Along Scotland's east coast-Lindisfarne to Inverness

Recommended places to take your Cape Cutter 19 with details of anchorages, marinas etc

Along Scotland's east coast-Lindisfarne to Inverness

Postby Runrig » Sun Dec 27, 2020 6:22 pm

A Cruise Along Scotland’s East Coast – Lindisfarne to Inverness

This cruise was undertaken in July 2020 as the travel restrictions from the first wave of Covid-19 were just beginning to be eased. Due to the restrictions many facilities and attractions along the route were closed or limited in their offer.

The route visits busy commercial docks and crosses shipping lanes. A working VHF is essential.

Amble to Lindisfarne (23nm)
Amble marina has good road access from the A1 trunk road, secure pontoons and trailer park. The marina facilities are well maintained, they include a hoist to lift a boat in. The marina is supported by friendly, knowledgeable staff. There is no launching ramp but next door along the river the Coquet Yacht Club does have a ramp.

Amble is a pleasant town to start a cruise from with a Morrison’s supermarket on the edge of town, a well-stocked high street close to the marina and decent eateries around the fish quay. There is a petrol station in the town, near the top of the main shopping street and left.

The ebb tide turns north a couple of hours after HW but tides are weak on this coast except for the tidal run on the Inner Sound between the Farne Islands and the mainland off Bamburgh Castle and Seahouses.

A depth gauge by the cill at the marina gives the depth of water available to clear the cill. A shoal draft boat has access at most states of a neap tide, less so at springs.

Leaving Amble Marina before low water the intention was to pass through the Inner Sound by the Farne Islands around slack HW and anchor off Lindisfarne in the shelter of The Ooze. This is the area inside The Steel breakwater by Lindisfarne anchorage.

From the harbour entrance the course is clear heading N to pass clear of Seaton Point and then outside Newton Rock red lateral buoy. The approach to the Inner Channel lies NNW of Newton Rock buoy and is marked by N Sunderland red lateral buoy.

Passing through the Inner Sound is straightforward when there is no wind over tide, which can create ‘considerable overfalls’. Approaching the sound leave the red N Sunderland and Shorston buoys to port, identify the green Swedman buoy ahead and leave this well to starboard.

Continuing NW the East Cardinal Ridge buoy appears ahead. From just S of the Ridge buoy the two distinctive triangular pointed beacons on Old Law start to become aligned. A bearing of 261 from S of the Ridge toward the Old Law beacons will give a line of approach toward Triton green buoy. At Triton buoy a bearing of 309 will give an approach toward Lindisfarne anchorage.

Approaching the harbour a large, white triangular beacon on The Heugh, the mound above the anchorage, should align with the belfry of the church behind it. This will help to clear the Stone Ridge which lies to the N of the approach.

The main anchorage for vessels unable to take the ground is in the area S of the Heugh. Strong currents run through the anchorage. For boats happy to dry out the area inside the harbour breakwater is ideal and for shoal draft boats is accessible HW +/- 3hrs. This area inside the breakwater, called The Ooze, dries to mud which is just firm enough to walk ashore as the tide recedes. The Ooze provides a wonderfully sheltered spot to spend the night in a strong breeze.

Lindisfarne is an atmospheric place to walk around, especially when the day trippers have departed to cross the causeway. It is possible to follow a path out to the castle from the village and then continue around the island. There is a friendly café in the square by the museum and a couple of pubs which both offer meals. Best of all is to wake aboard your boat in the safety of The Ooze with the silhouette of the castle in the predawn light.

Lindisfarne to Eyemouth (18nm)
Departing The Ooze at HW the passage is retraced to the Triton buoy using the back transit of the white triangle on The Heugh aligned with the belfry behind. From Triton buoy a back transit on The Old Law beacons and the Triton buoy, a heading of 80, will set you on course back toward The Ridge East Cardinal.

From close to The Ridge a course N along the east coast of Lindisfarne, passing W of Plough Rock West Cardinal is set. Past Emmanuel Head, a distinctive white pyramid in the NE corner of Lindisfarne a NW course across Berwick Bay will set you on course for Scotland and the fishing port of Eyemouth.

Approaching Eyemouth a formidable group of rocks, The Hurkars, guard the entrance. To avoid the rocks approach Blind Buss North Cardinal from the east. Leaving the cardinal mark to port identify 2 orange posts on the west breakwater which provide a safe approach to the outer breakwaters when aligned. This will be on a bearing of 174.

With The Hurkars to port and Luff Hard Rock to starboard it is important to stay on the transit approaching the breakwater.

Once inside the breakwater the usual mooring for visiting boats is the pontoon to port once past the entrance of the new fish dock, Smeaton Quay. On my arrival no berths on the pontoon were available so I was provided with a berth on a decrepit pontoon in the NW corner of Smeaton Quay. The plus point was the closer proximity to the excellent showers in the new fish market building. There is also a lounge area available in the building for visiting crew.

The history of Eyemouth is tied to it's role as a fishing and trading port. The large house on Guns Green close to the moorings was the abode of a local wealthy merchant cum smuggler. It contains an interesting secret chamber where contraband tea was stored.

On the promenade in the town a touching memorial records the tragedy of 14 October 1881 when 129 fisherman lost their lives in sight of the town as they battled to make harbour in the storm.

There is a co-op supermarket behind the promenade and an award-winning fish and chip shop.

Eyemouth to Anstruther (later Pittenweem) (29nm)
The plan for this leg was to sail from Eyemouth across the Firth of Forth to the yacht harbour of Anstruther in Fife. Due to Covid restrictions limiting harbour office opening times my usual routine of contacting the harbourmaster the day before sailing did not meet with a response. Arriving off Anstruther and making contact on VHF I was advised no berths were available due to the harbour being closed whilst local boats were craned into the harbour. Kindly the harbourmaster of Pittenweem interrupted the conversation and offered a berth alongside the fishing boats in Pittenweem.

Leaving Eyemouth well after HW the intention was to round St Abbs Head with the last of the ebb tide and then have no adverse tide for the run past Bass Rock and across the Firth of Forth.

From Eyemouth harbour entrance a course of 356 passes W of Blind Buss Cardinal then turning NNW give St Abbs Head a wide berth passing the headland outside the 50m depth contour.

As St Abbs Head is passed a NW course passing west of the Isles of May will give a direct line to Anstruther some 26nm distant.

Anstruther has an outer and inner harbour. The inner harbour is where the pontoons lie. This can be accessed at least 4 hours either side of HW.

A rocky shelf extends from the shore around the harbour entrance. A final approach to the harbour entrance on a bearing of 018 will keep you clear of these dangers. Once inside the breakwater turning immediately to port inside the W breakwater gives the best water to the inner harbour.

Anstruther has the best fish and chips in Britain. The Anstruther Fish Bar on the quay is widely acclaimed and the food will definitely be worth the wait. The other major attraction is the Scottish Fishing Museum by the harbour. With a collection of classic vessels it is well worth a visit. There are several inviting pubs and eateries along the harbour front. Turning left along Shore St from the harbour will take you to the large Co-op supermarket on St Andrew’s Rd on the edge of town. It is a pleasant walk west of Anstruther over the golf course to the small fishing village of Pittenweem. The Larachmor Tavern on the harbour front at Pittenweem is highly recommended.

Anstruther to Arbroath (24nm)
From the outer harbour breakwater a course SE to pass the 10m depth contour then turning to a bearing of 050 will give a fine sail along the coast of East Neuk toward Fife Ness. Once SE of the headland of Fife Ness a course can be set N across St Andrews Bay passing close to North Carr East Cardinal. Arbroath is 17nm across the bay.

It is important to identify the entrance to Arbroath harbour and approach the final 0.5nm on a bearing of 299. Rocky shelves and isolated rocks lie either side of this approach. A number of posts behind the west breakwater can confuse where the actual entrance is. Identify the conspicuous large white tower which was the Bell Rock signal station. The leading beacons to follow on 299 are just E of this tower.

Once past the breakwaters follow the outer harbour wall on your starboard until the harbour entrance opens up to starboard. Turn into the outer harbour and the gated entrance to the pontoons of the inner harbour is off to port. The inner harbour gates are open HW+/- 3 hours.

There are some ports on a cruise that before arrival would seem to offer little of interest. Arbroath was one such destination. In fact, its redeveloped harbour area, including a small art gallery; the museum of the Bell Rock lighthouse; a shopping centre and Co-op supermarket in the town, and the famous Arbroath Smokies straight from the smokehouse by the harbour added up to a very enjoyable visit.

The harbour staff were helpful and the facilities include decent showers, laundry and a crew room with microwave and radio.
The sail to Arbroath was a fine f4/5 SW breeze. Shortly after arrival the wind increased to f6 and this would have made the final approach much more difficult and possibly untenable.

Arbroath to Stonehaven (30nm)
This leg of the cruise could be broken into 2 days putting into Gourdon some 20 miles along the coast from Arbroath. Montrose is a busy service port for the North Sea oil platforms and wind farms and does not encourage recreational craft.

Stonehaven has a space for visiting boats unable to take the ground just inside the outer harbour wall. Other berths further into the harbour dry out. This meant plans required arriving at Stonehaven HW +/-3 in case the floating berth was not available.

Leaving Arbroath as soon as the inner harbour gate opened the plan was to sail against the weak tide until the tide turned N.

The route from the harbour entrance is retraced on a bearing of 119 until the 10m depth contour is passed. From there a course is set to hug the coast past Lunan Bay, Montrose Bay and Bervie Bay until the coast swings N on the approach to Stonehaven.

Once the outer harbour wall of Stonehaven is identified from off the coast a final approach should be made in a sector between 240 and 265. Planning on a departure early on the rising tide I was provided with a berth in the outer harbour alongside a fishing boat. This was immediately below the harbour office and convenient for the portakabin shower block next to the office. The harbourmaster provides a key to access the showers and takes a deposit. The outer harbour would not be a decent berth in any on-shore swell.

Stonehaven is a thriving town with a rich history associated with the sea. At Hogmany it is renowned for the fireballs hurled into the harbour after a procession through the town. The Tollbooth Museum, on the quayside, is a small collection of local memorabilia, there are good pubs for food around the quay and in the main square, back from the seafront, is a co-op supermarket.

The ruin of Dunnottar Castle, 2 miles S of Stonehaven along the clifftops, is well worth the stroll.

Stonehaven to Peterhead (38nm)
The options for berthing N of Stonehaven are very limited. Aberdeen, as a congested commercial port serving the North Sea oil industry does not encourage visiting yachts, it would be an excellent port of refuge. Beyond Aberdeen the options are sparse until close to Peterhead. It is a bare coast and exposed if the conditions are not favourable.

Turn NW once clear of the outer harbour breakwater until the 20m depth contour is cleared. Then a course NNW along the coast, past Aberdeen harbour, seaward of the wind farm in Aberdeen Bay and pass close to the red lateral buoy which marks The Skares at the start of Cruden Bay.

Continuing NNW the large factory chimney above Buchan Ness is conspicuous. Buchan Ness, with its light structure, and Meikle Mackie are rocky shelves extending out from the shore on the approach to Peterhead. A further isolated rock, The Skerry, lies beyond Meikle Mackie. I opted to pass between Meikle Mackie and The Skerry on a direct line once the entrance in the substantial harbour wall is identified.

Peterhead is a very busy commercial port. It is essential to contact ‘Peterhead Harbour’ (Ch14) well before approaching the entrance.

Once inside the harbour walls the marina lies in the SW corner of the huge harbour. This is beyond the Princess Royal Jetty which is often busy with North Sea service ships. A green lateral buoy close to the entrance to the marina is intended to keep you away from the rocky shore which lies close beyond it.

The marina office, toilets and showers are at the top of the pontoons. The nearest supplies are in the well-stocked petrol station visible from the marina on the road into Peterhead town. Best access to this road is to follow the path around the water from the marina gate, through the caravan park and then up the grassy bank.

Closer to the town along the road is a large Lidl supermarket. The town centre itself is quite run down and not especially inviting.

Peterhead to Whitehills (37nm)
This leg of the cruise takes you from the exposed waters of the North Sea into the cruising ground of the Moray Firth.

A Cautionary Tale. Leaving Peterhead to pass Rattray Head and into the Moray Firth the forecast was SW4/5 becoming NW 5/6 later.
With the wind off the land and from astern the day started well, running with the tide. The wind went to NW sooner than forecast. This then gave strong NW winds against tide off Rattray Head with a fetch for the waves all the way from the N coast of the Moray Firth. The conditions quickly became untenable and the only option was to return to Peterhead. Be aware because of Rattray Head and the exposed seas if the winds are E or N how quickly conditions change.

Obtain permission to enter the Peterhead harbour area from the marina before leaving.

Once clear of the harbour entrance a course WNW until the 30m contour will keep you well clear of the rocky shelf of South Head which lies N of the entrance. Turning N once past the 30m contour will keep you 2nm off the coast when passing Rattray Head. Turning NW when off the head will take you along the coast toward the fishing town of Fraserburgh. A busy fishing port it is a useful port of refuge if conditions deteriorate approaching Moray Firth.

Turning WSW when off Fraserburgh will take you along the coast of the Moray Firth. Past Aberdour Bay, rounding Troup Head you will be entertained by the largest gannet colony in mainland Scotland. The sea alive with birds diving all around.

Cruising past the twin towns of Banff and Macduff and staying well clear of Knock Head before turning S toward Whitehills Marina and then turning E for the final approach to the entrance. A rocky shelf SW of the harbour entrance is marked by 2 beacons. These are rusty posts and can be confused for port hand marks. Keep between the breakwater and the beacons to stay in the channel on the final approach.

Turning into the harbour I was directed to a berth on the pontoon in the outer harbour.

The harbourmaster at Whitehills is renowned as the friendly harbourmaster. Bertie provides a comfortable crew room with microwave and free tea and coffee. The showers need a £1 coin.

Whitehills is ‘like a Cornish village without the crowds’. The Seafield Arms is known for its seafood dishes and has a pleasant beer garden. There is a stores on Loch St. It is a pleasant stroll away from the village through the campsite and round the headland to Banff.

Whitehills to Buckie (14nm)
The plan for this leg was to sail across the bay to the marina at Lossiemouth which is set in the old docks of the town. Due to Covid restrictions Lossiemouth was not open so the plan was amended to stay in the commercial port of Buckie.

The tide runs west 3 hours after low water.

Once clear of the harbour breakwater at Whitehills an initial course NW turning WNW once past the 10m contour will take you clear of East Head at the end of Strathmachin Bay. Continuing on, staying outside the 20m contour will clear Scar Nose. From Scar Nose a course WSW takes you along the coast toward Buckie.

I opted to put into the small village of Findochty (pronounced Finecty locally) for lunch. From off the town a bearing of 166 to the harbour entrance will clear Beacon Craigs which lie to starboard and the drying reefs of Long Head lie to port.

Due to a sandbar in the harbour mouth entry can only be made HW+/-3 hours. Entry is not advised with an on-shore sea running.

The middle pontoon of the inner harbour does not dry out. When I visited the harbour and pontoons were in a state of disrepair but plans are well advanced to replace the rickety pontoons.

Looking south from the harbour a flat roofed building can be seen among the houses at the top of the hill. This is the local stores. Stairs in the west corner of the harbour lead to the road above and the stores.

Leaving Findochty continue SW along the coast well off shore, outside the 10m contour, you proceed past 3 drying reefs which lie off Buckie; East Muck, Middle Muck and West Muck. The latter is marked by a port lateral light structure. This should be left well to port approaching the harbour entrance with a final approach on 125 from W of the West Muck light.

Buckie is a busy commercial harbour. It is important to contact the harbourmaster (Ch. 12) before approaching the entrance. Boats leaving the harbour leave at speed and cannot be seen behind the massive harbour wall. There is little room to manoeuvre on the final approach if avoiding action is needed.

Visiting yachts are usually berthed in the 4th and last basin furthest into the harbour. I was berthed alongside the harbour pilot vessel.

Basic showers are available near the fish sheds by the first basin. The harbourmaster office is along the road in front of basin 2. A key for the showers is available from the harbourmaster. Facilities are very limited around the harbour, it is necessary to walk up the steps beyond the harbourmaster office to reach the town.

Buckie to Findhorn (25nm)
In normal times the marina in Lossiemouth would be a definite stopover on a cruise in the Moray Firth. Closed for Covid meant this day was essentially 2 short legs rolled into one. A deteriorating weather forecast for a couple of days hence also meant Inverness should be reached sooner rather than later.

From the entrance to Buckie a course is set WNW across Spey Bay to the North Cardinal guarding the Halliman Skerries some 12nm across the bay, beyond Lossiemouth.

From The Skerries turning WSW plots a course along the Inner Moray Firth past Burghead toward the entrance to Findhorn Bay. When the tide is high it is possible to head directly south over the sheltering sandbanks off Findhorn. You may identify local boats taking this route as you approach Findhorn. For those not sure of local conditions it is necessary to identify the Port side lateral buoy which marks the approach channel to Findhorn Bay which lies further west of the entrance. The bay can be entered HW +/- 3 hours but tides run fast in the river in the mid tide.

From the Port hand buoy at the start of the channel, heading back SE toward the Findhorn Bay, posts will be seen which mark the sandbanks to the east of the entrance channel. Approach the markers and turn SSE into the channel, passing the markers close to port. Once over the bar, which guards the entrance, the local advice was to stay in the river channel by following the line of moorings which weaves initially to port and then to starboard passing the pontoon of the watersports centre into the Findhorn River.

0.2nm past the watersports centre the walls of the old harbour are seen to port in front of the Crown and Anchor Inn. It is possible to moor against the harbour walls to go ashore but the harbour dries completely and the bottom is not known. In quiet times a pontoon for dinghies in front of the harbour wall can be used to stay afloat whilst ashore.

Just before the harbour walls the Yacht Club provides 2 floating moorings for visiting boats in front of the Findhorn Yacht Club. A visit to the bar in the club confirmed the moorings were available but due to Covid restrictions the usual facilities of the club were closed.

Findhorn is a popular coastal village made famous for the alternative lifestyle promoted by the Findhorn Foundation. The popular Kimberley Inn on the front has good seafood. Behind the river front there is a well-stocked village stores.

Findhorn to Inverness (23nm)
The challenge for this leg is to leave Findhorn with the tide and avoid a tide againsat at the 2 sets of narrows which need to be navigated, Chanonry Narrows and Kessock Narrows.

Leaving Findhorn with the ebb HW+1.5 the current gives a good push through the narrows back into the Moray Firth along the marked channel.

Once in the Moray Firth there is a weak tide against but averaging 3 knots will bring you to Riff Bank S Cardinal at the start of Chanonry Narrows at slack LW. Keeping in the S channel beyond the Cardinal buoy keeps you clear of the Riff Bank which lies mid-channel.

Look out for the pod of dolphins and lone Orca which hunt in the area approaching Chanonry Narrows.

From close to Craigmee Port Buoy a course is set S passing King George Fort to port.

Once clear of the Chanonry Point Light to starboard a course can be set through Inverness Firth past Munlochy Fairway Buoy, then past red and green lateral buoys, to the bridge across the Kessock Narrows. Stay in the centre of the channel to pass under the middle of the bridge.

There are strong currents under the bridge. Be ready to take corrective action as you clear the bridge.

The entrance to the marina is from the Inverness River immediately to port as you clear the bridge. Pass east of the N Cardinal seen ahead as you pass under the bridge.
The marina entrance is immediately to port once in the Inverness River.

The marina has excellent showers but is located 20 min walk from the services of Inverness town centre and there is little available in the industrial estate surrounding the marina.

The shortcut to reach the town centre in 20 minutes is through the pedestrian gate to the right of the marina office and through the boatyard. Going out on the road from the marina doubles the distance.

Inverness is a lively university city and self-proclaimed capital of the highlands. MacGregors, the first pub approached from the marina on the walk into town, announces itself, ‘the best pub in Scotland’. They have a pizza oven in the beer garden during the summer and is a lively pub.

Past MacGregors along the same street is the centre of Inverness including the railway station and a M&S Foodhall.

The marina offers a full range of services including a hoist to lift out.

If spending time in Inverness a bus out to the battlefield at Culloden and its award-winning interpretive centre is worth the trip.
CC19 Association Member
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Re: Along Scotland's east coast-Lindisfarne to Inverness

Postby Paul Turner » Tue Dec 29, 2020 11:21 pm

Another great log, Paul. I took the opportunity of a quiet Christmas to print off and read all your previous cruises. I'd lost track of how many you had done and how close you are to a complete navigation. All I need for you to do now is Weymouth (my home port) to Exeter including going round Portland Bill. I'm inspired to follow in your footsteps if I can work up the courage to do it single handed. You should definately write a book.
Paul Turner
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Posts: 184
Joined: Thu Nov 21, 2013 4:17 pm
Location: Dorset, 6 miles from Weymouth and close to Ringstead Bay

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