I awoke this morning feeling mentally and physically battered! The thought of sailing the Pentland Firth with tides running up to 12 knots has given me sleepless nights during the months leading up to this challenge. With another difficult beat to windward and large waves to contend with through the night my body was telling me to stop.
Dan, Simon and Ken were eager to visit the town but I decided to stay onboard and catch up with some sleep and admin.
With time to think I felt homesick, missing my wife Kaz, son Harry and my two four legged mates, Bosun our Springer Spaniel and Sally our Cocker. I suddenly felt a long way from home. I am very fortunate and extremely grateful to Kaz, Harry and all my family and friends supporting Team Tikka and this morning I must admit I felt a bit emotional.
I also took time to reflect on the crew that I’ve sailed with. I hope they enjoyed their adventure and am grateful for all that have helped me get Tikka this far.
Danny Burnett is now into his 3rd week onboard and has proved invaluable as my First Mate and right hand man. I will miss him when he disembarks in Kyle of Lochalsh. I think we make a pretty good team. I hope Dan thinks the same!
Well showered, shaved, 2 man up pills taken and I’m ready to go again now. Shore leave for Team Tikka expires at midnight and we slip from Scrabster harbour at 0330. We need to head West to spread the word for Action for Children.
It was critical to catch the tide at the right time to get through the Sound of Hoy. Tides flow at 8 knots here with rip tides and overflows and Tikka’s 18hp engine would be no match here.
I had a message from Tim McKenna yesterday (Tim is cycling around the UK and raising awareness and money for the charity, Mind). It was great to meet up and swap stories of our travels and charities.
I was watching the weather very closely and seeking local knowledge too for the trip back to the Mainland. Yesterday the sea state was rough with Force 7 winds. I am certainly learning the responsibilities of a skipper, particularly the safety and welfare of the crew are not to be taken lightly.
We left at High water to catch the ebb flow through the Sound. The wind had eased but we had to carefully pick our way past large overfalls as we headed to sea. The swell was still considerable but slowly waining. There was no going back now as Tikka is not powerful enough to fight the tide. Typically the wind switched to Southerly to test us further. So it was a long hard beat down to Scrabster.
Wet, cold, tired but in high spirits we entered the safety of Scrabster harbour just after 0200 welcomed by the friendly harbour master and his staff.
The wind had been increasing throughout yesterday and as we entered Stromness in the early hours of the morning, tired but exhilarated with fully reefed sails the sea state was growing too. Safely tucked up in this beautiful and sheltered harbour it was time to catch up on some sleep.
The weather, as expected, was very changeable, one minute clear skies and warm and the next heavy rain and cold. The small town of Stromness was beautiful though and the locals were very friendly and interested in our trip.
We met up with some tourists from the Queen Elizabeth that was berthed in Kirkwall today, told them our story and explained the work that Action for Children do. They were very supportive taking leaflets back to the ship and making a kind donation.
Support continues to grow and the interest and generosity of people as we travel around the UK swells my pride in this wonderful country we live in. It is not perfect but it is ours and we have an opportunity through our children to keep it special and make it even better for future generations.
The day has finally arrived when we leave mainland UK and head North to the Orkney Islands. This involves negotiating some of the trickiest tidal waters in the world. I have read books, studied charts and saught advice from sailors that have been here before. An extremely dangerous stretch of water to be in in the wrong conditions, the Pentland Firth has tides that run at 12 knots, standing waves and numerous rocks and islands to negotiate. Fortunately I planned to be here during Neap tides and today the sea conditions were perfect to cross. I know my first mate, Danny was as keen as me to take on this challenge, so too were Simon and Ken.
We set off at 1300 to give us plenty of time to reach Duncansby Head at 1630 for slack water.
With very little wind we motor sailed up the Pentland Firth and towards Scapa Flow. It was an eary place with mist covering the islands and as we entered Scapa Flow the wind freshened allowing us to silence the engine and gracefully sail into this historic area.
The wind continued to increase and we tacked into Stromness with two reefs in the mainsail and Jib just after midnight. Another great day sailing withTikka looking after us well.
We said our farewells to John Naples and Louise Wrightson this morning. I have known John and Louise for a number of years and have served with them on the Commando Helicopter Force based at RNAS Yeovilton. We have served together both at home and abroad in various troubled locations. It has been great to catch up with these guys. I hope Dan didn’t get too confused with our jackspeak and Junglie sense of humour!
Dan and I managed to get a lie in this morning and chance to get Tikka cleaned up and a few maintenance jobs done. The heads drain was blocked and the gas bottle was leaking. The heads drain pump filter was cleaned which cleared that problem but the gas may be a bigger job. Our friendly harbour master, John came to our rescue and promised to help.
In the afternoon we were joined by new crew members, Simon Childs and Ken Passant, both friends from Somerset.
As the lightest crew member, Ken was soon hoisted up the mast to fix a loose windex, dressed in the famous Chicken suit of course.
Later this evening I had a message from Liz Fenwick from Action for Children letting us know that we are getting a lot of support from Glastonbury Festival.
We are all very grateful to Michael Eavis and everyone at the Festival that is supporting us. It gives us the determination to keep promoting this very worthwhile cause.
Today we were due to cross the Moray Firth. I have read about this area and heard about sightings of dolphins and whales here.
We set off again in fog but once out of Peterhead we had clear blue skies and a South Westerly wind. Excited by the prospect of sailing in company of such majestic creatures morale was high. We did have a sighting of a whale in the afternoon but the dolphins chose not to play with Tikka today. It feels good knowing they are free to choose though and sightings in this area are common. Today they were busy elsewhere.
Early this evening the fog drew in again and the trusty fog horn was deployed once more. The temperature has been dropping as we travel further North so with John being well over 6 feet tall he used his height to advantage by standing in the saloon with his head out of the hatch keeping lookout.
Visibility was less than 50m as we inched our way to Wick harbour. I’m so glad we have a comprehensive set of charts, chartplotter and AIS.
Once safely inside the harbour we were met by John, the most friendly and helpful harbour master I have met. He guided us to our birth, gave us a detailed brief of the facilities in town and offered to give John and Louise a lift to the station the following morning.
I like Wick and their harbour master is a star.
It was a very civilised 0600 rise for a 0700 slip from Arbroath this morning. We had hoped to get off earlier because high water was 0430 and we were on an ebb tide with areas that dry out around the harbour. The harbour master starts work at 0700 and has control of the tidal lock gates. He assured us that all would be fine and we left the harbour recording a lowest depth of 0.8m under our keel so all was well.
With a good South Westerly wind we were able hug the coast up to Peterhead with the spinnaker flying and the sun shining. With sunscrean on, music playing and the engine mostly quiet, morale was high.
Peterhead is a busy fishing and oil industry supply port with a small marina tucked into the North West corner. Not a picturesque place but a welcome stop with good shelter and facilities.