To Iken and Snape - 28 August to 3 September 2005
Seven members of HSC enjoyed a wonderful summer cruise with a fleet of four boats, sailing from Paglesham to Iken and back. We were on a run or broad reach in gentle winds and warm sunshine for almost the whole trip - what have we done to be so lucky! It certainly makes up for last year when we abandoned the East Coast to sail in Chichester harbour and endured a week of wet and windy weather.
Two boats new to the HSC fleet joined us for this trip. Herman's boat, left above, is a sleek looking 19' cabin boat which proved to be almost as quick as our dinghies in the light weather and would probably be quicker in heavier weather. It has a ballasted lifting keel making it a fine boat for east coast sailing if you must have a cabin. This was the only motorised boat in our fleet, but it rarely needed to use the motor. Len's boat, right above, is a near sister ship to 'Mehala' which was the first club boat purchased by the HSC. Mehala had a reputation for being terribly slow but Len's version proved to be capable of more or less keeping up with our Wayfarer, how Len managed that I am not sure. The other two boats in our fleet were my home built 15' sailing dinghy and the HSC club owned Wayfarer 'Merganser'. Our other Wayfarer remained on its mooring at Paglesham, awaiting attention to seals on the bouyancy tank hatch.
Sunday: We departed our home port of Paglesham on a bright sunny morning which proved to be the first day of a whole week of almost un-interrupted sunshine. It was the end of Burnham racing week so we saw a lot of sailing traffic as we ran down the Crouch and out to sea, picture above shows HSC wayfarer 'Merganser' passing several racing yachts as they headed back into Burnham. By the time we reached the open sea the ebb was well spent so we opted to sail north via the Swin Spitway rather than our usual route through Raysand Channel. We made excellent time to Walton Stone where we camped for the night. CLICK HERE for a few pictures of Walton Stone taken on one of our previous trips.
Monday: Leaving Walton Stone, we sailed on down the coast, again with a lovely following wind (yes, in this part of the world 'down the coast' is up on the map). At Shingle Street it was shallow at the Alde bar but we bumped across and landed for lunch on the steep shingle bank just inside the entrance, our four boats are shown in the picture below. There were half a dozen kite surfers tacking back and forth across the entrance to the river and their kites were whizzing over our masts as we ran in. Kite surfers don't need to worry much about shallow water and they don't seem to be much concerned with breaking waves or lee shores either.
We waited at Shingle Street until the flood started then ran very fast up the river Ore, stopping for a fish and chip meal at Aldeburgh. CLICK HERE for a few pictures of Aldeburgh taken on previous trips. Aldeburgh has an excellent fish and chip shop but the popularity of this shop is such that whenever we have called the queue has stretched a hundred yards down the high street. We ate sitting on the shingle beach looking at the sea, then set off again up the River Alde. (Above Aldeburgh the river is called the Alde, below it is the Ore). The plan was to camp at Iken but as dusk fell the wind dropped and so we rowed to the bank on the southern side of the river, see picture below. We camped by the sea wall and found that our tents were only inches from the water when the tide was fully in.
Rowing up the Alde
Tuesday: We usually aim to have at least one day during our cruises when we do little or no sailing and take a walk or go sightseeing to make a break. This was one of those days. Picture above shows us packing up our camp, after which we had a short sail to Iken cliff, arriving mid-morning. We could have sailed all the way up to Snape but considered that Iken offered better prospects for an overnight stop. At Iken cliff there is a strip of sandy beach below a low tree lined bank, picture below, this provides clean landing within an hour or so of high water, outside that period it is about as muddy as anywhere else on the upper reaches of the Alde.
From Iken cliff we walked to Snape maltings at the head of navigation on the Alde. This is a concert hall with attached restaurants and art gallery, all converted from malt houses that were used to convert barley to malt for beer making - see SNAPE MALTINGS website.
We lunched in the cafe, wandered around the old buildings then took a walk to Snape village and Iken church. Below are a couple of pictures taken at Snape. The Cygnet pictured alongside Snape quay is a real Thames sailing barge, not a yacht built in the style of a barge, but it is a fraction of the size of most Thames sailing barges. It is just 16 tons, and rather than the usual two holds one each side of the mast it has a single hold aft of the mast which is well forward. It was built at Frindsbury in 1881 by Curel and owned by Walter Wrinch of Ewarton. (Information cribbed from THAMES BARGE WEBSITE).
Wednesday: Leaving Iken at high tide, we sailed down the Alde and Ore and on up the coast. Off the entrance to the Deben we came across a pretty wooden sailing yacht which was in trouble since it was bumping on the hard Deben bar with its engine broken down. Since our dinghy was engineless it was questionable whether there was much we could do to help. We came up close thinking about using our oars to lay out an anchor but I suspected that the holding was very poor, perhaps the reason the yachtsman had not attempted to anchor. Fortunately the yachtsman was able to make telephone contact to summon a rescue launch from the Deben. After that we had a text message discussion among our fleet as to where to head for the night and due to a bit of a communication failure Len sailed into the Deben. Josephine and myself felt that we should follow him in rather than simply abandoning him, while the others carried on to Suffolk Yacht Harbour near Levington village a few miles up the river Orwell. Len's boat and mine spent the night at anchor off Bawdsey, opposite Felixstow Ferry.
Thursday: In the morning my boat rejoined Merganser and Herman's boat at Suffolk Yacht Harbour but Len opted to carry on and spend the day in Walton backwaters. The marina known as Suffolk Yacht Harbour has become a favourite port of call on our dinghy cruises since it offers showers and other useful facilities including meals in a converted light vessel. If you ask nicely you may even be allowed to camp there. When we reached Suffolk Yacht Harbour we found HSC members working to repair a broken forestay on Herman's boat. The rigging shop at the marina made up the new stay but we needed to reach Herman's mast head to fit it. We attempted to heel Herman's boat over on one side in the hope of reaching the masthead from a high bank, but since this boat is quite well ballasted that proved impractical. We then dismantled the rigging to take down the mast, picture below.
It was late in the afternoon when the repairs were completed and we left Suffolk Yacht Harbour. The wind was light and We were alternately sailing and rowing out of Harwich harbour and up to Walton Stone. The picture below shows a line of ships berthed on the Felixstowe side of the harbour, some of them pretty big ships. We reached Walton Stone in darkness and were pleased to find Len's boat anchored there, so now the fleet was all back together again. Late that evening we held a cheese and wine party among the small sand dunes above the beach.
Friday: We left Walton Stone at high tide which meant that we would sail south against the ebb, but that hardly mattered since we had a lovely broad reaching breeze. We sailed close round the Naze headland and the picture below shows the tower on the headland which I believe was built purely to provide a landmark. NAZE TOWER WEBSITE.
A little further on we passed the sea-side resort of Frinton, picture below right. The block of flats on the right of the picture is another prominent landmark along this coast.
By teatime we were off Jaywick, a couple of miles south of Clacton-on-Sea. Here we made an impromptu stop in a small harbour formed between a couple of breakwaters which are part of sea defences built a few years ago, see picture below. I had noticed this place on previous trips but this was the first time I had ever landed there. I am not sure it is really meant to be a harbour, but it is well sheltered from most wind directions. We had a swim from the clean sandy beach then carried on sailing to Mersea Stone, but with hindsight I think we could as well have stayed the night at Jaywick, the distance from there back to Paglesham is about the same as from Mersea Stone.
After we landed at Mersea Stone, Len decided to go over to Brightlingsea to get better shelter for night, the rest of us camped ashore and enjoyed a particularly good evening meal in the pub which is a mile or so down the lane towards W. Mersea.
Saturday: Before we were ready to sail from Mersea Stone we spotted Len sailing out of Brightlingsea. We had an idea that he was intending to visit Bradwell chapel so Josephine and myself decided to see if we could join him there, the other two boats planned to head directly to the Crouch then go up to Burnham for lunch. We were a bit lucky to locate Len on the shore of the Blackwater towards the power station, not being familiar with these waters he had landed some distance from the chapel. Perhaps next time we will take along our latest toy, a pair of high power image stabilised binoculars to spot boats which get separated from our fleet! We then escorted Len to the chapel and moored in the little creek below the chapel where you can land within an hour or so of high water. The picture below shows our boats in this creek with me and Len looking at the sea pondering how best to sail off this very shallow lee shore. CLICK HERE. for some pictures of Bradwell chapel.
While Josephine, Len and myself were visiting Bradwell chapel the rest of the party had landed at Burnham and were visiting the bar of the Royal Corinthian Yacht Club. Later in the afternoon all four boats arrived back at Paglesham at about the same time. The boats were brought alongside the new pontoon jetty for convenient unloading, then after cleaning up and packing our luggage into our cars we rounded off the trip with a final supper at a restaurant in Rochford.