Tag Archives: simon leslie ellis

Wild, Wet And Windy out at sea

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fuel filter blocked to hell.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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










An ACE late summer cruise

Starring Wardley’s ACE (and dashing) skipper Norman Ingram

(Three trips to IOM this year!)



Yacht: Sika
Skipper: Norman Ingham
Crew: Bob Hoath
Date: Sunday 18th September

We met at the clubhouse and straightaway took our supplies down to the boat. Now, the tide didn’t wait for King Cnut so it certain wouldn’t for couple of Wardley’s Creek sailors. With everything checked and carefully stowed aboard the good ship Sika,  we threw off the mooring lines and with the engine made our way down the river on a fast ebbing tide. The depth gauge was dropping fast, but there was no need to worry because were soon making good progress along the pastoral shores of the river Wyre,  passing the plethora of Knott-End moored boats and, sooner that one would have liked, found ourselves out at sea feeling somewhat exposed in that great wet wilderness. Our plan was plain and simple, which was to make it safely across the shallow and turbulent waters of Morecambe Bay and find the Ship Inn on Piel Island. We picked up a mooring in the lee of the magnificent but daunting ruins of Piel Castle. We watched the endless stream of wind-farm work-boats powering their way up the ‘Walney Channel’, who, when traversing the Piel Island anchorages kindly throttle-back in order to smother their enormous wakes, and who more often that not, wave heartily at any passing sailors and fisherman. A couple of cruisers followed us in. With a fast falling tide, a large cruising trimaran decided to dry-out on the mud between us and adjacent Piel Island Inn, it’s cabin lights appeared to grow brighter as the day slowly faded into night. We suppered on corned beef and beans with lashings of Worcestershire Sauce (the Skippers speciality) and discussed our plans over the best part of a bottle of Scotland’s finest.

The next morning was bright and clear, so we set off early and we crept down channel past Seal Beach. There was too much northerly in the prevailing breeze so a hard-wind-on-the-nose plug up the Cumbrian coast as originally planned was out of the question.  We therefore slackened-off  and set sail for Isle of Man. Douglas was to be our first port of call. Very soon we were in the Morecambe Bay wind farms  surrounded by monster wind turbines with slashing rotor blades. Like the haunting ‘Weaping Angels’ scene from the BBC’s Dr. Who series, every time we had to take our eye of them, say to  look down at our charts to make a calculation, when we looked back up, one of them would be intimidatingly close to us!  Putting primeval fears a side, we could only conclude that we were indeed making good our passage. We were under full sail surging along at six knots.

This is what its’ all about: –

A special boat erecting the ‘Weeping Angels’ of the Irish sea

We were able to keep the same tack for about six hours, but eventually had to tack north. At this point in the cruise the skipper spotted a problem with a slack shroud. We furled the sails and motored towards the still distant Douglas Bay.

Wardley’s sailors don’t need to spend tens hours cooped up in an aeroplane to find an exotic location – ten hours in one’s own boat is by far the most satisfing way to go.

The promonade’s electric lights grew brighter as we approached.  And similarly the sights, sounds and smells of the waterside grew in amplitude. Finally we tied up in the outer harbour at about nine pm. Whilst we waited for the gates to open to enter the yacht marina, we watched in boyish awe as the ferry ‘Manuman’ pivoted into it’s dock – all lights blazing. Finally on the twelve chimes of midnight, we crept passed the open gate and snuggling-up alongside the North Quay wall. We were both feeling tired.

Yacht Sika
The North Quay wall.

Tuesday was a maintenance day and I was able to take lunch with a friend from ‘Derbyhaven’ whist the skipper re tensioned the shrouds.

The shrouds needed to be set must tighter.
Sika – a true blue water sailing boat.

The start of our journey home was dictated by the Manx tides and the 7 knot waterline hull speed of a 32 foot ‘Golden Hind’. We calculated to best slip our moorings at 5am as soon as the road bridge would swing open and give us access to the sea.  After leaving the harbour we checked the charts set a course for home. About three hours of passage the sea started to mount up into series after series of moving walls of water. At times we were struck by great green slabs from over the bow.

Green slabs of water – ‘Sika’ shrugged them off!

Looking beyond our own plight we could see ‘Ben my Cree’ passing well to the south on her long dogs-leg to Heysham, and also see a turbine erection vessel passing astern with three towers and all blades set, with it’s jack legs raised clear of the ocean floor.

Ben-my-Cree (on a nicer day)

We made good time and re-entered the pastoral scenes of the River Wyre with the last of the flood, the coarse shrieks of the sea birds were gradually replaced by the singing of their woodland brethren as we swept further inland. The skipper took back the helm as the opening to Wardley’s creek slid into sight to port. Keeping a strict eye on the ‘leading marks, we threaded a path up the narrow channel passing familiar boats, jetties, resident ducks, and sundry, until the bend in the creek marked the end of our voyage. A beautiful spin-turn was deftly executed, and ‘Sika’  gladly secured to her awaiting berth. Our journey was complete at three in the afternoon.
All in all it was a great four days

From a report by Bob Hoath