Tuesday, 27 April 2010

North to Lowestoft

We rise early, and I am suffering from the cold. Dan and I am sharing the cramped forecabin and even with the hatch open, the condensation is excessive, covering the walls with drops of water. None of us are keen to use the terribly cramped shower in the heads and so there is a steady procession to the excellent showers.

Another cooked breakfast sets us up for the day and we prepare the boat. I am surprised how quickly we are working as a team and the work is done in just a few minutes. Hatches and latches, engine, exhaust, galley and heads, lines, sails, GPS and charts; course to steer. We are ready to leave. With a quick call to the lock-keeper the lock is being prepared for us.

The weather has turned even better, with the sun shining and a Force 4 southeasterly blowing. We clear the harbour quickly and turn across the deepwater channel at Inner Ridge, and run north. I keep the log - my role today- and enjoy it, working with the charts and the chart-plotter.

As we run the coast, our easiest sail setting suggests going up the inside of the Whiting Bank although we had originally planned to go up outside it. It's often worth compromising in the interests of time and effort.

We watch as we pass the entrance to the Deben and then the Ore, using the time to practice taking bearings and fixes. We are just four kilometres offshore so the various masts and Martello towers are all visible. Helming quickly becomes the least interesting activity, not least because the Jenneau sails steadily and powerfully with very little input. I must admit I prefer the feel of a tiller as there is instant and recognisable feedback from the boat whereas a wheel often needs some thought.

We exchange stories about our lives as we sail northeast, the entrance to the Ore, the Orfordness lighthouse and then the deserted former research buildings all providing plenty of topics from shoals, currents, beaches and World War II conspiracies.

We joke about Aldeburgh, or Chipping-Norton-by-the-Sea as we call it, and its galleries, tea-shoppes and the excellent fish and chips. Where else will people queue for an hour outside a chipshop?

As Aldeburgh slips over the horizon, the boxes and domes of Sizewell appear, so framing our next discussion about nuclear power.

The final approach into Lowestoft is laboured as we need to pick up the East Barnard east cardinal marker then a succession of bouys to keep us off the sands. Lowestoft needs an approach from the northeast and there can be a strong swell across the entrance, especially with wind against tide as it is as we get nearer. We pick up the Newcome Sand buoy but keep well out from the South Holm buoy to get into the Stanford Channel with depth to spare, watching the echosounder. It gets alarmingly shallow - and still Lowestoft is some distance away - then suddenly the depth increases and we turn southwest for the entrance to the harbour.

A rig is being refurbished alongside the entrance, creating the perfect aiming point as the swells try to push us away. We radio in and get permission to enter. Lowestoft is a busy place with an unhealthy mix between yachts and commercial vessels.

We pass the little light white beacons, the swell vanishes and we are in the calm. Seconds later Stratos 6 is turning sharply in to the sheltered inner harbour of the Royal Norfolk and Suffolk Yacht Club.

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