Inverness to Amsterdam

By Pam & Steve Mortimore

Some might say that joining a tall ship in Inverness bound for Amsterdam via Aberdeen, Holy Island and Whitby on the North Sea coast of the UK in October is a brave or even foolhardy move. In our defence, October in previous years has provided some glorious weather that befits such an adventure and this was the positive message that was deployed to convince my lovely wife that it would be more interesting than the usual charter holidays in Greece and Croatia.

We joined the Flying Dutchman, a Tall Ship built in 1903 and restored and renovated during the winter of 2003/2004, at Laggan Locks on the Caledonian Canal as she had been severely delayed by storm Babet and was not going to arrive in Inverness on schedule. Two buses with a stop in Fort Augustus took us half way across Scotland to picturesque Laggan Locks and after a short wait she hove into view and we boarded.

After a cruise along the Caledonian Canal and through Lock Ness in glorious autumn weather we arrived at Inverness. The ship had a chef on board and the food was excellent far better than our lunch in Fort Augustus which was ‘traditional’ Scottish fare of deep fried black pudding and chips!

Sailing out along the Moray Firth in fine weather gave us the opportunity to get to know our fellow shipmates and enjoy the view. While storm Babet was abating, we knew that the sea state when we got out into the North Sea could be, as one of Hullabaloo’s crew would say, “spicy”. The grade of spice however, remained to be seen.

We rounded Peterhead and the conditions deteriorated. The land disappeared into all round grey murkiness and the wave height continued to build. After 36 hours of heavy-weather sailing, Captain Aires decided to head for Berwick-on-Tweed and take shelter from the next front that was due to pass through.

Entering Berwick with a large following sea, strong easterly wind and a stone pier dead ahead, was going to require some serious seamanship to get us safely into port. As a wave picked up the ship and our speed built, Captain Aires spun the large ship’s wheel (14 turns lock to lock) hard to port and gunned the engine. As we fell down the wave, the prop and rudder kicked in and we swung round. With the stone pier close to the starboard side and breaking shallows to port we shot into the river. A coaster waiting for the tide was not so brave and spent a very uncomfortable 3 days at anchor outside until conditions improved.

Unfortunately, due to the weather, our voyage ended in Berwick where the Flying Dutchman spent a further ten days waiting for the right weather window to cross the North Sea. In the meantime we took a train to Edinburgh and an EasyJet flight to Amsterdam. Not the end to the voyage we expected and we have still not fulfilled a long held aspiration to sail into central Amsterdam along the canal behind the Central Station. Here, while waiting for numerous trains many years ago, a promise was made to one day sail into the centre of the city, something that still remains on the to do list!

Journey’s End: The Flying Dutchman Moored in Berwick Harbour

Teaselah Cruise 2023

By Rod & Margaret Deacon

5th June and 0830 lock out straight to Swansea via Nash Passage, blue water in one tide or nearly. Keeping close to starboard in the shallow river the tide’s rising & Tawe lock calls, enough water now. Moored up, a trip to a Dylan Thomas Theatre play. A bus trip to Burry Port. We are on holiday.

Saturday to Milford avoids the Castlemartin guns. Short stop on Dale visitor buoy then on up the Haven & we are behind Milford marinas high walls. The sun is hot so rig extra shade. Safety first, lots of fog this year & we don’t have radar so an AIS transponder is bought from Tim, who installs it.

We do a spot of rock hopping to nearby bird sanctuaries & anchor in noisy south Skomer inlet and watch comical Puffins returning with food for chicks.

Good AIS investment it’s a foggy trip across the Irish sea. At Arklow, beyond the stone entrance walls a 24hr access mooring pontoon can accommodate a lot of boats & there’s power on shore. It rained, well it’s not called The Emerald Isle for nothing. The harbour has been gentrified & has an ALDI & nearby shopping mall but good ‘craic’ (& Guiness) over the bridge at local pubs.

Next stop Greystones, now a ‘proper’ marina plus blocks of flats, not just portacabin toilets. The coast path to Bray is blocked by rockfalls, so it’s a bus ride. The driver seeing our OAP passes waves us aboard no charge. We are lucky it’s the same driver coming back.

Never sailed into Malahide let’s go there, we sail in flat sea & sunshine. Just rounding the Nose of Howth a thick fog bank changes our plan, we turn left into Howth Marina. We are not negotiating a river channel to Malahide in fog. We did visit by train though, using the DART.

On the lawns at Howth there were bagpipe & drum bands competing. Huge noise and colour of Irish tartans. 

Next stop is Ardglass in Northern Ireland – to be continued!

Portishead to Jersey and back

From novice to competent crew, by Jo Sutton

When I set off from Portishead on 18th May on Molia with my husband Mark and our friend Tim, I was feeling distinctly nervous. We were heading to Jersey, to visit our daughter, a junior doctor in St Helier, a round trip of 1070 NM.

We had agreed our strategy in advance to address my principal concerns: a wardrobe full of warm clothes, a good supply of anti-seasickness remedies, and plenty of leeway in the schedule.

It was a phenomenal start. The sun came out as the tide and wind swept us past the Holms Islands. We tied up for our first night away in Penarth Marina, had a celebratory beer in the evening sunshine and dinner at The Deck. The sun continued to shine every day for the next 6 weeks!

Tim, left the boat at Padstow. Over the next two weeks, with just the two of us on board, (having already done Nash Point and Hartland Point) we rounded the various other ‘legendary’ headlands: Cape Cornwall, Land’s End, The Lizard, Rame Head, Bolt Head, Start Point, Portland Bill. While I excitedly took photographs of my favourite West Country holiday resorts – unrecognisably small in the distance.

The channel crossing, from Portland to Guernsey, was the leg I had been most nervous about, and in the end proved to be one of the easiest – both because of the lack of wind and our guest crew, an extremely experienced nephew. We motored the last outward stage from St Peter Port to St Helier in a fog, which lifted only as we rounded La Corbiere and we were met on the pontoon outside the harbour by our daughter, thrilled to bits that we had come to visit her by boat.

The combination of good weather, careful planning, guest crew members and a very patient husband meant that I was more relaxed for the return trip. We retraced our route, stopping overnight in Dartmouth, Plymouth and Falmouth and we were comfortably tied up in Pendennis Marina inner basin, as the Fastnet race started from Cowes in winds gusting 40+ knots.

With our final guests joining us at Newlyn, we were ready for the homeward stretch – Newlyn to Padstow and then Padstow to Penarth. The first day was idyllic – dolphins off Land’s End, sunshine all day and the wind behind us. The second day proved more challenging, with the southerly wind eventually reaching 20 knots apparent, and increasingly heavy rain from the early afternoon. We approached the locks at Penarth as the light finally disappeared, two hours ahead of schedule, drenched and glowing with an immense sense of achievement. And as a measure of how comfortable with sailing I had become the final hours to Portishead the next day were a breeze!

See the full voyage on molia.org/v40-jersey