Circumnavigating the UK in a Leisure 27, Part 5 - Wells to Scarborough
Part 5 of Kevin Gilroy's intrepid solo UK circumnavigation
The wind has moderated and an early morning escape from Wells, on the high tide, takes place at 08.30.
This time without the assistance of the harbour master's rib, the tortuous entrance channel is successfully negotiated.
However, at the point where the channel runs east parallel to the sandbanks, the incoming swell catches me right on the port beam and produces heavy rolling.
For the first time on this trip the contents of all the kitchen drawers are deposited on the cabin floor. After 11 days "trapped" in Wells, I cheer out loud as I pass the final channel marker beacon.
Should Wells Next the Sea feature on your maritime meanderings, if there is the slightest hint of north in the wind direction, think carefully before entering! You could be enjoying yourself there for some time.
Use the sandbanks
The trip to Grimsby on the Humber involves crossing the Wash, negotiating sandbanks and dodging wind farms. On the South coast, we have little experience of sandbanks, but on the East coast they are everywhere and are covered in wind turbines.
Planning each day's run, it's usual to use the buoyage displayed on the chart as way points and confirmation of position at sea.
However it soon becomes clear that so many buoys on the East coast mark sandbanks and it is important to sail on the correct side of the sandbank.
The "correct" side means ensuring you use the sandbank as a barrier protection from wind and swell. With the sandbank to windward, you can sail comfortably in calm water watching the seas break on the bank to windward.
It is one of the longer legs of the trip and a bit of a slog against the tide for some of the way, but once the 90 degree turn to port (left) is made to enter the huge estuary of the Humber, speed over the ground rises to 7.5 - 8 knots.
Dark Star is propelled along fast into the Humber estuary by the ingoing tide. Earlier when crossing the Thames estuary, not a ship had been sighted but the Humber is full of them. This is a seriously busy maritime highway.
Passage end comes at 17.30 at Grimsby Fish Dock! Part of the old fish dock has been transformed into a marina by the Humber Cruising Association. Entry is via a lock which is open 'free flow' for two hours either side of high tide.
Port control radio at the Fish Dock turns out to be pretty unwelcoming as I approach the entrance channel, pretty well blinded by the setting sun!
The Humber Cruising Association area is run by a committee of volunteers who are a very friendly bunch, but I soon discover I am in Yorkshire.
A pint in the clubhouse costs £1.60 with a an offer of £6 for a round of four pint and the mickey taking is relentless.
The drink is most welcome after covering 55 miles in 9 hours, mostly motor sailing with both main and genny (foresail) to keep the speed up.
Tuesday June 7 2016 - Grimsby to Bridlington 41 miles
The leaving of Grimsby at 08.00 is delayed for an hour whilst flood gates are placed in front of the lock due a very high spring tide.
An easterly wind is blowing into the wide Humber estuary against the out going tide and throws up uncomfortably sharp waves.
Lines of white water appear as if you are about to hit a sandbar, but the sounder showed a depth of at least 15 meters. The wind is only force 3/4.
I would hate to try leaving the Humber against a Force 5 or more in a small yacht. The tides are strong, up to 3 knots on springs.
Once again the sandbanks are kept to windward and provide protection from the northerly swell. The lines of wind turbines stretch on forever.
The coast from the Humber at Spurn Head to Bridlington is low lying and pretty featureless, apart from the remarkable number of large static caravan parks.
By 13.00 the sun is out and at last it is possible to sail on a broad reach with a 15 knot south easterly pushing Dark Star along very comfortably.
Bridlington the best protected bay on the East Coast
By 14.00 the great bulk of Flamborough Head becomes visible to the north, sticking 5/6 miles straight out into the North Sea.
Bridlington harbour lies inland from the Head, in the top corner of what must be the best protected bay on the east coast. With huge help from the tide, 41 miles are covered in seven hours.
Bridlington is a drying harbour and boats settle on several feet of mud. Hardly had I stepped ashore and tied up when a harbour employee appeared with a long form to fill in and a request for £20 - cash only!
It turns out that the £20 charge covers one night or up to three nights berthing (for first time visitors). Remarkable value, but the "facilities" fall on the wrong side of basic.
Fish and chip capital of the UK?
Being at sea for 7/8 hours resets your sense of smell. Walking into Bridlingtonat 6 pm, the smell of cooking oil and fish and chips is overwhelming.
Every second shop seems to be selling fish and chips so I take some back to eat on board Dark Star. They are probably the best cod and chips I have eaten. Fresh, white, flaking fish with just a light covering of batter and perfectly fried chips.
Bridlington lies over five miles south of Flamborough Head where in the days of sail, craft of all sizes would anchor in its lee, waiting for a fair wind or favourable tide.
I really want to anchor there overnight but the wind is from the east, the only wind direction from which Flamborough Head does not provide shelter. So this is one box I am not able to tick.
The trip in jeopardy?
Checking the diesel engine and saildrive on Tuesday evening reveals a problem. Salt water is leaking past the seals on the propellor shaft, into the saildrive and emulsifying the lubricating oil which now looks quite milky.
This causes the oil to lose its lubricating properties and salt water can attack the gears and bearings.
The saildrive, (Seaprop 60 made by Technodrive in Italy) has given problems since it was installed, with the prop seals needing to be replaced each new season.
Now just a few week into the trip, the problem has returned and threatens to curtail the venture.
My solution is to replace the oil every 2/3 weeks and keep soldiering on. However to drain and replace the oil, the boat must be out of the water.
Hopefully I can find tidal harbours along the way where I can put Dark Star on a slipway to dry out as the tide falls. The oil can be drained and replenished before the yacht re-floats on the next high tide.
Wednesday June 8 2016 - Bridlington Harbour
Thick fog and a brisk north wind prevent progress to the next harbour, Scarborough, for a day. The morning is spent discussing with the agents and suppliers of the engine and saildrive about the best way forward.
In the afternoon there is plenty of time to explore Bridlington. The smell of fish and chips has either disappeared or I have become immune.
It's a busy resort, kept alive by the stream of coach parties and day trippers of "silver surfers". I find the new leisure centre on the seafront and pop in a for a swim and more importantly, a decent hot shower.
The shower/toilet facilities on the harbours since leaving Eastbourne, have been a bit of a shock, barely 1950's, camping club standard.
Unfortunately in the lovely new leisure centre, it is not possible to shower in the usual fashion of the single handed sailor, wearing tea shirt, underpants and socks.
On a small yacht the only source of water comes from the kettle and this encourages inventive solutions to the washing of clothes.
Marks & Sparks is discovered in 'Brid' and dinner is soon "sorted"; duck pate with orange, beef lasagne, pear halves and evaporated milk.
Thursday June 9 2016 - Bridlington to Scarborough 22 miles
Departure for Scarborough comes on the high tide at 08.00 on a cold overcast morning, but I make good progress out towards Flamborough Head, the huge headland which provides superb protection for Bridlington bay.
There is so little swell here in the north of the bay that at least three trip boats are able to operate daily from Bridlington.
However after an hour, a rude awakening lies ahead with ominous signs of white water out towards the headland. Local sailors advised keeping close in to the cliffs to avoid the worst of the overfalls, but not too close.
'If the lighthouse on the headland is not visible you are too close.'
However for the past few days the wind has been blowing from the north east right onto the headland. From calm water under the lee of the cliffs, rounding the headland, Dark Star plunges headlong into long, 2/3 metre swells.
It is all a bit of a shock but not dangerous. The swell is not breaking, but provides a roller coaster ride for the next two hours.
Once clear of Flamborough it all calms down for a nice 22 mile run to Scarborough. With the tide now ebbing quickly, Dark Star just scrapes into Scarborough harbour at 12.00.
Like Bridlington, Scarborough largely dries out at low tide but there is always about 1m on the visitors pontoon, even on springs.
Scarborough is a slightly more upmarket resort, but it's not so popular with coach tripping silver surfers since it is so hilly. The seafront is flat enough, but there is a steep climb up to the town centre.
Bridlington, by contrast, is pretty flat and wheel chair friendly. The legions roaming around on mobility scooters in Bridlington are absent from Scarborough.
By 1400 the sun is out in Scarborough and it is very hot (well 16/17 degs) with people paddling in the North Sea.... A visit is made to the chandlers to order calor gas and thence to Marks and Spencer's food hall.
The long pontoon at Scarborough is remarkably busy with vsiting yachts. However there are only two unisex toilets/showers available and this entails a long hike down the pontoon and back along to the end of the harbour wall.
Goodness knows what foreign crews make of this. Scarborough is a very popular stopover when transiting the east coast, but this council run harbour appears hardly to have changed in decades.
However they have an excellent scrubbing grid which I have booked for tomorrow so that the contaminated oil can be drained out from the saildrive.
Dark Star moves on to the grid at high water at 08.00, so no chance of a lie in tomorrow - and rain is forecast.
Friday June 9 2016 - Scarborough weatherbound
Dark Star motors from the visitors' pontoon to the scrubbing grid on the high tide at 08.45 in heavy rain. I secure the boat up and have a fried egg roll while waiting for the tide to drop.
At 11.45 I am finally able to access the saildrive and drain down 3 litres of what looked pink milk, but had originally been the finest automatic transmission fluid.
I take the opportunity to remove general slime from the hull before retreating back, very wet, to the cabin for a some lunch. Finally at 3.30 the rain stops and a bit of cleaning and topside polishing is carried out.
It is 19.45 before the tide is high enough get Dark Star back to the visitors' pontoon.
A late dinner of Marks & Sparks chicken madras and rice for one goes down well. The main attraction of these 'dinners for one' is the absence of washing up afterwards.
Outside the mist and fog descend so thickly that Scarborough seafront disappears. Temperatures hover around 12 degrees all day. Not a day to remember and I doubt if any progress north can be made tomorrow.
Saturday June 10 2016 - Scarborough weatherbound
Last night I decided that today would be hopeless for sailing and stir late from a warm bunk to find the fog has gone, as have most of the other visiting boats, leaving billy nomates on the pontoon.
However I have a 'to do list' for the day. First stop is East Coast Marine, fronted by the owner who runs one of the few "proper" chandelrys left. The internet has closed so many.
In short order he produces calor gas, diesel in cans, tapered softwood plugs, and a new arming trigger gas cylinder for an automatic lifejacket which had earlier fully inflated by mistake (don't ask).
How I came to leave the shop clad in a new Gill sailing jacket without feeling any pain in the wallet is something of a mystery.
Berthing fees have been settled, Marks and Sparks raided for further meals for one and I hope to leave for Hartlepool tomorrow.
I will probably by pass Whitby which involves a lifting bridge and has access only two hours either side of high tide. After Hartlepool, comes Newcastle (N Shields), Amble, Lindisfarne, Eyemouth.
However next week the weather might halt progress at Amble. The stop after that, Lindisfarne (Holy Island), is an overnight anchorage, only suitable in settled weather and I would hate to miss that, so patience will be required.
Thanks for reading this.