SCARBOROUGH TO AMBLE - 102 miles
Sunday June 12 2016 - Scarborough to Hartlepool 48 miles
On a very wet, miserable morning, depart Scarborough harbour at 08.30.
By 11.00 the mist/fog descends and visibility is down to less than 200 yds. There is very little wind and I hope visibility improves when crossing the shipping lane on the mouth of the rives Tees.
Progress is slow, down to 3.5 knots for some four hours until the adverse tide changes around 13.00.
By 12.30 Whitby is on the port beam. Getting into Whitby marina involves a lifting bridge and access is available only two hours either side of high tide.
I have missed that tidal slot, so going in there will mean a few hours tied to a waiting pontoon until the tide returns. Decide to give it a miss.
Tangled in fishing gear
The mist lifts a little and I am so busy scanning the shoreline of Whitby that I miss the pot buoy/net marker. A glance at the GPS showed that the speed had dropped to less than 1 knot and another glance behind showed Dark Star is towing either a net or a set of lobster pots. The engine is quickly knocked out of gear to prevent the propeller wrapping around the fishing gear.
Dark Star shoots backwards under the tension on the fishing gear and eventually the securing ropes can be seen floating free below the boat. Pushing the tiller over, tentatively shifting the engine back into gear and we are off again. I must keep a closer look out for fishing gear which seems to be all over the sea around east coast ports.
At 15.00 the sun breaks through, the tide is now favourable, pushing us along at 6.2 knots, but an hour later the mist descends just as the shipping channel from Teesport looms up ahead. Approaching Teeside, a call to Teesport control confirms that a bulk carrier is on the way down the channel so I stand off until it passes, then scuttle across the channel, bouncing in the big ship's wake.
The delay is useful since we are now on low tide. The marina at Hartlepool (next stop) is accessed by a lock which will not open until 17.30. Arriving in Hartlepool bay, after a little confusion (senior moment), the correct entrance channel is located and shortly after 17.30 Dark Star is safely tied up in Hartlepool marina which is wreathed in mist and rain.
It looks like a November night, not mid June! Hartlepool is a large modern marina on the same lines as Brighton and Eastbourne and the staff are friendly and helpful. This is now Geordieland, "way, aye man". It has been a long and miserable day but I hope to be off again in the morning, sailing straight up the coast, past Sunderland and Newcastle, to Amble.
Monday June 13 2016 - Hartlepool Marina
The foghorn wakes me at 5 am but a glance outside confirms that there is no chance of an early start for Amble. A thick mist ies over the marina and by 10.00 it is obvious that it is not going to disperse, so departure is cancelled.
I have time to look around the marina which like Brighton, is a bit of a hike from the town centre. However there is an Asda supermarket less than a mile away, so it's pretty good for replenishing stores.
Remembering the excellent Pad Thai noodle dishes enjoyed at Eastbourne, I make a bee line in the evening for the Thai Village in the marina complex. Ugh, it is very disappointing. I should stick to Marks & Sparks meals for one.
Tuesday June 14 2016 - Hartlepool to Amble 54 miles
It is cold and overcast but a steady 15knot breeze overnight has blown away the mist. The wind is forecast to decrease and veer to the east. Depart through the marina lock at 08.30 into what looks like a calm Hartlepool bay only to watch the bow rise up over a big swell which had built up overnight with the northerly breeze.
Stowing the lines and fenders is an interesting exercise. These large swells are an eye opener to sailors more used to the short chop of the English Channel, but with any north in the wind, the swell builds quickly and is slow to subside.
The wind is on the nose so it is back to motorsailing again, engine on with main sail up to give a bit of drive and steady the boat's motion. Up the coast we rock and roll over the swell but soon the sun comes out and the wind veers to the north east which makes it possible to set some foresail.
However with the tide running against us, it is necessary to run the engine with the sails up, just to maintain 4.5 knots since this is a 50+ mile trip. Sunderland is passed at 12.30 and just over and hour later Newcastle, South and North Shields and the River Tyne are abeam.
The sun is now really hot in the cockpit and the breeze has veered further to the east, but is dropping. It's lunch time, so the engine is switched off and Dark Star sails off in peace and quiet whilst lunch is consumed.
Unfortunately we are pootling off in the direction of Holland and so back on with the engine and a northerly course is set past Cullercoats, Whitley Bay, Ashington, and Blyth. On this trip, I sail further out from the coast to avoid lobster pots etc but just past Sunderland, an insistent call on the radio to 'the yacht south of ??? headland, please respond'.
I can't make out the name of the headland from the strong Geordie accent but since there is no other vessel in sight so I respond and back comes a Geordie fisherman 'This is fishing vessel Excalibur about a mile in front of you'.
I can see nothing until with the binoculars, on the top of a swell, a tiny fishing boat is just visible. 'We have drift nets out extending to the headland and you are standing into danger. Please alter course to the east and pass under my stern.' In fact from Newcastle northwards, there were nets everywhere. They are usually properly marked with stick buoys and flags but you could not relax for a moment.
Originally the plan had been to stop at Royal Quays marina in North Shields/Newcastle. but the tide is wrong for entering the river Tyne and it involves faffing around with a lock with restricted tidal access. Besides, it is now a lovely warm afternoon and the tide is now pushing us nicely northwards at 6 knots.
It is noticeable that the tides from Hartlepool northwards, are much weaker than those to the south. I call ahead to Amble Marina to book a berth and give my time of arrival at 18.00. The staff go home at 17.00 but they allocate a berth for Dark Star with the unwelcome news that entry over the marina retaining cill will not be possible until the tide rises sufficiently, probably by 19.30.
By 17.00 the fog and mist return and I struggle to see Coquet Island which guards Amble harbour. Eventually the island rises out of the gloom and I spend an hour or so gently sailing up the sandy beaches to the north of Amble harbour. Eerily the misty silence is broken by the barking of the seals on Coquet Island.
Edging cautiously into the marina I pass a moored yacht "Me Mo". There was a "Me Mo" berthed in Shoreham By Sea last year but I assume there must be two yachts of the same name.
Not so, the following morning I recognize "Me Mo's" owners, Mike and Diana Lindsay, members of the Sussex Yacht Club. Mike and Diana have moved to Northumberland and pass on their best wishes to all in Shoreham.
Wednesday June 15 - Amble Marina
The next intended stop is Lindisfarne (Holy Island) where I would like to anchor for a day or two but the forecast for Thursday/Friday threatens strong winds from the north which rules out anchoring at Lindisfarne till the weather changes.
A few days in this very pleasant, privately run, marina look likely. Amble village is a gem, straight from the 1970's. with a "proper" high street with two butchers, two wet fish shops, greengrocers, three home bakeries, a Co-op and free parking! The estate agent had semi detached houses for sale for £80,000!
I savoured a memorable, proper 'bridie' (pasty) for lunch. There is a small fishing fleet, but the town relies on day trippers. Very popular are the boat trips out to Coquet Island to see the seal and puffin colonies. Nearby are two large static caravan sites, easily spotted on Google.
Thursday June 16 - Amble Marina
I make contact with the Beta Marine agent, the Amble Boat Company, in the form of a mechanic, Mike. I explain my saildrive problem and he agrees the best way forward is to find a way of sucking out the seawater contaminated oil without the boat having to be removed from the water.
The Italian manufacturers have said this is possible by removing a plug in the upper part of the saildrive leg and sucking the oil out through the revealed hole. However......it would require a 10m threaded tube to be screwed into the hole, a syphon hose attached to that and thence to a suction pump.
A suitably threaded tube fitting is not available but I am introduced to Dave who reckons he can fabricate something - and I should return at lunchtime. In the meantime, a visit to Kens Auto Supplies confirms they can supply an oil suction pump the following day.
In Ken's shop my I spot a flexible hose fitting for a grease gun. The threads on both ends look pretty close to the 10m fitting which I need and at £4 it is worth having. Back on Dark Star, there is disappointment with the fitting fabricated by Dave. The screw thread is not quite right.
With hope fading, the £4 flexible grease gun fitting is offered up and it's a perfect fit! A further morale booster comes when I discover the local chippie sells haggis and chips. Dinner time tomorrow can't arrive quickly enough. The forecast for tomorrow is dire, a strong northerly wind, 11/12 degs as today, but with the added joy of heavy rain!
Friday June 17 - Amble Marina
Wind, heavy rain, a mid day temperature of 10 degrees and it's nearly mid summer. Unbelievable! A plastic bag of clothes which require washing, is growing larger by the day in the forepeak.
At home there is a magic laundry basket into which clothes are thrown before reappearing washed ironed and nicely folded. I know there is a machine in the garage which plays some part in the process but I have never been allowed to use it.
With anxiety and a little packet of Daz, I face the elderly, top loading clothes washer in the marina and carefully read the large print instructions on the wall. Forty five minutes later I return to find the clothes washed without drama.
After half an hour in the dryer, the result is not quite up to the "magic laundry basket standard" but passable.
Kens Auto spares phone to say the oil suction pump has arrived and I return through wind and rain to put the oil removal system to the test. The oil is pretty cold, does not flow too easily and the pump is manually operated.
However within half an hour three litres of contaminated oil have been sucked from the saildrive and I now know the trip can continue. Removing and replacing the oil once a week, whilst the boat is afloat, is perfectly manageable.
Saturday June 18 Amble Marina
It was wild last night. The rain has eased but the wind is still strong from the north west. The forecast is for improvement but the next intended stop is Holy Island/Lindisfarne. There is no "proper" harbour there, it's an anchorage. To spend a couple of days there requires settled weather.
I would like to return home (by train) for the last week of June but the next three destinations, Lindisfarne, Eyemouth, Dunbar are not really places to leave a boat unattended. Here in Amble, the boat can be left safely.
It is a 10 minute bus ride to Alnmouth, a stop on the Edinburgh to London main line which promises to deliver me to London Kings Cross in 3 hours 40 minutes. With close to 500 miles travelled, this might be the right place and time to have a break. As usual it all depends on the weather.