Winter days can be bleak and miserable, but when high pressure comes to dominate there is not a better time of the year for great quirky English scenery, and the best is surely to be found right in our WMYC boat yard. And don’t’ take my word for it, check out the number of people parked at the top of our Creek carrying expensive Nikons, Olympus OM1s’ and the like.
Note: the following photos are auto-sized so should be explorable by zooming-in.
Above: Norman Igrams’s Sika. One of many Wardley’s boats that have been all over the Irish sea and some. Norman was on his boat today making all and sundry cups of tea, and keeping everyone at a good 2 meters safe distance.
Looking down the creek toward the Wyre. Galadriel can be seen floating and showing off her sea kindly curves. Today the tide crept in at 13:36, lifting most boats but not all boats, and then crept away again whence it came.
Above: John Jacques’ ‘Barn Dancer’. She’s a supremely capable Marcon Sabre 27 that will take you anywhere you want. John is also a keen Drascombe Dabber sailor whose vanished mast can be seen rising yonder from a nearby mud berth.
Above: A closer look at ‘Barn Dancer’s well organised but simple cockpit. A nice generous centrally positioned ladder makes her easy to get on and off when dried out at Piel. Let’s hope that she gets a good run of sea miles in 2021, with her top notch Skipper at the helm.
Above: Barry’s de facto country cottage’s derriere. The most magnificent of all derrieres at the club. This great boat can be often seen in Douglas Harbour IoM, sometimes perched against the wall, affording her long standing WMYC skipper a better location-location-location ascetic than most country cottages you will see around.
This is Tom’s slim and sleek ‘Thunderball’. A Westerly 25 triple keeler. She’s a shallow daft go anywhere boat that is just as happy sailing out in an F7 wind as she is plonked on the mud a short distance from a waterside pub awaiting the return of her WMYC skipper. There are some good YouTube video clips of ‘Thunderball’ out in Morecambe Bay revelling in choppy seas. She is a solid a boat to be sure.
Above: ‘Peter Duck‘ is a WMYC modified Sailfish 18 with additional glassed in concrete ballast and a keel suspended from an open steel frame as opposed to the original enclosed glass fibre moulding. She’s amassed a record of fifty four Morecambe Bay crossings in all weather, and has explored the upper reaches of Morecambe Bay like no other boat in the yard.
WMYC member Billy’s Annabelle. And what a boat! She has a classic semi-planning hull. And a classic sea going boat’s bow for punching safely though seas at displacement speeds and a wide flat stern enabling her to rise up on the plane at 20knots when sea conditions permit. And all from a super economical 45hp Honda outboard. You could say she has the best of both worlds. And as for the comfort afforded by her superstructure, need I say more…
Above: ‘Wispering Wind’ Is a forty foot, go anywhere in the world, deep keel, ocean yacht. She is still under construction, requiring her two junk rig masts erecting and her cabin interior fitting out. After that she will be heading straight off to warm exotic places, such that are not obtainable in our beloved Morecambe Bay. And in doing so, long sought after sailing dreams will become a reality, and I dare say by proxy, also enjoyed by the greater WMYC community. Good luck on ya John, and do keep in touch once you’re gone.
Above: Here’s a eclectic photo of a the happy band of WMYC club boats across the creek.
There is just a little bit of telephoto to squash together all what we like.
And that is, comfortably inland where life is pastural and song birds sing, but not far from seaborn adventure where the waves crash and the seabirds shriek.
Above: And finally a photo of Steve Adams, Norman Igram, and Jim Preston all in covid-19 camouflage. As can be seen, WMYC sailors are as safety conscious on land as they are on the sea.
Pulling yourself and kit to the starting line for a single handed cruise out into the Irish sea is never as you might imagine it. When sat at home enjoying the warmth of an open fire with a mug of tea in hand, the expectation of a summer cruise always includes a sun that shines, a sea that always shimmers, and gulls that glide endlessly in a perfectly blue sky. The reality was somewhat different. There was a cold wind, a miserable grey sky, and a gale forecast in four days time. With this, and being alone, and added to the stress of preparing to get away, a cloud of melancholy descended. I suddenly became painfully aware that I was leaving a safe and cushioned world for a very uncertain Irish sea where anything could happen and something was almost certainly going to do so.
The Marina was deserted. My electronic pass got me into the building. No one was there. I comforted myself with a cup of vending machine hot chocolate. This small but strangely up-lifting treat reminded me of youthful days with pals following a swim at the local pool. It did its job, at least in my head the sun started to break through the cloud. I still had to stock up on diesel. The plan was to take as much as I was likely to need and replenish on route where the opportunity occurs. Fifty litres of capacity in all sorted cans sat empty in my car. It was soon coming up to High Water Fleetwood, and still no marina man on the fuel pontoon. This was the last bit of the jigsaw before I could set sail. Maybe this service was disrupted because of COVID-19? Should I go to ASDA? The thought of filling the cans at the pumps and lugging them all the way down to the boat didn’t appeal. Time was running out, a decision would have to be taken soon.
Ten minutes earlier, I had checked Jamila’s sea worthiness. She looked great. Her batteries were OK, she had dry bilges, her engine started the instant the key was turned. yes, she was sitting pretty. So far so good.
I walked out into the car park to see if anything was happening elsewhere. Maybe the marina lads were doing an errand somewhere nearby. Just as I walked around the harbour office a tooting car horn caught my attention. I looked over and saw a friendly face beaming back at me from a small white van. It was Billy Wizz from the club. Bill is one of those steadfast characters that are the bedrock of any organization. He is a cup half full man, always smiling, always good humoured, and always ready for a natter about boats and some good old club gossip. Together we went back to the Marina office and drank yet another cup of hot chocolate. He cheered me up with a bit of banter and news of goings on at the Wardley’s Marina.
Up until this point, Billy had not yet been adorned with the moniker ‘Wizz’. He had for a long time suffered more than his fair share of bad luck with boat engines, but had recently found a crack marine mechanic who sprinkled some magic dust over his Honda’s Forty-Five horses and had bought them back to life. On this very day Billy was determined to take his very competent Hardy 18 out into the Fleetwood channel and up to twenty knots in speed.
I was beginning to feel much better thanks to Billy. The proverbial sun had begun to shine again, and to make things even better, in walked the missing fuel pontoon man, just as I had been readying myself for a trip to ASDA. The fuel pontoon man, with a broad smile containing a wry hint of amusement such I should dare to doubt his honour, had assured me that there was plenty of diesel to go around, and would sort me out whenever I wanted.
Billy announced that he was awaiting a pal from the club, Martin, and that in due course would escort me down the channel for a good old send off, explaining it would be an excuse to test out his newly wired up ship’s horn.
First leg to Ramsey on the Isle-of-Man. Game on! Jamila finally got on her way, leaving the calm and safety of Fleetwood Marine, turning left in to the river Wyre, and eventually meeting the gently swell of Morecambe Bay as the river gave way to the sea.
There is always a feel-good factor to be had when leaving port with a full tank of fuel and with various five and ten litre cans stashed in and around the boat in reserve, which is not always the case when weekend sailing. And this sense of well being is accentuated when you find yourself creaming along under full sail on a broad reach for a whole twelve hours, and moreover with a favourable tide.
As the Fleetwood promenade began to resemble a thin line in the distance, in what looked like a miniature pilot-boat, Billy and Martin could be seen rapidly approaching in the distance.
By this time Jamila was at full pelt, ploughing an nice frothy white furrow down the Fleetwood channel toward the Fairway Buoy. But in spite of mother nature’s awesome power pushing at the sails, and the boat’s willingness to respond, Billy was nevertheless catching rapidly and was in the process of earning his new nickname Billy Wizz. He could be seen sitting at the helm of his fast fishing boat, beaming from ear to ear, as he approached and soon overhauled the sailing boat. His crew member Martin was stood in the stern holding on tight looking vaguely embarrassed at the ease of it all.
A photo session then took place. Both Skippers tried to out do each other with clever artistically framed camera shots, as if both boats were the iconic ‘Christine Keeler’ in the buff on a back to front chair.
To the sound of a few farewell hoots of Billy’s ship’s horn, Jamila continued her long march out into the ocean, and the miniature pilot-boat, with a fuel gauge needle rapidly heading south, calved a long turn creating a fanfare of spray and spume and headed back to safer waters.
Jamila charged on and on. The first waypoint Halfway Shoal marks the absolute limits of navigation west of Walney. Between said waypoint and the shore errant sailing boats run a risk of spending a night on a sandbank, which is not normally a feature of this Wardley’s sailor’s passage plan. Once clear of the Heysham Deeps and over the Mort Bank shallows where big boats don’t venture, the auto pilot was set allowing the skipper to duck down into the cabin below. It always good to get away from the tiller for short periods. When out of the wind and spray the charts can be checked, the passage plan can be verified, the chart plotter can be gazed at, and maybe the barometer can be tapped. And in addition, these days you can’t forget ones social media commitments!
Why not do a posting showing an electronic position and a pretty sunset over water came to mind? Surely better than yet again another picture of an enormous plate of food from an American holiday, or a picture of mate’s daughter pouting her lips? To be honest the FB ‘Likes’ tend to prove me wrong on this score such is social anthropology these days. In any case, as the land starts to recede you’ve got a get a move on before the signal vanishes. From then on you are out at sea on your own.
The vast wind blasted space between Walney Island west and the eastern shores of the Isle of Man is a show case for the new world wind turbine paradise that keeps our kettles bubbling and our router lights pulsating. The passage plan to Ramsay leaves the Halfway Shoal buoy to the north west, threading between the Walney West wind farm and the Ormonde wind farm to the north, up past first one north cardinal, then on to another north cardinal buoy, scraping the boundaries of the Walney Extension Wind farm — that’s three farms in all — until the field of vision is clear all the way to the Isle of Man. The canny Wardley’s sailor leaves Fleetwood an hour or so before high water getting across Morecambe Bay at slack water or there about, and then hitches a ride on the ebbing tide towards the Isle of Man lasting six hours. The neat trick it to get into the lee of the IOM before the tide turns and tries to sweep you back down towards France. Get positioned roughly in the vicinity south of the Bahama south cardinal, you’ll find the contra flowing flood tide is weakened by the IOM land mass, and will never reach its normal speed as it would do further to the east.
Passing the shear scale of this array of wind farms is impressive. Our PM talked up Britain’s windfarms in a recent speech on tele. He lamented the days when people claimed that the power generated by these installations would be unable to knock the ‘Skin off a rice pudding’. Well, I got a little bit close to one of these towering turbines and experienced first hand the deafening scream that pulsated my ear drums as a blade, exceeding the wing span of a jumbo jet, came down from the sky at one hundred and fifty mph, reaching its lowest apex, and then shooting back up skywards a moment later. An experience such as this puts you in no doubt of their awesome power and that these things can kick-arse, at least when the wind is blowing.
Luckily for my little fluttering burgee and mast head aerial, the said lowest apex of one of these monster blades is well above the height of Jamila’s not inadequate proportioned mast.
Later in his speech, Boris continued and listed off notable British wind farm locations, citing Teesside, Humber, Scotland and Wales, but no mention of the biggest of them all off Walney Island, Chez Nous. You just cannot get decent speech writers these days!
Once south of the Bahama south cardinal buoy and after seven hours of sailing the vast wind farms began to recede into the east. The first glimpses of the Isle of Man appeared. Mountains shrouded in cloud and mist could be seen up a head. The tide had turned by this point, but who cared. It would never reach a speed, as I have explained above, to worry Jamila, She was still doing what she was doing earlier on when Billy Wizz turned tail, and that was creaming along under her billowing white canvas sails with a full Beaufort force five wind coming at her from the beam. Like Brer Rabbit in the briar patch, this was where Jamila was born to be, and what she knew best.
Maughold Head lighthouse FI(8)30s 15m began to resolve itself as Jamila surge forwards and onwards. Situated to towards the top of a dramatic rocky cliff, the said lighthouse it just what any Hollywood director would like to have in his movie, say in a scene where some hapless undersized fishing boat is being stalked by some ravenous blood and flesh obsessed shark. The destination was an overnight anchorage in Ramsey Bay, and, unfortunately for this particular Wardley’s sailor, not safely tucked away in the atmospheric port of Ramsey, where there would be beer on tap in the ‘Harbour Hotel’. Instead, I would be exposed out front in the bay, swinging from a hook clinging to a submerged sandy beach, two hundred yards offshore. Such a position would be exposed to any easterly gale that might appear in the night. But fortunately, in the modern internet age, Wardley’s Sailors are not reliant on tapping the barometer with a finger to gauge the impending weather anymore. A glance at my iPhone’s display revealed a friendly message from my service provider welcoming me to the IOM, and to paraphrase, assuring me of business as usual at no extra charge.
Once at anchor it was time to relax and ponder the current Covid-19 situation that had denied me, as a Wardley’s sailor bound for Ramsey, my inalienable right to drink a beer or two in a port side bar. Still I couldn’t complain. I got to briefly share an anchorage with the celebrated IOM tramp steamer ‘SILVER RIVER’. Hallowed company it was for sure. I have now bumped into her both at Glasson Dock and Ramsay. She wasn’t to stay long though. We had both had arrived at roughly the same time. The SILVER RIVER passed JAMILA as we both negotiated the final reach of the Walney Extension wind farm. Fortunately for Silver River, the COVIDE-19 rules do not exclude commercial traffic, only leisure traffic to the Isle of Man like me. Ramsey is not an all tidal port. Boats can only enter and leave port two hours before and after high water. As soon as there was enough depth for Silver River to drag her bilges over the soft Manx mud, she weighed anchor and disappear between the jutting but impressive parallel harbour walls.
The irony of the Isle of Man Covide-19 rules is that they were quite rightfully make by a risk averse committee mentality, to protect the elderly tax exiles, who most probably during their rise to financial supremacy had conducted themselves in quite a NON risk averse manor, most probably borrowing other peoples money as capital, under the protection of limited liability where the risks and costs of failure are yet again most probably borne by the good folks from from the excluded mainland — or perhaps this minor pension fund investor currently swinging at anchor in Ramsey Bay. That said however the people of IOM are incredibly friendly and welcoming in better times and the very best of them are the harbour masters and crew that operate the ports of Ramsey and Douglas.
Luckily, that night the weather was kind. A gentle onshore wind maintained a view out of Jamila’s companion-way toward a lovely row of Georgian Terraces, which as the day slowly turned to night were gently illuminated by cleverly sited multi coloured lights, bringing out the magnificent spender of a by-gone era. It must be said here that this type of aesthetically pleasing architecture is rarely seen now for utilitarian cost-saving reasons, compounded by a lack of skilled artisans, and a modern greed for space including a modern desire for oversized glass windows and balconies.
But I had to count my lucky stars, since it was I who had the best view in town that night and it was costing me nothing. “Oh, to be swinging at anchor out in Ramsey Bay”! (SA, get your guitar out, I can feel another Wardley’s ballad coming on!).
The next episode coming soon: from Ramsey – Port Patrick – Cushendun via the very disturbed and rough waters of the ‘Point of Aire’!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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 where, in my memory at least, the sun was always shining and the wind was always blowing.
To get back to the River Wyre, there is usually a little bit of gamesman-ship as to dealing with the tide. One generally sets a course on the Blackpool tower, which is a good 20 degrees to the west of the actual destination of Fleetwood. With a boat speed of four to five knots one eventually bears down on Fleetwood’s Fairway Buoy with the remnants of the Wyre Light just beyond. To misjudge things then you either unceremoniously run aground or find yourself swept down to Heysham with a battle against the tide to get back on track.
To head for Morecambe the safest route is avoid running around on Mort Bank and head back to the River Wyre and once in the deep channel that heads for Heysham Harbour, turn left and follow the big boats .
A faster and more efficient route is to risk going over Mort Bank! However, the said sandbank is always shifting and changing. It is certainly not a route for the “Building Society” manager type of sailor wedded to the words ‘Safe, Sound and Dependable’.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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 crane has been booked, so let’s hope for good weather and low winds. HW 10:55 GMT (clocks go back the night before!), 10.1m. Members involved need to be on site early before 8am.
The craning plan is on the Clubhouse notice board – if your details are incorrect or missing, please contact a Committee Member as soon as possible.
Prepare in advance by slackening all guard rail wires and with two lengths of rope around the hull, one forward and on aft on the desired lifting points, so that the strops can be pulled into position in a timely manor. Please ask if unsure.
New Jetty in Progress. Thirteen photographs
Starting a the bottom of the slip and working back towards the club house:
A friendly base for Yacht Cruising on Morecambe Bay