We had a salutary lesson from Mrs Nature last night when the fastest haar I’ve ever seen rolled in as we were setting off for an hour’s row around Craigleith. The haar is (I think) mainly an East coast phenomenon although I’ve seen pictures of it affecting areas in the West. It’s a very dense, cold fog caused by warm air meeting the cold North Sea and it can roll inland for several miles and ruin an otherwise beautiful day.
We were lucky last night that someone had forgotten an oar in one of the two skiffs heading out so we were delayed a little bit whilst a runner was dispatched to retrieve it. The other skiff waited out in the West Bay for us in beautiful sunshine. We got underway and almost immediately got a call across the VHF radio that the haar was coming in very fast and sure enough Craigleith (over a kilometer away) was already no longer visible. The decision was made to practise some drills in the bay but within the space of about 3 minutes the fog had descended on us, visibility was reduced to 50m or so and North Berwick was totally shrouded to the extent that we could only see the harbour and the houses nearest the beach.
It was amazing and scary how quickly the fog had moved from Craigleith to our skiff and highlighted the need for all the safety measures we use. Had we been halfway to the island it would have engulfed us and it would have been very easy to lose bearings trying to get home. Fortunately we had a compass, VHF radio and anchor on board and luckily had not got far from home but it was still a pertinent reminder of the potential risks involved in going out to sea.
It also reminded me of the recent incident off the North East coast where two men in a small fishing boat were lost in the haar and despite a wide-ranging boat and helicopter search no trace of them was found. Miraculously they were picked up by a passing ship 4 days later sitting 45 miles off the coast with just a small bottle of water and two biscuits to keep them going. The skipper had no VHF, no phone and no working compass and admits that they are extremely lucky to be alive. He’s right.
Keeping an eye on the weather forecast is always important for planning an outing but I’m going to be even more vigilant when the fog icon turns up and make sure that our safety kit is in good condition and fully charged!
We’ve got our annual North Berwick Tiger Cup tomorrow where names are drawn from a hat to make up scratch teams that take turns trying to set a blistering time around the Craig before heading to the local Indian for a well deserved feast. Can’t wait! (mainly for the food!)