Thursday, 12 June 2014

Scapa Flow - a retrospective

Well, I threatened you with a detailed description of our voyage from Wick to Stromness*
No one from my extensive readership*** has demurred, so here we go:
We cast off from the marina pontoon is Wick at 06:20. I know this because it's still written on the cockpit bulkhead, for I'd intended to keep an accurate log for the trip**** - it's the only entry! My passage plan was written on a series of sketch maps, showing me the tidal stream direction at various places at the times I expected to be at them. These had been translated into a route plan on the back up GPS. The ipad had been charged to within an inch of it's life. I was wearing my blue immersion survival suit and was feeling hot and damp already.*****
At the start, the wind wouldn't behave. It was a set of cats paws from the south. After about half an hour it veered to the West and grew to about 10 knots
We actually reached Ducansby head a little early: the tide was still flow strongly East and South, and I wanted to be there when it was "slack". I knew it was flowing that way, because as we approached the  head, a large oil rig thingy ( two storeys on stilts, clearly floating on some sort of barge) suddenly appeared from behind the cliffs and moved majestically but quickly across the gap between the Head and a set of skerries on the far east. It missed the skerries and disappeared o the South East.This gap is about 2 miles wide and this thing crossed it in what seemed to be about 10 minutes. 
At this point, I thought it might be prudent to put in the first reef before we left the shelter of the land. Also, heaving to for a bit would let the tide catch up with us.
So, at just on 10:00, on plan, we stuck our nose past Duncansby Head and steered north towards the gap between two island. This was the tricky bit - if we were too slow to cross this gap the resurgent tide flow (this time in the opposite direction) would catch us and sweep us West into the 'Worst tide race in British Water' (according to the various guides) - the dreaded Merry Men of May

At first, there was no increase in wind speed but, rather than hang about whilst I took the reef out, Freddie was pulled into action and we crossed the gap in a just over an hour. By now  the wind had risen and Freddie had been shut down and we sailed smoothly with the tide up to Scapa Flow. Here' the wind suddenly increased to about 20 knots, so the second reef was taken. All I could do now, to reduce sail should the wind freshen more, would be to lower the jib. We missed the oil terminal buoys, the rock that occasionally dries and sailed over what's left of the sunken wrecks of the scuttled WW1 German battleships and reached the far side of the Flow. The wind had risen, rather than dropped, so I tried to roll up the jib. This repeated the Liverpool bay trick and, again. I was on the foredeck tying down the sail that I had rather unceremoniously lowered. This excitement had made us drop down wind from Hoy Sound, the channel we needed to take to Stromness, so we were faced with a series of tacks to regain lost ground or the further use of Freddie. We pushed into the wind. The tide was still running in our favour, so we had a strong wind over a quick tidal stream. We were heading into steep waves about three or four feet high. Spray flew over the foredeck and into my face on a regular basis - I hadn't a hand spare to erect the spray hood. At one point we surfed down one wave and buried the bow in the green stuff. Otherwise, we rose up the side of a wave and slammed into a trough. So we slowed down and plugged our way onwards. After an age we reached port, the marina and a hot shower.

By the wonders of computer stuff, I've managed to download the chart plotter ma of our voyage.
The blue bit is the track we actually took and the purple bit is the route that I had planned. Makes it look easy, doesn't it.

* That's the town of this name in Orkney, not the one in South Georgia**
** but I've not been to both
*** I'm probably becoming delusional
**** as all skippers should
***** Despite feeling hot and damp, I have to give it full marks. It kept me reasonably dry (I'd trapped the hood under my life jacket, so took spray down my neck) and it kept me warm.

No comments:

Post a Comment