The "Live-Anywhere" Boat - Cruise 2014, Part III, Wick, Fraserburgh, Delfzijl
Updated September, 2014

Old Pulteney Distillery Yard Gate

The Wick RBLS Pipe Band on Parade (CC Photo)

We settled in at Wick, and very much enjoyed the number and variety of vessels in the harbor, ranging from small lobster boats to a huge anchor-handling tug that was working on a windfarm project. The weather was mostly not great, but that made us appreciate the sunny days all the more.

One afternoon we took advantage of Dougie's car to replenish our provisions at Tesco's, the UK's answer to Walmart. Their food selection turned out to be quite good, surprisingly so for a big chain store.

The Restored Stroma Yawl Diligence

The season is enough later in Scotland that fresh local strawberries were still available, so we took full advantage. The vegetables were also good, although mostly not local, and there was reasonable bread, so all in all were quite happy with our provisioning.
The Old Bridge at Wick

We arrived in Wick harbour on Thursday, August 7th, and of course at first we did not know how long we would stay, but when I went to discuss the matter with the authorities, I found that we could stay for a week for the price of 5 days, so that seemed like a sign.

On the Sunday I did maintenance on the boat, and on Monday we went with Dougie and his mother, Margaret, northwards along the coast.

Sinclair Girngoe Castle

We stopped first at the Noss Head lighthouse, which now seems to be the library for Clan Sinclair. The people who live there did not seem to want us walking around the grounds, but we took some pictures anyway. The weather was beautiful, for once, and Noss Head is a target-rich environment for a photographer.
Sturdy Scottish Ponies at Noss Head

We went on to John o'Groats, the northernmost corner of the United Kingdom, and by good luck it was "Harbour Day" or something like that, so there were highland dancers again, and booths where local non-profit organizations sold food and drink. We bought burgers from the John o'Groats Football Club and strawberries and cream from someone else. There was to be a rescue display by the local lifeboat (equivalent to U.S. Coast Guard rescue boats), but we did not stay for that.
A Typical Dry Stone Wall

The Tiny Harbor at John o'Groats (CC Photo)

We stopped next at the Pentland Firth port Scrabster, to check out the fishing boats, and there were a few in port, but they were hard to photograph from the high wharf walls.

From there we went on to Castle Mey, owned by the Royal Family. It is said to have been the preferred summer home of the Queen Mother, and Margaret pointed out to us the small village church where the "Queen Mum" used to attend services.

By mid-afternoon we reached our real objective, Dougie's sister's house. Pat and her husband Don run a bed-and-breakfast and a sheep-croft out on windswept Strathey Point.

Highland Dancers at John O'Groats

Castle Mey

They call it "Sharvedda," which is said to be a Norse word meaning "small sea-fishing place." There are still sheep all over, as well as the remains of several very old stone houses, and there used to be a thriving salmon fishery, off the nearby beach.

We were made warmly welcome, and soon set out on a "wee walkie," out to the lighthouse at the end of Strathey Point.

A Coble, Used for Salmon Fishing, at Strathey Point

This turned out to be something like two miles away, but the walk was worth it. The lighthouse is like others, but its location is spectacular, and we had the added treat of seeing a natural arch in the cliffs, just west of the light.

We were joined by Dougie's nephews and their children, a party of fifteen or so altogether, for an excellent dinner at a (the?) local restaurant. It struck us that Sharvedda would be a lovely place to spend a few days in the summer.

Strathey Point Lighthouse

Cliff Arch at Strathey Point

Old Industrial Buildings Over Wick Harbour

Back at Wick, we were thinking of leaving, but the remnants of Hurricane Bertha came by, and that drew another low down from somewhere around Iceland, so leaving immediately did not seem to be a good idea. The harbor cannot be entered or left in a heavy easterly sea, so in any case we did not have a lot of choice.

We enjoyed the quiet of the secure harbor, and the industrial shipping activity around us, much of it having to do with material for wind-farms.

Spouting Sea at the Former Wick Lifeboat House

One day we went to the local distillery, Old Pulteney, where whiskey is made in much the same way as it always has been. We absorbed the lore of mash tuns, stills, and spirit safes, saw row upon row of whiskey aging in barrels formerly used either for bourbon or for sherry, and were given a wee dram of the product, which went down very well.
Voe Viking Loading a Reel of 4" Wire

We walked round Wick, in between the showers, and one day I walked out to Tesco's for a little more food. I also managed to find a shop that had yarn of almost the right color, so Barbara could mend my favorite sleeveless sweater.

One day it looked as though the weather would eventually improve, so we made arrangements for fuel. There is no "fuel dock" as we know it; the boats simply make arrangements with the oil company that is just around the corner in the next part of the harbor, and at the appointed time either the truck comes to one's mooring, or, because we were on the marina floats, we went to lie alongside the wharf by the oil company offices. We found that the Diesel price was not as bad as we had feared, and the situation is helped by an arrangement in Britain that assumes 40% of the fuel taken on by a a good-sized cruising boat is used for heating and power generation and is thus not taxed. The result is fuel that is certainly more expensive than in the US, but not nearly as expensive as on the Continent. We took on 3,000 liters (about what we had used crossing the ocean) and hope not to bunker again until it is time to go back across.

In Wick we sadly said goodbye to Dougie, who stayed on with his family for a couple of days and then returned to Bermuda. He was a good shipmate, and we shall miss him.

Still and Mash Tun, Old Pulteney Distillery

On the 14th the weather looked promising, with the wind and sea moderate and expected to be from astern, so at 08:30 we set out on the run to Fraserburgh, a trip that we thought would take about 8 hours. We had actually intended to go to Lossiemouth, described to us as a pretty little fishing village, but were informed there was not room for us in the marina, so we settled for the big fishing port of Fraserburgh.
Whiskey Aging

The harbormaster informed us that space for us would be no problem, but he wanted to warn us, he said, that they had no marina-type amenities. This did not bother us -- we were a little tired of marinas anyway -- so off we went.

On its website, the harbor looked vast and complex, as indeed it is, but I was assured that I had only to hail the harbor control on Channel 12 a few minutes before arriving and we would get directions.

The Farm Across from Tesco's, Wick

We had an easy run down, with the weather getting steadily sunnier and warmer, and just after 15:00 we were off Kinnaird Head and I called the harbor office. At 15:32 we slipped inside the breakwater, and the harbor control talked us into our berth in the South Harbour, where a gentleman from the Harbormaster's Office was waiting to take our lines. We berthed in the angle of the Middle Jetty just ahead of two big draggers and surrounded by others.
Traditional fishing Boat on the Hard, Wick

Barbara in Fraserburgh Harbour

Fraserburgh is a real fishing port. I lost count of the number of vessels berthed there. They range from small lobster- and inshore fishing-boats to the 70-meter King's Cross. There is an ice plant, a major fish auction, and a ship lift that can handle huge craft and move them ahead and off to the side so they can be worked on.

When I went to the harbor office to check in, I found that dockage would be £10 per night or £25 per week. Since we knew we would stay at least two nights, this was not a hard choice. Really, the only drawback to life in Fraserburgh was that we could not get internet on the boat. I did try to pay for a connection, via British Telecomm, but their website would never stay up long enough to complete the transaction, which was perhaps just as well.

The Council House, Fraserburgh

We went instead to a pub, where we would spend an hour or so each day getting email and browsing the web, which was not a real hardship. Barbara, of course, met just about all of the staff and knew their life histories.

The bad weather kept most of the boats in harbor for our first few days, but after that there was constant coming and going. The harbor control tower kept track and directed traffic in the narrow entrance with its sharp turns.

There might be an engine company van alongside a boat while a mechanic worked on it, or a welder, and then the next thing you knew she was taking on ice at the ice plant and heading out again.

Plan of Fraserburgh Harbour

Barbara met the proprietors of a local newspaper and tobacco shop on the corner just up from the harbor, and they took a very friendly interest in us, sending us some pictures and giving us a bag full of tasty goodies as a parting gift.
Barbara in Fraserburgh Harbour (Muriel Dyga Photo)

Our Evening View

A local captain told us that the enormous mid-water trawler/seiner King's Cross, 70 meters long, only fished for 14 days last year because of quotas, but that sites aboard were in demand because she stocks so much that even the crewman's share (.04%?) is real money. Most of the other boats have trouble finding crew, and use a lot of contracted Ghanaians or Filipinos. As is often the case, many of the local young men seem not to want the hard work and potential danger of a fisherman's life.
A Scalloper Sorting Out Her Gear

Against all odds, we found a quite good Indian restaurant (B. Raj, Tandoori) on the main street, and so had dinner out one night, but otherwise we ate on the boat. Tesco's in Fraserburgh was in walking distance, although on the outskirts, like the one in Wick, so we restocked a little.

We spent quite a lot of time just walking around the various parts of the harbor and watching the boats and the antics of the large seals that seem to live there.

An Enormous Mid-water Trawler

We went around to a far corner and admired the ship lift. It can lift ships weighing up to 850 tons and move them to any one of six berths by a system of rails. Many of the trawlers are no longer than we are, but they are much much larger boats, deeper and fuller, as is evident when they are out of the water.

Except for the biggest ones, the trawlers here all have added shelter decks forward, which makes them look a little odd to our eyes, but is very practical in stormy weather. A peculiarity of the rig is that the net lives on a reel aft, but the cod end must be brought forward in order to dump the fish into the fish-hold.

Slightly Smaller Mid-water Boats

The fish are all boxed and iced at sea, and one afternoon I watched one boat taking out box after 50-kilo box of haddock at the fish auction building. I hailed the mate, who was running the hoist bringing the boxes up out of the hold, and asked if it had been a good trip, and he said "Yes!" with a smile.
Inshore Fishing Boats in Their Corner of the Harbor

Serenity On the Ship Lift

We were again held up by weather, not that we minded, because we were having a good time in Fraserburgh. Barbara went early one morning and watched the fish auction, and we all ogled the boats, especially the larger ones, while waves broke over the breakwaters and we were happy to be inside.
Boats Out in the Ship Lift Cradles for Work

Finally a day came when all the boats at once, or so it seemed, took turns taking on ice and then heading out, and we too decided it was time to go, a week after our arrival. The forecast was for lighter winds and for what sea there still was to be on our quarter, so that looked all right.
Daystar Taking Out at the Fish Market

With the help of George, from the Harbormaster's Office (a retired fisherman), who found us a hose that would fit the water taps on the wharf, we filled our water tanks. On Thursday, the 21st, I went up to the Saltoun Inn early in the morning to get one more weather forecast, and at 08:40 we dropped our lines and received clearance to leave the harbor. As we left, I heard the harbor control holding up another boat until we should get clear.
One of the Fraserburgh Seals

Outside the harbor there was very little sea, which was nice, and we headed east to get clear of the Scottish coast south of Fraserburgh. An hour later we were able to turn and head about southeast for a seamark near the German island Borkum.

We saw a few ships and many birds: our old friends the fulmars, and this passage there were puffins and small auks doing their terminally cute "rubber ducky" act.

The passage would take us about 50 hours, two full days, so we settled into a relaxed seagoing routine,standing our watches and reading. The first afternoon and evening we saw mainly fishing boats, but early the second morning we began to see more good-sized cargo ships. We were puzzled at first, but soon saw that we were just due north of the northern end of the traffic lanes through the English Channel, so we were seeing all the traffic from the south for ports in Norway.

Barbara in Front of Our Corner Newsstand (Ian Dyga Photo)

Friday morning we had rain squalls, but there was no real wind in them, so they were just a nuisance. That morning we had a pod of dolphins playing around our bow for about two hours.

All day Friday we had ships on the AIS, and occasionally on the radar, and in the evening we saw lights from oil rigs all around the horizon.

At about 09:00 on Saturday morning, just two days after we left, we came to the edge of the traffic lane from the Elbe and Weser Rivers (Hamburg and Bremerhaven) to the English Channel.

I Liked the Brightness of this Trim Against the Usual Scottish Stonework

There was a steady stream of ships, and after we jinked our way through the west-bound lane we had to dodge around to starboard to pass astern of an east-bound ship.

We made it all right, by paying close attention, and at 12:32 we were abeam the Westerems Fairway buoy, at the entrance to the channel leading through the mudflats to Borkum and the Ems River.

As we approached the mouth of the Ems itself, we were boarded by the German Küstenwache, who wanted to see our passports and the boat's documentation. We learned later that the coast was locked down for a joint exercise of the various Customs and Immigration authorities.

The Harbor, With a Stormy Sea in the Background

The First Sunset at Sea Since Arriving in Oban

We ran the long route into Delfzijl Harbor, around the dike that protects its entrance, and up through the quiet water of the Delfzijl aproach.

I had called the harbormaster of the Neptunus Marina in Delfzijl from Scotland, but he said there was no room for us because the bad weather was preventing boats from moving, so we did not know what to expect. We decided to carry on, however, and see what we could manage to work out.

A Dutch Gas Platform in the Early Dawn

In the event, there was a space on the very long commercial float that surrounds the marina itself, so we tied up there, probably illegally, with a huge trawler from Urk and an inland freighter. No sooner were we tied up than the Customs and Immigration found us, having had a call from the Küstenwache and tracked us via AIS. They were very friendly, looked at our papers and stamped our passports, and we were formally in the Netherlands.
A Typical Middle-sized Inland Ship

To see our track in Google Earth click:
here for Wick to Fraserburgh.
here for Fraserburgh to Delfzijl.

Part I
Part II
Part IV