Wilfried Erdmann has described his place of longing in one of his many books. Whitehills in Scotland is one of them. I didn't get to know Whitehills through this book, but through Rupert Wachter, an orchestral musician from Hamburg, whom we got to know here in Scotland last year. I didn't really want to hit Whitehills, but we were so shaken on the way from Peterhead to Inverness that I had no choice. Jens was seasick and I was traveling with one hand.
Whitehills is not a place of longing for me, but I love the fish factory next to the harbor. You can only catch fresher fish yourself. Since the rough ride did not make it as fast as planned, the tidal current would have washed us back in Inverness. So there had to be a usable harbor for one night. After a phone call with the super nice harbor master Bernie Milne, I decided to try it. The port entrance is really narrow.
Bernie said he would be watching us on the AIS and waiting at the port entrance lighthouse. At first it was not clear to me that he was doing this with his camera. We checked the lobster baskets as we approached and soon got within range of his lens.
The waves still tore at the rudder and the depth gauge showed incredibly low values. I called Bernie our draft on the phone and Bernie said we had “plenty of water” at the tide.
So we get close to the lighthouse and see the harbor master shooting one picture at a time from us up there. Great, we don't have many such pictures. Actually none. Jens has risen from the dead again and can help with the fenders.
At this point my ass went on ice last time. The entrance is super narrow, this time the depth gauge showed a depth of 1.70 meters (we know that we have a draft of 1.70 meters, but are not fully loaded). The left curve is so tight that Sissi cannot do it in one go. We have to stop, turn the ship through 90 ° in “confined spaces” and only then can we enter the harbor.
Now I can wipe the sweat off my forehead. Now all we have to do is tie up to a floating dock, which is one of the easiest exercises in the world. And tomorrow it all goes back. Bernie immediately helped with the mooring and then pressed the memory card of his camera into our hands. Thanks for that!
That was only 38.9 nautical miles today, but for Jens it was more like 389 miles.
The next day I took a few pictures of the port and the surrounding area. The entrance to the harbor at low tide looks about as narrow in this photo as it really is.
Once you have arrived in the harbor, you first have the outer harbor with the floating jetty for the visitors and behind it the yacht harbor, in which the Banff Yacht Club in particular has its larger boats. Banff has a very shallow port.
One of the attractions in Whitehills is the gas station in the harbor. It is exactly in the passage from the outer to the inner harbor and has a rather high quay wall. The diesel tank is located at the top behind the garage door. When a customer comes, they have to tie down and then Bernie opens the garage door. We did this last year because we had to refuel diesel on the way back to cross the North Sea. From the long hose that Bernie then reaches down, the diesel only comes down by gravity, ie the tank fills up faster in low water.
When I had to turn Sissi in the harbor basin at the time, I needed every square meter of the water surface for the rotation. At that time Bernie called down from the gas station to have Santa Claus give me a bow thruster. That is why we do not fill up here this year, the tank is still half full after all the sailing.
Nowhere else in the world can you park your ship more protected than in the inner harbor. The massive walls defy any storm and do not let a wave through to the boats.
When entering the harbor you have to pay attention to the lobster baskets, which the fishermen generously distribute in the area. We registered with the harbor master Bernie by phone and he told us the best course. I'm not going to say that now, because it can be different every day. The lobster baskets are not always put down in the same place.
If you want to become a fisherman, practice early. The village children play on the jetty in the evening and cast their fishing rods. They also play catch and what else children do. Of course there are tears, there is a lot of laughter and everything looks very like a small, perfect world.
Above the jetty are a couple of parents who are supervising. I don't know how it would look at us or in Holland. In the Netherlands, German children always walk over the jetties with life jackets, and their parents usually run a short distance behind. Here in Scotland, great care is taken to ensure that those who work professionally on the water wear their life jackets at work - of course, this does not apply to children playing.
If you detach yourself from the sight of the harbor and the children playing, you can take a short walk of 500 meters and stand in front of the fish factory. Fish shop opening hours from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mmmm, delicious. We left just under £ 20 there, bought four nice fish fillets and added four smoked mackerel.
The gull would also like to be a customer, but doesn't have a credit card or cash. In this regard, the Scots are stingy, in many places you can find signs saying “don't feed the seagulls”.
I took a little more time on my walk, because the picturesque place begins behind the fish factory.
The inhabitants have been living on fishing for hundreds of years, small fishermen's houses are everywhere. Most of them are even in very good condition, this place is not deserted like many other small villages. Whitehills is also the last place on the coast that has a notable fishing fleet.
Let's come back to Bernie, the harbor master. He doesn't like it when the yachts come in the evening and leave again the next day in the morning. Then you can't build a relationship. Bernie would rather talk to people, get rid of his stories and hear stories from others.
Bernie was a fisherman for many years of his life and actually wanted to retire and never work again. When he was a fisherman, he found the sailors like a plague in the water. Then he took over the job at the port for the community. He is now 71 years old and still enjoys doing the job. His daughter sits on the local committee that manages the port.
It's fun to listen to Bernie's stories. When fishing became less and less profitable, the municipality decided at the beginning of this millennium to expand the port into a marina.
The goal was to get 200 yachts a year. The goal has been achieved. The community was not concerned with the fact that only the fees for the marina come in, because the yachties also go to the shop, they visit the pub and buy diesel. So you bring money into the place. Bernie says that's one of the reasons why Whitehills is still reasonably intact.
And then he had a nice story from the time when the old harbor was filled up and the current harbor built in the 1960s. Somehow a mistake was made and the contract for the construction of the new port was worded incorrectly. Normally, you should have contractually oriented the water depth to the tide, but it didn't. Instead, the focus was on the street level - the depth of the port is so many feet below the street. The smart contractor then put the road higher. Whitehills initially had a port that fell dry when the tide was low. The problem is of course gone now, the port is deep enough today.
If you come here in Whitehills, you should moor and listen to the stories.