Thursday, 4 July 2013

To Amble and an unexpected snap

After a predominately wet Wednesday,  Thursday 3rd July was forecast to be dry with a F3-4 wind from the SW – just right to waft us along the coast in a generally NNW direction.  I wanted to get from Hartlepool to Amble as I suddenly rrealised that some time pressure was  now looming. We had to be at a place where I could leave Vagabond for a few weeks whilst I went south to supervise building works at the new home. I first became aware of this when I received a text from the Scottish Herbalist demanding to know when I would be on the Fife Coast so that she could (a) do the washing and (b)whisk me to an airport to return me to the Owners Agent.  I’d thought I had another two weeks. The Owners Agent put me straight on this – I have to be present at the new home by break of day on the 15th July at the latest. Cripes. Anyway, that’s a problem to resolve in a couple of days time.
Now to get to Amble. We left the lock at Hartlepool at 10:10 and puttered out into the bay, turning into the wind to raise the sails. Good, it was from the SW, about 8 knots. It’ll do. We puttered round the point , turned Freddie off, and proceeded on course at a slow walking pace. After a couple of hours, with Hartlepool still in site, the wind failed completely. On came Freddie and off we went again. Then the sails shook and a very cold wind came from.. the north.
Looking around I could see that some sort of front had passed through, moving us from warm air flow to cold airflow – hence the wind shift.
On came Freddie; he stayed hammering away for the next three and a half hours during which we weaved out way through a veritable forest of fishing floats and went past Sunderland and
Then another front seemed to come through and the warm winds were with us again, this time at about 15kn. Off went Freddie and we went crashing along at 6.5 knots. The wind increased. By the time it had reached 18 kn, I thought I had better put in a reef.  This immediately made Vagabond more stable but made little difference to our speed. The wind grew in strength, eventually settling at a fairly constant 20knots, with the occasional 23kn gust. Rather than out in another reef, I moved closer to the shore, until we were running only about a quarter of a mile of the sandy beaches. This reduced the fetch on the water and gave us calmer water conditions but made little difference to the wind speed.
We continued like this for about five hours, by which time our destination hove into view and the wind eased off a bit. I could have taken the reef out but I was relishing a bit of a rest and, if reached Amble too early we would have to hang around for the tide to rise before we could get into the Marina.
Suddenly, wild life appeared. Gannets plunged from the heights, seeming to dislocate their wings as they enter the  water. A porpoise surfaced shyly on the starboard side and then was gone. Puffins erupted either side of the bow, coloured beaks full of sand eels, heads down and wings threshing the water like a demented breast stroke swimmer, before they claw their way into the air and flourish their orange feet in triumph.
Then we passed the island marking Amble and eased into the entrance to river. It was just after low water and my reading of the chart and tide tables suggested we would just have enough water under the centre board to get into the harbour. I watched the depth gauge intensely as we went in – the lowest reading was 0.4m clearance between the centre board and the bottom. It was a good thing there was no swell....
None the less, there was not enough water for us to enter the marina, so I tied up alongside an old gaffer that was tied to the harbour wall. I found the local pub and had my evening meal whilst the sun and moon did their work. An hour later I was able to cast off and glide into the Marina, mooring in the first available berth. Having secured  Vagabond and found an electric point that worked, I looked around and had a shock. On the pontoon berth opposite Vagabond was a familiar looking boat. Another Bay Crusier 23, also in Grey!  

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