By mid-July most of the OGA50 Round Britain Challenge fleet are making good progress down the north east coast of England, exploring Lindisfarne and the Farne Islands south of Eyemouth. That mysterious Dutchman, who joined the fleet only last week, has slipped north without being seen by any of the vessels sailing south, and is reported to be in Peterhead already. Sailing single-handed in the jolly boat ‘Snoopy’ (pronounced schnoopy, for the English-speakers amongst our readers), the skipper hopes to round Scotland and reach Cowes in time for the party in August. The only other vessel still in northern waters is ‘Annabel J’, exploring Orkney.
After her encounter with the fishermen’s creels and rescue from the RNLI, ‘Witch’ makes it to Eyemouth after a 100 mile hop from Peterhead. Motor-sailing through a cold but beautiful day and night, through the Farne Islands, close by Lindisfarne and Bamburgh Castle her skipper is trying to outrun the next bad forecast. She’s now drying out on the Eyemouth slip for propeller repairs, with new (female) crew-member aboard. Skipper and mate are gradually adapting – being made to eat fruit to prevent scurvy and understand the concept of ‘scribble’ to capture the scene. Here, she joins ‘Windbreker’, ‘Vlieter’, ‘Cine Mara’, ‘Raven’, ‘Morgaine’, ‘Capraia’, ‘Syene’, ‘High Barbaree’, ‘Moon River’, ‘Toucando’ and ‘Cygnet of London’, to enjoy the hospitality of this historic harbour and fishing town, the last (or first, of course, for those travelling north) port in Scotland. ‘Witch’, ‘Minstrel’ and ‘Bonita’ depart Eyemouth to explore Lindisfarne, Holy Island and Bamburgh, passing through the Farne Islands on passage to Amble. We hear ‘Bonita’ and ‘Minstrel’ move on to Blyth, home of the hospitable Royal Northumberland Yacht Club.
‘Bonita’ sails from Blyth to the River Tyne, first to arrive for the gathering of gaffers in Newcastle. She’s joined by ‘Witch’, We hear from ‘Toucando’ that her repair to the bow thruster has necessitated waiting for an essential ‘spare part’ to arrive from Essex. Read her blog for photos of the lift out and a report on the hospitality in Eyemouth. We understand her skipper will join the party in Newcastle by train, if necessary . . . Another vessel ‘drying out’ in Eyemouth, in order to complete essential repairs to the prop, damaged in an encounter with fishermen’s creels off Fraserburgh, is ‘Witch’. ‘Vlieter’ and ‘Morgaine’ enjoy a fine sail past the Isle of May in the Firth of Forth watching puffins.
The Gaffers were very well looked after in Newcastle with the boats looking very festive with many flags fluttering in the sunshine attracting a lot of attention from the discerning folk of Newcastle. It is also quite warm, probably the warmest day of the year so far and convincing evidence that summer is here at last. On the last evening there was an informal party on the pontoon which went much as would be expected given the mix of warm weather, relaxed Gaffers and a generous supply of free whisky kindly provided by Old Poultney. On Sunday morning the High Sheriff of Tyne and Wear George Scott read verses from Psalm 107 with the Reverend Timothy Duff offering the Address. Following this short ceremony, which was accompanied by the flute-playing daughter of the Reverend, a reception was held in the Copthorne Hotel where a prizegiving was made for the best presented OGA50 boat and local working boat.
‘Cygnet of London’ reaches Whitby, 4 July, and sails on to her home port in Faversham, arriving to complete her circumnavigation on 7, July. She’ll be re-joining the fleet in Ipswich to take part in the Jubilee Cruise. ‘Witch’ and ‘Syene’ are in Whitby and we hear from ‘Witch’ that, following a partial repair of the propellor in Eyemouth, the skipper has been advised to ‘get it fixed if at all possible as there is the risk of running bearings in the transmission with uneven thrust from the blades’. With the work is planned to take place whilst drying out in Whitby, an old propellor is being sent up from the East Coast. The good news from Eyemouth is that Coastal Marine have completed the repairs on ‘Toucando’ and the skipper hopes to be back in the water soon to catch up with the fleet as they sail on south from Newcastle.
We hear from the skipper of ‘Bonita’, oldest vessel in the fleet, how to improve handling in a marina. An electric outboard clamped to the rail ‘allows the old lady to spin round on the spot if conditions are right.’ Her skipper is exploring Bridlington, to find out more of her history when this was her base between 1907 and 1935. ‘Bonify’ is also in Brid., having whooshed round Flamborough Head at 9 knots. ‘Witch’ spends time between tides in Whitby fitting the replacement propellor, which arrived just in time to allow the skipper to finish before the tide swept round his ankles. Catching the tide to head south again, we hear from the Crew that they’re anchored in the lee of Flamborough Head, rolling in swell and drinking G&T. After completing repairs in Eyemouth, ‘Toucando’ is ready to head south again on Thursday to catch up with the rest of the fleet, is making passage south from Newcastle to reach Grimsby in time for the next party on Saturday.