Sunday, 2 May 2010

Downwind to Dunbar (and back)

The season is getting off to a good early start.
Last Saturday was the first club sailing event - a well-attended cruise in company that took us the short hop across to Aberdour. 11 Corinthian boats rafted up in the very picturesque harbour on a gorgeous warm sunny day.

This weekend we elected to head for Dunbar, a pretty fishing port 30 miles out to the east. There was a race there on Saturday but we went on Friday, since the wind was favourable and forecast to switch to the opposite on Saturday.
It was a good choice. Friday afternoon was beautiful, with just enough westerly breeze to waft us along to Dunbar in a respectable 6 hours. Conditions were ideal for finally breaking out our spinnaker.

That's not to say that we hadn't ever encountered similar conditions, but we'd always been either too lazy or not under enough time pressure to do it. This time we had a stark deadline as access to the harbour is strictly tidal and there are no decent anchorages anywhere near by. Thanks to the spinnaker, we made it with about half an hour to spare.
Dunbar can be a bit tricky to get into, with a very narrow entrance and quite a few rocks strewn about it. Conditions were ideal on our approach, all calm and rocks clearly visible with the tide quite low. In strong easterly winds, the entrance is impossible and the harbour itself becomes very dodgy. Boats then have to move into the inner harbour which dries completely but is very secure. Anyway, we managed to nip in and tuck ourselves right under the castle wall.

Another first this weekend was drying out against the harbour wall. It's surprising that it took us this long, as nearly all the harbours in the area are drying, but it worked out without drama. I placed a large bucket on the shoreside deck and filled it with water to encourage her to lean the right way when touching down and looped a line from the mast to a strong railing on the shore for added security.
The vessel rested on the sandy bottom for about 2.5 hours around low water, an hour and a half before and only an hour after, interestingly. It was a fairly large tide at around 5 metres. At high water we could almost step ashore from the coachroof without a long climb up the ladder.

The view out from the inner harbour

The castle wall is home to the country's 'largest seabird colony occupying a man-made structure'. There are a couple of thousand squawking kittywakes that nest here, crying their name for all to hear for about 16 hours of the day. Only during the hours of darkness do they fall silent.

We had a bit of a wander around Dunbar on Saturday morning while the tide was out, particularly enjoying the views around the inner harbour and from the clifftops. It really is a pretty town.

As forecast, the wind came around to the east on Saturday and all the fishing boats shifted into the inner harbour. The friendly harbour master mentioned to me that conditions could be getting unpleasant if the worst forecasts proved correct. In fact things stayed fairly mild, but even so an unpleasant surge was developing in the harbour and we decided to pull out and head back west, rather than remain uneasy about when or if things were going to get worse.
The wind was favourable for our run back, but it was mighty chilly and we were wrapped up in thermals, full oilskins and gloves, which was a contrast to the near t-shirt weather of the day before.


vvv said...

Now I know! Lean to and dry out with a bucket of water!

vvv said...

Not sure how I became vvv instead of Eve?