Spider T sails from the Humber to Arbroath: day 1, Keadby Lock to Grimsby docks

The crew of the  Humber sloop Spider T setting off for Arbroath on July 30 2011 from left Mick Maith, Paul Coultard, Bill White,John Barwell Mal Nicholson chris Horan. Photo Heather Horan. John Barwell, actor Timothy Small and owner Mal Nicholson: Photo Chris Horan 01724844247 07799515944

(Left) The skipper and crew of the Spider T ready to set off for Arbroath (Mick Maith, Paul Coultard, Bill White, John Barwell, Mal Nicholson [owner] and Chris Horan)
(Right) actor Timothy Spall pays a visit 
(photos by Heather and Chris Horan) 

They’re off – in fact Humber sloop Spider T and her crew left the boat’s usual berth at Keadby on the first leg of their long-planned voyage to Arbroath a few days ago.

Here’s what crew-member Chris Horan had to say about their first day’s sailing:

Day 1: Keadby to Grimsby

Arbroath seemed a distant dream to the bleary-eyed crew of the Spider T as she passed through the lock of the Stainforth to Keadby Canal into the River Trent at 7am, on the first leg of her voyage.

The crew had spent endless hours checking the engine, generator, sails, tackle, fittings and ensuring all was ship-shape for a month aboard the 1926 super sloop built by Warren’s Shipyard of New Holland for the coastal brick trade!

At 6am a clutch of early-rising friends assembled on the canal-side for a send-off with little ceremony on the canal-side; just the sounding of a passing car’s horn and a group shot of the first crew. (The makeup of the crew is scheduled to change several times over the voyage with various people joining and leaving the ship as she travels north.)

As Spider T sailed by the spot where Trent and Ouse rivers meet near Alkborough Flatts, the red-ochre mainsail was raised. It was an arduous task, given that the gaff and boom are as thick as tree trunks.

Beyond Whitton the jib and staysail were bent on, and for a while there was wind enough to switch off the engine and experience an eery quiet as the Humber sloop sailed on the silent river, as in times gone by.

Sadly the wind deserted us and the engine was restarted, and Spider T reached 9 knots riding on the outgoing tide. Earlier she had made just 3 knots coming out of the river at Keadby with the tide still heading inland.

As we approached the 30 year-old Humber Bridge, the Humber sloop Amy Howson  came into view and then passed by as she tacked from one side of the river to the other. (The Amy is maintained by the Humber Keel and Sloop Preservation Society.)

Skipper Mal guided novice wheelman John across the river over the Bull Middle Sand, where the clearance below Spider T’s keel dropped to under 6ft, and into the North Channel. Before long we passed the P&O ferry Pride of Rotterdam and moved on downriver towards the chemical installations and oil refineries at Saltend, Killingholme and Immingham.

The Spider T sailed downriver past Grimsby and Cleethorpes before entering the fish dock around 3pm. It was a tight squeeze alongside the fishing boat Samarian and the pleasure cruiser Seks Cruiser.

After mooring and being welcomed by the Humber Cruising Association, the Spider T’s crew had an unexpected visitor – Auf Wiedersehen Pet and Harry Potter actor Timothy Spall, who was also in harbour with his vessel Princess Matilda. The actor was impressed by the plushness of the Spider T’s Edwardian-style interior interior, and was kind enough to pose for a photo with Mal and John.

The last message from the Spider T was that they were sailing past Whitby at 4.5 knots. Good for them! Thanks Mal and Chris – I look forward to hearing more as the journey progresses.