Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Sailing to the Isle of May, Anstruther and Dunbar

Over the last eighteen months or so, El seems to have only met up with her sister at funerals. This weekend however they had different plans. A couple of bottles of wine, three series of Game of Thrones to watch and a lot of gossip to catch up on. Understandably, I wasn't required. So on Saturday morning I fired up the little motor on the Heron and put-putted my way out of the harbour into the bright sunshine rising over the North Sea.

There was a light, variable, westerly which had just enough puff to catch the sail and get me moving along. I wasn't making much more than three knots but it was a lovely morning and there was no hurry.

In the distance Stuart and Gipper were on the Seline and near to them I could see Davey and his father on the Wee Beastie.

As the sun rose, the day grew warmer and the light wind began to fade. I had a coffee from my flask and the radio was murmering away below deck. Gannets skimmed low over the water, heading east out to sea and the Heron just silently drifted along heading north to the Isle of May.

There eventually comes a point when even the keenest of sailors has to admit defeat and turn on the engine. I had managed for two hours to eek out little breezes but the others had turned on their motors much earlier and by now were just specks in the distance. There was nothing else for it but to fire up the Mariner.

The Stevenson Lighthouse on the May eventually apeared out of the morning haze, and as I got close, I headed to the east to approach the little landing at Kirkhaven. Unfortunately the tide still hadn't flooded enough to get ashore. Instead, Stuart had dropped his anchor and Davey was rafted alongside.

I rafted up to port and we all sat back in the sun having a picnic and watching the birds fly by. There were loads of puffins, who as usual always dive as I try to get a picture. I still love seeing their little orange feet paddling frantically like clockwork toys. The guillemots, on the other hand, were much more elegant, just sitting watching me as I watched them.

It was after lunch time and the tide was beginning to pick up so the anchor was weighed and we slowly motored, or tried to sail in my case, along the east of the island to catch the incoming tide between the island and the Fife coast.

With a helpful push under our keels we soon covered the last four miles to the approach into Anstruther, and of course it's minefield of creel markers.


I was first onto the potoon. I think that this may be the only time that the Heron has been first to do anything. There are advantages to havin little bilge keels. Davey lifted the keel on the Wee Beastie and was soon tied up. Stuart however hit the mud and took a little longer.

The fisheries museum in the town was having an open day and the lifeboat shed had joined in. A convivial afternoon was spent around the harbour, enjoying the occasional burger at the barbecue and perhaps a cold beer or two.

As the afternoon turned to evening the gulls settled down for the night and we went off to look around the town. When I eventually wandered back down to the pontoon, the tide had dropped again and the Heron was sitting at an angle in a little hole. There was nothing to be done so I put the kettle on for a coffee and settled into my sleeping bag. At some point during the night the Heron floated back upright, but I was long asleep by then.

Morning dawned bright again and boded well for another hot day. Various local boat owners appeard for a chat, including George, who had just returned from a night in Dunbar and had wondered where we were.

It was after 2 pm when we finally had enough water to sneak out of the harbour, and unfortunately by then, the sky had clouded over.

The forecasted south westerly came to nothing and it was back on with the engines for a rather boring 14.6 nautical miles .

But the wee boats all made it safely to Dunbar and we were soon tied up at our moorings 36 hours after leaving, with around 35 sea miles covered.


  1. Sounds like a fantastic trip. I was very tempted when saw you guys on Friday evening. Mind you I also had a fantastic day as we did the 4 Glen Lyon Munroes. Next time we need to make it a 4 boat flotilla!

    1. It was a great trip, we'll have to get you along for the next adventure. Glen Lyon must have been beautiful if the weather was like ours. I have some great memories of climbing the hills and swimming in the river, but have just realised that was 20 years ago!

  2. A fine little adventure, just hope we get more weekends with light winds and bright sunshine to enjoy.

    1. The sunshine made all the difference. It would have been grim if it had rained like today. Where next?

  3. I am so glad wrote this post, Peter.
    One of my all time favorite stories is, "Kidnapped", by Robert Louis Stevenson. Now, in addition to your lovely photos of the boats, I get to see R. L. Stevenson's Lighthouse.

    Beautiful photos and nice narration.

    Peace :)

    1. Hi Chandra, there's lots more Stevenson lighthouses around the coast. It's an ambition of mine to visit the Bell Rock one day. My wife El and I did some of our courting at the Hawes Inn, yes the same one that is in Kidnapped!