2ndJune. After exploring Edinburgh and South Queensferry (where Port Edgar marina sits under the three Forth Bridges), a trip ‘down South’ for Anne to visit her mum, and a day full of visitors, we set off for the next leg with Jonathan’s uncle Emil (from New Zealand).

Sailing on a broad reach under the Forth Bridges we headed along the north coast of the Firth, past Inchcolm island with its ruined Abbey. On the south shore, Edinburgh – with Arthurs Seat and the castle dominating the skyline – receded as we headed east, heading for the Isle of May about 30 miles away. Few other boats were out, quite surprising to us on a Sunday in early June. 

At the Island we had only the lifeboat on exercise for company. We had made good speed, arriving about lunchtime hoping to anchor, but the wind was building and the conditions were not suited to anchoring so we gently motored close to the shore. The island is home to many seabirds and has a prominent lighthouse on its highest point, described in one pilot book as looking as grand as a town hall.  Green slopes meet the rocky foreshore and a disused lighthouse and foghorn can be seen. It’s a spectacular sight.

Lighthouse on the Isle of May

The forecast was for strengthening winds and we had decided to break our journey to Arbroath in Pittenweem. The harbour does not normally cater for yachts, but we’d checked with the harbour master who agreed we could spend the night.  We motored up the narrow channel and turned sharp left through the narrow entrance. The harbour was full of fishing boats, large and small, crowded in two or three abreast against the harbour wall. A couple of fishermen unloading their prawns (langoustine) suggested we moor up next to one of the largest trawlers. We came alongside and got a rope round the ladder on the side of the trawler. Jonathan then climbed up and found places to fix our ropes – a novel task.

We had a quick walk round Pittenweem which is a picturesque village with art galleries, a chocolate maker, and an ancient hermit’s cave deep in the cliff. Then back to the boat for supper and preparations for the night. Although we were in the inner harbour, we realised that the swell coming into the harbour as the wind increased could mean an uncomfortable night. We put ready warm clothes, boots and lifejackets to put on quickly during the night: which turned out to be necessary. As the tide rose, the swell increased and the boat rolled, and we lay in bed listening and feeling the jerks on the mooring lines.  At 1am, we added a bow line with springy ‘rubber snubber’, and at 2am as we rolled out of sync with the trawler we added a dynamic rope to the mast, successfully reducing the alarming motion and potential risk of the mast hitting the trawler. Suffice to say, we didn’t sleep much.

Nova beside Trawler New Dawn

The wind was strong the next day so we didn’t leave the harbour. We spent the morning minding our ropes and unable to go ashore. For our second night, the helpful harbourmaster found us a new berth against a smaller boat in the west end of the harbour which was much more peaceful.  Finally we could leave the boat and stretch our legs – we headed for the Pittenweem Cocoa Tree café for coffee and chocolate cake!  We slept well that night.

  • Distance: 36 NM Edinburgh to Pittenweem. Sailed 6.5 hours
  • Wind: SW 1-5