WEDJIT TO THE WASH
WEDNESDAY JULY 16TH TO SUNDAY 27TH JULY 2014
Wedjit is a leeboard Waterwitch mark II, 30ft long, 8.5ft wide with a minimum draft of 2ft in her stocking feet.
Wedjit has a shallow draft and is capable of taking the ground so with a favourable wind the Wash ports are easily accessible and it’s an attractive area to visit, bearing in mind the need for only moderate northerlies when entering the harbours of North Norfolk. Equally going north to Whitby would be appropriate if the wind was in the south. It’s important to be pragmatic as Wedjit sails very well off the wind.
We set of at HW, 10am, heading south into a south westerly, motor sailing once we were out of the Humber to maintain speed etc. and arrived at Wells outer marker at a little after 10pm in calm conditions. We, that is Dave Deakin who managed the navigating with the help of a Lowrance Elite 5 GPS and new charts, T.J who managed three men and healthy eating, Colin Lidster ex-RN and Waterways, providing expert boat handling, and the cook.
The next day was lovely and we enjoyed the delights of Wells. The following day we set of in a fresher north easterly so motored to Blakeney. The Wells bar was different today but during our exit TJ and Colin continued their conversation undisturbed, Dave navigated and the cook stressed. The five mile bounce along the coast, veiled in a sea fret, took no time with tide’s help and transit of Blakeney bar was a little easier on cookie.
What a wonderful place is Blakeney harbour! My Aunt Daphne, Uncle Norman, cousins Fiona, and Heather sailed their Gull dinghy here for many years, and dragged it for miles across the sand when the water ran out of this large natural sand harbour. With Wedjit made fast to a likely looking buoy that had received the nod from a passing motor-boater, we decide what to do next. The day was a bit bleak out in the two by one mile "harbour" with one tiny tender for four people, so bearing in mind our light draft and the standing high water we took the boat up to Blakeney quay, grinding her shallow, cast iron keel over the sand here and there, finally mooring up to a grim looking steel motor boat, lovely.
Our vantage here gave us some facilities, a public loo and access to the quaint town with all its lovely cottages and BMW’s, Mercedes, Range Rovers and so on. It also had a bacon butty shack that didn’t serve bacon butties just when you fancied one. We dined on board. Each member of the crew brought a frozen meal with them which was kept cool in the cook’s Yeti cooler. In Wells we had dined on Colin’s monster "Humber Stew", this evening it would be Dave’s chilli, again a delight set again in the warmth and cosiness of a charming harbour. Afterwards a gent walking along the quay introduced himself as the boater who had nodded on our choice of mooring buoy earlier in the day. He came aboard for a yarn and if I remember correctly had a connection with the Humber Yawl Club.
We always slept well and the next rather grey but warm morning, breakfasted in the cockpit, and looking over the nasty boat besides us through the open window of the "Blakeney Hotel" on the quay side we could see others at breakfast; Blakeney is indeed suitable for both rich and poor alike. Then followed another grinding session, out of Blakeney creek to moor again in the sand harbour beyond. Later in sunshine we mucked about in the dinghy and after the boat had taken the ground at only the slightest angle, three of us waded and slithered along Morston creek to "The Anchor" for a drink then back for the cook’s bolognaise. And as the light faded the large Norfolk sky gave a fine view of thunder storms out at sea beyond the arm of Blakeney point.
By now high water was at lunch time giving the opportunity the following morning of a visit on foot to Blakeney point nature reserve (it has loos). The timing was all carefully engineered so that with only the cook left on board and the tide coming in the "visitors" could be picked up by motoring Wedjit across the harbour and nosing her bow onto the sand and boarding the now "freshly relieved", with a quite close view of Charlie Ward’s beautiful barge yacht "Juno" to top off the mornings activity.
Out then to Brancaster, past Wells cardinal buoy under decorative sail and meaningful engine. From the east, (against the tide and precious little wind) it takes an age to reach the Brancaster fairway, having first found the golf club building, a Victorian pile of a similar colour to the surrounding sand dunes. We were entertained by the Sharpie fleet out racing in the "harbour" as we entered (a harbour only of course whilst the tide lasts).
The harbour master met us as we came in, quite a surprise as I didn’t think they had one! He anchored us in a safe place and suggested waiting for "Wedjit" to take the ground and then walking into the village across the sands. Eventually we did though it was damp work. We found the sailing club, but sadly were not welcomed as visiting yachtsmen usually would be, so sadly no facilities. The pub down the road was busy and big so back at the boat we planned our escape. The next day at lunchtime we executed the plan and were away and through The Bays (the last part of the north Norfolk coast) and into the Wash heading for the Fosdyke Marina on the river Welland.
We sailed down into the Wash in ideal conditions with a freshening northeaster. It’s true you can see Boston Stump right out in the middle of the Wash! Dave’s navigation took us through the Freeman channel and down towards Clay Hole the recommended anchorage but "with a nor’easter there is no shelter in the Wash", certainly there was non at Clay Hole! I spoke to the boss at the Fosdyke marina and he suggested continuing down the river Welland towards the marina, and he kindly left his office and went to see if there was still water in the river! This was about two hours before low water, so chased on by our favourable wind we passed Tabs Head and set off into the Welland covering the ground well over the last of the ebb with a fine following breeze. At times the depth went down to less than two meters but we kept on rolling along. There is a National Rivers Authority jetty (that had a stone barge moored to it) half way between the entrance to the Welland and the marina that can be used to moor against, but as we were still going and as the tides were neaps we were able, somewhat to the surprise of all, reach the marina and tie up in time for food and drink at another "Anchor Inn" next door, before low water!
The next day T J had to leave us and return to her family staying in Mablethorpe so we arranged a local taxi to take us into Boston where TJ treated us to a "full English" before getting the bus to Skegness. Those of us who remained visited the town, which was a little closed in places, inspected the river, and spent money in the supermarket of delights! It’s amazing what they sell in those places these days. Back at the boat I was able to restock with diesel and chat with the boss who recommended visiting Lynn rather than the planned Wisbech. He also told me he was providing rescue services at Brancaster on Saturday, and saw us sail in there.
So off to Lynn early in the morning. A grey dawn and a long motor out of the Welland with the tide under us, past Tabs Head and into the Wash and the wind, the old nor’easter. We were having to wait for the flood before entering the Ouse so we found some shelter where we could lay at anchor beyond the entrance to the Freeman channel along the north west shore at a point a few cables east of the Scullridge sands starboard hand buoy. As time passed three or four other boats anchored in our neighbourhood so the location is probably the best you can get in a nor’easter in that part of the Wash.
Near low water we sailed back a short distance to the Freeman Channel, whose marks we could plainly see to the south from our anchorage. On entering the channel it was apparent we had insufficient sail up because we were making slow progress and therefore excess leeway down onto Roger Sand to south of us, but the engine gave us more speed and got us out of gaol. With only steel plates for leeboards Wedjit needs some speed through the water for them to work effectively. On we motor-sailed in fresh conditions now with a beam wind and wave, Colin "luffing" up into the larger waves as we went. The cook was unhappy and not just because of difficulty in the kitchen, but after an hour we were running off the wind and down the tortuous Bull Channel towards Lynn with the new flood tide. As we progressed it was interesting to see the sand banks appear around us with their seal population dosing in the sun. We entered a quiet Lynn shipping wise (as a result of the neap tides) and tied up at the new pontoon.
The pontoon is well located and Kings Lynn is a very attractive town, especially in fine summer weather but we needed facilities. The Ouse Amateur Sailing Club down the alleyway to the foot ferry is an absolute delight, with all a visitor could ask for from noon ‘till eleven pm. daily. They have largely done away with their boats in favour of excellent bar facilities and staff, and a great view over the river from the veranda (indeed as I write TJ and Colin have just returned from another trip to Lynn and the OASC, such is the attractions of the place!) They made us most welcome.
The following day would have been the best of the rest on which to leave due to a more easterly slant to the wind, but the earliness of the start and the pleasures of Lynn meant we deferred and stayed a further two days enjoying particularly the "Seahenge" museum, the "sonne et lumier" display against the Tourist Information Office (the delightful old Customs House) after dark, the quaint architecture and the general relaxed air, and of course, the OASC bar. And to be fair we were somewhat hemmed in by the continuing, fresh nor’easterly wind.
Finally we set of back towards the Humber under engine, (having to miss out on a visit to Wainfleet due to time constraints), in to the teeth of the fresh nor’easter which, now the tides were more spring like, combined to give a fine wind over tide chop that almost stopped the boat in her tracks at times. Wedjit is rather blunt at the front and has quite a flat run aft, which is ideal for pounding in these conditions. If the compass were set due north when leaving the Bull Dog Channel the tide will take you first a little east then north between Skegness and the wind farm. Dave put in a little wiggle to avoid various overfalls and, as we could not raise Donna Nook Firing Range, and it being a Saturday and everybody else was, so we also did, cut across the firing range to the Ross Spit buoy in patchy fog and thankfully a fading breeze.
Eventually we entered the estuary in a light easterly and bright sunshine passing a large tanker on the Tetney Monobuoy, very impressive. So into Grimsby were all was peace and serene ‘cos everybody had gone off to Holland on a club cruise. No facilities again, but pleasant enough all the same in the warm evening sunshine.
The next morning we had the inevitable early start to use the first of the "level" to get back to the club. Gone the easterly and the sun, back to up river against a fresh nor’westerly this time, again using the engine. We ran out of favourable tide at the bridge but with the 20 horse Beta plugging the tide and the wind we arrived back at the club an hour after high water. The sun came out.
The mast head wind indicator does not need to be able to rotate; it could just as well be nailed to the top of the mast pointing at the bows.
Our wind indicator did rotate on the aerial which didn’t work, so we did the trip on mobiles and Dave’s hand held VHF.
There is no (very little) shelter in the Wash in a nor’easter, obviously.
Shelter can be found in the river Welland at least, and if a boat can happily take the ground we were advised that it would be safe and sheltered aground in the middle of the river at low water with an anchor out.
We also had a blocked loo, and a failed depth sounder, fortunately Chris Nash had retrieved an old rotary sounder from the green bin a few years ago which he donated to Wedjit and we used that instead, (only for determining the depth).
The new (2013) Admiralty Leisure charts Orfordness to Whitby now include excellent coverage of the Humber below the bridge, better than the APB charts!
The commodore at Wainfleet warned us that with the flood tide there can be a nasty wind over tide chop in the Freeman Channel, so it was as well that we passed through it before the tide had really started flooding.
Wedjit is blessed with a Taylor’s paraffin cooker that is a bit leaky and inflammatory, but to everybody’s credit they managed to successfully light the pest without even the loss of an eyebrow or any of the ship.
The best bit was the four of us, though the three of us was pretty good too.
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