MARLIN trip into Dee estuary April 2016

Tuesday 19 April. High pressure at last. Leave Liverpool Marina at 11.25 (HW 10.33 8.5m). Proceed past New Brighton (at 11.52) where the lifeboat was coming ashore from an exercise. The 5 big container cranes at Seaforth are now very prominent.

Out through the Rock Channel, keeping quite close to the Wirral shore since the tide was still quite high. Sunny with N force 2 or less. The Guard Vessel for the Burbo Bank Windfarm extension was issuing information -- although I could see no sign of any installation yet.
After passing HE3, the current was adverse- about 1-2 knots. Pass Hilbre Point at 13.10; Seldom Seen (no buoy visible) at 13.30. I intended to make a clockwise tour of the sand bank that lies south of the Dee1 buoy. At 13.45 I passed Dee1; 13.54 passed Dee2 then headed roughly south following previous tracks and also the area with most current.

The sandbank seems to have moved subsantially since 2015 - later on I could see it dry where I had followed the channel previously. At 2.12pm [HW+3:40], I finally ran out of sufficient depth - without being able to get as far as Dee3. The bar at that point seems shallower than previously -- but maybe I missed the deepest channel through it. So I turned around and back-tracked with now favourable current. By 2.50pm, I was approaching He4 [SE corner of Hoyle Bank with seals nearby] and I followed the South edge of the bank westwards as previously. This channel has also changed since 2015. I ran gently aground in a sheltered spot (as planned) at 2.55pm [HW+4:30; 53 22.082N 3 14.316W]

As I was taking the ground, I was aware of the West Kirby Inshore Lifeboat exploring the inner part of the Dee with a SAR helicopter and police helicopter flying around. So not too peaceful. The Inshore Lifeboat later came towards me. I called them on VHF 16 but they were only listening to VHF 0. They tried to come alongside me, but ran aground too -- so a crew member hopped out and walked to my position. After finding the channel (a deeper bit up to waist deep at that time), he came to talk to me. It seems someone on shore at Caldy Golf Club had reported seeing what might be a person/body/small boat in the water. The Lifeboat had been launched at 2pm. The Lifeboatman asked me if I had seen anything relevant (big log, etc) but though I had been in the appropriate area, I had sighted nothing of that kind.

MARLIN was completely dry by 3.30pm and I was able to remove some slime from the hull and change an anode. It was sunny but the breeze was cool.
The channel was clearly visible at LW [1.7m; circa 5.20pm]-- and now snakes away from the steep edge of the Hoyle Bank -- where I ended up taking the ground.

Marlin aground: view towards Hilbre (and HE4) and view towards Wales.

Seals on The Hoyle Bank: view with He4 behind, view from seaward.

I was afloat again at 7.00pm and left via the channel that had appeared at low water. After passing the seals (without disturbing them) I motored back around the North Wirral coast (keeping a bit further offshore than earlier since the tide was now lower). Cloudless, I could see the sunset (at 8.25pm) and a nearly full moon was out. I locked into Liverpool marina at 9.15pm.

Above trip was mainly at tick-over (6 knots through water) and used about 4 gallons. Distance run (over ground) 18 nm outbound and 14 nm returning.

A record of the depth and track of my voyage is available from teamSurv

If higher resolution versions of the above images are wanted, please contact me. All information given in good faith, but please do not rely on it.

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