Tag Archives: Morecambe Bay

Piel – Glasson Dock – Piel, an all together different perspective.

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 problem’s discussed on a telephone  line between Rawtenstall and Rochdale were as follows. Could we assemble all our kit and make it out to Jamila without losing something or capsizing? The  measely 7.5 metre tide was barely going to make it to the end of the slipway. After unloading the dinghy into  Jamila’s  cockpit, could we get the boat ready before the water in the river Wyre  rushes away into the sea?  If we were late arriving, would there be any moorings left at Piel or should we anchor?  Would they open the gate at Glasson for us and would it open 12 hours later to let us out? And finally and most importantly, given the tide of Monday was going to be the lowest in the current cycle, would we make it back home? The decision was taken in the best Wardley’s tradition, let’s go for it.

Friendly Wardley’s Sailors milling about on the hard.

The two sailors arrived by car and as always there was a friendly club member to chat with.  A natter with Vic ensued where certain matters pertaining to the club were chewed over. Darren’s car was on the hard but with no Darren in evidence. He must be napping on his boat following a long shift at work. It would not be fair to disturb him!

Darren sleeping on a boat somewhere

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.

River Wyre with no water

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, it was all quickly packed away. The  boat was pointing down stream by now, the tide had turned. But the bilges still had to be pumped and Vic’s check list of things to do had to be followed before starting the engine. The engine burst into life first go. Jamila slip her mooring slightly behind schedule but still with a good chance of making it down river.  Both sailors watched the  depth sounder and looked anxiously at each other at times, but finally made it to Knott End.

Racing down the Wyre before the water ebbs.

It was an amazing sail across the bay. The wind got better and better as time went on. They even managed to eat a delicious vegetable curry and rice dinner on the go, as it would be largely passed pub serving hours on arrival,  They sailed directly into the inner channel, and were soon past Haws Point East, affectionally known as Norman’s Perch, and turned left at the buoys off the notorious East Scar into Bass Pool.

Out in Morecambe Bay. Jamila with with a single reef starboard tack

The sun was very low and soon to set in the west. They zig zagged into Bass Pool carefully noting the depths.  At a calculated 1.5 metres under the keel at absolute low water the anchor was set. They were tidying the decks when the sun dropped below the horizon. They rowed ashore. The walk up the foreshore was over soft mussel beds, but not quite soft enough for boots to sink in.  There were big boulders everywhere. Some would be dangerously awash when the tide returns. It was important at that very moment to concentrate on walking over the large pebbles and to not to turn  ankle whilst making for the grassy banks below the castle. Finally  they reached green grass, and walked across the castle’s outer keep. There were tents all around where campers were showing off their fashionable LED lights and barbecuing setups.

Dropping anchor in Bass Pool.

The ship Inn was busy. It was a karaoke night. A number of drinkers put on some accomplish performances. The usual crowd of sailors and fisherman were in propping up the bar. The story of a recent five boat tour of Isle of Man and Western Isles of Scotland was told. Apparently the cruise could not have been better, they all concluded that they had as good as won the lottery with the weather. Sheila rang a 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, its last orders, I want you all out in 1/2 hour, and then I want to clear up  and  go to bed!” Last orders was soon over and  everyone  tumbled out of the pub, it was just after midnight.

Inside the Ship Inn.

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.  Many tents were festooned with faint solar charged LED lights that helped somewhat. 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. They disturbed a young couple sharing a sleeping bag 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 the strange looking shape lying fifty yards square on the left.  They wheeled sharply to the left. As the distance closed,  the watery light emitting from their head torches revealed 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 the boat than the head torches. However after twenty or thirty quick sharp strokes of the oars, 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 ale consumed in the Ship or other simulant, Jamila’s mast seemed taller than ever, reaching right up as high as 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 the night. And so it was, Jamila spent a restful night tucked away from the world’s worries  moored in  Bass Pool on the much loved Piel Island’s  south side.

Andy heading for the dinghy. Jamila awaits at anchor on the south side of the castle in Bass Pool.

A scrumptious breakfast was enjoyed at the Ship Inn whilst looking out over Morecambe Bay. 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 tap in the camper’s ablutions block and carried back to Bass Pool. Along the way, a few friendly nods were exchanged with bleary eye happy campers emerging from 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, but a much more amenable landing point from a Wardley’s sailors practical point of view.

Andy and Simon take a pause for a selfie on the way to Walney Light House.

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 is closer and more prominent. At low tide Bass pool gives an open expanse feel similar to that of a mere on the Norfolk Broads, being surrounded on all sides by a 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. The island turned out to be amazing. It felt like it was a links golf course that had been allowed to return to the wild. It had a swarthy but fresh open 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 lovely 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.

Andy S. looks back at Piel castle across the ponds on Walney Island. 

In reality they were simply navigating the Barrow channel heading to 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 serious camera, which a that moment was sat uselessly back at home in Rochdale. Available smart phones were thus pressed into service as can be see.

Walney Light House up close. The closest these particular sailors have been.

Once back on Jamila it was time to clear the decks and to hoist the canvas 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’ the next waypoint was the ‘Lune No1 Buoy several miles further north’. The destination was the port of Glasson-Dock.

Plover Scar beacon marking the entrance to the river Lune.

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 some way offshore marks an out-crop rock 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 unknowingly by an incoming tide, it would be Plover Scar!

Jamila in the outer basin at Glasson Dock. The Dalton Arms is across the way just to the left of the gabled-end building.

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. Jamila’s keel kept clear of the bottom, passing Sunderland Point and finally arriving at Glasson Dock. The entry light was on red, but the two sailors could see the tidal gate sinking slowly under the water. The light turned to green that allowed the two sailors to advance over the threshold and tie up along side a pilot boat called ‘Trelawney,’ Just a little later on they were supping a pint in the ‘Dalton Arms’ dock side pub.

The stay at Glasson was short. The ‘Silver River’ coaster was due in at 6am. Bob the harbour master wanted them out before the big boat comes slewing in on the tide. 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. It worked except as they passed the tidal gate the ‘Silver River’ came in spinning around her stern, still being carried by the flood tide. The exit  out to sea was block by 500 tonnes of steel. Jamila was forced 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 takes the ground at low tide.

A coaster slewing around (not the Silver River)

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 return to Wardley’s Creek on the following evening 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 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 whos 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 number four buoy.  At that point the Jamila’s skipper had calculated a  feasible close hauled course over the Sunderland shoulder (drying 4m above)  which would give up at least a metre and a half under the keel that would take us roughly, with a knot and a half of out going tide, in the general 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, a balancing portion of genoa was unfurled, Jamila 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 gunwales buried into the on coming sea and soon the depth gauge plummeted as proof that she was making way and advancing over the said shallows leading to the open sea.

The three hour sail over to Piel was one of the 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 with a glass of scotch in hand. It was all blissful sunshine  blue sea,  canvas filled with wind and a frothy white trail left astern.

Eventually the depth dropped off 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 then further to the south?

What a fantastic summer we were having. So much sun fair weather.

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 knot current sweeping us south had been an over estimation, and thinking back, no offset for leeway had been factored in, all which 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 banks until ‘Haws Point East’. Harking back to the premise at the beginning 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. Although Steve gave the answer we were looking for, the look on Shelia’s face told us straight that we weren’t going to be sat over looking the full  expanse of Morecambe Bay with a large pub lunch before us and a pint in hand any time soon. The two Wardley’s sailor beat a retreat over the island, passing the castle and the few remaining tents,  back to Bass Pool where Jamila lay at anchor.  A lunch of sorts was rustled up from the left-over provisions on board. It wasn’t that bad to be honest, but no draft beers 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 0f 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 from the monotonous throbbing found however. Once the boat had passed the Fairway Buoy the tide veered in towards the river Wyre. Now, the wind and tide ran in the same direction. The last couple of miles were completed under sail alone.

“The two well dressed elderly ladies sat in the bay window of the  Euston hotel, looking out over Morecambe Bay, sipping their afternoon tea, were duly treated to the sight of a Wardley’s Marine Yacht Club boat under full sail lazily drifting up the channel into the river Wyre. What a way to spend a Monday afternoon!”

Once back in the river. A cunning plan was put into action. It was neap tides. The best we could expect was 7.5 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 us up the river. In our possession we had a small  iBook tablet. On it was chart plotting software putting a our disposal latest depth survey sounding of the Wyre’s upper reaches. Equally important, it would tell us our exact location with respect to the multitude of depth numbers shown on the little screen.

Back up the Wyre passing the chemical works.

Needless to say, the two sailors made it back to the mooring.

At times there was very little margin for error. Some agressive 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 going 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 happy looking sailors finally disembark from an Avon round-tail dinghy and carry their kit up concrete slipway. It was around 7:30pm and there was a relaxed sultry feel in the air. The day was  getting  long in the tooth and in a few hours the sun would be setting. All that remained was to pack-up the dinghy, put stuff in the car, start the engine and go home.  Still, what an amazing three days.

Jamila takes a well earned rest.

 

The End.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

The anchor is the 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 to  thinking whimsicality about classic films ‘Mutiny on the Bounty’, ‘Captain Jack Sparrow’, and have them hearing squawking  seagulls even 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 look good, and give the boat a well founded look. The reality, in the world of leisure yachting,  is that picking up mooring buoys, berthing in marinas, and maybe going up against a tidal wall in an old fishing port, is 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 spend a hundreds pounds on on designer yachting garb when we can amble around a friendly boat jumble and come away with a a couple of Danforths, a CQR, or maybe a fold-away Fishermans? It been long understood  amongst practical sailors that buckets, boat-hooks, ropes at hand, and indeed the all important anchor, are the essential pieces of kit for 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 is illustrated above. There are two parts. Inner and Outer. The inner-part could be loosely called a harbour and is guarded by a wall and dries-out at the three hour mark. There are lots of local boat, all packed in with cables criss-crossing the bottom, and frankly a little off-putting to the casual sailor. The outer part is spacious and doesn’t dry-out unless anchored by the beach at the southern end. It is suitable for larger and deep keel boats and indeed one morning we were woken by a loud clanking noise and saw a three masted tall ship sat there just north of the Derby fort. What a fantastic sight!  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 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 a lot of kelp on the bottom,  lobster pots  and abandoned lines , and precious little shelter from the wind being situated at a low point in the island.  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 beyond.

The 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  10kg CQR anchor just a short distance to the bottom. The idea of finding such shallow water was to find a nice spot to do some snorkelling.  Darren and Phil on ‘Rivendale’ opted for deeper water.  Darren positioned his 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 found off the port side.

Rivendel anchored to the north of Nimrod.

The weather had been discussed the day before.  For a Morecambe Bay sailor it couldn’t look better! The forecast looking two weeks ahead was an easy to read catalogue of sun and warm  winds F2/4  SW. However there was one minor fly in the ointment, on the Monday night towards the evening the wind was for some strange anomaly due to swing around to the north and increase to F5 in the late evening with perhaps a touch of easterly.  Well, WardleysMYC sailors are generally happy to sail out into the Lune deeps in anything up to a  F5, so not much more was thought of it. The exclamation “We’ll be all right, … Mmm, I wonder what delicacies we’ll find the the Castletown Co-op?”  essentially characterised the thinking at the time!

Jamila’s skipper was up early on the Monday morning, and with running shoes, tracksuit and a rucksack rowed ashore in his round-tail Avon inflatable. Very little wind impeded the passage towards the small settlement of Derbyhaven.  Behind the austere nineteenth century break-water built on an outcrop of rocks 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 dinghy up up to the high tide line over a white sandy beach requires a similar effort as to fighting your way to a airport baggage carousel to drag off an over-packed suitcase. But instead of being met by surly questions by folks in high-vis jackets, you receive a friendly and slightly musical ‘Good Morning’ from passing locals going to the shops. Nobody is 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  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-sprites, 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 are not afraid to do so. There were no signs of  ‘this was once a rich Victorian holiday resort now a little in decline’, as is often found to be the case in many British resorts. 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 load of brimming Co-op carrier bags, that the tide had come a good twenty yards up the beach, kissing the stern of the dinghy, and had then had 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 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 agonizingly in from the stern ladder, and launched himself away with a little flourish, helped by a stabbing push-off from Jamila’s huge rudder. God was it was cold! It was so bad that even after five minutes of assimilation, it still felt ‘blumming’ COLD!.

Time to go for a swim!

Once out of the water it was payback time. The swimmer’s body, having been tricked 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  lager.  This led to sleepiness and an afternoon nap, during which 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 T-shirt no longer felt pleasant and comfortable. Jamila’s halyards had started to clatter and bang in the rigging 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 SW 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 yards!

Jamila’s 25 pound CQR anchor had been well set the day before. A long and sustained spell in reverse had done its job. The  plough shaped anchor was dug deep into the seabed.  Now, the CQR is a good anchor, but has a well know weakness in that it can often fail to reset in time 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.  Action stations! Must think fast and 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 the stern locker and 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 a strong whistling sound 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 back on board Jamila for intense discussions. An idea was hatched to barge Jamila’s bows around pointing back 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 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 and Jamila three bladed propeller got a firm grip of the water slowly shoved her forwards. 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 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 kelp had to be cleared first to have any chance of penetrating anew though the kelp. 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.

Down went the anchor once again. Not too much chain up front this time.  Allow Jamila to slowly drift astern.  Must help the CQR dig through the kelp and not skate over the top.  So, Jamila did just that, and drifted backwards at a controlled rate. Eventually it caught the bottom 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 revs were slowly increased.  And yet more revs to simulate a good blow. After a few more minutes in reverse 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’. 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 but had had difficulty weighing his anchor and had given up. On the radio he seemed amazing calm about the dangers surrounding the growing situation as the wind increased to gusting F6. This was much much more that what had been predicted! How much worse would it become? A GPS anchor alarm had been set and a plan to run ‘Nimrod up onto the beach where Jamila had been anchored previously, was the only practical option.  He was single handed, so spinning two plates at once, i.e. operating the engine and dealing with the anchor in failing light, was considered a none starter. The failing light eventually turned to darkness. It was now no longer safe to helm a dinghy. He would have to hang on and hope for the best.

None of us dared snuggle into our sleeping bag awaiting below. By two in the morning the wind was gusting F7 as times with sustained spells at F6. A half gale was upon us that was not all all expected. We felt suddenly exposed and unprepared. Jamila’s anchor chain was bow taught. For how much longer would it hold? However. With his anchor alarm set for thirty meters radius, Simon sat dozing in his saloon, not exactly awake but definitely not sleeping. He was suddenly stirred from his slumber by shouting voices in the distance that were carried over to ‘Jamila’ on the wind. A little 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 each other by reference to the steady  position of each other’s LED anchor lights set 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. The quick slice of roaring static emitted from  a momentary turn of the squelch knob confirmed it was working. Further and further the anchor light drifted away. The sound of a horrible crunching sound now seem inevitable! Rivendel had now woken up fully to her mortal plight! Now 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,  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 firmly 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 LED light worked left and right. Shouting could now 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 whence only half an hour ago she had been delivered. Were we seeing Rivendell final death throws? Were we at WMYC in the weeks to follow going to be mourning the lost 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. Find sanctuary in the nearby golf club surrounded by concerned but tipsy late night revellers?

Once again the spectacle of lights withdrew slowly from danger, but this time back tracked across most of the bay.  She pressed on and even moved to windward of ‘Jamila’. Whilst passing close, a figure clinging to the pulpit in Rivendel’s bows could be seen clearing kelp from an engorged length of anchor chain. Then a glimpse of the clean metallic lines of an anchor was briefly had before disappearing down into the cold black depths. Rivendel slowly fell back, ever so slowly she retreated, now just a little down wind of Jamila but still off the beam.  Phil could be seen at the tiller holding the boat steady hunting for an anchor bite! Finally she held her station. One minute passed. Five minutes passed, Half an hour passed. Yes! no change in her position, the anchor had finally set!  The morale aboard ‘Nimrod’ and ‘Jamila’ lifted and a sense of jubilation was briefly felt. A quick look at the windometer showed 35 knots; no one was out of it yet. There was to be no sleep for the next  few hours. Then suddenly the wind dropped back to a F3/4 as quickly as it came. The sky in the east began to brighten. Day break was upon us. The four WMYC 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  ‘reset’ properly after important changes in wind direction.  No faces would be seen on the decks of any of the three Wardley’s boats 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.

 

 

Wild, Wet And Windy out at sea

With force six gusting force seven southerly winds predicted, two Wardleys Marine Yacht Club  members decided that they would not be defeated by the elements and set forth into yet another Morecambe Bay maelstrom.  As it happened the bothersome winds were not blowing as strongly as all that, … , or was it that the skippers were lolled into a false sense of security by a devious following wind?

The two boats in question,  Sika (32′ Golden Hind – Norman Ingram) and Jamila (Mirage 2700 – Simon Ellis), departed on high water around  13:50H on a ‘not that high’ 8.7m tide. Not wanting to waste time and go aground,  they quickly motored past the upper regions of the river to find deeper pools before finally turning head to wind and hoisting the sails. The entrance to the open sea at Fleetwood was now only half a mile ahead. So far so good.

Once canvas aloft, both boats tracked along together, Both skippers were attempting to goose wing, although at times minor wind shifts caused a number of crashing jibes clearly audible on the other boat, sounding clear evidence of the half gale that was  blowing from behind.

Sika’s and Jamila’s game of cat an mouse continued with both boats  neck and neck past the Fairway buoy and some way across the Lune Deeps.  At this point ‘Sika’ suddenly turned to port taking the deep route to the north west,  whilst Jamila continued on the northerly route over the notorious Mort Banks.

Once on their divergent ways, the two boats quickly became mere shadows on wild angry horizon. Jamila put in a call on channel 6 (agreed channel) to check up on his fellow Wardleys Club member. A conversation ensued in which both sailors agreed that they both were able to see the other. However, when Jamila’s skipper emerged from the companion way, Sika was no where to be seen. Repeated scans along a skyline where the sea and the sky merged in various shades of murky grey were all fruitless.

Jamila, alone now, surged along over the Mort Bank painfully aware that the tide was falling fast and going aground would mean a long hassardous wait to re-float. Visibility was poor but eventually the dark skyline of Piel castle and the surrounding foreshore began to take shape in the distance. Also, far to port, what started as shadow in the surrounding cloud resolved into the shape of a sail. ‘Sika’ was fast approaching the channel into Barrow!

Both boats eventually found a mooring close to the Island. Neither of the sailors was surprised to see that there was little activity ashore. The weather over the preceding week had been dire,  and the forecast for the weekend was just awful. Was the Ship Inn open?

However, things hadn’t be just plain sailing for ‘Sika’  Having entered the channel well to the west, and the fast ebbing tide really piling it on. ‘Sika’ resorted to the engine and set about dropping the sails. With all the right to feel happy and proud of having made it this far,  there was disappointment in store for the skipper as a gumpy engine began to faltered and stall from time to time. Something clearly wasn’t right. Was it the fuel supply, or was it something more sinister?

Jamila’s skipper rowed-over in his round-tail Avon inflatable to lend assistance. Sometimes matters can pile it on and  come to a head, and brotherly solidarity and support is in order. Wardley’s sailors are close knit bunch. All stops were pulled to seek out and solve the problem. Soon a filthy fuel filter had been removed. When diesel poured from breached piping, an extra hands with a bowl was there to  stem a flood, or to shine a torch to make a tricky procedure doable.  A new filter fresh from its box, and a clean and supple set of ‘O’ring seals were soon in place. A once recalcitrant engine was put back in service and was made to purr sweetly as it ever had done. Thus, despair turned to cheer, and a night at the Ship beckoned.

Fuel filter blocked to hell.

Strangely the Ship Inn was empty when the two sailors pushed their way through the door. They noticed three orange life jackets on the hooks in the porch as they passed the threshold, but no sign of any owners enjoying hospitality.  There was a spooky silence.  Empty! A sharp call of ‘SHOP’ was emitted but to no effect. A second call had the desired effect. Steven the landlord came through from the back and briefly explained that a bad run of weather leading up the the weekend was never good for punter numbers, but then cheerfully chirped up, “What can I get you to drink lads”? Food and Drink was ordered!

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For that day, XCWeather had predicted dire conditions for the morning and early afternoon but promised fine weather from 3 O’Clock onwards.  They got it wrong. The fine weather suddenly appeared at 6 O’Clock. A sharp line across the heavens created a perfect contrast.  It marked a clear divide between plainly rubbish weather on one side and a glorious sunny blue sky on the other. The two sailors found themselves eating al fresco with fantastic views sweeping from the   the Lake district hills in the north, to Morecambe and Heysham in the east and  on to  Blackpool tower to the south.

Later on in the Ship Inn things took a turn . It happened to be the tenth anniversary of Steven and Sheila taking on the role of Landlord and Lady of the Ship Inn and indeed title of King of Peel. Friends, relatives, regulars, cottage dwellers, and members of Wardleys Marine Yacht Club filled the main bar area.

Exotic foods suddenly appeared on plates served buffet style (‘Sika’s skipper could not resist a degustation even after having just devoured an enormous sausage and chips!), and an arrays of exotic drinks and liqueurs lined the tables. Jäeger bomb after Jäeger bomb appeared and no one was charged more than nowt. Down the hatch, down the hatch they cried! Bar games were played with aplomb. Lady folks competed to write their names in a way that only a lady can – no touching the pen mind! Good honest merriment was had by all.

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Back to nautical matters, as the night at the Ship Inn progressed, the flooding tide resumed it relentless march. The Avon round tailed dinghy was manually moved in stages up the long sloping jetty to avoid being swept away. Eventually it was  time to go. We had to go! The tide was moving at over three knots and all we had was a pair of  oars to get to the first and then the second of our respective ships. What remained of the light was fading fast. It was now or never!

Now two half drunken Wardleys sailors, in an AVON inflatable, rowing against a fast flowing tide was no mean feat. A plan of attack was discussed and agreed. Well, in fact it was a straight royal proclamation from King Steven: “Row up tide in the shallows twice the distance the boats are from the shore, then row like F#CK!”  Which we executed reasonably well and Sika’s skipper was the first to alight. So far so good. Further down tide lay ‘Jamila’.  To Jamila’s immediate left, the Ship Inn lights were blazing so it wasn’t easy to see. A white frothy trail exuded from the stern of ‘Sika’ as the tide swept by – the gurgling noise was remarkable. The last cry from the the skipper of ‘Sika’ to the skipper of ‘Jamila’ was; “Radio me on channel six, if I don’t hear owt, I’ll call the lifeboat”!

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The impressive and powerful RNLI boat tucked away in its Roe Island boathouse just over the water was NOT needed that night.

The easy part of the voyage was now over What lay a head was going to be tough. The ticker tape weather messages coming in on ‘Jamila’s’ NAVTEXT system were not good The following day we were to expect: F6 gusting F7/8 on the nose! i.e a straight southerly coming directly from Fleetwood. The only consolation was: ‘ Sea state slight to moderate‘.

The night at anchor was just fine. The wind was blowing straight off the shore. To a certain degree they luxuriated in the lee of the Ship Inn.  The morning alarm went off at 4am. It was already light and oh my god was the wind was blowing!

The plan was to get going one and a half hours before low water. Use the last of the ebb to get to the Lighting Knoll. A long series of short tacks and long tacks out of the Barrow channel. Then finally continue on the port tack across the bay at slack water. The cunning plan would hopefully lead the two boats clear the shallows, reefs and tide induced breaking waves.

The two boats finally slipped anchor at 6am. Immediately they are hit by a squall. Visibility dropped as the rain whipped by the wind made looking a head none too easy. ‘Jamila’ recorded up to 38mph on wind speed dial. Both boat were double reefed with a enough jib to provide balance and to bring the bow around on the subsequent tack. Going was slow and an ponderous but there was still a knot or so of tide helping us on our way. The initial squall subsided as quickly as it came. Visibility improved. the wind dial was now averaging 28mph hitting  hitting 33mph at times. Then suddenly there was the sound of wildly cracking canvas. Somehow, ‘Sika’s genoa managed to unfurl itself  whilst still in the confines of the channel with the Seldom Seen reefs not far astern.  ‘Sika’s skipper displaying incredible seamanship, unable to leave the tiller,  coaxed her down the channel, putting in countless tacks,  until eventually safe enough to lash the tiller and skip up on deck. By the time ‘Sika’s sails were tamed and generally back in control, both boats were ready for the long tack across the  Morecambe Bay. Slack water had arrived. The sea was lumpy but not breaking excessively. It was time to relax a little.

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Much sooner than expected the two Wardley’s Sailors were beating up the Fleetwood channel. Helped on by the young flood tide, they surged past the Euston Hotel, and were soon in the relative shelter of the River Wyre. With still three hours of flood tide required to complete the last 3 to 4 miles, they dropped anchor and came to a welcome halt. They  relaxed a little and indeed eat a bacon sandwich or two.

The last leg was a trip up the Wyre was to be under engine. It was a good opportunity to charge the batteries and pack away the sails before leaving the boats. The tide was still running strong north to south and holding the bow facing into the flow. However the wind was still blowing F5/F6/F7  from the south.  This had the strange effect of driving the boat forwards under bear polls faster than the tide could pull it back The anchor chain was thus jammed firmly under ‘Jamila’s bows. It wouldn’t come up! Reversing the boat  with the tiller lashed  pushed the boat back but she pulled randomly to the left or right yielding the same net same jamming effect. The skipper took the decision to tie on a buoy and cut loose. He would come back later to retrieve the anchor!

(A job eventually done with with the help of club member Tom, using club member Malcolm’s dinghy, and a trusty 43 year old Seagull Forty Plus)

Within the hour both boats were back at Wardleys. Unfortunately the ordeal was not over. The wind was getting stronger still F7/F8. Getting back onto the mooring didn’t go well. ‘Jamila’ ended-up hanging by a fouled prop, bows almost on the nearby bank and ‘Sika’ ended-up losing two boat hooks in numerous aborted attempts to catch a mooring. She eventually resorted to anchoring as close by a buoy as possible. ‘Jamila’ eventually managed to drag her bow back around, and ‘Sika’ could only pray to GOD that the anchor would hold firm until safely taking the ground. Phew they made it!

By 7pm both sailors were back in an empty club house thinking in unison NEVER AGAIN. But I bet they will!