Sunday, 08 July 2018 16:30

Castles & Islands from the First Timers Perspective

Written by
Rate this item
(0 votes)

Castles & Islands from the First Timers Perspective

 
When the emails came round in December I quickly identified two workmates who volunteered to take part, and I rashly entered the C&I. As they say Act in Haste, Regret at your Leisure.I didn't really know what it involved, until Peter Hammond, issued his dire warnings at the into meeting.
 
So, I had committed myself, and Diana to an all night ordeal. The week before involved a lot of planning, and worrying. So the tides were carefully worked out, the Admiralty Tidal Atlas duly marked up with the various hours (although it did prove to be a complete work of fiction), and the weather forecasts kept a good eye on. The food was organised, flapjacks were baked, parkin, spag bol...We had taken our runners for a little cruise round Coquet Island the weekend before, and we anchored off Hauxley, we inflated the dingy, and they had a little practice row.
 
How would it go? Would we get the runners back in the 24 hour limit?
 
So the big day duly arrived, and we went to the meeting. What, did we really have to do Seahouses and Newton only under sail? Anyway, as is usual with pre-voyage nerves, there is nothing like starting. I took my runners up to Alnwick and we went back to the marina for a quick supper.Then the first mistake happened. The runners came back before we were ready, what followed was a mad scramble to get Me-Mo from her berth and get her off, hopefully with nobody noticing the panic. So we were off, and there was a good wind to take us round Coquet Island and only a couple of tacks and then it was downwind. Now for the second blunder. Diana had already asked me about the spinnaker pole but I had misunderstood. This was our first raise of the season and I had forgotten to look at the pole in my annual maintenance. The pistons were blocked with salt. So the skipper rushed into the cabin and emerged with hammer and WD40. Worried looking runners made a comment about things not looking too good. So we were probably the last to get our kite up, but up it went and we were off. What followed was the most glorious and memorable spinnaker run. Who can ask for a better way of spending an evening watching the sun set over the beautiful Northumberland coastline with the water bubbling under the hull? It was fabulous. As the sun gradually went down the wind did ease quite a bit, but it also steadied as it often does at night and it was even quite warm.
 
My plan had always to be to get through Staple sound on the way up to Holy Island, and we found we were there in plenty of time, the north going stream was just beginning to ease, and it was getting quite dark, but we could hear the birds even in the dark. We must try a night in the kettle some time. The Spinnaker was dropped on our approach to Holy Island. I'm not one who would normally choose to enter an unfamiliar harbour in the dark, but as it happened the two sectored lights made it a piece of cake, and the engine was duly started after rounding Triton, the runners scrambled to blow up the dingy, the hook was let go, and they were off on run no 2. Time for lie down.
 
Later, the tide started to flood, and the runners really had a fight to get back to the boat. They just managed it. So, now for Seahouses...
 
The Seahouse leg included a beautiful sunrise over the Farnes, and we tacked really close to Inner Farne, the runners were resting down below, but the two sailors had the full wildlife experience. I even managed to get a few photos.
 
We got to Seahouses in good time and letting off our runners didn't prove to be too difficult. It was easy to anchor just off the pier head and we both managed to get a bit of rest while the runners were away. This was clearly the hardest run, the runners reappeared exhausted and needing feeding up. Another mistake, I thought that because it was only a short way to Newton we could leave the dingy inflated under the boom. I hadn't accounted for the huge tide. It took us the best part of 3½ hours to go 6 miles. Having the dingy inflated proved to be positively dangerous as the jib sheets decided to catch on a mast cleat on a couple of tacks which required an urgent trip to the mast, involving climbing over a slippery dingy.
 
Getting the runners off under sail at Newton was no problem, but the wind had by now got up, and leaving the anchorage under sail wasn't going to be easy. The isn't much space and hitting a rock didn't appeal. The runners had a bit of a struggle to get back to the boat. Although we were the last to leave Newton by a long time, at least an hour I guess, we had a great sail back to Amble. We had a lovely F4, not too much of a sea, and absolutely ideal conditions for a Contessa. We took a more inshore route than the other boats, and I think we got a lift from doing this, and we only needed an occasional tack to keep us off the land. I recon we must have gained at least 45 minutes on the boat in front on the last leg.
 
The run up to the finish line was fantastic, a final short tack and then eased sheets powered us over the finish line, a great sail and we didn't even get wet. Amazing for a boat sometimes likened to a submarine with sails. Other than that it was a memorable experience, a real highlight of the year, and the icing on the cake was that our runners came second, even though they were newbies too.
 
So, in summary a great event, which must take a huge amount of organising. Thank you everybody.
 
I think my lovely helmswoman has agreed to do it next year, already, despite strong reservations expressed beforhand.
 

 

Read 42 times