Tag Archives: Isle of Man

Wardley’s boat sails to scotland single handed part 1

Pulling yourself and kit to the starting line for a single handed cruise out into the Irish sea is never as you might imagine it. When sat at home enjoying the warmth of an open fire with a mug of tea in hand, the expectation of a summer cruise always includes a sun that  shines, a sea that always shimmers, and gulls that glide endlessly in a perfectly blue sky. The reality was somewhat different. There was a cold wind, a miserable grey sky, and a gale forecast in four days time. With this, and being alone, and added to the stress of preparing to get away, a cloud of melancholy descended. I suddenly became painfully aware that I was leaving a safe and  cushioned world for a very uncertain Irish sea  where anything could happen and something was almost certainly going to do so.

First leg send-off at the Fairway.

The Marina was deserted. My electronic pass got me into the building. No one was there. I comforted myself with a cup of vending machine hot chocolate. This small but strangely up-lifting treat reminded me of youthful days with pals following a swim at the local pool. It did its job, at least in my head the sun started to break through the cloud. I still had to stock up on diesel. The plan was to take as much as I was likely to need and replenish on route where the opportunity occurs. Fifty litres of capacity in all sorted cans sat empty in my car. It was soon coming up to High Water Fleetwood, and still no marina man on the fuel pontoon. This was the last bit of the jigsaw before I could set sail. Maybe this service was disrupted because of COVID-19? Should I go to ASDA? The thought of filling the cans at the pumps and lugging them all the way down to the boat didn’t appeal. Time was running out, a decision would have to be taken soon.

Ten minutes earlier, I had checked Jamila’s sea worthiness. She looked great. Her batteries were OK, she had dry bilges, her engine started the instant the key was turned. yes, she was sitting pretty. So far so good.

Jamila Ready for anything?

I walked out into the car park to see if anything was happening elsewhere. Maybe the marina lads were doing an errand somewhere nearby. Just as I walked around the harbour office a tooting car horn caught my attention. I looked over and saw a friendly face beaming back at me from a small white van. It was Billy Wizz from the club. Bill is one of those steadfast characters that are the bedrock of any organization. He is a cup half full man, always smiling, always good humoured, and always ready for a natter about boats and some good old club gossip. Together we went back to the Marina office and drank yet another cup of hot chocolate.  He cheered me up with a bit of banter and news of goings on at the Wardley’s Marina.

Up until this point, Billy had not yet been adorned with the moniker ‘Wizz’. He had for a long time suffered more than his fair share of bad luck with boat engines, but had recently found a crack marine mechanic who sprinkled some magic dust over his Honda’s Forty-Five horses and had bought them back to life.  On this very day Billy was determined to  take his very competent Hardy 18 out into the Fleetwood channel and up  to twenty knots in speed.

Billy Wizz with a mini Jaws!

I was beginning to feel much better thanks to Billy.  The proverbial sun had begun to shine again, and to make things even better, in walked the missing fuel pontoon man, just as I had been readying myself for a trip to ASDA. The fuel pontoon man, with a broad smile containing a wry hint  of amusement such I should dare to doubt his honour, had assured me that there was plenty of diesel to go around, and would sort me out whenever I wanted.

Billy announced that he was awaiting a pal from the club, Martin, and that in due course would escort me down the channel for a good old send off, explaining it would be an excuse to test out his newly wired up ship’s horn.

First leg to Ramsey on the Isle-of-Man. Game on!

Author and Jamila’s skipper

There is always a feel-good factor to be had when leaving port with a full tank of fuel and with various five and ten litre cans stashed in and around the boat in reserve, which  is not always the case when weekend sailing.  And this sense of well being is accentuated when you find yourself creaming along under full sail on a broad reach for a whole twelve hours, and moreover with a favourable tide.

In what looked like a miniature pilot-boat, Billy and Martin were rapidly approaching in  the distance.

By this time Jamila was at full pelt, ploughing an nice frothy white furrow up the Fleetwood channel toward the Fairway Buoy. But in spite of the awesome wind power provided by mother nature and Jamila’s willingness to respond to it, Billy was in the process of earning his new nickname Billy Wizz by catching up fast.  Sat at the helm beaming from ear to ear, he overhauled the sailing boat, with  Martin looking on vaguely embarrassed at the ease of it all.

Speed and brute power

A photo session then took place. Both Skippers tried to out do each other with clever artistically framed camera shots, as if both boats were the iconic ‘Christine Keeler’  in the buff on a back to front chair.

To the sound of a few farewell hoots of Billy’s ship’s horn, Jamila continued her long march out into the ocean, and the miniature pilot-boat, with a fuel gauge needle rapidly heading south, calved a long turn creating a fanfare of spray and spume and headed back to  safer  waters. 

Photo session – Jamila on her way for Ramsey, Isle of Man.
Photo session – Billy and Martin

Jamila charged on and on. The first waypoint  Halfway Shoal marks the absolute limits of navigation west of Walney. Between said waypoint and the shore errant sailing boats  run a risk of spending a night on a sandbank, which is not normally a feature of this Wardley’s sailor’s passage plan. Once clear of the Heysham Deeps and over the Mort Bank shallows where big boats don’t  venture, the auto pilot was set allowing the skipper to duck down into the cabin below. It always good to get away from the tiller for short periods. When out of the wind and spray the charts can be checked, the passage plan can be verified, the chart plotter can be gazed at, and maybe  the barometer can be tapped.  And in addition,  these days you can’t forget ones social media commitments!

Boat position for social media.

Why not do a posting showing an electronic position and a  pretty sunset over water came to mind? Surely better than yet again another picture of an enormous plate of food from an American holiday, or a  picture of mate’s daughter  pouting her lips? To be honest the FB ‘Likes’ tend to prove me wrong on this score such is social anthropology these days. In any case, as the land starts to recede you’ve got a get a move on before the signal vanishes.  From then on you are out at sea on your own.

The vast wind blasted space between Walney Island west and the eastern shores of the Isle of Man is a show case for  the new world wind turbine paradise  that keeps our kettles bubbling and our router lights pulsating. The passage plan to Ramsay leaves the Halfway Shoal buoy to the north west, threading  between the  Walney West wind farm and the Ormonde wind farm to the north, up past first one  north cardinal, then on to another north cardinal buoy,  scraping the boundaries of the  Walney Extension Wind farm — that’s three  farms in all — until the field of vision is clear all the way to the Isle of Man.  The canny Wardley’s sailor leaves Fleetwood an hour or so before high water getting across Morecambe Bay at slack water or there about, and then hitches a ride on the ebbing tide towards the Isle of Man lasting six hours. The neat trick it to get into the lee of the IOM before the tide turns and tries to sweep you back down towards France. Get positioned roughly in the vicinity south of the Bahama south cardinal, you’ll find the contra flowing flood tide is weakened by the IOM land mass, and will never reach its normal speed as it would do further to the east. 

Big blighters and lots of em.

Passing the shear scale of this array of wind farms is impressive. Our PM talked up Britain’s windfarms in a recent speech on tele. He lamented the days when people claimed that the power generated by these installations would be unable to knock the ‘Skin off a rice pudding’. Well, I got a little bit close to one of these towering turbines and experienced first hand the deafening scream that pulsated my ear drums as a  blade, exceeding the wing span of a jumbo jet, came down from the sky at one hundred and fifty mph, reaching its lowest apex, and then shooting back up skywards a moment later. An experience such as this puts you in no doubt of their awesome power and that these things can kick-arse, at least when the wind is blowing.

Luckily for my little fluttering burgee and mast head aerial, the said lowest apex of one of these monster blades is well above the height of Jamila’s not inadequate proportioned mast. 

Later in his speech, Boris continued and listed off notable British wind farm locations, citing Teesside, Humber, Scotland and Wales, but no mention of the biggest of them all off Walney Island, Chez Nous. You just cannot get decent speech writers these days!

Once south of the Bahama south cardinal buoy and after seven hours of sailing the vast wind farms began to recede into the east. The first glimpses of the Isle of Man appeared. Mountains shrouded in cloud and mist could be seen up a head. The tide had turned by this point, but who cared. It would  never reach a speed, as I have explained above, to worry Jamila, She was still  doing what she was doing earlier on when Billy Wizz turned tail, and that was creaming along under her billowing white canvas sails with a full Beaufort force five wind coming at her from the beam. Like Brer Rabbit in the briar patch, this was where Jamila was born to be,  and what she knew best.

Haughold Head Lighthouse

Maughold Head lighthouse FI(8)30s 15m began to resolve itself as Jamila surge forwards and onwards. Situated to towards the top of a dramatic rocky cliff, the said lighthouse it just what any Hollywood director would like to have in his movie, say in a scene where some hapless undersized fishing boat is being stalked by some ravenous blood and flesh obsessed shark. The destination was an overnight anchorage in Ramsey Bay, and, unfortunately for this particular Wardley’s sailor,  not safely tucked away in the atmospheric port of Ramsey, where there would be beer on tap in the ‘Harbour Hotel’. Instead, I would be exposed out front in the bay, swinging from a hook clinging to a submerged sandy beach, two hundred yards offshore. Such a position would be exposed to any easterly gale that might appear in the  night. But fortunately, in the modern internet age, Wardley’s Sailors are not reliant on tapping the barometer with a finger to gauge the impending weather anymore. A glance at my  iPhone’s display revealed a friendly message from my service provider welcoming me to the IOM, and  to paraphrase, assuring me of  business as usual at no extra charge.

Jamila at Anchor

Once at anchor it was time to relax and ponder the current Covid-19 situation that had denied me, as a Wardley’s sailor bound for Ramsey, my inalienable right to drink a beer or two in a port side bar. Still I couldn’t complain. I got to briefly share an anchorage with the celebrated IOM tramp steamer ‘SILVER RIVER’. Hallowed company it was for sure. I have now bumped into her both at Glasson Dock and Ramsay. She wasn’t to stay long though. We had both had arrived at roughly the same time. The SILVER RIVER passed JAMILA as we both negotiated the final reach  of the Walney Extension wind farm. Fortunately for Silver River, the COVIDE-19 rules do not exclude commercial traffic, only leisure traffic to the Isle of Man like me. Ramsey is not an all tidal port. Boats can only enter and leave port two hours before and after high water. As soon as there was enough depth for Silver River to drag her bilges over the soft Manx mud, she weighed anchor and disappear between the jutting but impressive parallel harbour walls. 

Silver River. moving heavy goods of any description between Glasson Dock and Ramsey. Both dock dry out at low water, where she sits on her keel.

The irony of the Isle of Man Covide-19 rules is that they were quite rightfully make by a risk averse committee mentality, to protect the elderly tax exiles,  who  most probably during their rise to financial supremacy had conducted themselves  in quite a NON risk averse manor, most probably borrowing other peoples money as capital,  under the protection of limited liability where the risks and costs of failure are yet again most probably borne by the  good folks from from the excluded mainland — or perhaps this minor pension fund investor currently swinging at anchor in Ramsey Bay. That said however the people of IOM are incredibly friendly and welcoming in better times and the very best of them are the harbour masters and crew that operate the ports of Ramsey and Douglas. 

Ramsey Bay

Luckily, that night the weather was kind. A gentle onshore wind maintained a view out of Jamila’s companion-way toward a lovely row of  Georgian Terraces, which as the day slowly turned to night were gently illuminated by cleverly sited  multi coloured lights, bringing out the magnificent spender of a by-gone era.  It must be said here that this type of aesthetically pleasing architecture is rarely seen now for utilitarian cost-saving reasons,  compounded by a lack of skilled artisans,  and a modern greed for space including a modern desire for oversized glass windows and balconies.

But I had to count my lucky stars, since it was I who had the best view in town that night and it was costing me nothing. “Oh, to be swinging at anchor out in Ramsey Bay”! (SA, get your guitar out, I can feel another Wardley’s ballad coming on!).

The next episode coming soon: from Ramsey – Port Patrick – Cushendun via the very disturbed and rough waters of the ‘Point of Aire’!

Three Wardley’s boats at anchor, and a spine-chilling night in Derbyhaven!

The anchor is a symbol you can give to just about anything to render a nautical feel!  Salty sea sailors tattoo them on their arms, harbour masters and seaside towns place them on neatly tended lawns surrounded by  flower beds. They work well to convey the romance of the sea, and to inspire your average Joe into thinking whimsically about classic films such as ‘Mutiny on the Bounty’,  or ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’, and even have them hearing squawking seagulls when there are none!

A random image of a nautical tattoo taken from a Google search.

Too many sailors these days will carry an anchor on their bow for exactly the same reason, because they give a boat a well founded nautical look. The common reality in the world of leisure yachting is picking up mooring buoys, berthing in marinas, and occasionally going up against tidal walls in an old fishing port, which is about the zenith of the average amateur sailor’s ambition.

However, to Wardleys Sailors  they are an indispensable tool of the trade and most of us carry several of them. We don’t tend to spend hundreds  of pounds on designer yachting garb but instead would rather amble around friendly boat jumbles and come away with a  bargain Danforth, or a coil of anchor rode,  or maybe a good length of chain.  Its been long understood  amongst practical sailors that buckets, boat-hooks, ropes at hand, and indeed the all important anchor are in essence the essential pieces of kit to have when the dark clouds descend upon us.

A selection of commonly used anchors. Jamila carried a CQR, a Danforth, a Bruce, and a Fisherman’s. Only the CQR was the correct size for the boat and was the only one to set properly through the thick kelp found in Derbyhaven.

Now, remember our arrival at Derbyhaven Bay from the previous Wardleys website report?  Well, just to recap, a group of us sailed over to the Isle of Man at the end of May. It was the first major club sailing trip of 2018.  As described in the report, Darren, Phil and Simon  in ‘Jamila’ and ‘Rivendel’ arrived first.  A day later, as promised, Nick joined on his yacht ‘Nimrod’  following an epic lone sail across the sea through near impenetrable ‘Manin Mists’. And let’s not forget Malcolm,  who finally joined five days later,  having sailed over in his amazing 18 foot Caprice .

Ordinance Survey Map showing key features of Castletown Bay and Derbyhaven

The seagulls got there first unfortunately.

Derby Haven Bay is illustrated above, and some of the following narrative refers to the ordinance survey map. There are two parts. Inner bay and the Outer bay. The inner bay , which could loosely be called a harbour, is guarded by a  long and ancient looking wall, and the whole lot dries-out at the three hour mark. There are local craft dotted all over and are packed in densely, with cables criss-crossing the bottom, which is a little off-putting to the visiting sailor. The outer bay is spacious and doesn’t generally dry-out unless anchored by the beach at the southern end. It is suitable for ocean going keel boats, and indeed one morning we were woken by a loud clanking noise, and saw a three mast tall ship sat at anchor just north of the Derby fort. To any dyed in the wool sailor this is the most thrilling sight you can ever see!

As often is the case with many things in life, Derbyhaven bay has its strengths and weaknesses. In its favour, it is sheltered from the prevailing South Westerlies, it has a firm sandy bottom, it has a  nearby golf club that offers free ablution facilities to passing sailors. It also has Castletown nearby, perhaps the most charming of the Manx ports, but a short walk away. On the down side there is lots of kelp on the bottom,  lots of lobster pots and associated lines , and precious little shelter from the wind, since it is situated at a low point in the island where the wind can sweep in unimpeded.  With the exception of  a beach in the south west corner, there are  some worrisome looking rocky-shoals on all sides.

Jamila with Ronaldway airport just beyondThe three Wardleys sailors spread themselves out at various locations leaving  plenty of room for boats to  swing .  At the time of anchoring,  a warm steady wind was blowing from the south west as about F2/3.  The wind felt heavenly on the face as it came across the sparkling blue water. Everything about the scene was bright and pleasant. Its amazing how even the dinkiest cabins become alive in brilliant sunlight often revealing eye pleasing pastel shades not hitherto seen.

The golf club on the east side of the bay. At high water, the rocky shoreline is nicely hidden.

With reference to the map shown above: ‘Jamila’ was anchored in the shallows in the south western corner. Jamila’s two metre shallow water alarm rang-out loudly at the moment the skipper dropped the twenty five pound CQR anchor the short distance to the bottom. The idea of anchoring in shallow water was to find a good spot to do some snorkelling.  Darren and Phil on ‘Rivendale’ opted for deeper water.  They positioned there boat roughly at the ‘V’ in ‘Derbyhaven’.  Finally Nick on ‘Nimrod’ dropped his anchor close to St. Michael’s Island roughly to top right of the ‘P’ for Parking symbol. Given the prevailing wind, all boats were laying-off towards the north east and away from the rocky shores below the golf club.

Rivendel anchored to the north of Nimrod.

The weather had been discussed the day before.  For a Morecambe Bay sailor it could not look better! The forecast looking ahead two weeks, was an exciting catalogue of sun and warm south-westerlies blowing at force three to four. However, there was one minor fly in the ointment, on the Monday night towards the evening, the wind, for some strange meteorological anomaly, was due to swing around to the north and then increase to a force five.  And then after a three or four hour spell, it was due to return back to what it was before. Well, Wardley’s sailors are generally happy to sail out into the Lune deeps in anything up to a  force five, so not much more was thought of it. Our reaction to the forecast was: “We’ll be all right”,  and then our conversation  turned to,  “Mmm, I wonder what delicacies we’ll find the the Castletown Co-op?”.Jamila’s skipper was up early on the Monday morning, and with a pair of running shoes and a tracksuit in a rucksack, he rowed ashore in an Avon-round-tail inflatable. Very little wind impeded the passage towards the small settlement of Derbyhaven.  Behind the austere nineteenth century break-water, and the assortment of boats at their moorings, lay a broad white sandy beach with the odd boat dragged up to the high water mark. Derbyhaven itself is a single row of cottages, and bijou Victorian villas with bright white painted exteriors stretching the full length of the north western side of the bay. To the casual visitor, it seems that everything falling to the eye had at least some aesthetically pleasing quality.

Towards Derbyhaven showing the eastern shore. To the west is the wall. The whole area behind the wall dries out after three hours of ebb.

Stepping ashore in a foreign land from an inflatable is a strange experience.  Pulling the Avon round-tail dinghy up to the high tide mark over the white sandy beach required a similar effort to picking up heavy baggage from an airport carousel, but instead of being met by surly questions from folks in high-vis jackets, you receive a friendly and slightly musical, “Good Morning”, from passing locals going about their daily business. Nobody appears bothered to see you advancing up the beach and are content to continue on their way.

Derbyhaven early in the morning. Note the break water in the distance. The Avon dinghy was off picture to the left.

All the sailors went ashore that first day. It was only a short walk from Derbyhaven to Castletown. The latter was delightful place that late May morning. The weather could not have been better. Every reflective surface sparkled. Castletown used to be  a working fishing village with an intimate little harbour and several pubs not a stone-throw from the quay side .  A hundred year ago it would have been packed full small sailing smacks typically with huge masts and bow-sprits, and well over canvassed such that they stand a chance at dealing with the capricious I.o.M. tides.  More recently, the Manx fisherman have  been replaced by wealthy financial-services types with lots of money to spend, and appear not afraid to do so. There were no signs to support the depressing opinion often levelled at other british seaside destinations, “This was once a rich Victorian holiday resort now a little in decline No, it looked smart and well healed. The three Wardleys Sailors eventually found the local Co-op, … where they entered, where they saw, where they loaded up, and in due course  carried-off the likes of fresh milk and other general stores back to the small flotilla of boats awaiting them in Derbyhaven.

The road to Castletown

It was early afternoon when Jamila’s skipper got back to his dinghy.  It was evident, whilst he had been running, shopping, and walking with a brimmingly full Co-op carrier bag, that the tide had come a good twenty yards up the beach, kissing the stern of the dinghy, and had then receded back to roughly where it was when arriving.  Soon he was paddling towards ‘Jamila’ who was sitting serenely at anchor, framed by an extensive golf club house sat one hundred yards up a sloping field rising away from the rocky high water mark. It was still a little early in the year but Jamila’s skipper decided to go for a swim in Derbyhaven’s crystal clear waters.  The water looked gorgeous! He lowered himself  in from the stern ladder, and launched himself away with a little flourish, helped by a stabbing shove from Jamila’s rudder. Lord O’mighty was it cold! It was so bad that even after five minutes of assimilation, it still felt FREEZING!

Time to go for a swim!

Once out of the water however it was payback time. The swimmer’s body, having been tricked in to thinking it had just come through a life threatening ordeal, rewarded its owner with that lovely euphoric feeling of, ‘wow, isn’t it great to be alive!’.  There’s a sort of serenic calm where briefly there is not a  worry in the world.  This sense of well being was no doubt helped by the warm weather  coupled with a delicious pork pie with pickle, and a chilled can of  the Co-op’s finest lager.  This led to sleepiness and an afternoon nap, during which the sun descended into the west and the tide continued its long ebb bringing Jamila’s two bilge keels closer to the gravel strewn beach below.

The skipper awoke  from his nap with a start. Something weird was going on.  It had suddenly gone cold.  Wearing just shorts and a cotton T-shirt no longer felt comfortable. Jamila’s halyards had started to clatter and bang in the rigging high above. It was now early evening. Time had moved on during the afternoon’s bout of dreamy relaxation. The skipper stood looking out from Jamila’s companion way.  A quick survey revealed that the sky had clouded over, that the wind had veered massively from the south west to the north and more worryingly, that the boat had swung around on her anchor such that she was blowing directly onto a lee-shore.  Yes, the swing of the chain had brought the shore to only a matter of  ten yards!

Jamila’s CQR had been well set the day before. A long and sustained spell in reverse had done its job of bedding in the anchor. Its plough shaped head was dug deep into the seabed.  Now, the CQR is good, but has a well know weakness in that it can often fail to reset after being pulled-around in a wind shift. They can drag along for a while!  Suffice to say, they don’t cope well with wind shifts in tight anchorages!

An eerie juddering vibration could be felt through the anchor chain back to the chain roller. Time to get the engine going! To late! Jamila’s twin keels scrunched onto the bottom and the bow swung around putting the boat side onto the shelving beach. The engine was now useless. It was action stations on board Jamila! The skipper had to think fast, to act fast, and in that order!

Beach at the south end of Derbyhaven Bay. This image gleaned from the web must have been taken on a very low astronomical tide.

The Bruce is another type of anchor.  Its ultimate holding power is not as vaunted as the CQRs, but is liked by seafarers because it sets fast! Luckily ‘Jamila’ had one squirrelled away in the stern locker, and so its time to step into the breach had come.  By this time the wind was gusting F5. The small fetch across the bay was sufficient to generate waves strong enough to push Jamila that little bit further up the shelving beach each time the rising tide lifted her off the bottom. The Avon round-tail dinghy was pressed into service to haul the Bruce and twenty yards of rode to deep water where it was dropped onto a kelp-free patch of sand. Jamila’s skipper (simon) could only now hope and pray for deliverance! At this point Darren, (aka the ‘Piel Sailor’) in Rivendel’s dinghy, came punching through the mounting waves shouting an offer of assistance over the squeal of the wind coming from Jamila’s rigging . His usual jovial demeanour had been replaced by a granite jawed look of resolve.

The ‘Piel Sailor’ has history, has been around the block.

The two sailors went into immediate conference in Jamila’s saloon. They had some intense discussions. An idea was hatched to barge Jamila’s bows back around pointing out into deep water using the full might of the Piel Sailor’s Honda 2.5 outboard. Before this plan could be executed, little by little Jamila’s bow edged around on its own accord. The rode to the Bruce had become taught. The scrunching of keels on the bottom had ceased. The Bruce anchor was winning the battle! Jamila was lifting with the tide and staying put! It was time to play the joker in the pack. The Volvo Penta D1-20 was fired up. Jamila’s three bladed propeller got a firm grip of the water, and slowly shoved the three ton boat forwards into deeper water. Darren took station on the bow and quickly hauled in the Bruce. This late substitute anchor had scored a vital goal.  The next task was to haul up the twenty five yards or so of chain leading to the main anchor.  At the end of the chain was a morass of kelp. The CQR was somewhere underneath.  It was never going to set in a month of Sundays. The morass had to be cleared first to have any chance of penetrating a new through to the sandy bottom. This messy task was undertaken whilst Jamila crossed the bay. It was important to get Jamila into a safe anchorage, putting clear water between herself and the lee shore.

rateDown went the anchor once again. Not too much chain up front this time.  They allowed Jamila to slowly drift astern helping the CQR dig through the kelp and to minimise the chance of it skating over the top.  So, Jamila did just that, and drifted backwards at a controlled rate. Eventually the point of the CQR pierced through the kelp and caught the bottom, dug in a little, and offered some initial resistance.  Some more chain was offered. Jamila eventually pulled-up with a gentle shudder. After a short pause yet more chain was released.  Finally a four to one scope was reached.  Now it was time to put the D1-20 in reverse to test the hold, though limited to tick-over. Some transit bearings were taken using the end of the breakwater and the edge of a foreshore villa beyond. It was now hoped the anchor would dig in deeper.  The propeller revolution rate was slowly increased.  And yet then more revs to simulate a good blow. After a few more minutes in reverse, and when the anchor was considered to be well set, the engine was killed.  It was time for a well earned cup of tea. Thanks Darren, what a pal!

Unfortunately the ordeal wasn’t over yet! And for Darren and Phil on ‘Rivendel’ the night had only just started!

Nimrod (on a buoy at Piel)

At this point attention turned to Nick in his Hunter 25 ‘Nimrod’ with its self-tacking-jib. He was anchored just one hundred yards from waves noisily  breaking on the rocks  on a lee shore between himself and the golf club house. Earlier he had tried to re-position his boat, but had had difficulty in weighing his anchor, which was caught on something on the bottom, and had given up. On the radio he seemed amazingly calm about the dangers surrounding the growing situation, as the wind increased to gusting F6. This was much more  than what had been predicted! How much worse would it become? What could be done if Nimrod’s anchor started to drag?  There was very little distance between the boat and the rocks, so, a plan to cut away the anchor and run ‘Nimrod up onto the gently shelving beach, where Jamila had been  previously, was formulated for if things were to go pear shaped in the night.  Why? He was single handed, so operating the engine and dealing with a fouled anchor was considered a none starter.

The failing light eventually turned to darkness. It was now considered no longer safe to helm a dinghy out on the raging waters in the bay. He would have to hang on and hope for the best.

None of us dared snuggle down into our sleeping bags yet. By two o’clock in the morning the wind was gusting to force seven as times with sustained spells at force six. An unexpected half gale was upon us! We felt suddenly exposed and scared. Jamila’s anchor chain had become frighteningly bow taught. For how much longer would it hold?  With his anchor alarm set for a thirty meters radius, Simon sat dozing in his saloon, not exactly awake, but not really sleeping. He was suddenly stirred from his slumber, disturbed by shouting voices in the distance that were being carried over on the wind. A moment later, the unmistakable sound of a diesel engine  clattering into life followed.

The scene out of the companion way hatch was mortifying. It was two thirty in the morning and one of our Wardleys’s boat was in deep trouble. Earlier, as the evening turned into a black moonless night, we started to get to know the location of each boat by reference to the steady position of each other’s  flicking white anchor lightsset against shadowy dark sky. One of those lights was not where it should be. ‘Rivendel’ s light was out of position! She was steadily falling down wind towards the ragged shoreline that we knew was there, now hidden in the black of night. Above this scene further in the  distance could be made out the  cluster of lights from the Golf Club. But, no sound came from the VHF. It remained quiet. Further and further Rivendal’s anchor light drifted away towards the shore. The sound of the horrible crunching of boat on rocks now seemed inevitable! Rivendel had now woken up fully to her mortal plight! There were additional lights up on deck. Two cones of intensely bright light were scanning left and right and down into the raging waters. The hapless by-standers on ‘Nimrod’ and ‘Jamila’ could only watch-on in terrified awe. Still further and further she drifted until eventually the wayward movement appeared to have been checked. Was there now some hope? Had the anchor reset? Had the propeller belatedly got a grip on the water? The spectacle of lights, now some way away in the distance,  appeared to shift slowly to the right, away from the rocky shoreline,  and towards the location of the gently shelving beach between the Golf Club and Derbyhaven.

Phil at the helm, Darren on the bow fighting the anchor. Both worn military grade head torches. Razor-sharp cones of light pieced the inky black night in all directions. The skippers of Nimrod and Jamila could only watch-on in awe at this terrifying light show. It went on for over an hour, and all in the dead of night!

Was the skipper going to beach ‘Rivendel’? Apparently not! Maybe it had been an option on the table that had been rejected! The Piel Sailor’s iron jawed resolve that had been witnessed hours earlier was out there in the darkness doing its damnedest to sort matters out. From time to time you could make out a figure on the deck, a figure at the helm, a glimpse of the cabin windows, a glimpse of mast and rigging,  as the two cones of  bright white light worked left and right. Shouting voices could be heard now and again. Rivendel was coming back to us, albeit slowly. Hopes were now improving. Eventually she was back and in a steady state in terms of relative position. But it wasn’t to last! Off she went again towards the very rocks from whence only half an hour ago she had been delivered. Were we seeing Rivendell final death throws? Were we at Wardley’s in the weeks to follow going to be mourning the loss of one of our finest yachts? Was ‘Rivendel’s anchor just a useless morass of kelp? Was there a lobster pod wrapped around a blighted prop? Would the crew manage to save themselves, scramble onto the rocks away from harms way, and hopefully find sanctuary in the nearby golf club and be surrounded by concerned but tipsy late night revellers?

Once again the spectacle of lights withdrew slowly from danger, but this time tracked back much further across the bay.  She pressed on to windward. Whilst passing to starboard of ‘Jamila’, a figure could be seen clinging to Rivendel’s stainless steel pulpit at the bows. With the help of a head torch he could be seen clearing kelp from an engorged length of anchor chain. Then a glimpse of a clean anchor was briefly had, before it disappeared back down into the depths. ‘Rivendel’ ever so slowly fell back, now just a little down wind of ‘Jamila’.  Phil could be seen at the tiller, holding the boat steady, hunting for an anchor bite! Finally she held her station. One minute passed, then  five minutes had passed, and eventually half an hour had passed. No change in her position could be detected, and we all prayed that the anchor had finally set!  The morale aboard ‘Nimrod’ and ‘Jamila’ immediately lifted and a shared sense of exultation was felt. A quick look at the wind anemometer showed thirty five knots, so there was still a feeling of hanging on in there! There would be no sleep for a couple more hours. Then suddenly the wind dropped back to a force three to four as quickly as it came. The sky in the east began to brighten. Day break was upon us. The four Wardley’s sailors collapsed into their bunks physically and mentally exhausted. They had all entrusted their safe keeping  to their respective anchors. Lessons had been learnt with respect of ensuring anchors  are carefully ‘reset’ and stress tested after important changes in wind direction.

That  morning, as the inhabitants of DerbyHaven Bay awoke and looked out of their windows toward the three yachts blissfully moored in close company, little would they know of the previous nights drama, and nor would they see any faces on the deck until well into the following afternoon…

Next instalment to come: the remaining trip around IOM, the return  across to Ravensglass, and interception by a military patrol boat en-route back to the River Wyre.


And since you got this far:

Another tattoo with a nautical flavour.


 

 

Isle of Man – Wardleys to Derbyhaven – May 2018

In early April an assortment of Wardleys sailors crowded around a small map on the club house notice board and chattered excitedly amongst themselves. The map showed a large bay facing  the north-east with a thin strip of land separating it from yet another bay of equal size on the opposite side.  To the east of these conjoined bays was a thin strip of land, containing a golf-course, jutting out into  the Irish sea. Tom, one of the club’s experienced sea-sailors, clutching a large mug of tea, suggested that this would be the ideal place for a ‘Wardleys flotilla’ to rendezvous, after setting out from the tidal channels of Morecambe Bay. Five Wardleys’ skippers declared they were up for the challenge!

Morecambe Bay to the Isle of Man. A very long day 12 hour sail.

Any anchorage had to be well sheltered from the prevailing south-westerlies, and not-least be somewhere on IOM,  so a quick straw vote was taken and ‘DERBY HAVEN’ bay it was to be.

Derby Heven Bay in the south east of the Isle of Man. Five intrepid Wardley’s sailor on four boats sailed into this bay in the month of May 2018.

Well, as we all know, great plans are easier to make than to realize.  Beers in the club house, a good bit of banter alloyed with collective   desire for adventure can easily give birth to plans, but somewhere between making and executing plans things can happen.  But hey-ho,  a month later two Wardleys boats and three members found themselves sailing with the ebb down the river Wyre,  stocked up with provisions, diesel, and sails aloft.

Simon was on ‘Jamila’ and Darren and Phil on ‘Rivendell’.  The plan was to complete the outward bound cruise in two legs.  First to head over to Piel — not that far in the scheme of things — get an early dinner,  drink a pint or two, and be sleeping by ten o’clock so ready for a half-past three morning departure.

The other skippers in the planned cruise, Nick, Malcolm and Tom, all hoped break their shackles and rendezvous later on in the week.

For ‘Rivendell’ and ‘Jamila’, the first leg went pretty much according to plan. The two Wardleys  boats arrived at Piel in unadulterated sunshine. The scene was the classic ‘summer holiday’. Crowds of tourists, sailors and  campers milled around the Ship Inn. Children were crabbing in the shallows.

Crabbing at Piel

The Piel ferry was at the slipway full of punters with happy smiles, climbing on and off over the gunwales.  Up on the island by the Ship Inn the sounds of joking and laughter,  mothers calling children,  and dogs barking, all came floating down over the water as far as the two Wardley’s boats now sat at anchor.

Piel ferry full of punters

The three sailors decided to wait an hour for the hustle and bustle to clear, then launch the dinghy,  go ashore, dine quietly in the Ship, then retire early in preparation for the early start. In fact, all three sailor fell asleep for a short while!

Unadulterated sunshine at Piel Island

The three sailors packed tightly into Rivendell’s small dinghy to go ashore. As they rowed towards the long pier they could just and so hear, over the rhythmic creaky clattering of the oars, the faint sound of the  ‘put, put, put’ sound from the last Piel Ferry heading into the distance depositing the last of the Island visitors on the main land.

A disappointment was awaiting the three sailors!

The walk up the slipway to the Ship Inn was eerily quiet. The landlord’s 4×4, wasn’t in its usual position adjacent to the kitchen, and looking in through the windows, chairs could be seen upside down on every table. The pub was shut! The transition from ‘busy’ to ‘dead’ had happened so quickly. Well, it was Sunday evening, the landlord had some urgent business to conclude in Barrow, and had to leave quick whilst the tidal path across the sand was passable

A rather forlorn walk around the island ensued.  The evening was idyllic, the views over Morecambe Bay were magnificent but there was a sense of loss and disappointment in the air.

Walk around the island. The sailor were hungry Only the owl was dining that night on the island.

The Wardleys sailors retired back to the boats and set about choosing a route over to ‘Derbyhaven Bay’. After some discussion, a decision was taken on which way to go around the huge wind farm just off Walney Island. One route looked marginally better for the tides, the other route looked better for the winds. A priority was set on sailing and so they selected the southern-route and maybe make a small saving in diesel along the way.

The march of time never stops, dates, deadlines and everything else in life sooner-or-later comes along whether you want it or not. Morning wake-up alarms rang on both boats at half-past three. Luckily, ‘Rivendell’ crew member Phil,  a good solid early riser, was on hand to ensured that his skipper ‘Darren’, who’s solidity here is highly questionable, was up and ready by four o’clock, the allotted time for departure. Simon on ‘Jamila’ also made it out of his bunk, and both boats quietly slipped anchor as scheduled. The sun was still more than six degrees below the horizon, just behind the seaside resort of Morecambe, thus the sky was still a dark shade of black. An early morning dog walker, looking out to sea, would have witnessed the dimly lit sails of two vessels quietly tacking down the Barrow channel out into nothingness.

The first part of the long road to IOM was easy,  the helmsman  maintains a steady path between the red and green channel lights until reaching the ‘Lighting Knoll’ buoy. This last is the main cardinal that marks the start of deep water ahead. During this first leg the sun, still hidden below the horizon,  entered the sub six degree sector and the sky started to lighten dramatically. The far-distant shore lights that could be seen all around started to  disappear one-by-one and were replaced by thin faint strips of coastline.  By the time the two boats arrived at the ‘Lightning Knoll’  buoy a magnificent sunrise over the Northwest coast of England took place. Now…, without doubt, there is no better place to witness this thrilling moment than out at sea.

Sun rise over Morecambe Bay. ‘Rivendell’ making way. Click image to see in full detail.

Over to the west and through the semi daylight gloom a forest of wind-generators started to appear. The first ‘wind-mills’ people see from the shore are just a small farm twenty to thirty strong, but behind those, are three much larger farms that reach-out deep into the Irish sea. Here there are hundreds of them!

The question on the mind of one of the Wardleys skippers was: “Do I go all the way around to the south,  or do I cut through the farm and set a heading direct for Derby Haven bay?” By now, the wind was blowing nicely on the beam, perfect for a fast reach all the way to the Isle of Man.  The question quickly became, “Should I?”

During this decision making process, the skipper of ‘Jamila’ was looking at the big arrow on his GPS. It was pointing confidently across the Irish Sea  towards Derby Haven bay some 50 miles distance.

[It was back in nineteen-seventy-eight that our Americans cousins launched the first of the thirty-three satellites  that give us this marvellous navigational aid — god bless Uncle Sam!]

Quite suddenly a corridor opened up in the grid type arrangement of generators and the said GPS arrow was pointing straight down the middle.  The corridor looked clearly defined as far as the eye could see, help by the closed-up elignment  of the towers on each flank.

Why not?

In an instant Jamila’s tiller was pushed hard to port, her sheets were slackened, her sails allowed to billow, and away she went diving directly into the vast mechanical forest.

Jamila changes course and dives into the forest of wind generators.

Phil on ‘Rivendell’ with first field of generators (closest to Walney) to starboard. The photo illustrates nicely now the towers line up in a grid pattern.

The skipper of ‘Rivendel’ decided to stick to the original plan and head for the GPS way-points that had been discussed the night before on Piel Island. This meant a couple more hours of arduous motor-sailing into the wind and tide in order to skirt the southern edge of the wind-farms.  This wasn’t really a problem though, for ‘Rivendell’ is a Mirage 2700  equipped with a powerful diesel, and with her big blue spray hood pulled up, she makes a comfortable motorboat when the conditions require. ‘Rivendel’s dividend was paid in FULL two or three hours later. By then she had passed the planned GPS way-point, she was well to the south of the wind farm, she was able to change course to west-north-west bringing the wind onto the beam thus providing the optimum angle of attack, but most importantly, the tide had turned in her favour. All the key parameters had come into alignment. Now, it was full speed ahead for Derbyhaven Bay.

But things got even better!

Suddenly ‘Rivendell’ wasn’t alone, but surrounded by dolphins. A whole pod of them for a period of thirty-minutes  headed in the same direction.  It is often said that this particular experience can stir and prick the emotions of the hardiest mariners, Daren and Phil can confirm this!

A dolphin off the starboard bow.

Further to the north ‘Jamila’ was struggling! Advancing beyond the the wind-farms seemed like a losing battle.  The south-westerly force-four winds didn’t really materialize as promised. For far too long she was surrounded by them and they just wouldn’t go away.  This was largely due to  plugging a flood tide still heading towards Morecambe Bay.  And in addition, it was all too easy to get complacent whilst relying on the tiller pilot. On more than one occasion the skipper set a course down a corridor of towers only to find, when emerging from the cabin after say doing a spot of chart-work,  a blooming great tower reaching high out of the sea,  well above the mast and sails, and only yards distance.

Along way up to get to the ground floor!

The bottom of the blade still high above Jamila’s mast top.

The hours passed by. Then three positive events came into conjunction. The tide turned, the wind increased, and Jamila had finally passed the last of the wind-farm generators. Until this point there was still two-thirds of the total distance to sail and four hours had passed by. The GPS was predicting a ETA of eleven o’clock in the evening. It was not a very nice thought, arriving in a strange location late at night in the pitch-black, dropping a hook and hoping for a good night’s sleep. Four more hours passed, during which time Jamila steadily creamed across the Irish Sea, the sky was blue, her white sails pressed hard, and the water around her turned a deeper blue with the odd white crest here and there as the wind steadily increased. Nothing much changed visually until you look behind and traced your eye back along Jamila’s foaming wake to where the wind-farm had been, for now it was but a thin strip of gleaming  pins just visible on the horizon.

More time passed and still no sign of anything. Its often when you stop straining your eyes looking for something that the something in question comes into sight. Shrouded in mist that is often the case for the Isle of Man the land became visible. Amazing when the Skipper next looked at his GPS the ETA had reduced to seven o’clock in the evening. The combination of the increase in speed and an ebbing tide carrying the boat directly toward ‘Derbyhaven Bay’ had been astonishingly beneficial. The pubs might be still open!

Land appearing shrouded in mist

In the meantime Daren and Phil on ‘Rivendell’ were taking the more southerly route around the farms. With the wind more or less on the nose she had gunned past the wind-farms under engine and made much better time. By the time the favourable beam wind had arrived, she was more than an hour ahead, and had disappeared out of sight of ‘Jamila’.  In the end both boats arrived safely and dropped their anchors, still in bright daylight.

Derbyhaven Bay looking north west towards the aerodrome.

Derbyhaven Bay looking southwest towards Derbyhaven port.

As it happen, visits to pubs was far from what the Wardleys’ sailors really desired. What they all really really wanted was sleep and lots of it!

‘Rivendell’ and ‘Jamila’ with Ronaldsway aerodrome beyond. Taken from Langness golf club the following day

View of Derbyhaven from Langness.

The delights of Derbyhaven, and Castletown just beyond, would be checked-out in the morning.

As for the other Wardleys sailors who had been huddled around the club notice board back in April, Nick arrived a day or two later, Malcolm arrived a week later, and Tom’s dreams of a late May IOM adventure were spoilt by unexpected commitments.

There’s more to come soon: “The middle of the night gale in Derbyhaven Bay”