Ships that Pass in the Night


It was a planned late departure from Peterhead so that we could embark on our first, full, night sail. And with me as Skipper. On this occasion from Peterhead to Arbroath from 9.00pm Tuesday with a plan to cover the 70 odd nautical miles by mid-morning on Wednesday 28th.

Peterhead Harbour was particularly busy so we waited our turn, among the big boys, for our exeat from the Harbour Master. This was handed down at 21:40 ish so we slipped our lines and headed out into a beautiful sunset in Peterhead bay. Except that we were unable to see said sunset on account of the Pea-souper reminiscent of London of the1950’s. That made navigation a little trickier than imagined but a competent crew, a good instructor and a good old Raymarine plotter saw us through that first hour or so. After which the wind lifted, the fog cleared and we were in for a night’s sailing in good conditions – sometimes a little too good so we reefed the main and settled in for the long haul.

A watch system was established, of 2 hours-on, 2 hours-off, so that we could get some rest. I would say that, in my first break, and fully togged up, I lay down on the saloon seat and slept like a bairn, as the Scots would say, for precisely an hour and fifty three minutes at which point I got a sharp reminder to get up on deck and relieve my fellow crew members – in the strictly nautical sense, of course.

I went on watch at 3am, which could not have been any better timed as I was then able to witness the rising sun across the North Sea without so much as a hint of the Pea-souper that ruined the previous night’s sunset. Lovely. (See Gallery for photos)

As for night sailing it is obvious that the phrase “Ships that Pass in the Night” – generally taken to mean two bodies that, unseen and unknown to the other, pass each other by in silence  – could never have been coined today, and certainly not on the Peterhead/Aberdeen run. The ships that we saw which, although large, were by no means the same magnitude as some of the ocean’s monster ships – were lit up as if they were practising for a 4th July pageant. And they were noisy too. That romanticised and somewhat melancholy phrase is out of date. Any suggestions for a replacement?

We arrived at Arbroath Harbour at 11:50 having kicked our heels outside as we waited for the tide to come in a little more so that we could get over the sill at the harbour entrance. We were greeted by Carl, an obvious exile from Liverpool, who took our lines and helped us tie up.

Tied up, cup of tea and everyone hit their bunk to catch up on some much-needed sleep.  After which I had a stroll around town and then back to base for supper and a blogging session – the result of which is this.

As we have to be in Leith by Friday, we are making a big leap tomorrow by getting into the Firth of Forth and we shall try to anchor up around Musselburgh.



May 27/28th Day 52/53

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