Tag Archives: Sailing Morecambe Bay

Wardley’s Covide 19 Update, as of 16th May 2020

An amazing seven out of eight committee members took part in a marathon three hour SKYPE meeting this morning. The full details of the meeting will be forthcoming as soon as the Hon Secretary is able to scour his notes and little grey cells to render his usual top notch Minutes of the Meeting. The finer details will be on the members only area very SOON. Please contact the secretary if you’ve lost your credentials.

A fair summary would be to say that key decisions accord well with Boris’ team speech last weekend, but all together with greater clarity–not that difficult you might add! The TOTAL lock-down shall be lifted, our brilliant club members ARE to be trusted to use their common sense, BUT communal areas within the club will remain closed. Needless to say, the committee worked hard to find the best compromise between the dire communal safety concerns facing us during these difficult times, and maintaining our right to pursue our all consuming passion for the sea.

YES! WE can go sailing again, but as long as members comply with the two meter rule (6’7”), and above all NOT congregate in three and greater groups in the Yard. Members will be pleased to hear that our trusty club work boat will be put back in action as our special helper out on the river.

The revised crane in date is planned for the spring tides on the 5th June.

I would like to add a special thanks to our Commodore Steve Adams and our Hon Secretary Andy Sargent who have put in a massive amount of effort sat at the HELM of our club, and so sailing us into calmer waters.

Our aim is to ensure that we are supporting the fantastic work of our NHS does not go to waste, and to show solidarity to the good people of the Parish of Hambleton who are also keen to do their best for the country at this difficult time.

Good Works, COVID 19 Crisis, Shameless Metaphores, and Setting sail for Morecambe

It has been too long since the last proper post. As you may have surmised I’m much keener on stories of sailing and getting out on the water than matters to do with construction, Jetties, mud-berths, and the general laborious nature of keeping a club like ours up and running. Well, here’s an effort to make amends.

There is one thing is for sure at Wardleys is that we’ve got some blumming good land skippers at our club!

And the proof that they can sail a keen course when working with their hands,  sail close to the wind when erecting impressive wooden structures,  and keep their wellies well above the muddy shores when blasting out quantities of goo standing in the way.

The new Jetty, getting these polls to the club and then into the mud was no mean feat.

If you haven’t been down to the club recently it’s just in front of the clubhouse jutting proudly out towards the river. A lot of hard work and effort have been sunk into the ground along with those ex GPO poles and other timbers.  And all made possible by Wardleys Member’s hard work and generous subscriptions.

And it hasn’t been without other types of cost borne by our brilliant club membership. If you were to plie the skipper of yacht Rivendale with a tumbler of whiskey and Canada dry he’ll tell you all about it! (Something about falling off the back of a lorry closely followed by a half-ton telegraph pole). Still, it looks like he’s gotten away with it, with only a very slight spell off work. He is as fine as can be now.

Well done lads and lass’. Fine workmanship.

In way of a pat on the back for all concerned. I am sure you have all heard of the comedian ‘The Landlord’. He would sum things up by lauding those involved with the words, “You Beautiful People, You Beautiful People”. And he would be dead right!

But ALAS the club just recently has had the WIND KNOCKED FROM ITS SAILS! 

I am afraid to say that even the best of Skippers (land or otherwise) cannot steer a canny course when a whopper of a wave slops over and takes away the mast and sails, wholesale!

Well this is exactly what has happened to the club with the COVID 19 catastrophe. If you haven’t just arrived back from planet Zog you already know what it is about.  I am afraid it looks as if our plans for the first half of the season have been sunk and are currently on a fair vertical descent towards Davy Jones’ locker.

Lord of the Admiralty, Boris was on TV the other night and he told us not to congregate in groups of more than two. We can’t even go further than a mile from home without good reason! And sorry boys,  boats are considered as second homes and do not count. Do not get any clever ideas.  We are so well and truly sunk — but hopefully only for the time being!

The planned 8th April Crane-In would now be ILLEGAL, under the terms of the govt lock-down.

We have had to lock up the clubhouse to deter those who might feel lightheaded about it all and thus wonder down in a delirious state of despondency.

Even our admiral in chief has got the lurgy

ON A MORE SERIOUS NOTE:

I am sure we can all appreciate the canny course through stormy seas the Government most certainly has to steer to give those of us who are disposed to falling overboard, in situations like this, the best of chances of getting pulled from the water by the brilliant NHS. To achieve this we must ensure that the NHS is not overwhelmed by too many hapless casualties thrashing about in the soup. That’s the idea anyway.

Norman ‘Ace’ Ingram, proving that Wardley’s Sailors know all about how to improvise when under heavy weather.

I  thus strongly urge us most excellent Wardleys skippers to all play our part! To shamelessly mix my metaphors, we’ve all got to BOX CLEVER to sail out of this MAELSTOM.

Let us all stay safe and make it to one of Steve’s renditions of Wardley’s Creek 2021

If my understanding of contagion is correct, at least 65% of us are going to get hit by a breaking wave (aka. the lurgy) before the seas go calm again.

Now back to the sail to the great Morecambe adventure?

I was brought-up in Morecambe and first learned to sail in a Mirror dinghy and then a little later on in a Wayfarer Dinghy, launching off the town hall slipway. We are talking about the seventies here. Yes, homemade wetsuits and hard plastic yellow lifejackets! And so very modern it all was! But to top it off, all the new boats had glistening gold aluminium masts and cardboard stiff terylene sails.  The sound of those early sails thrashing whilst head to wind at the bottom of the slipway, whilst waiting to go was terrifying. Then eerie quiet as the boat boar way to be replaced by the manic gurgle of speeding water, as the hull ripped onto an instantaneous hydroplaning adrenalin rush, resulting in a wet spray electric charge through a classic Morecambe Bay chop!

At Piel before setting sail for Morecambe in summer 2019.

Sorry, but moving forwards in time to the, not quite yet, sentimental summer of 2019.  One early morning two Wardley’s boats sailed out of Piel Island. There was Jamila (a Mirage 2700) in company with Andy Sargent in Kyle 2. Once having navigated carefully beyond the Seldom Seen scars and as far as the Walney lighthouse, the two boats split up and went their merry ways.  Kyle 2’s lay a course back to the River Wyre, and Jamila lay a course for Morecambe. The plan was to return to the slipway of my sailing youth when the sun was always shining and the wind was always blowing.

Leaving Piel Island in company with KYLE 2

As all time-served and experienced Wardley’s sailors know, there is a little bit of gamesmanship and a roll of the dice when deciding when to bear to port and set a course on the Blackpool tower. With a good surging 4/5 knots this always a good rule of thumb. You will eventually find yourself bearing down on the Fairway Buoy with the remnants of the Wyre Light just beyond. But misjudge the height of the tide, or your speed over ground, and you quite simply and unceremoniously hit the bottom.

However to lay a course to Morecambe, the easy but somewhat inefficient route is to follow a regular  Wardley’s Sailor’s course back to the River Wyre, as described above, and once at the Heysham Deeps turn ninety degrees to starboard and follow the big boats towards the all tidal port of Heysham.

Now laying an efficient fast course to Morecambe is a gamble on top of a gamble for the irregular navigator. The sandbanks are always shifting and changing. They are certainly not for the faint-hearted or for Building Society Bank manager types wedded to the words ‘Safe, Sound and Dependable’.

Now, the excitement for the risk-taking adventurer is to take the shortest route and get swept along with the flood tide! It’s further than the River Wyre but quicker to get to if you not deterred by the notorious Morecambe Bay Mort Bank shallows. (aka. Deadman Bank en Anglais)

The planned route to Morecambe. A high risk and excitement sailing plan.

The skipper of Jamila was feeling confident. He had just taken cyberspace delivery of updated charts on this laptop based chart-plotter.  He had all the information at his fingers and knew full well how to rig up a tidal curve with port corrected hours and the like. A china pencil inherited from most excellent Wardleys skipper Vic Mathews, Jamila’s previous owner,  facilitated such tertiary calculations, markings, and notes. A line across the electronic map was drawn. The sounding along the line were noted. Calculations were made compensating for the advance in time and the surging Morecambe Bay nine and a half meter tide expected that day. The synopsis was that it was going to be close, but there was a bit of contingency built-in. The fuzzy warm feeling knowing you’ve got contingency, fans the flame that ignites the, “Let do it”, decision  The route was not quite but roughly with the direction of the tide. Jamila was going to be dropping her anchor in Morecambe before Kyle 2 picks up at Knott End. Game on!

A quick VHF call to Kyle 2 was made to announce the plan. Andy Sargent voice replied with a slight raise in tone, “You are, are you, I do wish you good luck”,  but no explicit, or obvious implicit recommendation to rethink the plan.

A course for the seaside resort of Morecambe was struck. Jamila surged along at a speed over ground never seen before. A sharp eye on the depth was kept at all time. The margins were tight but were largely what was to be expected. Rushing along at 7-8 knots with between a metre and two metres at all times under the keel is not for the faint-hearted. Going forward or event standing up was to be a no-no. Also, going down below I was resolved to keep myself braced at all times in case of a crashing and unexpected halt. Most sailors will experience something similar for short periods when crossing bars, or banks in the Thames estuary, or general short cuts in tidal areas. But this short cut to Morecambe was going to take an hour or so of hard sailing in an F5.  I did not want to get hurt or to be thrown overboard.

After forty minutes of bowling along, the end was coming into sight. The intersection where Mort Bank gives way to Furness Bank then Yeoman’s Bank, which tapers off into the relatively deep Kent channel was in site. The seas were very choppy, as it was to be expected in shallow tidal water.  The depths registering on the sounder had so far been amazingly flat and consistent of over the six nautical miles covered so far. The size and scale of the enormous Heysham 1 and Heysham 2 nuclear power stations were making themselves felt to starboard. Time to get out the camera with the zoom lens and get a few mementos.

When charging through the sea, miles away from land, and at full pelt, the last thing you want to see just up ahead are birds standing in shallow water.

It is not uncommon to sail past flocks of black-headed gulls bobbing around en-mass out in the middle of the bay miles from anywhere in particular.  The seas around the boat were choppy, but no visual cues around the boat suggested anything particularly threatening.  Looking astern, Jamila was leaving a nice well-defined trail of foam and broken water in her wake. The first sign of trouble came with a group of seagulls 200 yards up ahead to starboard. There was something not right about them.  They were not bobbing about lifting and falling with the passing waves as one would expect, and surprisingly their bums were hoisted somewhat above the water such that their legs were partially showing.  SANDBANK ahead!

The plan went wrong because at the ‘B’ on Bank sounding was incorrect. I suspect that the soundings just above the ‘F’ in Furness were more realistic. The Moral of the story is Sand Banks shift and move.

Jamila shuddered to a halt from seven knots to nothing in a second or so. For a moment nothing, and then she let go of whatever she was holding on to, and carried on a little more, before repeating the exercise. This went on for a little while. I didn’t dare get up and do anything. Think of a bucking bronco in a cowboy movie!

Dropping both sails and the anchor, and waiting for highwater minus one hour was to be the preferred course of action. The offending sandbank was a good metre higher than charted.  The game was up. Morecambe will have to wait for a while.  So OK, my Wardley’s sailor pal Andy S will be picking up his Knott End mooring whilst I’m stuck in the middle of nowhere.  Well, that is the way the cookie crumbles! Jamila was still bumping along,  briefly shuddering to a halt and then lifting a bit and moving on to the next.

Eventually I saw what looked like barely covered sand.  I  immediately steered Jamila off at a tangent and beached her in the hope she would not budge so I could safely go up on deck. With the sails still up and slightly abeam the noise of flogging canvas was hurting my ears and raising anxiety levels into the red zone.

Once the sails were down and the Rocna anchor deployed a welcome calm descended.

A cup of tea was required.  It was time to relax, get some lunch, and ring Dad with news of progress. The plan is for him to pick me up and take me to my old home. In fact, Dad lives only a short walk from the Heysham’s Sunny Slopes, and if up there walking his dog, would be able to see me, as a  little dot, some four miles away on the sandy coloured sea that we had all grown to love over the last fifty years. I must confess to having both eaten, having a nap, and perhaps of relaxing a little too much. A whole hour had gone by. There was one hour to go to high tide ( HW) and six miles under canvas to sail.

The last leg of the journey was a trip down memory lane for me.  Armed with a good telephoto lensed camera, I was able to capture a record of all the great places I remember as a boy, and later as a young adult going out with the lads, drinking ale, playing pool, darts and let’s not forget, space invaders.

Jamila surged into the Kent channel passing the Heysham harbour, The Barrows, St Patricks Church, Heysham Village, the Sunny Slopes, Sandylands Promenade, The Battery, Morecambe West End, The Midland Hotel, The Winter Gardens Theatre,  Morecambe Central, and finally Morecambe Townhall. The promenade continues for several miles further northeast encompassing The Broadway Hotel, Happy Mount Park (remember Mr. Blobby), before terminating at the foot of a steep hill called Hestbank. I once spent two weeks in the first prominent whitewashed house on the said hill. From my room I remember seeing a long snake of people following the Queen’s Guide out across the vast planes of sands yonder to the foothills of the English Lake District.

Heysham village. A lovely neck of the woods with nice coastal walks in the vicinity.

Left to right: start of Sandylands Promenade, Grosvenor Hotel (Site), start of Sunny Slopes. The large building in the middle is now a block of Residential Fats. Before, there was the Grosvenor Hotel. A beautiful store five-story 1920s building with a very impressive exterior and interior décor. They tried to save it the government would not give it listed status. I big mistake in my humble opinion.

A testament to northern seaside resort architecture. Now gone forever. I wish the Weber family were still there.

Sandylands Promenade. There was a very large tidal pool which was very popular in summer. At low tide the encapsulated area was ten times larger than any common or garden swimming pool. Everyone from school would be down there on the few hot summer days that occasioned (remember 1977), and there was still space for a snog and a kiss that wouldn’t be noticed. Or so you hoped!

Morecambe’s world-renowned 90-year-old Midland Hotel. A world-class Art Deco build from the 1930s. As you can see it still looks a million dollars event in 2020.

The Wintergardens. Another massive theatre on a scale that matches those in the other major British seaside resort. To its right is the Art Deco Woolworth store building the 30s. In the foreground is Stone Jetty. Until the 80s there was a 50m outdoor swimming pool and Marine Land with a dolphin and performing sea lions. Unfortunately the foundation began to collapse into the sea.

Morecambe Central. Here you can see the lifeboat station. If you have ever heard the Morecambe hovercraft checking in this Hollyhead Coastguard, this is where it is stationed.

Jamila charged up to the notional finishing line bang on the time of high water.  The question at the top of the skipper’s mind was where to drop the anchor.

The plan, in brief, was to leave the boat, paddle to the slipway in the Avon round-tail,  be welcomed by the Dad and car, retire to the house set in a pleasant leafy setting, enjoy the evening sunshine on the lawn, drink a long G&T,  eat well, sleep soundly, return to the slipway,  and finally paddle back to Jamila on the early morning tide.

The Alhambra Theatre. I once performed in a school production here. It caught fire in 1977 and has been disused since. However like a to the truly enormous building, a lot of small retail shops were built around the outside. These all have been occupied since. World-famous in the Art Deco World. Morecambe’s Midland Hotel. Morecambe Railway Station to the right.

Down came the sails for the second time but this time the Volvo D3-20 was brought to life, and the anchor was to stay put for the time being. The hunt for a suitable place to stay the night was on. Where best to leave Jamila?  It was currently high tide and the intention was to leave on the next, so pretty much anywhere was up for grabs. Looking at the local boats at their moorings it was obvious that they all preferred to be tucked in behind big piles of rocks called Groynes. It looked cosy, safety in numbers, mess with one boat owner and you mess with them all. However there was not much space and certainly not enough swinging room to deploy Jamila’s trusty Rocna. Another reason not to anchor behind is that since the Groynes were built, they have silted up badly, and in places, bright green Marram grass has taken a foothold. And returning a little late to depart might mean a twelve-hour wait for the next tide. Unfortunately, the modern-day man paying the bills working to the rhythm of a google calendar cannot deal with such awkward practicalities.

The weather forecast for the night and the following morning was favorable.  So, dropping the hook outside the Groynes it was going to be.  The other consideration is that you don’t want some drunk walking out on the sands and lifting your anchor as a souvenir of their stay. There are plenty of pubs nearby on the promenade. Given Morecambe’s reputation for claiming the lives of hapless beach walkers, the plan was to anchor off in the deepest gully on the chart. With a bit of luck the anchor and boat would only be exposed very briefly, and it would frighten the  casual punter venturing out that far in the dead of night, or at least sober them up in doing so a bit.

Using my Belfield Chart Plotter, an electronically informed anchorage was chosen. The idea was to anchor in the Kent Channel that briefly runs parallel with the promenade. Hopefully Jamila would lie in the knee the deep waters oozing down from the Kentmere valley east of Ambleside and Troutbeck. This would be a good time to try out the Featherweight Seagull outboard that would spare the old arms and shoulders the effort of rowing ashore. With skipper at tiller Jamila zig zagging with an eye on the echo sounder gave a rough idea of the lie of the channel. A discernable underwater gulley was evident running north-north-east. Down went the Anchor followed by a three-minute spell in reverse gear to dig in. Then the engine shut down and all went calm. By this time the wind had dropped off somewhat but still providing a breeze for the Morecambe and Heysham yacht club members, whose dinghies suddenly appeared in respectable numbers from the very jetty whence I learned to sail.

Look for Kentmere, at the top right of the map. The source of the river Kent that runs past and parallel to Morecambe’s central promenade. Once reaching Morecambe Bay, the river passes Arnside Knott, and works its way across the sands, at times very broad and shallow such that the cross-bay walkers can easily wade through knee-deep, before congregating in the deeper channel that runs passed the town of Morecambe.

A school friend of mine who’s a good skier and sailor when responding to a Facebook: ‘What do you prefer’, type list of questions, was confronted by the trickiest one of all: “The Mountains or the Oceans”? Bearing in mind  he learned to ski very young on the slopes of the French Pyrenes (and I was there with him), and only later did he learn to sail on Lake Windermere crewing an E-Boat offshore one design: his answer was ‘ THE MOUNTAINS BUT ONLY JUST’. Well, I am hereby resolved to gainsay my good friend! Had he experienced the very special romance of sailing back to his home town, of dropping anchor on a glorious summer evening with Lake District Fells in the backdrop, had he been welcomed by a crowd of small sailing craft, by happy families with buckets and spades on the beach, and the smell of ice cream and candy floss in the air, his decision might have gone the other way?

Overnight anchorage. Slipway to the south. The town hall can be seen set back from the road with gardens leading to the main entrance.

Now one of the sailing craft peeled away from the pack and headed in my direction. It evidently wasn’t part of the race. It differed also in that it was a small well spec’d cruising boat with a tall slender mast. It had no trouble cutting through the, by now, light airs and easily plugged the ebbing tide. It got closer and closer, and it was clear that the skipper had something to say. Eventually when in earshot I heard the words, “You don’t want to anchor there. And can I respectfully remind you that you should not dry out your yacht without prior knowledge of the bottom, you would do better moving elsewhere”. There was something strange but familiar about the delivery of the said injunction. His tone of voice and demeanour were mildly authoritarian, but nevertheless polite and not at all unfriendly.  And also, he did not appear to be addressing only me? He also appeared to be addressing his own crew??

It was turning into one of those difficult to read experiences. Was it an ex Heysham High school pal I had failed to recognise having some fun at my expense?

The situation revealed itself when the boat suddenly went about and sailed off on a starboard tack. On the tall high aspect ratio mains’l  were the words emblazoned ‘Morecambe Bay Sailing School’. I had happened upon Morecambe’s very own Royal Yachting Association sailing instructor. All became perfectly clear and I broke out into a broad grin.  I had, after many long years of admittedly being mainly a weekender sailor, decided to secure my Yacht-Master Coastal Skipper’s examination, so I was familiar with the officer training style of instruction that entails. The RYA instructor then put in another tack and bore off and doubled back my way. I adopted that alert eager to please manor that all keen skipper candidates automatically adopt, I hailed back in his direction, “Where would you advise me to go SIR?”.

I was directed to a spot about 300 yards southwest downstream. Further away from the friendly crowd of moored cruisers, but closer and less work for the  Seagull motor to propel the skipper with overnight bag ashore.

The danger that I faced was that local commercial fishermen had erected a scaffolding structure to further their good enterprises and I am guessing, to net fish as they swim down the Kent at low tide.

Dad finally answered his phone. He was up at Windermere sitting in a friend’s living room looking out up the lake to the very hills and source of the river Kent. He was just about to leave. He could see the next ferry approaching. Once at Ferry Nab, a drive down Lythe Valley leading to the A6, a turn off at Carnforth Enroute Morecambe, and then descend the hill at Hestbank soon arriving at the town hall slipway.  I had a wait to endure, but a pleasant wait all the same.

In the meantime, a sight that caught my eye was a chap sailing a small 12′ Heron Dinghy. He was clearly a very senior member of our sailing community. Mid to late eighties I would guess. But amazingly and quite beautifully there he was out there in a small boat on a sometimes unforgiving sea squeezing every drop of goodness from his allotted time on our beautiful blue planet. Whilst pondering this wonderful senior sailor,  let us take a moment to remember Pablo, Robert, Peter, and Melvin, Wardley’s club members who started the 2019 season but sadly didn’t make it to the start line for 2020. God bless them.

Eventually I could see a man onshore watching me through a pair of glasses. By this time the crowd of sailing dinghies were either being dragged onto their launching trollies or were heading back to the slipway. The Avon was ready bobbing on the end of a painter, all that remained was to set the anchor light and lock the boat. A well-tickled carburetor is a good guarantee that a Seagull motor will burst into life first pull. They always do when you know-how, or at least within three on a bad day. The little trail of blue smoke between Jamila and the shore had long since dissipated once the greetings and formalities were over. The deflated dinghy, oars, outboard, and overnight bag were stowed in an awaiting car and whisked off to an address I still think of as home.

The Dad and the Wadley’s sailor Author.

Well folks that is pretty much it for the moment.  This was the first time I had sailed home. Everyone must try it one day. I would heartily recommend it if you can. Jamila was still there at six in the morning. One more night was passed at Piel Island, hosted by King Stephen and Shelia, and Jamila sailed back to Fleetwood marina the following morning–the Blackpool tower saw to that. If you made it this far god bless you.

Take care every one in these strange times.  Fingers crossed for 2020.

The boat called ‘Inchree’ – September 2019

It is so sad to see once well  founded boats left neglected and abandoned. But then again our boat builders need a steady stream of new orders to support the livelihood of themselves and their families. So maybe  we should just accept that there will always be the boats of summer-day past, the boats of summer-day present, and the boats of summer-day  future.  Let us just remember the old and discarded as fondly as we can.

The stretch of tidal water called Bass Pool on the south side of Piel Island has been a focal point for WMYC sailors in 2019.  Abandoned over looking the castle, as high up as can be carried by the tide, where the sand and  seaweed give way to grass, lies a boat called ‘Inchree’.

 

Inchree’s view over Bass Pool and Piel Island beyond

 

Inchree has lost her bilge keels but still retains her big central block of pig iron. In her day, to keep the crew secure, stanchions once surrounded the boat, but only three now remain. The guardrail wire has long since corroded away.

 

She’s so slim!  But that is how boats had to be in the 50s and 60s. They had to be able to sail to windward. The idea of relying on the superbly reliable power of a modern engine was never fully factored into the equation.

 

Nevertheless she was equipped with an engine well that would take a small  3hp to get her home in a flat calm. Her owner wouldn’t need to hang over the stern in a seaway to operate the outboard. As can be seen, the port winch has succumbed to the passing years and is missing, but hidden from view, her starboard twin is still there and can be turned by hand, albeit with difficulty..

 

‘Inchree’s cabin by modern standards is very compact. Perhaps in the days before the cheap high calorie modern diet we didn’t need so much room to move about. Still, a quick glance is evidence alone that the designer thought long and hard to ensure the most convenient internal arrangement.

 

As already said, she had been well thought out. She possessed every convenience that was required in her time.. All members of the family were sure to want to come along and join the adventure.

 

Look at this photograph. With a bit of imagination one can imagine the water surging asunder, and possibly feel ‘Inchree’s bow rising and falling on the passing peaks and troughs. And maybe see a young child, proud of his father at the helm, peering through the window feeling both safe and exhilarated by the sight of the foaming sea.

 

Her name can still be seen clearly inscribed upon her bow. A proud owner there once was!

 

Well, time to get back to the mother ship and set sail to the English seaside resort of Morecambe, which is the next port of call.

 

Wardley’s sailors away we go.

Isle of Man – Wardleys to Derbyhaven – May 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Crabbing at Piel

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

Piel ferry full of punters

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

Unadulterated sunshine at Piel Island

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

A disappointment was awaiting the three sailors!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why not?

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

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

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

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

But things got even better!

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

A dolphin off the starboard bow.

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

Along way up to get to the ground floor!

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

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

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

Land appearing shrouded in mist

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

Derbyhaven Bay looking north west towards the aerodrome.

Derbyhaven Bay looking southwest towards Derbyhaven port.

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

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

View of Derbyhaven from Langness.

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

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

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