To Ipswich - 30 August to 5 September 2009
This years summer cruise followed a rather similar pattern to our cruise in 2008, but with even less favourable weather, forcing us to spend several days during the middle of the week walking and sightseeing ashore rather than sailing.
Just as we did last year, we began by helping with the Roach Sailing Association display at the Paglesham Village Fete. This time round it happened that most of the RSA members were away, so the HSC stepped in and manned the display. We had my boat set up with camping tent and RSA member Nick E's immaculate Optimist dinghy that he had just finished restoring for his daughter to sail. It's painted red and is named 'Ketchup'.
I was amazed how dried out the grass was in Essex, even although it has hardly been a good summer. Now that Josephine and myself live in Devon we are not used to the grass being withered and brown as in the photos below.
RSA/HSC Display at Paglesham Fete
It was a real traditional English village fete - WI tea tent, garden produce displays in the big marque etc. Picture below shows the junior tug of war, there was also a senior tug of war, assault course gymnastics for dogs (and to a lesser extent their owners) and the egg and spoon and sack races for the youngsters. If there are any local running clubs, perhaps some more athletics could be included? It's good to see this kind of activity at a village fete, another village fete I attended recently was getting a bit much like a car boot sale.
Junior Tug of War at Paglesham Fete
After the fete, we gathered in the Shepherd and Dog where we met Tom L. and son who planned to sail with us in their Wanderer dinghy, at least for the first day of our cruise. If you go to tomski.com, you can see some nice pictures that Tom has taken sailing in the same area as covered by the HSC. A kindred spirit I think.
We did our best to make an early start on the Sunday morning, indeed we left only half an hour after the time we had agreed in the pub the previous evening. Our fleet was as last year, Herman's 19 foot lifting keel cruiser, the HSC Wayfarer Merganser and my home made dinghy. We did have one new crew member, Geoff G., one of our most longstanding members and an experienced sailor, but a sailor who hasn't done much sailing in recent years. Welcome back to our wet and muddy pastime Geoff!
It was a lovely sunny morning, quite calm at dawn but a south westerly built up as the morning progressed and by the afternoon we wouldnt really have wanted it much stronger. As planned, we met Tom L. at the Branklet, where the Roach joins the Crouch, then he sailed out to sea with us. It was the last day of Burnham Week, the picture below shows Tom's Wanderer dinghy with some of the Burnham racing fleet behind. Tom only had a couple of days free and he had been thinking of sailing with us for the first day then making his own way back. However, I think he later decided that he did not want to risk being weatherbound too far from Paglesham, so once we were a little way out to sea he waved us a cheery goodbye and turned back to Burnham.
We pressed on through the Swin Spitway then north into the Wallet and on past Frinton and Clacton. We were following almost exactly the same path that we had taken on the outward leg of our cruise last summer. Mind you, there was a difference - looking seaward from the Wallet last year there had been just tumbling grey waves, this year there were lines of huge windmills set out in a grid pattern. The first phase of of the 'London Array' has materialized remarkably quickly. Some of the windmills had sails turning, others just had towers and no sails and others were just stumps. Next time we pass that way I expect they will all be in motion.
Leaving the Crouch - lovely weather so far!
This was surely one of our fastest sails from Paglesham to Walton, although the last bit round the Naze was a struggle. It was low tide by then, so Merganzer correctly sailed out round Pye End sandbank, but then had to face a beat back into Walton. They tried to do this with the main lowered to save the bother of taking in another reef. I think that was a mistake since they made pitifully slow progress with just a foresail, actually I don't think they would have made it had the tide not been flooding by then. Meanwhile, I couldnt resist the temptation to cut the corner, but I should have known better. First we hit something rather hard under the water, perhaps part of abandoned sea defenses. This snapped the 'sacrificial' link in our keel hoist, so we had to stop and fix that, then we ran out of water and had to wait for the tide to come in, but at least that allowed Cateran to catch up so that all three boats arrived together at Walton Stone. By the time we had pitched our tents it had been a long day, but somehow we still managed to find the energy to take the walk over the Naze and down into Walton town for fish and chips.
Monday was another nice sailing day, but the longer term weather forecast was poor, so we abandoned thoughts of going on to Aldebugh or beyond and instead made it an easy morning sail to Harwich. The yacht pontoons by Halfpenny pier at Harwich are a great facility for a lunch stop so we went ashore and enjoyed a meal sitting outside the cafe on the pier, then Mark S. headed home from Harwich railway station. Mark had the excuse of an evening class disertation to finish, but I noted that he was the one who had been studying the weather forecasts on his mobile phone! He did come back to help us sail home when the weather improved at the end of the week.
Having waved farewell to Mark, we visited the Harwich maritime museum which is in the old watchtower, picture below. Although small, this museum is packed with exhibits. There is a good view of the harbour from the upper balcony and nearby there is a very old dockside crane that was actually driven by a horse walking round in a treadmill.
Harwich Maritime Museum
Harwich was a centre for maintaining Trinity House light ships, probably it still is although I don't think there are many light ships left and they are no longer manned at sea. Light ships need light bulbs, the picture below shows a couple of them in the museum, together with gimballed candle holders for shipboard use.
Light bulbs and candle holders in Harwich Maritime Museum
From Harwich we sailed up the Orwell to Suffolk Yacht Harbour, a dinghy friendly marina which has always found us a berth and even a place to pitch a few small tents.
By Tuesday morning the wind was getting up, so we took a morning stroll from the marina along the sea wall and up the lane to Levington where we knew from a previous visit that there is a pub, the Ship Inn, that serves rather good food.
Later in the day, the wind dropped a bit and we sailed further up the Orwell to check out the possibility of berthing at Woolverstone marina or the Royal Harwich Yacht club nearby. I remembered this to be a nice yacht club from an Amateur Yacht Research Society event that I once attended there and I do know of a couple of Wayfarer dinghy cruising sailors who are members there. The RHYC has its own small marina and we were delighted to find that berths not in use by the club members were available to visiting yachtsmen (or dinghy sailors). Furthermore, they kindly gave us permission to set up our small tents along the side of the lawn outside the club house. We quickly settled in, and due to rather windy weather over the next few days we stayed a bit longer than we initially intended.
Breakfast on the lawn of the RHYC (photo by Richard F.)
On Wednesday we took a longish walk along pleasant lanes and footpaths across the Shotley peninsular which divides the Orwall and Stour. Remembering a ramble we did in this area a good few years ago, we made sure to pass through Holbrook and we were rewarded by finding that the teashop in that village is still operating.
On Thursday we did another ramble, through the picturesque waterside hamlet of Pin Mill, then on to Shotley and back. Our more technically minded members were fascinated by an amazingly complicated ex-military vehicle of German manufacture on the foreshore at Pin Mill. It is obviously amphibious, with pontoons that hydraulically fold down from the roof to increase the beam when afloat, presumably allowing large loads to be carried. As the pontoons fold down from the roof, they automatically connect to drive shafts which appear to transfer power from the central part of the vehicle to propellers mounted on the ends of the pontoons. Lots of strange gadgets, a huge anchor and winch at one end of the vessel/vehicle, perhaps for kedging off a beach, and a crane on top.
Front view of amphibious vehicle at Pin Mill
Rear view with anchor and winch
It was still windy on Friday, so we made this a day to explore Ipswich. Last year we sailed to Ipswich, this year we took a bus the last few miles from Woolverstone to Ipswich. Although there are a lot of new office and residential buildings in Ipswich, it is one of the oldest towns in Britain and has some interesting old shopping streets, a market place and several museums, including the Christchurch mansion which we found well worth a visit. I shall not go into details since these days you can find out all about this kind of thing from Google or similar.
By Friday evening, the weather forecast was at last indicating a bit less wind, not more than F5 anyway, and Mark S. had rejoined us so we had a full crew compliment again. We resolved to make an early start and try for Paglesham in a single passage, a minimum distance of 43miles according to Geoff's map measuring. With the wind from the west, we were close hauled nearly all the way, and tacking for much of the way, but the sun was shining which does make it so much nicer. I found it was one of those days when we rarely seemed to have just the right sail area and on our boat we spent some time changing from our large mainsail to our small one then back again. Even so, we made excellent progress all the way to the entrance to the Crouch, but we then found ourselves tacking against the spring ebb in the river. It might have been an idea to do as we have sometimes done in the past and camp near the river entrance then finish the passage in the morning, but on this occasion I think everyone just wanted to get back, so we struggled on. We were tacking close in to the shore trying to evade the tide and at times gaining just a few yards on each tack.
Eventually arriving at Paglesham, Richard F. kindly set off by car to fetch us all some fish and chips from Rochford, while the rest of us tidied up and put Merganser back on her mooring. We had supper in darkness in the boat yard car-park. Josephine and myself stayed the night on board our boat anchored at Paglesham since we intended to take a the opportunity to enter the 'Lifeboat cup' the following morning, this being one of the open boat races organised by the Roach Sailing Association.