Thursday, 7 August 2014

Safe arrival in Southwold, Suffolk

After a very long day starting at 0330 to escape Wells next the sea, yesterday we berthed at Southwold after refuelling in Lowestoft.

The tidal cycle was against us and in an effort to leave Wells, the latest time to slip from our berth was 0400. We had already decided who would do what, as we needed to execute a smart exit on the very last of a falling tide, in pitch black and with 1m of water under the keel for much of the way, and in a long meandering channel which shifts away from even the latest buoy positions. At 0400 everyone was ready, and we slipped. A very odd sensation leaving our berth in the darkness for what you know is a tricky exit. I helmed, helped by having recorded my snail trail on the way in, Andrew cross checked our position versus sonar charts and directed me "Port, starboard, a little port. "STARBOARD!" yells Woody on the bows who is tasked with highlighting the unlit perches which suggest our way. All this with the knowledge that we might beach at any time. We would be left high and dry when the port awoke, a very large, conspicuous monument to what might turn into a foolhardy, though safe, exit from a notorious inland harbour. Our minimum depth was a heart stopping 0,6m although we may have actually grounded temporarily as we attempted a tight turn. But we made it, and the joy of seeing the depth gauge increase, feeling the waves from the sea moving the boat, and the wind in our sail as the sun started to rise is indescribable. A triumphant and happy crew who met a difficult challenge head on.

Having left Wells at 0400, we had a very good sail, towards Southwold, and into very heavy rain indeed which necessitated nav lights on and sailing by radar. Sea sickness returned to our crew briefly, as the sea became very choppy, whipped up by 25 knots of wind, now bang on the nose. Very rough conditions as we came through Scroby Sands and I was concerned that we were using more fuel than the gauges suggested, and had not been able to refuel earlier. We diverted to Lowestoft and the Royal Norfolk  and Suffolk Yacht club fuel berth who made themselves available at short notice, and although we had a back up plan, and a back up plan to that too, I was still relieved to land in Lowestoft for refuelling. Sea sickness had by now been conquered so we went on to Southwold, which was just 2 hours down the coast albeit still uncomfortable at times. Thank goodness we were not in a monohull whose crashing and banging might well have been epic! Our two finely pointed hulls shudder occasionally, but otherwise cut through the large waves and both Andrew and Woody as skilled helmsmen, were able to point so that one hull was on the higher wave and one on the lower, and the ride was rather better.

And so, entering at half tide, but nearly at neaps, we entered Southwold, another difficult river entry. We had reserved a berth but it had been taken by some opportunistic Dutch yachts before we arrived, so we spent some time turning and turning again in the narrow river seeing where we wanted to raft. Options were down to one only, and we rafted up against a fishing vessel, prepared for agitation from its owner, but there were no other options. The owner had been tipped off, and arrived full of bluster and irritation, which I reduced to just annoyance and a concession that we could stay in exchange for a promise that we would be clear of his vessel by 0545 the following morning ...and a promise to pay the fee due to the marina to him instead! In the event, we had moved the boat to a space vacated by the opportunistic Dutch, and the irritable fisherman did not claim his money, ...but the harbourmaster did!

So, today was another early start softened by the memory of an excellent dinner last night, which we elected to be fish and chips as William had been looking forward to it for the last three days! Woody and William left for Guernsey at 0900 this morning and we were sorry to see them go. They are both great fun. 

Now, Andrew and I are enroute to Shotley, and the end of our circumnavigation. As I blog, we are sailing along with a tide against us but the pleasing sound of our wake behind us, and the sight of a yacht ahead of us which we are rapidly catching up. Queue the Walkyries. Andrew thinks the yacht is French... Orford lighthouse is slowly swishing past and Andrew has a 3G signal to attend to some important business. Life is good.

Our ETA is 1700 7th August at Shotley. 

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