In Theory, At Least.

Whitby and on to Lowestoft

Whitby was a very pleasant place. Very much geared to the tourist trade. From those I overheard they all seemed to be from Tyneside but maybe its too early in the season to make a judgement . One thing is sure, we saw several fancy dress groups, the most impressive of which was a Desperate Dan lookalike  – one among many in a Western themed party. Drunk as a lord. If I recall (and I’m going back a very long way) DD always ended up in the jail eating a cow pie.

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We were forced to stay an extra day in Whitby due to the forecasted poor weather. I mentioned that Duncs, so that we did not waste the time,  had brought forward the RYA Yachtmaster Theory exam by 4 days.  Duncs, as invigilator, arranged for the use of the saloon and chart table of another yacht (the Harbour Master’s, I think he said, named Kestrel) and I went onto that whilst Neil stayed on RBE. Poor choice for me as Kestrel was cold and dingy. I emerged 3 1/2 hours later – blue at the finger tips – to hand my completed papers to Duncs for marking.

I can record here, with pleasure, that I passed the exam and now go on to complete the practical exam in early July, in Brixham. Neil also passed so we both join Allan, who already had his theory ‘ticket’. The immediate consequence is that I can relax for a few days and take my head out of the revision papers.

Thank you and goodbye, Whitby.

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With the delay, and unsure as to how the weather will turn in the next few days, we were under pressure to make up lost time in order to get to London by the end of the week.

That drove us to make the longer (130 mile) passage to Lowestoft, cutting out Grimsby and Hull. Not a bad thing, I hear some say, but I’ll reserve judgement on those places until I have been there myself. That’s one clear lesson I have learnt on this RBE.

We were temporarily held back in Whitby until the road bridge was opened, thus allowing us to get out to sea, at around 10:45. We were relaxed about that as we had a 24-hour, non-stop, journey ahead of us and wanted to arrive in Lowestoft around late morning. The early morning saw some of the finest Spring weather yet. Warm, yes, warm, sunshine and clear skies tempted us to thin down the layers of clothing to a level that was, it later proved, much too thin for offshore sailing.

We motored out of the harbour and began our haul South. As ‘Skipper’ for the journey, I organised a watch system whereby Neil and Duncs would be one watch with Allan and I on the second. Each of 4 hours’ duration, we would alternate watches until we arrived in Lowestoft. Dinner would be cooked on the run, as it were, and eaten between shifts. Neil prepared a beef stew which, later, really hit the spot.

The day time sail was – as I have come to expect on this RBE – a day time motor-sail as those weather gods, maybe in cahoots with Robbie Burns and his gang aftley crew (see earlier blogs) put the mockers on any form of sailing with the wind. It’s not through want of trying and we have been raising and lowering the sails at any hint of wind blowing outside of the ‘no-go zone’ at the front (a.k.a. the ‘Nose’ or Bow) of the boat. We’re certainly becoming efficient at that exercise but sail ‘trimming’ is a near distant memory.

Ok, so we motor along through a rather uneventful afternoon and into the evening. Allan and I came back on watch for the 8 till midnight session. We arrived on deck to find the sky in the East a beautiful light blue, turning grey as the evening progressed. However, and it was as if a very distinct line had been drawn in the sky, along a north-south divide, as the Western sky was as near to black as grey can get. A deep, dark, rolling and roiling mass of dense clouds containing the ‘mother’ of a thunderstorm. And heading our way. With the names of Tony and Allan writ large on the leading edge.

Duncs and Neil made what was, in hindsight, a more than hasty retreat below. And was I mistaken, in the evening light and half-asleep, or did I hear a little giggle as they closed the hatch doors? That closing of the hatch, and its clicking shut, was the signal for Thor to stick a pin into the balloon of rain clouds and thereby ensure that they burst directly overhead. Within minutes the wind went from 2knots to 25knots and visibility to just short of an arms-length. All accompanied by the traditional sights (lightning) and sounds (thunder) that go with such conditions. This was my first thunder storm at sea. Not pleasant. For the 10 minutes or so it lasted, I stood motionless on deck afraid to touch anything metal for fear of becoming a lightning conductor, catching at least one of Thor’s lightning rods. Mind you, what a quick way to charge the iPhone!

The storm, as they often do, moved on quickly to be replaced by a patch of rain that lasted  a further 10 minutes. The sun broke out, and near to setting, creating a fabulous rainbow against the backdrop of the, fast departing, dark clouds and thunder. The lightning show continued but it was much more pleasurable viewing from a distance rather than underneath or, as it felt, within.

I could have grabbed the camera for some exciting shots but 1) it was down below and 2) I was not going to hold anything up in the air lest the weather gods decide that I was giving them the metaphorical ‘finger’ and thus incite them to use me as target practice for further and more accurate lightning bolts – cue an ear-worm of Jake Bugg’s song. Pah!

So, the thunder and lightning storm passes but continues in one sector of the sky, providing the backdrop for a brilliant rainbow; the sun is setting in another; there’s a bright blue sky in yet a third as well as a separate rain shower over nearby Hull. We can only marvel at nature. What a show to end the day. And a clean Hull, to boot. Marvellous.

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Travelling at night across the Humber estuary is tricky navigationally as we have to be constantly aware of ship movements and their lighting (not lightning) patterns as said patterns determine who has ‘right of way’ under the laws of the sea known, colloquially, as the Rules of the Road, or ColRegs, but legally as the IRPCS – International Regulations for the Prevention of Collisions at Sea, by which we must abide. Those contain all sorts of light and sound combinations that, in practice and at sea, and against the land lights of a well lit (and recently washed) Humberside, prove difficult to isolate and, therefore, interpret. In the end, pragmatism will rule – we would not pit a 45 foot plastic boat against a 900 foot metal tanker. ‘nuff said. Go around, Tony, go around.

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We arrived at Lowestoft around mid-day and have berthed, courtesy of the Lowestoft Haven Marina, in Hamilton Dock on the very edge of the town. Nice one. That was a 25 1/2 hour journey. Tiring in the least so, after a quick lunch and a drop of Shiraz, have hit the sack to catch up on sleep.

See you in 24.

Tony

June 8 & 9  Day 64/65

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