June 6, 2012
We arrived in Lowestoft about 5:00 PM on Jun 6. The weather that had started so well had deteriorated, so that the winds were on the nose, and thunderheads were building. Lowestoft has an outer harbor that is divided into a commercial section, and an inner harbor that is an adjunct to a marina located further upstream. There is also another marina right inside the entrance, but the one further along was one of our partner marinas, so we decided to use it. It was a mixed bag.
We arrived after hours, but we called the marina cell phone number, and a very nice woman told us to take one particular slip and contact her in the morning. We didn’t have any problems finding the slip, but the weather was predicted to deteriorate, so we took a different one that didn’t have another boat right next door. It was a good decision.
Next day, we went off the main marina, to find the office and check in. It was a long walk – probably about 1.5 miles, but we did find a nice Asda (Wall-mart) along the way. We checked in, paid for 2 nights, did some shopping, and walked around town, which has one section that is a quintessential English seaside resort, while the other is a working fisherman’s town. We eventually discovered that the old town had a High Street that was quite quiet, having been superceded by a new commercial mall-like section nearer to the port.
We ended up staying 4 nights in Lowestoft, much longer than expected, because the weather turned absolutely horrible. A serious low pressure system spun out of the Atlantic up the Channel, and we spent 2 nights with winds above 30 kts, inside the harbor! We were well protected from damaging waves, and we were glad the wind was pushing us against the pontoon. We were well protected with our bumpers, but they did groan a bit.
There was no Boingo Wifi, but we did find an open router that gave us great connectivity while we were boat-bound. Boingo has been quite a disappointment this trip. Very few access points that are not “premium”, and even then, many BT hotpots would not accept a Boingo login at all. Boingo will be stopped at the end of the month, when the billing period ends.
Never again Boingo.
We left Lowestoft at 3:30 in the morning on June 10, in order to be able to arrive at our next destination at the height of the tide. The sun was not quite up yet, but dawn had broken at 3AM, so we did not have to leave in the dark. Instead, we were able to sail for quite a while, until we turned NW, and the wind did as well. We arrived at the mouth of the river to find some “interesting” seas rolling across the bar. There were a fair number of smaller vessels making their way in and out, so we figured that we could do it too. And we did, snaking our way in past tons of boats at moorings, past what seemed to be a substantial jetty near the mouth, past lines of colorful beach cabins, and eventually into a pool in the inner harbor where the harbormaster had us raft up alongside a large former fishing/sailing boat that had been converted to a B&B/pub. He told us we would take the ground, slightly, but not hard, so we ran the spinnaker halliard to the fishing boat to keep us from leaning over. In the end, it was no big deal.
Tremendous numbers of holiday-makers in town, with lots of crab and fish restaurants. Quite well maintained, and popular. Too bad we could not have stayed longer, but the weather window was open for the next day, so off we went at noon, which was the only time we could get out. More large waves surging over the bar, and it seemed like we were back at the Banc de la Mauvaise. But we got out OK, and set sail north again.
We needed to make better time north, so we left Wells behind at noon on the 11th. It was quite exciting to get over the bar, but we did it, and the sail north was quite nice. Close hauled on the stbd tack with a NE wind. All the was to the mouth of the Humber River where we crossed the VTS and tucked ourselves into the anchorage just behind a spit of land that sticks out into the North Sea. Everyone said that it would be OK, and they were right. A bit rolly, but safe. We watched the big ships come up the Humber, and got some rest.
Next day was also good to move north, so we snuck around the north edge of the VTS, and continued to sail. The winds were good at first, but eventually died, so we did about 3 hours of motoring. We didn’t want to push too hard because the sea-state predictions were a bit rough, so we decided to anchor south of Flamborough Head. The cruising guides all say that when the wind is north, anchoring on the south side is great, and vice-versa, so we did as they recommended. Once again, somewhat rolly, but safe. We also started to see a lot of crab/lobster pots, well in-shore and out to the 100 ft line.
Finally, we reached our target on the east coast of England – Whitby. For quite a while we have been watching a British program called “Heartbeat”, which is set in a fictional town in Yorkshire(Archers fans will understand this). Some of the action also takes place in Whitby, on the coast, and this is a real town. When we have asked our UK friends about Whitby, the universal response has been “best fish and chips in the UK”. We like fish and chips, so we have been holding out all the way north.
The sail to Whitby was not too bad. We left at 5 AM, well after sunrise, into NE winds, force 3-5, sea-state 2-3 m but not breaking, on the beam. Flamborough Point was pretty flat, at first. Eventually it got a bit rolly(where have we heard this before?), but doable. Calypso would not agree, of course, but we arrived to find a very narrow entrance with large breakers everywhere. It did not look tenable until we noticed a fisherman approaching from the NE. He was on the leading line, so we just followed him in, and it was not difficult at all. To get into the marina at Whitby you have to pass thru a swing bridge that only opens 2 hrs each side of high water, and we managed to make the next-to-last opening. The marina staff were quite nice, and we got a good spot on the pontoon.
We did not know how long the weather window would stay open, so after we were settled in, we headed off to town, looking for our first fish and chips. The recommendation from a friend was to go to the Magpie Café, and it was spot-on. Great fish, fabulous chips, and a reasonable price. There are LOTS of other restaurants that have won “Best Fish and Chips” awards, so Whitby seems to have a thing about the dish, and doing it well enough to win awards. We would second all of the recommendations of our friends.
Unfortunately, the weather window appeared to be about to close, and we were starting to worry about being able to meet Robin in Edinburgh on the 21st. So we had to leave Whitby the next day, at noon, on the first opening of the bridge. We did get one morning to look around town a bit more, pick up some smoked fish, buy some Whitby “jet” jewelry, and wish that we had been stranded there for 4 days, instead of some of the other places we stopped in.
We left Whitby as soon as the bridge opened the next day, around noon, and headed north, always north. We did not have much wind, and a long way to go, so we motor-sailed for 6 hours into a north wind. Not fun, but necessary. Slogging away.
It appeared that the next good stop would be in Blyth, just north of Newcastle. The original plan was to head into Newcastle, but that would be a bit of a detour into the river, up river a bit, thru some locks into a marina. Not good for the schedule.
Blyth was a good alternative. The marina was just at the mouth of the port, well protected, easy to get in and out of. A bit industrial, at first, but the clubhouse for the Royal Northumberland Yacht Club, in a converted form light-ship, was homey, welcoming, and extraordinarily nice. The Wifi was free and very high-speed.
The weather window, however, closed up immediately, so we had to spend 2 nights in Blyth. This was not entirely a bad thing, however, because the Olympic flame was being transported thru town, and we got to see it pass by. Eventually, the front blew thru, and we left in the AM to continue north.