Spider T sails from the Humber to Arbroath: days eight and nine, stuck at Anstruther but enjoying the visit

Mal Nicholson with trophies won by the Spider T at the Anstruther Muster 2011 Jim Morrison of Pittenweem visits the Spider T during the Anstruther Muster

Visitors at the Anstruther Muster 2011 The Spider T at Anstruther 2011


Photos by Chris Horan. Click on the images for a much larger photo

Crewmember Chris Horan describes days eight and nine of Spider T’s voyage from the Humber to Arbroath:

Day 8 (continued)

High winds and big seas forecast by the weathermen had arrived by Sunday. Spider T was due to sail from Anstruther to Montrose, but consultations between skipper Mal Nicholson, senior crew and the land based back-up resulted in a decision to delay the journey to Montrose until the bad weatherhad eased.

It was not so much a case that Spider T could not have sailed but partly a matter of erring on the side of caution, and also taking into consideration that trip was a working holiday for crewmembers and that the commercial port at Montrose had less to offer than Anstruther.

Staying in Anstruther for a little longer would also give more members of the public a chance to view the Spider T, which had been given an award for the being the oldest vessel at the Anstruther Muster. The award was received by crewmember Rory Mitchell.

‘It is an award for the hard work of the crew and supporters, which includes a lot of shore based people,’ said Mal. ‘For me it also showed that the ambassadorial role we play for National Historic Ships is recognised by the Anstruther Muster.’

Jim Morrison, who is a member of Anstruther Sailing Club, which organises the Muster, said people had been delighted to see Spider T sail in. ‘There was a buzz went round. Most people round here are fascinated with vessels, particularly with those which have been restored. It was smashing to see her return.’

Spider T bomb disposal 2 TheSpider T in Anstrutherwith a Royal NavyBomb Disposal van on the harbour side

 Derek Chafer sits in as cox with members of St Ayles rowing club, Anstruther with the ladies at the oars.. Rowers in the harbour at Anstruther

Day 9

Being in port did not mean there was nothing to be done, for as well as welcoming visitors there were various maintenance and domestic tasks to be accomplished.

In addition the vessel was switched from shore power to generator power to allow electrical equipment such the washer to be operated along with the ship’s shower and other appliances, the engine and the gland sealing the propeller shaft were checked, and the fast-emptying ebbing water tanks were refilled.

The Spider T’s unexpected trophies were not the only suprises to come the way of the sailing barge’s crew while at Anstruther.

One centred on an unexploded bomb found in the approach to the port, which crosses a former minefield. The Spider T had sailed through this on her way into port a couple of days earlier!

The minefield is supposed to have been cleared long ago, but each year one or two devices emerge and find their way into open water, posing potential dangers to mariners and tourist boats. The floating bomb could have severely damaged a vessel like Spider T if she had come into contact with it.

Once the object had been sighted a Royal Navy bomb disposal team arrived to blow the object up in a controlled explosion while local lifeboatmen kept other vessels at bay.

The alarm over the floating bomb failed to deter crew members Derek Chafer and Chris Horan when they were invited to join the women of the town’s St Ayles Rowing Club for an evening’s rowing session in their two Iain Oughtred-designed St Ayles skiffs.

Although heavy rain had been forecast, the day turned out better than expected and we had a beautiful summer’s evening – and so the two crews set off for a couple of circuits along the coast.

Afterwards, the rowers and friends were invited on board the Spider T for hospitality and to see round the Humber sloop.

Spider T sails from the Humber to Arbroath: days six, seven and eight, Blyth to Eyemouth and Anstruther

The Spider T sails out of Blyth into the morning sunrise. The Spider T sails out of Blyth in the rising sun

The Tyne, an ex-lightship now the clubhouse of the Royal Northumberland Yacht Club at Blyth built in 1979. It was previously a lightship.

Photos by Spider T crew member Chris Horan

Crewmember Chris Horan describes days six, seven and eight of Spider T’s voyage from the Humber to Arbroath:

Day 6, Blyth to Eyemouth

The crew of the Spider T enjoyed their stay overnight at the Royal
Northumberland Yacht Club at Blyth. The clubhouse is an ex lightship, HMS Tyne, which was built in 1879 and now listed in the Historic Ships Register.

The Tyne has a beautiful interior that shows off the riveting skills of British workmen in the past.

The Spider T crew were given a friendly welcome and excellent with steak and kidney pudding. They were joined late in the evening by an old friend of the Spider TRory Mitchell of Braemar, who sailed on the Humber sloop in 2008, and club member Bob Young was helpful in sending out the daily despatch.

Next morning, a mist hung over the harbour as Spider T sailed from the Royal Northumberland Yacht Club on the long leg from Blyth to Eyemouth.

Further north, the forecast was for rain. We set sail at 6am on the 50-mile leg expecting to be at sea for 12 to 16 hours, depending on the weather conditions and the wind.

The potential bad weather ahead seemed rather distant, however, as the sun broke through the mist to provide an impressive sunrise.

For a couple of hours the sun shone brilliantly but then the mists returned and hid the Northumbrian Coast, including the Farne Islands including Lindisfarne, from view. Nonetheless a couple of the crew reported spotting puffins for the first time.

The navigators plotted our route using both GPS and the traditional charts; there are no
big road signs out at sea, and spotting buoys marking the route calls for good eyesight and a good feel for three-dimensions, as one is also thinking about depth, wind and tide, and submerged rocks.

In the afternoon the swell began to build with the Spider T once again being pitched

The run in to Eyemouth required some precision sailing. There are rocks on each side of the channel and a strong flood tide, and choppy seas make for a difficult entry, and the Spider T took a battering on her beam as the mainsail was dropped – skipper Mal Nicholson described it as one of the worst harbour entrances he knew, and recalled coming in once in an easterly storm – a feat that was widely reported by the yachting and shipping magazines and newspapers.

Regular mate of the Humber sloop Amy Howson Derek Chafer was on board for a few days said he was used to the quick response of the Amy’s tiller – ‘With the wheel in the Spider T you have to thing ahead a bit more.’ However, he was impressed by the Spider T’s behaviour in the swell: he had expected the boat to have been bounced about by the swell a lot more than she had been.

There was a welcome on the quayside from locals for the vessel which echoed the
welcome of others en route – everywhere we have been people have been curious, welcoming and pleased to see us.

However, an evening out in the seaside town of Eyemouth proved a bit of an eye-opener for the crew of the Spider T – most of the pubs and eateries closed shortly after 8pm.

However, when skipper Mal and two crewmembers asked where might still be open for food they were delighted to be invited into Lodge No 70, St Ebbe, to join the Masons in a meal. It turned out someone well known had been there before – Rabbie Burns was made a Royal Arch Mason of the lodge on the 19th May 1787.

The Spider T sails in for the Anstruther Muster

Anstruther Harbour during Anstruther Muster 2011 with Scottish flags a flying The Spider T in the harbour at Anstruther early Saturday morning. A face in the cliff on leaving Eyemouth for Anstruther

Bill White enjoys a bit of fishing from Spider T

Day 7, Eyemouth to Anstruther

The sails went up as the Spider T left Eyemouth heading due East and then due North, as we passed Bass Rock to port and then approaching the Isle of May with its cliff-top lighthouse.

Shortly after we started 30-mile leg, we passed rocks in the cliff that resembled a face, and during the day’s voyage crew member Bill White tried his hand at a spot of fishing – but in truth the Spider T was ploughing on too fast to catch anything on a line.

Rory said he had enjoyed sailing on the Spider T again: ‘It was like meeting up with old friends. Some of the crew I had not met before, but even though I had only been on board two nights I felt like I had nae been away.’

Anstruther Muster is a big day in the town’s calendar and events were already under way on the Friday night when Spider T rolled into port.

Crewmembers sampled the local culture by touring the pubs, and then attended a ceilidh next to the lifeboat house, and enjoyed watching both locals and visitors dancing to the Gallivanters Ceilidh Band.

Day 8, Anstruther Muster

Saturday saw the crew up early to prepare the vessel for visitors and to enjoy breakfast at the town’s Royal Hotel. After a few days sailing, it was time to give Spider T a quick spring-clean.

Stalls on the harbour attracted many visitors, and several were also interested in Spider T after seeing her lower her sails the night before, and it turned out that we were  berthed in a spot normally occupied by another ship on the Historic Ships Register, the lug-rigged fifie drifter named Reaper.

While in harbour, the Spider T’s crew took the opportunity to act as ambassadors for North Lincolnshire, and distributed and displayed leaflets from the council along with crewman Chris Horan’s nostalgic book Humber Sail and History.

On the northern side of the Firth of Forth, the town is somewhat quaint and worth
a visit – and also boasts a good shower and toilet block for visitors to the harbour.

Sadly, Saturday also saw the departure of two members of crew, Bill White and Mick
Maith, who had commitments back home and set off early to catch the train back south.

Skipper Mal said that the crew had been overwhelmed by the interest shown in the Spider T, and thanked all those who had made the voyage possible, including the fuel company CFS and courier DHL (UK).

Scottish Coastal Rowing St Ayles skiffs triumph in wind and waves regatta

Anstruther Regatta 2011 photos by Ron Wallace

Anstruther Regatta 2011 photos by Ron Wallace Anstruther Regatta 2011 photos by Ron Wallace

These shots of the 2011 Anstruther Regatta taken by Ron Wallace at the end of last month show various Scottish Coastal Rowing Association St Ayles skiffs racing in the harbour – it looks like they’re having quite a time, doesn’t it?

There are more of Ron’s fabulous shots here and here.

Alec Jordan, who originally conceived the idea for Scottish Coastal Rowing, has this to say about the event:

‘It was a little wild and windy, and the St Ayles performed superbly. None of the skiffs took more than a couple of pints of water during the races.’

Perhaps that’s not so surprising as the boats are derived from traditional craft and were designed by Iain Oughtred.

The Scottish Coastal Rowing phenomenon continues to be awe-inspiring, with a very lively racing calendar and new boats being built all the time – and not all in Scotland.