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Old 20 January 2002, 11:01   #1
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A trip to Orkney

Hi folks

I have just read 'Cruising to the Isle of Man from the Fleet Estuary, Scotland by Martin Bywater' in the features section. Thanks Martin, very interesting. It made me think about my own plans for the summer. It shows that with a little planning, preparation and patience you can make your journey safe and enjoyable.

I used to live on Orkney (in the late 70's) and have crossed over the Pentland Firth many times by ferry and by 'plane. Much of the time it is a nasty looking piece of water but sometimes it is calm and peaceful. I often wondered what it would be like to cross in a small boat. Martin's article made me think about it again, and made me think about if it would be possible in my own little SIB.

I am well aware that the first rule (or one of the first anyway) of safety is 'Be Aware of your own Limitations'. Well, of course my little SIB is only an 'inshore' boat (4-5 miles from shore) and the nearest point on Orkney Mainland is Brough Ness on the island of South Ronaldsay. This is now connected to Mainland Orkney by the Churchill Barriers so it is no longer really an island. This is about 8 miles over the water from the slipway at John O'Groats. So I thought well that's out then as it is over 5 miles.

Ah, then it dawned on me, stupid boy (I often insult myself like that - it saves other people the time), yes it is 8 miles from shore to shore but it is therefore a maximum of 4 miles from land! Just within the theoretical capability of my boat. At halfway over I am 4 miles from land and then it gets less! In fact If I took the island of Stroma into account the distance 'offshore' is even less.

The maximum speed of my boat is about 20 mph (I know because I checked it on my GPS), allowing a margin of 50%, so giving a lesurely speed of 10 mph, I should easily do the crossing in less than an hour. That would mean no more than 30 minutes from land (15 minutes at top speed) at any time.

Calculating to do the trip at slack tide, on a calm day with perhaps a East or South Wind if any. This now looks entirely possible (well to me at any rate, but this is where Rib Net comes in).

Leave John O'Groats, head to the East of Stroma, then towards Brough Ness. Keep West of South Ronaldsay (with a possible landing site at Burwick) and another 8 miles and you are in Scapa Flow up by St Margarets Hope and it's harbour if needed, within another 45 minutes or so. So far 1.5 to 2 hours and about 20/23 miles (depending if you go into St Margarets Hope or not).

I could then follow the coast, inside the Flow, with its many places to land, between Handa and Burray up past St Mary's, over the 'Royal Oak' and into Scapa Bay, pulling up on the beach.

Total trip about 27 miles,depending on deviations, at a steady 10 mph about 3 hours. Much of the trip would be inside the shelter of Scapa Flow and as close to the coast as needed. Fuel needed would be about 3 gallon (small engine remember and small boat), with a tank size of 5 gallon. I could easily carry a couple of spare gallons of fuel. The only real 'open water' would be the 8 mile crossing.

I would have my course plotted on the gps, my marine radio, mobile 'phone, some hot soup and emergency chocolate etc.

The real discipline would be in choosing a day with perfect conditions. It would also be a good idea to study the charts and mark some possible emergency landing points on the gps.

So what do you think? Could a 3.4m SIB with a 15hp engine do such a trip? Is Keith Hart mad? It can't be as risky as taking a RIB around the world!

Well I suppose if all else fails I could always pack the boat in the back of the car, take the ferry fron Scrabster, launch the boat from Scapa Bay and pretend I went over by boat. But where's the fun in that?

Cheers

Keith (flights of fancy) Hart

For non UK residents who may not be familliar with the area I am taking about take a look here:

http://www.streetmap.co.uk/streetmap...=985000&zoom=5
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Old 20 January 2002, 12:51   #2
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Here is a photo of the Royal Oak marker buoy:

http://atschool.eduweb.co.uk/jralsto...s/royaloak.jpg

Here are details of the wreck:

http://atschool.eduweb.co.uk/jralsto...capa/roak.html

I've seen the wreck from the air. You can see the oil seeping off it (the RN are currently pumping the remaining oil out) you can see the shape under the water. It is a VERY chilling sight.

Keith Hart
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Old 21 January 2002, 05:02   #3
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Keith
This trip is definately a "goer" for you. I remember my hesitation, fear and trepidation at my first offshore run out to the Eddystone Lighthouse (10 miles out but no landing when you get there, you have got to come back as well).
If I may add two things:
1. Consult a tidal stream atlas for the area. You will find this every bit as important as the weather forecast. You will see that your departure time may not be slack tide at all!
2. DO tell the coastguard, over the radio, what you are doing:
Name, type and size of boat
No. of souls aboard
departure from...
arrival at....
expected arrival time

...and then recall coastguard upon arrival
That way if there is a problem EVERYONE will have the facts.
Good luck and PS when are you coming down here for a trial run offshore in Cyanide?
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Old 21 January 2002, 05:52   #4
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And take a set of worry beads with you just incase
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Old 21 January 2002, 07:45   #5
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Keith

I can't see any reason why it should be a problem, given the right conditions.

With a decent forecast and a flattish sea you'll do it easily, but don't underestimate the effect that even moderate waves will have on your progress in a SIB. Sitting on the tube or a thwart seat makes you very exposed when things get bumpy. On the other hand, in my experience sitting inside on the floor is just as bad -- uncomfortable and it's more difficult to control the boat!

Be patient and wait for some good settled weather (a nice, slow moving high) and you'll be fine.

John
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Old 21 January 2002, 07:53   #6
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Sounds like fun!

One of my reasons for joining BIBOA (cheques in the post ) is so that I can participate in "cruises" like this in a group - Always saftey in numbers!

Unfortunatly I think John o'groats is a little far to come - do you think you could find somewhere a little more central next time Keith!!

I want to get more use out of my RIB this year, and obviously using the RIB in a group you gain more experience to go and use it alone.

Keith - it sounds that you have used yours quite a bit arround Scotland so you now know the limitations of the boat - and yourself - fuel usage etc. So based on these factors it looks like you have answered your own question - It is feasable.

Enjoy the trip - and later in the year hopefully we will get together for some small boat cruising

Cheers
Jools
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Old 21 January 2002, 13:37   #7
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Given the conditions distance is fairly irrelevant given sufficient fuel and navigation skills req should the vis drop - however a single boat with a single engine has surely always got to consider just what do you do if the propeller stops propelling!
A mechanical problem resulting in a dead engine, can catch anyone out no matter how well maintained the kit is, and can leave you out in the middle of nowhere with strong tides and requiring a tow from other passing vessels or the emergency services. No matter how strong the arms there is a definite limit to the effectiveness of paddles. A second boat in a buddy system is always agood bet - but then again a friend in need can be a pain in the butt!
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Old 22 January 2002, 14:14   #8
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Thanks for the advice and encouragement folks.

I'm not sure whether I should take advice off a man who is about to sail around the world in a Rib! ( And take a set of worry beads with you just incase )

Brian - Thanks, yes I will let the Coast Guard know and I will check the tide tables. I will also call the chaps up there who run that huge Rib for tourists. If anyone knows the Pentland Firth, they do. Believe me I have not forgotten about our trip. I am looking forward to it very much. I will call you to make arangements.

John - Thanks, I will certainly wait for the correct weather. I can check on the conditions in the middle by speaking to the ferry people. By the way John did you know that to us new and little SIBsters when you answer a post it's like being spoken to by GOD

Jools - Yes, I'm really getting to know the boat now and my confidence is growing. I would love to do this and other trips with company. However as you say it is a looooong way. But believe me the Scottish Highlands and coast is WELL worth the effort of the trip up there. The coastline is fantastic. I hope to arrange a BIBOA 'cruise' for small Ribs and SIBs this summer, based at Hilton of Cadbol. In any event I would be pleased to meet up with you and show you around the coast up there. Do you have any holidays booked for July?

Wavelength - Yes, as I said above I would love to do this with someone else, but it seems that most people on Rib Net and with BIBOA are in the South. I must admit than engine failure (even with a new engine) has always been my worry, but the more I have used the boat the nmore confident I have become in the engine. The boat does have paddles though. Mind you 4 miles is a long way!

Well, great advice from you all. I am definitely going to have a crack at this. I have two short trips planned as a build up. One is the trip from Hiton into the Cromarty Firth through the Sutors. The other is across on the West Coat of Scotland out to Tanerra More in the Summer Isles. That is only about 2 miles out. This should set me up nicely.

After that all I need is the right weather. I seem to remember that the Vikings found Orkney and they did not even have a compass!

Regards

Keith Hart

PS: Here is Tenarra More:

http://www.streetmap.co.uk/streetmap...arrow=y?229,63
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Old 22 January 2002, 15:16   #9
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Keith

Orkney is a long way north even for us "northeners"

If you even fancy a trip round Mull or the isles around that area give me a shout. I have always fancied a trip round the scothish isles but like you even with a bit bigger boat would like company.

I am based north lancashire so its still a long drive but well worth it. I have climbed for many years round Fort William and the views over the isles has always impressed me.

So if you fancy a trip a bit more south give me a call.

In the mean time good luck and enjoy.

Gary
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Old 22 January 2002, 15:32   #10
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Gary
Just down the road from you between Blackpool and Fleetwood.
Must launch at Knott End sometime and go over the bay to Peel Island for a pie and a pint!
Mull is a nice island - dived there in the past - lots of wrecks and things and less bleak than Skye - and a tad nearer to home.
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