Script and images from Moray 5
This is about Sailing around Britain.
The wave patterns of this north east coast continue to surprise me – a whole morning of a series of double waves relentlessly rolling in from the North – and there – a splash of the ever reliable moray dolphins – they checked us out for a second or two…. before dissapearing almost as abruptly as they had arrived.
As we sailed down the coast the weather improved and pretty the main went up and the recycled ghoster came out – looking slightly grubby now but an extremly enjoyable sail to deploy. It is as big as the main and gets the boat shifting along beautfully – although back in my racing days sail flutter was something to be avoided at all coasts I – now just look at it and pretend that it is not happening.
As the scottish landmass drifted north it spent two periods in the desert fringes down near the equator – one sandy dry windswept past was around 400 million years ago and a second time 200 million years ago – These wonderful wind sculpted sandstone formations along the shore are mightily compressed equatorial sand dunes. .
Well worth running the boat up on the shore for a closer look because For those with patience these formations are full of fossils of all sorts – among them the remains of curiously endearing dinosaur called Geikeia – the size of a spanial, herbivorous, hairy, egg laying, highly social , neat little feet – which all makes it sound likrather a nice thing to have as a pet/
herbivorous, hairy, egg laying, ltinily tusked herbivorous hairy dinosaurs called Geikias – which sound nice things to have as a pets.
For me here, walking among these remarkable rocks a few pages of the true story of earth is told, you can feel it, smell it, walk through it and hear the calls of the birds and the sound of the waves bouncing off it.
More magnificent and full of meaning than any church or parliament or bridge or wall ever built by humanity.
Just a few miles down the coast is the small harbour of Hopeman –
We spent quite a lot of time in Hopeman – and came to love it –
it is the usual grid pattern clearance village of some 700 households. There are – some public loos open for many generous hours, an Indian, a chinese, two pubs, a co-op and a chipshop
The harbour is in trouble – it has a wonderful pontoon –installed at great expense by the council but it is choked with weedy, rotten old small leisure mobos that almost never move because their local owners, many former fishermen, were once offered a life-time spot at a knock down price along its 100 yard length. One of the boats is being used as small storage shed for garden furniture. If these were rented out at economic rates of say £1,000 a season then the harbour would be financially sustainable, the owners of the boats would be using them regularly – spending money in the shop and pub – visiting yachts would be offered a pontoon space rather than a spot along a wall
– they would also be spending money in the village.
Instead the harbour is slowly falling apart around the perfect pontoon that is lined with financially inactive berth blocking eyesores.
One of the loevliest things about hopeman are the beaches –
to both east and west they are stunning – and made of 250 million year old wind blown desert sand which is the most wonderful stuff for a barefoot evening walk.
However, lest you forget this is still scotland – so our stays in hopeman still offered us lots of chances to enjoy the rain.
One of our favourite harbours as we ranged up and down this coast was Portnockie – tucked tightly away behind the lovely curves of lyre rock
A brain switch trips when rainbound in harbour and for a few hours the pulse slows and there is time to observe
You would have to spend a lot of time up an east anglian estuary waiting for one of these to drift past.
Mind you, Portnockie must be a right bastard of an entrance in bad weather – lovely today though.
The next two days bnrought us great sailing wind – but the east coast had decided that it was time for a bit of dreach – and we ran to burgead.
I don’t know how to describe the sense of claustrophobia that threatens people condemned to crouch in confined tiny cabins by relentless scottish rain.. The only standing room is in the companionway with the hatch back and the umbrella up.. forced to take turns at standing. You cannot go out in it because drying wet gear – even with five tealights going full blatt – is all but impossible.
That aside – burghead is still a functioning fishing port – so it is nice to see local commercial fishermen fettling and fiddling with their immensely impressive arrays of fascinating dockside gubbins.
Fishing is changing again though– it always has, always will.
Even in my life as a sailor I have watched the way their vessels have changed in shape, grown more slab sided and powerful as they have been forced to forage ever further from their home waters.
Last summer, when I was up here in the Centaur – we spent a lovely night aground in findhorn It was then that I was told about the old bar – “blow your socks off Dylan” is what one kayaker told me
but you would not want to take a yacht in there he said – far too shallow for you blokes … he said.
In the event I chickened in the Centaur – what with five of us being aboard and all – but I promised myself that I would return with Katie – far better suited to extreme shallow sailing adventures than the heavy twin keeled centaur.
The old bar is where the River findhorn used to join the Firth – until a couple of hundred years ago when it suddenly shifted course to its new location . It was once a favourite place for French ships to sneak in laden with soldiers, guns, gold and pamphlets of fake news from catholic controlled printing presses to be brought into scotland – all part of their long term attempts to ferment scottish highlanders into attacking their perfectly peaceful easy going bucolic english neighbours.
I love the varying speed of geography of the moray
– from the 250 million year old fossil packed sandstone rocks through the 50,000 year old ice carved cliffs through the comparatively capricious 200 year flaggellations of the Findhorn river through the double daily dose of tide powered re-arranging of stones and sediment finally to the second by second, wave by wave small scale shifting of sand and pebble that goes on through every second of every day. All to be found along the moray firth –
The posts were put in during the second world war – mainly by squaddies
forest cut trees, each of which was buried in a an oil barrel filled with high grade military concrete – it is amazing that they have lasted this long. The men who did the work have mostly gone..dust to dust . but their oddly impressive accidental mega sculpture remains for kayakers and shallow sailors to appreciate.
The posts were intended to stop the Germans using the old bar as a landing place for towed gliders packed with commandoes and all their gear. They would have been part of an expected German back door invasion of Britain that would have involved establishing a Nazi bridgehead at Inverness
There are such pleasures to be had from experiencing a place such as the old bar right through the tidal cycle. I feel genuine pity for depth challenged sailors who can never have experiences like these The inexorable, gradual inundation starts slowly enough – engulfing tiny islets of sand… until over the space of two or three hours what was once dry land is again part of the sea.
The tide brought a breeze with it – one with just enough northerly to allow me to sail out of the bar.
The Moray Firth – the finest body of water on the whole east coast of this wonderful island.
Thanks for watching the films – if you have ever felt inclined to chip in now would be a good time to do so because I am running out of material
I am currently saving up for a warmer boat for filming the west coast of scotland – where it rains 4 times as much as it does on the Moray.
If you are at all seeing my take on these places then the paypal button is around here somewhere
Or – if you don’t care about the films that much you can watch sailors wives and girlfriends on 40 foot lozenges in the hot places. They look great in bikinis emoting entrancingly and quivering with rapture over carribean dolphins and swimming pigs –They use a lot of words, but, in my experience, often have little to say.
This is probably the last but one film from KTL ….. about the east coast of Britain
I have now taken you with me up pretty much all the estuaries, rivers, broads, firths, lochs and voes along the entire east coast of this remarkable island
, as usual from the cockpit of my modest boat
.I can say that the Moray is easily the very best the east coast has to offer – crystal clear water, uncrowded, lovely locals, fascinating harbours and anchorages, brilliant beaches, cliffs, islands and inlets, mountains, dunes, dolphins, castles and some of the densest concentrions of important bits of British history to be found anywhere
Thanks for watching the films – I hope you have enjoyed the experiment of moving the scripted versions to my website. these youtube cuts of the films are a bit windy in places, the shots just that bit too long,,,, the reason is that there is supposed to be some of my pithily informative, yet beautifully paced and constructed prose added to the sound of wind and water. To sail past a rock without knowing something of its origin and history seems a shame – so if you want to know what the posts behind the old bar are for then you will have to go to my website
The hope is that a few of those who, quite underestandably refuse to chip in towards the costs of my sailing adventures might be prepared to pay something for my words – it is an old concept, an odd one perhaps – but an honorouable one
Now where is that paypal button.