Tag Archives: Wells-next-the-Sea

Through The Wash: Wells to King’s Lynn

Here’s a video account of last August’s journey from Wells-next-the-Sea to King’s Lynn, on my way into the Great Ouse river and Cambridge.

There’s nothing particularly spectacular to see, but it was a fun journey, especially as I got into the channels close to King’s Lynn at low water.

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2015-06-11 · 10:52

Dawn departure

Away from Wells at last with the morning tide, to King’s Lynn with the evening. Winds finally came round.

Gibraltar Point to North Foreland – Strong winds are forecast
24 hour forecast: Southerly 3 or 4, backing southeasterly 4 or 5, then easterly or southeasterly 5 or 6. Smooth or slight, becoming slight or moderate. Occasional rain. Good, becoming moderate, occasionally poor.

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2014-08-25 · 06:01

Who said that?

It was very hard getting Tammy Norie off the beach at Sea Palling, and by 06:00 I was already exhausted and would have liked to have taken the rest of the day off to tinker with the boat. But the weather was due to turn from easterly force 5s to westerly force 8s by the evening as ex-hurricane Bertha tracked into the North Sea.

The track of ex-hurricane Bertha

The track of ex-hurricane Bertha

I had to get going to Blakeney or Wells. And I was already shattered. So, after breakfast and a breather on the anchor I set off westwards.

There isn’t much to tell you about the actual journey. This part of the Norfolk coast has very little of interest from the sea. Tammy Norie was against the current for the first hour or so, but still managed 4.5 knots over the ground. When the current turned she was making 6 knots. The sea was moderate and the motion pleasant. The sailing was no problem at all. No problem. No prob…

Was I asleep just then?

I’ve always had a problem controlling sleep. I sometimes joke that I can sleep standing up. I have fallen asleep during conversations. I can sleep anywhere, and when I’m tired I don’t have a choice. I simply sleep. Other people say that they’re jealous of my ability to take naps or sleep during the day. On the other hand, people are sometimes a little put out that I allow myself to sleep. The thing is, it’s not voluntary. I don’t really have a choice. When I’m tired, I will sleep.

Sometimes I’ve wondered if I’m borderline narcoleptic. I’ve had one spell of post-viral fatigue syndrome where I couldn’t stay properly awake for months. (Fortunately, it didn’t turn chronic.)

Now, this could be a blessing or a curse for a solo sailor.

The ability to take naps and drop in and out of sleep could be very valuable, since a solo sailor has to wake up frequently to keep a look-out, especially for approaching ships. Solo sailors set alarms to wake themselves up every 10-15 minutes at night. During the day, if visibility is good, you can afford to sleep for longer.

But what if I can’t stay awake when I need to? What if I’m crossing a shipping lane when tired and nod off? I know from experience that I can’t simply will myself to stay awake.

Well, here on this short journey from Sea Palling, was a chance to test myself.

I took myself far enough off shore that I wasn’t seeing any lobster pots, set my iPhone alarm for 10 minutes, and sat still. That’s all it took. Suddenly it was four minutes later. I’d been woken by a large wave throwing Tammy a little off course. This pattern repeated itself. I was sleeping quickly, but being woken by changes in rhythm. After a while I started sleeping for eight or nine minutes. Never once was I woken by the alarm, though, and I wonder if I was getting any real sleep at all or just failing to be conscious.

But there was something else happening. I was hearing voices.

Nothing clear, nothing obvious, but just occasionally I thought I could hear a word or two on the edge of hearing. The first few times I looked around, thinking that another boat had come close, or that someone was shouting on the beach and I’d accidentally wandered towards the shore. But there was nobody there. I wasn’t dreaming — these were waking hallucinations.

I was slightly startled. I’d not had this happen before. I was mainly concerned that it might be a sign that worse things could happen. I’m very aware that I can make poor decisions when tired, and here I was alone on the sea where my decisions could be critical to my survival.

At this point I decided that I wouldn’t be attempting to enter Blakeney. I heard the entrance could be tricky. I was very prepared to give it a go, but I felt that I couldn’t trust myself. Wells, I read, were helpful about getting you in. I might need help.

I kept up my 10 minute nap cycle, and by the time Cromer and then Sheringham slipped past I was feeling stable, at least. I was still hearing he occasional voice, but didn’t feel as if I would pass out. The long run to Blakeney Point went smoothly, with Tammy surfing happily on the waves.

As I approached the mark on Blakeney Point I realised that it wasn’t the clear water mark I was looking at, but the isolated danger mark, Hjordis, and that I was losing depth quite rapidly. I’d need to gybe to head off in the right direction. At this point I realised that I had too much sail up. Tammy was leaping across the waves for a reason. It was a bit of a struggle to get her round and reef, but again the junk rig showed its strength, and I was able to stay in control, change course, and head off the sand with only a few hundred metres of downwind drift.

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I ran on past Blakeney until I spotted the cardinal buoy at Wells with the binoculars. I tried to radio Wells but they couldn’t hear me well enough, so I called them on the phone. They confirmed what I suspected: I was much too early to get in. Tammy’s rapid progress from Sea Palling had got me there almost three hours earlier than I had planned. It was 12:30 and I wouldn’t be able to cross the bar until 15:00. Wells recommended anchoring at Holkham Bay, about a mile downwind of the entrance.

Now, if I’d been more awake I would’ve dismissed that idea, but as it was I thought that if there was enough shelter I’d be able to sleep for an hour on the anchor. So I sailed west and looked for the bay. Well, if there’s a bay there it’s not very clear, and it’s certainly not very sheltered. I sailed quite close to the shore but the wind and waves seemed too high to anchor securely. So I turned around and started beating back up towards the entrance.

In fact, it took two long tacks to make it back up, using up all the time available. If I’d anchored and slept I might have missed my chance!

Upwind, I was able to deploy a bungee to the tiller and give the autopilot a rest. Tammy Norie doesn’t make great progress to windward, but she’s very stable and reliable on an upwind course. Speed through the water dropped to 2.5 knots, but I was very confident that she’d look after herself and I was able to take several naps while comfortably tucked under the spray hood.

Finally, I arrived at the Wells cardinal just after 15:00 and called them on the radio. My friend Nick had come to Wells to meet me and had a chat with the harbour, explaining that I was solo and no doubt that I was likely to be very tired. They kindly sent the beach patrol RIB out to meet me, and they piloted me in through what seemed at the time to be a confusing mess of red and green markers.

Somehow, in my exhausted state, I was able to get fenders and mooring lines out while steering with my knees, and helpful hands got me on to the pontoon. I closed up the boat, climbed into Nick’s car, and he took me to a bed.

Later, he described talking to me during the journey as an “odd experience”.

So, a short test of my ability to cope with lack of sleep. I don’t think it’s good enough. I’m still concerned that I may be in some way unsuited to solo passages.

Time to research fatigue management plans.

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Filed under East Anglia 2014, Logs

Digging for nuts

This one’s for boat nuts only, or possibly fellow Coromandel or Corribee owners who might want to know what they’re in for.

While weatherbound and on a sandbank at Wells-next-the-sea last weekend I repaired a loose and leaky stanchion. The biggest problem was getting the thing apart, as you will see in this video.

I must stress that the arrangement with the backing plate isn’t final. I learned a lot doing this and it’s given me ideas about attaching many of these deck fittings much more solidly. The plate might end up being an L-shaped bracket with tapped holes for the bolts, leaving no protruding bolts.

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2014-08-21 · 14:20

Windbound at Wells

Last Saturday I attempted to sail from Wells-next-the-Sea to King’s Lynn as the first step of my plan to bring Tammy Norie to Cambridge. The weather wouldn’t let me.

I left Cambridge at 06:35 carrying a sheet of 6mm exterior plywood that I planned to use for improving deck fittings, and reached Wells just after 09:00.

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I bought Imray chart Y9 of the Wash, paid the harbour and dropped some money in the charity trust box as promised. I spent some time preparing Tammy and chatting to my neighbours on the pontoon — mostly motor cruisers who felt it was too rough to go out. Indeed, on my way out and over the bar I met four scurrying in, several of them ignoring the cardinal and channel buoys in their hurry to get out of the waves.

It was a bit choppy. The wind was westerly force 6 and the waves were short and high with quite a few breaking at the Wells bar. Once out past the cardinal it wasn’t too bad, but once again Tammy failed to make any progress to windward in the short sea. I made an hour-long tack northwards, trying everything I could to make progress, but when I tacked back to see how I was doing I found I’d actually slipped downwind about a quarter of a mile.

The wind was only forecast to get worse. It was clear I wasn’t going to get to King’s Lynn at all, and that it would be dangerous to have Hunstanton on the lee in such conditions. I could run back to Sea Palling and abandon my Cambridge plans, or I could scurry back in to Wells.

At this point I was a bit worried about Wells. On the way out I’d noted I had over 3m of water in the channel, and since then the tide had peaked and dropped a metre below that, so I ought to have 2m going in, if I was quick. But the tide was falling all the time and if I made a mistake I could be in quite a bit of trouble.

My main fuel tank was also running very low at this point. I’d been unable to fill up because Wells has no petrol station. So I transferred 4 litres from the reserve into the main, lifting them both into the deepest part of the cockpit to avoid getting any water in the fuel.

I was unable to raise Wells harbour on the radio or telephone, but managed to chat to the friendly guys on the beach patrol RIB who were watching the holidaymakers on the nice sheltered beach at the entrance to Wells. They suggested I come in quick.

So I did. Tammy’s 5hp engine seems just about adequate for pushing her into the wind, waves, and ebb current on the westward turn over the bar. I’m very glad I didn’t go for a smaller engine, and I kind of wished I still had the 10hp monster that I broke earlier. I’m absolutely sure that I couldn’t’ve got back in with a yuloh or scull. Engineless I would simply not have had the choice to enter Wells. Perhaps one day I won’t be on a schedule.

By the time I was at the beach chatting with the beach patrol guys over the side it was too late to get back to the town. The suggested I anchor just south of the outer harbour, and so I found a broad spot that still had some water and threw the anchor over the side. By the time I’d dropped the sail and made a log entry I was aground in a lovely spot.

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I spent the afternoon trying to remove the starboard middle stanchion and trying out some kite aerial photography. At about 22:00 I floated off and rode the very strong Wells flood back to the town, where my motor-cruiser friends were chatting and helped me tie up. “You must be exhausted,” exclaimed one, and I realised that they thought I’d been out at sea for twelve hours. I explained that I’d been on a sandbank for most of the day drinking tea and playing with a kite.

I spent most of Sunday fixing the stanchion. Briefly, here is what it was like in the morning:

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and in the afternoon:

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It is the prototype for upgrades to all the deck fittings, ensuring they are sealed and strong. I also fixed the tiller pilot, so it was an enjoyable and productive day. Even right inside Wells the wind was very strong, and nobody was going out.

I met an excellent chap named Alan in a temporarily mastless Maurice Griffiths boat called Stella Marie who had Haslar self-stearing gear “serial number 2” hanging off the back, and we had a very nice chat about the Jester Challenge and good places to visit in the Wash. At one point he mentioned that people used to have boat stamps in the old days, and I was able to produce mine and stamp his log book, much to our mutual enjoyment.

On the whole, getting stuck in Wells was no bad thing, and I’ll make another attempt on King’s Lynn as soon as the westerlies decrease.

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Filed under East Anglia 2014, engine, Logs

Tammy from a Kite

I’ve been meaning to try some kite aerial photography for a while. I was tidying up Tammy Norie while stuck on a sandbank at Wells-next-the-Sea, and found a dowel that I’d bought to repair the broken spine of my Japanese Rokaku fighting kite. Time to give it a try! It worked better than I thought, but still not very well yet. I clearly need a more stable kite and rig.

I think a box kite would be better. They are simple and stable and have plenty of lifting power. That and a Picavet suspension ought to do it. Something to do when I’m not so busy fixing the boat.

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2014-08-18 · 15:57

Plans for Blakeney

Tammy Norie is currently berthed at Lowestoft Cruising Club. My goal is to reach Blakeney before Saturday and meet friends who are on holiday in Sheringham.

PassageWeather is showing light south and south-easterly winds until Sunday, then on Monday a big low appears on the North Sea and there’ll be some nasty onshore winds, making entry to Blakeney very hazardous.  I should be OK, though, if I go in the next few days.

High tides at Blakeney Bar are in the late afternoon for the next few days. I need to get into Blakeney around high tide, so I should plan to arrive in the early afternoon. If I fail to get in to Blakeney my back-up plan will be Wells-next-the-Sea.

Several people have mentioned that it’s possible to stop behind the wave breaks at Sea Palling. Nathan Whitworth stopped there over night between part 9 and part 10 of his attempt to sail around Britain in a Corribee. It’s pretty much the only plausible place to stop between Lowestoft and Blakeney. Sea Palling is about 20 miles from Lowestoft, whereas Blakeney is 50. If I conservatively estimate my average speed at 3.5kn it will be 14 hours from Lowestoft to Blakeney, so I’d have to set off around midnight on Thursday to get there by Friday’s afternoon high tide. With tidal streams against me for half the journey, it’s tempting to break it into two parts, especially given the fairly light winds.

So plan A will be to set off from Lowestoft around 08:30 on Thursday, ride the tide and wind to Sea Palling, arriving early afternoon. Then anchor up until 06:00 Friday and ride round to Blakeney, arriving mid afternoon. Plan B will be to set off from Lowestoft at 00:00 on Friday and do it in one go, perhaps taking a nap at Sea Palling around sunrise.

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Filed under East Anglia 2014, Plans