Going with the Flow.
A trip from Morecambe to Arnside on Sunday 8th June, 2008. By Malcolm Cox.
8.30am Coastal waters forecast for Fleetwood to the Solway and 6 miles out to sea valid until 6pm..... Wind SW force 3-4, visibility good, sea state slight. The trip was on!!
I have fancied the idea of a local coastal sailing trip for some time and have looked at the Arnside area many times. The question was where to sail from and was it feasible? Morecambe Bay dries to vast areas of silty sand at low water. Great for cockle pickers but not much good for sailing.
There is also the possibility of a tidal bore in the Kent estuary up to Arnside. In fact the conditions suitable for the trip would be unlikely to generate a bore but we would have to make sure that we arrived after any possibility. We also needed enough water to be able to sail up the estuary! I studied the bay at various places and states of the tide and concluded that it should be possible to sail from Morecambe on the flood tide. The distance from Morecambe to Arnside is about 10 miles; a reasonable trip and possible in say 2 to 3 hours. Dave Poskitt, who has experience of sailing in the bay, thought the idea was OK so we decided on a date with an afternoon high water at Arnside and just coming off springs. We then just hoped for the right weather because at times we would be up to 2 miles from land.
Lengthy negotiations at Morecambe Town Hall secured a launching permit for the promenade slipway and three sailing canoes arrived at the slip on the Poskitts' trailer just before lunchtime on Sunday.
Leisurely assembly took place as we watched the tide miraculously start to cover the sand banks which barred our route to Arnside.
The local sailing club were launching some of their boats from the same slip and confirmed that we would easily be able to get afloat 2½ hours before high water. They were very interested in our craft and very friendly. We were even invited to use the facilities at their club house as there were no public ones around.
Dave and Oliver Poskitt in a Solway Dory Shearwater, Jan Poskitt in Petrel and myself in Puddles sailed off the slip at about 1.45pm in glorious sunshine with Grange-over-Sands easily visible across the bay. We were all using outriggers as the strong tides would make it a dangerous place in which to capsize.
We were soon scooting along and Morecambe was rapidly receding behind us. After about a mile we hove to and Dave reported that his GPS was showing 4mph even though we were not sailing!
On we went with the wind just aft of the beam. Dead easy sailing pointing exactly where we wanted to go.
In about the middle of the bay the water got rather lumpy and we concluded from its colour that we were crossing a shallow bank.
Ahead we could see greener water and when we reached it conditions quietened down a bit. The wind was proving true to forecast and blowing about F4 from the SW.
A little further on, and maybe about a mile off Kents Bank, the lumpiness started again and we all experienced our leeboards bumping on the bottom.
Approaching the entrance to the estuary we found the channel again and Dave now reported a speed over the ground of 7mph whilst hove to!! The maximum speed over the ground when sailing was in excess of 10mph.
We now had a swift run up the estuary with the banks rushing by. We were much earlier than we had anticipated but there seemed to be enough water so we carried on. The plan was to land in a tiny bay just next to the viaduct.
Although the tide was still sluicing between the piers at this time I knew that there was a strong back eddy in the bay and as long as we kept well to the right there should be little danger of being swept through.
As we reached Arnside we could see crowds of people on the promenade and on the pier. However, they had not come to welcome us. They were just tourists enjoying the fantastic weather.
We grounded gently on the soft silt and leapt out to pull the boats up. As we were doing so the water was noticably getting deeper. We were still one hour off local high water.
It had only taken a shade over 1 ½ hours from Morecambe and we had hung about a short while at the entrance to the estuary. A bit of a miscalculation!! However, it had been a brilliant sail and one we shall almost cerainly do again.
Jan went off with my wife in our car back to Morecambe to collect their car and trailer while Dave, Oliver and I stayed to sort out the boats. In this we were much hampered by curious bystanders who inspected the boats and asked all sorts of questions. Oh well, I suppose it is good publicity for canoe sailing.
Malcolm is the Membership Secretary for the Open Canoe Sailing Group.