Holland to Ardfern - bulletin six
Blyth, Northumbria to Eyemouth, Scotland.
Crew: Titsoot, Broontroosers and Sha Sha
Bartlett the Weather had foretold of dropping winds from late morning on ("Survival more likely after lunch - but by no means guaranteed"). This gave the doughty crew of 'Deneys Reitz' a window of opportunity to visit downtown Blyth, Northumbria to stock up with staples and essential supplies.... gin, wine boxes, tonic, Beecham's 'Resolve', peanuts, cashews, olives with anchovies.
Alas, the harbour was some distance from the main town - a bus would be required, but where was the bus stop? Don strode purposefully to the dock gate where there was a security man. Obviously he would be genned up on buses. His greeting was reciprocated in a friendly manner. Don enquired after the location of food and drink shops and the whereabouts of the bus stop. The friendly man was helpful, eloquent and humorous - a chap of some intelligence and quick with the repartee.
Don nodded, smiled, occasionally laughed at a particularly apposite quip, and eventually thanked him warmly for his help. He walked a few yards and collapsed in helpless mirth - he had not understood a single word the man had spoken! Luckily he had pointed a lot and this gave powerful clues to the whereabouts of the bus stop. But the torrent of pure Geordie was completely incomprehensible to an outsider - it was clearly Danish in origin, with maybe a hint of the unique dialect spoken by natives of the Martian Sea of Tranquillity.
However, the directions were accurate, and soon we were trundling towards the town centre in a double decker bus. Careful earholing of the conversation around us revealed that Don's informant must have been speaking a dialect known as 'Supergeordie'. Most of our fellow travellers, whilst speaking in a quite marked regional tongue, were perfectly comprehensible to those from other parts of the country. It's great to see that the dreaded Estuary English, (as spoken by posh politicians pretending they're one of the lads) has not infiltrated here.
A quick vote by the ''Deneys Reitz' Posh Ports and Desirable Dosshouses team had to give Blyth the thumbs down. Alas! The town seems to comprise of rows of houses constructed in engineering bricks, the shopping centre had an excess of Clinton Cards, JB 'Sports' and Tie Rack shops, with hardly a food store to be found. When we did locate an Aldi (German crap, they're even rubbish in Germany). Would you believe, they had no tonic, wine boxes of any quality or olives with anchovies! But, as seasoned travellers, we knew where all of these staples and more were available - Eyemouth just over the Scottish border!
So, back on the bus, through the port gates, exchanging a little friendly repartee with our Geordie Martian pal, on to the boat, start up, untie and proceed cautiously to the harbour entrance. First encounter with the state of the briny indicated that, as usual, Bartlett was right, the wind had abated some, but the bloody big swell from the North East was still there - Lord knows what God-awful event out in the North Atlantic has spawned this hellish offspring. Still, it took Don at least two hours to start steaming, so he took a spell off in the cabin, whilst Sha steered and Totty navigated.
A view from below
It is worth digressing for a second or two to describe the view from the cabin (saloon on posh boats). Watson lifeboats are double-ended, which means that they are pointy at each end - this is great for sea-keeping as waves sneaking up from behind will not push the boat into the wave in front, thus causing a highly undesirable phenomenon known as “broaching”. 'Deneys' rides waves from behind with nonchalance, and will adjust her angle to the waves almost automatically in bad seas - such is the wisdom of 90 years lifesaving in big seas built into her.
But, down in the cabin, the visible world can be extremely alarming, especially in cross seas. To explain: The construction of the boat gives it a high bow and the hull also rises to the stern. This creates a very graceful line, rather like the Viking longship, which was probably a distant ancestor.
In the middle, where the saloon is located, the freeboard is very small, good for picking casualties from the sea. The saloon has big windows on each side, made of toughened glass. This gives happy trippers a good view out if they are sitting at the table.
This is the view in a big cross sea: WOW!! - Sky with scudding clouds! OOOOH!! - a bloody great wave, streaked with foam and frothing violently at the top! YIKE!! - sheets of spray as Deneys shoulder charges the wave and sends it on its miserable way! AAAAH!! - clouds again! And so on, ad infinitum.
This live video show can become a little wearing, so Don is to soon to be seen on the wheelhouse floor, asking for the wheel back. Sha and Charlotte are happy, as sea conditions have abated below steaming level, so he steers the boat past the grim and mighty Bamburgh castle, symbol of Norman supremacy on the Scottish border, real bandit territory in the good old days, and through the craggy Farne Islands, past Lindisfarne (Holy Island) towards Berwick on Tweed. The coastline is beautiful, with growing cliffs and a plethora of sea birds. Of particular note are clouds of graceful gannets, diving from 100 feet into the sea creating great plumes of spray as they enter - plash!, plash!, plash!....
Our destination is Eyemouth, a fishing port of some note, hiding in behind the cliffs, invisible from the sea. Eyemouth has a narrow, shallow entrance, so we telephone the deputy harbour master, who says the entrance is sheltered and calm and we might have enough depth to enter at 9.45 pm, our ETA. MIGHT???
So we thread our way round the rocks, round the cliff headland, and there stands the entrance, looking mighty shallow. But BT remembers the words of the harbourmaster, John Johnson in 2000, "Even if ye do run aground, there's hard flat sand at the entrance" Such is the confidence engendered by the remarkable Johnson, that Don was comforted by the thought of running aground.
So, in the afterglow of the setting sun behind the cliffs we glide slowly into Eyemouth. It's full of fishing and cruising boats, but the diminutive figure of Johnson arrives on a bicycle, wearing his full regalia of peaked hat and jeans and directs us to the fishing boat wharf.
Scotland at last! How is Eyemouth, how has it fared since our last visit in 2000? No time to find out now, the last of the wine box must be finished, ready for to-morrows's re-stocking. More anon.
Yours Aye, - A' yew luuking at me, Jimmy??