Tuesday 25th June and Chief Blogger Sharon has left for another short period of work. Deputy Blogger (DB) Robert carries on and writes…
Sharon left us on our last day in the Caledonian Canal. A hasty entry into the first lock at the final flight down to sea level however meant Sharon was swept along with the haste of things and did not disembark until into the second lock. All was well though and Sharon was able to catch the bus with time to spare.
Bus! Yes bus. By train her journey to Oban for Dunstaffanage Marina)– where the car was left - would have been four hours and two trains whereas by bus just two hours – and direct with one change.
Back to the locks. Mobile phones, family photo shoots and other non locking activities do not mix with managing a vessel through locks – especially downward. As was seen on a commercial catamaran immediately ahead of us in the flight. As the lock level lowered the master of the vessel would engage in phone calls and repeat visits to the wheelhouse making periodic returns to ease out more line.
About midway down the flight his attention was taken by a family photo session for which he put a half hitch on the Samson post. Upon noticing this problem it was already too late to unto the hitch and with the vessel already half a meter into the air the only recourse was the sailors knife – kept in this case in the wheel house. This resolved the matter in an instant and the vessel fell sharply leaving gel coat evidence of it’s passing
Upon leaving the sea lock our gaffer fleet hoisted sail in the light conditions- including topsails – and gave a spectacle tribute to the Caledonian Canal. The sea lock keeper saying before we left that it was like going back in time to when these locks would have served such vessels routinely – and what splendid condition they were in!
Further downriver we were spat out into the North Sea through the turbulence of the Ness Narrows. With the long channel cleared course was set for Lossiemouth where we arrived at around 20.00. Our stay was to be brief. An early start of 04.00 required an equally early bedtime which at these higher latitudes was still very light at this time.
Sleepy eyed we duly made our departure from Lossiemouth bound for as far as we could get. The wind was set fair from the NW and with topsail set over double reefed mail we were off at a cracking pace. Passing Fraserburgh and rounding Ratray Head the wind seemed to follow us – our course becoming just west of north. Eventually the wind settled back into the NW with variable prolonged gusts that drove the ship up to 10.2 knots over the ground. Allowing 2 knots for the favourable tide that means Cygnet was doing 8ish knots through the water.
This really was exhilarating sailing and all too soon it had to come to an end as we approached Stonehaven. 93 miles run in just 16 hours!
Such is the perversity of sailing that the next day – Thursday 27th June – gave little wind so the passage to Arbroath had to be done under engine, though a ground swell from the north kept us amused. Arrival of Arbroath gave just enough wind for us to ghost in under Jib and Mizzen to the delight of onlookers.
Arbroath as many will know is the home of the Smokie and all too soon it was time to leave this delightful place. Leaving a little latter than intended course was set for a passage across the Firth of Forth with topsail set. All went well on Simon s watch. Handing over to Robert – writing here as deputy Blogger – all began peacefully enough. Sails drawing well we were going along in fine style. Passing some 10 miles off Fife Ness the wind backed and increased necessitating hardening of sheets and rather more lean of the ship than hitherto. The extra wind also raised a short sea which put Cygnets bows through the waves putt5ing green dollops across the foredeck, some of which found it’s way down the anchor hawse of the winch.
Off watch Simon had chosen to kip down comfortably upon the mass of sails in the capacious forepeak. Comfortable that is until he embraced the results of a particularly large green-un. Abruptly awoken his head appeared at the hatch to ask if everything was OK.
Topsail could do with coming in, said Robert, toe rail is under and – did you know – we are shipping it green over the bow?
Further on the wind moderated so much that we had to resort to the engine to get into Eyemouth in time for the pubs. A re-freshening of the breeze off St Abbs Head assisted in that endeavour and we were soon tied up to the wall at the head of the harbour and making new friends with the harbour staff.
Cygnet’s next port of call was to be Whitby. Dracula country! To get there at a reasonable hour and not carrying such vampire deterrents as wooden stakes or garlic, our arrival had to be before midnight. Departure from Eyemouth had to be eye wateringly early. So early in fact that the seagulls were flying on night flying regulations. They were though rather less noisy.
Arrival at Whitby proved interesting with the plethora of red and green lights on the piers seemingly pretending to be in some sort of unison. Next day – and suitably and conveniently moored to the fishermen’s pontoon right next to the life boat – we were able to get our lifeboat station crew sheets signed by those that were there.
A somewhat less than early departure from Whitby was planned for the next day. Dracula’s bedtime in fact - just before sunrise.
Bound for Wells Next the Sea our course took us parallel with the coas more or less as far as the Humber. The wind was expected to rise around 10.00 to F5 so a couple of reefs were put in in anticipation.
As is often the case the wind was a little too much on the nose but the sails could be made to draw with a little help from the engine. Especially so given the chop that the F3-4 was raising. Then a slight veer in the wind allowed the engine to be turned off. Robert at it again! Soon after taking the next watch a sharp veer of the wind from SSW to W and instantly increase to 24 knots – F6. Abruptly laid over Cygnet shook herself and tore off with water and froth up to the top of the cockpit coamings.
With the sails trimmed for close hauled sailing DB’s world had taken on a whole new angle. Auto pilot disengaged, sheets eased, and all the while retaining ones fingers. That done Cygnet was eased up into the wind for a new course to lean us closer to the lee of the coast.
Simons head again appeared at the hatch to say how comfortable he was sleeping in the lee berth and what was all the noise about?
Arrival at Wells was thankfully in near calm conditions as we were a little late on the tide with a 4ft 3in draught. Entry is not at all as charted but was easy enough with the channel very well buoyed indeed. Greeted by7 the Harbour Master we were offered a pontoon berth very close to the harbour offices and spectularly good and hot showers. Hot really does mean hot.
Having acquainted ourselves of the meanderings of this popular and ancient boating town – it even acts as a small base for wind farm vessels – we retired for an early night, for the morrow yet again required an early start to catch the tide. Now knowing the channel exit was swift and smooth.
Passage down the coast to Great Yarmouth required an unremitting sharp look out for lobster pot buoys. They were to be seen in large numbers all along the Norfolk Coast. Indeed Simon called yours truly at one point concerned that the prop may have been fouled by a floating line some way from one of the pot buoys – his call precipitated by the buoy beginning to follow us. The line soon came out under the stern and the buoy resumed it’s position. Be warned some of these buoys are half submerged!
Great Yarmouth was made without further engagement with pot buoys. Motoring all the way way up to the town quay we were able to moor alongside the historic Steam Drifter Lydia Eva – fully certificated this coal burner keeps active giving trips down the river and locally along the coast.
It is here that Sharon (Chief Blogger) rejoins the ship. So it is over to Sharon for the last leg of our voyage of the OGA50 RBC…
Thanks Robert............ So.......Friday evening saw me finishing work and then heading off on the train to Great Yarmouth. I spent yesterday evening planning how I was going to meet up with them but this was all dependent on where they got to so several contingencies and travel itineraries were planned for. As it was I received a text during the day Friday to say they would be heading for Great Yarmouth. The easiest travel option for me........ less changes.
I arrived in time to see them moored up against the Lydia Eva Steam Vessel by the Town Hall with two very pleasant young men fishing off it. It was good to be back and it certainly was warmer than when I left t6hem to go back to work. This was to be the final trip as it was time to get back to reality. I intended to enjoy every last moment of this epic adventure!!! After a bite to eat and a drop of liquid refreshment we retired to bed to try and get a restful nights slepp before the 11 hour leg the next day. The sea gulls had other ideas however and much of the night I could hear them making the most of the fact that no humans were about and they were going to have fun!!!!! Bless them
At 7 am however I finally dragged myself out of the bunk and got ready for the day ahead. The sun was shining gloriously and we knew it was going to be a good day. Just one slight snag......... the distinct lack of wind. Oh dear. Here comes the engine again. It is now 2.30pm and we have been motoring since 7. 15. With a mizzsen, staysail, main sheet and mizzenstaysail we managed an extra half a knot (well, it all helps with a 11 hour journey does it not!!!!!) The weather is however glorious and we are looking forward to getting into brighlingsea for fish and chips later.
Its hard to believe we are almost home. Its gone so quick and really sad that our trip with 'the gaffer family' is almost complete. We would have loved to have joined the rest of the fleet in Newcastle but commitments have prevented us. Still we will be meeting up with them for the Jubilee Classics on the 20th so not long . In the meantime will be great to hear that all the other boats have got home safely too, so shall be watching all the blogs with interest.
Oh well back to the cockpit .......