Torrential rain provoked a preference for contact lenses over glasses for our passage back down the Tyne and out to sea. The Tyne is probably much cleaner than in the past but it was a dark brown colour and we have seen this feature in other non-industrial rivers along this coast so it must be something to do with peat run off from the moors. We saw fishermen along its banks so it can’t be too polluted although we didn’t see any fish caught!
In northerly winds there was nothing for it but to motor the short distance up the coast to spend the night in the marina in Blyth. The approach is uninspiring but it has the benefit of offering all tide access and, tucked into the corner of the commercial port is the Royal Northumberland Yacht Club marina. Their clubhouse is a Victorian wooden ex light ship built in 1879. This vessel has an 8 inch thick hull and is, apparently, the only surviving wooden light ship. It houses a comfortable bar with excellent beer and we enjoyed a very generous Sunday lunch at dinner time for £5.50 !
Our passage up the coast to Amble was under engine and notable only for the sightings of seals and puffins. We took the passage inside Coquet Island and crept over the sill into the Marina.
Although the marina tries hard, the town is uninspiring and to find any redeeming quality, we had to walk along the banks of the river Coquet to the pretty town of Warkworth with its’ ruined castle and creamy sandstone High Street.
We left Amble as soon as there was sufficient depth to clear the sill and with very little wind, we were resigned to motoring along the coast. I am always wary inshore with the proliferation of pot markers, especially at slack water when the tethering rope floats to the surface. This lesson was learned many years ago at slack water in the Chenal du Four. In my cabin off watch, I rose to a commotion on deck to discover a pot marker wedged under our rudder. Having released it, I was chastising the crew for not keeping a proper look out when they said they had been about 100m from the marker buoy, ‘nearly as far away as that one’, pointing at another marker which then started rushing towards us to adopt the same position, wedged behind the rudder. Fortunately, on my lifting keel Parker, the rudder was transom hung and swivelled up so no harm was done but a valuable lesson learned.
Northumberland is rich in ruined Castles and Abbeys and we passed by Dunstanburgh and Bamburgh Castles, passed inside the Farne Islands where the Venerable Bede spent time as a hermit and anchored in the lee of Lindisfarne on Holy Island.
With less than 5 knots of wind the next day, we had no option but to motor again, heading for the tiny harbour at Dunbar where we would have to dry out against the harbour wall. From the south, one has to pick up a transit between rocks and head towards the rocky shore with absolutely no sign of a harbour entrance, in fact the harbour does not open to view as there is a dog leg in the narrow entrance and, with a swell, it is probably the most unsighted and perilous entry I think I have ever experienced. The Harbour Master was very welcoming and even offered to drive us to the out of town supermarket for provisions but we spent a nervous night with a surge finding its way in to the harbour. I took the precaution on leaving of radioing to any approaching vessels as it would have been unthinkable to meet a fishing boat in the blind entrance.
A light headwind necessitated another day under engine alone and we had a pleasant passage inside Bass Rock with its intense colony of gannets and on up the Firth of forth, past Edinburgh. It says something about the ‘hardy scots’ when, fully togged up in our ‘oillies’, we passed a sailing school dinghy with the instructor in shorts and a T shirt! Unfortunately Granton Harbour was closed to us due to dredging operations and we had to pass under both magnificent bridges to Port Edgar which has been fashioned out of an old Naval Base and is well served with marine services and chandlery housed in the old Naval buildings.
Friday was a ‘lay day’ and we took the train into Edinburgh to visit the Castle and Britannia, meeting up with friends of our Scottish crew, Bob. With the need to press on to the Inverness rendezvous with Paula at the start of half term, Bob and David were unceremoniously ‘kicked off’ early on Saturday morning having been joined, once again by ‘Captain Cooke’ for the passage North