Tuesday, 5 July 2011


Granton to Whitby

The Red Arrows give us a rousing send off.
Well, we finally managed to begin our voyage. It wasn't easy. We had settled into our wee corner of the harbour very comfortably and were enjoying the social scene immensely. There was time to potter about the boat, getting things into a more refined degree of readiness and it was nice.

Then came the leave-takings, always difficult. The morning of departure, nerves were jangling slightly but we still had jobs enough to do to keep us from dwelling on it until finally the moment came to cast off the warps and go. Me mum was waving from the pontoon, a small group of friends from the Club were there to provide an escort out of the harbour in the launch, we hoisted sails, cut the engine and were away. There wasn't a dry eye on the boat.

The Bass Rock: Generating gannets since 1633.
As we sailed down the Forth the emotions gradually settled and we started to really enjoy what turned out to be a cracking sail down the coast to Whitby. The journey was more or less without incident, though there was a bit of hairiness in passing the Farne Islands during the night, just at a change of watch. The only moment of drama came after the wind died with about 30 miles to go.

We were chugging along merrily when the pitch of the engine suddenly dropped a note and we seemed to lose thrust. After a bit of diagnostics I concluded there must be something fouled on the propeller so we cut the engine, downed sail and I donned wetsuit to go have a look. While we were bobbing around before I went over the side what ever it was (probably a plastic bag) must have been shaken loose as there was nothing there by the time I got under and thereafter everything was fine. It was no bad thing to have a bit of a bath anyway.

The main consequence of this unscheduled pause was that we missed the last bridge opening of the day at Whitby but this turned out to be a stroke of luck. It saved us a night's pontoon fee and we ended up rafted up against an old acquaintance whom we met last year in the Caledonian Canal. We hoped we might bump into the crew of the Specsioneer and there she was.

The Specsioneer

It was good to catch up with owner Bryan and trusty crew member John and next day we went out on one of the 25 minute sailing tours aboard the Specsioneer, even taking the helm for a time. All good fun.

Whitby is a very pleasant town and we enjoyed seeing the sights, visiting the Captain Cook museum and receiving a visit from good friends Dan and Jenny and their three super children, Benedict, Emma and Lucy.

Post fish suppers.

Whitby to Orford Haven

It was with no very clear idea of where we would end up next that we departed Whitby bright and early on Saturday morning. Bryan had advised us to be on our way early doors to take advantage of the south-setting tidal stream, so we made our way through the swing bridge at 0530 and launched headlong into one of those motoring marathons that come with surprising regularity in long-distance coastal sailing.

The forecast said there wouldn't be any wind, right enough, but one always hopes the forecast will be wrong when it doesn't suit and besides, the wind was forecast to be southerly when it returned and we certainly didn't want that. So, we motored. On and on, through fair tide and foul, day and night, till our eardrums were bursting with it. Past Flamborough Head, across the Wash, and amongst the Winterton shoals.

Lowestoft had been considered a possible stopping place but looked a bit too industrial and too busy and we wanted to reach a spot where we could anchor up and relax for a few days to wait for a favourable wind to tackle the Channel. We passed Lowestoft during the afternoon of our second day out from Whitby. Passed it very slowly as we bored our way into 3 or 4 knots of foul tide.

Gradually we had settled on either the River Ore or the River Deben as a likely hole to drop into and relax for a few days but the timing wasn't right. With the tide turning in our favour we would reach Orford Ness around midnight, during the darkest hour of the night, which didn't seem entirely prudent. Also, entering either river is tricky and only to be attempted on a rising tide, at mid-flood, which wouldn't be until around 11 the next morning. Neither did we really fancy going on any further, as we'd be running into all the joys of the English Channel – one of the most congested areas of shipping on the planet.

Various ideas were bandied about until finally, at about 2230 as darkness was falling, we adopted the simple solution of doing nothing for a while. More specifically, we lay a-main for a few hours and drifted, in the right direction, with the tide.

The peace, with the engine off, tiller lashed down and the double-reefed main holding us into the bare 2 or 3 knots of wind, was shattering. The stars shone and the sea was nearly flat. It was gorgeous. I retired for a couple of hours of much needed sleep while Sonja maintained the drift-watch. Then, when we got under way again she was able to do the same during the last couple of hours before reaching the mouth of the Ore.

We piloted through the shoals near the coast and came to anchor between the two river mouths at 0530 on a very fair morning. After sleeping for a few hours, we fired up the Kindle and went online to check out the latest pilotage info on the river mouths, as the shoals are famous for frequently shifting around. We settled on the Ore and sure enough, the current configuration bears no resemblance to the chartlet published in this year's Almanac! I mean no resemblance. The channel now lies right through the middle of what used to be the shoal.

Armed with the freshest available info, we set off to cross the bar around 1100. There was a strong cross tide running and small breakers to either side but we crossed on a minimum depth of 2.1m and were safely into the Ore.

We dropped the hook in a branch of the stream next to a bird sanctuary island (reputed to be a favoured breeding ground of the avocet, though we've yet to spot one) and enjoyed the tranquil, warm and bucolic surroundings. Over the fields to the north, we could see the 900 year-old castle of Orford and its fine Norman church. Later, we inflated the canoe and paddled the couple of miles to Orford quay.

Orford is a splendidly English village. Charming old houses with pretty gardens and a couple of decent looking pubs, one of which we had to visit to sample some fine Suffolk ale (Adnam's Explorer). We were welcomed hospitably by a member of the Orford Sailing Club and invited to make use of their shower facilities, which we gladly accepted. From the local smoke house we purchased a delicious ham hock, cured in cider and treacle and smoked to perfection.

Joe Grundy was just out of frame.

The weather looks like cutting up rough from the south for the next few days, so we'll be happy to hang out here, possibly venturing further up the river to Aldeburgh, which has been warmly recommended, and doing a bit of bird watching.


Lady Clitne said...

Hi Sonya and Jim, Looks like you are making good progress in Fettler
Maxine now resides (well temporarily)in Fettlers old position in the West Harbour. Its pretty quiet without you

The Hon Sec! said...

Great read! Blimey, you guys know what you're doing - you wouldn't catch me sailing in the dark.

sailfettler said...

Sailing in the dark is brilliant - you should try it sometime!