It’s been an eventful week round here with very destructive 70mph winds causing a fair bit of destruction all along the North Norfolk coast. Hundreds of trees were blown down, Blakeney Point saw previously unseen numbers of (unoccupied) moored boats being capsized and/or sunk and we had some seriously large waves battering the beaches. Luckily it was during neap tides so there was minimal flooding, if this had hit during a flood tide then we could have seen serious tidal storm surges which could have been much worse.
Before the storms hit we had a call-out on the lifeboat at 2am on Thursday morning to a yacht which had intentionally run aground off Salthouse. With 4 persons on board they had lost engine power and with the storm imminent and a moderate swell the skipper made the wise choice to run the yacht aground rather than trying to battle on. By running the boat up the shore the skipper got his crew off the boat onto the beach before leaving himself. Along with the coastguard shore teams we managed to locate them and they were taken in at a local pub and managed to get warm, dry & fed. The skipper’s swift actions that night saved the lives of all on board.
The next morning the swell had dropped and we had a small window before the huge storms were due to hit to see if we could still rescue the yacht. I collected the skipper and one of his crew from the pub and we drove back to Salthouse to check the state of the yacht and see if we could find someone with machinery able to pull the 12 ton vessel far enough up the beach to get her clear of the forecast 12ft swell and Force 11 northerly which was due to hit that night.
Sadly when we arrived the boat was already being battered by 3-4ft waves which, while not very big, were rocking the boat violently making it very dangerous to get near so there was no way we could have safely got a rope attached. We could also see that some of the hull planks had already come loose and the boat had taken on quite a lot of water. With the tide coming in all we could do was try to salvage some of the bits that were being washed back into the beach while the rest was floating off in a slick of wood & plastic on the flood tide towards Sheringham. I’ve since spoken to local fishermen who were off that morning and saw the deck roof & all sorts of other debris come floating past them while they were hauling their pots.
We arrived at 10am (above top left) and by 10:55am (above, bottom right) the boat was in pieces, it was heartbreaking to see, I really felt for the skipper who had spent the last 3 months renovating her for his father as a lockdown project.
Later that afternoon I headed back to see if I could salvage any other bits for the crew and all that remained were the engine (below) and the mast in a horrendous tangle of rigging. I managed to recover a couple of brass portholes, some tackle from the rigging and the first mate’s Macbook, battered & full of saltwater but at least he had it back in his possession now.
On Friday I decided to head out with a camera to film the extreme weather, with the rain lashing down and sea spray filling the air I took the precaution of putting the camera in the underwater housing so at least I didn’t need to worry about damage to the equipment.
Below are some shots and the short film I made capturing the weather at Sheringham and Cromer. A lot of people watching the film have said I was mad to go out in it & some suggested I was reckless but at no point did I put myself in direct danger. The wind was Northerly so while on the coastal path the wind was blowing inland and not over the edge of the cliffs (although the next day the swirling winds did actually result in that). At Cromer I ventured onto the pier, again this was wet & wild but it wasn’t dangerous, the pier is very secure and at no time did I lean over the edge or go anywhere that the waves could have taken me into the water.
I’m not a huge fan of being on camera myself but sometimes I think it helps with the narrative of a film and can add some interest between the storytelling shots so with a Gopro mounted on top of the underwater housing I also did some pieces to camera to explain the situation. It was the strongest wind I can ever remember trying to walk in and blew the glasses right off my face twice. Enjoy the crazy weather from your warm, dry home!
• Storm • north norfolk • extreme weather • sheringham • cromer • big waves