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Cornwall to Scotland days 26 to 28

Day 26 – If there is one thing we are learning about on our travels around Britain it is the relative merits and demerits of marinas and harbours. You could almost call us expert, in fact, since inevitably we do compare facilities between one and another. We have a scale of merit, for example, for showers. To score ten points they must be hot, spacious, clean and of course free. We accept that it is unlikely we are ever going to find a ten-pointer but this is nevertheless something all showers should aspire to.

When is comes to the cost of berthing there is very much a north-south divide, the south coast of England being almost guaranteed to be the most costly. One might perhaps expect there to be some correlation between the price being charged and the quality of the facilities, whether these be showers or something as simple as the state of repair of the pontoons but this is not so at all. Many ports seem to base their charges more on the basis of what they can get away with and when you are coming in from a turbulent sea naturally the last thing on your mind is the price of a safe haven.

It is the practice of charging multihulls (catamarans and trimarans) more than other boats that we really take issue with. The justification always given is that these boats are wider than others and therefore they take up the space of one and a half or two other vessels. Very often this may be true but Cirrus Cat, whilst being a catamaran, is not a wide boat. At a little under four and a half metres she is less wide than many modern monohull sailing boats and certainly narrower than most large powerboats. Yet she is a multihull and many marinas will impose the additional charge regardless of this fact.

ScarboroughThe most glaring example of this practice we find today in Scarborough Harbour where the list of charges makes it clear that any multihull wider than three metres must be charged at a higher rate. I look around the marina now and can see that most of the yachts are wider than this but having only one hull means they are paying less than we are. My attempts at arguing this point to the berthing master fall on deaf ears, however. We feel unwelcome in Scarborough, pariahs even. It is the most expensive harbour we have stayed at so far this year (charging more than anywhere on the south coast) and the shower and toilet facilities are the worst, by a significant margin. Even after finding a shower that delivered hot water I could only give it one point at best. I would recommend this harbour to no-one In fact I would advise yachtsman to stay away from this port if at all possible. Or maybe they already are – the visitor pontoon is after all nearly empty.

Day 27 – And so, at an early hour, and after pleasant dreams inspired by the delicious sweet potato pie Kate made for dinner the night before, Sweet potato piewe bid farewell to Scarborough and its hoards of holidaymakers with their needy children and their scruffy little dogs. We turn left out of the port and head straight into some horrible steep waves which toss us around like a cork but the fierce current generating them carries us through quickly, though not before a few splashes of sea had found their way into one of our open hatches. Chastened, we plod on towards Hartlepool in rather more benign conditions. An early start always means a cool start, the day never really seems to get going before ten in the morning, but our arrival at Hartlepool around one in the afternoon was greeted by powerful sunshine making up for what we missed earlier. Motoring along in company with Paul Hardaker, who had a date to keep with the press covering his trip, made a pleasant change for us and gave us someone to chat with on the radio along the way. The wind was not unkind, being just another northerly, but we have had rather too much motoring than suits us. Our ever-reliable weather-forecasters promise that tomorrow will bring a big change, a wind from the south to blow us to Scotland.

Day 28 – Sooner or later this practice of getting up early in the morning to go sailing will seem like normal behaviour. On balance, though, I suspect it will be later.

Having locked out of Hartlepool we are determined to get our sails up and get along without the engine if we can. Car carrier off TyneThe swelly sea does not make this easy, however, as it shakes the light southerly wind from the sails and at first we are making little progress. We persevere and after an hour or so there are some ripples on the water which tell us this will be a spinnaker day, and up it goes. By the time we pass Tynemouth, Cirrus is beginning to blast along and we coast through the ship anchorage, dodging left and right so as not to bump into anything big. These are car carriers, which bring new cars into the country by the deck-load, large floating steel boxes with few concessions to beauty.

We sail on with the wind increasing and the sea rising until just before Coquet Island when it is time to snuffle our brightly coloured sail, to control it before it tries to control us. These are like home waters to us, bringing back memories of our first sailing boat, Noggin The Nog, which we used to moor in the river at Amble. Many’s the time we sailed out with our three young children on board to face the enormous waves, maybe the same ones that we rolled through today. We were novices then, knowing no better than to go out when the mist hung over the island and there were breakers across the bar at the entrance to Amble Harbour. In many ways the place hasn’t changed at all – the puffins still wheel around us at sea, little wings flapping madly and feet paddling the sea frantically as they try to get out of our way -although now there is a fine marina at Amble where there was none before.

Zuma at sea off TynemouthPaul arrives in port soon after us, tired out after enduring the wind and waves. His is a massive challenge to undertake, to sail alone around Britain, and we have great admiration for what he is doing. He has been great company for us too and Finley’s singing and whistling has been a delight.

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