The weather was looking good for an attempt to round the top of Scotland, so having had a few weeks off, we returned to Peterhead by train to resume our anti clockwise circumnavigation of Great Britain. The train trip was challenging on a couple of fronts, firstly it was very over crowded which wasn’t fun, but finding somewhere to safely stow my new Ninebot Segway ES2 Scooter (15kg’s) plus our other bags was very challenging. It was worth the effort though as we would now (both) have electric scooters to take the legwork out of the sometimes very long distances, that you get with visitors berths from vital facilities in far off harbour/marina showers etc and shops.
Start Me Up seemed to have enjoyed her holiday and I was thrilled to see that the seagulls of Peterhead had not used her for target practice whilst we were away.
Saturday morning I went to the marina office to sort out our charges for the stay of almost three weeks In Peterhead Bay Marina, some £240, which was very good value compared to the south coast. Keith the very welcoming and helpful manager was intrigued by our mission, so I explained. A quick telephone call to the Harbour Master and the charge became a DONATION to the charities.
Thank you Keith and Peterhead Bay Marina for your generosity and for being the perfect, secure transit stop either to or from the very top of Scotland or the Caledonian Canal.
The weather/sea forecast had remained on the side of just OK for the 70+ miles across the Moray Firth to Wick. This being the very top of the North Sea with the potential for northerly swells from beyond Norway and further potential challenging sea states from the moderate end of the slight to moderate waves predicted. We were beginning to wonder about Scottish ‘slight’ sea states which seemed to be less slight that what we were used to in the Solent.
We fuelled up the boat ,sought and got permission to leave the vast harbour and headed out to a bumpy beam (coming at us from the side) sea, this for nine miles or so before passing Fraserburgh and turning towards Wick, and where the sea would become ‘following’ and the boat motion more comfortable.
This turned out to be the case and we get off across the Moray Firth in very pleasant weather with a comfortable sea state but a growing hint of mist with reducing visibility.
After an incident free 60 miles or so and just a few miles off of Wick itself, a large wind farm appeared on the chart plotter but not on our very shortened horizon. The mist was gradually turning into a proper fog bank and where previously (on the plotter) the actual windmills were positioned, on this occasion they were not there. Our assumption was that they hadn’t been constructed yet.
It was decided to go right through the middle of the ‘yet to be constructed’ wind farm, and then we heard a big whooshing sound and then a massive windmill popped out of the fog, and then another one, and another one, as we continued to carefully pick our way through, then we popped out of the other side. We were less than two miles from Wick harbour entrance in what was now thick fog ,without radar but with AIS (automatic identification system) on the plotter which shows up all other vessels with it installed. According to the AIS there was only one boat ahead of us going into the harbour.
It’s not a lot of fun going into a brand new harbour in thick fog, an increasingly strong easterly wind, making a final turn into a restricted i.e. narrow inner harbour entrance difficult, but it was achieved without incident and with more than a little gratitude to modern chart plotter technology, which had everything where it was supposed to be.
The Wick Harbour Master was there to meet us on our allocate berth. We were well positioned amongst virtually every boat flying their colours in celebration of the annual Wick RNLI Lifeboat Station party and fundraiser later that evening. The Harbour Master said we were welcome to attend and it was not to be missed, it was irrefutably the best party in Wick of the whole year. Nigel didn’t need anymore encouragement.
The boat was hosed down and we headed off into Wick itself to find somewhere to eat. We were recommended by the barman at The Camp pub to try The Noresman where a decent Steak Pie could be found. This was achieved and we made our way back to the Wick RNLI party which was not over sold.
We both have never seen so much booze laid out on any table anywhere. Lines of every spirit by the dozen , proper mixers, copious ice, a mammoth beer ‘skip’ with every conceivable beer, with a wonderful BBQ range serving up proper local sausages and burgers. What more to ask.
“Where do we pay?” asks Nige,
“Just make a donation in the box” says the Station manager. “Did we want to have a tour of the station”?
‘Yes please’ says Nige
And we got the tour including the viewing of a wonderful photo of the harbour wall being overwhelmed by massive waves in a storm in the early 2000’s. Just the photo you need to see before heading back out to tackle the Pentland Firth the following day.
A donation however big or small for food and booze literally all night long. It was no wonder that the 200-300 attendees were having the time of their lives dancing to the live music.. We stumbled back to the boat by 2am.
We had to be at Duncansby Head, where you turn left to go along the top of Scotland, by 11.30am later on the same morning, so as to make sure that we cruise through the Pentland Firth at the most appropriate time i.e. predicted flattest, safest sea states going west.
Good night Wick.