The earliest we could arrange to get out of Grimsby Docks was 5.45am…about an hour before low water outside in the Humber. So we were up very early to get the boat ready. Somebody answered our prayer and stopped the horrible north westerly blowing around midnight. So a very dark morning but no wind thank goodness.
We left our berth in the marina part of No 2 Fish Docks and motored with great care in the darkness to the lock gates. Once again Mike stood up on the bow and with his powerful head torch indicated to me where the “edges” of the walls were as we passed through the entrances. We announced our presence to Martin, the lock keeper on duty, via the VHF radio, and entered the out lock at exactly 5.45am. Two ropes were lowered bow and stern and in 10 minutes we chugged very gently out into the River Humber in darkness.
At 3 miles distance we found our red buoy that marked the start of the south Channel all the way round to the Tetney mono buoy…a great big yellow floating raft of all sorts of monitoring equipment including a long black rubber pipe ( unmarked and unlit ) that snaked away to the south east.
We expereienced a spectacular sunrise over the Humber Eastuary…all pinks, yellows and every shade of red as the sun came up over the Spurn Head lighthouse. It was brrrrr cold too!
Unlike the time when we entered the estuary on the Monday evening, it now resembled a car park …or one should say boat park. Ships of all types and sizes at anchor waiting for the tide…but all, thank goodness, beyond the south lane where we were. As the ebb tide was stronger than the wind ( there was hardly a breath ) the dozens of ships all pointed exactly the same way.
The map above gives a general idea of our journey across the top of the Wash…it also shows all the wind farms!!!
Poli Poli headed south east across the top end of The Wash to the north coast of Norfolk. So passing Tetney Haven, Marshchapel, North Coates, Donna Nook bombing range, and down past Mablethorpe towards Skeggie ( Skegness ) . But not in a straight line! Firstly there are wind farms to avoid, and secondly the waters of the Wash are notoriously shallow in places so you have to plot routes through deeper channels.
We had to meet a tidal gate time in order to get in at the port of Wells Next The Sea…which was 1pm ( their high water ) …that was why we left Grimsby so early. Speed was of the essence, and as there was only 5 knots of wind, we motored. We punched tide for a lot of the time but 2 hours out from Wells the tide turned in our favour and swept us in towards the Norfolk coast.
The map above shows the entry channel into Wells Next The Sea in north Norfolk. We are berthed at the bottom where there is a purple V for visitors symbol.
At 12.30pm we spied the West Cardinal buoy through the binoculars and were on course to be at the entrance at 1pm. Now Wells is not an easy entry…some 4 n.miles of narrow shallow channel marked by red and green buoys. The sands move constantly and the buoys have to changed from time to time…so no chart is up to date. But the biggest threat to navigation is the Wells sand bar …right at the entrance where in certain conditions, crossing it can be very very risky!
Just off the West Cardinal buoy I spotted a fishing boat also making for the entrance. Hmmmm I thought …be sensible to get in behind him and follow his boat in. I could see surf breaking and hear the roar as waves tumbled over on reaching the sand bar.
As is the case with all ports you have to radio in to the Port Control officer who is usually the harbour master… and give details of who and what you are. This we did and on hearing that we had variable draft..permission was granted for entry.
We used VHF radio channel 12 and the fishing boat ahead was also tuned in on this working channel..so he listened to our details, came on the radio and offered to guide us in. Andy was the skipper..so we accepted his offer and got in line behind him. The first part was ok … the outer buoys …but when we crossed the bar it got really hairy. There was a swell and waves were breaking on the channel across the sand bar. Both Andy’s boat and ours were beam ( sideways ) on to the rollers..so we ( and the fishing boat ) were rolled over from side to side in the surf. Poli Poli was her magnificent self and always came back up level. So for about ten minutes it was definitely Roli Poli!
Once across the bar…. in a surreal sort of way…it all calmed down and within about 40 minutes of zigzagging around green and red buoys , we were safely moored up on a long side on empty pontoon…helped by Fred whose welcoming words were “ she’s a big bugger” ! Just before 2pm we switched our engine off and heaved a sigh of relief. Welcome to Wells Next The Sea.
Total mileage for the day : 52.6 n. Miles.
Total mileage from Eastbourne: 2,407.8 n. miles.
We plan to have a rest day tomorrow..Thursday 4th October, then set off again on Friday for Lowestoft. Tomorrow we have two sets of friends arriving to see us…Keith from Rutland Water for Mike, and Marilyn and Roli ( who live 30 mins away from Wells ) and Ian and Anne from Shere near Guildford in Surrey… for T.