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Wells-next-the-Sea 19th June
19th June, 2005
Well it has happened; the first step has been made on our great journey.
The River Welland is a scungy, scummy, muddy stream which races out into the wash every 12 hours, as if trying to escape the tedium and monotony of the flat lands of the Fens. And at 4.00 in the morning it is not at its best. But we were setting off on our epic voyage, two aging Argonauts in our fragile cockleshell. It all looked wonderful to us.
As the sun rose and the skies brightened, we left the river behind and came out into Boston Roads. Two sleepy seals broke the surface, stared uncomprehendingly at two old gits in a boat and dived beneath the murky waters again.
The day was magical; bright blue sky and a gentle breeze and the first really warm temperatures Britain has seen this year. What a start to our adventure?
We hoisted plain sail and a start was made on breakfast. Quintet sailed grandly along with all sheets sprung while our sophisticated autopilot equipment allowed us to breakfast on bacon sandwiches and fresh brewed coffee in comfort.
As the breeze faded we changed to our light weather genoa, but a sudden gust showed how fragile the poor thing has become. The seams strained and the fabric was almost transparent. We reverted to plain sail again, saving the old lady of our sail wardrobe for real zephyrs. We sailed on up Boston Deep, sheets sprung and bathed in sunshine, ticking off the navigational buoys as we passed them. We were looking for the channel to take us between Long Sand and Inner Dogs Head, huge drying sandbars divided by this narrow and shallow gut.
Then, just before 9.00am, the winds faded and died and we restarted the motor which was to fill the rest of our morning with noise. And we motored into the narrow Parlour Channel, heading for the deep water. And happily it is now a buoyed channel albeit still necessitating depth sounder vigilance as its route changes a little with every gale that stirs the waters of the Wash.
Actually our depth sounder vigilance was probably a little compromised as we had not actually calibrated the device since it was installed. But we didn't touch, even when the numbers showed less than 1 so it must be pretty right. But we did decide that comparison with the lead line might be sensible when we stopped for lunch.
We motored across the Wash towards the Norfolk Coast and finally made Holkham Bay in time for lunch of cheese sandwiches, a little vintage cheddar and some fine French goats' cheese, accompanied by a spot of Australian sparkling red. A meal fit for a Prince!
We had tried to contact Wells harbour on the radio, when I discovered that we had failed to reconnect the aerial after rerigging the mast. But when I tried, the coaxial plug fell off the end of the cable in a cloud of oxide dust. The handheld radio was missing its aerial and therefore received a very poor signal. So thank heavens for the mobile phone.
We felt that two experienced sailors didn't really need to be escorted into Wells harbour by the harbour master. There was barely a ripple. But we were advised that it would be better. And having travelled that twisting, tortuous channel, dodging local dinghies, suicidal swimmers, kamikaze wind surfers and hire boaters in putt putt runabouts, the harbour master was right. Never have I twisted and turn so many times, wandering back and forth in a seemingly completely arbitrary manner to get into port. I am convinced that at least once we went round the same navigational mark twice!
When we finally arrived at our allocated berth, alongside the stately Albatross, 150 feet of 100 year old steel barge, two frazzled old men gratefully tied up and opened a beer or two.
At the end of day 1 we are still speaking. We have not broken anything too serious and we have had a great day.
Tomorrow we will take a day off, well, you mustn't peak too soon, and fix the radio and the oversize shackle on the anchor chain and try to stop the radar reflector swinging around so much. And refuel, and and and...
And then Lowestoft.
Watch this space.