Nicola comes to town - 4 July
Nicola is a longstanding HSC member now living in New Zealand, she made a visit to London this week and some of us managed to meet up with her for an evening out.
An afternoon sail to look at the saltings being created on Wallasea Island - 5 August
Mostly on these pages I report on the HSC events as listed in our program, but this ignores the fact that members can take our boats out for a sail any time during our sailing season. Frank sent me this account of an afternoon sail from Paglesham to inspect the work which has been carried out to generate new wetlands at Wallasea Island - Ed.
Mark S. met me at Rochford Station and we first went as usual to the baker's shop in North St. for cup of tea and food for lunch. At the boatyard we found a couple of old fishing boats at the pontoon. and a fisherman to talk to while the tide went out far enough for us to reach Merganser, via Meander. (Sorry, Eric, no sign of your yoghourt pot!)
About 11.30 we set off down the Roach with a rather variable NE wind. In the Crouch we sailed past two of the new breaches in the Wallasea sea wall, then decided not to go on to Burnham as the wind was now more easterly and we might have to beat back after the tide turned at 2.30. So we landed on the beach near the Branklet Spit on Wallasea. This beach is shingle and sand, not shells like other beaches along the Crouch, and reaches right down to low water at neap tides. It is of fairly recent origin, composed perhaps in part of material from the oldest sea wall here. We washed the sails and laid them out on the beach, then went for a walk along the seawall to the first breach. These breaches were opened about a month ago to turn 215 hectares of farmland into saltings and a nature reserve to make up for losses of saltings elsewhere. We could see an artificial island and a waterfall where the tide was falling from a lagoon around it. Mark went across the mud for a closer look. There are seven of these islands in the two parts of the reserve and part of the old sea wall is also now isolated. A new footpath will run along the new sea walls. I've since tried to find a map of the new development, without success, but there is some information on Defra's web site and on the planning application to Rochford Council.
After lunch and about at low water we pulled Merganser over and scraped the bottom. Mark swam. There were a few other people with boats there, some having a barbecue, but the place is now even more inaccessible by land than it was before. We sailed down the Crouch for a while then had a pleasant sail back with the incoming tide and a gentle favouable wind. Saw 2-3 egrets on the Foulness shore.
The extra high tides ths coming autumn will test the new sea walls on Wallasea and no doubt erode the old ones from both sides.
Summer Cruise 2006 - Paglesham to Wivenhoe and Jaywick - 19 to 24 August
Map Route of the cruise
Most of the following cruise log is by Len W., but I have added a bit at the end since Len was not with us for the whole trip.
There were seven of us on the 2006 HSC Summer cruise, all long time HSC members except for Josephine's niece Freya, an accomplished dinghy sailor, over from Germany. Mark T. and Mark S. were in one of the club's Wayfarers, Richard F. was in his newly acquired ketch rigged 'Cruz' dinghy, John in his 15 foot own design, and I was in my old 14 foot Woodnutt dayboat. Josephine and Freya alternated between John's and Richard's boats. We were all sail and oar.
Preparing to leave the pontoon at Paglesham, Len's boat in foreground
Sunday: The original plan had been to sail from Paglesham and cross over the Thames Estuary to the Medway and Swale via Havengore Creek. Unfortunately the Havengore lifting bridge was found to be out of action. The alternative was to sail out of the Roach into the Crouch and then round Foulness sands, but this would double or treble the length of the crossing. Besides, Richard had not yet accustomed himself to his Cruz and furthermore the forecast winds were Force 4-5 southwesterly. For the first day we therefore decided to content ourselves on with a sail up to Burnham on Crouch, Britain's second yachting centre. Burnham with its several yacht clubs is inevitably 'gentrified', but in an attractive way, and it is a lot friendlier than Cowes. Visiting yachtsmen are encouraged to use the Royal Bumham YC's pontoon, so there was no problem in leaving our boats afloat for a stroll round the town and a pub meal together. The museum is worth a visit. Not many generations ago, before the seawalls were built, the coastline was quite different with navigable creeks penetrating well inland. Salt production was an important industry in villages that are now miles from the sea. One of the exhibits was a big open boat with a twin boom bowsprit. I had never seen that before, but why not?
We agreed to return to Wallasea Ness at the mouth of the Roach, where there is a low-water landing. Here we could camp for the night, and in the morning be in a position to sail north or south as weather and other constraints dictated. The tide was flooding strongly against us, but with the fresh breeze behind us we were soon back. Apparently, marshland near Felixstowe has been drained for a dock extension, so to meet EU legislation part of Wallasea Island has to be returned to marshland by deliberately breaching the seawall. At the time of our visit this had only recently been carried out so the sea was flooding over the remains of cropped fields. The choice for camping sites was between the exposed top of the seawall or on the loose shingle just above the high water mark. I opted for a slight dip where the earth gave a better grip for my tent pegs, but in the morning found that at high water the spring tide had crept up to within an inch or two of my tent.
The hard landing near the North East corner of Wallasea Island
Monday: The morning forecast was still for a strong southwesterly so it was agreed that we would sail north, rendezvousing at East Mersea Point. Having the smallest boat, I started first, with jib furled and mainsail deep-reefed, but managed to keep ahead, (I tend to take my sailing more seriously than the others do). John was sailing under his heavy-weather rig (small Bermudan mainsail and jib), the Wayfarer was under first reefed mainsail and jib, and the Cruz had both sails well reefed.
Leaving the Crouch, the shoreline is at first low and featureless, and the Raysand Channel lies over a mile offshore. However early in the ebb there is still enough water to sail close inshore over the sandy flats. There are wrecks and obstructions, some of which are marked and some not, and some miles further north, a line of sunken barges. These for some reason are not shown on my current Imray chart or on my O.S. maps, but a similar obstruction was shown on my ancient Stanford Chart (price 12/6d!). Beyond the barges is the prominent St. Peter's Chapel, originally an early Saxon Cathedral built from the stones of the Roman fort of Orthona. I would have liked to land, but with the falling tide there was a risk of being stranded. (Even a mile offshore, sounding with my boathook, I found less than a metre depth.) Carrying on over the Blackwater estuary I at last reached East Mersea Point This is a nature reserve with a very steep shingle slope going down to the low water level. The others, who had been sailing in a more leisurely manner, turned up later and we all watched a couple of Thames barges sailing in. Even though it was nearing low water, the first barge held on to its sail and daringly tacked in against the tide in the narrow channel to anchor beyond Mersea Point, a very impressive performance. A hundred years ago my great-uncle would have thought nothing of doing the same with his boomie, the 'Matilda Upton', but it was good to see the old traditions maintained. This first barge appeared to be of welded steel construction, which was puzzling; because welded steel did not come in until long after sailing barge building had ceased. The second barge was of riveted construction, probably iron, and even this would have been one of the last sailing barges built. (The second barge was I think the Zylonite, owned by the Cirdan Trust. I don't know what the first one might have been but an internet search for 'Richard Dunston' revealed that all welded steel barges were first built for Thames use in 1946 - Ed.) It was a fair walk to the pub that evening, but the meal was excellent and reasonably priced, and I find it helps to stretch my legs after a long sail.
Tuesday: The Hostellers are not very good at getting away early, so I sailed first, heading up the River Colne with the last of the flood. It was about fifty years since I had last sailed this river. Sailing around high water certainly provides the best view of the fine waterside scenery. I reached Wivenhoe with the last of the flood. My parents had often talked of this village, but I had never been ashore here, so seeing a pontoon opposite the sailing club, I moored and diffidently looked for permission to remain a short time. However a notice soon re-assured me. Fishing boats had priority on the outside of the pontoon, visiting yachtsmen were allowed 48 hours, and the poor bloody members were only allowed to pick up and set down! (Presumably the pontoon had been built with EU funding.)
Pontoon landing just downstream from the tidal barrier at Wivenhoe
Although this once-charming little village is being blighted by a massive modem luxury home development, and there is also a massive new tidal barrier, there are still some quaint old parts well worth seeing, and a few old boats on the quay. We were fortunately allowed into the little museum, officially closed. We couldn't stop long, the tide was falling, and we got back to the pontoon just before our boats grounded. Sailing back down river we saw many attractive camping spots, but with access only around high water. We returned again to camp at Mersea. With the loose shingle I had trouble in anchoring down my beehive tent, and one of our company caught it kiting down the beach. I had to put my heavy boat-box in the tent to hold it down. I would have been better off with my little 'Force 10' mountain tent, but I am no longer bendy enough to squeeze into it.
I had to return home early, so when the club members carried on to Jaywick, I sailed over to Brightlingsea, home of my maternal ancestors. 'Bnttlesea' was once a place of old-time charm, but it is now like Wivenhoe, spoiled by a great waterside luxury housing development, and the old quay is now a scrap iron dump surrounded by motor-boat oriented sales-lots and storage yards. The museum I wanted to visit was closed, but I noticed a hardware store under my grandmother's surname. The manager told me that the owner was an old maiden lady, the last of the family line, and that my other ancestral families had died out or gone away. Some of Brightlingsea's houses are older than they look. An old wooden terraced cottage was having chicken wire nailed over its weatherboards, to enable it to be covered with pebbledash mortar. A remaining waterside feature is the old watchtower. Its foundations have subsided, and the Council wanted to demolish it, but the locals have insisted on keeping it.
Freya sailing Richard's boat in the Coln
Since Len left our convoy at this point, the Editor will continue with details of our return to Paglesham. Len did write a few more paragraphs about his own return to Paglesham - see the following section on this page.
We brought our boats up alongside each other off Pyfleet creek and had a discussion about where to stop for the night. I remembered that last year we identified a relatively sheltered spot between two large groynes on the beach near Jaywick and I made a suggestion that we could go and look at this possiblity. To my surprise the others agreed, so in failing light and diminishing breeze we rounded Coln Point and followed the coast towards Clacton. I cut the corner of Coln Point much too close and very nearly got stuck on the falling tide, I don't know why I keep feeling tempted to make such pointless explorations into shallow waters.
Richard and Freya sail towards Jaywick in Richard's new boat
Even befor we arrived at our proposed anchorage, I started to have doubts about whether it was really such a good place to stop, but it was now too late in the day to go anywhere else. There was a lot of residential development along the shore, which did not bode well for finding somewhere to camp. We sent a shore party to explore and they returned with the news that there was at least a pub and a chinese takeaway shop in the vicinity. Freya and Josephine got busy cooking what stores we had on board while Mark T. went back to get some more food from the takeaway. We feasted at the top of the beach, by the light of our parafin lantern, see below.
Supper on Jaywick beach
We decided the best option for camping was to put a couple of tents on some loose sand at the top of the beach, together with boat tents on my boat and Richard's boat. I think this was the first time that Richard had used the boat tent he had made for his newly aquired boat and it got a good testing since it rained heavily in the night. We also found that sometime after midnight, at the height of the tide, a slight swell came right over the top of the groyne to the east of our anchorage and this set our boats rolling enough to keep us awake for a few hours. Althogether it was not an ideal anchorage, although it probably is about the best place if you need to seek shelter when making a dinghy passage along this harbourless stretch of coastline.
Wednesday: We woke to a dull morning, some of us having had rather little sleep. Freya now had to leave us since her holiday was coming to an end and she needed to return to her music studies in Germany. We worked out that a two mile walk would get her to Clacton Station, and from there she could be quickly in London. We were sorry to say goodbye - this was Freya's first experience of dinghy cruising and she seemed to take to it like a duck to water, if that is not too unfortunate a metaphor. She will certainly be welcome another time.
As Freya squelched up the beach in her wellies and oilskins, laden with her luggage, we set off tacking to West Mersea. It was a dull wet day and we were glad to tie up at the West Mersea pontoons for a pasty lunch in the little cafe near the top of the pontoon landing. After lunch we took a stroll around the pretty lanes in the old part of West Mersea village, the area known as Mersea City where lived the fishemen that worked a professional yacht crew in the summer season.
Lane in 'Mersea City'
That evening we camped at the eastern extremity of Old Hall Marshes where there is a half tide landing point. Unfortunately, when discussing our plans over lunch in the cafe I pointed to the wrong place on the ordnance survey map, which lead Richard to sail up towards Tollesbury where he decided to stop the night and sleep on board, then in the morning he went to Bradwell marina to haul out his boat.
Thursday: The weather forecast for the next few days was not inspiring and our party was now just four in two boats, Len then Freya and now Richard having abondoned us along the way! We decided to cut short our cruise and return to Paglesham. I shall not describe our return trip in detail since I think the passage from the Blackwater or Colne to Paglesham has been covered a number of times in cruise logs on this website. Suffice to say it was a rapid and uneventful passage. Since our cruise had ended a few days early, Mark T. kindly invited us to stay at his place in Stevenage and we did quite a long ramble in the Hertfordshire countryside.
Len's account of his return to Paglesham after leaving our cruise in August 2006
Tuesday: The forecast for the morrow was southwest Force 5-6 later'. This going to windward in a seaway would be more than I could manage single-handed at my age, so I planned to sail with the last of the ebb out of the Colne and over to Bradwell. There at dawn I intended to leave with the last of the Blackwater ebb, reducing the windward work on my return journey and thus hopefiilly reaching the Crouch before the F5-6 'later' materialised. What I hadn't allowed for was the rate of fall of the tide, and I ambled back to the hard to find my boat already grounding. Despite my efforts the very heavy boat was stuck, and it was well after dark before the tide rose again sufficiently to free it. I was still determined to shorten the next day's windward work as much as I could, so I rowed out in the calm against the flooding tide and over to Mersea. It was less than a mile, but with the foul tide and in the pitch dark it seemed to take ages. I recalled seeing an unoccupied mooring just inside a line of three yachts, all now displaying anchor lights, so I found the buoy easily and moored up. I simply put my karrimat on the sleeping boards, and rested on that with just the sail as a cover. Despite the starlight night and expected temperature inversion I wasn't cold.
At dawn I found that I was nearly aground, so after a token breakfast I rowed out in a flat calm with the last of the Colne's ebb, so as to pick up the first of the North Sea flood. After rowing a mile or so, a yachtsman kindly offered to tow me alongside. Normally I decline, but I needed to get into the shelter of the Crouch before the rough stuff arrived so this time I gratefully accepted. Before we reached Colne Bar buoy the wind got up, and I was able to cast off. It was about Force 3 from ahead, so with the slight North Sea flood tide I was able to make fair progress tacking up the Raysand Channel. Eventually I came to the shallowest part, the last half-mile before the Crouch. This is marked by a yellow spherical buoy, but in fact I found the deepest water a half-mile inshore of it. I had not seen another vessel in the ten or so miles between the Colne and the Crouch.
Entering the Crouch, I was soon off the entrance to the Roach. The sensible thing would have been to tack up to Paglesham on the flood and terminate the cruise early, but I was tempted into exploring the upper Crouch. I pushed on past Burnham on the Wallasea side this time, until beyond Bridge Marsh Island the tide had turned against me. I could see a Thames Barge moored in the distance, but it was high time to turn back. With the ebb and the fresh breeze I was back into the Roach in record time, but now came the bill! Sailing fast, I made tack after tack against the Roach ebb without any progress at all. Rather than sensibly retreating to Wallasea Ness and waiting for slack water, I got carried away, and sat out with mainsheet cleated, playing the jib in the gusts. It was exhilarating but risky, a capsize in that current would have been very serious, but the adrenalin was flowing. Eventually I gained a few yards, then a few yards more, until I was up to what looks like a dead end in the river, and got round that bend in one tack. The next reach was a close fetch, and. from then on I was able to relax a little, making steady progress until the Paglesham launching ramp was in view. The problem now was recovering my boat while there was still enough water over the ramp. With the wind now up to at least the forecast Force 5, the trailer had to be lined up with the strong wind to float the heavy boat on to the cradle. With one wheel right on the edge of the ramp, I just managed to slide the boat on, saving myself a wait of four hours or more in the dark. The boat and trailer were then simply long-roped to my little Micra and the car did all the heavy work. With my arthritis, I usually get pain at night if I overdo it, but this night no problem at all. The adrenalin must have been on full-flow!
Laying up Supper - 21 October
Report from Richard
With a strong wind blowing from the South West it was a bit of a struggle to row the Wayfarers to the slipway without their drifting onto the pontoons or jetty. Mark and Frank struggled manfully with the oars, only wimps use engines! I admit I felt a bit guilty standing and watching their efforts. At least, next year we should only have to deal with one boat. In the evening we had a Chinese takeaway meal at the Mission Hall in the village, and afterwards Eric entertained us with photographs of his trip to Namibia and the Fish River Canyon.
Annual General Meeting Weekend - 25/26 November
Salisbury Youth Hostel (behind the tree!)
Saturday: Most of our party travelled to Salisbury on the Friday evening and attempted to do a short ramble on the Saturday morning but this was cut short on finding the water meadows by the river impassable after the heavy rain. Josephine and myself travelled from the west country and met the others for coffee at Salisbury station, then we walked round the city centre, crowded with Christmas shoppers, and had a bite to eat before assembling for our afternoon AGM at the Youth Hostel. Salisbury Youth Hostel is an elegant house, almost hidden behind a huge cedar tree which dominates the front lawns and the sweeping driveway (see above). This is one hostel which so far remains fully open all year round, that is something useful to know about now that many hostels have restricted opening times during the winter months.
The main topic of our AGM was finance - this has been the first year that the HSC has ever made a really significant loss. Not that this is an immediate threat to the club's existence, we do have some reserves, but this year it has become clear that we need to adjust our mode of operation. Nearly all our active sailing members now have their own boats which means that they make less use of the HSC club owned boats. Keeping a boat afloat on a mooring costs the same whether that boat is frequently used or never used. Of course we would like to increase our sailing membership so that we could make full use of our two club owned boats but we cannot afford to keep two boats afloat waiting for the membership to magically increase. It was agreed that we keep one boat on shore next season. As long as we have one club boat afloat we should remain attractive to people who would like to try sailing without having to commit to buying their own boat. Any such people can be assured of a warm welcome to our little group - so where are they I wonder? Do get in touch.
We also discussed the new proposals the YHA have made for their affiliated groups. As a registered charity accountable to the Charity Commissioners, the YHA cannot have subsidiary groups which could be seen to be an integral part of the central organisation unless these subsidiary groups are fully under the management of that central organisation. Since it is not practical for YHA to take over full control of the Local Groups, nor would the Local Groups want this, they have chosen to distance themselves from these Local Groups, making it clear that they are not responsible for any terrible things a local group might get up to. However, they are offering an affiliation scheme by which Local Groups can continue to keep some connection with the YHA, without risk to the YHA's reputation or charitable status. Since the HSC has been a Local Group of the YHA for more than fifty years the meeting felt that we would like to continue this and so we agreed to fill in the affiliation forms. The new arrangements will come into affect in February next year. The YHA have said that affiliation will be free for the first two years but we dont know what will happen after that. We don't expect the YHA to finance the HSC, but the HSC is hardly in a position to be able to do much to help finance the YHA either. As with other YHA groups, the best we can do is to keep using the YHA hostels for our rambling weekends and spreading the word about what nice places hostels are to stay at.
Salisbury YHA is only a few minutes walk from the city centre where we found a pub which provided us a good evening meal.
Sunday: The main feature of Sunday's ramble was rain. We started by driving to Pepperbox hill about 5 miles South East of Salisbury. We parked in the National Trust car park and waited out a torrential downpour sitting in our cars, then took a look at the Pepperbox folly, built in 1606 by Giles Eyre who wanted to look down on his neighbours, although I couldn't see any neighbours for miles arround.
The folly on Pepperbox Hill
Over the style and straight into a pond sized puddle!
We then drove down the hill and parked in the village of East Grimstead from where we did a circular walk, lunching around a log fire in the pub at Farley village. The rain continued off and on for most of the day. I was wearing only trainers on my feet but the puddles were so deep and unavoidable that I don't think those with proper walking boots had any drier feet than I did.