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Hartlepool 9th September

Yacht Quintet
Hartlepool Marina

9th September, 2005

<-Sunderland 7th September Hartlepool 10th September->

We are sitting here in Hartlepool Marina with wind rattling the rigging and rain pounding on the deck, feeling so pleased that we’re not at sea.

Yesterday morning we were debating whether to sail to Whitby or Hartlepool. The forecast for the day would have made a voyage directly to Whitby quite comfortable and pretty quick. But Vicki and Jamie had said that Hartlepool would be handy for them to come and visit (maybe another free dinner is waiting) and Brian had told me before we left that the facilities at Hartlepool were excellent.

Clive had come back from the shower saying that the marina office had given him a message to call Mike Fellowes, one of our ‘readers’, based in Hartlepool. After calling him, Clive announced that Mike was considering sailing up to meet us at Amble.

I then had a call from Pete, wishing us well, also extolling the virtues of Hartlepool and, most importantly, letting us know that all had gone well with Suzy’s op and that her eye, that was what they were operating on, could be uncovered today. Such good news and we do wish you a speedy recovery, Suzy. But I digress.

I logged on to the internet to confirm that the forecast was still consistent with that which I had read the day before and discovered that Clive had received an email from Allan Henderson, managing director of Hartlepool Marina, inviting us to stay in the marina as his guest and offering all the services which they provide, so impressed was he with our website and adventures (my words, not his!).

We felt that the whole world was conspiring to force us to visit Hartlepool and it would be churlish to refuse them. Clive called Mike and said that we would meet him offshore somewhere down the coast. Then he emailed Allan at Hartlepool Marina, accepting his kind offer and advising that we would be arriving that afternoon.

We were leaving Sunderland outer harbour soon after 10.30 and hoisted sail immediately. Progress was not good however, pushing a foul tide of a knot or more, but we persevered, although before midday we had dropped sail and were motoring. It didn’t last long though. Dark clouds were building to the west and the promised breeze arrived and had us rehoisting sail for a merry reach down the coast.

Click for a larger imageWe had been trying to spot Mike and his yacht Kes, which, as we were to discover, is a very pretty little steel Van de Stadt cutter. Some time before 1.00o’clock Clive identified a black hull with tan sails, much further offshore than us. I offered him the hand held VHF radio and he called Kes. It was her and she changed course to rendezvous with us.

We exchanged greetings, complemented each others’ boats, as one does, took photographs of each other and agreed to sail in company to Hartlepool. And of course this became a race.

Click for a larger imageI am pleased to say that with a bit of tweaking, including rigging a haul to bring the mainsheet block up to windward, we pointed up and showed Kes a clean pair of heels. But, to be fair, although the two vessels are of comparable waterline, Kes is probably a much heavier boat, being steel, and doesn’t have sail area to compare with Quintet’s lofty rig and huge mainsail. In these light airs there was no contest, although Kes’s performance was not to be sneezed at. She’s a canny little boat as, I believe, they say up here.

Click for a larger imageIt wasn’t very long before we were rounding the north wall of the commercial dock and crossing the fairway towards the marina entrance. We dropped sails and Kes came alongside. Mike told us that he had called ahead to alert the lock keeper and we were clear to lock in with them, so both boats steered in between the breakwaters and waited for the lock gates to open and the lights to indicate that we could go in.

They did seem to take a mighty long time. Water had stopped flowing from the gates, showing that the lock was empty but still the gates didn’t open. Eventually the hydraulics creaked into life and we motored into the lock and tied to the pontoon ready to rise up to the level of the inner basin. Once we were free of the lock we tied up and Clive went ashore to do his skippery things and I opened a beer.

When Clive returned, he was full of news. We could stay where we were unless we wished to stay more than one night or we must move to ‘B’ pontoon. Allan Henderson was not in today but we would meet him tomorrow. And, most importantly, Mike had invited us over to Kes for a beer as soon as we were settled.

We had decided that we would be staying at least two nights as the weather forecast for today was horrible with force 7 winds and huge seas (by our standards anyway) so we moved to the more permanent berth. Mike and his crew were waiting to take lines from us and once secure, and as the two of them were standing there, we asked them aboard for the first one. We swapped a yarn or two aboard Quintet and then adjourned to Kes as the rain began to fall, almost a fine mist to begin with but getting heavier and heavier.

Kes, by modern standards, is a small boat for 34 feet, but beautifully presented with glowing varnish work, cosy upholstery and all the comforts for short handed sailing in the sometimes unpleasant conditions of the North Sea. Mike is very proud of her and justly so.

More beer was consumed and we learned that Mike was off to Greece on Sunday, to the Ionian with Sailing Holidays. Isn’t it a small world? We extolled the virtues of the Ionian and also told of our visits with Sailing Holidays to Croatia.

We also learned that Allan Henderson’s generosity to us was the result of Mike making him aware of our voyage and our website through the magazine that he edits for Hartlepool Marina patrons and visitors, ‘Marina Mates’. Eventually we wended our way back to Quintet.

By the time we were showered and off to dinner the rain was gushing down so, in full ocean waterproofs, we headed for the nearest Indian restaurant, Indi-Glo. The food was most pleasant, quite different to Leicester’s Mowbray Road or the Ladypool baltis in Birmingham.

Having eaten our fill we went in search of a bar and discovered North Star, Cafe Bar, a smart bar which would have been at home on any waterfront in Greece or Italy. Then it was time for bed.

Click for a larger imageThis morning we woke to the banging and clanking of rigging. The rain continues to hammer the deck. The temperature is hardly tropical and it’s almost dark, the clouds are so low.

I went down to the lock gates this morning and looked out to sea. It’s not quite the gentle rippled bay of yesterday afternoon. It was a good decision to stay another night.

Les Sutcliffe

<-Sunderland 7th September Hartlepool 10th September->