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:
It seemed as if someone somewhere was looking after the crew of Spider T when they opted to stay in harbour at Anstruther for further day in hopes that the weather would improve before continuing to Montrose and then the Arbroath.
Skipper Mal Nicholson, spent the day working on minor repairs and checking on various matters relating to sailing, including the condition of ropes.
It was fortunate he did so, for it turned out that one of the mainsail halliards had been nipped badly and several strands had frayed – see the photo above – which would likely have led to the heavy gaff and sail crashing to the deck and potentially injuring one of the crew or even damaging the ship.
The crew conferred with local experts including marine engineer Davy Todd and 86-year old former fisherman Coull Deas, who had sailed on the Spider T on an earlier voyage.
Splicing the line was considered, but finally it was decided to replace it and the work was carried out by Coull.
Throughout the day there was a constant stream of visitors to the vessel.
Tying up in the outer harbour of Arbroath gave the Spider T’s crew a tremendous sense of pleasure and achievement, and relief. It was good to have arrived on schedule for the Arbroath Seafest, but skipper Mal was relieved that the difficult last leg was over.
The new peak halliard turned out to be too long, which meant that it could not be hoisted high enough to use the main sail effectively. The problem had not been discovered in harbour because there had been too much wind to raise the sails, and the Spider T was heeling more than should have been necessary.
The problem will be sorted out relatively easily during the vessel’s stay in Arbroath, but it did mean the Spider T sailed straight for its final destination rather than calling in at Montrose. ‘We needed the shortest possible route with the rig in that condition,’ said Mal.
The entry to Arbroath was tricky at low tide, and the Humber sloop grounded slightly on the mud at the entrance – if she had been 10 minutes later she could not have got in. Nevertheless, she tied up in the outer harbour and the crew were just in time to catch a meal of hearty steak pies and clooty dumpling and custard at a nearby pub.
On Thursday morning the vessel, Spider T was moved into the inner harbour, where she was once again cleaned in readiness for hundreds of visitors to come aboard during the Arbroath Sea Fest weekend and celebrations to mark the 200th anniversary of the building of the nearby Bell Rock Lighthouse.
The cleaning operation wasn’t helped when a drainage worker disposed of some
material into the corner of the harbour, splattering mess over ropes and part of the decks of the Spider T, creating work and a potential health risk for members of the crew.
Needless to say, skipper Mal had a few things to say before widely going below to cool off. ‘It did not make for a good welcome,’ he said. Later, however, spirits improved with the arrival of Mal’s wife Val and a number of friends.
Mal once again thanked fuel sponsors CFS and DHL (UK), which provided
some food for the voyage.
As the Arbroath Seafest drew closer barriers went up along the harbourside ready to provide a degree of protection for the 40,000 or so expected visitors.
The Spider T was joined in harbour by the famous lug-rigged fifie Reaper fishing boat, and two restored fishing boats from the 1940s, the Favourite and Rachel Douglas.
Another exhibit is a replica of the sling cart used to carry building stones for the Bell Rock Lighthouse.
Seafest chairman Alastair Martin welcomed the Spider T and said that the organiers very much appreciated the crew had made.
Skipper Mal said it was great to receive such a warm welcome from those organising the Seafest and from people in the town.
Established in 1178 by King William the Lion, Arbroath is famous for smoked haddock, known as Arbroath smokies, and the smokers give the harbour quarter a pervasive smell that tugs on the tastebuds.