During our stay at Lowestoft we enjoyed some walks and it was clear coastal erosion was an issue, and a not so subtle reminder of the awesome power the sea has.
It was time to start planning the final leg of our passage back to Grimsby. After many years of having to get back to work and often setting sail in not ideal winds – we now had the luxury of waiting for a fair wind, the 25th looked good with an easterly / south-easterly wind force 5 / 6. Provisions were topped up and we were ready to go. Actually departing the pontoon was a worry. Having been ‘clever’ putting the boat in the berth stern first, departing meant making a turn against the prop walk and then turning the bow through the wind. If the boat had been put in bow first we could have walkd her along the pontoon and pushed the bow off, another lesson learnt in that going stern first is not always best. The day before the boat was moved (after getting permission to do so) with warps to the adjacent pontoon which gave a better angle to exit the pontoons.
The distance between the pontoons was measured with a rope there was nearly room to turn the boat, and so if we moved the boat along the pontoon before departing the bow could then be snubbed with a line and the stern would then swing out and if the line was kept in place the wind would actually take the boat through the wind. It all seemed good in theory – did we have the confidence to execute the plan, the alternative being to hope that we could get the boat out into the space beyond the pontoons to make a wide turn.
A lunch time departure would give us the fair tide from Lowestoft. The night before we had another walk which led up to an excellent decision – ‘something’ just made me review our plans. The prevailing winds are westerly, and so easterly winds are uncommon. Force 6 is a strong wind and being easterly meant we would be sailing on a lee shore and the seas could build up – that said a beam reach would be nice sail. Why set off in a sea that could be quite unpleasant – no reason our departure was postponed. That night I had difficulty sleeping and looked up the wind reports to find 43 knots of wind reported in the Wash – gale force 8, likely to have given dangerous seas and not just unpleasant – we had won the lottery in terms of a safe night in the marina.
The following day we had another walk, and although the wind had dropped the sea was quite rough as the picture shows.
The 27th was the next date chosen with a SE wind 4 / 5. The berth adjacent to us was still free, so a deep breath was taken and the berth departure plan executed, it worked a treat sadly no one was watching. It felt after years we were finally worthy of sailing a tradwind35.
We had a pleasant sail up to the cockle buoy, and the wind was actually east then veered SE as forecast. With the wind behind us it was a bit rolly but we were sailing. When the tide turned we were only making a couple of knots over ground, How I wished we had the confidence to use the spinnaker or had even hanked on our double Yankee. Neither of which would have been sensible at night if the wind had got up. Thoughts of purchasing a smaller double Yankee were considered in the hours of darkness. Eventually dawn came and the wind had also dropped so the engine was started to give a helping hand.
The plan was to anchor at Haile sand and wait for the tide so we could get back into Grimsby at free flow. It seemed like a lifetime before we spotted land and the light houses at spurn head but they eventually came in to sight – we were nearly home.
Of course when we came to anchor the wind picked up, and there was ‘ickle’ surprise for us, for when the anchor was to be freed from the stem roller the pin that holds it in place would not shift .. it had obviously been bent in Ramsgate – whilst I had checked it would rotate I had not actually pulled it out when checking for the damage. A large spanner was used to try and straighten the pin but to no avail – so there was no option but to use a hacksaw to cut through the pin, all this whilst having to keep clear of the shipping channel. Once cut the anchor was free to be deployed when we got to Haile sand fort. We had now been sailing for over 24 hours and it came quite a relief to drop the anchor. We were also quite proud to call up the lock keeper and confirm when there would be free flow through the lock rather than as for a pen. It turned out that I would only get 20 mins rest before we needed to leave our anchorage.
We made it through the lock and knew that the marina was being dredged and there was a boat on our pontoon that we would have to raft up against. We usually tie up bow first on the end pontoon and then turn the boat with warps but there would not be space to do so now. With little or no wind and inspired with confidence of my boat handling skills we would turn the boat round under engine – all went well in making the turn, until the final part when the stern drifted towards the dockside, and the magnetic properties of the gelcoat found the only piece of rusty metal on the wooden post which gouged out two large patches of gelcoat. With the crew in tears – I reminder her that the responsibility lay with the skipper who was at the helm. Hindsight is a wonderful thing but after 30 hours without sleep it was probably not the best idea to make that turn when we arrived. Oh, and of course there was someone watching now.
We were, however, back safe – and gelcoat can be repaired whilst a crushed hand has a more lasting effect.
A safe arrival drink was called for, the question was would the car start (had the solar panel installed worked). The first attempt did not bode well, but the second time the engine just turned over and we were in business. Moreover we were reminded of the friendly nature of Humber Cruising, for Brian had spotted our potential dilemma with starting the car and offered his jump leads.
Again feeling quite good that I had left the handbrake off which meant the breaks were not ceased onto the drums we set off for wine – and guess what there was a large twanging sound – the suspension spring had broken. undeterred we pressed on to ASDA where Wine was purchased and consumed before finally dropping into our bunks.
So back safe after a fantastic trip – with a corresponding job list for the winter to hopefully do it all again in the future.