Hull to Beverley


We had arranged to go up the river Hull to Beverley with ‘Comrade’ and ‘Angeline’ as this made it easier to book the bridge lifts that would be required. We lowered the mast and then left Hull Marina at 1600. Just as we we were about to enter the Humber we were asked to hold back as a dredger was just passing. Once they had passed we followed ‘Comrade’ around the corner into the River Hull, followed by ‘Evangeline’.


This section of the river is the old harbour and when we first went to Hull in the early 1980’s this area was full of barges and lighters.  Now it was very silted up and deserted, except for the rather forlorn looking Hull Trawler ‘Arctic Corsair’ sitting high on the mud. We continued up the river, which was very industrial, with a couple of working barges moored up.



We had to stop to wait for some of the bridges to be raised. This was quite tricky with a strong tide behind us and the dilapidated banks that had lots of nasty bits of steel and concrete sticking out. We also realised that with the mast fully lowered it was in danger of catching on the banks every time we went round a sharp bend.  Just to make life that bit more exciting, we found ourselves between the two other keels, so every time ‘Comrade’ slowed down we were in danger of Evangeline running into the back of us.


This situation got worse as ‘Comrade collected a lot of weed around her propeller, so that even at full revs she was crawling along. As there was no room to get past, both we and Evangeline had to keep going astern in order to avoid hitting ‘Comrade’. This meant we had very little steerage and we were grateful that we had reached the more rural stretch of the river Hull, where the banks are lined with beds of reeds. These made a much softer landing as we  went round the tight bends and the tide pushed us into the bank.  We had hoped to get to the lock into Beverley Beck before it got dark, but our progress was so slow that it was dark for the last part of the trip. As we wove our way between the overhanging trees we heard a nasty sound of cracking wood ahead of us and were hoping this was just tree branches and not ‘Comrade’s mast.  The branches that came floating by shortly afterwards indicated that ‘Comrade’ had won that round.


Just to add to the joy of navigating an unknown river in the dark, it  then started to rain. Clad in our waterproofs we eventually arrived and moored up just below the lock. We then had to lock each of the three keels through separately. ‘Daybreak’ was the last to go through and we had to raise the mast slightly to clear the bottom gate. Fortunately I found that by keeping the bow tight into the lock gates, I was able to fit the cog boat in the lock with us. If this hadn’t worked, we would have had to lock it through on its own. It was past 2230 by the time we got into the Beck and we were glad that we could moor up directly above the lock.

Sailing with Comrade

The weekend after the Folk Festival, ‘Daybreak’ sailed on the Humber with the Humber Keel and Sloop Preservation Society’s ‘Comrade’. During the Festival weekend ‘Comrade’ had managed to fill charters for both days and I had invited friends and family to come with me on ‘Daybreak’. The crew was made up of Alan Gardiner, Ian Murray and Tim Gates, together with my sister Sara and her son Vaughan. Unfortunately Sally was not with me because when she went back to visit her mother she found she was not well and decided to stay until she had recovered. Because of the tides we had an early start and were in the lock alongside ‘Comrade’ at 0700. Sara and Vaughan had been delayed by a puncture and arrived after we had descended in the lock and so were not able to get on board. However we arranged to pick them up at Admiral’s Steps, a jetty just around the corner from the lock that is accessible at all states of the tide.

Having got everyone on board we motored out into the river and held station against the tide while we finished rigging the sails. As there were only light winds we decided to use the topsail, which we had not used for some time. We raised the topsail yard first and then, having made sure everything was rigged correctly, we the raised the mainsail and broke out the topsail. We turned to head downriver and turned off the engine. We had a following wind and ‘Comrade’ was sailing ahead of us. It must have made a fine sight from the shore seeing two keels under full sail setting off down the Humber.


We eventually caught up with ‘Comrade’ and after a flurry of greetings and photography ‘Daybreak’ gradually pulled away from them. This no doubt prompted some sail trimming aboard ‘Comrade’ and they managed to catch us up a little further down the river. However this seemed to spur ‘Daybreak’s crew into action and we soon pulled away again. It is a good job that we were not in a race; otherwise people might have been concerned about which keel could sail the fastest.


When the tide turned we wore ship and managed to sail back across river for some way. However the lower Humber is very busy with shipping and we decided it was not wise to be taking backwards and forwards across the shipping channels. It had also started raining so around midday we lowered the sails and motored back up river to the marina. We locked through with ‘Comrade’ and after tying up both crews retired to the Green Bricks to chat about the sailing and plans for the following day.

The next day Alan and I were joined by Howard and Ron, together with Ian’s friend Bill. As ‘Comrade’ was short handed Ian crewed for them. We set off a little later, locking out at around 0800. Outside the lock we met ‘Tegan’, which had locked out earlier and was holding station waiting for us. We again stemmed the tide while we raised the sails and then turned the engine off as soon as we had turned down river. It was ideal situation for ‘Comrade’ and ‘Daybreak’ because the wind was directly behind us. With her for and aft rig ‘Tegan’ clearly found this a less comfortable point of sail, but later sped past us when the wind was more on the beam. There was quite a stiff breeze and with the tide behind us both ‘Comrade’ and ‘Daybreak’ were making good speed down river. Although the guests were enjoying the peaceful sail Alan and I were already thinking about the trip back when they wind would be against us and having wind over tide would make conditions choppy. As the wind was getting stronger we dropped the topsail in front of the mainsail, then in what we hoped was a lull in the wind, took it down altogether. Although I had warned Bill and Tim what would happen, it still took them a bit by surprise when the topsail was lowered below the mainsail and suddenly filled with wind. After a bit of a struggle we managed to get it inboard and lashed around the spar.

Not wanting to go too far we decided to turn at Grimsby even though this was before low water. We managed to make some progress against the tide by sailing as close to the wind as possible, but as we approached the point where we would need to tack there were two ships, one behind us planning to enter Grimsby and one in front of us just leaving. We decided not to risk tacking across the path of the ships and to lower the sails so we could motor out of the way. In a stiff breeze you would usually run before the wind to lower the sail on a keel, but unfortunately this was not an option with the position of the ships and the Burcom Sand just behind us. We therefore had an exciting time getting the mainsail down, but eventually got it topped in and lashed down. After motoring out of the way of the ships we then settled down to motor back to Hull. Although we had quite a bit of spray over the front deck it was fairly peaceful below and we were able to have a fairly civilised lunch. ‘Comrade’ had continued to sail downriver so we soon lost sight of them and a little while later we called them up on the radio to make sure they had managed to get the sails down and were on their way back.

IMG_3588We arrived back at the lock into Hull Marina a couple of hours before ‘Comrade’, but then spent most of the two hours untangling the cog boat chain and rope from the propeller. On the way back up river I noticed the cog boat was taking on board a lot of spray. I lengthened the line so it was towing more comfortably, but unfortunately I forgot to shorten it again as we entered the lock and as I went astern it wrapped itself around the propeller. We had to haul Daybreak out of the lock and round onto a vacant fuel berth, which I am sure some of the observers thought we were just doing things the way they would have been done in the past. We eventually managed to untangle it and then motor back to our berth, just after ‘Comrade’ had moored up. Not such a good day, but no permanent damage done and we had had a good sail.

Up the Humber to Hull

IMG_3486While at anchor we had had a phone call to tell us that the Humber Keel ‘Comrade’ was coming down river to welcome ‘Daybreak’ and escort her to Hull. We realised that the wind would be ideal for sailing and so we rigged the sail before raising the anchor. IMG_3526     The wind and tide were pushing us towards some very shallow water so we motored out to the edge of the channel before raising the sail. We were then able to turn off the trusty engine and sail gently up the Humber. IMG_3506     It was not long before the unmistakable silhouette of ‘Comrade’ appeared on the horizon. As we passed her there was a lot of waving and cheering and she turned to motor past us and lead the way towards Hull.  Unfortunately ‘Comrade’ did not have enough experienced crew on board to sail, but it was still wonderful to be in company with her and to recall the times when we had sailed on her with Fred Colin and Jim.  Although we owned ‘Daybreak’ at that time the idea of sailing her up the Humber was just a dream.

photo 3

Photo by Bill Wilson

There was a strong tide and even with the gentle breeze  we were soon approaching Hull and it was time to lower the sails. We topped in the yard and lashed the sail so we were ready to enter the lock into Hull Marina. This was quite a tricky operation as we had to turn into the tide and then ferry glide across to the entrance before turning in at the last moment. Sally was on the bow to tell me how close to the wall we were so I could judge the best time to turn. All went well and we slid into the basin outside the lock where we had a short wait until the lock gates opened for us.     Comrade in HullOnce through the lock Alan and Kath were on hand to take a line ashore to help with the sharp right turn just outside the lock. The marina seemed very small after the wide open waters that we had become accustomed to over the last few months, but we managed not to touch anything as we motored between the moored boats and turned around close to the restored Spurn Lightship. We then came alongside the wall just behind where ‘Comrade’ was already moored. Once we were secure Alan, Kath and ‘Comrade’s crew came aboard for a drink to celebrate our arrival. Sadly Ian and Leesa had to leave shortly after this and Ali and Mike left in the morning. Even though we had lost our trusty crew there was no chance of us being lonely, as we had a constant stream of visitors. There was already a buzz in the air as people were getting ready for the Hull Folk Festival at the weekend. This meant there were a lot of people passing the marina, most of whom stopped to look at the ships and we had to keep replenishing the leaflets for National Historic Ships and the Humber Keel and Slop Preservation Society.

Yarmouth to Hull

IMG_3461The forecast remained good for continuing our journey north so on Tuesday morning we prepared ‘Daybreak’ for the sea passage. After getting permission from the harbour authority we moved down to another quay to take on diesel. We then motored down the long stretch of commercial quays towards the sea. At one point we had to stop and wait for a ship that had pulled away from the side and then had one engine stuck in forward. Fortunately it was near the top of the tide so this was not a problem and it was interesting to listen in to the radio conversation about the incident. After a short delay the ship proceeded under one engine and we carried on. The same ship then radioed to warn us of a large piece of timber floating in the harbour. The pilot launch was despatched to secure this and take it to a quay where it could be craned out. So much was happening and we had only just started our trip.


We negotiated the tight bend at the bottom of the harbour and went out to the open sea. Because our passage to the Humber was going to take more than 24 hours we had adopted a watch system.  Each of the two watches was on for four hours, which gave a good balance between those on watch not getting too tired, but those off watch having a reasonable time to sleep or rest.


We soon settled into the new rhythm of life on board and were enjoying the fair weather and good visibility. One of the joys of being at sea is the clear views of the sun setting and rising over the sea.


Although the forecast was good there are so many shoals and sandbanks on this part of the east coast that there is always a nasty swell. We had quite a bit of rolling as we passed Sheringham and across the Wash. Those off watch and trying to get some sleep were grateful for the lee sheets that Sally had made before we left. It meant they did not roll out of their bunks. After a moon lit night the dawn broke as we approached the entrance to the Humber. We did not have much control over the timing of our arrival, as we had had to leave Yarmouth at high water, so we arrived at the mouth of the Humber as the tide was starting to ebb. With a particularly high tide the outgoing flow was almost as fast as Daybreak can motor, which meant we needed to wait somewhere for the tide to turn before continuing our passage up to Hull.

Works on the lock gates at Grimsby meant we could not lock in there and we realised that it was not really feasible to cross the main shipping channel to anchor off Spurn Head. There was a lot of shipping passing through this channel and the strength of the tide meant we would be in it for a couple of hours, potentially impeding the passage of much larger vessels.  After seeking advice from Alan Gardiner, the HKSPS Sailing Master, we motored across to the Lincolnshire coast and dropped anchor just off the beach not far from Cleethorpes. ‘Daybreak’  had made it to the Humber!


Yarmouth Maritime Festival


IMG_3348‘Daybreak’ had motored across Breydon Water and passed through the two lifting road bridges to enter Yarmouth Harbour. We moored up just down river of the restored steam Drifter, ‘Lydia Eva’, making sure we could access a ladder. Once we were secure ‘Izambard’ came alongside.


In the morning there was an impressive display of marquees lining the quayside. When we first arrived there were relatively few vessels, although the numbers had increased significantly by the Sunday.



The festival opened with a march past including the Royal Norfolk Militia, resplendent in their bright red uniforms. They were led by Maynard, a local shipwright who could not do enough to help us  during our stay in Yarmouth. It was a great festival with excellent music performed on stages that had been set up along the quay. There were lots of very tasty food stalls and interesting arts and crafts displays and exhibitions.  There was plenty of interest in all the vessels, although as the tide dropped it became more difficult for people to see over the wall.


One of the ships attending was ‘Tres Hombres’ which carries cargo under sail and has no engine.  While walking on the beach Sally spotted her sailing in. She had been delayed by a lack of wind, but was eventually towed into harbour on the Sunday. She had not been in port very long before Sally and Ali went off to sample her cargo of rum and chocolate.



Ian and Leesa rejoined us over the weekend and this meant we had a crew of six for the the longest leg of our voyage, the passage from Yarmouth to the Humber. All too soon the festival was over and all the stands were dismantled and vessels started to leave. We moved Daybreak down to the end of the quay so we could top up the water tanks from the festival stand pipe. This meant we had a good view of the tall ship ‘Minerva’  coming away from the quay


Sailing with Albion

DSC06880On Friday morning we met with the skipper of Albion to discuss plans for sailing down the river and across Breydon Water. The wind was fair for Daybreak to sail off the mooring at Cantley and so we raised the mainsail and as I let go the slabline we released the mooring ropes and Daybreak slid silently out into the river.


Albion then raised her sail and set off to follow us, but even with the gentle breeze we were quite a way ahead and at first we could only see their sail over the top of the trees. Daybreak managed quite well with the winding bends of the river but as we did not have the topsail up Albion eventually caught up with us. It was amazing to think that it must have been at least one hundred years since a keel sailed on the Norfolk Broads. Norfolk keels died out in the 19th century, being replaced by the wherries.  The remains of a Norfolk keel were dug out of a river in 1984, but sadly even these have not been preserved. There is however a record of a Humber Keel being the first sea going vessel to arrive in Beccles in 1831, following the improvements to the navigation.


It is with the greatest satisfaction that we announce the arrival here of a Humber Keel of 60 tons burden on Sunday evening last. She sailed up amidst shouts of “Beccles a Port”. An immense concourse of persons assembled to witness the arrival of the first Seaborne Vessel. She was laden with chalk for Mr Stead & sailed again on Tuesday morning with a freight of Malt.

(from East Anglian 19 April 1831) 


Not knowing how deep the river was I was reluctant to use the leeboards and after sailing for just under an hour we were finally caught by a cross wind and drifted gently into the reeds, where we lowered the sail. Albion, with her fixed keel, did better than us and was able to continue under sail right across Breydon Water. Back in the reeds we were running behind schedule for the planned bridge lifts and so we started the engine and motored on.

Daybreak and Albion

IMG_3314We had arrived a day early for our planned rendezvous with the Norfolk Wherry Albion ( so we were able to get ourselves ship shape and the following day we watched her black sail gliding into view over the fields.


She were soon moored just behind Daybreak and then showed us how easy it was to lower the counterbalanced mast on a wherry. They needed to lower it to rig up the ‘bunting’ for the Open Day. I was at last able to meet Henry Gowan from the Norflok Wherry Trust, with whom we had arranged the event, and we discussed the plans for the  following day.



The open day was a great success with many people turning out to see the vessels. The live radio interview planned for the morning did not happen because the radio journalist overslept. However I was interviewed by the local paper and the photographer took lots of photos. In my interview I stressed the historic importance of the two vessels and their trading inland under sail. Just before he finished, the photographer asked if he could take a couple of pictures inside and the headline of the published article was all about Daybreak as a desirable residence!

Mutford Lock to Cantley

IMG_3271Tuesday dawned bright and sunny. Shortly after 0900 the lock called down to us to get information about our dimensions and to arrange our locking through. This had to be a very co-ordinated operation, with the lifting of both a road and pedestrian bridge as well as operating the lock gates. Izambard also wanted to take on water, so this was done while she was in the lock and Sally and Sue took the opportunity to visit the local shop to pick up some more supplies.

IMG_3272Once ‘Izambard’ had locked through, Sally waited on the lock side while I brought Daybreak into the lock. The staff on the lockside were very friendly and helpful, but it seems it was quite an event for them to be locking through vessels of Daybreak’s size. The locking itself was very quick as the water levels were almost equal and we were soon entering Oulton Broad. The evening before, we had motored through a big commercial harbour full of large ships and tugs; now we were a world away, surrounded by elegant sailing boats and broads cruisers.

IMG_3273We passed Izambard at anchor in the Broad and motored on until we came to a mooring jetty where we stopped for coffee and chatted to a couple from Yorkshire who were very surprised to see a Humber vessel on the Broads. While we sat having coffee and enjoying the view ‘Izambard’ motored past. Shortly after this we untied and followed them.



Sally has many memories of cruising on the Broads in her childhood and recalled seeing little more than the reeds lining both banks. From ‘Daybreak’s deck we could see over the reeds to the fields beyond. We passed ‘Izambard’ whose crew had decided to moor up below Somerlayton, but we decided that we would press on to Cantley where we had arranged to meet the Norfolk Wherry ‘Albion’ on Wednesday.

IMG_3293Once at Cantley we moored up outside the Reedcutters Inn and raised the mainsail, which was still wet after the rain the previous day.


Felixstowe Ferry to Lowestoft


IMG_3262Sally came back on the Friday and when I went to pick her up we had a chance to look around Felixstowe Ferry with Ian, before he went back home for a few days. The weather became more settled over the weekend and Monday was looking calm and, with gentle SW winds, good for our passage to Lowestoft. Friends Bill and Sue on ‘Izambard’ came alongside on Sunday afternoon and together we looked over weather forecasts and passage plans. On Monday morning I took the inflatable ashore to pick up Ian and a couple of crew for Izambard. Then after a final check of the weather forecast we raised the anchor and headed down to the entrance to the Deben. Conditions were much calmer than on our previous attempt to leave and it was not long before we were heading out into the relatively placid waters around the Woodbridge Haven buoy.

DSC06859Once we had turned to head up the coast Sally steered while Ian and I rigged the mainsail. We topped out the yard (passed the aft end of the yard forward of the shrouds). After checking everything was rigged correctly I hauled up the slabline and then wound up the yard. Once it was high enough I let go the slabline and the sailed filled. Unfortunately there was not enough wind to maintain the speed we needed under mainsail alone, and I was apprehensive about raising the topsail with only the three of us aboard,but it was helping and we were able to reduce the engine revs.

After a couple of hours we were passing Orfordness lighthouse when the wind dropped further. As it was not helping us, we lowered the sail and continued to motor along the shore. The weather had started out warm and sunny but it soon clouded over and then started to rain. The forecast had been for a couple of showers, but it rained continuously all the way to Lowestoft. It was getting dark as we radioed up for permission to enter Lowestoft Harbour. Once through the harbour entrance we turned into the Trawler Dock where Izambard was already tied up to a pontoon.

IMG_3266Once we were tied up there was no time to relax as we had to lower the mast so that we could pass under the rail bridge just below Mutford Lock where we planned to moor up for the night. The road bridge we had pass under first was being raised at 2100, so we had to get the mast down as quickly as possible, working in the dark and pouring rain. Once it was down, and all the rigging stowed clear of the deck, we reversed out of the berth and went back out of the dock just as the bridge started to lift. The rain stopped and we had an interesting trip down Lake Lothing, illuminated by the dockside lights.


We slid beneath the railway bridge and moored behind ‘Izambard’ on the waiting pontoon below Mutford Lock. After what had been a very long day, we still somehow managed to find the energy to stagger aboard ‘Izambard’ for a beer to celebrate our successful passage.