We knew that the passage down to Norfolk would be a challenge, and there was always a temptation to do it in one go, although this would have meant at least one night at sea. With the wind so light it was unlikely that we had enough fuel for that, so along the coast it had to be.
The problem is simply lack of decent harbours. Cruising in company with Ian on his Strider,
we aimed to get to an anchorage in the mouth of the Humber or, if things were going faster than anticipated, Wells-next-the Sea, probably to anchor off as it looked like a very tricky place for a big catamaran to access. But motoring at a modest pace in no wind resulted in depressingly slow progress when the tide turned, right in the approaches to the Humber. 1.8 knots over the ground meant Wells was out of reach, and Plan A was activated. Ian in his lighter boat was able to speed off towards Wells, leaving us wallowing.
The Humber is huge, 4 miles across at its entrance, with big ships coming in and out all the time along the shipping channels. We dodged south of these and went in to drop anchor in about 4 metres of water, near an old fort. But we were still nearly a mile from the shore! What a contrast with the steep-sided lochs of the west coast.
Getting petrol was an absolute necessity, so after supper we prepared ourselves and the dinghy to go ashore. Apart from a holiday camp there seemed to be not much along the shore until Cleethorpes. I put the anchor light on in case it took some time, and it was with a growing sense of anxiety that we went off in the dinghy. In retrospect we should have taken the big boat in closer to shore, but we thought the distance was a little less than it turned out in reality. Ashore there was nowhere for a boat to tie up except the railings on the beach by the holiday camp. Reassuring ourselves that the dinghy would be OK as there were plenty of people about, we set off, only to learn that the garage was about half an hour’s walk away. Resolved to get the fuel come what may, we were just trudging off when an elderly couple, Ken and Ann, offered to take us to the garage in their car. I am honestly not sure what we would have done without their help, as when we got back a ten-year-old boy was just in the process of attempting to drag the dinghy into the water! It’s only then that you realise how badly it could all have gone wrong. We could easily have been stranded ashore with the dinghy drifting away and the boat out of reach. Fortunately apart from a lot of sand where the kids had been playing in the dinghy no harm was done. The lad scampered off. Ken and Ann, our saviours, wished us well and stood on the beach waving until we were almost out of sight in the gathering dusk. We have been grateful for the help of strangers on many occasions, but this was the most kind, and I am sorry if we left the boot of their new car smelling of petrol! I think they were relieved to find out that we were not drug smugglers raiding the coast at dusk – it must have looked a bit like that.
We knew, once we got safely back to the boat, that we had risked all sorts of disasters and this time had got away with it. A stiff whisky before bed steadied the nerves.
The following morning we got the best of the favourable tide to whisk us down the coast, even sailing some of the way (there’s a novelty!) until we reached Cromer. Although there was absolutely no shelter, the holding near the pier is chalky mud and we were secure all night. As the lifeboat station is on the end of the pier, we were not far from help in any case!
All along the north coast we could see the fragile nature of the cliffs, and even saw a collapse in one spot. In spite of the sea defences the erosion seems to continue apace. Next stop was Lowestoft, around the corner of Norfolk, and although the land remains low-lying, it looks a lot less threatened. Lowestoft has an air of having shrunk somewhat as a port, but there are still service boats for the offshore windfarms going to and fro and a number of large vessels in the harbour. We waited on a pontoon in the Trawl Dock (no trawlers any more) for the next bridge lift, then proceeded upriver (strictly Lake Lothing, leading to Oulton Broad) to Lowestoft Haven Marina. A really nice place, very reasonable charges, and with some very sociable residents – and a large population of seagulls roosting on some derelict warehouses nearby! Apparently another bridge is about to be constructed, which will make it rather more awkward to reach the marina. I hope it doesn’t kill off visiting yacht traffic.