Passage 09, Blyth to Holy Island

Note: This passage has a separate page dedicated to my day ashore on Holy Island

I decided to leave the next morning for Holy Island as it was the last chance to catch some favourable winds before they went North again. I left at 9:30 shortly after Jenny and Ben  who were had the same idea.
Time warp story
Ben said he planned to leave at 9am and I remarked that it was already past 9 so he'd better hurry up. He said "I hope not". I thought nothing of it and went off to town to find some gas canisters for my camping stove as I was running low. I tried one shop to no avail but they pointed to another shop. As I went over I saw someone unlocking that shop, going inside and promptly re-shutting up. Odd, the notice said they opened at 9:30 and it was already 9:40 by now. So I rang the bell. No answer. Rang it again. The man eventually opened the door and so I asked if I could buy some gas canisters. He said "We aren't open yet". I said, "But it's 9:40". He said "It's 8:40".

Hmmm. I look at my phone and it says 9:40. A few days ago I reset the clock on the boat as I noticed it was one hour slow ( than my phone). Yes, folks, I've been running an hour later than the rest of the world for probably quite a few days! So Ben was right! I've been getting up at 5:30 not 6:30! I've been calling the coast guard with my departure and arrival times one hour out. Hey Ho. Reset watch. Reset boat time.

Anyway, that shop didn't have my gas canisters but Argos might ... waited around for 9am (real time) only to find they had none as well. So trip to town wasted except to establish that I've been operating in a different time zone. Now on gas rations ... which means I can't use my gas fire. Shame, it's due to reach 0 degrees in the night. 

The passage
It was forecast F4-F5 south westerlies and so I expected a fast paced sail to Holy Island. I got one and then some. The wind  gradually strengthened and I was fully reefed in and barrelling along at 6 to 7 knots. At one point I surfed down a wave and the speedo hit 9.5 knots. Yee-ha. The auto pilot couldn't really handle this so I was helming pretty much all the way. Full on. I managed to dodge most of the squally rain clouds so I only got rained on once or twice. I was even catching Havsula up (Jenny and Ben's boat). I would have gone faster were it not for some drama with my foresail that required my full attention for half an hour leaving me sweaty and exhausted under all my layers.

We both got to Holy Island by about 4:30 and anchored in stiff winds. It's reasonably sheltered where we were but the wind was so strong the boat was rocking quite a bit in the bay and pulling on the anchor very hard. I was watching for any slippage of the anchor like a hawk, but all seemed well.

Foresail drama
The wind had strengthened to a solid F6 and gusting F7. That's when the shackle attaching the bottom of my sail to the deck snapped and the sail went flying. I immediately started to pull the sail in and struggled for several minutes as the sail flogged like a wild thing. I got it in but it was messy and some of it was still flapping wildly. I had to take a trip to the bow on deck to see what could be done. I transfer my life line to ribbing that extends down the boat and make the journey as the boat bounces through the heavy seas.

The sail had displaced 2 feet up the rigging and I needed to pull it down. I fought with all my might to pull it down and managed 6 inches. Couldn't do it. Back to the cockpit for a think. I could just leave it and fix it when I got in, but this was risking a ruined sail. Besides, it wasn't healthy sailing as it was. I needed a new shackle so I went down below and got one out of the toolbox. But I needed to pull that sail down another foot and a half and I don't have the strength. Think. Right, yes. I clambered back to the bow with a rope and attached it to the bottom of the sail, looped it round an anchor point on the deck right below the sail attachment and lead it back to the cockpit and wound it round the winch. I then winched the sail down. It worked! Yippee. Back to the bow with my shackle and, with a fight as nothing would keep still in this wind, managed to re-attach the sail.

Back to the cockpit to try and reset the sail and that was a struggle as the sheets had got hopelessly entangled and I had to point the boat in various directions so the wind hit the sail at different angles to untangle the mess. 5 minutes later that got fixed too. I was back in the room. Exhausted, but pleased with my work.

This, by the way, all done with the auto-pilot making a total hash of things in keeping the boat on course and me keeping an eagle eye out for those damn, dirty lobster pots. I didn't need the engine as the main sail was keeping the boat going at 5-6 knots anyway.

At anchor at Holy Island
Having had my can of soup and rice for dinner, I was boat bound as there was no way I could get the dingy out in this wind. I had a job to do. The toilet had bust. And now that I am no longer in a marina I was probably going to need it! So that was the evening's entertainment - fixing it. I'll spare you the details, suffice to say I succeeded, toilet now working like a dream.

The next day the wind had turned northerly as expected and it was howling (F5-7 was the prediction). I let out lots of scope on the anchor and turned my attention to what I could do on the boat. I had an electrical job to do which was to fix up more permanent power outlets for things like mobile phone charging and such like. A good mornings work installing all that to my complete satisfaction.

So that makes three achievements on this passage - sail fixing, toilet fixing and power outlet fixing. Excellent.

In the afternoon the wind had started to die down and Ben came over in his dingy and invited me over for coffee which was eagerly accepted. Stayed for coffee ... and dinner. Yum. A proper meal. Fantastic. Ben ran me back at about 7:30 by which time the wind was much reduced and the anchorage suddenly took on a serene and wondrous quality.

Here I was sitting with no less than two castles in view off the historic Holy Island. The flock of 200 or so breeding seals re-appeared on the flats as the tide and sun went down. Magic.

I got the dingy out in readiness for the next day...

A fast and vigorous passage lasting 7 hours on a beam/broad reach with a foresail saga midway. Very windy at anchorage forcing me to stay boat bound until the afternoon when I joined Havsula. Oh, and it's flipping freezing still.

Lessons learned
Don't throw anything down the toilet unless it's either toilet paper or been through me first. I put kitchen towel in it. I should know better!