Harbour Master 01569 762741 or mob 07741050210 VHF #11 (Not always manned)
This is an excellent and popular stopping off point for coastal cruisers being about six hours north of Arbroath and six hours south of Peterhead. Shelter here is good except in strong Easterly and North Easterly winds when the harbour entrance becomes all but impassable.
There has been a harbour here for centuries but it was destroyed in the early 17th Century, rebuilt in later in that century, destroyed again by winter storms and rebuilt in the 19th century to accommodate the herring fleet. It is now mainly a recreational harbour with a small inshore fishing and potting fleet. The outer harbour has depths of about three meters whilst the middle harbour and inner harbour both dry out. The inner harbour is normally full of local boats in the summer and in conditions which preclude lying alongside in the outer harbour visiting boats will have to raft against local yachts. In adverse weather conditions there is a barrier which can be hoisted into place across the inner harbour entrance for added protection.
The buildings abutting the harbour on the West side are mainly hotels with bars and restaurants and during the weekends in the summer it is a popular “day out” becoming quite busy, but quietly so, as the visitors are mainly families and the older generations who are quite content to wander around and admire the sights (you will find that your boat will attract envious examinations!).
There is a very active sailing club with its own Club house (large pink four story building) used mainly for showering and changing on race days. Their main focus is on dinghy sailing and the club house is only accessed during race days; they don’t have a social membership which uses it as a regular watering hole. At the weekend and on Wednesday evenings Stonehaven Bay is full of racing dinghies and you would be wise to give them a wide berth!!
Dylan Winters has a video of Stonehaven in his Keep Turning Left Series. Stonehaven starts at minute 13.30
From both the North and the South Stonehaven is difficult to identify....
.... as you pass numerous bays and headlands before you see the town which is always “around the next headland.”
There are no off shore hazards as you approach from the North and you can stay quite close in shore (2 to 3 cables) but be aware that there are several coves (one actually called “Cove”) which can lead you think you are almost there until you consult the chart and realise that you would need to be doing double your boat speed for that to be the case!
Once you have cleared Garron Point it’s still not that easy because Downie Point is viewed against Bowdun Head which is in turn masked by the coast behind that, so that the next headland which stands out is, in fact, Crawton Ness – miles down the coast. You just have to keep going and it eventually becomes obvious but in reduced visibility you would be wise to put regular fixes on the chart.
Coming up from the South you will not see Stonehaven until you have passed Downie point; you just have to look round the corner of every headland you pass, once you get close, until it suddenly appears. There is a sector light on the outer pierhead which is very useful at night but you need to wait quite a while until you enter the white sector before turning in towards the harbour.
Do not be tempted to turn in too early from the South; you need to be able to see the Yacht Club’s dinghy park at the root of the inner harbour wall to be sure of clearing the rocks which litter the South side of the bay outside the harbour right in to the entrance to the middle harbour.
The fishing fleet tends to land its catch in the outer harbour and moor there overnight....
.... unless the wind goes onshore when they retreat to the inner harbour; this means that although there may be vacant berths alongside the walls in the inner harbour and outer harbour when you arrive they may “belong” to a fishing boat. In settled conditions you will always find a berth alongside the inside of the East Wall.
If the forecast is for NE winds you will have to talk to the HM about a berth in the Inner Harbour which will mean rafting against another boat, and drying out. If this becomes necessary be aware that in onshore winds, although you are sheltered from the sea, you are still affected by the wind which swirls about this harbour; you will need a full set of warps, breasts, springs and shore lines and will also need to attend the boat as it settles to monitor the difference in draft to the rafted boat.
There was talk of turning the Inner Harbour into a Marina but it required too much work being done on existing walls making it far too expensive; so that will not happen.
The harbour dues for 2022 are £21.60 per night.
The Harbour master will issue you with a key to the showers and toilets situated alongside his office. Although these are in a portacabin they are clean, heated and well maintained. Water can be obtained in containers from a tap inside a concrete box on the pier opposite the Rescue Institution; it’s a good idea to ask the HM to point this out to you when you book in as its camouflaging concrete can confuse. The only electricity hook up is in a box at the root of the inner harbour wall where it abuts the shore line. You need a normal 13amp plug and plenty of cable to access this.
Petrol, diesel and Calor gas can be obtained from the garage on the West side of the town. If you need Camping Gaz you might be lucky to find that McDougal and Masson (01569 763806) have one in stock but give them a ring first because they are a long slog away on the West side of town and only carry one 907 which they replenish when it is sold.
Behind the harbour the shops are mainly small cafes and sweet shops; the town centre can be reached by the “boardwalk” starting from behind the HM’s office and runs round the top of the beach and across the burn (Carron Water). This walk extends to the North side of town as far as the swimming pool (an award winning outside, heated pool) and the camp/caravan site. If you cut west off this path before the next burn (Cowie Water) you can access the large Co-Op supermarket, which is well stocked.
There is a small Co-Op shop in the town centre but is only any good for basic items having a limited choice of branded items. The butcher is good but doesn’t sell the cheaper cuts of meat
You don’t have to go far to find good food and drink as there are several good places on the harbour. In the town there are the usual fast food outlets and fish and chip shops.
Restaurants & Places to Eat in Stonehaven 2022 - Tripadvisor
The heated swimming pool is worth a visit, even in the rain! It being Scotland there is, of course, a golf club and bowling club (Indoor as well as outdoor). There is an annual harbour Festival held midsummer which you may be lucky enough to encounter (but this year’s was cancelled due to the appalling weather). Dunnotter Castle is an important historic site and, if you are into historic buildings, it is one not to be missed.
There is a museum on the harbour housing all the usual local historical nick-nacks (old fishing and farming implements and photographs). Entrance is free.