To Walton and the Orwell - 11-17 August 2002
Map of the area where this cruise took place
Sailing is generally unpredictable as you never know what the weather will throw at you, but over the last 5 years or so our summer cruises have been blessed with near perfect conditions: warm with mostly moderate winds, and a dose of sunshine. This year was one of the best; the winds F2-3 and fine and sunny, so we were able to sail every day.
Six people joined the cruise on Sunday: Mark S., Mark T., Frank, Richard, and at the last minute John and Josephine appeared towing their dinghy. After leaving our base at Paglesham we had a fair wind though the Ray Sand channel and camped at East Mersea. At one point during the passage the gps reciever on John's boat was reading 7.0 knots, partly the effect of the following tide.
With a westerly on Monday we were able to stem the tide up the coast, stopping at Clacton for a snack on the way. The picture above shows two of our boats with anchors laid astern to hold them just off the beach near Clacton pier. It looks flat calm but out beyond the end of the pier there was a nice sailing breeze. That night we camped at Walton Stone (see THIS PAGE for a few pictures of Walton Stone) and walked up over the Naze to the town for an evening meal. We had a small drama when Frank succumbed to heatstroke late in the evening and we packed him off to Colchester Hospital in an ambulance before making the three mile return walk. A clear night made perfect viewing for shooting stars. Happily Frank was fine next morning and met Mark and Richard on the Naze, where we handed him his bags for his homeward journey. We had arranged that Esin would take Frank's place part way through the week in any case.
On Tuesday we sailed up to Suffolk Yacht Harbour near Levington on the Orwell, returning to Walton backwaters on Wednesday and going to Tichmarsh Marina. Esin arrived by train in the evening. Thursday morning we walked from the marina into Walton town, a traditional small English seaside resort, not an upmarket resort like neighbouring Frinton and perhaps a little neglected due to the popularity of more exotic holiday destinations abroard. The HSC can still recommend Essex though! Picture below shows some of us mingling with more normal holiday makers paddling on the beach near Walton pier.
In the afternoon the tide was flooding and we sailed from Titchmarsh marina to make a clockwise circuit around Walton backwaters landing back at Walton Stone for the night. We sailed through the Wade, negotiated narrow gaps through the salt marsh south of Skipper's Island, then down Hamford water and up Oakley Creek. Richard counted 23 seals basking on the saltings by Oakley creek - picture below shows a few of them - don't they look as interested to see us as we were to see them. The sail at the extreme left of the picture would have been in the north sea.
Oakley creek is a pretty remote and deserted kind of place, there used to be an explosives factory there, perhaps for that reason. We passed the quay which I think once served the factory and continued to the northern extremity where there are a handful of small boat moorings then we followed the creek round to the south again and out into the sea a mile or so north of the entrance to Hamford water. I think this was the first time any of us had been all the way through this creek. With the tide starting to fall we only just scrapped accross the sand bar where Oakley creek flows out into the sea.
On Friday we returned back down the coast to the Colne, stopped briefly on the beach at St Osyth opposite Brightlingsea, see picture above, then up the Coln to camp on the eastern side of the river about half a mile above Alresford Creek. There were a couple of other tents already there, one belonging to a backpacker and the other a party which came in a speedboat. This is a nice place to stop and the shore is firm and gravelly down to half tide or perhaps below that in places. That evening we took the footpath along the shore to Wivenhoe where we enjoyed a nice pub meal. The footpath is along the riverside following the track of the railway which once ran between Colchester and Brightlingsea. The website editor was brought up in Cambridgeshire and Essex and can just about remember the two coach trains runing along the riverside to Brightlingsea.
Stuck on Raysand - we all went for a swim as the tide came back
On Saturday we sailed back to Paglesham and John was able to try out his new gps finding the way from the Coln to the Raysand channel in mist, or was it heat haze. Either way it was thick enough that we could sea no land or navigation marks for much of the way. Unfortunately one of the fleet did not follow John's boat and made an unintentional stop on Raysand. The other two boats then turned back to join them and since the weather was so fine everyone went for a swim in a warm shallow pool on the sands.