Saturday, 30 May 2009

Watching the tide - in Wells

20-57 pm: My view from the cockpit - I have spent hours watching the water here. I have not gone mad - I have rather found it fascinating because the tides behave quite differently here - and have a greater importance than they have in the other places I have sailed - mostly the North East of England and Scotland. I watch the tide come in - hard to convey in one picture. This one is taken about two hours after I expected the tide to come in - and here it has just turned and in half an hour the sand banks are covered, the pontoons float and high water activity begins, except that the flood is so strong that most boats can make no progress against it for a while. What drama.

The influx up the channel is accompanied (on the evening tide) by the local shell-fish fishing boats who feel their way up the channel with the tide.

I am still in Wells-Next-the-Sea

20-20 pm: I am still here for a number of reasons - it is a nice place and I have not felt like moving on. There is the tide to watch and the coming and going of boats at high tide - as the Toppers going out to sail at high tide to the mouth of the harbour - returning before the flood.

I have also been off colour - mild flu-like symptoms - where lying around not doing much seems the best cure. I got some sore-tummy medicine from the chemists - which did some good - probably placebo effect.

And - the wind has been from the East - it is hard enough to get to Lowestoft with the contrary tides without a wind on the nose for the first part. I was going to wait for a Westerly - but there are no Westerlies forecast in the next couple of weeks.

I feel strangely guilty and apologetic staying for so long - but why not, as I have reasons and plenty of time.

Friday, 29 May 2009


9-10 am BST: Yesterday - to Blakeney - by bus (free with bus pass). I walked out as far as I could to view the marshes. Blakeney Point was so far away I could hardly see it. The channel up the quay is very shallow, even at high water.

I am going to go into the outer channel (called 'the pit') on my way south.

Spent the evening watching the tide come in at Wells - very interesting and worthy of an essay in its own right.

Thursday, 28 May 2009

The domestic economy of the boat

9-40am: It might look as if one just hangs out in a harbour - and it is true that there is an element of laziness in it. But the boat systems have to be looked after, not to mention the shopping and cooking and clearing up and washing - and cleaning the decks - shaking out the bedding. The boat is a little world of its own - with gas, electricity and water - just like at home except I have to maintain the supply. I am plugged into mains power just now - which means the batteries are topped up and all my electrical kit (phone, laptop some nav gear) can be charged.

In contrast with a house,there is also propulsion to deal with - sails and engine. My main sail is old and needs to be replaced, but I cannot decide whether to get boom roller-reefing (which I cannot afford!) or just a standard new sail with lazy-jacks. At the moment handling the main is a pain - reefing is a pain and getting the sail down is a pain. The lines do not lead back to the cockpit - I think previous owners - like myself - have not figured out how best to do it. It is not clear how to get the lines from the mast to the back; nor is it clear how to bolt the fittings without destroying the internal lining inside the boat. But I do have a lot of new lines which run freely through blocks. The engine is behaving - not overheating as last year - so I speak nicely to it.

And one has to plan the next passage, look at endless weather forecasts and crack the local tides.

So when in harbour I am supposed to look after the ship's systems - not shimmy off to local attractions. Today I am going to get the bus to Blakeney - in order to look at the layout incase I go there on the way south - that is my story anyway.

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Wells beach and boat maintenance

21-30: I am beginning to forget which day of the week it is. This is part of the point of the expedition. I do like being in a really nice harbour.

Today - essential maintenance things - like doing the washing and trying to buy a cleat. After lunch I had a ride on a wee train that takes people out to the beach - I did not stay long because it was getting late and I did not want to miss the last train.

Note the channel bouy on the sand - warning to come up and down the channel with care. It is over a mile out to the sea - fun - and I will be back.

There are plans here to dredge the outer reaches of the channel and build pontoons by the LifeBoat station - to facilitate servicing wind farms. This to the benefit of the town and the harbour - but has annoyed the owners of second homes and expensive flats!

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Wells-next-the-Sea - the pontoon

The pontoon - here I am and here I stay until the weather improves and I feel like moving on.

Spurn Head to Wells

12-45: Left at 8-30 in bright sun and no wind - but amazing amounts of current out round Spurn Head. It took about an hour to get across the traffic lanes on the approved route - but there was no traffic. There was very little wind all day - so we picked our way down the coast and across the Wash (with a vaste wind farm always in sight) with the engine running in order to get into Wells at high tide. In the late afternoon the wind got up (from almost directly ahead of course) and we had a bit of a sail.

Getting into Wells was like going into another world. The sun was bright and warm. The channel twists and winds its way in and we kept to it although it was high tide. It was Bank holiday Sunday - there were races across the channel, yachts sailing up the channel in an erratic way and a lot of small motor boats - good job I know most of the collision regs: including the one that says to keep out of trouble! And when we get to the quay - yachts were rafting up three deep - so manouvres to find a place.

Brid to Spurn Head anchorage

12-30: Left Brid at 5-30 - not my idea of a nice time to be around. There was no wind - but the weather was bright and sunny. Progress was slow - I think the engine does not push the boat along as well as it should (Andy - if you read this - you are right) - I don't know why. There was some tide against us all the way - around 1 knot. Speed was not enough to make sensible progress on such a long passage and by 9-30 it was obvious that we would not make Wells in daylight and that we were already quite tired. So we changed plan to go into Spurn Head and anchor overnight.

From 11-30 Aidan helmed with reefed sails and we tacked down the coast towards Spurn Head - knowing we could best get into the Humber up to 16-00 hours. Tides here are phenomonal - after the tide turned - we were doing 7 to 8 knots over the ground.

Anchored at 15-45. A very lumpy night as the wind got up and the boat lay at rightangles to the waves - but the anchor held.

Plan to get to Wells from Bridlington

The original plan was to sail as directly as possible from Bridlington to Wells - about 80 miles with some contrary tides and the need to cross the outer parts of the traffic separation schemes off the Humber estuary. I had been warned that going into the Humber would be a - I think the right term is - 'nightmare', with massive tides and disturbed seas bound to get us. So the direct route had attractions and I spent a lot of time with the charts and GPS defining what seemed the best course - in the event the wind and the tides dictated otherwise - good job I had plan B written out as well.

Plan B was to anchor behind Spurn Head.

to Bridlington from Scarborough

12-10am: We departed suitably late to catch the tide around Flamborough Head - so early on the rising tide that we had only a narrow channel to get out - even with the keel up - touched the bottom - of course. Lots of wind and full sails - with gusts as well - but a good sail without any motoring for most of the way.

Finding a place to moor in Bridlington was difficult and we messed around trying to find somewhere before rafting up next to a Parker 31 - which also has a lifting keel. The downside was that the Parker wanted to go at 5-30am on the next day - on the falling tide. We thought we should try to go at the same time - so we turned in early and actually managed to get going in plenty of time. I did not like Bridlington - but I was tired and feelings influenced by the 5-00am alarm.

to Scarborough from Runswick Bay

11-45 am: Pulled up the anchor in Runswick Bay at 7-30 ( which felt very early) - going to Scarborough in time to meet Aidan. Very little wind to start with but it increased with sqalls and showers. Tied up at the pontoons - overlooked by the castle - by 12-30. Joined by crew an hour or so later and we spent the rest of the day filling up with food and reviewing the course, waypoints, the weather and tides for the next day. The harbour would have been very uncomfortable without the pontoons.

Tyne to Runswick Bay

I left in strong winds, without appreciating how strong the wind would be. I had a problem getting the main up - so decided to do without it. I had a rough reach half way across to Runswick, with genoa and engine. Then the wind dropped a bit so I could get the sails up properly. This was the first of many days when the wind strength was wrongly predicted on all the best weather sites.

The anchorage was excellent and there I stayed over night until I set off early to Scarborough.

Thursday, 21 May 2009

20-14: Scarborough - very nice new pontoons in the inner harbour. Yesterday - windy passage to Runswick bay where I anchored. Early passge here today in gusty wind and sun. Aidan arrived after lunch. Very glad to be on my way - more to come - - - and pictures. Tomorrow Bridlington.

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

A tern and a day at work.

19-45: Yes - there is one common tern here on the skyline with the stone wall of the marina. There are many more terns around - beautiful stunt flyers over the marina - and will be vigorous defenders of their patch when they have chicks, making this a hard-hat marina.

Spent the day at work - avoiding the wind and rain - and importing new data into a database about mammal taxonomy.

I really am going tomorrow - - - .

Monday, 18 May 2009

Prudence strikes back

16.44: Am now planning to leave on Wednesday - the forecast is for this very windy and uncomfortable weather to continue tomorrow. At least the marina is sunny and I have a few hours work to do tomorrow.

not to go surprisingly hard - but I note that the fishermen have not been out for some days - which is telling me something.

This evening's task is to take a picture of the common tern colony that has developed here in the last few years.

Sunday, 17 May 2009

Weather still unfavourable

19-30 hrs: Have put off leaving until Tuesday - the tides, wind direction and sea state look as if they will be better by then. I have spent the day fitting a Dorade and fiddling around with various things to be done - including figuring out passage plans for later legs and entering waypoints to the GPS. Good job boats always need nurture or it would be boring.

Saturday, 16 May 2009

Staying until Monday

Slave to the weather forecast - which suggests better wind and sea conditions than Sunday. I have vowed to be more careful and prudent this year - I am not supposed to be in a hurry. I am at the marina and intend to do very little on Sunday - maybe fix my reefing lines and go a cycle ride - hooray for folding bikes.

It is strange to be on board and to be in the process of leaving a lot of my life behind. There was a time when I would have found it exhilarating - age brings prudence - and fear perhaps. I would rather be exhilarated.

Friday, 15 May 2009

Shall I stay or shall I go?

This is the beach at Tynemouth and the North pier in mist. The sea conditions nasty - making the decision about whether to go on Sunday more difficult than if there were a nice gentle wind and flat sea.

On my way - but not quite

I had no idea that sorting my life out to go away would be so much work. OK - I have done my tax and filed my papers; put stuff away that has littered the house for a year; chased my bills and tenants; and done a lot of things left undone for a long time - but even so - - . My hallway is now piled high with the last things to take to the boat before my car (newly insured but not cleaned) is put into a cosy garage for the summer.

So I am moving towards leaving - except - have you seen the weather forcasts? Lots of easterly winds - cold - rain. And the waves outside my living room crashing onto the rocks and rain lashing the windows - um - this is not what I signed up for! I am going to move onto the boat tomorrow and see what the weather does. I may even do the short hop to Hartlepool - and then to Whitby (which I call plan C because I would rather miss Hartlepool.)

I am VERY nervous about the whole thing - and wondering why I don't live a normal life - -

Monday, 11 May 2009

Not left yet - but on my way

Last week was one of doing things put off for - in some cases - years. My accounts and tax have gone to the accountants: my garden has been nurtured; my papers are filed - books picked up off the floor. So I am on track to leave next weekend. The tides and weather are not ideal - but the plan is to get away or I shall fester in the marina forever.

I am finding it hard to let go of what I might call 'normal' life.

Plan is to go to Whitby (or Runswick bay if the wind is suitable) and then on to Scarborough. I plan to hang out in Scarborough for a few days and be joined there by Aidan. Then on to Bridlington and the long jump to Wells-Next-the-Sea with a crew to keep lookout and eat my food. Weather permitting. This is a way to avoid the tides and traffic of the Humber - and the tides and sand banks of the Wash. Lines all entered on the charts and waypoints identified.

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

I have not left yet

I am still at home. This is mainly because I have had quite a lot of work to do in the last few weeks. But also - I have yet to sort out my life - like my accounts and tax. And then there is the weather - white caps on the waves outside my window - and a cold wind blowing. Current plan is to try to leave at the end of next week - around 15th May - assuming decent weather.

I hope the weather, the work and the life is not just an excuse. I do find the prospect of crossing the Humber, the Wash and the Thames intimidating now that I have filled the boat with food and water - and the dream starts to get nearer - - . I have not sailed south from here before, although I went to the Shetlands two years ago - but that looks somehow easier. Or was I younger and more optimistic?