East Coast “Surprise”
There is a long way to go in 7 days (over 300 miles) - we will need to be on our game to reach Chatham by 18th in time for the final “run” home.
Call in the “A” Team. Ken is back for more Kasara adventures following our exploits in “The Wild Atlantic” way back in June.
Alongside Ken are Mark & Mike, both familiar with this coastline from land, if not from sea. I’m glad someone knows where we are!
I have heard from many that The East Coast is bleak & uninteresting from a sailing point of view. Nothing is further from the truth.
Our starting point for this leg is Hartlepool. Home of the Trincomalee & Naval museum, up there with Portsmouth as an attraction. Ken & I had chance to pop down to the Heritage Quay.
Then an initiation for the guys as it is true that some East Coast harbours are tide dependant for access. But this is the sort of challenge that makes AB21 exciting.
Off we go on the first possible lock out at 16.30 dodging lobster pots and Kasara crashing south under the fresh northerly breeze either to drop the hook in Runswick Bay or just maybe make the last Bridge at Whitby. It would have been rolly in Runswick and so as the darkness descended we were pleased to pass between the twin pillars of Whitby’s harbour walls under the watchful eyes of Captain Cook, the famous Abbey on the Cliffs and of course Dracula and through to the inner sanctum of this delightful, bustling Yorkshire seaside Town.
Whitby at night, Dracula anywhere?
The temptation is to stay in such a place & tarry awhile, but our our sights are beginning to set on a much more glorious goal and this is make it or break it time. Can we actually get up the Thames to London? Not to go now would be the end to an original idea of AB20. Perhaps, with the help of good weather, we can do it.
Weather Report: What we really need is something with a North in it or even a West or South West. And that is what we have had all the way down this amazing coastline of ours. Don’t you dare set in South/South East wind - and it didn’t - after all this is AB21 - why would it!
Hartlepool to Whitby, 25 miles N4-6
Whitby to Lowestoft, 160 miles NE3-5
Lowestoft to Shotley (Harwich) 40 miles NE5
Shotley to Thurrock YC (Thames) 65 miles NW4-5
Thurrock YC to South Dock, Greenwich 20 miles - No wind - wall to wall sunshine.
We couldn’t have asked for more. We have kept moving, it has been full on at times, but we have gobbled up the East Coast and enjoyed the immense variety and the landfalls we have made.
Splitting the watches has been key to grabbing enough sleep whilst knocking back the miles. Many thanks to Ken for helping me do this.
Best Sailing: Everyday has been a gem, but the highlight has to go to our 160 mile “back breaker” day/night passage.
As the sun dipped & darkness fell over Flamborough Head, we entered the “Wind Farm Zone” off The Humber Estuary. Emerging on watch one was confronted by a complete wall of swirling foils. Many are not on the charts being so new & picking a safe way through the lights and turbines is fascinating & scary in equal measure. A real experience brought on by the explosion of this new (hopefully green) technology. 160 miles covered in 25 hours - at 6.4knots/hr we were very chuffed with our performance.
Best Landfall: Goes to Whitby. Arriving in the dark through the embrace of the outer harbour walls into the bright lights of a Saturday night party atmosphere was very warming, and though Kasara turned and moved on the next morning, the buzz of the place set against the history of this pretty seafaring town was not lost on us.
Best Mooring: So we arrived in Shotley Marina Harwich after a nice off wind sail from Lowestoft, a fuelling & utility stopover led to a chance chat with one of the lock keepers who became known as “Sh_t’ole" (we never knew his real name). I described our onward journey and our planned assault on the Thames sandbanks (a fabulous obstacle course) & the river up to London. I mentioned possible moorings at Queensborough or Gravesend to be bluntly dismissed as “Sh_t’oles". Instead our friend gave us hot tips on other pick up buoys or anchorages which have proved to be so much more interesting. On his recommendation we picked up a mooring buoy off Thurrock YC just upriver from Tilbury, superbly placed as a springboard for our passage into the city. A small “quiet” oasis in amongst all the hubbub.
“Sh_t’ole” taught me something else. Thinking ahead to the sandbanks in the estuary that lay ahead I remarked that it was all a bit shallow, checking out the chart soundings of less than 10m. “Sh_t’ole“ looked at me & said “well how much water do you need? I replied “2m” whilst realising that - actually with a 2 m draft I could more or less go anywhere. “The problem with you guys up from the south coast,“ he continued, “ is that you don’t know what deep & shallow is, whenever I sail in the Solent, I get vertigo” 😂
“Plotting our way through the Thames Sandbanks”
Wildlife Report: Not great it has to be said, though seals were spotted by alert team members off Lowestoft and Bempton cliffs north of Flamborough is an important bird sanctuary. The numbers of Guilimots and Gannets are receding as we move south.
Cultural Highlight: London of course, We made it to the capital (tick). Through the Barrier, under the Queen Elizabeth Bridge to
South Dock near Greenwich (St Kats had a broken lock gate!).
Our journey up the river was bathed in sunlight with no wind, we had entered a London heatwave. South Dock provided a great home in amongst many other homes, afloat and on land. A living breathing marina, very different from marinas we know at home. Some great characters living there on houseboats. Everything close to hand. Meeting up with friends and AB21ers at the 16th century Mayflower pub was a delight. Jan joined us to enjoy the festivities. The bikes came out and far flung places from Greenwich to The Olympic Park were reached by amazing cycle tracks. London “is back & vibrant once more”.
Not to forget, we saw a Banksey in Lowestoft on the high street. Nice.
Best Eat in: & we ate in most nights, has to be the “skippers” Haggis surprise, suffused with malt whisky and served up with a medley of roasted fresh veg, pursued by the now (in)famous baked fruit in rum/custard - terrific!
Best Eat out: We were very happy to book in for dinner at the Royal Norfolk & Suffolk Yacht Club. Being close to Sandringham, Royal patronage is assured. The building is delightful and the full history of the club is laid out there in photographs adorning the bars and lounges. Our meal was an excellent fish pie. We were looking forward to talking to members but there weren’t any there!
Several attentive staff, an excellent meal but just the four of us - all night. Familiar?
In Summary: Captain Cook Team, Mike, Mark & Ken have been a delight to be with. We have shared some awesome experiences and reached our goal. Who said the East Coast is dull ….. Certainly not a “Sh_t’ole”!
Next up “Home Run” Mark & Mike are staying aboard. When you read the next blog Kasara will be back in Hamble - Will we be sad 😞? no way - what’s the next adventure……
We dock at our mooring G19 at Hamble Point on Saturday 25th September at 12.30. Why not pop down to say hello. Mrs H already has the bubbles on ice.