Hartlepool to Whitby Monday 21 – Wednesday 23 August
Though we have now arrived in Ramsgate in Kent , so well on the way home, I am still playing catch up with blog updates, so here we go – back to Hartlepool to reflect on our travels down to Wells-Next-to-Sea in Norfolk.
The passage from Hartlepool to Whitby was one of our shortest – only 25 miles down the coast into Yorkshire but guess what! Yes, the weather forecast turned out to be up the creek again and we left the lock in Hartlepool to be whooshed out into another wind against tide battle. Instead of the gentle 6-8 SE forecast we had a southerly (right on the nose again) 16, gusting up to 22-24 – great!
Coming out of Hartlepool, we passed huge hulks of factories (many derelict) lining the coastline of the Tees estuary. These sad symbols of the former heavy industrial past of the Middlesborough and Redcar area are more than a blot on the landscape and are a sharp contrast to the Cleveland Hills which can be seen in the background and which could have been ‘England’s pleasant land’ until your eyes inevitably fix on the shore.
As we move down the coast, we start to pick up the craggy cliffs of the North Yorkshire coast. Every so often a few plumes of smoke show there is still work going on in some of the buildings atop the cliffs but mainly it is steep unforgiving rock faces falling sheer into the sea. A few miles down the coast there is a break in the cliffs and a waterfall of white and old stone cottages and houses can be seen surrounding a small bay. This is Staithes, a pretty, traditional fishing village, largely unchanged over the years. I remember a lovely old black and white photo of me as a baby with my Mum sitting on the beach at Staithes – I haven’t been back there since and certainly don’t remember the actual place but I loved that photo and maybe one day I will return for real but, for now, we will just pass by and continue our journey to Whitby.
Our first sightings of Whitby were mixed. Another childhood destination that I haven’t been back to for many years, I had romantic memories of the ruins of the abbey atop the cliffs overlooking the small fishing town with the sound of gulls and traditional old buildings surrounding the harbour. Our actual arrival was with a whoosh through a slightly tricky entrance where you had to keep to starboard to avoid rocks on the port side of the entrance; we also had to watch out for the regatta rowers who were also due to come through the entrance at the same time! The view of the abbey, dating from the year and 657 which inspired Bram Stoker to write ‘Dracula’, was the same but the pier on the right was filled with a fairground and extremely loud fairground noise and the seawall was awash with a mass of people. Oh dear, maybe not the most peaceful place to lay our hats but once the swing bridge was opened and we made our way up the River Esk to the visitors pontoon, the fairground sound died away and the water became still and peaceful. We arrived at the pontoon to be met by the Harbour Master who told us all about the Whitby Folk Festival which was going on all over the town during the week. Memories of the folk weekend we had fallen upon in Weymouth way back at the start of our travels were stirred and we were looking forward to getting out and about to hear some good music. We weren’t disappointed and made the Middle Earth pub our base while in Whitby as there was a constant stream of excellent music going on in all areas of the pub at any particular time.
Tuesday was a particularly good day as we enjoyed another family visit when my Auntie Linda and Uncle Derek arrived and, as well as bringing us a delicious homemade cheesecake, they took us for a lovely, relaxed seafood lunch at the lovely Marine Restaurant –many thanks to them. We had a lovely time and it was great to see some family members for the second week in a row. The evening brought another chance to hear some good music, before getting ready for our departure the following day.
We very much enjoyed our visit to Whitby and it turned out to be every bit the traditional seaside town that I remembered. We’d also like to thank the harbour staff and Scarborough City Council for supporting our Round Britain Sailing Challenge for the National Autistic Society.
Whitby to Scarborough Wednesday 23 – Friday 25 August
Just 19 miles down the coast from Whitby is the seaside town of Scarborough, our next destination. We left Whitby with a speedy exit out of the lively harbour entrance on the afternoon tide. As this was going to be a short journey and we had to time our departure with the opening of the swing bridge in Whitby, we decided an afternoon departure was more favourable than a very early morning get up.
The speed at which we rushed out of the harbour continued as we jumped on the tide and we were doing 8.8/8.9 knots over the ground for most of the passage to Scarborough.
Earlier that day there had been a tremendous storm over East Yorkshire. It had come in over the sea from the East and brought with it thunder, lightning and flash floods. Though it had passed over by the time we left, it had left huge rolling seas and these, combined with the wind direction and fierce tide made for a speedy though lumpy bumpy passage down the coast. At home in Northumberland there is a road (the A68) which goes north of Corbridge up over the Scottish border to Jedburgh. This road is like a roller coaster going up and down over the crest of hills then dropping the other side. Some people don’t like this road because it makes them a bit queasy and our family name for this road is the humpy bumpy road – this passage to Scarborough was the North Sea equivalent of the humpy bumpy road and we got some interesting footage of a yacht which was following us as it crashing and disappeared behind the waves before reappearing only to repeat the process minutes later. Reminiscent of the passage into Stonehaven where we were photographed, we knew any observer would be seeing Kairos take the same nose dives into the waves – not a sail for those with weak stomachs!
We made speedy progress and arrived in Scarborough at 18.30 – so, having left at 4.15, this had been a lively but very quick 19 mile trip. Scarborough is positioned around a couple of sheltered sandy bays and has developed in the shadow of a steep headland on which was built the 12th century Scarborough Castle The harbour has a lot of fishing going on in and around it and the seafront is busy and active. There is evidence of a popular and affluent past as a Victorian seaside town but unfortunately a lot of the character has disappeared in a world of plastic buckets, packets of chips and amusement arcades. None of these are really what we look for in a sailing destination so we were glad to have a break there but equally glad we would only be there a couple of nights.
On Wednesday we were delighted to welcome Tony and Jen Reynard on board. Simon had actually recruited Tony when he came to work at Chichester College many years ago. A couple of moves and quite a few years later Tony and Jen have moved back to their native Yorkshire and it was really fantastic that they made the trip across to Scarborough to see us and treat us to Whitby fish and chips (scampi , in my case). It was great to catch up with what has gone on in recent years and to show them around Kairos over a gin and tonic and to enjoy a post lunch walk around Scarborough in the sunshine, before saying goodbye.
Scarborough to Spurn Head, Humber Estuary Friday 25 – Saturday 26 August
We left Scarborough as soon as dawn broke (around 05.45) and came out of the harbour mouth, turning southbound as soon as we reached the Clearwater mark. Our next destination, which was just off the Spurn Head Lifeboat in the Humber Estuary, 56 miles down the coast. We were prepared for the day’s sailing to be long and the latter part to be not terribly interesting as the coastline and scenery become less dramatic. The first part of the passage took us past endless craggy cliffs which continued down the coast line until reaching the chalky peninsula of Flamborough Head, which seemed to go on for ever – in fact the these cliffs go on for around 10 miles and towering over the sea at 40 feet these are the highest cliffs in Britain. We were a little too far out to see what is described as a paradise for twitchers with puffins, guillemots, gannets and rasorbills all nesting there, but we could see caves, sea stacks and the two lighthouses along the coastline.
We were able to put up the mainsail and benefitted from a good tide for the first couple of hours. After clearing Flamborough Head, the tide went slacker and then started to work against us but picked up again, so it was running in our favour as we entered the Humber Estuary. After Flamborough Head the cliffs turned to smaller hills, the scenery lost its ability to inspire and coastline features gradually petered out until reaching Spurn Head, which by then was little more than a thin line of land jutting out into the sea. The most exciting thing about this journey, other than the tasty bacon sandwiches cooked on the way, was passing two wind farms; these were symbols to Simon that we were really heading south and were the first of many we will be passing from now on.
Mindful the wind was going to be easterly (actually became a brisk south easterly) we put ourselves in the lea of the shore, dropping anchor into the seabed which was actually a thick black clay/mud – delightful to clean off the next morning but which held fast and gave a super secure anchorage for the night only 100 metres behind the only professionally manned lifeboat in the UK. Excellent news if we had gone adrift as help was very close at hand; fortunately we didn’t need this and our only challenge was running out of ice for the gin and tonic! Every so often a seal popped up to say hello and went back down as soon as I reached for my camera but apart from quite a fierce wash when ships went by at high water, we spent a very secure and peaceful night at anchor.
Spurn Head to Wells-next-to-Sea Saturday 26 – Monday 28 August
Another early morning and another morning with some (weak) sunshine trying to break through the clouds. After raising (and cleaning) the anchor, we sought permission to cross the estuary from VTS Humber and having checked we were safe to pass through the firing range, we set off a couple of hours before high water, to avoid playing with the big boys who were lining up to enter the Humber en-route to such exotic destinations as Grimsby, Immingham and my former university city of Hull.
As with the previous day we were able to sail with the mainsail up. The forecast, as ever, was inaccurate as to wind direction. We had been predicted a light south westerly /westerly wind, it actually came up north westerly and quite quickly moved round to north easterly and then to south easterly but remained very light, the whole journey.
The journey across the Humber was uneventful and, other than a couple of wind farms and one or two fishing boats in the distance, we saw very little traffic once we had left the main channel. We did however see plenty of seals – lots of individual seals just popping their heads up before diving back below, then a few groups of seals gathered around a shallower patch of water, who looked as if they were treading water in an aquarobic class. We made good progress on the tide, actually faster than we had expected, but we were anticipating a slow down once we hit the Wash. The slowdown was marginal and we continued counting down the miles to Wells.
As we passed the distant coastline of Lincolnshire we spied the distinctive tent like structure of Butlin’s shining white and bright on the shore and knew we were passing Skegness. Round the never ending wind farm we went then headed on a straight course hoping we might squeak into Wells before the creek dried. We had read several pilot books on entry into Wells and the information about entry to the visitors’ pontoons, the extent of dredging of the channel seemed to vary so we were optimistic but not confident we might get in on the last of the water. In fact, if anything the pilot books were themselves optimistic as the creek we had to enter virtually dried out, meaning no entry was possible to any part of it until shortly before high water. This was not a problem as the sun came out fully from behind the clouds and there was a lovely bay to anchor in while we waited for the tide.
We enjoyed one of the few meals in the cockpit we have managed to have during our trip and just relaxed reflecting on the trip as a whole, whether we should have gone anticlockwise rather than clockwise (we agreed we have chosen the right way for us) and what, if anything we would have changed – other than the weather, which we have no control over, both of us agreed there was little we would have done differently.
As the sun went down over the horizon we finally got the okay from the Harbour Master to begin our entry up the creek. We took up our anchor and began making for the entrance channel. We were followed by another yacht and a motor boat and we began to gingerly make our way up the meandering creek following the red and green buoys, some of which were more clearly marked than others. The light was fading fast and it was tricky to work out which way the creek went next, especially as the tide was coming in fast in a swirling movement which tried to wash us to the left, towards the still dry bank. Because of the light (or lack of it) and unfamiliarity with the creek, it took us about half an hour to get up into the small town of Wells and identify the boat we had to moor up against on the visitors pontoons – a fellow Moody owner with Maline, a very nice Moody 38, who also kindly gave us a contribution for our fundraising -many thanks. We were met with a very jolly welcome from harbour staff who helped us with our lines and told us where the facilities were. We went to check in at the harbour office and explained about our trip for the National Autistic Society and gave the harbour master a copy of our leaflet – we have distributed so many, we need to print some more, He was very interested in our trip and we’d like to thank him and the Wells harbour staff for supporting our sailing challenge,
After a wander up the main street and a nightcap in The Fleece in we returned to the boat and sat enjoying the views and the music coming gently from the large Dutch barge restaurant/bar moored opposite. We remained in Wells for the next couple of nights and had a very relaxing stay in that very pretty little harbour and having arrived in East Anglia we have really begun to feel we are now really at the start of the homeward leg of our trip.
Well, another week has passed on our Round Britain challenge and its been a varied and very positive week, both in terms of fundraising and distance. We are hoping if the weather stays in our favour we will be home at our sailing club and on our mooring by 10 September – but that all depends on that old friend and foe….. the weather! Our next blog post will be coming soon, as I am really trying to catch up and will cover our journey southbound to Lowestoft and a move from Norfolk into Suffolk then on into Kent; until then friends, thanks for your support and …. keep following. Kairos out.