few seasons of adventuring in while saving money for something a little bigger, at which point I think I may just bugger off. Assuming brexit doesn’t fuck everything up forever, France, Spain, then into the Med sounds like a good plan, but we’ll see what happens.

Life is too short for constantly looking backwards. Forwards is where the fun is. Anyhoo – expect updates and photos and stuff. Been using social media a hell of a lot less than I used to, so here’s where the bananas will be.

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