Category Archives: 3. Skegness to Sunderland

Third Leg

Progress Review and Re-assessment…

As the half way point in time approaches I’m nearing one third of the distance from Southampton, around Britain via the Caledonian Canal across the Highlands of Scotland, and back to Southampton.

Given what’s promising to be the worst summer for a hundred years or more, I’m not dissatisfied with progress, but the delays due to strong winds have been very frustrating and I’ve often been sailing in unpleasantly wet and cold weather.

It’s been a tough physical and mental challenge and doing this circumnavigation solo has added to the difficulty, However, Greg has been immensely helpful with helping to organise some of the logistics from a distance, managing the website and as someone I can call at any time to discuss weather, the passage plan or safe haven options. I’ve no doubt my progress would have been a lot slower and less enjoyable without his help.

Given the chances of completing the 1800 nautical mile route in the time I have available before ending my 100 day sabbatical in the second week of September, I’ve considered crossing Scotland via the Forth Clyde Canal (further south than the Caledonian Canal) as a fall back option. But this would miss out some of the potential highlights of this expedition which include; the Highlands of Scotland and sailing south through the Inner Hebrides.

So I’ve decided to press on and to get as far as I can. And if I don’t complete the entire route then I’ll return to finish it at a later date. I’ve also been reminding myself of some of the reasons why I have chosen to make this voyage in a sailing canoe. These include not only the challenge itself but also the opportunity to explore the very varied and often stunningly beautiful British coastline in a way that’s often not possible in a yacht and sometimes not possible by sailing dinghy. The closeness to the physical experience, the ability to land on a wide variety of beaches and to get up close to headlands, cliffs and to some isolated and little visited parts of our coast are some of the attractions.

So, next I head on past the delights of the Northumbrian coast before reaching Scotland. And I’ll continue to try to communicate the excitement and enjoyment of travelling by sailing canoe as best I can.

Tees and Hartlepool Yacht Club

Hartlepool to the Tyne…

Newspapers this morning talked of a normal summer resuming, gradually. Let’s hope so. This strange summer has seems more like winter at times and my slow progress northward in the face of frequent northerly and easterly winds had begun to become dispiriting at times. Determined to lift my mood and experience a little of Hartlepool on the Saturday night before I left, I set out for the nearby Small Crafts Club. I imagined I might find some company with small craft sailors and enthusiasts. The club seems quiet as I walked down a dockside back street and I wondered whether the members had all gone home. So, as I walked through the soundproofed, intercom controlled door, I was not prepared for a crowded, riotous and very friendly working men and women’s club with a full-on karaoke night in full swing.

I fell in with a small group of lads out on a stag night. The brother of the groom, David, said he was a prize fighter and looked the part. But he was not looking forward to a fight tomorrow with his best mate and thought they might forego the contest. I sympathised and thought he might be better off nursing a hangover, but didn’t say so. He was also celebrating the birth of twin daughters earlier in the day.

At the end of the room with twin lines of long tables leading to the stage, singers took their turn. Some were very good, others less so. Judging I’d be in the latter category, I avoided the microphone.

David and the stag night group wanted to know what brought me to Hartlepool, so I explained as best I could. David’s brother Mark said he admired my ambition and David wanted to know if the sailing canoe could take passengers. Thinking he was asking about sailing 2-up on a day trip, I replied “yes.” However, David became irrevocably fixed on the notion of sailing up to Scotland with me and no amount of shouted discussion would dissuade him from putting me up for the night and setting sail sail with me the day. Taking advantage of David’s visit to the bar, I made my excuses and left.

Feeling a little below par the next morning, I struggled out of the tent warmed by the early morning sun. Coffee, a quick blog, with sunlight streaming through the windows of the club bar, and packing up followed. I was away before 11 am and waved goodbye to Micky and Mike who’d helped me launch. I wished I’d been able to stay a little longer in Hartlepool which has a lot more to offer than I expected and has clearly benefited from much Dockside regeneration, but also has a strong maritime tradition. I regretted not visiting the Hartlepool Maritime Museum. Thanks to all at Hartlepool and Teeside Yacht Club who made me so welcome and looked after me; I’d like to return. The club photographer took some excellent photos of me and the boat. I have a disk with many photos, but here is one kindly contributed by e-mail:

Tees and Hartlepool Yacht Club

Tees and Hartlepool Yacht Club

Running out past the North pier I turned left along the East facing coast. The wind was more from the north than forecast and instead of an easy reach, I found myself sailing up wind and into little short, steep waves that threw curtains of spray across the boat. Gusts, flurrying out from the small cliffs on the left of my track, ruffled the water and heeled Stacey over before I could move my weight out to counteract. A Dinghy Cruising Assocation contact, Ed Wingfield, had kindly offered to meet up en route and sail in company. He was sailing a a 10 metre Beneteau yacht and was returning to the Tyne from Sunderland. After some four hours of my slow progress against the wind and waves we met just north of Seaham and continued on towards Sunderland and then the Tyne.

Occasionally the wind would back to the west a little, when I’d be able to unfurl a bit more mainsail and speed would increase to between 5 and 6 knots. Seven hours after departure from Hartlepool, we neared the twin piers of the River Tyne entrance. With two cruise ships due for departure and wind and tide against me, Ed thought it would be best if he towed me to our destination, the Royal Quays Marina two miles away. I agreed, and seeing the strength of the ebb, added to by the peaty brown fresh water spate after recent heavy rain, I could see I would have had to wait several hours for the tide to turn before sailing upstream.

Southampton to Newcastle, or at least to the Tyne. One home town, for the last 40 years plus, to another home town, of my birth and childhood. A circle completed and a sense of returning home.

Transitting the lock at the Marina entrance was a new experience, but useful with over 20 locks to come in the Caledonia canal. Stacey was moored to a small pontoon and I went aboard Ed’s yacht, Samphire, for a welcome cup of tea before a beer and cheese toastie aboard the Earl of Zetland floating bar and retiring to Samphire’s forward cabin for the night.

Runswick Bay to Hartlepool…

Keith and I had sailed into Runswick bay, the day before. Our route had taken us down the middle of the small bay, which is surrounded by higher rolling pasture land on all sides. We’d carefully steered a path between the headlands either side of the bay, where the large swells (innocuous at sea) were rearing up and crashing onto the rocky foreshores. However, we found that the Northwest corner of the bay next to the village was almost free of breakers, and we had landed without difficulty. Dave and Hilary were there to greet us. They had arrived to take Keith and his boat back to Filey, but also to deliver some stickers and spare parts for Stacey.

Runswick Bay, with its sandy beach backed by a grassy hill rising steeply behind and small village perched on the side of the hill, reminded me of childhood holidays on Arran. There, we often visited the equally small village of Blackwaterfoot, with a tiny harbour, general store and bank – where the doors were left unlocked when all the staff went home for lunch. Runswick has no store or bank, but there is a small café and a very pleasant pub, the Royal Hotel, where we had enjoyed an evening meal in a small room lined with many photographs of the village in times past.

The next morning, after breakfast, when all had departed save for me, I chatted to the Cockpit House B&B owner, Jennifer Smith, about the village and its history. Her father had served with the RNLI as a mechanic aboard the Runswick lifeboat. Some 60 years ago a dispute over whether to launch the lifeboat had reignited old rivalries between Runswick and the nearby village of Staithes. The coxswain, a Runswick man, backed by Runswick crew members, had refused to launch as an impenetrable wall of breakers stretched across the entrance to the bay. All knew there would be no pay for the crew members if the lifeboat did not touch the water and the chances of getting out of the bay were negligible. The Staithes crew members disagreed with the coxswain and in the ensuing bitter dispute between the villages the lifeboat was moved to Staithes.

Runswick villagers later funded an independent rescue boat and still do so. Although lately, a shortage of capable men and women able to launch at short notice has meant rescue boat cover is now only available at weekends. Nevertheless, the Runswick rescue boat continues to respond to distress calls and forms part of the Coatguard response to emergencies.

I was reluctant to leave and didn’t set sail until after midday. Tacking out the bay into a light easterly wind took me out to sea and past the headlands. Runswick has been added to the line of dots forming my image of Britain’s coast, and I hope to return one day.

Turning left I sailed past more high cliffs of Yorkshire and onward toward the chimneys and steelworks of Teeside, just visible in the far distance. Another unseasonally cold and grey July day, together with some recently accumulated aches and pains, contributed to a feeling of listlessness and slight gloom.

I talked with Greg about the options. Seaham (more than 30 nautical miles from Runswick) or Hartlepool (just over 20 NM). The decision to head for Hartlepool was made as the wind started to back from the north-east to the north, which meant I was heading more into the wind and that my speed dropped off. Greg made contact with Tees and Hartlepool Yacht Club, where I was made very welcome. Commodore Barry Hughes arrived especially to welcome me, and a small group of sailing cadets (at the club for Friday evening sail training) pulled Stacey up the wide slipway inside the the harbour entrance. They later took a keen interest in the sailing canoe and in my travels as I gave a short talk in the bar.

Today’s northerly winds have made this a good day to rest and recover. Everyone here has been very hospitable and following a couple of beers and conversations with club members, I’ve enjoyed a good night’s sleep on the soft carpet of the club’s bar.

As I write this latest blog from the comfort of the bar, I also look out to the North Sea beyond the harbour walls. Tomorrow the wind is promised to be westerly and fair for a passage North towards the Tyne or beyond.

Scarborough Breakfast

Scarborough and Fair Winds to Runswick Bay…

Sunlight streamed in through the windows. Keith Morris and I were looking out over Scarborough harbour. A full English breakfast needed eating downstairs in the Ivy House Café

Scarborough Breakfast

Scarborough Breakfast

This was followed by a short walk over the road to retrieve the sailing canoes from the fairground. Sadly, it’s no longer possible to transport sailing canoes by train in the guards van* but what other sort of sailing boat can be sailed in the open sea and then stored in a fairground for the night before setting off again the next day? We enjoyed our short stay at Ivy House and much appreciated Alison’s kind hospitality and unusual home for the boats overnight.

Watched by an audience leaning over the railings above the slipway, we re-assembled our boats and launched into the harbour. Before departure, Capt. Doug Shannon, the Assistant Harbourmaster had come over to say the harbour would waive any fees for landing / launching – for which we were very grateful and would like to say thanks.

Paddling through the crowded harbour brought us back out into the bay, and thence past the headland into large but long slow rollers coming from the North. Unlike the waves of the day before, this swell posed no obstacle to our journey. We paddle-sailed for an hour. Then, with the breeze from the South-West gradually filling in, we ate our rolls whilst slowly sailing. Gradually we picked up speed as we alternately rose and fell on the small moving hills of the rollers, whilst ploughing watery furrows northward and parallel to the sunlit cliffs.

From time to time Keith and his boat would completely disappear behind a big wave, with only the top half of his sail visible. I snapped away with the camera, trying to capture this scene. Keith posted messages on Facebook and checked our position from time to time on the Canoe-Sailor blog. A narrowly averted collision reminded us to pay more attention to sailing and less to electronic media!

Was The Canoe Boys ever like like this? Their hand written accounts posted, from various ports in the Hebrides during the late summer of 1934, to the Daily Record might now be called a blog.

As our speed increased to an unexpected 4 to 5 knots and we neared Whitby, it seemed a waste to not make more use of this fair wind and sunlit day. We passed the ruins of Whitby Abbey, silhouetted against the sky on the headland just south of the town, and resolved to press on to Runswick Bay. Five miles further on, our course took us mid way between the Runswick Bay twin headlands where the long rollers reared up in shallow water and crashed, white, onto the the rocky shores. The north western part of the bay provided a safe corner to land free of surf.

Dave and Hilary were there to greet us, and we hauled our bags (well, mostly my bags as Keith was travelling considerably lighter than me) to the Cockpit House B&B perched on the side of the hill above the tiny harbour and rescue boat station.

Scarborough Fair

Amid big waves and fairground dodgems…

Keith and I had hoped to set out for Whitby on Tuesday, but waves were still crashing over the line of rocks (called the Brigg) at the north end of the bay.

The surfers website, Magic Seaweed was still predicting five foot high waves. Sheltered from the continuing rain in Keith’s camper van, I brought this blog up to date and Keith edited the Open Canoe Sailing Group magazine, Gossip. An evening trip to a restaurant in Filey provided a pleasant Italian meal and an internet connection for downloading emails and uploading words and photos.

Wednesday looked a bit better, and we thought there may be a chance of sailing the 21 nm to Whitby. Enquiries directed to Ian at Whitby Marina revealed that the surf and waves off the entrance were dying down. So after carrying all our stuff down the steep hill to to Filey Sailing Club we set off just before noon. Waves over the Brigg were still sending spray into the air, but not so high as the day before.

We were both feeling a little apprehensive about the conditions as we sailed out round the cardinal mark and directly into the path of a large swell from the north. Smaller steep waves coming more from the east. Unexpectedly, the wind direction was slightly offshore meaning, the sea state might deteriorate during the day. Sails reefed, we tacked, alternately out to sea and back toward the coast. The confused sea (with some breaking waves) made for difficult sailing, with our boats sometimes almost stopping when the hit a particularly large wave. Magic Seaweed later confirmed a wave height of four to five feet.

As we sailed on in the grey day, past high cliffs topped by green fields, the tide started to turn in our favour to the north and the waves began to get larger. Ruffles of wind across the water preceded increasing gusts. Nestled behind a headland, Scarborough appeared in the distance. A quick shouted conversation with Keith confirmed we were thinking the same thing – time for our ‘plan B’. This was to head for the security of Scarborough rather than to continue upwind to Whitby, which might take another 6 hours or more.

Sunshine broke through the clouds as we reached the shelter of the headland. Paddling between the high stone piers of the harbour entrance revealed yachts, fishing boats and the Scarborough seafront where we pulled the boats out of the water and onto a wide slipway. We’d no idea where to stay or where to store the boats securely for the night but were recommended to enquire at the Ivy House Cafe and B&B.

I explained our situation to the owner, Alison, who thought we were nuts but also deserved a medal. She very kindly offered us a very attractive room, with views over the harbour, at less than half price and suggested storing the sailing canoes in her fairground, over the road. We were able to tuck the boats up securely with the dodgems for the night…

Scarborough Fair

Scarborough Fair

We felt very fortunate to have been treated so kindly and headed off along the sea front for a meal of mussels and chips… followed by a couple of beers at Scarborough Yacht Club (on the end of the pier).

Filey Sailing Club


Filey Brigg

Filey Brigg

I like the convention, or maybe superstition, of titling a yacht log entry about a destination with ‘Towards’. It conveys a sense of aspiration rather than certainty and, for the superstitious, avoids tempting fate. This must have been all the more real in the days of sailing ships without engines and with very limited ability to sail to windward. I’m reminded daily of the dangers and uncertainties of previous maritime trade and travel by the countless wrecks marked on marine charts and littering the seabed around the shores of Britain.

Yesterday, I set out from Filey Sailing Club towards Whitby knowing the following stretches of northeast facing coast (between Scarborough and the Tees) can be uncompromising and dangerous when the wind is from the north or the east, offering few harbours and safe havens. Swells from strong winds can take days to die down. Little wonder it’s a paradise for surfers in such conditions.

The night before I’d said goodbye to Katherine and knowing I wouldn’t see her for another two weeks, I was feeling sad and a bit dejected. I also felt a sense of foreboding about the next day’s sail to Whitby, but couldn’t work out why. The forecast was for light winds from the North, and a slight to moderate sea state. During the night, gusts of wind rattled the tent a few times. I thought I could hear the distant roar of surf. But I dismissed these fitful, night-time impressions and put them down to my mood.

The next morning’s forecast was in agreement with the previous day’s. Making ready to sail involved walking all my kit in three relays (down a very steep hill to the beach) and I found it hard to be motivated under a grey sky and the continuing drizzle.

At 11am, I set off (later than planned). I sailed close to the Brigg, a natural breakwater at the north end of the bay, to take a few photos of white plumes of spray shooting into the air as breakers from the north hit the rocks. I was surprised at the amount of surf, but pressed on eastward to the cardinal mark beyond the end of the Brigg, where I turned north towards Whitby.

The tide had started to run northward and I assumed the five foot waves coming towards me were a localised effect caused by turbulence as the tide rushed over the underwater extension of the Brigg. However things were no better half a mile on. I looked up at bottle-green wave tops coming towards me (some with white breaking crests) whilst the headland started to disappear in a grey mist. The thought of continuing like this for another few hours to Whitby was starting to feel very unappealing and unsafe. I called Greg for a forecast update, but it still seemed to be at odds with what I was experiencing. I was also concerned about what sea state I’d encounter at the shallow north-facing harbour entrance at Whitby.

Water swirled around lobster pot buoys as the tide rushed towards Whitby, carrying me with it. So, a quick decision was called for on whether to carry on or to return, while I still could. I chose the latter, and sailed back slowly down the waves and back towards the cardinal mark, almost lost in the mist.

This had been my first retreat since I’d left Southampton but I was very relieved to be back ashore at Filey Sailing Club and eating bread and cheese whilst sitting on the end of the slipway.

Weather forecasts are sometimes wrong and, one day on, I’m still waiting to sail towards Whitby. Keith Morris arrived last night to sail with me for a few days, so we drove north to Whitby to look at the sea conditions at the harbour entrance. Large rollers came in between the twin breakwaters and on either side, large breaking waves rushed in towards the shore.

Little had changed this morning, so today has been a day for catching up on emails, laundry and blogging. Breakers are still crashing over the Brigg. Tomorrow, if the sea has calmed down, we might sail towards Whitby.

Flamborough Head

Around Flamborough Head and on to Filey…

Flamborough Head

Flamborough Head

More fog meant Friday was another day ashore. Jim and David returned me to The Manor House before returning to London, and I occupied myself with writing in a beautiful book lined study with an open fire. Such is the peculiarity of this weather that it did not seem at all strange to be tucked up indoors with a fire on a July day.

Later, Katherine arrived and we walked down to South Landing, returning to the village along the cliff to Beacon and back via the churchyard. The Flamborough Head lighthouse sounded two mournful blasts every ninety seconds. Dave Stubbs of Solway Dory, one of the two builders of my sailing canoe, arrived with his wife, Hilary. We walked to a local pub for a meal before retiring to very comfortable beds.

Saturday morning’s breakfast of bantam eggs, bacon and toast was eaten in the study with sunlight streaming in through the window. We made plans for the day. Katherine wanted to visit the lighthouse whilst Dave and Hilary would watch me pass Flamborough Head and take a few photos from the cliff-top. We all hoped to return to Flamborough Manor one day.

Back at South Landing, Dave and Lesley (who’d just been for a swim) helped me lower Stacey down the steep ramp and over a small beach covered with small white chalk boulders. In the light wind, I tried paddle sailing for a short while… but gave up and resorted to just paddling. I headed for the gap between the cliffs and a long line of white breakers where the tidal race tumbled over an underwater obstruction. As I reached the headland, a slight breeze enabled me to sail on in the sunlight. I could just make out Dave’s silhouette on the cliff edge. Many small caves had been burrowed out of the bright white chalk of the cliffs, which were interspersed by small stony beaches. Skeins of Guillemots lay on the water, and I passed small groups of puffins which took fright as I approached within a few feet, and took off with whirring wings and feet pattering across the water. The Guillemots made their escape by either bobbing underwater or by launching themselves across the water like the puffins, but without becoming fully airborne. They bounced off the slight swell with a series of belly flops before coming to rest again.

As I passed the headland and drew level with Bempton Cliffs another ‘sea fret’ (northern words for sea fog) rolled in and the wind died – so I was back to paddling whilst following the misty outline of the cliffs to take me on towards Filey. The racket of thousands of sea-birds still filled the air. High above me, nesting gannets appeared as neatly spaced lines of white beads along horizontal and diagonal small ledges and fissures in the chalk.

Paddling with the long two bladed paddle felt easy and I was able to sustain about 2½ knots without difficulty, but it was another 4 hours before I’d paddled past the remainder the cliffs and then the beach, leading round to the top corner of the bay where Filey Sailing Club is located. Dave and Peter Crooks were there to meet me and helped to pull Stacey up the steep slope to the club’s dinghy park.


In Fog 30M from Flamborough Head

Fog off Flamborough…

After the rigours of the previous three days I couldn’t resist a lazy morning relaxing in the sun with coffee, catching up on emails and blogging. I’d slept comfortably upstairs in the clubhouse on a large soft sofa. The large windows looked out over the bay and in the distance I could see Flamborough Head, my next headland hurdle before Filey, which I hoped to reach by the evening. The wind forecast was favourable and I planned to depart at 1 pm to catch the last of the north-going tide around the headland. This would avoid the possibility of a tidal race and breaking waves off the headland.

Ian and Rachel arrived at lunchtime to prepare for the sailing club barbeque that evening and I talked to another club member, Steve Smith, for a while. It turned out we’d probably met before when racing on J24 yachts and knew a few people in common. Steve had considered a sailing-dinghy circumnavigation of Britain, so was interested in the details of the sailing canoe and its ability to cope with the conditions of the past few weeks.

Ian towed Stacey across the wide expanse of sand to the sea, and Steve helped pull her into the water. I pushed off around 1.45 pm and in the very light wind immediately realised I’d left too late to catch the tide round the headland.

I started paddling and hoped for more wind. Heading along the beach to avoid the tide brought me close to the harbour entrance, where I tried sailing for a while and dropped a paddle overboard to shouts of ‘you’ve lost your oar, mister’ from the pier above me. However, I received a round of applause on managing to return under sail to grab the paddle. More wind eventually arrived and I tacked towards Flamborough Head. At the small bay on the south side of the headland (South Landing) I paused for a while, moored to an orange jerry can serving as a buoy, and called my brother in law, Jim, who was travelling from London with my nephew, David, to meet up with me for the evening. A woman in a black wetsuit watched me curiously for a while, after her swim.

A slight mist rolled in from the sea so I attached the navigation light to the top of the mast before setting off again, tacking into the light breeze. The sea mist steadily thickened and I was soon only just able to see the cliffs 30 metres to my left. Any further away and I was totally surrounded by thick fog with the eerie crash of unseen breakers against the cliffs close by. I briefly considered continuing, using the cliffs and sound of the waves crashing against them as a kind of hand rail, but this didn’t seem safe. Besides, I was just too darn scared to go much further! I retraced my route back to South Landing and managed to press gang an unsuspecting family out for a walk into helping to pull the boat up the very steep slipway.

I considered my options; camp at South Landing (OK, but not a great way to spend time with Jim and David), portage over Flamborough Head and carry on again on the other side (I’d be unlikely to arrive in Filey before midnight), or find somewhere to store Stacey and travel to Filey to the B&B booked by Jim.

Greg called, as he tends to do at difficult moments. “Do you remember the woman watching you earlier at South Landing? Well I’ve just been speaking to her. She has a B&B in the village of Flamborough, can store your boat overnight and her name is Lesley”.

How Greg does that I don’t know, but within an hour Jim and David had arrived, David had helped me pull Stacey to the Flamborough Manor, where we parked her in a walled garden. I arranged to return to the Manor to stay the following night with Katherine, who was arriving for the weekend, and Jim, David and I were on our way to Filey where beer and a curry were amongst our first priorities.

Saltfleet Haven to Bridlington

Saltfleet Haven to Bridlington

Saltfleet Haven to Bridlington

Saltfleet Haven to Bridlington

For some reason I didn’t sleep well. I was aware of the pattering of rain on the tent from time to time as I awoke from time to time and  tried to get comfortable in my sleeping bag on a Thermarest inflatable matt. When I crept out of the tent next to the River Eau, the water level was still low and the yachts and motor boats along the bank were resting on the mud. A passage to Bridlington (some 44 NM, and across the Humber Estuary) would mean an early start to catch the best of the tide running northward. To breakfast, take down the tent, pack everything into waterproof dry bags, check the forecast, look at charts and sailing directions for the day and load up the boat usually takes me a minimum of two and a half hours. So my 5 am alarm was timed to enable me to be on the water at 7.30 and out of the haven sailing north by 8 or shortly after. Thankfully, the rain didn’t resume until I was under way, close reaching down the channel towards the North Sea. The beach was under water as I followed the channel marked by posts and buoys. Whole families of seals came to have a look as I sailed by. I hoped this was a good omen. Sailing a small boat alone in the North Sea is beginning make me superstitious.

Gradually, I parted company from the low lying and misty coastline in the grey morning light and headed toward the big ship channel leading to the Humber Estuary. As I neared the channel a large ship passed from right to left ahead of me and I could see the matchstick-like silhouette of the lighthouse at Spurn Head ahead in the distance on the port bow. As the north-going tide picked up, I sailed through larger than expected overfalls with some breaking waves on the North side of the channel – but I found that as long as I pointed the boat straight any breaking waves I was able to sail through without difficulty.

For a time thereafter I sailed on uneventfully in the poor visibility with the Yorkshire coast and towns of Withernsea and Aldbrough just visible. A firing range just South of Hornsea meant I needed to stay east of the Greenwich meridian – so for an hour or so, assisted by the GPS, I amused myself by sailing due North in the Eastern Hemisphere, never coming any closer to the Western Hemisphere by anything less than 50 metres. Eventually I was able to edge slightly to the West and towards Bridlington in a fresh wind with moderately rough conditions. However, as I neared the coast the wind started to die and for the last 6 miles or so I paddle-sailed in the sunshine towards the clubhouse of the dinghy section of the Royal Yorkshire Yacht Club. Greg had made contact with Chris
Maw of the RYYC and as a result, Rachel and Ian Porter had very kindly and patiently been waiting for me as I made painfully slow progress against the now south-going tide. Paul Lister from the Open Canoe Sailing Group had also come to meet me and helped me pull Stacey from the water before Ian arrived with a tractor to help pull Stacey up the beach and through the dunes towards the clubhouse where I would later be able to sleep on a very soft and comfortable sofa. A beer and steak and kidney pie and chips supper with Paul followed unloading Stacey and leaving her secure in the boat compound. It had been an exhausting day and I’d been on the water for eleven hours, so was very grateful for the continuing generosity of friends and strangers. Rachel said there’d be a club barbeque and party the following evening so, as I fell asleep, I was very tempted not to move again tomorrow and take a day off in the predicted sunshine.

Stacey tied up at Wainfleet

Wainfleet Haven to Saltfleet Haven

I was woken from my slumber on the floor of the Skegness Yacht Club by the murmur of voices followed by the nasal roar of an outboard being briefly tested out of the water. John, Mike and Alex had returned at 5.00 am, as promised, to tow Alloa back into the haven. However, by the time I’d dressed and walked down to the creek in the grey morning they’d discovered Alloa had managed to return under her own power so they set off in the club dory to move a channel marker buoy instead. Later we drank coffee and talked of my sailing plans. The next section of coast had few places suitable for an overnight stop but with a good wind I might get as far as Bridlington over 60 nautical miles away but the fall-back option was Saltfleet Haven just South of the Humber Estuary and just over 20 NM from Wainfleet Haven.

We then set about reversing the whole process of getting me off the water. Bags were transported down to the creek, Stacey was pulled up the mud, I pulled on my dry suit, loaded bags on board, and then refitted the outriggers which had been removed to allow Stacey to be tied up alongside John’s yacht for the night. Locating my camera and replacing a broken leeboard retaining handle lead to delays so it was gone 8 before I waved goodbye to John, Mike and Alex standing on a wooden platform above me and set off down the creek. Paddling down the fast flowing creek against the wind proved far from easy. I hit the soft mud banks several times on the way down and on a couple of occasions had to jump out into the soft sticky mud to push off. I hoped no-one was watching my erratic progress. By the time I eventually sailed out to sea with a pool of muddy water sloshing around in the bottom of the boat it was gone 9. The day was dreek (a Scottish word which means like it sounds – grey miserable and wet) as I headed for Gibralter Point, and later broad-reached in a lightish breeze northward past the funfairs of Skegness and various towns, resorts and beaches of the Lincolnshire coast.

The idea of making Bridlington was ambitious and it was clear that my delayed departure and the lighter than forecast light wind would mean Bridlington was out of the question. Greg had been on the phone to Nick Vowles of the Dinghy Cruising Association, who’d said I’d be welcome to spend the night at Saltfleet and camp on the river bank. The entrance to the haven was another fairly long meandering channel which was only navigable near high tide. I arrived soon after low tide so I beached Stacey on the sand and waited for the water level to rise. Eventually, the incoming tide swept us upstream over the beach and into a straight section of the channel passing through marshland.

Billy Hill of Saltfleet Haven Boat Club was there to greet me as I arrived at a small slipway on the grassy bank of the small river. After I’d pitched the tent nearby, Nick Vowles came to visit with his daughter and told me a bit about his Tideway clinker sailing dinghy which he’s recently restored and plans to sail from Saltfleet Haven. After a meal of fish and chips kindly supplied by Nick (and deliberations about the next day over charts and, tide tables and pilot books) I turned for an early night, before an early start the next morning.