Cruising from the Royal Forth Yacht Club
There are not many capital cities where within 30 minutes of leaving your office you can be onboard your yacht and dropping the mooring for an adventure. The Forth is a very well kept secret. No longer is it the polluted drain of Edinburgh, but rather it is wildlife haven full of fish, seabirds and large mammals. Go out for an evening potter in the summer and seals will nudge the rudder, puffins will make you laugh (just watch them crash on the water – they just stop their wings rather than land gracefully) and if you sail down the coast to Bass Rock its like sailing through a swarm of bees, except each bee is a Gannet with 5 ft wing span.
The Forth has its own microclimate – sometimes its a raging fury with Northeasterly gales from the Arctic, but more usually with the prevailing southerly or westerly wing the sea is flat making superb sailing. If its cloudy on land it is very often sunny out to sea. There is a real sense of smugness being out in the sun whilst the rest of the country is in rain. Not as warm as the mediterranean or even the South coast of England, but every summer we do have balmy days. Swimming – put a wetsuit on and its superb.
In terms of cruising destinations we have Inchcolm Abbey, Inchkeith and Inchmickery Islands all with an hour or so. Straight across the Forth is Aberdour with a good little harbour and pubs, and close by is Silver Sands – drop the anchor and paddle ashore to play in the sand. Turn left out of the harbour and go up river through the Bridges and there are many little harbours and Villages – Charleston, Blackness Castle – to visit. Keep going up to Grangemouth you can enter the Forth Clyde Canal and in two days you can be through onto the west coast. Turn right out of the harbour and you have all the East Neuk of Fife and the East Lothian Coast within three to five hours sail, or you can press on and be down in Eyemouth or up to the Tay Estuary or Arbroath within a days sail. If you keep going the Orkneys or the Caledonian Canal are two to three days sail or if you head south in the similar time you are getting towards the Dutch or East Anglian coasts.
The website of the FYCA (Forth Yacht Clubs’ Association) has a series of fascinating articles about places of interest around the Forth Estuary, and accounts of voyages and other adventures.
Every year a number of boats based in Granton head off on substantial voyages and all summer we welcome a procession of Yachts from Denmark, Sweden, Germany, Holland and France and the rest of the UK with Edinburgh as their final destination or a stop along a voyage to Iceland, Northern Scandinavia or heading the the West Coast of Scotland. And many of the RFYC yachts are on long extended cruises in many parts of the world that are taking a number of years.
Cruising can be a very solitary pastime or very sociable. At the RFYC we do hold regular Cruises in Company – a group of old and new friends taking their boats for a sail in roughly the same direction. Lots of food and drink and other fun and games on the way.
But often cruises just seem to happen between a bunch of like minded souls – one of the most memorable was a group of four yachts taking the early morning flood tide down the Firth – rafting up for breakfast of grilled kippers – it was very calm, ending up at North Berwick where there was a traditional boat rally, lobster and chips on the beach and being invited to a ceilidh in the evening.
We have a Facebook group Royal Forth Members. This is a great place to share your plans, look for crew or find opportunities to crew with others. It would also be great to hear from members writing up some of their adventures.
Choice of Cruising Boats
You can cruise in any boat, and we have boats ranging from a 12 ft clinker sailing dinghy to 40 ft yachts that cruise regularly. The Forth does have a 5 metre tide and whilst there are not strong tides in the Firth tide does mean that many of the harbours dry, and this does mean standing alongside the wall. Tall thin bulb keels are probably not ideal, more traditional long keels are probably better, and we do have many bilge keeled boats which can dry out easily. There is a lot to be said for small day boats – Enterprise Dinghy, Lune Longboats or Drascombe Luggers or small trailer sailed yachts – Cornish Shrimper, Cape Cutters. These are very adequate for day sailing and overnight stops and you can easily be trailed behind the family car. Slightly bigger 25 ft boats exemplified by Folkboats, Contessa 26’s offer good extended cruising ability without a huge amount of expense. Bigger boats offer a lot more comfort and are much kinder to their crew in rougher weather. In the RFYC we have a good fleet of Dragons – wonderfully fast day sailers and H-Boats which are nearly as fast but offer four full length berths down below, but you would need to be good friends. The H-Boat certainly makes a good club racing boat, that also can be cruised well.
Cost is a factor to consider. A boat up to about 25ft can be had for £5,000 to £10,000 with average annual running costs including moorings, antifouling and spares and maintenance of £2,500. This will get you an older but perfectly seaworthy boat that will provide huge amounts of fun and adventure but you can of course spend a lot lot more.