Semaine du Golfe Sailing Festival - 19 to 24 May

 We took two boats to the Semaine du Golfe sailing event in Brittany - SEE HERE FOR ACCOUNT OF SEMAINE DU GOLFE 2009

South Woodham Ferrers Yacht Club Barbecue - 1/2 August

Report from Richard

[HW Southend 1st August: 10pm BST] As last year, HSC members sailed Merganser round to the upper reaches of the Crouch for a barbecue hosted by SWFYC, at the invitation of Dougal McEwen, a member of the Dinghy Cruising Association.

Herman, Mark T. and myself made up the crew, and we departed Paglesham just before mid-day. The wind was southerly F3-4, and we had an easy sail down the Roach. We were able to lay a course up the Crouch to Burnham, where we decided to get ashore for a cup of tea. My first attempt to bring Merganser up to the RCYC pontoon was not very successful: I was still a bit rusty, having done little dinghy sailing this year. We managed to get moving again on starboard tack, and I aimed to bring the boat up to the town pontoon further up river. This was accomplished and we tied up on the main arm of the pontoon [the Wallasea ferry uses the end of the pontoon].

We had noticed a blue and white Gull dinghy approaching, though I did not at first see the DCA burgee. This turned out to be Peter [Moore] who had launched at the SWFYC slipway and sailed down river. He identified us from Dougal’s description, and he joined us as we went to the chandlery, and then to the café next door.


Merganser and the Gull at South Woodham Ferrers Yacht Club

Nearer to low water we set off again to sail the nine miles or so with the tide to the YC where the barbecue was to be held. The Gull sailed well under mainsail alone, and seemed to float very high in the water. We did not sail as well as expected, perhaps because of three crew and camping gear, perhaps because of some growth of barnacles, and though we nearly caught up, we were still about 50 yards behind when Peter reached the slip at 6pm.

The weather had turned to light rain by this time so we joined the crowd in the Yacht Club after quickly pitching our tents on the grass outside. We were very grateful for a hearty meal provided by the club’s members, and got better acquainted with Peter, who hails from Tonbridge, and also talked again to Muriel of the Tideway Owners’ association, who we also saw at the Dinghy Exhibition at Alexandra Palace.


HSC members tents at South Woodham Ferrers Yacht Club

Around 10pm we headed for our tents for a welcome night’s rest, not disturbed this year by any raucous revellers.

Sunday dawned dry and sunny, and we made an impromptu breakfast at the clubhouse, at Dougal’s invitation. Peter had a short sail and hauled his boat out, while we prepared to depart after the ebb set in around 10.30. We had plenty of time, as we knew it would be evening before we could get back onto our mooring at Paglesham, so we went down under jib with the tide. We reached Creeksea in about 2 hours, where we raised the mainsail and again put in at the pontoon. We had an afternoon snack and took a stroll down the front as far as the chandlery below RCYC.

Setting off at 4.30, we had a straightforward sail back in mostly F3 south westerlies. We had to wait a while after unloading before I was able to walk the boat up to the mooring to make her secure, but it was now a very fine and pleasant evening. 

Thanks are again due to Dougal and the friendly members of the SWFYC for their hospitality

Summer Cruise to the Orwell - 30 August to 5 Sept



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.

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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.

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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, 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Front view of amphibious vehicle at Pin Mill

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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.

Lifeboat Cup (RSA Race) - 6 September

We woke on Sunday morning to find that several RSA members were already getting their boats ready for the race and we had a bit of a rush to get our boat tent stowed and to get underway to reach the start line in time. There was quite a variety of boats in the race, not an easy task for the handicapper I think. Second Harmony was the clear favorite, this being a nice Estuary one-design, which is a graceful tall rigged one-design from the Southend-on-Sea area. There was also an Albacore dinghy which seemed likely to be faster than us since it was a racing boat in its day, besides which we were still carrying our full load of cruising gear. Heather M. had her 'Minisail' which is a bit like a small Laser dinghy and there were several nice traditional clinker built gaff or lug sailed open boats. We more or less held our own with the gaffers on the run down river but the lighter Albacore and the Minisail walked away from us. Second Harmony tacked past on her way back while the rest of the fleet were still not in sight of the downwind mark, so line honours in this race was never in question. Beating back up the river we soon left the gaff and lug rigged boats far astern and with a rising wind we were quickly gaining on the Minisail and more slowly gaining on the Albacore. We had a reef in, the Albacore was under full sail and maybe a bit over canvased now there was more wind. It looked as though if the beat were long enough we would be in second place, but we did not quite manage to get past before the windward mark came up. On the final run, Heather broached then went spectacularly sledging up a mudbank, I think that was a deliberate strategy so that she could get out and take a reef by rolling the sail round the mast. We were third over the line, I am not sure what the handicap result was. I think that was the first time I have ever entered a race with our boat, although there is a saying that when two or more cruising boats are in sight of each other and going the same way, that's a race.

Salisbury Weekend and AGM - 27 to 29 November


Salisbury Youth Hostel (behind the tree!) - picture from 2006

Salisbury YHA is one hostel that is open all year round, that alone would put it on my favourite hostels list. Now that rather a lot of hostels are closed in the winter, it is very handy to know that there are a few that can be relied on for a winter break. Salisbury YHA is also a pleasant Georgian house with a lovely garden and it is really close to the old part of the city.

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Riverside pub near Salisbury

Most of our party settled into the hostel on the Friday evening. On Saturday morning we took a walk round the medieval city, already bustling with Christmas shoppers. We had coffee at a riverside pub, see above, before heading out into the countryside for a stroll round footpaths to the south of the city then back into the city to meet up with old HSC members Anne and Phil W. who live quite near Salisbury and who we had arranged to meet for lunch. 

Nine HSC members were present for our AGM held in a basement room at the hostel on the Saturday afternoon. Our Treasurer told us that financially we are doing a bit better than in the last few years, that is we havent lost quite so much money, so subscriptions are unchanged for 2010. This year the club contributed to a fund to buy a small patch of waterside land for the benefit of the Paglesham village community and if that one off expenditure is taken out of the ballance, we actually ended the year with a small surplus.

As we did last year, we had a discussion as to whether or not to continue our near 60 year long affiliation to the YHA and again we decided to continue, even though a straightforward donation might be a more efficient way to support the charitable aims of the YHA. The affiliation package does include a civil liability insurance policy and it is arguable that we should have such insurance even if we were not affiliated. Mind you, this insurance policy does not cover our sailing activities, we have a marine insurance policy for that purpose, the premium for which is a substantial part of our expenditure.

It was noted that the distress flares on our boats will soon be out of date and we discused whether we should buy more of the conventional flares, or should we get some of the small 'miniflares'. The mini-flares are less visible than the conventional type but they are compact enough to carry on one's person, whereas the conventional type need to be stowed in the boat. The one time that an HSC boat was in distress and the crew badly needed to attract attention, the boat was upside down and the crew were unable to access the flares that were stowed inside. This was many years ago now, and fortunately the crew were spotted and rescued by a passing yacht. We discussed the pros and cons and in the end it was left to the club's two bosuns to decide which type of flare to get. Perhaps consideration should also be given to smoke flares which may be the best type for daylight use.

We rounded off the AGM with a discussion of future events followed by refreshments - thank you Herman for another delicious home made cake! By that time it was raining, and goodness how it was raining! Water was pouring from overflowing gutters and the streets were awash, but a bit later in the evening we got our macs on and went swimming (well, almost) to find a nice pub for supper.

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Old Sarum ruins

We had a mixture of further showers and brief sunny patches throughout Sunday. We walked from the hostel to Old Sarum to the north of Salisbury, then on to a pub lunch at Lower Woodford and back to Salisbury at dusk, a ten mile route. The dramatic picture above, showing some of the ruins at Old Sarum, was taken in sunshine but rain clouds are clearly gathering.

Old Sarum is an ancient site, believed to have been inhabited as early as 3000BC. Early fortifications consisted of masive ditches and banks encircling a natural hill top overlooking the valley of the river Avon. It became a significant town in the middle ages and a cathedral and bishops palace were constructed between 1075 and 1092. The stone ruins that remain today, as in the picture above, are the ruins of a slightly later royal palace and fortifications completed in 1139. Early in the 13C the population of Old Sarum decided to up-sticks and build a new city a few miles to the south - this became the city of Salisbury that we know today. The old town was left deserted, but as late as 1831 Old Sarum continued to 'elect' a member of Parliament to Westminster, despite it having no actual residents. That is why it became known as a 'rotten borough'. Yes I had to look at Wikipedia to bring back memories of those school history lessons that I was never any good at!