Sugar 'n' Spice - Diary May 2006

Wed 10th May

Finished loading, dumped cars at home & returned to Sugar 'n' Spice ready for departure tomorrow.

Thur 11th May

Left Levington about 9am & headed North. Wind on the nose & so light that no point in even trying to sail. So lots of motoring to make distance. Doug tried photographs of wind farms in the distance.

No more wind at night as we passed gas rigs off the Norfolk Coast.

Fri 12th May

In the dawn watch Doug had a marsh tit join ship. It sang to him, but abandoned ship when it saw us heading towards a fog bank.

Still foggy when I came up, but as we closed Flamborough Head there were lots of gannets, guillemots - singly & in groups flying, diving or simply sitting on the water (until we surprised them into diving!) - & even some pairs of puffins. Flamborough Head lighthouses came abeam at 10.50am.

Around 2pm we thought we heard firing & started checking charts for ranges, then a look at the radar & sky made us reduce sail, don oilies & head out to sea. Just in time as a thunderstorm crashed around us & its accompanying wind & rain arrived. The sprayhood came into its own, & we used the radar to head for the least dense part of the storm. We couldn't see the coast which should have been picturesque Robin Hood's Bay.

It had passed through by the time we reached Whitby & we got the 4pm bridge opening into the upper harbour & marina & rafted as directed alongside a local boat that had just arrived from Falmouth, via the Caledonian Canal.

Total Trip 195 miles - lots of motoring!

Went into town for a fish & chips supper (when in Rome....) which were very good, then started to explore. 100yds down the road the heavens opened & even an overhanging porch did not save us from the torrential rain, so it was back to the boat very soggy & early to bed. So much for staying dry at sea!

Sat 13th May

Grey dampish morning so we went to explore(again!) - round the old town which is quaint with shops selling jewellry made of the local jet, other arty things & even tradititional ironmongers. And Dolphins jumped.

In the afternoon we did a 5 mile walk (O/S N York Moors no7) east out of town uphill & across country to the coast at the old fog signal station & then back along the coast path, finishing at the old ruined Abbey & 199 steps (apparently famous in the Dracula story) down into town. We thought they were a con as they were very shallow!

Sun 14th May

Caught bus - which arrived 'do we change the plan?' late with very laid back driver - to Robin Hood's Bay & walked a disused railway path steadily uphill, good views, to Ravenscar at the other end of the bay. Then back along the coast path, fairly up & down, with the final bit along the beach as the tide was out, & on to the bus (same driver - now on time) back to Whitby. (O/S N York Moors no24 - 9 miles)

Mon 15th May

Another grey damp day. Walked to the West Pier end, along the beach, up cliffs, looked at Captain Cook's monument & the whalebone arch,down steps, bought fish for supper, kippers for later & some general shopping. Later along Esk path, over main bridge & back on other side of river.

Early evening Ray & Robin from 'Charisma' another Levington boat came aboard for drinks. They are also heading North, but planning to return via the Caledonian Canal.

Tues 16th May

7.30am bridge out of Whitby. Wind still light, so again a lot of motoring. Tynemouth just before 3pm, then motored up river to St Peters marina about 1mile downriver from the city centre. Having got tied up got rather worried by depth readings until we realised that as well as the cill there is a raising gate which is not mentioned in the pilots.

Trip 47 miles

Wed 17th May

Had a 'guided tour' of the marina cill & gate workings from Ed, marina jack of all trades, then walked along river towards City centre. Crossed Millenium Bridge - pretty spectacular, would like to see it when it opens - to Sage Gateshead (new concert halls, very modern, lots of glass) & back over swing bridge & around City centre area.

Thur 18th May

Train to Haltwhistle& walked from there to Hadrians Wall at Cawfields, then east along the Wall, complete with al its ups & downs, to turret 38A past Crag Lough. Views spectacular, very windy but the showers kept away. Then south to the fort & museum at Vindolanda & on to pick up return train at Barden Mill. Some nice wooded burns on the way to & from the Wall, lots of lambs, lapwings, skylarks singing, no obvious birds of prey. Walk about 10 miles (parts of O/S Northumberland, Borders & H's Wall no11 & no16 with add-ons to stations to suit the timetables)

Fri 19th May

Domestic day - laundry, shopping at Morrisons Byker & taxi back (not expensive).

In the evening an ex business acquaintance (Jonothan Hill & partner Joy who live at Hexham) of Doug's came for drinks & to see the boat. A very nice couple & a very pleasant time.

Sat 20th May

Another grey day so we took the Metro to Tynemouth & walked into the teeth of a bracing wind along the coast past Cullercoats - nice little drying harbour - to Whitely Bay, then Metroed back. Were amused to see that at Wallsend all the signs were in a second language - Latin!

Sun 21st May

Left St Peters Marina in sunshine! but very little wind & motored down the Tyne. International Paints have provided very popular housing for gulls (kittiwakes I think) in the form of shelves on the back wall of their depot. The river itself is much quieter than the Orwell, we saw some trip boats in the evenings, dinghies at Tynemouth & not much else.

We headed up the coast to Blyth again with very little chance to sail & tied up at the Royal Northumbrian Y.C. - another Club that uses a lightship as a Club House, but to my great surprise a black & white one, not red like Levington's. The people were very friendly & helpful, but told us with great glee that their lightship was much older than ours & also used much more wood in its construction.

The forecast rain arrived mid afternoon, followed by the wind later in the evening.

Mon 22nd May

Wind & Wet - nobody is going anywhere with winds from the North of over 30kts & the fenders are seriously squashed.

Tues 23rd May

Out early in a lull before forecast wind again & managed to sail - had to slow the boat down ! as we were ahead of time for getting into Amble.

Another friendly marina. I've discovered Eider ducks! They are very happy to receive offerings of bread & even mug each other for it.

We walked into Warksworth that afternoon - not far along the river bank with a seal & a heron both fishing at a weir. Warksworth very picturesque with a castle, very old bridge, mellow stone buildings.

Wed 24th May

Cycled to Alnmouth & Craster ending with a walk to Dunstanburgh Castle. About 30mile round trip we reckoned mostly using National cycle route 1 -yes the one that comes through Harwich - but some of the signage does take you the pretty route ie a long way round. The castle is huge but fairly ruined, but you can see it for miles up & down the coast.

Thur 25th May

The forecast was not looking good for anchoring in the Farne islands for the next few days so we visited Almouth for train information then Alnwick. Decided that we hadn't enough time to do justice to the Castle so went round the new gardens. Lots of water -fountains, cascades & a serpents garden full of watery booby traps - a poison garden for the witches & a tree walk with suspension bridges.

Fri 26th May

Train home for a few days to check house & mail, catch up with friends etc

Mon 29th May

Return to boat in evening - the eiders remember me (or the bread!)

Tues 30th May

Still waiting on the weather so used day for domestic, shops & roundtuit jobs. In the afternoon walked as far as we dared along the harbour walls to look at the seas braking over them & then a little way down the coast - silver sand dunes & beach & views over Coquet island.

Wed 31st May

Various buses via Alnwick to Wooler. Then a 4 mile walk around & up Humbleton Hill, part of the Cheviot range. (Doug had been eyeing up 'the Cheviot' a bit further south, but the mechanics of getting there from Amble were not easy). However Humbleton had good views over the rest of the range, north towards the Borders & east to the coast, to say nothing of an iron age fort at the top & a Shakesperian battlefield (Henry lV) in the valley below. The return to Wooler was along part of St Cuthbert's Way through woodland & alongside a pretty burn.