21stto 22ndMay.   Left Hull marina through the lock at 8am promptly, more or less high water. In sparkling sunshine we hoisted our sails and set out down the Humber. It is 25 nautical miles to the sea, but the miles passed quickly as our speed gradually increased with the strong ebb tide. At times we were travelling at almost 10 knots over the ground. Buoys, tugs, ferries and ports flashed past (relatively speaking) until we were ejected from the river at speed, passing only a few metres from the shingle of Spurn Point, within sight of the remote lifeboat station – one of only two in the UK that has a permanent paid crew.

The wind was from the north – as it has been for most of our journey so far – so we decided to tack outside the wind farms north of the Humber and keep offshore in order to keep sailing. But as has happened often on our journey, the wind dropped and we ended up motor sailing in order to reach Flamborough Head before the tide turned against us. We failed. It took us several hours to round the head and motor the last 10 miles to our anchorage in Filey Bay, with tides of up to 3 knots against us. As we rounded the head, we were called by the coastguard and briefly enlisted in the search for a kayaker who had called for help on their phone. “From their call, we believe they are on your port side – can you see anything?” We saw nothing, and can only hope the person was found safe and sound. It was a reminder that phones are better than nothing, but VHF is better still – it allows a more accurate estimated position and the latest handsets can give an exact GPS position too. (In our case, we also transmit our position constantly on AIS – you can track us here).

It was getting dark as we anchored in the fairly exposed anchorage at Filey. Tired and hungry, pasta and fruit cake (thanks Alan) revived us and we dropped into bed hoping for a peaceful night. Although a little bit of swell made the boat roll during the night we all slept and set off at 7.30 the next morning to get to Whitby before low tide prevented entry over the bar at the entrance. 

The old town is full of little shops vying to attract tourists, with evident success – the town was packed on this weekday in May. We searched for the smokery (thanks Jez F) but it was closed: “See the smoke? The kippers will be ready in 14 hours. Come back in the morning at ten.” Sadly we will need to press on before they’re cooked, although the prospect of kippers on board doesn’t delight the whole crew.

Weaving our way through the busy narrow streets we reached the 199 steep steps that lead up to the dramatic ruins of Whitby Abbey. Perched on the cliff, we’d seen its distinctive silhouette from some distance away as we approached. 

A friendly and knowledgeable English Heritage guide regaled us with fascinating details about the abbey and the area: having been founded by St Hild (who is reputed to have rid the site of snakes by chasing them over the cliffs, whereupon they turned to stone and their heads fell off and can still be found today – ammonites!) and then reinvigorated centuries later by a Norman soldier who wanted to show repentance for the slaughter of the local people (apparently the fields were scattered with salt to make them unproductive). He rebuilt the abbey which flourished until Henry VIII destroyed it.

  • Distance: 82NM Hull to Filey Bay, 27NM Filey Bay to Whitby.  
  • Wind: N/NW 3-4 then variable


On our passage ‘Around These Islands’ Anne is writing about each trip, and Jonathan is writing some more ‘technical’ blogs, from our perspective as ordinary cruising sailors. We are sharing what we’ve learned, and welcome your thoughts too. Please remember that this blog – and your comments – are public.

There’s also a special focus on 12 key ports on our planned route, with articles from These Islands and a series of podcasts from Chrome Media called ‘Around These Islands in 12 Ports’.


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