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  • Writer's pictureMark

Chariots with screeching tyres

We had a blast of a sail from Peterhead to Blyth. The forecast suggested it might be feisty and it was! In this sailing life, being hesitant can lead to being sedentary! This is an easy trap to fall into because whatever the weather, it’s never good enough to be the ‘perfect’ sail for your average fussy sailor. There will always be a part of the forecast that doesn't look good. It might be a very windy period for part of the journey, wind from the wrong direction for a another or no wind at all. If you let too many of these slightly imperfect windows pass you by, your lines will start to become green, little spiders set up home in your coiled sheets and the open sea starts to look more and more perturbing to such an extent that the more forecasts you look at, the more reasons you will find to stay put! Peterhead was so cosy, so protected and so easy to live with that we could have easily hunkered down there for the winter but no, we have to get south and complete this Adventure Now season!

I obsessed to my usual extent, constantly looking for a weather window to make progress further south. The difficulty with this coast is that it is almost completely bereft of good anchorages and most of the ports are tidal. This means that you can only enter at certain times and committing to a specific arrival time is never easy with a sailing boat. The alternative is to make bigger jumps to the ports where there are no tide restrictions and that is our plan for getting back to home waters.

The forecast for the the next three days showed us a perfect westerly wind direction and an almost perfect wind strength. But, as explained earlier, there is always a rub and the rub was that for a twelve hour period the wind was going to be a force 7. A force 7 is a challenge when it’s coming at you forward of the beam. From behind, it’s relatively easy but from forward, it’s definitely tough. However, Altor is a sturdy girl and as I am constantly trying to convince my self that I’m no pussy, we went!

So did the wind blow? Hell yeah! After a few hours of calm when we left Peterhead it built quickly to that force 7. However, it didn't last for twelve hours, it lasted for the whole journey! We had half a jib out and two reefs in the main, the mainsail was as flat as we could make it and it was let out as far as it could go. We had waves deflecting off the beam which then fired themselves at the spray hood and gave that a good work out while we sheltered behind, well heeled over and barrelling along at a constant 8 to 9.5 knots! It was epic! Altor just dug her broad shoulder in and got on with it. Asha and I simply hung on! She might be a little over 12 tonnes but she felty almost dinghy like as she surfed from one wave to another and spray left the bow horizontally. After 24 hours we got the sails down and poked Altor’s nose into the sheltered entrance at Blyth. There is nothing like getting off a rough sea and into the calm of a harbour.

You know the drill by now. Tie up, heating on, whisky and bed!

Blyth was great. Perfect as a stopover and a place to recover before the next hop. The only disappointment was that the showers were’t open. Blyth Yacht Club has some lovely shower facilities but covid made them out of bounds to us. This was both annoying and, in my opinion, a complete load of bollocks but at least we do have a reasonable shower onboard so no need to smell bad!

Another ‘almost’ perfect weather window arrived. Force 4 to 6 from the northwest. The wind strength was perfect but the direction a little too much from behind which meant a passage rolling from gunwale to gunwale. Oh well, stop moaning and let’s go!

The trip down to Lowestoft was 200 miles and 34.5 hours of rolling, rolling and rolling in a pretty steady force 5. It rained, it was cold and we had to pick our way passed many of the gas platforms that litter the sea along this east coast. When you see these things offshore you really get a sense of how mankind is able to plunder every part of our earth!!

The journey was a work out for Asha and I. Not from a sailing point of view, running downwind is easy. The workout comes from your body being constantly tense in some way. The boat is rolling heavily from side to side and every move you make has to be considered, choreographed and executed with great care. This includes cooking, toilet visits and sleeping. You are always tensed up trying to keep yourself upright or steady inside a constantly and vigorously moving boat! It was with pure joy that we entered Lowestoft harbour, headed for the marina and tied up. Yep, heating, whisky and bed. Bliss!

So here we are. Nearly in home waters and excited to be here. Next stop is the River Orwell, my favourite of the east coast rivers, and that will be great. The only thing that isn’t great is the increasingly noticeable emphasis on that thing called covid. Fear of this intangible thing has increased the further south we have come. I had previously worried about this from talking to family and friends back home since we sailed away from Essex when the lockdown started.

There was fear in Fair Isle, more fear in Peterhead, the showers were too scared to open in Blyth and in Lowestoft, while the showers are open, you have to pre book and it has to be in the morning. I’m so happy that someone has realised that covid won't attack you in the shower as long as you’re there before lunchtime and you’ve pre booked! Apparently this ‘thing’ is very smart! It even knows to leave you alone if you are not wearing a mask but have some comestibles in your hand. That’s right. It won't come near you if you are brandishing a sausage roll in one hand but once it’s gone, better get that mask on quick because apparently covid will want to be your dessert!

With apologies, I’m going to be unkind here. I like being in Lowestoft and you've only got to walk a bit inland from here to find yourself on the beautiful Norfolk Broads but the town itself is a little rough looking. Some of the townsfolk look like their wardrobe has been made up of leftovers from the local launderette. Whilst this is common ground that I share with them, there are quite a few people who also seem to be missing something. You know, a sandwich short of a picnic, one can short of a six pack or one card short of a full deck. Maybe there just ain’t that many bright lights in this harbour!

Well, that’s the price we pay for putting an end to natural selection, choosing instead to look after all creatures great and small! The thickest and slowest no longer fall to the back of the pack and get eaten! In Lowestoft they go to the mobility scooter shop and stay right in the pack keeping up a good enough speed to ensure they get to the pound shop ASAP in order to part with some hard earned benefit money. Some, I know, really do need one of these scooters but I don't see many such unfortunate souls. None of the drivers are old. In fact, most are middle aged and I have noticed something else too. You can tell the lazy ones from the people who actually need them. Those who actually need them are clearly less able and some disabled and they move slowly, with fear and trepidation whilst taking great care. The lazy ones go fast, without any care for anyone else and practically handbrake turn to a stop outside the ‘Quality Discount' store before waddling in, clearly able bodied were it not for the two tonnes of blubber they have stockpiled to get them through the next ice age.

And another thing! It seems that almost everyone here is wearing a mask. Inside, outside, walking alongside friends or tearing down the road in their disability chariots. Yes, people here look scared and scared of us too! We are walking around without a care in the world and as usual we only wear a face covering when we have to. We had to when we walked into a shop to buy some new walking boots. They actually had masks at the sanitising station on the way in. I admit to stuffing several in my pocket because I'm determined never buy one of these things. Why should I? I don’t believe it is offering me any protection from anything more serious than a fly getting tuck in my teeth so I won't help whoever is making them make a load of money from a load of bollocks. No!

We bought our new boots and laughed with the shop assistant when she told us that all the boots we tried on but discounted had to be isolated for 72 hours! Really? How ridiculous is this going to get??

I have just read that there are some ‘top scientist’s who are now calling for a herd immunity approach and despite the wide criticism of Sweden's original approach to covid of not locking down and allowing herd immunity to take control, they are now the only country not to be experiencing a second wave. Really? No shit Sherlock!

So what have we got here? We've got a happy ship because we have made good progress south but we have concerns at the increasing amount of fear that is palpable the further south we get as is the increasing amount of face mask that litter the streets. I think they are the new ‘plastic bag’. Somewhere on this beautiful planet of ours a space needs to be found to bury a few trillion face masks that are covered in nothing more than spit and snot. Come on people. Let’s catch this cold and be done with it. I’ve ‘herd’ it’s the only way to end this shitshow.....

A storm rolls in to Peterhead although we were safely tucked away in the marina!

The sheltered harbour at Blyth with ships to watch in the setting sun.

Nice little lunch in Ridley park, Blyth.

We picked up a passenger on the way to Lowestoft. Always welcome!

Rain on the way as we head to Lowestoft. It was very cold rain too!

A short walk away from the busy Lowestoft you will find the beautiful Oulton Broad!

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