25thMay.  We set off just after 7am, leaving the beautiful Lindisfarne castle behind us, and passing a beach lined with basking seals in their hundreds – something we’ve not seen before. For the rest of the journey we saw seabirds around us – puffins, guillemots, terns and gannets in growing numbers. At one point we saw a pack of them wheeling and diving (of which more later). It was a magnificent sight.

Sailing close-hauled up the coast against a Northerly wind (again) we crossed into Scotland just north of Berwick, aiming for the high cliffs of St Abbs head, with its lighthouse perched on the edge of the headland, aiming two miles off in the hope of minimising adverse tide. The rain set in, the cyclonic wind started moving round to the West, and we started the motor. As usual we were keeping a close watch to avoid pot buoys, and rotating our three-person crew (two hours on, one hour off).

Approaching the start of the Firth of Forth, in order to sail again we decided to tack round Bass Rock, one of two prominent hills in the otherwise flat landscape (the other is Berwick Law on the mainland). Above Bass Rock there was a haze, like a swarm of bees. Through the drizzle it was hard to see, but it soon became apparent there were thousands of gannets flying above the rock, the top half of which was dotted with nesting birds and white with guano. The noise was constant. It was an impressive spectacle; none of us had seen a gannet colony on this vast scale before. The sea was covered with gannets too – some with their beaks tucked under their wing, so you couldn’t see their heads, presumably resting (at first we thought they were dead, until one startled corpse woke up and flew away).  

It took us several hours to sail up the Firth of Forth past several small islands dotted about the estuary, until we reached Leith.  We had hoped to find a berth at Granton, which is a small pontoon run by two Edinburgh yacht clubs, but we were uncertain whether there would be enough depth. We decided to go and check the depth: it was fine near high water, but after checking our calculations several times we realised there would not be enough depth once the tide went down, except on a neap tide. So we continued another seven miles up to Port Edgar, a large marina situated under the three Forth bridges (our stowaway Bob popped out for a look at the view) and settled into a berth facing north-west: deliberately, as strong winds were forecast and we didn’t want the wind blowing directly into our cabin.  It was a good move – the wind the following day and night gusted up to force 7, with an alarming swell coming into the harbour, and we rigged additional lines (we use dynamic climbing rope) and a ‘rubber snubber’ on our bowline, to help reduce the amount the boat moves around.

  • Distance: 87 NM. Sailed 3 hours, motorsailed 10 hours
  • Wind: N/NE 3-4