Wednesday 14th August – Whitby to Bridlington
We are ready to leave at the 1030 am swing bridge opening. As we do so we see “Rascal”, the Dutch boat we keep meeting – they were waiting for our space as Whitby Marina reckons they were full. There’s a good breeze but unfortunately it is right on the nose! We try beating against the wind and tide but as we have so far to go today that we have no option but to motor sail – a real waste of a good wind. We plug on, passing the last of the lovely North Yorkshire Coast with its cliffs and moorland behind until we pass Scarborough. We carry on past Filey with its holiday camp. There are numerous caravan parks down this length of coast. Eventually we reach Flamborough Head, where the sandstone coastline gives way to chalk cliffs, the first we have seen on this trip. There is wind over tide off the head which throws up a choppy sea so it is hard work for a while until we get round the Head and can at last sail past the other side to Bridlington. A phone call to the Bridlington duty watchman reveals that the tide has not yet risen enough for us to get into the harbour with the level of silting they currently have so we have to anchor off Bridlington beach in the swell for an hour or so. The anchor holds firm as the waves come over the front of the boat – not very comfortable so although we can get supper ready we postpone cooking it until we are in.
Eventually we are called in around 7:30 pm and enter the harbour with the swell only to run aground half way up the harbour! They are due to be dredged apparently but have to wait until the new sewer outfall has been completed in the bay. Eventually we are tied up against the harbour wall by 9 pm with the help of some local fishermen who help pull Sundart through the last of the mud on the bottom instead of waiting for the tide to finish rising. What a performance! We make Sundart secure against the wall with a strop round the mast (to stop her falling over when the tide drops), cook a late supper of Spanish omelette and retire.
Day’s run: 42.3 nm
Total miles to date: 1901.7 nm
Engine hours: 8.2 hours
Total engine hours: 227.5 hours
Hours sailed: 10.5 Hours
Total hours sailed; 417.2 hours
Thursday 15th August – a catch up day at Bridlington
The harbour has dried completely when we awake. The bottom of the harbour is very soft boulder clay so Sundart has sunk into it up to the top if the keel and is resting on the hull but all seems well. There are no boats leaning over at funny angles (unlike Dunbar) and we later discover that the local rely on the soft harbour bottom to keep the boats upright at low tide as the keels and rudders sink into the mud and stop the boats leaning over. Still, we keep the mast strop on as the bottom looks very sticky and uninviting! We have breakfast whilst the harbour fork truck and fishermen’s’ vehicles pass by along the harbour wall above our heads. Hobby fishermen are already casting their lines into the sea from the wall. Breakfast over we climb the ladder up the wall to pay our dues and discover that the facilities are very basic – one shared loo with the fishermen and a broken shower. Still, the collector of harbour dues seems very pleased with their new pontoons. There is no other port along this stretch of coast so it is Hobson’s choice as we have decided to stop today and catch up after a long day yesterday.
Bridlington is an old fashioned seaside town as well as a fishing port. There are crowds of people in the warm sun who seem to be enjoying themselves and it is good to see that they seem to be having a proper season here. We discover from the Tourist Office that there is an old part of Bridlington a “mile away” so we set off to walk, John taking the laptop to find somewhere to recharge it as there is no power at the harbour wall. It turns out to be a very long mile (it seemed like 3 miles!) but eventually we reach it, turning into the first pub out of the hot sun to find a drink and a bite of lunch. They are very welcoming and after a good lunch and an hour on the computer to catch up on John’s work we set off.
The Old Town is completely different from the newer town round the harbour, the old one being originally centred round the Abbey. The Abbey ended when Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries but current lovely church is the remnant of the Abbey. A gentle walk along the old streets was like a step back in time with numerous old buildings dating back before Georgian times. The Old Town done, we flag down a passing bus “Orkneys style” and get a ride back to town. (The local buses have the “hail and ride” system in the countryside; thankfully the lady driver took pity on us in the town!).
Back at the harbour there is another boat tied up alongside us. Although there are empty pontoons the harbour master does not let visitors use them even if the owners are away – Bridlington has much to learn when it comes to visiting boats! Our neighbour is a grandfather with his 13 year old grandson out on an adventure – excellent!
We have fish pie for supper then read before turning in.
Friday 16th August – Bridlington to Grimsby
There is a dearth of ports and anchorages down this part of the coast so there is little choice but to sail down to the Humber. The wind is from the south (still) so the anchorage by Spurn Head is not viable. There is still a good swell so we decide to stop at Grimsby, even though entry has to be near high water through the lock into the old fish dock, meaning we can only get in after midnight. We can only leave after 1030 when the tide has risen enough. We fuel up (it is usually cheaper at fishing ports) and then sail out.
The sun comes out and initially we have a good sail, the sun but the wind gradually dies and it is back to motor sailing. This part of the coast is low and rather featureless, being just a long bay until we come to Spurn Head at the mouth of the Humber. As we near Spurn Head the wind has gone round 180o so we set the spinnaker and enjoy the unexpected sail. For the first time this trip we cross the Greenwich Meridian and thus pass from the western to the eastern hemisphere. Spurn Head is the only place in Britain where the lifeboat men are paid. The Head is low lying and often isolated by high tides but as it is too far to any other port to serve this area the RNLI maintains a lifeboat station there. We can see a few houses on the head in the distance but as there are shallows we have to stay out. The Humber Estuary is a huge expanse of water about four miles wide. The low coastline each side make it look even bigger and more remote. The Humber is still a major seaway for commercial traffic and with numerous sandbanks (some of which move) it is a challenging place to sail. A large mass of water exits into the North Sea as the Rivers Trent and Ouse empty into the Humber, draining large parts of the Midlands and Yorkshire.
The wind dies so we motor across the estuary, avoiding the big ships in the sea lanes. The sea here is very shallow and gently sloping so we sail for miles with only a few meters under the keel to get near the shore to anchor – it is a strange place and a little unnerving to sail! We anchor off the Hail Sands Fort on the south side opposite Cleethorpes. (We can see the fair in the distance!). Once again, there is a bit of a swell coming in from the North Sea, which seems to be a characteristic of the anchorages we have used down this part of the coast. Supper over, we confirm the lock opening time with the Grimsby control – curiously called “Fish Dock Island”. We haven’t done much night sailing this trip but all goes well, although we have to slow down so as not to arrive too early. We motor alongside a shipping lane – the ships are busy here at all hours and it is a curious sensation to see such large vessels so close but as we are able to sail just outside the shipping lanes we can keep out of their way. As we enter the old fish dock at Grimsby, a huge cargo vessel emerges from the adjacent commercial lock. It is all a little surreal! We are moored up and tidied up by 0115 AM and turn in.
Day’s run: 49.0 nm
Total miles to date: 1950.7 nm
Engine hours: 7.2 hours
Total engine: 234.7 hours Hours sailed: 10.0 Hours
Total hours sailed: 427.2 hours
Saturday 17th August – Grimsby
There are gale force southerly winds forecast over the next 24 hours so we decide we will have to stop here for at least today. We are in a marina set in the old No.2 fish dock which the local Humber Cruising Association has set up as a sort of co-operative venture, leasing the space from ABB who own the port.
The facilities are relatively simple but adequate and the association members are very friendly. We log in with the berthing master who asks us to move to another berth but we find the engine won’t start. John traces the problem to a broken wire in the starter circuit but we need a part from town so the boat stays where it is. Next door is another Dutch boat which has just had a new engine delivered. Over the next two days the owner gets it into the boat (using the boom as a derrick), connects it up, tests it and leaves port early the following morning – very impressive!
Grimsby was really a one industry town. In its hey-day it vied with Hull as to which port was the biggest fish port in Britain. Once 200 trawlers operated out of here plus numerous “seine pursers” (a method of encircling fish with nets). With the collapse of fishing the town has fallen on hard times with little fishing being done now and most of the support industries such as marine engineering, fish processing and the railway system disappearing. We walk through an industrial wasteland into the rag-bag town to find the local Maplin and Tesco. It is all very sad. Unlike many other old ports, Grimsby does not seem to have had any investment so there are just tumbling down buildings, crumbling docks and gaunt industrial remains. The fish market is apparently still very active but much of the fish arrives and departs by lorry or does not even physically pass through the market – “virtual fish” it seems. Back at the boat the engine is soon fixed. Our Dutch friends in “Rascal” have also arrived overnight so we catch up with them. Yvonne goes off to find a shower whilst John catches up on the blog and some work.
Sunday 18th August – Still at Grimsby.
The forecast is for continuing strong winds from the south so we reluctantly decide to stay here today. It is sunny but very windy so the forecast seems to be right. Local boat owners arrive to do jobs on their boats and are all very friendly. However, there really is nowhere to go or and nothing to see here so we fetch the Sunday papers and a few bits of shopping, top up the water and have a lazy day reading the papers, doing the diary and blog and a bit of work for John. Later in the day we check the weather forecast and things are looking better. We want to go to Wells-next-the Sea next so we phone the harbour master there to check the entry times (it is yet another tidal gate) and to book in as it is the busy summer season and Wells is an attractive place. We decide to leave through the early morning lock, meaning a 5 AM start so we are early to bed.
Monday 19th August – Grimsby to Wells-next-the-Sea.
The nearest port south is Wells-next-the-Sea in Norfolk, some 50 or so miles away across the Wash. However, the early start from Grimsby will allow us to reach there in time for the high tide that is needed to cross the sand bar at the entrance to the river at Wells. It is a fine summer morning with a light breeze from the west. We leave via the fish lock with our Dutch friends, who have decided to go on the long haul back to Holland. There is a lovely dawn as we leave and gently sail down the Humber with our spinnaker set, passing Hail Sands Fort and on out into the North Sea.
Turning south along the Lincolnshire Coast we pass Mablethorpe and find a new wind farm that is not on our charts but (as is usually the case) it is located in shallow water and we can easily skirt round it. Around 8 am or so various service vessels come speeding out of the Humber, bound for the wind turbines. It remains a sunny day but the wind eventually dies so we motor on.
By 1600 Wells is plainly in sight. We check the tidal height with the harbour master who confirms we can enter as planned. By 1640 we are following the buoys along the tortuous path through the sand dunes. The river at Wells changes its course each year so the local harbour authority constantly monitors this and changes the buoyage accordingly. They have done a good job but we still run slightly aground when a fishing boat passes us in the opposite direction at great speed, sending up a big wash (it’s probably their local sport!). The port of Wells and the town are about a mile inland, behind the sand dunes and salt marches. We pass the holiday makers swimming off the wonderful sandy beach very close to our route. The beach here is backed by pine woods and there are brightly painted beach huts in front of the woods. It is a very attractive place.
We are moored up along a large motor boat by 1730. In front of us is the Thames sailing barge Cambria, looking magnificent. The town of Wells is delightful, although it is packed with holiday makers as it is the week leading up to Bank Holiday. Further along the quay is the small fishing fleet. On the opposite bank are salt marshes where access is difficult so they remain an important wildlife refuge, including nesting grounds for the rare little tern. Whilst tidying up the boat Yvonne finds half an aluminium collar on the deck that seems to have fallen off a part of the rigging but we know not which bit. Everything has worked on our way down here so we decide to phone the rigger tomorrow.
We walk along the harbour front, which is mainly comprised of fine old buildings. It is a pretty sight. We celebrate completing 2000 miles on this trip with an ice cream as we wander along amongst the crowds. We were last here in April with daughter Katharine and grandson Rohan when we stopped at the beach for a break in our journey and to prospect for today’s visit so now we have made it! Supper cooked, we check the weather is still forecast to be good as we need to press on when we can as we were held up at Grimsby for too long. We decide that although Wells is attractive there is only so much ice cream we can eat we will leave on the morning tide at 0600 for Lowestoft. Yvonne uses the laundry at the good harbour facilities so we are clean and decent again!
Day’s run: 54.0 nm
Total miles to date: 2004.7 nm
Engine hours: 4.8 hours
Total engine hours: 239.5 hours
Hours sailed: 12.0 Hours
Total hours sailed; 439.2
Tuesday 20th August – Wells to Lowestoft
It is another lovely summer morning as we leave Wells at 0600. The Thames barge Cambria is towed out by the port workboat as the barge has is in original state with no engine – this must be a rarity these days. The beach is nearly deserted at this time – just a dog walker and a jogger. Out at sea we set our spinnaker as there is a light westerly breeze and sail eastwards past Blakeney and beyond. Behind us Cambria sets full sails and looks a fine sight but makes slow progress in the light winds. Over the radio we hear her skipper lodging her passage plans with the Coastguard for getting back to London. (We assume there are paying passengers on board). They reckon it will take them two days to reach Harwich! Such was the pace of sea transport in the days of sail! Cambria has waited for good weather but in the old days the pressures of business meant that sailing ships set out in all weathers: without engines and decent weather forecasts no wonder there was such a loss of ships and seamen. We sail steadily eastward along the coast. We had not realised how picturesque the north Norfolk coast is with its succession of sandy beaches, dunes and cliffs.
We pass Cromer, Happisburg (pronounced Hasburgh) and on to the north-eastern corner of Norfolk at Winterton Ness. (A Ness is a headland). The wind drops completely so although we are motoring by this point we get no extra push against the adverse tide from the sails and progress is slower that we had anticipated. We phone Barry, the rigger who serviced the rigging at Dartmouth and discover that the part we found on the deck has come from the top of the furling gear for the foresail so that will need another trip to the top of the mast to fix. Hopefully the other half of the collar is still up there. As we round Winterton Ness yet another wind farm that is not on our charts comes into view, located on the sand banks off Caister. After careful study of the Admiralty paper charts and Navionics electronic charts on the Samsung tablet we decide we can take a short cut inside the Caister Bank but will need careful navigation to get past the various shallows and sandbanks on that route. By now the wind has turned round to blow from the south, directly against us. We text John’s mother to say we will be late. We find that we can “motor beat” down past Caister. Another boat in front of us takes the route outside the Caister Bank whilst a Dutch boat that left Wells with us follows us down the inside. We have to concentrate on our navigation but as time goes on we pass the boat going round the outside and find our way round the shallows. Caister past, we head past Great Yarmouth, sailing along the foreshore past the fun fair. John’s mother phones to get a progress report and ends up booking us into the Hamilton Marina at Lowestoft as somehow the message had not got through that we wanted as berth. On and on we sail until eventually we reach Lowestoft.
We get clearance to enter port from Port Control as the lifeboat comes speeding out, and within a short while we are moored up and re-united with John’s mother (affectionately known as the Hen by her family). Not only has she organised our berth for the night but has also come bearing food – a pie for tonight, plus biscuits and other goodies. We borrow a blue box from a diver’s boat and with that as a step up Hen comes aboard – not bad for a lady in her mid-eighties! We cook on board and spend a pleasant time catching up on news before it is time for Hen to leave for home.
Lowestoft is the most easterly port in Britain and thus the easternmost point on our trip. We are yet again in another former fish dock. Lowestoft, along with its neighbour Yarmouth, grew rich on fishing the Dogger Bank until of course the fish stocks dwindled. This is probably the last of the great fishing ports that we will visit on this trip (unless we call into Brixham in Devon, which is unlikely). They have all been hugely affected by the decline in fish stocks. Some, such as Fraserburgh, Bridlington, Eyemouth and Newlyn have continued fishing on a significant scale and make a living that way (sometimes still very successfully). Others such as Aberdeen and Montrose have switched and prospered by servicing the oil industry. More recently the growth in servicing wind farms has started to provide income such as at Lowestoft, Buckie and Wells. Many have had investment that has allowed them to tap into the leisure market, such as Hartlepool (with its heritage centre), Whitehills, Eyemouth, Fleetwood, Tynemouth, Whitby and Amble. (We often saw the marinas in these places benefitting the small fishing boats as well as leisure boaters). Many ports will go for a combination of these activities in order to survive. Often the smaller ports seem to have fared better as their fleets are engaged in local fishing and the lucrative shell fishing trade where there are controls but not the quotas that big fisheries have to obey – one hopes they do not over-fish these stocks. Perhaps the saddest port of them all that we visited has been Grimsby – fallen on very hard times, unloved and without any evidence of any investment or alternative income but simply left to decay in large areas. The weather is set fair for tomorrow so we decide to continue south a little way to the first of the attractive ports in Suffolk at Southwold.
Day’s run: 62.1 nm
Total miles to date: 2066.8 nm
Engine hours: 10.0 hours
Total engine hours: 249.5 hours
Hours sailed: 11.8 Hours
Total hours sailed; 451.0 hours
A following wind and fair weather to you all.
Yvonne and John