Detour had a blazing sail to Scotland, averaging 6.7 knots. We sailed first with a 15-20 knot northwest wind, followed by a lull which required a bit of motoring, ended with a building southeast, and finally another bit of motoring to bring us into the Moray Firth. We’d traveled exactly 360nm from Utsira, Norway; total 53 hours with 15 engine hours. We’ve been long overdue for a proper passage, and we were so over-prepared that it was somewhat relaxing! The stay sail was rigged, the dinghy was secure on deck, jack-lines were run, the passage berth was snug, and everything inside that should be stowed away was stowed. I prepped breakfasts (hard boiled eggs, bread, and smoked salmon), pre-made dinners (cod chowder, and tortellini on hand), and prepped several snacks (tuna salad, sliced tomatoes, carrot sticks, hummus, pretzels and peanut butter). Passages are really all about eating! Detour was clean and dry, so rather than puttering about I actually read an entire book along the way! Brian and I took 4-hour watch shifts. The weather was fantastic; warm sunshine during the days and a full moon to light our overnights. We spotted many gannets, sheer-waters, and gulls. We had one, adorable, exhausted little brown bird “Little BB” land for respite; but unfortunately, even having been offered cracker crumbs and fresh water, Little BB didn’t survive the passage. It was quite a chore looking after Little BB. After a full night’s sleep (20:00 – 06:15), Little BB awoke and poked all around the cockpit floor (I hoped eating crumbs), then suddenly fell asleep where he/she was standing! I picked up Little BB and moved him/her into a cozy cubby I arranged, but within about 20 minutes Little BB was out poking around the cockpit again only to fall asleep in a new location. This behavior continued through my morning shift. When I’d changed watch, Little BB was sleeping in the cubby. I warned Brian to keep an eye on Little BB so he wouldn’t step on him/her because he/she moved about so frequently. But, when I awoke Brian told me, “I’m worried about your bird, it hasn’t moved since you went to bed.” Little BB had a burial at sea.
A very playful dolphin swam alongside Detour for a few minutes in the North Sea. We successfully avoided what seemed hundreds of oil rigs; they lit up like birthday candles atop ginormous cakes at night and were quite an obnoxious sight! Huge tankers were often alongside to be filled, emergency vessels hovered around the vicinity, and tow vessels were hard at work moving underwater cables which in one case extended six-nautical-miles behind the tow (broadcast on the tow’s AIS). Upon entering the Moray Firth a large pod of bottle-nose dolphins were leaping clear out of the water! Seals sunned themselves along the sandy shorelines, and we admired the golden, green rollings hills of Scotland.
We landed at the Inverness Marina. Prior to arrival, I’d reviewed the clearance process for arrival to the United Kingdom; the information is available at this link: Notice 8: Sailing Your Pleasure Craft To and From the UK The clearance process, when put into practice, was straightforward and simple. We’d arrived at Inverness Marina after business hours, not a problem for a new arrival because the marina provides all the codes for use of the facilities at outdoor honesty boxes along the docks. Fortunately for us, we had an extremely helpful neighbor show us the lay of the land. I promptly contacted the National Yachtline to inform UK immigration of my arrival. Our situation did not require customs. After a series of questions I was told we could take down the ‘Q’ flag. “Wow,” I exclaimed after the call, “that was super easy!” Brian and I enjoyed a freshly cooked meal and a cold beer to celebrate our successful passage and arrival.
The next morning, I followed-up with David and Craig, marina manager and staff respectively, and learned that the National Yachtline had contacted David at home the previous evening (the marina was called and the number is forwarded to the manager’s mobile after hours) to inquire whether anyone had seen our vessel. Good thing I knew the process ahead of time! I had one form to complete, a crew list, which Craig submitted to UK immigration. Later that day, I received a clearance approval form to be kept with my passport during my travel throughout the UK. And that’s it, license to explore yet another country!