Amble provided the perfect refuge from 48 hours of constant rain, and near gale conditions the following day. This gave us an opportunity to visit Alnwick, a beautiful old, and largely unspoiled, market town a few miles inland; home to the Duke of Northumberland – not to mention Harry Potter.
The next day dawned fair and we planned our journey down the coast to Blyth – almost as an afterthought, Louise suggested a visit to the harbour entrance to survey the bar, where we witnessed 3 metre waves rolling in, and breaking through the narrow harbour entrance – needless to say, our departure was postponed! Unfortunately the following day was forecast to be wet, and so it was as we eventually escaped the clutches of Amble, and completed a very soggy journey (yet another beat) to Blyth, home to the Royal Northumberland Yacht Club, author/publishers of the only worthwhile pilot for these parts.
Blyth is a superb harbour – a wide entrance, not too prone to onshore winds and accessible 24 hours – a rare thing along this coast. The marina is very protected; very cheap; and the RNYC clubhouse sits snugly in the corner, in the form of an ex-lightship – in fact the very lightship which sat on Calshot Spit until 1950. It has been fitted out superbly; loos, hot showers, two bars and extremely cheap food. Definitely worth the visit.
From Blyth a slightly longer hop (this time a reach!) took us to Hartlepool; yet another narrow, tide constrained entrance. The marina has been developed in a huge area of dockland; this was obviously a considerable investment, but you just get the impression that no-one has since lifted a finger to maintain it. Unfortunately it started raining as we arrived, and continued till we left the following morning, so perhaps my opinion is unjustly coloured.
Two years ago, we met a couple from Whitby on the Royal Southern pontoon, who were giving Vela the once-over – it transpired they too were Sigma owners, and we have stayed in touch, always threatening to drop-in on them on our way south. Luckily for us, our proposed visit coincided with Whitby Town Regatta, so our journey from Hartlepool had real purpose. Unfortunately it was pretty stressful! We couldn’t get out of Hartlepool till there was sufficient water in the channel, leaving us 5 hours to cover the 25 miles to Whitby, in order to catch the last bridge-opening for access to the marina. No big deal under normal circumstances, but fate conspired, yet again, to give us a south easterly wind for our south easterly journey; so our poor, over-worked engine was, once more, called into the front line. Thankfully, we made the bridge with 30 minutes to spare!
Whitby is an amazing place; from the moment you sail in through the harbour entrance, you just get a nice feeling. The tastefully historic parts of the town seem to mix perfectly with delightfully tacky parts of a typical seaside resort.
Neil Williamson is commodore of Whitby Yacht Club, and he and his wife Lorraine have just made us feel so welcome – I hope we will be able to repay the compliment one day. Saturday’s racing was followed by a ‘sail-past’, to which Vela was invited;
then on to the pontoon party – see how many people it takes to sink a pontoon; and finally prize-giving back at the club. I’m not sure whether they had all been bribed, but everyone we met knew of our trip and wanted to question us about it. A fantastic day!
Sunday, we had been invited to the Commodore’s Lunch – a very grand affair; and despite our less-than-formal attire
we were treated as honoured guests. The festivities continued into Monday with the Red Arrows, and finally the best firework display I have seen.
From here, ever south – Scarborough, Grimsby, Wells, Lowestoft – we will see where the wind is comfortable tomorrow.
More photos added in ‘Northumberland’ and ‘Whitby’ galleries.
Having slightly drier fun.