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Cornwall to Scotland days 22 and 23

Day 22/23 – The alarm goes off at 0530hrs and we both struggle towards consciousness and the realisation that we have to get up, to get ourselves out of our cosy warm bed to go out into that cold world outside. It is quiet, thank goodness, which means that there is little or no wind blowing. In an ideal world we would want wind, of course, but only so long as it is going our way. For the past four days it has blown steadfastly from a northerly direction so having no wind at all is a welcome relief from this, perfectly acceptable for us. We are about to embark on a passage around a long stretch of coastline which has no safe havens for us to pop into, no ports offering a guarantee of safety should we have need. We must cover a distance of ninety three nautical miles (these are slightly longer than the land ones) around the north-eastern shoulder of East Anglia then head off across the Wash to a landfall in the River Humber, the welcoming arms of Grimsby in fact. With no wind at all this will mean motoring the whole way, not ideal, but the trade off for this is often a flat sea. We know, however, it is unlikely that no wind at all will blow – it is rarely still at sea for long – so we have to hope that whatever does come our way treats us gently.

Once underway we realise that there is some wind, a light westerly blowing off the land but outside the harbour there is also a heavy swell coming from the north-east still lingering from the depression that has been driving our weather for the last week. This is now centred over Denmark. So off we go along the coast to Great Yarmouth, which looks like a supply centre for the wind farms – towers and blades are stacked up just inside the harbour like giant Lego pieces, then staying close inshore past Caister and on past the long and uninteresting line of dunes that protect the Norfolk Broads from the sea, always keeping our eyes peeled for the naturist beach which is along here somewhere. We see a man walking his dog, the dog being naked, but perhaps this doesn’t qualify, and the day was turning out to be a dull one anyway, the wind sneaking in from the north-west now, just where we want to go.

From Cromer (lighthouse flashing once every five seconds, even in daylight) we slant away from the coast, plugging on into the waves using sails and engine, everything we’ve got. The Wash is a shallow expanse of sea dotted with wind farms and gas rigs, shoals occurring at random across our path and the deep swell soon being overlaid with short waves that Cirrus really doesn’t like. Like all catamarans she is quite light and cannot drive through the waves like many yachts do and soon we are being tossed up and down till our knees start to ache and our necks are sore. Ten or twelve knots of wind is not a lot (the forecasters call this ‘light and variable’), force three or four if you know your Beaufort, but after nineteen hours of it full in our faces we have both had enough.

Kate: By the grace of strong tides we made it in at about 2 a.m. this morning and I for one am not a pretty sight. Our bones are still humming with the vibration of the engine through the soles of our feet and the waves were dumping bucket-fulls over the boat right up until we entered Grimsby Fish Dock. I dreaded entering the Humber at night – it’s very difficult to see how far off the lights are, ships and buoys. Cirrus in GrimsbyThe chart tells you which lights flash which colour and the sequence but when that is complicated by other lights and vessels and you are in the recommended yacht passage, you don’t get the same view as the big boys. Speaking of which – we were entering the fish dock channel when a large monster ship started heading our way. We were near the large ship channel but he came incredibly close, nudged by a tug. The depth under us was less than six metres so we couldn’t believe there was enough water where he was. Malcolm steered bravely on, unable to steer too far away from the ship because of a shoal to port. Believe me, everything is surreal after such a long trip and the magic of the dark monsters. When you go in you call up ‘Fish Dock Island’ on VHF channel 74. The man said, “Come in sir, it’s all clear”. There was a gap, to the left of the gap was a beacon flashing red, to the right of the beacon the large monster ship could be seen wriggling through like a very large lady attempting to pass through a turnstile. To me it seemed like an act of faith to go through the gap to the left of the beacon but Malcolm steered through and the lock keeper could see us and guided us over the radio.

This is the second time in a few days that we have seen tugs steering impossibly ungainly floating lumps around, very skilfully. Kate’s brother Jamie sent us this story from where he lives in Australia:
’Your description of the tug boat skilfully handling a large boat in small space reminded me of the recent Brisbane floods. A very large, and heavy (weighing several tonnes), portion of the floating walk/cycleway at Newfarm, an inner Brisbane suburb, broke away at the height of the floods. It rambled on downstream heading for the bay and freedom. The only thing in its path were the twin bridges at the Gateway motorway. As it continued on its merry way engineers feared the worst. Such a large structure striking the bridge pylons could bring down the bridge. As the saga continued on live television a small, old, tug suddenly appeared and started gently nudging the serpent like structure. It darted backward and forward until it managed to swing the walkway into something remotely resembling a 100 metre long canoe. Having completed this they skilfully guided this through between the pylons and out of harms way. All this in raging flood waters littered with debris including boat pontoons and boats drifting along.
The two tug boat Captains have recently received an Australian award for services rendered. They still didn’t grasp what all the fuss was about. They saw the thing on TV and decided they’d better take the tug out, end of story!’

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