Rockhopper’s Farewell Passage to Nairn  (April 25th – April 27th, 2016)

(See also the 2013 account of Bodhráns Voyage to Orkney - 2013 and the cruise back in the company of orcas.)

Thought I should give folk a more balanced account of Rockhopper's passage to the north..!  I did send some texts...but tended to focus on the negatives ....rough seas and the bloody cold....but we also had superb Scottish spring sailing.

So let’s start at 06:30 on Wednesday 25th April standing outside Dave and Shirley's house using their WiFi to transfer money for the sale of Rockhopper to her new owner Alan Craigie....only trouble was Dave never mentioned to Shirley that we were going to do this, so as she often gets up for an early  morning run there we were standing conducting business with tablets and papers on their wall... she even witnessed our signatures as well...thanks Shirley!

After spending days prepping the boat with everything from storing the old sails, fuel, gas, and life-raft... last minute jobs to we would need for the trip ... we finally headed off.  As the wind was from the north east Rockhopper was charging along at 6.5 knts with the tide on our side, we covered a good distance and left the grips of the Forth.

We soon got used to the motion but the problem was trying to deal with the cold ..we started to put more layers on... I found six layers to be about right with two hoods, a buff hat and very thick mitts... We were able to control the boat with the multiple layers on, the only problem was when the bloody phone rang ..taking your mitts off for any length of time was so annoying.

Although Alan was a novice he did claim he'd never been sick, so after rounding Fife Ness he went below to heat up a curry he'd brought along - he coped well.  I introduced him on how to eat your food from a basin...he seemed to like that tip.  As it was my first major passage of the season and I was still to find my sea legs - the fish got all of my curry...!  Never mind the snow-capped hills over in Angus were a fine sight and it even got brighter... then off Montrose some bottle nose dolphins came alongside. doesn't get much better than that.  We pushed on and made Stonehaven for 20:00 and managed to find a takeaway open and the pub next door said we could eat it there.  So after a couple of pints all the challenges of the day were beginning to fade and the first 79 miles covered.

Thursday 26th we had a cup of tea for breakfast and cast the lines for 06:30 to catch the tide.. wind was not as strong today and the sun came out.  Both of us were feeling more in tune with the boat and generally moving around better...when Rockhopper rounded Rattray Head we were flying the cruising chute and still making 5 knts over the ground even with the tide against us.  By early evening the wind picked up and the skies were gray again so we got tucked to Whitehills at around 19:30 and hooked up to the shore power heater on full blast for the rest of the night...some fish-n-chips and into the sleeping bag for 22:30...that was another 75 miles for the boat and the crew was in good shape.       

Friday 27th the forecast was for strong winds from the north.  The worst of the gale had blown over us during the night but we had to leave around 07:30 to get into Nairn Marina as the entrance is shallow...but it wasn’t  too inviting to leave, there was a bit of a swell and the crests on the waves were braking and still a good Force 5/6 was blowing…  So we prepared the boat with the third reef in and the wash boards in place and to the surprise of the few folk around the harbour we set of...  Rockhopper did jump around a fair bit with a small head sail showing as we motored in a northern direction to get some sea room away from the shore…  After an hour or so the wind began to ease and we were able to roll out more head sail and we were flying along by 12:00.  The sun was out but a cold wind from the north was blowing to a force 3-4...  Alan was very comfortable with the boat handling so I went down for a second sleep.   We soon reached Nairn with time to spare and headed up the river and promptly ran aground..!   But with Alan on the bow and a little reverse we backed off with no problem.  One of the locals said there was a new four foot hump in the middle of the channel after the winter storms...  With our newfound knowledge we were soon tied up in Alan's allocated birth.  Before long five or six owner's came around and made us feel very welcome.                                                               

Alan cooked a fine meal then I popped into Nairn Yacht Club in the evening and again was made to feel very welcome.  As it’s their regatta next week they were trying to talk me into returning that week to help Alan race Rockhopper?

Saturday 28th I was in the train heading home reflecting ...why did I worry so much about the trip...after all I spent the best part of two weeks preparing the boat for the passage.

Quote... from Alan, "I will remember those last three days for a long time"

Apologies must go to ....

  • Stonehaven’s Harbour Master...for leaving and not paying.  [If we could have got access to the loos we might have made more effort],
  • Whitehills Harbour master...for saying what I said [under low breath] for putting us in a most awkward berth in the marina.
  • Alan Craigie for shouting at him...things like "let go the blue rope...not that blue rope the other blue rope"

Special thanks...go to my long suffering Wife for putting up with this nonsense.

And finally thanks to Bank of Scotland internet banking system.


 The distance covered by Rockhopper was almost 200 nautical miles.


Stuart Macdonald