Tag Archives: Sailing Morecambe Bay

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 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 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 its just in front of the club house jutting proudly out towards the river. A lot of hard work and effort has been sunk in to 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 whisky 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 club house 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 lease 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 learnt 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 awaiting 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 hydro planing 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 Wardleys 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 a 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 aventurer is to take  the shortest route and get swept along  with the  flood tide! Its further than the River Wyre but quicker to get to if you not deterred by the  notorious Morecambe Bay Mort Bank shallows. (aka. Dead man 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 cyber space 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 warn 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 as 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 consistant 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 consistently choppy with little swell, but nothing visual around the boat suggested anything un-toward.  Looking astern, Jamila was leaving a nice well defined trail of foam and broken waves in her wake. The first sign of trouble was with a group of gulls up a head to starboard. There was something not right  about them.  Neither were they bobbing about like usual, and neither did they have their bums in the water. In fact their legs were 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 the sails,  dropping the anchor, and waiting for highwater minus one hour was the  preferred course of action. The bank was a good metre and a half higher than charted. With another two metres of tide to go. The game was up. Morecambe will have to wait for a while.  Andy S. will be picking up his Knott End mooring whilst I’m anchored in the middle of nowhere.  That is  the way the cookie crumbles!

Eventually I saw what looked like barely covered sand.  I  immediately beached Jamila in the hope she would not budge until made shipshape and manageable.  With the sails still up and slightly abeam  the wind the noise of flogging canvas was hurting my ear drums and raising anxiety levels into the red zone. But, soon 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 tele-photo 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 north east 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 white washed house on the said hill. From my room I remember seeing  a long snake of people following the Queens Guide out across the  vast planes of sands  yonder to the foot hills of the English Lake District.

Heysham village. Lovely neck of the woods with nice coast walks in the vicinity.

 

Left to right: start of Sandylands Promenade, Grosvenor Hotel (Site), start of Sunny Slopes. The large building in the middle in now a block of residential fats. Before, there was the Grosvenor Hotel. A beautiful store five story 1920s building with 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 for ever. 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 sealions. 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 the skippers mind was where to drop the anchor.

The plan in brief was to leave the boat , paddle to the slipway in the Avon roundtail,  be welcomed by the Dad and car, retire to 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 Alambra Theatre. I once performed in a school production here. It caught fire in 1977 and has been disused since. However like a to truly enormous building, a lot of small retail shops were built in 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 favourable.  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 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 engine shutdown 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 learnt 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 pass 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 learnt 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 yard south west down stream. 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 carburettor 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”

First sail Wardleys to Piel Island April 2018

Wardleys to Piel Island April 2018,

The first cross bay sail of 2018 took place just after the last Committee meeting. Simons B & E and Joanna set sail in ‘Raindance’ and ‘Jamila’. Just to remind you where Piel is :), I’ve inserted  a rough chart showing the route. The course to steer as shown is set for a spring tide weekend thus we probably steered somewhere between the two headings shown.  All was a little hurried! Simon E’s plan, as it was the night before, had been limited to doing some post launch jobs on ‘Jamila’. There was a little list of things to do. The mooring chain needed attention, the VHF aerial needed bending back following the launching mishap with the crane, and the sails hadn’t been properly readied for the new season. Simon B and Jo, on the other hand had already done a shakedown sail having come down from MaryPort just the week before. Now single handed sailing out at sea is always a daunting prospect particularly when the skies are grey and the wind is whistling through the sails and rigging. Finding the courage to drop the mooring and to allow the boat to drift way with the ebbing tide requires thorough preparation, check lists with lots of ticks, so that every big and minor detail is just so!  Still I wasn’t to be alone, I had the experienced Skipper Simon B and Joanna (Jo has recently become a  ‘RYA Day Skipper’ ticket holder.). Yes, I would be tagging along. I could do some of the jobs like bending on the genoa, putting in the slab reefs whilst under-way and fixing aerials.  The ‘Simrad’ tiller pilot would definitely help out.
As you can see in the image there was preciously little wind and the visibility was down to only a couple of miles. A jenoa is large head-sail and bending it on to a roller-reef spar isn’t normally a problem with two pairs of hands, however today it proved very difficult with only one. The bolt rope in the luff kept jamming.  I  had to winch a little, run forward to align, run back, winch a little more,  then run forward to re-align and so on.  Tiring work, but slowly the sail worked itself up the mast.  And, it must be added, all the time having to keep a lookout to avoid an untimely collision with the shore. Then all movement of the jenoa stopped dead! I tried to winched harder, and then harder still,  then  Bang!  Something broke. Then I saw it. The cable from my chart-plotter was caught around the winch. Now chart-plotters are great, anyone can navigate to perfection. Well, I exaggerate a bit, but you always know where you are , you can see where you need to go, and you can avoid collisions with rocks and other obstacles.  As soon as the sail was up, I dropped down into the cabin to root out my Garmin GPS from its locker.  Damn, the batteries were dead! Where are the spares? Couldn’t find them!  At this point I was following ‘Raindance’ out to sea, heading for the Fairway buoy, and you guessed it, the visibility was down to just a couple of miles. After about twenty minutes I could just and so see the Heysham Nuclear power station’s vast ‘white clad’ bulk but not much else! Right, time to do some proper navigation. I’ve got my Coastal Skipper’s ticket, so time to cash in the investment!  With an old dodgy looking hand held compass I took the two available bearings. Plotted my current position. Counted the minutes until the Fairway buoy started to fade then plotted a second position,  and finally calculated a true bearing to take me over the banks into the barrow channel. Poor Simon B and Joanna could not work out what on earth I was doing, … thought I’d gone a bit daft! We travelled together for a while, but suddenly I looked over and noticed ‘Raindance’ was nearly a mile to starboard. Soon I found out why. Out of the gloom on the starboard bow a dark blot started to materialise. It was Piel Castle, which should have materialised much further to the port had my ‘old fashion style’ estimations and calculations been better! I was much too far down tide, and alas I would have to start the engine and work it hard, using up precious diesel oil, to get to safety.
Simon B and Joanna arrived first in ‘Raindance’. There was one other boat in the harbour, but now there were three. It was several years ago in April when the crew of ‘Alcudia’, a lovely red Cobra 750, moored up for the night at Piel. It was just after the crane-in. The skipper picked a robust looking buoy and pulled the mooring line from the buoy safely up onto ‘Alcudia’s big bow cleat. The following morning after what must have been a blissful sleep ‘Alcudia’s crew, who happened to be the same Simon B and Jo, were woken from their dreams by the sound of plates and cutlery crashing into cabin sole.  In the night the boat had parted company from the  buoy and had gently drifted with the tide up beyond Roe Island and had settled at a precarious angle up a little mud creek. In 2018, however,  there was to be no mistake. The buoy’s mooring lines looked a bit old and muddy with colonies of marine life growing on the end adjoining the buoy obscuring inspection! Instead, a nice new pristine length of rope was pulled from ‘Raindance’s locker and made fast, such that there would be no mistake this time around. Simon E on ‘Jamila’  grabbed a buoy nearby. Having had only happy times moored off Piel Island, he was only too happy to trust the equally muddy looking strops in order to get on with packing away the sails and to eventually paddle the short distance over to  ‘Raindance’ for a planned barbecue on board ship. The above photograph was taken en-route in the Avon dinghy. The Ship Inn was closed that night.

Not a lot going on this clip, or was there? As it happened, a thunder storm passed by just beyond Piel Castle. We saw quite a number of lightning strikes. Some were the classic bolts you see in the horror movies, and some were like the one caught on this clip at the 8 second mark. All were followed by deafening thunder claps that had the three Wardley’s sailors laughing unconvincingly at each other. Our sudden bout of gallows humour eventually died away as the storm moved on further up the Cumbrian coast. Still, fair-do’s to our innate sense of self preservation, we did have the tallest lighting conductor in the harbour right over our heads!

Simon E was not as well organised as the crew of ‘Raindance’ in terms of ships victuals and needed the help of the Piel Ferry to get back to ‘Jamila’ after breakfasting ashore.  Now, the barbecue aboard ‘Raindance’ the night before this photograph was a resounding success. Joanna had done an ace job ‘literally’ running around the finest charcuterie shops and boutique butchers that Fleetwood town had to offer. The food was excellent and the finest wines were served ‘grace au’ skipper de ‘Jamila’. And not forgetting Simon B’s story telling that  had us riveted with  his daring-do on tall ships in various far flung places. The morning was grey and overcast. Simon E paddled the short distance to the Ship Inn. Landlady ‘Shelia’ was behind the bar, and three lads who appeared to be in there late teens were busily warming themselves by the fire. The trio had camped the night on the island but the plan went awry when they discovered the pub was shut, and so no beer to drink,  and, as well as tents, you need sleeping bags to go camping! Sheila and Nicola (ex army medic) were going their best to cheer them up with anecdotes of how much colder it was in Norway and that only the hardest of soldiery could put up with it. A big breakfast was ordered. Eventually King Steven walked in with a large plate of eggs, bacon, sausages and all the trimmings. After placing down the plate he plonked himself down on a nearby seat and  we both exchanged news and views about what had happened on the ‘Furness peninsula Islands’ and ‘Wardleys Marine YC’  during half year just gone. Eventually it was time to say farewell. On the way down to the Avon round-tail dinghy, the Piel Ferry was alighting two day trippers . We passed on the narrow jetty exchanging friendly nods. The Skipper and crew of the ferry stood waiting for me. I pointed at my dinghy but they smiled knowingly whilst looking down at the Avon, and opened a conversation informing me that the tide would be flooding rapidly by now and that I just might want a tow. I gratefully accepted. They refused any donations for their services and posed for the above photo before heading back to Roe Island. The radio then crackled into life. ‘Raindance’ to ‘Jamila’ over! A brief discussion ensued. Simon B recommended a single reef in the mainsail would suit the force 4 gusting 5 that was by now blowing, and very soon we both had most of our white canvas high aloft, bellowing in the wind, for the sail back home.
‘Jamila’ was the first to cast off. The ferrymen were quite right. The tide had turned and was to prove a little too much for canvas alone. ‘Jamila’s Volvo-Penta was bought into play to maintain a steady 4/5 knots  of speed on what was basically a close hauled beat up the Barrow channel. The Simrad autopilot’s self tacking mode made easy going of it at a time when there was no room for error given the fact that the hidden Sel-dom-Se-en reef was just off the starboard marker.  The self-tacking goes like this: with the Sel-dom-Se-en green marker quickly approaching at about fifty yards to port, you press the  autopilot’s  red ‘tack’ button and immediately press the right arrow button. the Autopilot starts to bleep loudly. The crew then must quickly prepare for the tack, loading the  winches and untangling sheets etc. Suddenly the beeping turns into a long continuous bleep and the tiller is automatically pushed hard over to the lee. Next the crew must release the sheets to port, awaits the bow to pass the eye of the wind, and then sheet in to starboard. By the time one finds the time to look up, the tiller has centred itself, and the boat is heading on the next tack – in this case towards the lighthouse on Walney Island.
Still a little behind, ‘Raindance’ was slowly catching up. She’s a much longer boat than ‘Jamila’ and the extra waterline length demonstrated the extra displacement speed she had available. By the time the castle was becoming a small feature in the distance, she was right up behind, both crew members were beaming a broad smile from behind the large spray hood. In a last ditch attempt to stay in the lead ‘Jamila’ released the full extent of her large Jenoa in the hope of scraping a few extra fractions of a knot, but nothing could stop the approaching ‘Raindance’. Very soon she was sailing along side, with her bows crashing deeply into the on coming chop.

 

Once the two two boats were side by side, cameras were pulled out from their protective pouches and pictures taken. Above are example taken from both boats. ‘Raindance’ pulled ahead and both boats entered the choppy waters of mid Morecambe Bay. The wind was favourable and provided sufficient speed over water to beat the flood tide, which at this point was pouring into the said bay at a rate of two knots. Time seemed to go fast at this stage. Soon the remnants of the Fleetwood Tower, marking the start of the channel-approaches hove into view. Both boats passed the Fairway north cardinal buoy and joined forces with the tide reaching speeds over-ground close to 7/8 knots, up the channel into Feetwood. At this point the boats parted company. ‘Raindance’ made for the marina at Fleetwood and ‘Jamila’ made a solitary trip up the River Wyre, under sail all the way, and was soon safely back at her mooring.

That’s all folks, the end of another great sail by three Wardley’s Marine Yacht Club members.