12th July, 2019
Finally, at 05:40 in the morning, the persistent envelope of fog that seemed to have been with us for an almost indeterminable time lifted and we were able to see where we were. Thankfully, it was where I expected to be.
We closed in on green looking Scottish pastures during breakfast time, to sail a mile or so from the eastern fringes of the coast and in particular Montrose Bay, Scurdie Ness lighthouse, the pleasant looking golden Lunan beach and then out to seaward, Bell Rock Lighthouse marking the particularly perilous Bell Reef.
This impressive lighthouse, standing 35m tall, was constructed between 1807-1810 and is the world’s oldest surviving sea-washed lighthouse. Despite being in place for so long, there have since still been casualties on Bell Reef – including the loss of a 144m Royal Navy cruiser in 1915, and even a helicopter in 1955; which unfortunately struck the lighthouse itself.
At 10:00 we entered the mouth of the River Tay, and from here it would be a 12 mile passage to Dundee port itself when we would berth just prior to lunchtime. The slightly later arrival accounted for the fact that the river is quite shallow and, at just 4m depth in parts, with our draft at almost 9m we had to make use of high tides to enter and leave port here.
Known as the ‘City of Discovery’ – due to the fact that Robert Scott’s pioneering research vessel after the same name is permanently moored there as a museum – the city offers much to see within its limits and further afield. There were organised tours to visit Perth and the Scone Palace, the Royal Palace of Falkland, Fettercairn Distillery, and two separate trips to both Balmoral and Glamis Castle respectively. For the twitchers on board, there was a trip to Seaton Cliffs where one might be lucky enough to spot puffins.
I was fortunate enough to have an old friend living locally who offered to take off for the afternoon and explore St Andrews – an area I had not visited before. Just 20 minutes’ or so to the south across the Tay Road Bridge, we first stopped at the famous golf course, where I suggested playing a round. Now, to anybody who doesn’t know much about Golf, if I was to tell them that I had played the ‘Himalaya Course’ which tees off next to the famous British Golf Museum at St Andrews, I am sure there would be gasps to acknowledge what must be a handicap worth noting.
Sadly though my golf skills are nothing to note, and the formidable-sounding Himalaya Course is the mini-golf course, located off to the side of the real thing. Further still, I lost to my friend coming in at some 8 shots over par. Still, we had fun and fortunately managed to miss the passing showers during our game.
After a pleasant wander through St Andrews town we enjoyed an ice cream, before returning to Dundee to see what it had to offer. Walking around the city centre we spotted a nice looking restaurant and earmarked it for supper, where we returned after a little more exploring.
Once back on board and the tide was high enough, it was time to sail just before midnight. We had to manoeuvre the ship out quite far into the river to pass a few more enormous jack-up oil rigs, before proceeding seaward again; most of our passengers happily asleep and blissfully aware of the navigational challenges we faced. Quite right too – they are on holiday! Next stop tomorrow, we would say “hawaay” to the city of Newcastle.
Captain Kim Tanner
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