Albert Strange waits for the tide



Albert Strange’s drawing of Grimsby Docks’s famous landmark – the Venetian Tower

Albert Strange writing about his North Sea cruise of 1895:

‘I went on rowing and got a little beyond Kilnsea before it was evident that no further progress was being made. So it was ‘down anchor’ and prepare for a night at sea, or at least to wait until midnight and go into the Humber by the ordinary channel. I sounded and found about four fathoms, which would leave me ample water at low tide, let go anchor, and started the stove. It was now about 6.30 p.m, a fine evening but the glass slowly falling and the surf beating heavily on the shore some 300yds. inside me.

‘After dinner I sat in the cockpit and smoked my pipe. Whilst so occupied I saw two or three people on the beach waving. Of course I could not reply, which seemed to distress them, for they waved still more vigorously. Then they tried to launch a small boat, which was promptly capsized in the surf. It seemed very kind of them to take all this trouble, and I thanked them, though I doubt if they heard me… ‘

Read more at the Old Gaffer’s Association’s Sailing By website.

Spider T sails from the Humber to Arbroath: days two and three, Grimsby docks to Hartlepool

The Spider T at Grimsby Docks The Spider T sailing off Flamborough July 31 2011 prior to the Arbroath Seafest. Photo:Chris Horan

Spider T at sea off Grimsby Flamborough lighthouse taken from the Spider T July 31 2011 The Spider T with main sail sailing to Scarborough in July 2011

In Grimsby Docks, off Flamborough, Spider T sailing, Flamborough light, a full mainsail. All photos thanks to Chris Horan

Here’s Chris Horan’s account of the next two days of Spider T’s voyage from the Humber to Arbroath:

Day two

At 5am the Spider T crew were stirred from sleep by a chorus of mobile phone alarms and while still only half-conscious began their routines of dressing and washing.

Skipper Mal Nicholson wanted the ship to be squared up and ready to head out at 7am to catch the tide out of the Humber Estuary, and to ride the ebb north towards Scarborough, which was a 65-mile sail away.

The ship had two additional members of crew joining for the day’s run to Scarborough,
BBC video journalist Crispin Rolfe, and Jane Chadwick partner of Humber Cruising Association berthmaster John Walker.

The sails provided powered and steadied the vessel as she headed out to Spurn Point, and passed to the north of Bull Fort, a defensive structure built on a subterranean sand bank in the river during World War I. To the south ahead of us a tanker was offloading crude oil by means of the monobuoy off Tetney, a little way south of Cleethorpes.

We then passed the full-time lifeboat station at the end of Spurn Point and headed out to sea waving goodbye to the land. Heading north we were soon in an area of rough water known as the Binks – after the calm waters of the estuary we found ourselves being tossed about like clothes in a washing machine. At least one of the crew wished his stomach was somewhat stronger.

Once the Binks were passed, the sail north was a cruise in glorious sunshine with wind turbines on the horizon and buoys marking crab pots below. Those of us not charged with specific tasks like plotting the course, checking the sails and working in Spider T’s galley could relax – and so we did, until BBC man Crispin began his interviews.

Crewmembers Mick Maith and Paul Coultard were in the wheelhouse during this stretch, and despite some problems with the engine overheating, at 2pm, we were 9 miles off land, and 15 miles from Flamborough and 22 miles from Scarborough.

As we approached Scarborough we saw Flamborough Head’s huge bird colonies (they’re a regular haunt for pleasure boats packed with tourists) and were visited by a black-backed sperm whale, which popped up alongside us, blew as if to say hello, and then disappeared down below.

The sea then became choppier, with swells of up to 10ft, that made keeping one’s own feet, more difficult. While most moveable items were tied down in the hold one or two of the smaller items strayed from their stations, and clattered onto the floor.

The worsening weather meant we were a little delayed, but we still arrived at Scarborough Harbour at around 9pm. The entrance runs almost parallel to the beach.

We then spent a relaxing evening including a traditional Scarborough supper of fish and chips before bed.

Day three

We left for Hartlepool at around 8.30am the following morning – but not before Mal found himself doing an early morning interview with a BBC Radio York presenter I met in a quayside car park.

The sea was flat compared with the previous day, and crewmembers Paul and Bill White now tried their hand at mackerel fishing – and hooked enough for the crew’s supper that night.

The day’s run was to be 40 miles, a much shorter haul than the 66 miles from Grimsby to Scarborough the day before, and would follow a picturesque route including various picture-postcard villages including the fishing village of Staithes.

At Whitby a number of pleasure vessels loaded with camera-toting tourists came out to take a look at Spider T. The Whitby lifeboat was also on the water, and seemed
busy with the small boats.

We made progress using the main and foresails, with the engine ticking over in case it was needed as we sailed north – this area is busy with shipping bound for Teeside, and we needed to be alert and keep our eyes peeled. However, as it turned out, most of the larger vessels were at anchor.

Our skipper made contact with the harbourmaster at Hartlepool around midday to check on details for arrival and in which of the two port areas we would tie up – we were bound for the southern dock area close where the Hartlepool-built former Humber paddle steamer Wingfield Castle now lies.

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.