The Firth of Forth


The Gannet

The Bass Rock is the closest sea bird sanctuary to the mainland and was the first to be studied by ornithologists during the 19th century, when they gave the Gannet the scientific name Sula Bassana, (Morusbassanus) incorporating the name of this rocky stack. This is the largest 'single rock' colony of northern gannets in the world (the largest colony at St Kilda is scattered over three sea stacks). The Bass Rock has been described by Sir David Attenborough as 'one of the 12 wildlife wonders of the world'.

The Puffin

An unmistakable bird with its black back and white underparts, and distinctive black head with large pale cheeks and a tall, flattened, brightly-coloured bill. Its comical appearance is heightened by its red and black eye-markings and bright orange legs. Used as a symbol for books and other items, this clown among seabirds is one of the world's favourite birds. With half of the UK population at only a few sites it is an Red List species.


Coming out of North Berwick harbour people on another boat shouted to us “Watch your prop”. Well I did think it was a bit strange especially since I don’t have a “prop”. After we completed the circumnavigation of the Bass Rock and packing the boat away the helm of the other boat came over and explained that he did not say “prop” he actually said, “Watch the ROCKS”. Apparently, we sailed right over the top off them!

The Bass Rock One day cruise

A huge trachyte plug rising 313 feet, with three sides of sheer cliff, and a tunnel piercing the rock to a depth of 105 metres. The gentler slope to the south forms a lower promontory where the ruins of a castle stand dating back to at least 1405. The largest number of visitors to North Berwick fly in every year to set up home on the four offshore islands of Bass Rock, Craigleith, Lamb and Fidra. Around 150,000 sea birds nest on these islands with the largest colony on the Bass Rock, which has 120,000 occupied nest sites at peak season.

THE BASS ROCK is situated in the Firth of Forth,two miles east of North Berwick and one mile off the mainland. (Position on a Nautical Chart - 56` 4.6' N. 2` 38.3' W.)

Expensive launch fees Launching is off the beach and there is a day launch fee payable at the harbour office, for the GP14 this is £8.50.

Today I sailed around the Bass Rock and the Scottish weather lived up to its usual summer standard and it was grey dull wet day.

The sail went as planned and the whole trip took 3 hours. The weather may have been disappointing but the Bass Rock was not - it is a magnificent sight made even more magnificent by the sight of thousands of gannets. These are huge birds with a very bright yellow plumage on the neck and head. Amongst them were the little puffins with their colourful beaks often full of sand eels. Sailing without an engine meant that we could get quite close to the birds before they dived under the water.

Launch is down this ramp and on the beach. Make sure you leave your trolley above high water.

The journey was uneventful but interesting in that you needed to be aware of your position into the waves The boat coped with the surprisingly large swell coming up the Forth. Luckily there were not breaking but the old boat certainly wallowed and it was difficult to relax. On the windward side of the rock it was not a place to be hanging about as we were sideways on to the waves.

The sight of all the birds on the rock was certainly quite an experience and from a GP cruising point of view a worthwhile sail - but choose your launch time in that sailing 3 miles out into the North Sea has important safety considerations - we were fortunate.


These details from the boatlaunch web site - a superb resource!
General information: Long: -2.7184510231018066 Lat: 56.06029661372807
Nearest Place: North Berwick
Ramp Description: Very hard work on a making tide and an onshore wind. This is a very shallow shelving beach. Best at near high tide for launching. If launching at 1/2 tide bring waders. Coming back in is not so bad at lower tides. Have a long rope handy for towing boat and trailer to the foot of the slipway before hooking up otherwise you are in danger of bogging your vehicle down in the occasional soft sand patches.
Directions: Turn left immediately before the harbour, follow the road through the harbour flats car parking to the ramp. Just past the white flats the road narrows and turns down to the slipway. So be carefull! Ramp Type: Concrete leading to sand and flat rock mix.
Upper Area: Harbour
Lower Area: Sand
Suitability: Large trailer needs a car
Ramp Length: 1/4 tidal
Facilities: Toilets, parking. Cafe and chip shops nearby.
Charges: £8.50
Navigational Hazards: Watch the rocks to the North East of the harbour.

The Firth of Forth Bridges One day cruise

Launched from Port Edgar. At the time Edinburgh Corporation owned the site. This place is directly under the 'old' road bridge. Since I have sailed from there a new road bridge has appeared. Good sailing area lots of places to visit (avoid Rosyth shipyard or you may get shot at or even run over by an aircraft carrier).

The End