A flurry of texts were sent out mid week. The usual sailors were up for an over night cruise to Piel. The weather was generally dull and uninspiring, where the wind didn’t blow hard enough to sail until the final hours on Sunday afternoon. A guest sailor from Leigh & Lowton Sailing Club crewed on Jamila. A good weekend was had all by all.
Talking version of this post: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qmZHbHMjVZk&t=880s
Some times its great to see the familiar things we love and cherish from an altogether different perspective. Wardley’s sailors love the cut and thrust of sailing in and out of the tidal waters of the Wyre Estuary and Morecambe Bay. More often or not he is happy weekend after weekend to thumb through his little blue tide booklet, bang out a cunning tidal-curve, and finally gamble on just how late he can leave it cutting across any sandbanks lying between Morecambe Bay’s choppy seas and a good pint at the Ship Inn. This quirky Wardley Marine Yacht Club art form was taken to its extreme recently by the magnificent skipper of REXY who amazingly made it safely home after a cracking trip back from the Ship Inn, going aground only ten yards short of his mooring buoy.
It occurred to Andy and Simon, as they discussed the possibility of an extended three day cruise, that maybe they should try and do things a little differently this time. The pre-sail-planning wasn’t going to be by any means a walk in the park! The moon was out of alignment with the two other significant ‘planets’ in the Wardley-sailor’s life, namely the sun and the earth. Neap tides were upon us, and so the old tidal curve sums were going to count more than ever.
The plan was to go Piel-Glasson-Piel. The various problems discussed on a telephone line between Rawtenstall and Rochdale were as follows. Could they assemble their kit and make it out to Jamila without losing something or capsizing? The measly neap tide was barely going to make it to the end of the slipway, could they safely get on the dinghy without slipping over and getting mud everywhere? After unloading the dinghy into Jamila’s cockpit, could they get the boat ready before the river Wyre empties into the sea? If they are late arriving at Piel, would there be any moorings left? Would the harbour master open the gate at Glasson Dock and would it open twelve hours later to let them out? And most importantly, given the tides on the third and final day were forecast as the lowest of them all, would they make it home back up the river Wyre? Nevertheless, a decision was taken. It was in the best of Wardley’s tradition: let’s give it a go!
The two sailors arrived by car and as always there were friendly club members to chat with. A natter with Vic ensued where certain matters pertaining to the club were chewed over. Also, Darren’s car could be seen on the hard but with no Darren in evidence. They guessed that he must be napping on his boat following a long shift at work. It would not be fair to disturb him!
Getting all the kit down the slipway was going to be tricky. Slippery mud covered the last four yards to the water. They did not want to bring mud on the boat. An idea was formulated to do things slightly differently. A plan to man handle the dinghy down the ladders and across the work boat was put into action. It worked well! The dinghy was deposited into the water. All the kit plus 25 litres of diesel in multiple cans took the same route. Eventually the two sailors, in cramped conditions, legs at awkward angles paddled out to Jamila patiently awaiting them on her mooring. The clock was ticking. The river Wyre was soon going to empty itself leaving a mere trickle.
Aboard Jamila with all the kit pushed into the cockpit it was a fight to get into the cabin. Arms, legs, diesel cans, loafs of bread, and more were everywhere. Still, they manage to packed it all away in double quick time. By now, the boat had swung down stream, which was a sure sign that tide had turned. There were still things to do, the bilges had to be pumped, the electrics powered up, and a check list of things to do before starting the engine had to be followed. The engine burst into life first go. Jamila slipped her mooring slightly behind schedule but still with a better than fair chance of making it down river. They made it to Knott End with out problem but both sailors couldn’t help but watch the depth sounder closely and, at times, look anxiously at each other.
It was an amazing sail across the bay. The sailing got better and better as time went on. They even managed to prepare and eat a delicious vegetable curry on the go, which was necessary since it would be too late for a meal at the Ship Inn. Eventually they sailed into the inner channel passing Haws Point East tower (affectionally known as Norman’s Perch), and finally turned to port at East Scar buoy into Bass Pool.
By this time the sun was getting very low in the sky. They zig zagged into Bass Pool carefully noting the depths. At a calculated 1.5 metres under the keel at low water the anchor was dropped. They were still tidying the decks, coiling ropes, and packing away the sails when the sun finally slipped below the horizon. Without wasting time they both jumped into the Avon and rowed ashore. Initially, the walk up the foreshore was over soft sand and mussel beds, but not quite soft enough for boots to sink in and pull off. Soon they were on to large pebbles. There were big boulders everywhere. Some would be dangerously awash when the tide returns. It was important at that moment, whilst negotiating the larger pebbles, not to turn an ankle and get to the grassy banks below the castle in one piece. Soon they were walking across the castle’s outer keep, heading towards the Ship Inn just beyond. There were tents dotted all around, and some of the campers were showing off fashionable looking LED lights and barbecuing setups.
The ship Inn was busy. It was a karaoke night. A number of drinkers put on some accomplish performances. The regular crowd of sailors and fisherman were as usual propping up the far end of the bar. The story of a recent five boat tour of Isle of Man and Western Isles of Scotland was being told. Apparently the cruise could not have been better, they all concluded that they had as good as won the lottery with the weather. Eventually after several hours or so Sheila rang the bell for last orders . Some of the younger drinkers looked at each other a little puzzled. The more weather beaten looking sailors could easily read the expression writ large on the landlady’s face: “Right you lot, drink-up, I want you all out in half an hour so I can clear up and go to bed!” Eventually everyone tumbled out of the pub just after midnight.
The two sailors picked their way through the rising meadow towards the campsite. They tried not to trip over the many guy lines that lay in wait. Eventually, they threaded their way passed an inky black castle set against a star blazoned sky. Coastal lights swept the horizon from Morecambe to Blackpool. They stumbled down onto the beach and disturbed a young couple sharing a sleeping bag enjoying a night under the stars. Apologies were made and humorously accepted. They re-entered the boulder strewn foreshore of Piel Scar. Black shapes were all around. They stumbled on. They questioned themselves: where’s the dinghy, did we come the same way back, have we walked too far, what’s that larger squat looking boulder lying fifty yards square on the left. They headed towards it. As the distance closed, the watery light emitted from their head torches revealed not a boulder but a shiny damp dinghy, almost appearing to glow-in-the-dark. Strangely the Avon round-tail dinghy looked like new under the ghostly LED light that shone upon it!
Soon the two Wardleys sailors were transiting the water between the shoreline and what, at that moment, appeared to be a dim shape out in the dark. It was a moonless sky. The countless millions of stars, as magnificent as they were, were even less capable at illuminating things than the torches. However, after twenty or thirty quick sharp oar strokes the small distance covered was enough to bring the shape of a Mirage 2700 into focus. It grew larger and larger, eventually overwhelming the darkness, and for some strange reason, maybe the alcohol consumed in the Ship Inn, one of the sailors at least thought Jamila’s mast seemed taller than ever, seemingly reaching right up into the stars themselves.
After a quick check that Jamila’s position had not changed and that the anchor was holding good the two sailors retired for a well earned nights sleep. And so it was, Jamila spent a restful night tucked away from the world’s worries anchored in Bass Pool by the much loved Piel Island’s south side.
The following morning, a scrumptious breakfast was enjoyed at the Ship Inn whilst looking out over Morecambe Bay in perfect blue sky weather. This time, one of King Steve’s small English breakfasts and a cup of tea proved quite enough. Ten litres of fresh drinking water was taken from the camper’s ablutions block and carried back over the island to Bass Pool. Along the way, a few friendly nods were exchanged with bleary eye but happy looking campers emerging from their tents.
Rather than the previous landing in the midst of the boulders on Piel Scar, the dinghy was this time retrieved from the sandy shoreline further to the west. Yes, a little further to row for the two Wardley’s sailors, but a much more amenable landing location away from the large pebbles and boulders.
At the beginning of this narrative, it was said that an aim during this trip was to see the familiar from a different perspective. Anchoring in Bass Pool as opposed to picking up a buoy was the first great step in this regard. The views seemed broader and wider. The castle with its outer wall looked more striking. The lighthouse on Walney Island was closer and more prominent. At low tide ‘Bass Pool’ gives an esthetically pleasing open expanse feel similar to that of a mere on the Norfolk Broads, being surrounded on all sides by big skies. But there was better to come. Just across the way was Walney Island. Surprisingly, neither sailor had stepped foot on the largest of the Furness Peninsular islands before. Low tide had brought the sand of Walney within spitting distance of Jamila. A short hop in the Avon-round-tail was all that was required to open a new chapter in discovery. The Walney Island turned out to be amazing. It felt like a links golf course that had been allowed to return to the wild. It had a swarthy but fresh and welcoming feel about it. A rough road running a long side a deep green grass covered flood plain led to a tall white painted light house with an adjoining keepers house, which as been since converted into a family home.
There were several wild life hides dotted around. As the two sailors ambled past them, they appeared very quiet and unoccupied, or so they thought? Finally they reached a magnificent beach on the far side where the sea stretches out across Morecambe Bay to Blackpool tower and beyond. Looking back the way they came, masts and sails protruding above the grassy landscape were observed working there way across the low country side.
In reality they were sailboats navigating the Barrow channel heading for the open sea. Yet again the two sailor were see things from a new perspective. It was an artist’s paradise! Andy painfully regretted not having brought his posh camera, which at that moment was sitting uselessly at home in Rochdale. Their smart phone cameras would therefore have to make do!
Once back on Jamila it was time to clear the decks and to hoist the sails for the next leg and perhaps the most interesting part of the planned journey. They were preparing to sail back to the Lancashire coast, but instead of the ‘Fairway Buoy’ their next waypoint was to be the ‘Lune No1 Buoy several miles further to the north’. The final destination was the port of Glasson-Dock.
The main channel into Glasson-Dock is surrounded by deep sand banks that are just and so covered at high water. The very prominent Plover Scar beacon stationed not far offshore marks an out-crop of flat rock commonly known in the area as ‘scars’ where care must be taken. If any part of this cruise could rip the keel or rudder off an approaching Wardley’s yacht, carried along a little too fast by an incoming tide, it would be Plover Scar!
The lateral marker buoys into Lancaster are few and far between compared with other places but Andy’s sharp eyes were able to pick them out one by one. With careful pilotage the two Wardley’s sailors kept Jamila’s keel clear of the bottom, passing Sunderland Point to starboard and finally arriving outside the entrance gate at Glasson Dock. The entry light was on red, but the two sailors could see the tidal gate was slowly sinking down, soon to slip under the water, into its open position. Soon enough, the entry light turned to green signalling to the two sailors to advance over the threshold, which they did and then went on to tie up, as instructed by the harbour master, along side a pilot boat called ‘Trelawney’. Fifteen minutes later they were on dry land, had handed over a small fee to the authorities and were supping a pint of ale in a dock side pub called ‘The Dalton Arms’.
The stay at Glasson was short. The ‘Silver River’ coaster was due in at 06:00 hours. Bob the harbour master wanted the two Wardley’s sailors out before the big boat arrived on the high tide. The gate was opened a little sooner than usual. Everything was going to plan until Jamila went aground just before the gate. This cost vital minutes. Bob shouted from the quayside that they should try again but take a line further to port. Jamila went astern for another attempt. It worked except as they passed the tidal gate the ‘Silver River’ came in spinning around, still being carried by the flood tide. The exit out to sea was now block by five hundred tonnes of moving steel. Jamila was once again forced to go hard astern. For a moment they were faced with a large churning propeller forcing chunks of the river lune onto a rusty rudder as the big boat struggle to complete a full turn in front of the tidal gate. Silver River’s aim was the North wall just outside the gate where she is able to take the ground at low tide.
All this action was happening on an overcast Monday morning. The plan for the day was to leave Glasson on the early tide, sail to Piel, have lunch at the Ship Inn, and finally return to Wardley’s Creek on the following high water.
After hovering for a minute or two by the gate, where Bob the harbour master was standing tall commanding operations on the quayside, a gap opened up through which Jamila made a courageous dash for open water. The weather forecast was cited as force four to five. As Jamila passed the ancient quay side dwellings of Sunderland Point, home to a few hundred Lancastrians whose single approaching road is famously cut off at high water, a decision was taken to hoist the sails with a number one reef in the main. The wind was mainly on the nose leaving Lancaster. Neither of the Wardley’s sailors had much experience of sailing in this neck of the woods so it was decided to remain under engine until arriving at the Lune No. 4 buoy. At that point the Jamila’s skipper had calculated a feasible close hauled course over the ‘Sunderland Shoulder’ sand bank (drying 5m above at low water) which would give at least a metre under the keel if their tidal curve calculations were correct, and would take them with a knot and a half of out going tide, in the direction of Piel Island.
By this time the overcast sky was being replaced by blue sky and fluffy white clouds coming in from the west. With a reef in the main and a balancing portion of genoa was unfurled, Jamila’s engine was cut and a port-tack heading in the direction of ‘ Humphry Head’ was struck. Jamila’s sails filled and stiffened, she healed to the wind, her starboard gunwale buried itself into the on coming sea and soon the depth gauge shot up to three meters of depth as she advanced over the said ‘Sunderland Shoulder’ sandbank towards the Heysham deeps.
The three hour sail over to Piel was one of those classic sails that all sailors idealize about in the off season whilst thumbing through additions of the Practical Boat Owner, or watching episodes of Dylan Winter on YouTube. It was all blissful sunshine, blue seas, white canvas filled with wind, and a sparkling frothy trail left astern.
Eventually the depth increased dramatically as Jamila cross into the Heysham deeps. After an hour of tough close-hauled sailing, both sailors looked at each other quizzically and were agreed that the view looking towards our destination looked somewhat peculiar. The castle was way to the left and the Barrow docks well to the right. This is NOT how it looks coming out of the River Wyre! Why hadn’t the tide taken them further to the south?
Jamila’s position was plotted on the chart. It was then compared again the estimated positions planned a few hours earlier. This revealed that she was much higher up into Morecambe Bay than expected. The estimate of a one and a half knot current sweeping them south had been an over estimation, and no offset for leeway had been factored in, which all in all had contributed to the current situation. Luckily, during the course of the morning, the wind had backed-off to the south and the Wardley’s sailors were able to make the necessary course correction without the need for a starboard tack. Nevertheless it was going to be a seat of the pants ride over shallow waters and drying sandbanks until ‘Haws Point East’. Harking back to the premise of this post, yes it is certainly invigorating to see the ‘familiar, from a different perspective!
The lunch at Piel turned out to be a non event. Steve and Sheila had just arrived back, in two rusty 4x4s packed full of previsions. There was a sense of mild disarray on the Island. Again, the different perspective thingy again, it was a Monday not the weekend when everything runs like a swiss watch. With regard to getting some lunch, King Steve gave them a mooted version of the answer they were looking for, however, the look on Queen Shelia’s face when the two sailors made further enquiries told them in no uncertain terms that they weren’t going to be sat over-looking Morecambe Bay with a pub lunch any time soon. The two Wardley’s sailor beat a retreat back over the island, passing the castle and the few remaining tents, back to Bass Pool where Jamila lay awaiting at anchor. A lunch of sorts was rustled up from the left-over provisions on board. It wasn’t bad impromptu cuisine, but alas no good honest PIel Island draft ales or the like were consumed that lunch time.
The wind was dropping. By the time the boat slipped her anchorage the tide had been on the flood for an hour. The engine was required to get out of the channel. Once back at Haws Point the engine was cut and a course set for home. Three knots was the best the boat would do. Unfortunately this was not enough. One of the big questions arising out of this trip was still to be answered, would Jamila get back to her mooring without running aground? The sailors looked at each other and almost without having to touch anything the engine burst back into life.
There was a moment of respite found from the monotonous throbbing however. Once the boat had passed the Fairway Buoy the tide veered in towards the river Wyre. This dramatic ninety turn in direction starts nearly a mile out. Suddenly Jamila was quite literally going with the flow; the wind and tide was running together! Fantastic, the last couple of miles were completed under sail alone.
Once back in the river. A cunning plan was put into action. It was neap tides. The best they could expect was seven and a half metres of water in the river. This was touch and go territory. To the rescue, Andy had a trump card tucked up his sleeve that would help them up the river. They had a small iBook tablet. On it was chart plotting software giving the latest depth survey sounding of the Wyre’s upper reaches. Equally important, it would tell them the exact location of Jamila with respect to the multitude of depth numbers shown on the little screen.
Needless to say, the two sailors made it back to the mooring. Still, at times there was very little margin for error. Some aggressive turns to port and starboard were required to keep to the optimal line. At one point there was only half a meter under the keel. Momentarily the boat crossed a deep pool marked at 0.5 surrounded by 4s and 5s. As predicted, Jamila’s depth sounder shot up very briefly to 7 metres. Once passed the chemical plant the remaining leg was straight forward with little to go wrong.
The club house was very quiet when they returned. A bye stander would have observed two tired but contented looking sailors finally disembark from an Avon round-tail dinghy, and at a plodding pace, haul their kit and belongings up the concrete slipway. It was around seven thirty in the evening. There was a relaxed sultry feel in the air. All that remained was to pack-up, put the kit in the car and go home.
What an amazing three days.
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!
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.
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 .
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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 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!
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.
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:
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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!
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”