Heading to Ipswich: Peterhead to Amble


Monday, August 24

A favorable forecast, or as favorable as we seem to get these days, has us leaving around noon for an overnight to Amble.

We had enjoyed our stay in Peterhead, primarily due to the folk we met such as Chris, Rita and Mike on s/v GRIFFYN, Nigel on s/v RASSY LASS, Ray and Lynn on s/v CRYSTELL, and two Dutch guys, Lucas and the captain whose name we never did learn how to say. In addition to fellow cruisers we also appreciated Peterhead’s marina staff and that of the local library.

Having landed Wednesday, August 19, we were primed for heading south to our winter berth in Ipswich.

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Since we’d been in the area before, we had pretty much explored the town a bit, so this time we got on a bus to hike part of the North Sea Trail.

While waiting for the bus we spotted an electric car charging station. Would have been really interesting to see someone use it, but in lieu of that, we just took photos.

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We caught the bus, which took us to Cruden Bay, 20 minutes away. We began the short coastal walk first coming upon Slains Castle, rebuilt in the late 1500s, and sitting close to the sea cliffs.

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An easy stroll along fields of grain

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and purple heather

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brought us to a hole in the cliffs

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followed by a collapsed sea cave called the Sea Caudron located

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at Bullers o’ Buchan, an old fishing community where fishermen beached their boats and hauled gear and fish up the cliffs.

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Other than that walk we watched weather, provisioned and caught up on emails and Internet tasks. There’s also a sailing school sharing the same cove as the marina, and the weekend brought several sailing clubs as well as kayakers. Seeing the young kids enjoying these water sports entertained us as well as reminded us of the AF sailing school at our club at home, OBYC.

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Discussing when to leave seemed to be the topic on everyone’s mind with two of us heading south, two heading north, and one sailing across the North Sea. For us, Monday-Tuesday seemed doable in spite of knowing 25 knots of wind were forecasted starting midnight Monday and building into Tuesday. But, it’d be WNW so would give us a good run down to Amble hitting the noon high tide with time to spare (because of the sill bar, we have to time our entries and exits to be +/- three hours of high tide).

As we were leaving the marina, we realized (thanks to Ray) we needed to contact the Peterhead Harbor Master. When we did, he said to hold up for 15 minutes as a fishing boat was exiting and an oil rig supply ship was entering. We circled around while getting the mainsail ready to hoist since it’d be easier in the protected harbor than outside the breakwater. Considering the roller-coaster swells coming into the harbor, we could only imagine the extent of the roll once outside. And, the best clue as to how it’d be was the Harbor Master’s instructions to watch ourselves out there as there was a strong swell. With the waves crashing against the stone jetty, we took his caution to heart.

Well, there’s a reason they call some sailing outfits foul weather gear. We sure were glad we had ours on as we began our exit from Peterhead following the fishing boat out before we turned south.

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That famous Bette Davis quote ‘Fasten your seat belts, it’s going to be a bumpy night’ came to mind as we proceeded to pick up where we left off on that windy passage from Norway to the UK.

With harnesses strapped on and clicked in we began our sail as JUANONA bucked against the current, which fortunately wasn’t too strong, while the wind howled from the SE. We had the motor on as well because we needed to have as much power as possible to make 5 kts/hour.

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This also required a sharp lookout for the fishing buoys that popped up in the most nerve-racking spots, such as right off the lighthouse rocks.  The last thing we needed was to get one caught in our prop so close to land in an onshore breeze. Thank gods and goddesses it was daylight and thank gods and goddesses the buoys were bright orange.

Fortunately, I had made sandwiches before we left and had also picked up some scones. The former we ate for lunch and dinner while the latter helped offset some queasiness with their baking soda ingredient. To give you an idea just how bouncy it truly was even Max slapped on a seasick medicine patch halfway through the passage.

We skidded off and sledded down the sides of waves as we made fairly good time going against the current. Since we had 24+ hours to cover 130 nm, we knew the first part could be a wee uncomfortable; but, the winds were forecasted to die down early evening, eventually swinging to the WNW at midnight and grow to 25.

Catnaps in the cockpit allowed some rest.

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Eventually Max took a much-needed break and went below, and I stood watch. At one point a bird fluttered aboard. Wherever it blew in from it sure looked happy to be able to rest; and, the need to perch itself somewhere outweighed the fear of being close to a human. Our birding friend Jayne will need to identify it. Always nice to have company as I entertained myself with snapping photos of our feathered friend.

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Late afternoon the winds died down as forecasted, but they did so too much requiring us to motor-sail up to 10pm or so when the wind began to pick up again. At this point we were far enough offshore where fishing buoys wouldn’t pose a navigational hazard.

Our watches were flexible, with whomever was the most tired heading to the main cabin and cozy berth.

At one point the AIS showed a cargo ship getting a bit close, so I hailed them on the VHF to see if they’d like us to change our heading. They kindly replied they’d alter their course to go behind us. More times than not, we’ve received this courtesy whenever we’ve contacted larger ships. This consideration makes for an easier sail for us.

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Tuesday, August 25

I woke Max up at 2am saying the winds were clocking up to 17. Time for the second reef in the mainsail and furling the jib. While he navigated forward to the mast I shined the flashlight while trying not to beam it right into his eyes. As he worked his way down the boom to tie up the sail, I got more and more nervous finally yelling watch out as a wave bounced us up and down. He was double clicked in (our harnesses have two leads, a short and a long one) so all was fine; but, I must say I’m never happy when he’s on the foredeck in the dark, in bouncy seas.

With only the mainsail up we were making 7 knots. As morning dawned the winds continued to grow, eventually reaching 25+. It was a beautiful sail, though, with the wind slightly aft the beam, and with seas relatively smooth since they were blowing off the land.

While I was asleep in the early morning hours Max was visited by both a dolphin frisking about

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and a windblown, female kestrel (Jayne, this one we could identify… we think!). Max came below to tell me. Both of us were mesmerized by this bird’s beauty. Being visited by wild life can seem pretty magical when at sea.

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In addition to the scones, sustenance were some pistachio nuts brought by Nigel during a shared cocktail hour several nights previously. Generally, we’re much better outfitted for passage meals but the short length of this one (24 hours) and the snacks we had prepared (sandwiches and scones) were enough to get us through the night.

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The day dawned a bright blue, and as we neared the shoreline, we watched for buoys and local fishing boats

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while enjoying the onshore scenery.

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Soon Amble came into view.

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We radioed the marina asking for a hammerhead berth (it’s at the end of a pontoon that looks like a capital “T”) if possible. They said no problem, and we headed in. Thankfully, once we turned into Amble’s harbor we were going into the wind. With 28+ knots it was a bit of a relief giving us better control than if going with the wind.

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Mick and Ben, whom we knew from our stay earlier in the summer, greeted us, and JUANONA eased onto the dock. We finally relaxed. We’d made our destination with some great sailing.

That night we opened a bottle of wine, the same label as our friend Libby and David gave me so many years ago and that was used for Max’s and my first date. It was a perfect way to celebrate our 14th wedding anniversary and a safe landing in Amble.

Now, onto the next adventure!

8 thoughts on “Heading to Ipswich: Peterhead to Amble

  1. Idaho Cowgirl

    Phew! And Happy Anniversary! That was a harrowing tale. Realized I was holding my breath as I was reading. (I figure when Max puts on a seasick patch, it is pretty darn lumpy out there!) Glad you a safely in Amble. I bet that wine never tasted so good. xo