Who are our heroes?
Erm? They're Clive and Les aren't they?
Yes, but wouldn't you like to know more? Read these biogs.
New: Chat with Clive and Les via our message board.
Read more about Quintet, the boat that will carry our adventurers on their journey.
New: See the boys in action sailing Quintet outside Poole
Fosdyke 18th September
18th September, 2005
Yesterday evening we cast of our mooring lines for the final time and set sail for Fosdyke, the last leg of our circumnavigation of England.
I had got back to Hull from Bristol and ‘the wedding’ at 5.00o’clock in the afternoon. This was later than anticipated for a number of reasons. 1. I missed the train that I planned to catch because I am moving very slowly, hobbling with lower back pain which came on two days ago, and 2. the later train was taking half an hour longer than indicated on the timetable as a result of engineering works.
Denise and her friend, Alison, were waiting at the boat talking to Clive, as was Neil who was to join us for this final voyage. So we chatted for a while. We did try to convince Denise that she should join us for this last voyage but she wasn’t having any. Then the three sailors dressed warmly for the journey, bade farewell to the girls and headed for the marina lock and the muddy waters of the Humber.
Soon after 6.00 pm the lock gates creaked open and spilled us into the churning Humber. The voyage to Fosdyke had begun.
It was a fairly grey evening, not quite the warm, sunny weekend which was promised so navigation lights were lit almost immediately. The tide was still on its way in, with another forty minutes before it would assist us down to the sea, so we motored. After four days in Hull the batteries were probably in need of a significant boost anyway.
We had discussed the likely duration of this leg of the journey in some depth. It appeared possible, if the gods were with us, to achieve landfall in a single tide, allowing that we were leaving just before the top of the tide and could reasonably fight the outgoing tide for at least an hour at the other end. Conversely, if we were to arrive in the Wash with insufficient time to make it up the River Welland, it would mean sitting out in Boston Roads, doing nothing for perhaps nine hours. We were ready, with food and drink to while away the day should it be necessary.
A mile or two from the lock we identified another yacht beating up the river. Was it the one on which Tony was doing his ‘incompetent crew’ assessment?
We wove our way between the sandbanks, following the navigation marks and, soon after 7.00o’clock, we had Neil on the foredeck, hoisting sail for a screaming reach downriver. At this speed it wasn’t long before we had left Hull and Immingham far behind and were approaching Grimsby and its huge Dock Tower. This amazing edifice stands over three hundred feet tall. It was originally erected to provide a head of water to operate the lock gates, and was later was modified to supply water to the whole of Grimsby's extensive fish market. The Dock Tower is Grimsby's most famous landmark and has been given listed building status, but still nobody seemed to know what it was when I asked.
We thought it might be good to eat while still in the river so I hauled out one of the last of the French ready meals; sausages in lentils, and boiled some new potatoes. The food was very nice indeed, a sort of cassoulet with lentils rather than beans. Clive and Neil went below to eat while took the helm. Then I hovered up what they had left. Scrumptious!
Once the sun had set it became hard to distinguish traffic moving on the river. We were following the southern shore which is also used by most of the commercial traffic. At the low level of a yacht, the navigation lights of a vessel on the same course and directly astern, are not particularly easy to pick out. We had a few moments when we were sure that evasive action would be required but soon we were past the sandbanks and could drop further southwards, to leeward of the ships anchored in the fairway and outside the deep water channel. Then we had a different problem.
We were navigating the river on the small chart in the almanac. The almanac specifically says that these chartlets ‘should not be used for navigation’, but they were all we had. The Imray chart doesn’t go right up the river and is of a scale which is too small to show anything other than the major buoys marking the start of the river channel. Nothing is shown on this chart once upriver of Spurn head. But the almanac chartlets are not too good on detailed location of sandbanks and I was getting concerned that light patterns didn’t seem to reflect what I could see. If we went too far south we would ground, on a falling tide. It didn’t really bear thinking about.
It was about then that I wondered why we hadn’t asked Denise to lend us her brand new, detailed chart of the river. Rearrange these words into an appropriate phrase or saying; heads, dick.
In a fit of conservatism I directed the skipper to stay within reach of the deep water channel until we were well clear of potentially problematical sand banks. Then, once I felt we were well clear, nearly 10.00o’clock at night, we turned southwards, hugging the coast to avoid the tide which would soon turn foul. But we were still making splendid time. The chance of making our destination on a single tide was a strong possibility.
At about this time I was feeling really crap. My back was killing me. I requested permission to go below and rest, but leaving strict instructions for positions to be logged each hour and for me to be called when we approached Skegness.
I had been mulling over the route we should take into the Welland. The safest route was to head down to the illuminated leads which are used by the commercial traffic into Boston but this would put an extra five miles or more on the journey, almost certainly denying us landfall on the single tide.
The second option was to use the Parlour channel which we had used on the first day out to Wells next the Sea. This channel is buoyed but the buoys are small and unlit. They could well be hard to spot. And even this route might force us to spend most of a tide at anchor in Boston Roads.
The fast option was to take the inshore passage past Gibraltar Point. This route is absolutely out of the question when there is any sort of sea running but it was a quiet night. The wind was pretty much at right angles to the tide and pretty light. This shortest route would give us the best chance of getting in on the same tide.
I pondered on the choices while I tried to get comfortable, while I tried to get a couple of hours sleep before addressing the task of piloting this vessel into the Wash. Thank God for GPS.
In no time at all it was 2.30 in the morning. Neil was calling me on deck telling me that the lights on the shore were Skegness. At last we were moving on to a new chart with some detail on it. And decision time was here.
I looked at the sea conditions and told Clive that I favoured the direct route round Gibraltar Point. Clive thought a while. We discussed the possibility of sailing through and decided that the wind would be too far forward. But we decided to go for it. Neil was in blissful ignorance of the narrowness of the channel we were going to try to find in the pitch dark, amongst the shifting sand banks off the Lincolnshire coast.
It wasn’t long before we had started the engine and Neil and I were up on deck, hauling down sails and securing them. Then we were back in the cockpit, Neil watching the depth sounder and me plotting our positions through the narrow, shallow channel, calling ‘left’ and ‘right’ as the currents tossed us back and forth.
Clive steered us between the sandbanks, watching and avoiding the breaking water each side of us until, just before 4.00 am, we were into the deeper water of Boston Deep. Navigation still required some concentration. It would be another hour and a half before we would sight the lit buoys which mark the channel used by commercial vessels going into Boston but the hard part was over. And there was little doubt that we would be tied up in Fosdyke without the need to sit out another tide.
At 4.30 a green buoy emerged from the gloom, then another and soon after 5.30 we had sighted the first of the lit buoys. The sky was brightening to another grey day as we motored through Boston Roads towards the River Welland. Neil decided he was tired and went below.
We ticked off the buoys into the river but were confused that one of the starboard hand buoys was missing. Then we spotted it, not a buoy but a lit beacon, except that it wasn’t lit. As we came alongside our delinquent buoy we could see that its light was glowing quietly to itself, of no use to man or sailor.
Soon we were back in the river, between the low, muddy banks which we had traversed those three months ago. A heron took to the air as we scudded past, as we raced to our home anchorage on the back of the end of the tide. A marsh harrier called across the salt flats, welcoming us home.
The tide was turning. Our speed had dropped to little more than four knots. The river, littered with weed dragged from the banks, was now rushing ever faster back to the sea. We would have to moor facing the outgoing tide. As the moored boats at Fosdyke Yacht Haven came into view, I hung fenders along the starboard side and prepared mooring lines. Neil slept soundly.
It wasn’t our best landing. It was hard to judge the power needed against the ever increasing foul tide. And the gap they had left us was hardly generous. Quintet took a little paint off as she ‘kissed’ the dock. Neil still slept soundly.
We all sat down to breakfast which the skipper had prepared the moment we got in: eggs, bacon, fresh bread, freshly squeezed orange juice and coffee. Then we finished tidying away the deck gear and the rig.
So we’re here. Sails are unhanked and folded up in their bags. Sheets are coiled and stowed. Perishables have been taken off. Kit has been removed. It’s time to go to the Ship Inn for some lunch and to celebrate our survival and, perhaps more surprisingly, the survival of our friendship. After three months we are still talking to each other.
I suppose that we will both have to spend the next week replying to all the emails and messages of congratulation on our splendid achievement.
I said ‘I suppose that we will have to spend the next week replying to all your emails and messages of congratulation on our splendid achievement!’