My original plan was to leave Bridlington bound for Grimsby. However, working out what time to leave Bridlington without fighting the tide down the coast and timing the entry to the Humber to coincide with having enough water to get into the lock there proved a little too taxing for my brain! To be honest I also became quite excited about arriving on the Norfolk coast and the final push was that whilst it may or may not be true, several people have said to me ‘Ah, Grimsby. Grim by name, grim by nature’! For these reasons I decided to set sail for Norfolk, missing Grimsby altogether. This meant the longest single handed voyage of the trip so far at 82 nautical miles but I decided that I could make it work by leaving Bridlington as soon as Fiesta was floating which happened at 5am on Wednesday last week. The forecast was good and on this occasion absolutely spot on as a gale blew itself out overnight and by about 3am there was a nice gentle breeze blowing from the west. I put Fiesta astern and scraped her off the mud and into deep water risking the wrath of the fishing fleet that had started to leave Bridlington on the same early tide. I got the sails up and whilst there was plenty enough wind to sail, I decided to motor-sail to ensure a good start as I had over 80 miles ahead of me.
Lobster pots are always a concern and particularly so at night when you really have no chance of seeing them. I have passed many, very close by, only seeing them as they appeared going down the side of the boat but this time I got very lucky indeed. As the black of night gave way to an inky blue colour I caught sight of a lobster marker buoy and it’s flag just before it disappeared between Fiesta’s bows. I immediately put the engine in neutral so it wouldn’t get caught up in the propeller and whilst the rope did catch on the engine leg it soon found it’s way off before I had to do anything else about it and the flag popped up behind the boat. Thereafter I kept my eyes peeled and was relieved when the light came and I could clearly see anything in our path. The wind freshened and after a few hours of motor sailing at over 8 knots I turned the engine off and we continued for the next 6 hours at over 7 knots in pretty calm seas. By mid afternoon the wind dropped completely so the engine went on again and I arrived at the entrance to Wells-next-the-Sea at 4.30pm. It’s always good to get somewhere in the daylight although on this occasion it only meant I could anchor in daylight because there is a big sand bar across the entrance to Wells so I motored towards the beach until it was 5 feet deep and lobbed the anchor over the front. I had already spoken to the harbour master at Wells and because of it’s frequently changing entrance caused by the continually moving sand banks, none of the charts show the buoys in their correct positions. For this reason Wells Harbour Commission offer to come out and escort any first time visitor in. The entrance is winding and tortuous and the strong tide that runs in and out of the harbour cuts the channel sharply and deeply through the sand and this means that if you get it wrong you can find yourself going from deep water to grounding the boat in a matter of seconds so having someone to show you the way, especially in the dark, is fantastic. Some of the navigation marks are lit and some of them are not so you really do have to be a local to be confident of where to point the boat.
While I was anchored waiting for the tide I heard another boat call Wells Harbour on the vhf. It was Andy from yacht Marica who I had first met in Whitehills and then again in Peterhead. He too is on a round Britain trip with his final destination being Chichester Harbour. Like me he had arranged to be escorted in and as both Marica and Fiesta have similar drafts we would be shown the way in together.
However, it didn’t actually work out as planned. As soon as there was enough water the harbour master came out, called us on the radio and flashed his light to show us the start of the inbound channel. Two minutes later his engine failed! He was relaxed and simply told us to carry on ahead and he would catch us up! Now, earlier on and as soon as the anchor was down I had taken my brain out thinking that all I had to do was simply follow someone else into the harbour but now I was having to kick start it again and try to find the way in amongst many flashing red and green lights which obviously are there to guide you although none of them stay on for long enough for you to work out which one is closest and therefore the first one to aim for.
Andy and I slowly edged our way in. I was using a torch to try and pick out the buoys and while this helps, it also makes you nervous because you get to see that you are sometimes only 20 or so feet away from the sand banks which are only a few feet the other side of the channel markers. There really is no room for error. Add to this the fact that once the tide is over the sand bar it flows really fast into Wells and even at the slowest engine speed Fiesta was travelling at 5 knots. The harbour master said ’Just follow the red buoys and you’ll be fine’. He was of course correct but spotting them in total darkness is the challenge here and he had no way of knowing that as mentioned previously on this blog, I was born without any natural sense of direction! Talking of which, I really hoped this trip might encourage some kind of improvement to this woeful dissability of mine but it hasn’t. I do at least now acknowledge this fact and I guess this is a start because I am also aware that other people have known this about me for a long time. I remember one occasion shortly after I passed my driving test when I was driving on the motorway for the first time. Some bloke was driving towards me swerving and madly flashing his lights and yelled ‘You’re going the wrong bloody way mate’ as he passed me! That really knocked my confidence. Ok, so he was right but how the f*ck did he know where I was trying to get to?!
Anyway, we inched our way in and thankfully right at the point where I was totally confused as to which way to go because there was another channel with red markers going off in a different direction the harbour master was back behind us having been given a tow by a fishing boat. We waited for him to be towed past and then I happily took my brain out again and followed gratefully and blindly to the pontoon right on the Wells quay side.
Andy had sailed from Grimsby so we had both had a very long day. It was now just after 9pm and two things were needed. Sleep and cold beer but not in that order! Andy had some cold ones on his boat so I went onboard Marica and we had a few beers and a good chat about our respective journeys down the coast and the fact that getting into Wells was akin to a game of pinning the tail on the donkey!
Once back on Fiesta I slept the sleep of the dead.
Waking up in Wells was fantastic. The long journey down the east side was over and as always, once something is completed you look back fondly and smile at the very things that felt tough at the time.
The only thing that wasn’t fantastic was the way I was woken up. I was moored right next to the quay which whilst empty and peaceful the previous night, was now lined with very noisy kids who were crabbing and had obviously been told that the most annoying sound to a childless sailor is the very sound that attracts crabs to a quay side. Much the same as crabs, it was obvious that I wasn’t going to be rid of these kids in a hurry so rather than being all Victor Meldrew about it I decided to vote with my keels and move up the pontoon where it was child free, silent, isolated and very lonely. Perfect!
After moving Fiesta to the quite spot I got her ready for a visitor. Raj who last paid me a visit in Solva, which now seems like an absolute age ago, drove up from Leigh-on-Sea and arrived on Thursday lunchtime. It was great to see her although she did ensure that this was so by arriving with champagne, home cooked curry and by buying me a pub lunch. Really Raj, you didn’t need to do all that but I am glad that you did and thank you very much! We had lunch, a few beers and then met up with Andy from Marica in the pub and later we all headed back to Fiesta to drink the very unmanly pink champagne! Not really a salty sailor tipple but excellent nonetheless!
The next day Fiesta turned into a curry kitchen and thanks to Raj 4, I had my first lunchtime curry since working in the City before she drove back home to Essex but only after becoming a grateful recipient of a Well-next-the-Sea parking ticket! What a lovely souvenir!
It is now quite clear that I am in striking distance and as such my Mum arrived on Saturday. The last time I saw Mum was in Mallaig, before that Ireland and before that, Chichester Harbour. It’s funny looking back at the previous places in which I have been visited and it is at these times that I find it hard to comprehend that Fiesta has been the constant companion and indeed my mode of transport. Maybe it’s because I can see the completion of this circle being not far ahead that makes me feel quite surreal about everything that has happened over the last 7 months.
Mum and I walked the dogs and troubled the local cafes and pubs and Mum got to experience the noise and struggle associated with trying to sleep onboard through another howler of a gale!
It seems that every gale leaves a mark of some kind on Fiesta and this one managed to lift a corner of one of my solar panels and tear the whole protective plastic covering off! It’s simply relentless and I read the other day that the meteorologists think that due to the culmination of a number of specific weather factors, the Atlantic may have morphed itself into a ‘storm making factory’ and that we could see as many at 11 more ‘Brian’ like weather bombs being made and fired our way over the coming winter so if I think the next 6 weeks or so are going to be a walk in the park, it looks like I need to think again!
Still, as the saying goes ‘Whatever the weather, you must weather the weather, whether you think it grossly unfair, you’ve had more than you fair share, you are taking it completely personally and have developed a paranoia that makes you feel like you are the only one getting the constant battering and that there is no sign of it changing, whether you like it or not!
I’m only joking, I don’t think it’s unfair. It is what it is and it only serves to make this journey an even more worthwhile challenge as far as I am concerned.
Wells-next-the-Sea was one of the favourite destinations for my mum and dad after they hung up their sailing boots and turned to motor caravanning (one tiny step up from being a pikey) and latterly it has been a favourite for Joanna, James and their boys albeit in the now completely pikey caravan way. For this reason I viewed getting here as a real milestone of the trip and to see Fiesta moored along the quayside with the sand of the east coast all around really made me feel like I have accomplished something. I am now at the point where I am less than 50 miles away from the Suffolk coast and once I am there I can say that I have sailed all the way around our fair isle although the trip won’t be officially complete until such time that I turn into and sail up the River Crouch which is still a fair while off.
There is a dutch barge moored here called ‘Albatross’ which is a bar and restaurant. Inside the main bar area all the walls are adorned with UK charts and I will admit to being very proud of the fact that I was able to walk around the room and with the exception of two charts I could say ‘Yep, I’ve sailed there’.
So next stop for me is Lowestoft. Tomorrow looks set to be a westerly which should make the bar a lot more comfortable to cross than it looked when Andy on Marica left to cross it in a northerly breeze on Friday morning. I walked out to the entrance of Wells to take some photos and watch him go. It looked uncomfortable to say the least! The only challenge that I have is the fact that I would like to arrive in Lowestoft in the daylight which means leaving here in darkness on the falling tide at about 4am tomorrow. To be honest and owing once again to my lack of directional awareness, the journey in here didn’t teach me anything and I have absolutely no confidence about picking my way out using limited visual clues in the darkness. This means that for the first time on this trip I am going to lean entirely on my chart plotter to make this happen. My chart plotter leaves a breadcrumb trail that I can bring up on the screen and follow on my way out. I will of course watch where I am going as much as possible but being only my second time in the channel and both times in darkness, I will be putting my trust in the new school navigation technology and using that to guide me out. Once out I can turn right (or is it left) and take the westerly breeze and if it’s a clear morning I will get a lovely sunrise as I head east along the north Norfolk coast before tuning south towards Lowestoft.
All of a sudden it feels like winter is here and tomorrow’s forecast at 4am is for it to be 5 degrees! In preparation for this I am thrilled to say that my beloved onsie is coming out. I do love that thing although sometimes the tiger ears get caught up on my life jacket and the tail tries to trip me up but in keeping with a long standing technique of mine I will tuck it down a sock, whichever one is free….
Skirting the edge of a wind farm and keeping clear of shipping bound for the Humber
This stowaway flopped onboard, slept and then hid for a few hours before resuming his journey
I was treated to a lovely sunset whilst waiting for the tide outside Wells-next-the-Sea
You can walk the mile or so out to the entrance or get the Wells – Beach express!
The watch house and lovely beach
Andy on yacht Marica heading out and crossing the bar
Fiesta moored at Wells Harbour