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.