Posted by: Ray | July 10, 2008

Wells to Whitby

Whitby Harbour

Whitby Harbour

I’m now at Whitby, having sailed 529M to complete the first major leg of my sail round the UK.  🙂

The 144M three-day sail from Wells across the Wash to Grimsby, then up the coast to Whitby proved to be challenging, with few ports of refuge, unsettled weather and strong wind warnings (up to F6) from the met office throughout the passage. The most challenging aspect of this passage was not the sailing or navigation, but making judgement on when it was safe to sail with changing, sometimes contradicting forecasts. 

 

 

Whitby Harbour entrance

Whitby Harbour entrance

I enjoyed my time at Wells but was keen to press on across the Wash to Grimsby, an 11 hour passage that I preferred to make in daylight. My exit from Wells could only be made +/- 1 hour from HW and for Monday this was at 0930.  HW time advanced approximately 30 min each day, so if I delayed for a week, I would have to leave Wells during the night or arrive in darkness at Grimsby. 

Whitby Marina

Whitby Marina

Whilst in Wells I had asked the HM, Bob Smith, if he knew where I might find crew to sail with me across the Wash to Grimsby. Bob put me in touch with Jimmy Goodley who runs the local Oceanus Sailing School and he recommended Bob, aged 18, who teaches dinghy sailing for the school and who wanted to gain some experience sailing as crew on a cruising yacht. Bob came down to meet me on Christine-Marie and was keen to crew for me on the passage to Whitby; we agreed to sail on Monday 7 July subject to weather. My thanks to Jimmy who allowed Bob to take the break from work to join me. 

Throughout Sunday I tracked the weather forecasts using the internet, Navtext (an on-board weather forecast receiver) and reports from the Yarmouth CG.  Strong wind warnings were given for the region (Whitby to Gibralter Pt), although the Inshore Forecast was for W/SW (offshore) winds F4/5 occasionally 6 with squally showers.  Sea slight or Moderate. Sheltered to some extent by the land in offshore winds from astern and with slight -moderate seas, I was happy to sail.  I would reef hard down in preparation for any strong winds resulting from squals we might face.

Later that afternoon the Yarmouth CG forecast had changed, the winds were forecast to veer W to NE!  Any North in the forecast of F4 or above is a no go to exit Wells as the seas break dangerousely at the entrance.  I nearly phoned Bob to tell him we would have to delay sailing. Before doing so, I checked the 5-day forecast for both Wells and Grimsby, neither had any Northerly winds forecast, the winds would stay F4/5 from the W or SW.  I would have to see how it looked in the morning and with later forecasts.

In the morning there was no mention of any N in the forecasts, winds would stay F4/5 mainly from the W.  Gale Force winds though were forecast for Thames and Humber shipping areas. I called the Yarmouth CG and booked my passage in under the CG66 safety Scheme.  The CG advised me that there was a strong wind forecast in place, but I explained my understanding of the various forecasts and he appeared supportive of my decision to sail. The Humber shipping forecast covers a wide area and the gales were likely to be in the E of the region.

Bob arrived and after a short safety briefing we slipped our lines and headed out of Wells, 1 hour before HW.  Bob knew the Wells Channel inside out, so there was no need for the HM to escort us out.  In the event I had no trouble navigating the channel having done it once before on entry and seeing it from the land during my stay. Once safely out of the harbour, we set sails fully reefed and set course across the Wash towards Grimsby. The course from Wells to the Humber is basically one long leg, with minor course changes to avoid the overfalls at Inner Dowsing Shoal and to keep outside of the firing ranges on approach to the Humber.

Bob enjoying lunch 'on the go' crossing The Wash.

Bob enjoying lunch 'on the go' crossing The Wash.

 Bob enjoyed getting the feel of Christine Marie at the helm and we later set the autohelm to maintain us on course whilst we maintained watch.  We saw our second seal bob its head up alongside us as we headed out to sea from Wells; the earlier one was seen when leaving the river Deben.  Bob turned out to be very able crew on helm and around deck and was good company on the passage.

 During the passage the winds were very changeable, we started in moderate winds and seas but before long dark clouds were approaching and Christine Marie would surg along causing us to clip on and ease the sails whilst the squal and rain passed over. The  winds would then lighten and we would need to shake out the reefs and increase sail to maintain our speed.  This pattern of weather was to continue throughout the passage.  At times the wind dropped so that we were hardly making way with full sails deployed, so the engine was started and we motor sailed until the wind freshened again.  This was not the time to be ‘purist’ and drifting half way across the Wash for the night in these unsettled weather conditions.

We made good progress and soon were approaching the bouyed entrance to the Humber.  As we approached we heard the firing ranges inform the CG that they would be firing flares and we watched as these were fired into the air along the coast. As we entered the Humber I informed Humber Port Control by radio of our position and of our intention to progress just outside the channel to Grimsby. We approached the large  yellow Tetney Monobouy that has a floating pipeline attached, we could see the pipe clearly as it was attached to a large tanker offloading its cargo ….we gave it a wide offing! 

Approaching Grimsby

Approaching Grimsby

We approached the Grimsby lock that opens ‘free flow’ 2 hours either side of HW, calling the lock keeper on VHF who informed us he would be opening the lock at 2000 and we would be free to pass through to the marina. 

By 2030, 11 hours after we left Wells, we  moored at Grimsby Fishdock Marina . We ate a warm meal and finished off a bottle of red wine between us before retiring for the night.

                                                        

Grimsby Marina

Grimsby Marina

The lock keeper had told us that we could leave at 0800 the following morning, so after a quick breakfast we slipped the lines and headed towards the lock, first topping up the fuel on board.

The lock is approached through a very large harbour (fish dock) and the lock was wide open ‘free flow’  The night before I had completed passage planning and was aware that to head North, we had to cross the busy shipping channels of the Humber. I planned to call the Humber control before we made our crossing to inform them of our intentions and set my VHF to listen to their ch 12. The wind was fresh and we expected choppy conditions in the Humber once outside the lock, so I took the opportunity of raising my small fully reefed main sail in the shelter of the harbour.  This avoids crew having to go up to the mast in choppy seas and still under engine power, there is full control of the yacht.

As I slowly approached the lock under power with sail raised the lock keeper appeared waving for me not to enter and to listen on his frequency Ch 74, I had forgotten to do so with my focus on crossing the Humber!!  He was not a ‘happy bunny!’….. he read the riot act about the harbour ‘regulations’ not allowing sails to be raised and asked me to drop the sail and return to the marina!!.  I apologised, explained that I had read  about the lock in the Almanac and that there was no mention that sails could not be raised in the harbour … he came back and told me to proceed through the lock.  My mistake, I should have called him to request passage and to ask about raising the sail whilst proceeding under engine power. Not something I will do again!   Not a good start to the day!!  🙂

We proceeded towards sea on engine in a very choppy sea.  I called Humber Control and told them my intentions to cross the channel and was advised there was no traffic and I was free to do so. As we crossed the winds were strenghtening and there was a very large swell on our beam. Once across we raised our sails, turned off the engine and set course up the coast towards Filey in a lively F5 from the West.

Whitby was some 90M passage and our options were to make Bridlington (not keen as it dries to soft mud), Scarborough who have four berths available for my draft vessel, or anchor off Filey for the night.  Filey is given as a good anchorage to shelter from offshore or N winds so I had planned to do this. The passage turned out to be the most lively of the three days with winds F4/5 gusting 6 at times. There was a strong swell on our Port beam and we were soaked by rain squals and spray from the sea.

We passed about 2M to sea off Flamborough Head and at this point several large ships started to converg and pass us. We kept a close lookout and most passed safely at a distance. One large ship, however, started to converg across our bows from our Port side and we were clearly heading for collision.  There was no immediate danger, the ship was at a good distance, but action needed to be taken. At sea, power gives way to sail, but I never take this for granted with such large vessels who take time to change course or slow down. The ship had a white light (like a strobe) that we saw flashing, but I could not identify this at the time.  It appeared too random to be reflection of the sun off her rotating radar aerial.  I am familiar with flashing yellow used by seacat ferries, etc and have sailed in busy shipping areas off Southampton and across the Channel …but this was new to me.  I made the decision to tack and we passed safely to her stern…in so doing losing about 2M of  distance travelled.

I have since referred to the collision regulations and the only option I can find is that ships may use flashing lights to indicate they are turning as well as sound signals. I did not count the flashes, it is possible the ship was signalling that she was changing course to go round my stern.  Possibly because the usual short sound blast might not have been heard at that distance? Have any sailors reading this experienced this type of signal?  Still, I saved him the trouble of manoeuvring!  🙂

Shortly after this we approached our anchorage at Filey.  Out at sea the wind was strong and there was a large uncomfortable swell as we made our approach, dodging lobster pots laid out along our track closing the shore. In this swell I think Bob doubted my decision to anchor for the night!!  

 

Once closer to the shore and in shallower water the wind eased and the sea calmed, we dropped anchor in 8m of water just off the shore and in sight of the town of Filey. I cooked a good hot meal for us and we downed a glass of wine.  The anchorage was very comfortable and we both had a good night’s sleep.

Passing Robin Hood Bay

Passing Robin Hood Bay

I needed to get Bob to a train back home as early as possible, so the next morning we left early on our 25M passage to Whitby. Winds today were light and we had a foul tide against us. It would have been a lovely day for a leisurely sail at a couple of knots to make Whitby later in the afternoon, but we needed to get in before the early HW +4, so we motor sailed.  

Pirate ship at Whitby

Pirate ship at Whitby

We passed along lovely stretches of coastline, passing Robin Hod Bay and were on our approach to Whitby Harbour by 1230, with a ‘pirate’ touristship pushing up close behind us as we entered.! (actually it is a 40% size replica of captain Cook’s HMS Endeavour) 

Whitby Lifeboat

Whitby Lifeboat with small waiting pontoon (left)

I had to wait until 2000 before the next bridge opening to the marina, so we moored on the waiting pontoon close to the lifeboat. Having sorted out Bob’s journey by coach and train back to Wells leaving 1500, there was time for lunch in a fish restaurant on the harbour. I had my first Whitby crab sandwich …it was great!   🙂  

Whitby Marina looking towards Abbey.

Whitby Marina looking towards Abbey.

At 2000 I left the waiting pontoon and took Christine-Marie on my own through the opening bridge, leading Dutch and English Yachts to the marina.  The Dutch yacht (with lifting keel) had been behind me at Wells and had visited Bridlington, drying out on the soft mud.  

I plan to stay a while at Whitby. Family and friends will visit me here and I will take the opportunity to complete a few minor repair jobs on Christine Marie. I also plan to get some walking in along the coast to  explore the area more.   As I write this the weather is poor, raining and I have been catching up with my emails and completing the blog.

I operated my amateur radio on 80m Friday evening and made contact with several stations around the UK, but the conditions were poor.  I plan to operate around 3.740 Mhz during most evenings and also on occasion during the day when conditions are good and I have no visitors.

I have had time to reflect on what I have achieved so far and the task ahead still seems very challenging.  But, the passage up to N Scotland of 250M has more ports of call, so daily passages can be shorter, passing some lovely scenery.  I am looking forward to this leg of the journey where I must make my decision on whether to go through the Caledonian Canal or to travel North towards the Orkneys .. I would like to find a way to do both!! 🙂

Sunday 13 July  Weather yesterday was not good, but Sunday evening the sun is out and I have just been for a long walk around town and out to the harbour entrance, mingling with the tourists.  🙂 I have taken a few more photos of Whitby as those taken on arrival did not do it justice.  Now added above.

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Miles completed:   529             Total Hours:   129               

Engine hours:   34            Ave speed: 4.1Kn                M ax speed: 12.4Kn

Ports visited:    16                     Nights at anchor/mooring bouy 4

             Rethink                   Marie Curie                   RNLI

http://www.justgiving.com/roundukcruise-rethink       http://www.justgiving.com/roundukcruisemariecurie         
 
Please support me and visit my charity donation sites by clicking on the link of your choice above. If you are unhappy about using your credit card on-line, donations can be made at any Halifax or Bank of Scotland Branch by the usual methods.
Donations made this way will be split equally between the three charities.  Please make cheques or payments to:  
  
R Oliver (Round UK Cruise)      sort code 11-05-47,  A/c No 00725187
  
A link with further information is on the left of this page.  Thank you  Ray
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