Trekking Northwards

Sunday June 17, the Broad One Design (aka Brown Boats) regatta at Royal Norfolk & Suffolk had a better morning for racing than Saturday’s howling winds and torrential rain. They kept us entertained both leaving the marina and on their return – pretty, engineless gaff rigged keel boats looking a bit like Dragons that were sailed in and out of the harbour almost effortlessly by their crew of three. There were a few moments when the unwary took down the mainsail on their return and were blown towards the harbour wall in the southerly wind. Paddles out to push off then paddle frantically, the crew had obviously done it all before.

The tide was about to turn north and it was time for us to leave, shortly after 1pm we were under sail. With just the genoa picking our way up the channel between the Suffolk and Norfolk coasts to our left or port hand and the sandbanks to the right or starboard, more pilotage but of the very easy kind, basically steer north keep the red buoys to port and the greens to starboard!

Inshore the coast was flat, green above sand with holiday camp after holiday camp, famous names from Susie’s childhood like Yarmouth, Caister and Hemsby. Isn’t California here too somewhere or is it further up the coast?

Nelson’s Column

Nelson’s statue on a column in the centre of Great Yarmouth is almost dwarfed by wharf buildings and holiday camp rides. A coaster hovered around waiting for the Yarmouth pilot to board then turned south and executed a U-turn into the River Yare. A very yellow quite large Dutch flagged steel or aluminium sailing boat “overtook” us inshore off Yarmouth but by Hemsby we’d motored past him as he continued to sail up the coast. Later we spotted a pillar box red catamaran heading south – obviously the Dutch have something about primary colours for boats!

SBS – Special Boat Services?

To our left the Scroby ( we said it “Screw-bee” but it could be “Scrohw-bee” sandbanks were uncovered and initially appeared to be heaped in seaweed. Seaweed on sand?  Closer inspection through the binos revealed a sizeable colony of seals.

Another windfarm

Crossing the Wash was amazing, so many birds, another big windfarm inshore of us, and gas installations all around – rigs of various sizes with a variety of lights including orange flares of burning gas after dark. Plenty to keep the crew from falling asleep. Later in the night a horizontal line of green lights had us confused for a bit until we realised it was probably the leading edge of a helicopter landing space on a big rig inshore of us. By now we had got good at distinguishing fulmars from gulls, started to find guillemots amusing birds and were being amazed by the formation flying of groups (skeins?) of gannets as they swooped along in a line inches from the sea’s surface. We’d even spotted a couple of puffins bobbing around some fifty miles from land. Here ships, no longer constrained by the lanes of the English Channel, would appear from random directions a sharp lookout was needed. We’d hear their radio officers calling one another up to check on intentions as they approached ends of sandbanks or rounded the wind farm but without exception they gave way to us. 

Seal Colony

The watermaker did three hours work during which time we switched from sail to motor as the wind died. In fact by the time we reached Peterhead our number two (largest) water tank was over two thirds full of fresh drinking water produced by our newest gadget, much nicer tasting than the tap water from Southsea, we love our watermaker!

After supper we switched to watches, two hours on, two hours in the saloon’s roomy and comfortable porthand sofa wrapped in a duvet. Though neither of us really slept well though that first night. The one on watch wears a Raymarine “Life-Tag” which will sound a piercing alarm down below if they stray too far from the boat (actually one of our two tags will go off if it reaches the anchor on the bow!) and we always wear lifejackets at night and are clipped on to a strong point before we leave the companionway steps. That way the one “off watch” sleeps better, knowing that no sound does not mean their fellow crew has fallen over the side.

Dawn, Monday

The on-watch puts the kettle on just before waking the off-watch so the new watch can make themselves a hot drink. Around midnight and 06:00 the on-watch makes a note in the log and at 00:40 and 05:20 they listen to and write down the Radio 4 shipping forecast. Motoring through the night with little shipping and few waypoints to alter course for life is not onerous for the on-watch but it was cold, icey cold. Kevin counted the layers Susie was wearing and came to seven; thermal t-shirt, fleece shirt, fleece lined salopettes (apparently counts as two layers due to wind proof outer), smock top (ditto as salopettes),  chest high oilie bottoms… plus a neck warmer, thick socks, boots and a fleecy hat. At least we didn’t need oilie jackets, the night stayed dry and windless.

Dawn broke still windless, a flat oily sea coloured pinks and purples by the sun and lots of guillimots. They are funny birds, they seem to go around in pairs or family groups with two or four adults shepherding a group of four or six smaller but fully fledged youngsters. Black backs and stout white fronts, they look round over their shoulder at the boat whilst paddling so fast their tails waggle rapidly from side to side. Then suddenly they turn their heads the other way to look at each other and perform a synchronised dive under the water just like a duck dabbling, except you rarely see them return to the surface. At first the pairs doing this were amusing but when we spotted a line of six or eight little black and white birds looking for all the world like they are in their best bib and tucker for a ball frantically checking over first one shoulder then the other and back before upping their tails and disappearing below the waves they made us laugh out loud.

The Skipper put the watermaker on again for an hour or so at eight whilst the First Mate took advantage of lots of hot water from all that motoring and had a welcome shower. As long as you can stay upright with your eyes closed whilst shampooing your hair, balance on one leg to wash a foot with one hand whilst bracing yourself with the other or sit on a wooden seat when covered in showergel all in a rolling bathroom then it’s easy! And the end result is worth all the stumbling round in a small space.

Late in the morning the wind finally decided to play ball and blow a bit. We festooned Temptress in extra lines – sheets and guys – and hauled our big blue and white spinnaker out of the forepeak for an “airing”. We were a bit rusty but it soon ballooned in front of the boat and we were doing 4 knots in something like 4 knots of breeze! 

Just before 1 pm on Monday the naviguesser worked out we’d now covered around half the distance to Inverness from Southsea. However the wind was both dropping and going further forward of the beam. Temptress’ speed dropped to just under 3 knots through the water, the spinnaker pole soon was as far forward as possible bringing the sail almost parallel to the hull. Not long after we were under white sails and within 30 minutes we were using the iron sail to propel us northwards. At six pm the log recorded “Still motoring. Two ships, few birds. 143nm to go”but an hour later we were sailing and some 50 nautical miles (nm) to the east of Alnmouth. It was amazing how long it took to get dark now, in fact it didn’t actually get dark, the sun set late and rose very early but the horizon remained light right through. The only noticeable change being that the picnk afterglow of sunset gradually moved eastwards to become the pink of the dawn.

By midnight we were motoring again and our lower starboard navigation light was out, The First Mate switched to the tricolour at the top of the mast and turned the steaming light off so we weren’t mistaken for a trawler but still very conscious of all the stick she’d given other boats for “wrong” lights in the recent past! At 1am it was noted that there wasn’t much change in the Shipping Forecast – gales in Thames, Dover & Wight (now areas well behind us) and SE 4 or 5 occasionally Variable 3 – we seemed to be stuck in the latter, light shifty breezes scarcely enough to disturb the surface of the sea.

Dawn – Tuesday

Day 3: With breakfast (chopped fresh fruit, yoghurt and honey) came the breeze, we poled out the genoa using the spinnaker pole and a guy to goose wing our way onwards. Goose winging or wing on wing is where the mainsail and the foresail are on opposite sides of the boat like a birds wings. Five point six knots and puffins! Life couldn’t be better. It continued on through the morning until with the south going tide starting to really run the sea began to build, big rolling seas but thankfully not like our trip along the southcoast, just pleasantly rolly and no breaking wavetops.

A small temporary passenger

Somewhere in the early morning we crossed the Meridian, east to west and soon found ourselves west of Southsea. A line down along 1 degree west from where we were passed through Hartlepool & Reading to Portsmouth! Forty eight hours at sea was celebrated with pasta, a Tesco spinach and ricotta sauce, canned tuna and peas for lunch (our frozen peas are holding out well in the little ice box as are the two pairs of pork loin chops we put there in Lowestoft).

Approaching Peterhead on Tuesday afternoon

Ahead of us and inland as we closed the coast the sky became gloomy and overcast but we enjoyed some sunshine though the wind was bitingly cold. Land Ho 15:12 on Tuesday 18 June! Scotland looked rather misty and rainy but after over two days at sea and over a day since we lost sight of Cromer we were pleased to see terra firma again. We needed to motor again to make it round Buchan Ness into Peterhead where we got a warm welcome in the misty mizzle (if you don’t know what this is ask a Cornishman!) from the harbour staff and other cruisers. Later we dug the bikes out and cycled up the hill to find ourselves a tasty fish and chip supper.

Lowestoft – Peterhead 315 nautical miles logged, 501.5 total