Slipstream’s Maiden Voyage

Julie Elliott

In 1993 when we got our first boat ExtroBitionist we decided to spend our summer holiday cruising the Northumberland coast. First stop was Amble where we promptly became storm bound for 3 days. For something to do we took the bus to Alnmouth and called at the Schooner for a drink. Friendly locals at the bar greeted us, speaking slowly and carefully so that we tourists could understand their accents. Where were we from they wanted to know? When we explained that we were on holiday, staying at Amble and that we lived in Newbiggin by the Sea, they laughed so hard that one of them almost fell off his bar stool.

Slipstream's Launch

Slipstream’s launch

Now, almost 10 years later, we were attempting the same holiday again. However, this time in comfort on board Slipstream, our brand new Beneteau First 31.7, just delivered from France and commissioned and launched by Amble Boat Company. The first couple of days in Amble Marina were a blur of visitors and champagne as we celebrated our new arrival. She was beautiful, more than living up to our expectations.

Our maiden trip began mid afternoon as we headed north across Alnmouth Bay to spend our first night at Newton. We soon got the sails up and the engine off and we were sailing at last, in hot sunshine with black clouds astern. So much for the forecast SW 3-4, the wind was SE, light and flukey and we had the spring tide against us. Despite this we were delighted to find Slipstream was going along very nicely, so smooth and well balanced. In good bursts, when the wind freshened, we tipped 7.5 knots and we couldn’t wait to get her out in more of a blow. As we began to anchor in Newton Haven, the heavens opened.

Then the rain stopped just as suddenly, the sun came out and lit up the golden sands. This is such a gorgeous place and there were only 2 other boats anchored here even in July! We had a fabulous evening, eating our dinner in the cockpit as the sun began to sink, listening to Van Morrison (Slipstream is named after our favourite Van the Man song, ‘Queen of the Slipstream’) and it was so hot I was afraid I’d burn. Woke to sunshine and blue skies after a restless night, the anchorage was a bit roly. We set off at 9am heading north in a brisk NW5. This was a great chance to try Slipstream on the wind and we had a cracking beat, tipping 8 knots through the Inner Sound going with the tide, heading for Eyemouth. As we motored in through the canyon, the high walled narrow entrance, we spotted several fishing boats from Newbiggin and Blyth- home from home! The Harbour Master asked us to tie up along the quay wall on the outside of the basin. It was blazing hot and we quickly cracked out the cooling beers- couldn’t believe I was having such a fabulous holiday so close to home. Eyemouth is very picturesque and the power showers in the New Fish Market immediately leapt to the top of my ‘Best Showers’ list.

Slipstream

Slipstream

As the fleet headed out for a night’s prawn fishing I noticed that the tide was falling rapidly- it was springs. The Harbour Master had checked our draught and so we weren’t expecting problems. However as the depth fell to 2.2m with 2 hours still to go to low water- we draw 1.9m- we got pretty twitchy and fish and chips and pacing the quay replaced our planned dinner ashore. When the Harbour Master returned from an evening sail he said we could reverse back into the basin which was dredged to 3m and tie up alongside a fishing boat. Catch was we had to get out before the other fishing boats returned at 5.30am. However, relieved, we set the alarm for 4.00am and had an early night. What a favour the early returning fishermen did us- it was a beautiful morning and as we motored out of Eyemouth the Hurker Rocks were silhouetted against a stunning red sunrise. At 5.00 in the morning, with full sails and the elusive westerly having kicked in at last, we had a fabulous sail for about an hour reaching along at 8.5 knots. Slipstream is such a dream to sail. Off Berwick, as we crossed back into England, we caught the early morning Shipping Forecast and I sang along to all the stirring tunes which preceded it.

To escape my singing and make up for the fact he’d had no sleep- having woken up frequently afraid we’d sleep in- Alan went below and I thoroughly enjoyed myself ‘single handing’ for an hour. Then the wind died so we got the engine on. We motored south past Holy Island and through the Inner Channel and then the wind filled so we got the sails up again. The wind was on the nose but we enjoyed the chance to practice tacking Slipstream. Just then we were buzzed by a low flying RAF jet on exercise with 2 other planes. What an air show they put on for us as black clouds moved in.

Eleven hours after leaving Eyemouth we entered the piers at Amble. We’d completed our first 100 miles on Slipstream. To celebrate, we had steaks at the Marina Arms before calling at Coquet Yacht Club for a drink. Next day we were taking Slipstream home to Blyth for the first time and it was another early start leaving at 7.30am to catch the tide. As we motored out past Coquet Island a fishing coble had Metro Radio’s Markie Mark with the rush hour traffic reports blaring out. Ha! I was so pleased I wasn’t in the queue at the Tyne Tunnel. It was a grey day and the wind was light and variable but we had a good sail down to Blyth. Off Lynemouth Power Station we were tanking along at 7.5 knots just off the wind. We berthed successfully on our pontoon at Blyth and it was scorching hot again, honestly- I know you’ll probably think I’m making it up! Next morning as we set off for Royal Quays in blue skies and sunshine, creaming along on port tack, Alan reminded me it was our wedding anniversary. WOW- couldn’t believe he remembered and I’d forgotten! Soon after that a coble came alongside to explain how to avoid the nets. The skipper even held up a large salmon to show us what they were fishing for. He clearly did not know that Alan is indeed the Fisherman’s Friend and knew exactly what to do! It would have made such a good photo but I was helming and didn’t have the camera handy.

After a friendly welcome from Davy Boatyard at Royal Quays, we opened the bottle of champagne Katie and Nick Spurr had kindly given us and then continued our anniversary celebrations with a meal at Sambucca’s, an Italian restaurant on the Fish Quay at North Shields.

Next day was grey and rough- and that was just how we were feeling after the previous night! We set off back to Blyth and tuned in to Channel 8 to listen to the fishermen. In no time at all we could hear them abusing us- assuming we’d hit their nets. I let them go a while then called them up and explained we knew where their nets were and that we’d avoid them as we headed to Blyth. A very polite fisherman responded and then his mate on another boat called him up, teasing him about his ‘professional’ radio technique. ‘It’s all right when they know what they’re doing’ he replied, which we took as a compliment.

Returning to Blyth marked the end of our first cruise on Slipstream. We’d wanted a fast cruiser- comfort down below and racing performance at sea- and Beneteau’s First 31.7 more than met the spec. It had been a fantastic week and with the rest of the summer stretching ahead of us there was still so much more to enjoy.

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