Sunday August 7…and on the Sabbath…


…they slept. A quick forty winks turns into deep sleep until 12.30. We trundle over to the showers and luxuriate in the warm water washing away the inevitable salt and general grubbiness of a long overnight passage. Having made ourselves almost respectable we spent a happy hour or so in the club bar. The marina in Grimsby is run by the (mostly) volunteers of the Humber Cruising Association and they have to be one of the most friendly and welcoming we have met and provide some cheap beer to boot. They are making a real go of creating a great destination for cruisers and certainly deserve some real support from the local council, to help develop the infrastructure around them.

We all have very mixed feelings as we walk around the old port. Once the greatest fish dock in the world, the market now deals in frozen fish brought in overland by lorry. Even the once massive rail-head is now decayed and derelict.

The people in the bar clearly are of the opinion that their demise is due to unfair quotas and the French and Spanish not obeying EU rules, while we did and died as a result. This was not the time or place to discuss politics or the overfishing (by us mostly) of the North Sea stocks in the fifties and sixties. Was our very efficient and huge fleet sailing out of Grimsby in its hay day the master of its own eventual decline? Sitting in a decaying dock it is certainly very tempting to seek scapegoats in the form of remote folk in French or Spanish trawlers or even in Brussels, but that does not absolve us from our own actions in the past however uncomfortable that thought is.

To lighten the mood we had a late lunch in the cockpit under a gloriously sunny sky, treating ourselves to the crab washed down with a bottle of Cava. Life for us is looking good and we genuinely feel very lucky to be able to see more of our country including places we would not otherwise have thought of as holiday destinations.

Saturday August 6…More quandaries


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.



Friday August 5…An unexpected departure


One day sailing and already feeling gloomy about the progress of the trip. The steering cable had been chaffed through and we were not hopeful about the prospects of getting an engineer out. We were already working out how to get Paul to a train as it was looking increasingly unlikely that we would make Lowestoft on the tide. In fact we were considering the best way to spend a happy weekend in Harwich. However we had reckoned without Fox’s in Ipswich. After an early morning call, they made up new cables and got out to us in just over an hour having rearranged some other work to help us out. With the total fitting taking only 2 hours we still had time to get away before 2. This was a brilliant service from Karl Mark and Lucy in the office, for whom nothing seemed too much trouble.


It was with much lighter hearts that we dropped out of the marina lock and we had the sails up before we had even left the Stour. The tide raced us on past the entrance to the Deben into entirely new waters for us. We rounded Orford Ness and the wind, which had been playing increasingly hard to get became so fickle that we resorted to the engine to make the best of the rest of the tide up to Lowestoft. Paul became our human vang for a few miles…



We called ahead to the harbourmaster to book a berth for the night but were told that Lowestoft Sea Week meant that the yacht club marina was ‘rammed’ and they were already rafted up three deep. We carried on trying to get through to Hamilton Dock without success, but in the end just decided to go in anyway and squeeze ourselves in.  The pictures show just how much of a squeeze it was…. Rammed here has a very different feel than trying to find space in Yarmouth (IoW not Great) on a Sunday lunchtime.

The old fish docks and associated infrastructure have not been used for their original purpose for a long time and regeneration on the scale of the old London docks or Bristol or even Gloucester seems a long way away. There are no signs of boutique restaurants or olive oil drizzlers here. However there are efforts to attract leisure sailors such as ourselves and the facilities were warm, clean and very effective. There is also something of a developing trade in renewable energy with boats servicing the multiple offshore windfarms, together with some solar and even tidal operators beginning to establish bases. Perhaps the real lesson for the future is never again to rely on single industries for financial and employment security.

A pub serving locally brewed beer together with some good fish ended the day in decent style.

Thursday August 4….Will we won’t we?


A weather forecast of strongish SW winds including the promise of F7 gusts leaves us in a quandary.  The direction is great for us but strong winds over the mud can be quite uncomfortable, however the wind is expected to ease later but helpfully go round to be on the nose all the way! In the event and after some indecision not helped by a neighbour who clearly thinks that we are effete southern wimps, we catch the last of the high tide and leave Tollesbury for the last time (probably). We are glad to be on our way, but sad to leave this bit of Essex where we have experienced a full range of the joys and frustrations of owning a boat. The Essex rivers have been a delight and Essex itself simply does not deserve the reputation so many outsiders have of it. We have met some really friendly people and experienced a much more personal service than many of the more ‘professional’ yards in the south. A big thank you to Julian, Martin, Tim, Adrian (the rum king), everyone in the club restaurant and bar and RIP Brian who passed away earlier this year.

The strong winds have not materialised and by the time we are easing out of the creek we have our genoa up and are feeling Heydays pressing us ever further north. West Mersea and Brightlingsea slip astern and even Clacton pier looks inviting in the sunshine.

John is at the helm and halfway through a planned gybe he appears to be uncharacteristically slack in his steering. It turns out that the slackness is not entirely his, but stems from a complete lack of ability to steer at all. A rapid taking down of sails and we are now drifting uncomfortably close to the mud flats of Walton on the Naze. Fortunately we have an emergency tiller, unfortunately the operator has to be in the aft cabin with no visibility of the outside world. We have a flashback to the Golden Shot (older readers only) as John (still standing by a redundant wheel) shouts “10 degrees to Port” to Paul in the companionway who shouts “left a bit” to James who responds almost instantaneously with “what…say again”. By which time John needs Starboard 20 degrees…..

This clearly isn’t working as even a casual observer would notice a very erratIMG-20160808-WA0043ic yacht and not one you would wish to have steering down the main channel into Felixstowe. The solution which is eventually reached, involves James standing with his head just visible through the hatch and the tiller clamped firmly (as decency and probably the law allows) between his buttocks and doing a strange cross between Lindy Hop and belly dancing to maintain a semblance of a straight line.


We decide to head for Shotley Marina in the hope that we can find a mechanic to sort the steering. The lock keeper is apprised of the situation (not James’ buttocks) and has everything ready for us as we head slightly unsteadily for the lock entrance. Surprisingly, we moor up without taking out too many other boats and after extricating James from the emergency tiller we decide that several stiff drinks are appropriate and we end up having a great night in the Shipwreck (how appropriate) by the marina.


Wednesday August 3…Is this really it?


After so many false starts and setbacks it would appear that the boat has a fully functioning everything…although doubts probably remain about the owners. Yee Tak, James and John are sadly without Chris who is fighting her own battles with builders, but we are joined by Paul for a couple of days, presumably to ensure that we actually get to leave Essex. It turns out that Wednesday is remarkably relaxed and we even have time to take a last(?) walk around the Essex marshes at Tollesbury. We really have grown to love this place though we don’t really count ourselves as ‘East Coast Sailors’…even we can’t get used to so much mud. The plan is to leave on the morning tide out of the marina and make for the rivers Stour or Orwell as the first leg of the trip to Scotland. The weather forecast may have other plans.