Spider T sails from the Humber to Arbroath: days eight and nine, stuck at Anstruther but enjoying the visit

Mal Nicholson with trophies won by the Spider T at the Anstruther Muster 2011 Jim Morrison of Pittenweem visits the Spider T during the Anstruther Muster

Visitors at the Anstruther Muster 2011 The Spider T at Anstruther 2011


Photos by Chris Horan. Click on the images for a much larger photo

Crewmember Chris Horan describes days eight and nine of Spider T’s voyage from the Humber to Arbroath:

Day 8 (continued)

High winds and big seas forecast by the weathermen had arrived by Sunday. Spider T was due to sail from Anstruther to Montrose, but consultations between skipper Mal Nicholson, senior crew and the land based back-up resulted in a decision to delay the journey to Montrose until the bad weatherhad eased.

It was not so much a case that Spider T could not have sailed but partly a matter of erring on the side of caution, and also taking into consideration that trip was a working holiday for crewmembers and that the commercial port at Montrose had less to offer than Anstruther.

Staying in Anstruther for a little longer would also give more members of the public a chance to view the Spider T, which had been given an award for the being the oldest vessel at the Anstruther Muster. The award was received by crewmember Rory Mitchell.

‘It is an award for the hard work of the crew and supporters, which includes a lot of shore based people,’ said Mal. ‘For me it also showed that the ambassadorial role we play for National Historic Ships is recognised by the Anstruther Muster.’

Jim Morrison, who is a member of Anstruther Sailing Club, which organises the Muster, said people had been delighted to see Spider T sail in. ‘There was a buzz went round. Most people round here are fascinated with vessels, particularly with those which have been restored. It was smashing to see her return.’

Spider T bomb disposal 2 TheSpider T in Anstrutherwith a Royal NavyBomb Disposal van on the harbour side

 Derek Chafer sits in as cox with members of St Ayles rowing club, Anstruther with the ladies at the oars.. Rowers in the harbour at Anstruther

Day 9

Being in port did not mean there was nothing to be done, for as well as welcoming visitors there were various maintenance and domestic tasks to be accomplished.

In addition the vessel was switched from shore power to generator power to allow electrical equipment such the washer to be operated along with the ship’s shower and other appliances, the engine and the gland sealing the propeller shaft were checked, and the fast-emptying ebbing water tanks were refilled.

The Spider T’s unexpected trophies were not the only suprises to come the way of the sailing barge’s crew while at Anstruther.

One centred on an unexploded bomb found in the approach to the port, which crosses a former minefield. The Spider T had sailed through this on her way into port a couple of days earlier!

The minefield is supposed to have been cleared long ago, but each year one or two devices emerge and find their way into open water, posing potential dangers to mariners and tourist boats. The floating bomb could have severely damaged a vessel like Spider T if she had come into contact with it.

Once the object had been sighted a Royal Navy bomb disposal team arrived to blow the object up in a controlled explosion while local lifeboatmen kept other vessels at bay.

The alarm over the floating bomb failed to deter crew members Derek Chafer and Chris Horan when they were invited to join the women of the town’s St Ayles Rowing Club for an evening’s rowing session in their two Iain Oughtred-designed St Ayles skiffs.

Although heavy rain had been forecast, the day turned out better than expected and we had a beautiful summer’s evening – and so the two crews set off for a couple of circuits along the coast.

Afterwards, the rowers and friends were invited on board the Spider T for hospitality and to see round the Humber sloop.

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.

A mystery boat – can anyone identify this old clinker-built dinghy?

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clinker, dinghy, spider T

clinker, dinghy, spider T

A mystery dinghy with a rather nice old-fashioned shape. But what is she, and how old?

Mal Nicholson has sent me these two photos of a boat he has bought, and which he intends to fettle up for use as a tender with the Humber sloop known as Spider T. Read all about her here.

She’ll fit neatly on Spider T’s carling hatches – but what is she? Mal says he has a mast and sails, but there’s no centreboard and there seem to be no identifying marks.

I’d say she was about 16ft in length, or may be a foot or two longer, and that she has a rather nice shape.

By they way, on the 13th and 14th March Mal and friends will be holding an open day from 10am to 4pm at Spider T’s home moorings at Keadby Lock near the A18; she will be open from 10 am to 4 pm on the Saturday and 11 am to 4 pm on the Sunday. If you get along, do mention intheboatshed.net – I gather you might just get a guided tour!