Passage 08, Hartlepool to Blyth

This was a tough one with a bit of drama mid passage. I had planned to set off at 8am and head straight for Amble which is another 15 miles beyond Blyth. I ended up in Blyth.

It was supposed to be westerlies but there was enough of a northerly component to make it a beat up the coast. The wind was very strong (force 6 and 7) and the sea relatively choppy just from the build up of waves for a few miles off shore. So I was fully reefed and had lots of water over the decks giving me a good dousing now and then. Half way there I just caught the tail end of a particularly nasty rain squall that had my sails flogging to windward violently. Having got out of it I looked back to see a huge, dark mass of rain and cloud hanging over the water. Looked scary.

An hour later I saw another one looming and it looked like it was coming straight for me. So I dropped the main sail and prepared for an extra battering. Luckily, it passed right in front of me which was good but dropping and resetting the main sail in a force 6 on your own is not a trivial exercise. And in this case unnecessary. To make matters worse the starboard foresail sheet had escaped it's clutches and had wrapped itself in contortions around the port sheet making it impossible to reset the foresail as well. This involved another unwelcome trip on top of the deck to untangle the mess and retrieve the sheet. All in all, this little episode of cautionary sail reduction turned into 30 minutes of hard slog on deck with the howling winds and a pitching and tossing boat. Not fun. I was sweating by the end of it under my umpteen layers of clothing protecting me from the arctic conditions. During this whole ordeal I have the engine on full tilt to keep the boat pointing into the wind. And as luck would have it I had plenty of lobster pots to keep me company and several times I had to pause proceedings to alter course this way or that in order to avoid them. Jees, those lobster pots are an absolute menace to yachtsmen.

Anyway, I got things back on track and continued powering my way up to Amble. All the time I was doing between 5 and 6 knots, so good progress, albeit tough sailing. By 2pm I was passing Blythe. Soon after I called Amble marina on the phone to get advice on depths and approaches as it looked like it was going to be low tide by the time I got there. Turns out that entry into Amble at around this time was not going to be possible and so I made the immediate decision to about turn and head for Blythe. The wind was really strong (surely a F7) and I had to thrash straight into it to get to Blythe which was 3 or 4 miles away. Punishing. Still, I was in by 4pm and was greeted by Ben & Jenny who had made the same passage and had themselves just arrived. Coffee, chat and debrief in Havsula (their boat). Nice.

Summary
A tough passage of 35 miles in strong westerly winds with me going north-west. Mostly sailed in 6 3/4 hours.

Lessons learned
  • I had noticed before leaving that the starboard sheet was lacking a "stopper" knot to prevent it from escaping the clutches (as it did - see above). When you notice something wrong, fix it you plonker!
  • I should have checked with Amble before leaving about restrictions for entry at low water. I have a lift keel and I thought I'd get in even at low water as it was Neaps. If it was calm, I probably could have ... but not in this weather.
  • I told the Coast Guard my ETA in Amble was 5pm. This was plain wrong - it would have been more like 6pm or 7pm. I should check my facts more carefully before informing the coast guard of my passage plan.