Readers share favourite places to anchor, moor and explore
Playing in the sand in Alnmouth
Robert Sheridan and his wife Helen sail Mango Elephant, their Wharram Tiki 30, extensively. Currently Solent-based, their next heading is the Canaries
We sail a catamaran with a draught of 0.6m (2ft) and one of the joys is access to secluded and sheltered coves. Up the North East coast from Bridlington to Lindisfarne sheltered anchorages are few and far between, so we couldn’t pass up the opportunity of Alnmouth after several nights in marinas.
Alnmouth used to be a busy port but a storm changed the course of the river, the harbour silted up and now it’s a picturesque and unfrequented holiday destination for the discerning. It features a wide sandy bay and an old church on a hill separated from the town by the new river channel. To get into the bay you wait for the tide to come up the beach and fill the channel that winds between the sand dunes. To make it even more challenging the channel changes each year – we only found how much later!
After a fast passage from Blythe to Alnmouth with an offshore breeze we arrived at low water. We worked our way inshore, avoiding the salmon boats and their nets and anchored to wait for the tide to rise. We studied our pilot books, looked for the frequently-moving start of the channel on the beach, and put out our fishing lines.
The salmon boats passed us showing the huge fish they’d caught – our mackerel lines had not attracted a thing.
We debated rowing ashore but it was going to be a long, wet and arduous slog into the wind, so in the end we decided not.
Two and half hours before high water we spotted the smooth patch in the surf that marked the channel, upped anchor and started to motor in against the still- stiff breeze. As we came in, the channel widened, there were no more buoys and we had to decide which way to go. Having a lot of river experience we opted to go on the outside of the bend which the pilot book showed as the main channel, so with Helen on the helm and me on the bow with the boat hook, trying to test the bottom through the swirling sediment, we gently edged in and promptly ran aground. Out went the anchor and we waited for the tide to come up.
Two hours later we were dried out on firm sand. We had expected to walk across a wide beach to town but it was now the channel, so the dinghy had to be deployed after all to get to the pub. The next day we walked to the other side of the harbour – the old channel was just where we had been!
We spent four days in Alnmouth and enjoyed every one; excellent pubs and restaurants, friendly shops and gorgeous countryside. We especially enjoyed cycling on our folding bikes to Alnwick and back via Dunstanburgh Castle and Howick, where there is a replica of the huts in which early inhabitants of the coast may have lived.
The next time we go somewhere like Alnmouth one of us will go ashore in the dinghy, and not only look for the channel on the beach but walk it right to the harbour. If we had re-anchored closer in when we first arrived it would have made a dinghy trip less daunting