Sunday, 30 September 2012

End of the Season

A great deal of time was spent worrying about the Heron last week, so after the storm had abated I managed to get some help and towed the wee boat up onto the hard standing.

It's a relief to know that the boat is safe but its tinged with disappointment that the sailing season is over. Dreams of lazy summer days and sparkling seas didn't come to much this summer, but I'm thankful for the trips I had and the memories will keep me going during the winter. There is also a bit of work to be done. I checked the hull over this afternoon and found a lot of scrapes and a couple of chips that are through the gel coat. I also found a more serious problem. The "galley" or plastic box that I keep victuals in had flooded during the storm and my jar of coffee had congealed to a solid mass. How can I be expected to complete any work on the boat without the winter weekend ritual of crouching in the cabin, the hissing of the gas stove and clasping a hot mug whilst thinking about what has to be done?

This is the new view from the cockpit. In a couple of weeks the bigger boats are being craned out and Heron will be back in their shadows. I'll enjoy the evening sun while I can.

As a foot note, I was in Glasgow this weekend, visiting the in-laws, eating too much and being thoroughly spoiled. On one of my wanders I took a pic of this post box. Ten points to anyone who can tell me why it is special. They will also have the dubious honour of having as sad an interest in history I have! 

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

The storm has passed..for now..

It looks like the Heron has survived relatively intact. I didn't get any pics that can compare with this one by Billy Main of Dunbar. (Is that your father-in-law Stuart?) The empty bouys, middle distance, are the Heron's mooring. I'm glad I took her through to the safety of the old harbour.

Monday, 24 September 2012

7 to severe gale 9, increasing storm 10

"The shipping forecast issued by the Met Office, on behalf of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, on Monday 24 September 2012 at 1625 UTC
There are warnings of gales in Viking, North Utsire, South Utsire, Forties, Cromarty, Forth, Tyne, Dogger, Fisher, German Bight, Humber, Thames, Dover, Wight, Portland, Biscay, FitzRoy, Irish Sea, Shannon, Rockall, Malin, Hebrides, Bailey, Fair Isle, Faeroes.

South Utsire, Forties, Cromarty, Forth

Easterly or northeasterly, but cyclonic for a time in Forties, 7 to severe gale 9, increasing storm 10 for a time except in South Utsire. Rough or very rough, occasionally high for a time. Rain. Moderate or poor."

 Forecasts like that are best listened to at home with your feet up having a cuppa.

The above picture was at lunchtime as the sea started to build. The wind was freshening from the east and the swell was gathering. When I went back down at 19.00 to check the Heron I struggled to get a photo with the wind and lashing rain/ sea spray. It's the sort of weather that reminds you that your alive.

In the Victoria harbour the "Lady Angela" had broken her bow mooring. Eight tonnes of boat was trying to go for a wander!

A quick call to the harbourmaster and with a few volunteers a line was secured that will hopefully hold her off the wall tonight.

Due to a lack of opposable thumbs Fly wasn't of much help and hid in the Lifeboat container.

Back home and the rain is lashing off the windows and I can hear the roar of the sea. I'll be back down to check on the Heron tomorrow morning and then I'm off to buy a jockey wheel so I can get the trailer sorted and get the boat onto dry land. I'm a fair-weather sailor and proud of it!

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Calm before the Storm

I took Fly out for an early walk along the cliffs then home for breakfast of coffee and eggs. The harbour was a peaceful idyll with few people around and the sun slowly starting to bring some warmth to the autumnal air. It has been a lovely weekend but the weather forecast is showing strong north easterly winds with a swell developing out at sea.  Beyond the breakwater is the North Sea and eventually Denmark so there is plenty of room for the waves to build.

The sailing season is nearly over in Dunbar so I decided it was time to drop the mast on the Heron and get her ready for coming out onto the hard standing. 

With the boom and mainsail removed I let the jib fly for the last time before taking it off the furler. 

Half an hour and sails are stowed below with the mast, furler and rigging lashed on deck.  

This is the reason why I took the mast down.With the little motor putt-putting away I sailed under the bridge and through to the Cromwell harbour. The safest mooring I could find was rafted up along side a small creel boat which shouldn't be moving over the next few days.

Its a calm Sunday evening but there is a huge swell of 15 foot predicted for tomorrow at 6pm. Hopefully the Heron is now safe and I will be able to get out on foot, or by bike, and get some pictures of the sea without worrying about the boat.

As the gas station attendant told Sarah Connor, "there's a storm coming."

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Mid Week LHT

The days are getting shorter and after getting home from work and attending to all the usual nonsense I ran out of daylight. No midweek cycle for me. I could get the lights out but it doesn't offer much opportunity for photos. So instead here's a long overdue update on the Long Haul Trucker build. D at Cold Water Logger is getting on with his build but things have been a little slower here.

Last time the headset, stem and bars were added. Since then I've fitted the crank and hollowtech bottom bracket. Also added were bar-end shifters, cables, adjusters, frog leg canti's and wheels. I could rob the Kona for the derailleurs and seat post and the Falcon for tyres and brake levers. This would get the bike on the road but I want to do it properly so I'll have to be patient. It's a virtue apparently.

That 60cm frame is big!, those 700c wheels look like 26". 

Monday, 17 September 2012

Woodland Waterfalls

I've been busy over the weekend rebuilding the trailer for the Heron. Much grinding, cutting and welding. Monday was a holiday so it was down tools and take Fly for decent walk. She's not very keen on crossing streams.

John Muir was born two doors along from where I live. His early childhood was spent playing around the coast where each morning I start my day by taking Fly for a walk.  His love of wild places fortunately continued when his family emigrated to America.  

He founded the Sierra Club and was leading in the creation of the Sequoia National Park and the Yosemite Valley.  John Muir devoted most of his life to preserving the natural and spiritual qualities he found in wild places. He wrote that "as long as I live, I'll hear waterfalls and birds and winds sing." I'm kind of fond of waterfalls myself so I took a couple of hours to wander around Pease Dean to try and capture the start of the Autumn in my own mind.

  It's not the easiest of places to get to but that makes it all the more special.

Fly the pioneer seeking out the trail and checking I'm still with her!

A welcome surprise was this Peacock butterfly. They have been slowly colonising southern Scotland over the last few years. Most people only expect to see butterflies in the height of summer but the Peacock can live for 11 months so hopefully this one will hibernate through the cold of the coming winter and breed next spring.
 A fine day off but back to the grind tomorrow.

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Mid Week Cycle 12 September

Over the last couple of weeks I've been using the Kona Caldera and although I've enjoyed the cycling, my millage has dropped. So this week I got the old Falcon back out to try and get a decent pedal while I still can.

The fields are nearly all harvested now and the countryside colours are changing quickly. I took the track out past the cement works and along to the Bilsdean bridges.

As I cycled along the side of the ravine to the next bridge pigeons were clattering out of the oak trees.

When I came out from under one of the arches I could here a Peregrine Falcon calling from up above which was most likely what was spooking the wood pigeons.

An old mile post, Dunbar 7 miles west, Edinburgh 35.

That might be the last of the summer mid-week cycles. I was really running short of light by the time I got home. The thought of getting up for an hours cycle in the mornings is frightening but I know I can keep going until the end of October before lights are the only option.
21 miles and I wanted to keep going.

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Finally a Sunday Sail

This morning was full of promise with clear skies and warm winds. I can't afford to miss rare chances like this to get the Heron out for a sail. 

I motored out between the rocks that guard the entrance to Dunbar Harbour then quickly raised some sail and cut the engine. Silence. The tide was on the ebb as I sailed out and you can see the high water marks on the rocks. When the tide is in the nearest rock is covered leaving only the metal pole  as a warning.

I wasn't in any hurry and had no particular place to go so I took advantage of the wind and tacked along the coast. When the wind dropped I hove-to and put the little kettle on the gas stove and got some coffee brewed.

When the wind returned it started to become a bit erratic and cloud was gathering so I headed back toward the rocks.

These Grey seals were calling when I sailed up beside them. They make a strange moaning sound that varies from a painful sounding groan to an almost melodic singing. They give birth to their little white furry pups in Autumn and their calling to each other is wonderfully haunting on a misty night.

Sails dropped and the little motor putting away I sneaked back into the harbour.

Back on dry land I wandered down to the 'old' Cromwell Harbour where Bob the Harbour Master has his new boat sitting on the hard.

Its a Fifie which is a typical east of Scotland fishing boat designed and built from the 1850s. They are quite distinctive with their vertical stem and stern and wide beam. They fished drift nets for the herring and at one time Dunbar Harbour would have been full of similar boats. A restored example is the Reaper in Anstruther. Bob has a lot of work on his hands restoring this one but it will be worth it.

A fine day out.

F2 E veering S, smooth slight, good.

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Mid Week Cycle 5th September

This week I was pushed for time again so I took Fly with me for a cycle around John Muir Country Park. Each week the sun is setting a little earlier, 19:53 today.  At least the weather has been kinder with lovely warm days and bright skies. The harvest is going well with westerly winds keeping the crops dry.

Out in the woods there are a few miles of wandering sandy trails to play on. After a "summer" spent mostly on the old Falcon it takes a bit of adapting to get back into 26" wheels and cycling in bursts rather than a steady cadence. I'm not complaining though, who would with empty trails like these to enjoy.

Under a tree beside a clearing I spotted a bird pellet. These are the regurgitated bits of prey that the bird can't digest. I can't help myself with things like this! There were tiny bones and little teeth in the matrix of fur. They looked like the little teeth field mice have at the back of their jaws. As field mice are mostly nocturnal this would suggest the bird was probably an owl.

Back to the cycling, The sun was going down out over the Tyne estuary and the wind was picking up again.

Its fat bike territory out there on the sand so I spun along the little single track routes in the trees.

It amazes me how few people I see out and about around here. The car park is often busy with surfers but the rare time I meet anyone they are dog walkers. Bizarrely when I got back to town I could here the music thumping from some sort of exercise class at the local swimming pool/gym. I suppose I should be thankful that so many people choose to exercise indoors.

Sunday, 2 September 2012

Sunday Smuggling

I awoke early on Sunday morning with the curtains billowing in a gusting westerly wind. As I hadn't made any plans for a cycle I decided to head down the coast with Fly for a walk along some of the beaches that are a bit trickier to get to than most.

It was only 9am and low water was due around 10.30 so I had plenty of time to scramble along this bay to try and find the "smugglers" caves that I had not been to since I was a kid.

Someones pride and joy.

In 18th Centuary Britain a tax was imposed on all the fine things that were imported eg wine or fancy cloth. This tax was known as customs.  Although Scotland had an "auld alliance" with the French, the English crown had a habit of starting wars with them. This resulted in a need for more revenue and so the crown introduced excise to raise more funds. The politics meant very little to the poor people of rural communities who only knew that the cost of living was soaring and dire poverty was a very real issue. It was inevitable that people would avoid taxes and the age of smuggling began.

The romantic image of a small rowing boat coming ashore on a moonless night with a couple of barrells of Brandy is a little naive. People were starving and whole communities banded together, and often armed themselves, to avoid the dreaded revenue men.

As far as I know this tunnel isn't in any guide books. You can make out the hand cut chisel marks in the walls. There was a lot of work went into this. Further on there are little niches that I presume were for holding candles.

Twenty years ago I would have been wriggling along this tunnel like a rat up a drain pipe. These days I'm a little more cautious and also aware that I might not be able to turn around further along. The tunnels around here are rumoured to go as far as a nearby village. From what I remember this one just avoids the harbour and pops out a little further up the road.

The roof began to get a lot lower as crawled along and inevitably I bottled it and started to crawl backwards until I could turn.

This is me wondering if I'm the right shape to go any further.

It was good to get back out into the open air where Fly was patiently waiting. I'll have to come back with waterproofs, decent torches and some company. 

 These looked like sloe berries although they were a bit burned by the sea winds. 

I haven't gone into detail about the exact location of these tunnels. Anyone who knows this coast line should be able to figure out where they are.