Saturday, 20 October 2007

Royston Vasey: Local Birds

Days 157 to 169
Tue 07 to Wed 19 Oct

Well, things have slowed down yet again. After a fantastic 10-day run to Scarborough I get stuck by big swell and winds which block Filey Brigg and Flamborough Head.

After two days climbing the walls I make the short hop round to Filey. Here, Barry the RNLI coxswain gives me tea and Toffee Crisps. As we chat the VHF radio in the corner starts chattering. It turns out that the crabbing boat Flourish has been rammed and sunk 30 miles offshore.

Rescue 128 (Sea King Search & Recovery), nearby vessels and other Royal Navy vessels scramble to the area and three of the four crew are rescued. Despite a lengthy search the skipper is never found. It's a sobering reminder of the dangers fishermen face every day. My thoughts go out to the skipper's family.

Leaving Filey the next morning I push round Flamborough (watching the Sea King SAR practise cliff rescues) to the clay cliffs south of Bridlington. I get a little put off by the small clay cliffs here - the chalk bed runs some seven miles inland from here. I hadn't expected these, and my supposed landing at Atwick
doesn't actually have any sea-level access.

Instead I land through the increasing surf on the narrow, steep beach at Hornsea. Disaster strikes here and in a freak carry handle accident Marty the ship's mascot (Halfway to Scotland, 26 Aug) is decapitated. During his short career he performed his duties brilliantly and his loss is sorely felt.

Next day the swell is up again (sea state moderate/rough) and take off is a little interesting. It's a fairly short day to Withernsea where the landing is hair-raising through the dumpy waves. Saturday night here feels far too much like Kidderminster back home.

Weather turns here as a front pushes down from the NW. I spend the next four days at the Spurn Head Bird Observatory waiting to cross the Humber. During my time here Rose and Jean from the Crown & Anchor along with Andy from the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust stop me going completely nuts from boredom... though I do worry about their sanity.

After a while here I feel I've learned all I need to know about birdwatching. I make my TV debut on BBC Look North, and meet the Humber lifeboat crew (one of the UK's two permanent crews). Luckily a high pressure arrives and allows me to cross the Humber.

Under control of Humber VTS (stops a repeat of the Thames tanker near-miss) it's a good fast crossing, though a combination of delayed starts, tides and ever earlier last light means I only make it as far as Cleethorpes. However, at least the RNLI crew here recognise me from off the TV.

All in all I'm disappointed by the week. I knew my good run had to end soon, but the pressure is back on to make the finish line by next Saturday!

290km to go, but who's counting...

Tuesday, 16 October 2007

Cliffs and castles

Days 130 to 156
Wed 12 Sep to Mon 08 Oct

Sorry for not getting on here sooner, truth is I've been a little embarrassed. If I can choose three words to sum up SE Scotland they would be WINDY, SLOW and DISAPPOINTING.

However, before I completely fast-forward I need to mention the fine people of Elie in Fife. Here Angus, Paul and Sarah (along with their mum) give me a bed to stay in and invite me to the Post-Fete committee knees-up. Last thing I remember is gin and tonics (which I hate) at 6am. Oops.

So by 29 September I've finally reached North Berwick (having gone all the way up to the Forth bridges). It's a great sigh with the volcanic plug tower of Bass Rock offshore, a large swell and sunshine.

I get a lucky break and a week (still counting) of light winds lets me shoot down the east coast. I cross back into England and pass the Holy Island (with seals) and the very impressive Bramburgh Castle.

Sadly a heavy landing has holed my main boat so the folks bring up the spare which I use for three days while an Eyemouth-based wind turbine blade manufacturer repairs the red one. Thankfully he does a cracking job!

Crossing Newcastle and the Tyne I land in Sunderland (complete with hoards of little kids - watch your valuables!) and enter Yorkshire.

Here I face a bigger swell (up to 3-4 metres), limited landing spots and high cliffs. Worse still, in Scarborough every pub seems to be a karaoke bar!

I've got less than 400km to do now and while I'm anxious to get back before the weather slides even more I really just don't want this trip to end.

Still, it would be good to get across the Wash (my last crossing) and finish with a bit of style.

Please let the good weather hold...