Spey coastal patrol

Several weeks ago I went out with Richard Whyte, Spey Head Bailiff, on a patrol of the coastal part of the fishery board district. Fortunately it was a good day with light winds and although overcast, visibility was good. The fishery board upgraded the patrol boat last year and it is now fully coded for operation along our part of the coast and beyond. Combined with Richard’s multiple marine cetrificates we have got a pretty good setup for looking after the coastline.

There are various launching points along the shoreline but that day we launched at the Lossiemouth slipway.

Launching the RIB at Losie slipway. The previous owners name has now been remove from the floation tubes.

Launching the RIB at Losie slipway. The previous owners name has now been removed from the flotation tubes.

Leaving Lossiemouth harbour

Leaving Lossiemouth harbour

The jurisdiction of the Spey Fishery Board covers an extensive area of coastline. Prior to the patrol, I hadn’t appreciated just how diverse the coastal patch was. To the east of Lossie there were sand dunes and beach which became shingle beaches as we approached Spey Bay.

Sandy beach to the east of Lossiemouth

Sandy beach to the east of Lossiemouth

Between Lossiemouth and Spey Bay lies Boar’s Head a “popular” spot for setting a net, although thankfully only rarely nowadays. I have heard plenty tales of night-time escapades at Boars Head from the bailiffs. As we passed the mouth of the Spey the lack of a clearly defined deep channel was apparent on the depth sounder screen. The coastline here is totally exposed to the north and maybe too mobile for the establishment of a defined offshore channel.

The Cairngorms are such a prominent feature that they can be seen from off the mouth of the Spey.

The Cairngorms are such a prominent feature that they can be seen from off the mouth of the Spey.

Leaving the Spey behind we passed a bewildering number of coastal villages and towns, each with its own character.

Portknockie Harbour

Portknockie Harbour

Like most of the coastal ports Portknockie still has a small fishing fleet jostling for position with small leisure craft.

Nicely maintained creel boat at Portknockie

Nicely maintained creel boat at Portknockie

We had long since left the sand and shingle beaches close to the river mouth behind and we were now looking at a rocky shoreline with small cliffs and sandy bays. One of the most interesting features was the Fiddlers Bow Rock.

Fiddlers Bow Rock near to Portknockie

Fiddlers Bow Rock near to Portknockie

After passing Cullen we past the remains of Findlater Castle, an ancient castle dating from about 1250.

The remains of Findlater Castle

The remains of Findlater Castle

The next inlet and village was Sandend (pronounced San-9). A very good beach here for surfing apparently.

Sandend, obviously not a conservation village!

Sandend, obviously not a conservation village!

We then had a quick look in Portsoy harbour. All quiet except for a group of twitchers huddled on a breakwater.

Portsoy harbour twitchers

Portsoy harbour twitchers

After Portsoy we rounded Cowhythe Head and the Boyne Burn, which marks the limit of the Spey Fishery District.

Quarry workings at Boyne Burn

Quarry workings at Boyne Burn

Outward tour of the coast complete we headed to Whitehills Harbour for lunch.

Flat out at 36knts. It has been recorded at 39knts but that was with a lighter load on board!

Flat out at 36knts. It has been recorded at 39knts but that was with a lighter load on board!

Whitehills is a busy harbour which has reinvented itself with pontoons and many yachts and other craft.

Moored up at Whitehills

Moored up at Whitehills

According to Google Earth we covered 48km from Lossiemouth to Cowhythe Head. At our cruising speed of 20knts it took over 2 hours to get back to the launch site. It was a very interesting to see the coastal part of the Spey Fishery District from the sea. It was a much more diverse coastline than I had thought with many of coastal communities. At one time multiple gill nets could be lifted on a single patrol but only a few are recovered each year nowadays. Possibly a sign of the times! However there is one thing for sure, if there were no coastal patrols there would be plenty netting going on.

We saw some birdlife; guillemots, razorbills, eider ducks and a few gannets but only one dolphin. The cliffs had a scattering of gulls, fulmars etc but it was probably just a bit too early for there to be too much life along the Moray coast.

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