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0052 - A trip to the Forth and back...

So we were sitting in Berwick harbour, our spinnaker pole back on board, attempting to figure out where we should go, or what we should do.

This has been a strange season for us, we haven't gone too far, or done all that much, but I suppose we don't have to do anything at all. One of the main reasons for not doing that much has largely been Phoebe's health.

She has good days and bad days, good weeks and bad weeks - and keeping in range of vets has been something I have been very mindful of, not to mention the additional expense of sporadic vet visits, and getting medication for her has been challenging, frustrating and expensive, but she's worth it ;)

I want to go sailing, but I love my cat(s) - and don't want to risk her for a bit of adventure. She's always been a good, well-behaved cat, and quite frankly, I don't want the guilt of having to put her through any unnecessary suffering by not being able to get her medications when she needs them.

But right now, she seems to be in one of her better weeks so we're just going to jump back up to the Forth for a week, and then we'll pop back down to Berwick. There are vets on both sides of the trip, so should anything happen, help is not too far away.

We're only going back to the Forth as that's the way the wind is blowing, I had contemplated going South but the wind said, no, so off we go.

Phoebe insisted on being topside to see us out of the harbour, but went down below as soon as we passed the breakwater as things go a little choppier out in the open sea, which was good of her - saves me chasing her down below!

After getting out of the harbour we motored out about 5nm out before I could get the sails up and head North. I suppose we could have sailed to that point, but tacking back and forth is a bit annoying, and I am by myself, no point in making life harder than it has to be.

We got to where we needed to be and I got the sails up, dialled in our course and that was that, a brief 12 hours later, we arrived back in the Forth and took up residence on a condemned pier.

Doesn't sound too glamourous, and I guess it wasn't - but the price was right and it was very protected, the girls would have a very lazy week just nuzzled into this rotting pier.

The weather was awesome and the crew spent most of their days topside, lounging in every available spot.

There are a lot of birds here, both in the water and in the air in the form of pigeons, razorbills, ducks, terns, swallows, and starlings - their version of Netflix.

Although it was calm and quiet here, I got the feeling the girls were getting bored of this place, not sure why - just a feeling I guess...

And before we knew it, a week had passed and it was time to go.

I've lost count as to how many times I've done this trip, so I'm not going to bore you, or myself by detailing the journey, but the weather was not as predicted and the return journey took a bit longer than expected.

Even at the start, there was a delay, as when I tried to leave the pier we grounded out in the soft mud and had to wait about an hour more just to get out of the harbour, t'was a bit annoying - but a couple of coffees later, and we were on our way.

The trip started out quite foggy, but the fog dissolved into a medium haze over the course of the day, but for most of the day you couldn't tell where the sea ends and the sky begins - and there was zero wind.

The water was flat calm, and the crew were permitted to roam without their harnesses, they really hate wearing them.

Usually, they want to go on deck, so I put their harnesses on, and then they both sulk down below because they hate wearing them - So then I take them off cause they're not coming on deck - and then they want to come up just can't win with cats sometimes...I wish I could explain to them that it's for their own good...

Phoebe did come up for a little while but then went below and went back to sleep - she's seen it all!

Chloe on the other hand, stayed in the cockpit for most of the afternoon, spending most of her time keeping the captain company.

It stayed hazy for most of the day, but it was pleasant - but we do need some wind soon - we definitely don't have enough diesel to motor all the way!

The haze also generates a few optical illusions, ships in the distance just look like they're hovering above the water.

It seemed like there were a lot of fishing pots out here today, but being as flat as it was - they were fairly easy to spot - and avoid.

At certain spots, there are just so many of these things - I'd normally keep to deeper water, but we were cutting corners and keeping close to the shore as to not add any extra distance to an already slow trip...

Although it was a nice day, we were making horrible time and as we were motoring with not much fuel, I had the engine at low revs to conserve the fuel we had as we had no reserves - the last thing I need is to run out of fuel out here.

Before we knew it, it was almost dusk, but you know - it was a very beautiful evening, very quiet, very peaceful.

Around this time that I realized that we'd be arriving in the dark. This was not good.

What was good, was the sunset - really quite beautiful actually, it was one of the highlights of the trip, for sure!

As the nighttime rolled in, things got interesting as the wind finally arrived in the form of 15kts and the sails went up, and the engine went off - and that was good.

It was good because, in the dark, there is almost no chance in spotting pots, and with the wind filling our sails, with the prop not turning - I wasn't concerned, and sailing at night in such smooth conditions was a real treat, and things were actually really nice for a while.

It was so quiet, and wandering around the yacht as we sailed closer to Berwick I noticed bioluminescent sparkles in the water - I spent a good 20min dragging the boathook in the water to agitate the water enough to generate the sparkles. It's the coolest thing, even the water passing over the rudder was enough to turn our wake into a glowing trail.

By now, we could see Berwick, getting closer and closer...I was just sitting in the cockpit, looking over the starboard-side, just looking at the reflections in the water when I saw it, about 30ft away - a fishing pot, just there, doing nothing - not in our path - but it was there all the same.

Where there is one, there is more, but again, we were sailing - so I wasn't too panicked about them - then about 2 miles away from Berwick, the wind slowly died and we were dead in the close, and yet so far...

Before starting the engine, I took all the sails down and retrieved my new, super-powerful flashlight from the nav station, then I went up to the bow to scan for pots - to my horror - they were everywhere! I could see at least 15 of them all around us.

What was helpful is that all the pots that I could see had reflective strips on them, so they were remarkably easy to spot! And not having used a flashlight to spot pots before, I thought maybe they ALL had reflective strips on them...

Anyway, I started the engine and put it into gear, and we were moving again, very slowly at about 3kts. Every few minutes I would scan the area in front of the boat, keeping a very close watch.

I went below for a period of time not exceeding 30 seconds, and when I came back on deck I immediately scanned the water for pots - all clear - just as I was walking back from the bow I noticed something in the water about 3ft in front of the bow - A damn pot, not only was it a pot, but the pick-up line of this pot must have been 10ft long, and as the bow struck the main buoy, I saw the smaller one get sucked under the boat.

I have never moved so fast in my life - I flew into the cockpit and killed the engine, as I heard the rumbling under the boat as the buoy made its way under the keel, and for a hot second, I thought we had avoided disaster - I heard the line prang off of our prop which was not turning by this point - then there was some rapid slowing down and I could hear further rumblings as we were now towing this damn pot, you could hear/feel it banging and rolling around the seafloor - we were, without a doubt, hooked.

This is the situation I have 'skillfully' avoided and dreaded ever since I got this boat, the only saving grace was that it wasn't wrapped around the prop, but we were definitely hooked. If I had stayed below for a further 10 seconds - I would be writing a very different account. In my defence, neither of them had reflective strips.

I quickly assessed the situation. We had a buoy on both sides and as best as I could tell the line was caught on the rudder - I managed to get one of the buoys on board and as I tugged on the line I could see the other line move on the opposite side, so there were no tangles, and seemingly all I had to do was cut the line on one side, and pull the line on the other side to free us.

I tried to cut the line with a knife to no avail - these lines were super tough, and I was not making any progress - I had to get a hacksaw to get the damn line cut - just an incredibly strong line. But I did get it cut and was able to get the line out from behind the rudder, pull it over to the other side and reattach it the other buoy, then I threw the whole mess back in the water - and we were free...

I waited a few minutes till it drifted off, I then did a quick scan of the water before reengaging the engine. All that remains of the event is a piece of rope that I couldn't reattach, I will be keeping it as a keepsake.

The blue on the line is from our anti-fouling bottom paint...

We passed quite a few more of these things during the short distance we had left to cover, but the ones we saw all had the reflective tape on them, and we didn't hit any more of them.

Before long, and quite relievingly so, we had passed the breakwater and into the safety of the harbour. (Safety in the sense that there are no pots within the harbour) Coming in here at night was a very different experience.

As I still had the torch I would occasionally just have a look ahead and as I would pan the light across the water, hundreds of tiny fish would leap out of the water - I've never seen that before - maybe on TV or something, but not in 'real-life' - I have a tiny bit of video.

We crept into the harbour, up the channel and into the basin where we made our way onto a wall, where we could tie up for the night.

In conclusion, I think we were lucky, very lucky - but I'm also just glad I was able to fix the situation on my own without having to pester either the Harbour Master or the RNLI (Coast Guard). In a way, I almost feel that I created the situation, as in my last post I did say that I was gonna bump into one of those things one day...serves me right for tempting fate...

But in a way, it was good - it finally happened - And I can put it in the column marked 'experience'.


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