17th-19thMay.  We’re on our way again!  After several days longer than intended in Ipswich, the work on our engine is complete, thanks to two brilliant engineers from Fowey (yes, that is Cornwall) and great support from Windboats, the company who built Nova and provided a warranty. We’ve enjoyed our extended time in Ipswich, and discovered several beautifully kept parks, interesting old streets and buildings and the lively re-developed waterfront.

On Friday 17th, we set off down the river Orwell with two crew (Alan and Ruth) on board.  It was a sunny afternoon, with a gentle breeze and we sped down the river on the tide, under the impressive Orwell bridge, short-tacking down parts of the channel past Pin Mill, three busy marinas and finally into the peaceful river Stour, back to the same anchorage off Erwarton Ness as two weeks previously. Overnight it was calm, the sea like a mirror, and we had a very peaceful night.

The next morning we woke to fog.  We couldn’t even see the bank a short distance away.  We were not due to leave until 10am, to catch the tide going north, and the fog cleared in time for us to depart with good visibility, although little wind.  We motored past the ferry peer at Harwich and the huge cranes at Felixstowe and turned north. The wind increased a little during the day and we were able to put out our big gennaker and sail for some of the way, motor-sailing the rest of the time. 

Industrial Felixstowe gave way to the town, with rows of beach huts along a sandy beach, the Martello towers standing at the entrance to the river Deben.  Then the strange structures of Orford Ness came into view: ‘pagodas’ which were designed to collapse if needed, as part of testing nuclear explosives in this remote and bleak bit of coastline.  

Orford lighthouse is prominent at the very end of the spit; close – and getting closer – to the edge of the land, making you wonder how long it will last before erosion causes it to fall into the sea. On we went up the coast, and as we drew near to Lowestoft at the end of the afternoon, visibility worsened and we found ourselves in thick fog.  We were glad of our AIS (a system which communicates our position to other vessels, and via which we can see the position of other craft) and watched several fast motor boats pass us – clearly on the screen, although in real life they passed as rather ghostly outlines in the fog.

Arriving at Lowestoft, whose harbour wall loomed out of the fog seconds before we reached it, we planned to take a break for a few hours for a hot meal and a leg-stretch while waiting for the tide to turn. We tied up near several historic vessels and a new Shannon class lifeboat and wandered through the impressive Royal Norfolk and Suffolk yacht club, in search of locals to consult for their knowledge of East coast fog. With their gloomy predictions in mind (“you could be stuck here for days”) we started planning for a further delay, with consequent complications in logistics for friends travelling to meet us. It is a difficult passage to plan, due to the tides and distance between ports. 

Then suddenly as the sun set the fog cleared, the full moon was bright and with unanimous enthusiasm we decided to leave at 10pm as planned. 

Night passage across the Wash

It is 120 miles from Lowestoft to Hull so we kept 3-hour watches, two people on watch at a time.  The clear night lasted for a couple of hours, then the fog came in again with a chill, and didn’t lift until we were nearly at Hull. There was very little wind, so we motored for most of the way.  The strangest thing was using technology to avoid passing craft – we could see them via our AIS screen, and occasionally hear engines, but didn’t see vessels as they passed us in the fog. For commercial traffic in the night, having AIS made the journey less risky and difficult and we were thankful for it. 

We arrived at the mouth of the Humber at midday on Sunday. From there, it is still a significant distance to travel up to Hull. It is a busy river with fast motorboats servicing the offshore windfarms, huge freight ships coming into Immingham, passenger ferries on their way to and from Hull, and various kinds of maintenance work taking place. We also saw several seals who popped up to look at us – signs of rich fishing for them, perhaps. 

Further up the estuary, the fog finally lifted as a little bit of breeze started and we were able to sail for our last couple of hours, goose-winged downwind, taking our time so we didn’t arrive too early for the lock into Hull marina. Entering the lock requires skill, crabbing in under motor across strong tides before diving through the entrance into the still water in front of the lock gates. Jonathan executed this move perfectly and then was embarrassed to find us squelch to a halt on the (unmarked, undredged) muddy bank, to the amusement (we suspect) of the two local yachts who entered with us. We freed ourselves quickly, entered the lock and in a few minutes tied up in prime position in front of the Marina office. We were met by our next crew member (Rob) and family members picking up Alan and Ruth – great to have a reception committee – and an excuse to break open some bubbles and have a delicious Italian meal in one of the many good restaurants on offer in the city of culture. 

  • Distance: 41NM Ipswich to Lowestoft, 121 miles Lowestoft to Hull. 
  • Wind: var (mainly NE) 3 or less