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Amble 6th September
6th September, 2005
At last that bloody fog left Eyemouth. Mind you, when I spoke to a local fisherman this morning, I said 'The fog's gone then?' He replied that it had indeed gone, about half a mile offshore and most of Eyemouth expected it to be back before the afternoon was out. We decided to make a dash for it while we could see.
We left Eyemouth at 9.35, how's that for an early start, and were clear of the cardinal buoy by 9.50, motoring south under a sunny sky. It was warm and pleasant, the sun sparkling off the sea, but there was barely a breath of wind, certainly insufficient to sail, and that ghastly fog was lurking just offshore, waiting to drift back in and wrap us in its cold, damp cloak.
At a little before 11.30 we crossed the border back into England for the first time since we left Newlyn on 1st August. There was still no wind.
The noon fix bears the note 'It's wind! Is it wind? No, just indigestion!'
The visibility wasn't very good. The fog was drifting inshore again although, as it was only about five metres thick, the sun still shone brightly. One just couldn't see anything.
By 1.30 pm Holy Island could just be discerned through the haze at about two miles. It was so indistinct that Lindisfarne castle, the fairytale castle remodelled by Edward Lutyens, and the beacon on the eastern headland, Emmanuel Head, were not identifiable. It was a matter of constant GPS plotting and confirmation from soundings. We were a little more than three hundred metres away when the beacon came into focus, with the castle looming out of the mist a few minutes later.
Once past Emmanuel Head we had to locate the port and starboard hand marks which show the entrance into the inside passage through the Farne Islands, a route which the pilot recommends strongly against in anything but calm weather, flat seas and excellent visibility. Well, two out of three isn't bad!
Once we had located the buoys, we steered for Bamburgh Castle, another grand castle on this coast, and Black Rocks Point. Some of these names of rocks lack a bit in imagination don't you think? Then we turned southeast to follow the coast past Farne Island light.
The Farne Islands are home to a billion seabirds, puffins, guillimots, razorbills, terns, all attracted to its copious, though diminishing supply of sand eels which teem in these waters.
The Farne Islands are also home to the ruins of a monastery which must have been one of the bleakest places to worship God in the winter months. And, of course, it was the scene of the most famous 'life boat' rescue by Grace Darling.
'On a dark and stormy night in 1838, the Forfarshire was going from Hull to Dundee with about 60 people on board. After difficulties with its engine boilers, she struck the rocks of a one of the Farne islands. Nine of the crew and one passenger escaped in the only lifeboat on board. Many of the passengers who had been in their cabins, below deck, were drowned.
As the morning dawned, 9 survivors (5 crew and 4 passengers) were seen clinging to the rocks. Grace and her father who lived at the Longstone lighthouse on Brownsman Island rowed to their rescue and then looked after them in the lighthouse for 3 days.
To her distress, Grace Darling became a great Victorian celebrity with countless books, magazine articles, poems and paintings being created in her honour.'
3.30 approached. It was still hazy but it was turning into a beautiful afternoon. If only the wind would blow? We motored down the coast, past Seahouses, looking for the buoys which mark the western edge of the navigable channel, avoiding all those nasty rocks. The chart shows these buoys to be red cans but we couldn't see them at all. Then we identified a buoy inshore of us but it appeared white and cylindrical! As we got closer we realised that these navigation marks haven't been serviced for a while. The thick layer of guano, seagull shit as we sailors refer to it, has changed both the contour and the colour. The next two buoys had been similarly modified by the malodorous by-product of sand eel consumption.
By 4.30pm we were off Craster, home of the best kippery in the world, in my opinion anyway. The smoke could be seen, curling up from the roof of the smokehouse. By the way it hung, unmoving above the roof, it appeared that there was no more breeze inshore than we were getting. We came abeam of Seaton Point and headed into Alnmouth Bay and our home for the night, Amble Marina, 'the Friendliest Port' or so they say.
Amble was recommended by Pete and Suzy Chambers as being more attractive than our alternative destination at Blyth and as they were offering to buy us a fish and chip supper in Amble, we were in no position to argue. The only problem with Amble is that the marina has a sill, to maintain the water level around the pontoon. This means that the marina can only be entered or left at half tide or more when there is sufficient depth of water to clear the sill. I had, of course, examined the tide tables and timed our arrival to ensure that we would have sufficient sill clearance.
It's still a bit exciting coming into Amble. There is a huge sandbank on the north side of the entrance which encroaches half way across the fairway. And on the left side of the entrance is a red buoy to keep one off sand which lurks just inside the marina, ready to trap the unwary and provide entertainment for the holiday makers who line the quay. As it was we got in unscathed, other than some heated words between skipper and crew, we picked up our welcome pack from the fuel dock and headed for our allotted berth.
Pete and Suzy arrived while I was in the shower. I took them back to the boat, meeting Clive on the way, and we gave them the standard guided tour of Clive's 'gin palace'. They seemed quite impressed although Suzy expressed some misgivings about our journey in such a tiny boat, and this from a woman who spent her honeymoon on a Folkboat, without a toilet! Pete noted that Suzy is the same age as Quintet. I think that Quintet hasn't lasted anywhere near as well as Mrs Chambers.
They took us off to Charlie's fish and chippery where they do indeed serve the very best fish and chips, enhanced further by offering a pint of Theakston's Old Peculiar to go with it. You have to go there. It is fantastic. Thank you Pete and Suzy.
After dinner we went for a drink in the local pub (there are actually loads of them in Amble) and then our hosts begged for forgiveness for their early departure as Suzy was off to have an operation next morning. She's a tough kid.
We had one more pint before returning to Quintet where I mused upon the extreme change in dialect that just 40 miles brings.