The first is not really a quandary….do we buy a lobster off the boat or lobster and crab? In the end both end up in a pot loaned to us by the fishermen who had been doing a spot of fishing before attending to their main business of diving trips. Having said goodbye to Paul, the next quandary was (as always) the wind. Initial forecast suggested SW F4 or 5 going round to the W (still OK) but with gusts up to F7 (not OK). The other issue was a classic error in calculating the opening time of Grimsby dock locks. It was looking like we were going to miss the entrance and be faced with an 8 hour wait at anchor in some potentially strong winds. We called the dock master and decided that with a faster passage time which the winds could enable, we would just about make it if we motor-sailed.
Lunch on the lobster in the cockpit with just bread and lemon was heaven and set us up in a good mood for our planned 102 mile, 22 hour overnight passage to Grimsby.
Yee Tak made some ratatouille to heat up during the night and we left Lowestoft (the most easterly point of our trip) into a very choppy sea. The south westerly was kind to us and with double reefed main and a couple of rolls in the genoa Heydays was scudding along at over 7 knots. Great Yarmouth and the Norfolk coast seemed to whizz past and soon we were starting to turn west towards the wash and the Lincolnshire coast. The wind eased as a sure sign of a change in direction and we turned on the engine to maintain the speed. As the sun began to drop we dined on ratatouille and new potatoes. Simple food always tastes so good outdoors and we felt set up for the night to come as Cromer, Sheringham and Wells disappeared astern in the increasing dusk.
Sure enough, the wind began to fill again from the West although there was a little too much north in it for comfort. With a building sea we decided to drop the main and continue motoring with just a scrap of genoa. The motion became immediately more comfortable and yet we were still keeping a boat speed of over 6 knots although now with some foul tide for probably the next 5 hours. The sun finally disappeared just before 9 although we still had light in the sky for another one and a half hours. With a cross sea and a fluky wind, steering required a lot of concentration and turned out to be more than the auto helm could comfortably cope with. The route was busier than we expected with fast cats servicing the wind farms shooting past and larger freighters not much slower (from our perspective). We kept checking that nothing was creeping up from behind whilst also making sure we kept right to the very edge of the channel. Before midnight we could no longer make out the Norfolk coast but then Lincolnshire started to make itself known. Somewhere (Skegness?) we were treated to a very distant firework display, but more worryingly we were also treated to some lightening…not good with a big bit of metal stuck up into the air. By two in the morning we were experiencing some very strong gusts just under gale force and yet Heydays behaved impeccably. Coffee and biscuits cheered us up and we began to search for signs of lightness in the eastern sky. By four we could definitely start to see each other again and realised that with such rapid progress, we were in danger of getting to Grimsby too early for the dock gates. We throttled right back and still we seemed to fly along at over 5 knots. Purists will be asking why we kept the motor running, to which or response is that it helped maintain a steadier course than with what was effectively just a storm jib. The other response is why would we lug half a tonne of metal around the ocean and not use it…each to their own.
Breakfast in the daylight on smoked salmon sandwiches and cheese sandwiches with more coffee to keep us awake saw us ticking off the buoys into the mouth of the Humber one by one and starting our countdown to Grimsby. At six we were getting close but a combination of spring tides and high pressure was delaying the gate opening by around 40 minutes. So after 17 hours sailing we retraced our steps and chuffed around in the river for what seemed an age until the dock master radioed to allow us in.
18 hours after leaving Lowestoft we were tied up snugly on a visitors berth and 30 minutes later the only sound to be heard from Heydays was the increasing wind whistling through the rigging and the zzzs from the three of us.