Saturday, 8 December 2012

Christmas Approaching

We have visited 'NJ' twice since we finished sailing for the season, having some pleasant walks along the promenade towards Blackpool, and from Knot End, on the other side of the river towards the River Lune.

 I am now planning to have a day on the boat to get a few jobs done, such as changing the engine oil, and feeding a few cables to and from the stern for a couple of new bits of kit. I have also made an extra instrument console for the helm position, in which to mount the autopilot control head ( currently tucked behind the compass, and not very accessible ), and the remote microphone for the new VHF radio, so I need to check that this fits OK. On the way back, I shall detour via Liverpool, and drop off the life raft at NorWest Marine for it's triennial service. At least this winter the list of jobs is much shorter than last year ! Well, that's it for this year, wishing everyone a Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and fair winds for next season.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Seasons' end

We had a fairly vigorous sail from Whitehaven to Piel Island, with heavy showers, and squalls up to 36kts apparent. The wind hardly dropped below a force 6 all day, and after a rather worrying time at Piel ( dragging the anchor in strong wind and tide ), decided to make a run for Fleetwood. We didn't expect to arrive in time for the marina lock, but it was a bit deflating to miss it by about 10 minutes ( at 0300 in the morning ! ). Having picked up the stern of a small training lifeboat which was moored in the river, and been yanked around for another 3 hours, we decided to put 'NJ' on the beach. We dried out at 0630, so we knew that we would have about 4 hours before floating off again, so at least we could put our heads down for a while. Later in the next morning the small lifeboat we had moored to was driven off to the training facility just down river, and we were visited by one of the staff who were just checking that we were OK. We picked up a free mooring, which we hadn't seen in the dark of the early hours, and waited until the lock gates opened. Once through the lock NJ was moored alongside where she had been previously, and we then retired to catch up on sleep. Later in the day we went to see the marina office, and booked in for the winter. Over the next few days the sails were removed, along with the stack pack, which needed a few minor repairs, and the dinghy was packed away. We then moved to the pontoon berth which we had chosen, and secured 'NJ' for the winter. Every month or so we will drive over to Fleetwood and check that all is well, and take the opportunity to finish a few jobs, but for now the season is over.

Norman James out.

Monday, 17 September 2012

Whitehaven ( 2 )

While we were at Whitehaven on this second visit, we had a large spring tide. Walking out onto the harbour walls, the outer harbour was effectively an expanse of sand, and mud, with a trickle of water leading from the lock to the sea. The outer lock gates are built level with the inner harbour parapet walls, some 9m above the cill.

This photo doesn't really show how deep the lock really looks, but you can see how small the floating pontoon looks. At high water the level in the lock is a good meter higher than the inner harbour.

The original outer harbour wall dates back to the early 18th century, as evidenced by the date on the sundial ( 1730 ). The walls are made of the local red sandstone, and are heavily erroded in places. The inner harbour walls were added in the 19th century, with several 'tongues' protruding into the harbour being named after the main products landed there ( e.g. sugar tongue & lime tongue ).

The sun came out and highlighted the wave sculpture, and observation platform, this was built for the millenium celebrations, as part of the regeneration of the harbour.

This is 'NJ' in her berth, right next to the exit ramp - very convenient for the facilities !

We had two enjoyable stays in Whitehaven, but the weather is starting to feel quite autumnal, and we have decided to call it a day for this years cruising. With the tides as they are at the moment, we are faced with a fairly tedious passage back to Piel Island with foul tide for most of the day, and then on to Fleetwood to lay up for the winter.

By the time we get back to Fleetwood we will have travelled some 1850NM since setting out from Hartlepool in April, and although it has been a fairly dreadful summer from a weather point of view, it has been a fantastic experience which neither of us would have missed for the world ! We can now look forward to visiting the Irish coast next spring, and then moving up to the West coast of Scotland, and the Hebrides - Happy Days !!


After 5 days in Whitehaven, a weather window opened, and we decided to move across the Solway Firth, and vist Kirkcudbright ( pronounced Ker-Koo-Bry ). The town is about 3 miles upstream from the mouth of the River Dee. Initially, a back transit is provided by the lighthouse and a beacon on the foreshore, this took us to the start of the winding, narrow, and shallow buoyed channel leading to the visitors pontoon on the edge of the town.

At low water, the river banks are revealed as being quite 'steep too'. There is also a very significant current in the river, so attention to spring lines was important.

The town itself was very pleasant, and there seemed to be a lovely light in the area, as witnessed by many art galeries and studios. There is also a significant fishing fleet based here which provided further interest. We took a walk out along the river bank towards the sea, and were rewarded for putting up with frequent showers by this fantastic rainbow arching over the town.

After 3 nights in Kirkcudbright, another weather window allowed us to start moving south again. We had a fantastic sail back over the Solway Firth to Whitehaven. More very windy weather was forecast so we booked into the marina for a further three nights.

Thursday, 13 September 2012


We left Fleetwood at 14-40 on 6th September after a month at home, and sailed over to Piel island for the night. We chose a slightly different spot to anchor but had no problems, and were ready to set off up the coast bound for Whitehaven. We weighed anchor at 09-40 in the morning and had a good sail, mooring in Whitehaven Queens Marina at about 17-00. The town is very pleasant, and the marina friendly and well maintained ( and good free WiFi included ! ). Whitehaven also has the best tidal access in the area at a nominal HW +-4Hrs.

We spent a total of 5 nights in Whitehaven, and had good walks up, and down the coast.

The photo above is the view looking North from the path towards Whitehaven with the southern pier visible, and below is St. Bees Head from the coastal footpath.

The weather wasn't particularly good, but on a walk up the coast to Parton, we got a view of the Galloway coast on the other side of the Solway Firth ( just to the left of the railway signal ).

This is the view from Parton towards Whitehaven, with St. Bees head in the background.

Finally on 12th September, after nearly abandoning due to heavy rain, we set of for Kirkcudbright on the Galloway coast. After a few heavy, and very unpleasant rain showers, the weather steadily improved, and we arrived at the entrance to the River Dee in bright sunshine.

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Piel Island

We dropped off the mooring after breakfast with a trip of about 60NM ahead. This part of the Irish sea seems to be covered in wind farms, and we had to thread our way between three farms on this passage. We carried fair tide for what seemed like most of the day, but as we approached Morcambe bay, it turned foul, and had to push into 2-3kts of tide as we entered the channel to Barrow docks.

We had spotted a small creek on the chart, just before Piel Island, which was ideally suited to a Southerly. Having nosed our way in, we dropped the anchor in about 1.5 - 2.0m at LW but there was a lot of very shallow water all around us. About 50m down the beach about 20 seals had hauled out, and didn't seem in the slightest bit bothered at our arrival.

Piel Island is a small rocky outcrop joined to the mainland at low water, and surmounted by the castle, and a pub. Historically, a new landlord at the pub is invested as 'The King of Piel' - I don't know about the legality of this, but he has quite an impressive castle, even if it is a ruin.

This is the view back out to Morcambe bay. The raised structure is one of the leading marks used by large ships making for Barrow docks - the channel is very narrow, with large expanses of sand and shallow water all around.

After a very pleasant night at anchor, and another location ticked off our 'must do' anchorages list, we had lunch, then set off across the bay towards Fleetwood, which was to be NJ's home for the next month, and eventually over winter.

Port St. Mary

There are a number of Anchorages to the south of Douglas before the tidal gate of Calf Sound, Derby Haven, Castletown, and Port St. Mary. We did poke our nose into Castletown but there was a swell getting into the bay, so we decided to continue to Port St. Mary. On the way into the bay the conditions were good for us to calibrate our new autopilot, which was good news, as everything went as expected. As we approached the harbour we found that one of the visitors moorings was free, so we took advantage of this bonus.

The view from the anchorage at dusk, with an oily flat calm, and very peaceful.

In the morning we decided to take the dinghy ashore, have a look around Port St. Mary, and possibly walk over to Port Erin, the other side of Calf Sound.

Both Port St. Mary, and Port Erin were very pleasant places, and it was good to note that in the right conditions, Port Erin would make an ideal stopover on the west coat of the I.O.M.

We caught a bus back from Port Erin to Port St. Mary where there was a lifeboat fundraiser in full swing. We had a look around the all weather life boat, and appreciated it's sturdy construction - but just hope that we never have to be a passenger !!

We really enjoyed our trip to the Isle of Man, and look forward to returning sometime to explore the western coast. We needed to be at home for the middle of August, so we decided to go back across the Irish sea, and investigate Piel Island near Barrow in Furness.

Douglas, Isle of Man

Whilst we were waiting for the marina flap gate to open, a large ferry arrived in the harbour, and proceeded to turn, using all the available space - quite scary !

We had an interesting trip to Snaefell, the highest  mountain on the Island. Having taken a taxi out to Laxey to join the mountain railway, we had great views of the great Laxey water wheel, the largest operating water wheel in the world. A little later a peregrine falcon was spotted, it seemed peculiar to be looking down on this magnificent bird.

On a very clear day it is supposed to be possible to see 'The Six Kingdoms' from the top of Snaefell ( England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, Southern Ireland, and the Isle of Man ); we just about saw Scotland, and some fantastic views of the I.O.M. but the others were lost in the cloud.

We had a very nice freshly carved roast beef bap in the Summit Hotel at 2036', before catching the tram back down to Laxey.

From Laxey we caught the Manx Electric Railway back down to the north end of Douglas prommenade.

There was a lovely view back across the bay towards Douglas.

After disembarking from the electric train, we embarked on yet another form of transport; a horse tram. This took us back to the ferry terminal in Douglas, from where we walked back to the boat after a thoroughly enjoyable day.

The flap gate has a raising bridge carrying the road over the marina entrance. The bridge opens at quarter to and quarter past the hour while the flap gate is down.

'NJ' in her berth in Douglas marina.

And the view from the berth, back towards the gate.

After four very enjoyable days in Douglas we left just after lunch, and headed south to do some bay hopping.

Fleetwood, a winter home for 'NJ'

Once we were clear of the River Mersey entrance, we had a good run over from Liverpool to Fleetwood, arriving a couple of hours before the lock opened. Anchoring was a possibility, but there were lots of moorings laid in the area off the marina entrance.

Fortunately, there was a substantial mooring unoccupied, so we picked this up, and had our supper while we waited for the lock.

The lock keeper was very helpful, guiding us in over the deepest water over VHF radio, and allocating us an easy alongside berth near to the facilities, and marina office. We had shortlisted Fleetwood Marina for our over winter home for ‘NJ’, along with Liverpool, and Preston. After the long slog up and down the Mersey, Liverpool had been crossed off. Preston looked quite pleasant, but was again about 10 miles up the River Ribble. The well laid out, and maintained facilities at Fleetwood have persuaded us, and we made enquires at the office. We were invited to look over the whole marina, including the area inside a swing bridge where the pontoon fingers were longer, allowing more scope for securing the boat for winter gales. Another plus point for Fleetwood was a large retail outlet adjacent to the marina, and a large ASDA within easy walking distance.

After a few days recharging our batteries, and restocking the boat, we prepared to leave, bound for Douglas on the Isle of Man. As the lock opened, a flurry of activity on the VHF warned us that there was a dredger about to enter the lock from seaward, and another moving out from the inner dock, squeezing through the gap spanned by a swing bridge. We really felt the surge of water pressure as the dredgers passed us.

Just as we moved off the pontoon, another smaller vessel appeared with a new channel marker buoy strapped to the bow, this followed us most of the way down the approach channel until it got to the intended site  for the buoy ( No. 6 PHS ), so we can expect a nice shiny addition to the channel when we return in a week or so.

Once past the now derelict RoRo ferry terminal and clearing the entrance we set a course for Douglas, and once clear of the Morcambe bay sands, we followed this between three large wind farms, and then out into the Irish sea. At one point Sue spotted a small pod of Atlantic bottle nosed dolphins ( much larger and more powerful than their common dolphin cousins ) which briefly swam around the boat. At about 36NM to go we spotted the Isle of Man rising above the horizon. We had expected rain or showers on and off all day, but in the end we stayed dry until about one and half hours to go. We tied up to a rather agricultural looking waiting pontoon to eat our supper, and await the lowering of the flap gate into the inner harbour where the marina is situated.