Thursday, 27 June 2013

To Scarborough fair

Geese out for an evening stroll on the River Ore
Our final anchorage in the River Ore

Our second attempt to leave the River Ore took us as far as Lowestoft, 30NM up the coast, before wind and weather turned against us. We decided to rest up in harbour rather than face head winds, rain and a foul tide and start again the next morning. Lowestoft is not much to speak of, but it's one of the rare 24-hour access, all weather harbours along the East coast and we were glad it was there.

The forecast wasn't brilliant - mainly light northwesterlies - but the blue sky and relatively good sea state convinced us to give it a go. The tides run very strongly along the north Suffolk and Norfolk coast and we had a quick ride to the 'corner'. Normally, we go two or three miles offshore for ease of navigation, but time was of the essence so we took an inshore shortcut near Hemsby. Crazy overfalls suddenly greeted us and steerage under sail in the light wind became impossible. Quick on with the motor! A clear case of grin and bear it, while three knots of current swept us through against the wind. The whole Norfolk coast seemed pretty prone to overfalls and we were glad to get offshore.

Crossing the Wash and the Humber combines the worst of the Thames Estuary (sand banks and shallows galore) with the traffic level of the Channel so it made for a pretty exhausting passage, especially when for several hours we made barely 2 knots against the tide. A couple of ships that passed within a mile of us didn't have their AIS on, which was rather shocking.

On the plus side, there was plenty of wildlife. Porpoises first, then fulmars and puffins and our progress was keenly watched by many well-nourished seals.

When we tacked to go around a vessel that appeared to be towing something, once more we had a call of 'sailing vessel in position X' on the radio. It was a seismic vessel and we had to go 4.5NM around her stern to get safely past the tow!

The NW wind kept heading us until we were 30NM offshore, where we stumbled into a big ship anchorage (not marked on the chart) with at least a dozen vessels hanging out and we had to tack around some of them. We were relieved when we were finally past the Humber, but our troubles were not over. We tacked back in shore and all was going well, other than the wind coming up and fizzling out every 30 minutes or so, until the tide turned against us and we just couldn't make any progress towards Flamborough Head. Another exercise in patience. Six hours later, with the tide in our favour, we could finally tack around it, but the sea state further offshore was so rough with a large northerly swell rolling in that I became seasick and Jim heroically single-handed the boat into Scarborough on 1.5 hours of sleep. Of course, the tide just turned an hour too soon for us and it was a couple of hours' slow progress to get in at last, but at least it was a beautiful sunny morning.

Scarborough harbour at low tide
All dried out on their cradles
Scarborough is a very nice harbour and town in a beautiful setting, one of those quaint seaside resorts with dozens and dozens of fish & chips shops, sweet stalls selling rock and tacky gaming arcades. Interestingly, yachts dry out in wooden cradles in the drying part of the port. It's a very friendly place and home to another Trintella 29, which sadly is off in Scotland at the moment. From here, we now have the option of day hopping, though we are hoping to reach the Forth in a oner, leaving Saturday lunchtime.

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