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Hartlepool 10th September

Yacht Quintet
Hartlepool Marina

10th September, 2005

<-Hartlepool 9th September Hull 17th September->

We are still in Hartlepool Marina and the wind is still rattling the rigging although the rain is no longer quite pounding on the deck. It’s still pretty crap though, hardly the sunlit east coast that we’ve been told about.

Click for a larger imageThe first thing that one notices as one comes through the lock at Hartlepool Marina is the bronze monkey. For those who don’t know, the legend of the monkey is that during the Napoleonic wars a French ship was wrecked off the coast and all its crew were lost. But a monkey was washed ashore still alive. The Hartlepudleans (really) thought that the monkey was a French spy and hung him forthwith. At football matches, the opposition fans are often heard to call out at the Hartlepool supporters ‘Who hung the monkey?’

Just before we went out last night. I got a phone call from our friend Brian. He supplied lots of good information about food in Hartlepool, including:

  • Hungry Jack’s: in the small brick building on the dock side. The best sandwiches in town; huge helpings for a quid.
  • Krimo’s: probably the best restaurant around and if you don’t book a week ahead you won’t get in.
  • Verily’s: near the impressive church with the square tower, the one you can see from the marina, providing the best fish and chips in Hartlepool.

We have tried Hungry Jack’s and he is right although actually they charge about £1.20 which is a fantastic bargain for excellent bread rolls stuffed with delicious fillings, we’ve not been to Verily’s; there are three churches with the square towers which you can see from the marina, Brian, but whichever church it is near it is too far in pouring rain and Krimo’s, well, Clive doesn’t spend that much on a week’s holiday!

Having supplied all this information about food, Brian went on to reveal that he had not eaten anything for THREE WHOLE WEEKS! The poor love had an operation to fix a swallowing problem and they have managed to perforate his oesophagus. So he has been ‘nil by mouth’ for three weeks. And he was kind enough to tell us where to eat in his old home town. That’s above and beyond the call of duty. Brian, please get well.

We did meet Allan Henderson, managing director of the marina, yesterday however the planned guided tour didn’t happen. The weather has been appalling and neither he nor we were up to wandering around in the deluge. However we got a potted history of the marina site.

Click for a larger imageHartlepool Marina is located in the old ‘Coal dock’ built by the Hartlepool West Harbour and Dock Company and originally opened in 1847.

By the late 1960s and early 70s the locked harbour was no longer directly accessible from the sea. A number of pleasure boats were based inside the harbour, coming and going through the central dock into the main harbour. The outer harbour and lock entrance to the Coal Dock had become home anchorage to a number of local yachts, mainly centreboarders and twin keelers which could take the ground between tides.

In 1987, the Teesside Development Corporation published plans to redevelop the docks ‘for the people of Hartlepool’ and in 1991 the refurbished locks and docksides were opened for public use. From then on, new attractions have been regularly added to the area such as the Hartlepool Historic Quay and its two historic ships, the factory outlet shopping centre, restaurants and bars.

Hartlepool is a useful sailing base for the east coast being a short cruise from excellent shelter at Whitby, Sunderland, Blyth and Amble, although admittedly, like Hartlepool, many of these harbours have access limited by tidal and sea state. Lindisfarne and the beautiful Farne Islands are within a week’s return cruise. Even the Firth of Forth is not that far away.

Three years ago, Allan Henderson, then working for the developers as Activities Centre manager, negotiated separation of the marina as an independent business since when he has been Managing Director.

Allan told us how he took on the existing marina staff and is making a success of a business which was previously running at a loss. He is particularly proud of the marina’s participation in the visit of the ‘tall ships’ to Hartlepool in July as part of the ‘Sea Britain 2005’ celebration of Britain’s maritime heritage. He told us stories of how his staff had located and repaired a fuel leak which one of the tall ships had been suffering for many months and nobody else had been able to resolve it.

The marina offers all of the services which one would expect from a well found operation: workshop, chandlery, 40 tonne boat lift, fuel and gas. Electricity, water, showers, launderette, etc. are all available with short and long term mooring and dry-standing.

Allan, good luck and best wishes to you and your staff for the future and thank you for your generosity and assistance.

Click for a larger imageWe had planned, in the absence of the guided tour, to visit the ‘Historic Quay’, home of HMS Trincomalee, the last of Nelson’s Frigates, and the paddle steamer, PSS Wingfield Castle, but it was too wet even for that. I stayed in and brought our log up to date. Clive read.

Click for a larger imageIn the evening we went to another Indian restaurant on the waterfront, this one chosen because there was a free meal voucher in marina guide. It was nevertheless very good. And then, what is probably to be the high spot of our visit to Hartlepool, we went to the ‘Smallcraft Club’ and it was Karioke night. All I can say guys is ‘You probably shouldn’t consider giving up your day jobs!’

The club is a short walk from the harbour. It is slightly shabby but cosy and welcoming. The members are friendly and hospitable and the beer is good, and at £1.50 a pint……

Today has been better but still hardly tropical. I went to the farmers’ market which was fun. I have done laundry which was fulfilling. And we went to visit the Trincomalee which was frustrating as it was closed for a wedding.

Over the last two days we have had lots of conversations with local sailors, both amateur and professional, and when we asked them about going from Hartlepool to Whitby tomorrow, they all made noises like plumbers when you need the central heating looked at, a sort of sucking through clenched teeth! Then they all described how going into Whitby after strong weather in a northerly wind is a bit like surfing in a wardrobe and if you don’t bounce the bottom going over the bar, ‘can you stop before you get to the unlifted lifting bridge and rip the mast out as you whistle under it?’

The other harbours on the way, at Bridlington and Scarborough, are drying harbours and not too attractive either, even if one arrives at the state of the tide that allows one to get in. We think that we may be going straight from Hartlepool to Hull at this rate. I have bought enough provisions for at least one night at sea.

Mike Fellowes called round to wish us well and apologise for the weather. He’s off to Greece today, lucky bugger.

Vicki and Jamie are coming over this evening. Jamie is an old friend whom we met when he was working for Sailing Holidays in Croatia and Vicki and I sailed together, both in the Solent and Australia before she joined the Endeavour replica and sailed from Rio de Janeiro to Whitby. Now that’s real sailing. And they are getting married on Friday.

For us, it looks like the long haul down to the Humber in one hit, probably thirty six hours. So this evening we had better go to bed early and reasonably sober. We need to catch the tide at around 8.30 in the morning. That isn’t really civilised for a Sunday morning, is it?

Les Sutcliffe

<-Hartlepool 9th September Hull 17th September->