We set off from Shotley Marina on Monday afternoon; high pressure was sitting in the middle of the north sea and with a strong team and settled conditions all looked well for a nice quiet crossing. We motored out of the marina channel and as we approached the starboard beacon the engine temperature alarm went off. The alarm is not piercing, in fact its a sort of throttled warble but it sort of doesn't matter because it's meaning is clear which is ... turn the engine off now.
I turned the engine off. A quick response will normally prevent any damage to engine or impellor; we unfurled the foresail and I left Brim in the safe hands of Gordon and Rob with an instruction to sail down-river. As it happens I had meant up-river but hey ... detail detail.
My unerring ability to forget to do the obvious had once again shone through. The engine seacock was still shut. I had opened it the day before ... but also shut it the day before!
Somewhat belatedly I opened the seacock and left the engine to cool down. Whilst I was on deck being briefed by Gordon on the definition of up and down river Rob asked whether I was aware that water was squirting out of the engine compartment. I was not aware and shut the seacock again. To be honest it was all a mystery; I couldn't understand why overheating the engine would cause the filter to start leaking.
After a few minutes of thinking time it became apparent that I had underestimated my ineptitude. I hadn't been just an idiot I had been a complete and utter idiot ... the day before I had cleaned the water filter with the seacock closed. I had then put the water filter cover back on but ... cross threaded. With the seacock closed the problem was not apparent, however, when I finally opened the seacock and the boat started sinking it clearly was!
30 minutes later I had taken the water impellor out to check for damage and restarted the excellent Beta engine which was fine and remained fine for the whole passage.
Gordon and Rob - two Brimble Veterans
As we caught the strong ebb tide out of the Orwell and left the smug cranes of Felixtowe behind Gordon and Rob were politely silent. This said my interpretation of what they were thinking, based entirely on knowing looks and coughs was something like ... if this has happened in the first 20 minutes then what the hell is the next 5 days going to be like. I made us a cup of tea and we had a slice of Gordon's excellent Fruit Cake.
Despite the portent of the first half an hour the sail across was actually quite lovely. There were relatively brief periods of no wind, typically through the short nights, or there was a pleasant Force 2-3 on the beam.
We soon moved into a regular watch pattern of 2 hours on 4 hours off using the Flint System developed by Alasdair Flint on passages in the Arctic in his 26ft wooden Vertue Sumara. The method is simple in that rather than working to a fixed time you simply start the 2 hours from when the individual going off watch is snugged up in their pit; 2 hours later you wake the next watchkeeper up and away you go and they in turn wait until you are tucked up before their clock starts. The Flint System has the advantage of making sure everyone gets a good sleep and also shifts the watches around so everyone is on watch at different times.
As ever a highlight of the north sea is dodging oil and gas rigs. The North sea is absolutely littered with them and it is impossible to sail a straight course from the east coast of England to Norway without several course alterations to keep the required 500 m away. Guard ships loom up on the horizon if they think you might be trying to test whether your mast would fit underneath the platform and you could actually sail straight between their legs. There's a rude joke in there somewhere but I will ignore it!
Rather sadly many of the rigs we passed appear to be under demolition or at least disused. The usual hustle and bustle that is evident even from a few miles away wasn't their so I suspect the dwindling oil and gas supplies is having an inevitable toll on these rather awesome structures.
With high pressure there was the inevitable poor visibility although with AIS (receiver and transmitter) the level of angst that fog causes is significantly reduced. When the fog did clear we enjoyed spectacular weather and sunsets.
Landfall was a gradual process as Southern Norway emerged from the morning mist..