Weekend Cruise to Goldhanger Creek and Mersea Stone - 25/26 June

Report from Mark S. (Sailing on Merganser)

In the end three boats took part in this mini cruise – Merganser, Gerald’s boat Susie and Danny in his wayfarer with crew John. Two boats sailed to the published destination of Goldhanger. Well done to them - especially considering the challenging conditions. Here is the report from the crew of Merganser (Two Marks and Clem on his first sail with the HSC!) who sailed to an alternative destination.

We had hoped that Merganser and Susie would leave Paglesham around 10:00. Susie’s rudder pintle failed as soon as she left her mooring so her departure from Paglesham was delayed till that got fixed. Merganser left at the planned time and sailed to the Raysand channel. There was no sign of Danny’s Wayfarer there, so we carried on towards Bradwell.

At the Blackwater entrance Meganser changed sailplan from the genoa which we had used all the way from Paglesham to double reefed main. After a couple of tacks and as it looked like we were the only boat sailing we decided that Mersea Stone was a much easier destination than Goldhanger in the prevailing conditions – Westerly 4/5 and wind against tide rather than the forecast SW3!. Unfortunately we couldn’t contact Susie as Gerald forgot to take his phone and Richard’s phone failed.

So we ran under genoa to Mersea Stone, arriving around 17:00, and walked to the Dog and Pheasant for an enjoyable evening meal. We got back to Mersea Stone at sundown and set up camp. Next morning we left Stone Point at 9:00 and rowed over to Brightlinsea in a flat calm. We were pleased to find a new jetty and even more pleased to see that the Brighlingsea Yacht Club serves cooked breakfasts from 9:00 to 10:30 – especially as we had packed light for the weekend.


Merganser with Clem and Mark T. on the Raysand (photo by Mark S.)

We tacked out of the Colne through mist and fog banks. The wind then shifted to E so we sailed on a close reach past a colony of seals sunning themselves on the Buxey Sand. We just failed to get through the channel on a falling tide so had lunch trying to find the best way through to the Crouch.

We got back around 18:00 and were pleased to see Susie sailing up the Roach an hour later.

Report from Richard (Sailing on Susie)

"Susie" left Paglesham at 11:30, after we had replaced the missing gudgeon fitting with one that H had scrounged off a wreck. We used mainsail only until reaching the Ray Sand channel, where we were too late to get through and had a long wait for the returning tide. Eventually we started off again under jib and mizzen, hoisting reefed mainsail to get into the Blackwater. It was rather lumpy, and we shipped some water on the way to Goldhanger which we reached around 1900. Danny's Wayfarer followed us into the creek - Danny and John had sailed from Burnham-on-Crouch and had been waiting at Marconi Sailing Club for us to pass by. We pitched tents and repaired to the pub for a meal at 21:00.

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Danny helming his Wayfarer in the Crouch

John, Danny's crew, steering out of Burnham Marina

We were unable to contact the missing crew of Merganser, as my mobile phone battery had expired permanently. On Sunday we left around 09:00, Susie returning to the Roach, while Danny and his crew John went direct to Marconi, their home club. Conditions were easier on Sunday (F2/3 from south east), though there was some fog around. We again failed to get over the Ray Sand before running out of water, and had another wait, but a pleasant sail up Crouch and Roach when the water returned. We were glad to see Mark S, and to hear they had had a successful sail to East Mersea, but it was a shame we were unable to all meet up.

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Soft evening light at Goldhanger (photo by Danny)

Summer Cruise to the Stour - 27 July to 2 August


Map of the area where this cruise took place


John, Josephine and Mark S. gathered at Paglesham at 09:00 one Tuesday morning to start the HSC 2011 summer cruise. Clem was also present to help with loading the boats and to wish us bon-voyage, but our forth crew member was missing - that turned out to be due to an alarm clock malfunction. The tide waits for no-one, so that meant that Mark S. sailed the HSC Wayfarer 'Merganser' single handed all the way to Walton. We don't generally encourage single handed sailing of our Wayfarer dinghies, but the weather was settled and John and Josephine were in close attendance in their boat.

I have sailed from Paglesham to Walton quite a few times and I noticed some changes to the scenary this time round. Firstly, the bouyage system in the Crouch and Whitaker channels has all been revised with smart new bouys having been laid, secondly the 'London Array' has now sprouted a whole lot more windmills than were evident last summer. See CROUCH HARBOUR AUTHORITY WEBSITE for details of the new bouys and the reason they have been provided.

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Mark S. sails Merganser towards Walton pier

Since Mark S was singlehanded, we used the Navionics app on our smart phone to do some 'chartwork' on our boat and Mark trusted us enough to say that he would be happy to follow whatever course we decided. The tide state was such that we had a choice as to whether to take the Raysand channel or to go through the Swin Spitway (see map above). With Walton as our destination, there was little in it for distance over the ground but the Whitacker channel would probably give us a stronger fair tide for the early part of the passage. Against that, the Whitaker channel would take us a bit further out to sea and with a northerly wind that might mean a bit more tacking against the tide later in the passage when we would need to claw our way back inshore. We chose the Swin Spitway route, probably a slight mistake since although we did make fast progress close reaching out to the Swin Spitway we were then unable to get back inshore without putting in some tacks and we struggled against the flood tide as we tacked past Walton pier and round the Naze headland. By the time we got into Walton backwaters we all felt that it had been quite a tiring sail. After stopping briefly at Walton Stone  for a discussion, we continued up the Walton channel to Titchmarsh marina where we were glad to get a filling meal in the marina restaurant. By the time we had finished our meal, it was dark and we had nowhere to camp ashore so we dropped anchor off the saltings, just up the creek from the marina. On our boat we put up our boat tent for the night, but Merganser has no boat tent. Mark S did not fancy struggling ashore in the dark to see if there might be somewhere to camp, so he went to bed on Merganser's floorboards with only the sail for shelter. Fortunately it was a dry night, without dew, so I think he had a tolerably comfortable night, I hope so anyway.   

The next day we learnt from an early morning phone call that our fourth crew member, Mark T. had now arrived by car and was waiting to join us at the head of Kirby creek. As it happened, Kirby creek was less than a mile from where we had chosen to anchor for the night. We picked up Mark T. then spent most of the day making a pleasant and leasurely clockwise circuit of Horsey Island. We lunched tied to a buoy in the creek off Skipper's Island and when we got to Walton Stone we stopped for a couple of hours to walk around the sand dunes and I went for a swim off the sandy beach. This wonderful place is of course part of the 'Secret Water' in the famous children's book by Arthur Ransome. That evening Mark S. left by train from Walton to attend a family event, but Richard joined us by car at Titchmarsh marina. Both our dinghies shared a single yacht berth in the marina and Mark T. and Richard found permission to camp nearby.

Mark T.s car was now at Kirby, near Walton, but if our cruise went to plan we would be returning to Paglesham in a few days time. Mark T. reckoned that his car should then to be at Paglesham, waiting to take him home. Well, cars don't drive themselves, although some people are working on such ideas, so Mark T. and Richard set off to Paglesham in two cars, returning in Richard's car. That took them most of Thursday, it's further by road than by sea. Meanwhile, John and Josephine sailed up to the head of Walton Creek and spent some time in the bar of the Walton and Frinton yacht club. It seemed a friendly club and we got chatting to other sailors, both local club members and visiting yachtspeople, most of the later sailing larger boats than ours. Walking down the lane from the yacht club, it was worrying to see posters protesting against a proposed development including blocks of flats and a large supermarket at the head of Walton creek - sounds to me only too likely to mean more destruction of our precious coastal heritage.

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John rowing up to the quay at Walton and Frinton YC - all this dries out at low water

We left Titchmarsh marina on Friday morning, heading for the Stour, a lovely river that we hadnt visited for a few years - I think we have tended to get distracted by the availablity of showers and nice meals at the Suffolk Yacht Harbour which is on the alternative river connecting into Harwich harbour. With a light northerly wind, we had to tack out of the Walton backwaters against the last of the flood then we had to tack into Harwich against the early ebb. Merganser seemed to be in a particularly sluggish mood that morning. By the time we were coming up to Harwich we had lost sight of Merganser astern, so we went ashore at Halfpenny quay to wait for her to catch up. We noticed that an ex-Trinity house lightvessel is now moored near Halfpenny quay and has been opened as a museum ship. We went to have a look, the picture below was taken in the crew's quarters on board. I guess the crew on a lightvessel had plenty of time for listening to music, note the 1960's equivalent of an Ipod alongside the bunk.

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On board lightship at Harwich

When Merganser eventually sailed up to Harwich, we set sail again and followed them up the Stour. It was a warm summer evening and we went up as far as Holbrook bay then turned and came back down to Erwarton point, this being one of very few places on the Stour where one can walk ashore without getting too muddy, even at low water.   As we came ashore, we were greeted by a very friendly group of people who had landed from several yachts and who were about to start a barbeque. They offered to share their barbeque with us, including the sea bass they had caught that afternoon. However, some of our members could recall an occasion many years ago when we had enjoyed a particularly good meal in a pub not too many miles from Erwarton point, so we set off on foot to see if we could find the same pub again. We did find the pub, but unfortunately it has now closed down. Continuing further along the country lanes, we eventually found a fish and chip take away, but the fresh sea bass might have been the better choice!

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Early morning near Erwarton Point

Saturday morning dawned calm and sunney. Josephine and myself went swimming then I went ashore and took the photo above and also looked at the stumps of wood that are all that remains of what would have been a barge quay. We then sailed back down to Halfpenny quay where we tied up our boats and went ashore for lunch in the cafe by the quay. I would note that Halfpenny quay is an excellent facility provided for the use of passing yachts (and sailing dinghies). It is actually a row of massive steel pontoons, so easier for tying up than an actual quayside would be. There is a cafe close by and more shops and pubs in the small but historic town of Harwich. There is no charge for tying up for shopping or a meal ashore but I think there is a charge if you want to stay overnight.

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Our sailing dinghies alongside a small yacht at Halfpenny Quay, the old Harwich customs house behind

While we were alongside Halfpenny quay, a good sea breeze developed and we had quite a brisk sail back to Walton Stone. Mark S. had now returned from his family event and was waiting for us on the beach at the Stone. I told the others how we had enjoyed the Walton and Frinton Yacht Club, so we then all walked from Walton Stone over the high ground of the Naze headland and down into Walton town for an evening meal at that yacht club. That's an interesting walk that I have now done quite a few times. There is now a second tea shop on the Naze headland, a relatively new one having opened on the ground floor of the Naze tower itself. We stopped there for quick refreshment, had we arrived a bit earlier in the day I think we would have been allowed to go up the stairs to the top of the tower; I would like to do that some day. We did get a nice meal in the Walton and Frinton YC, after which Richard left the party to drive back to London.  The rest of us then walked back to Walton Stone in the dark and I would say that by the time we were back and had pitched our tents it was well past the time that I would have prefered to be in bed.

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Perfect conditions for dinghy cruising - Mergansr sails past Jaywick on the way to Brightlingsea

On Sunday we had a really lovely sail with a reaching wind and calm sea from Walton Stone to Brightlingsea. Conditions were so good that we could easily have carried on to Paglesham the same afternoon, but with the weather also set fair for the following day there was no need to do that. The waterfront at Brightlingsea has changed a lot in the last few years. There are now blocks of waterside flats that perhaps look a bit out of scale in this small town, they are the kind of development you tend to find in port cities where old docklands have been redeveloped. These flats certainly change the skyline of Brightlingsea as seen from the estuary, and there looks to be more of them still under construction. At least the development does include a little bit of waterside promenade giving the public limited access to the area and a view of the creek. There has also been some refurbishment of the public landing hard and pontoons.

When we visit the Coln we often spend the night at Mersea Stone, but this time we decided to stay in Brightlingsea for a change. We managed to find an officer of the Colne YC who gave us permission to park on their pontoons overnight since overnight mooring is not permitted on the public pontoons. The two Marks camped at Brightlingsea campsite which is conveniently close to the waterside.

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Our dinghies moored bows on to the excellent public landing pontoons at Brightlingsea. At least this part of the waterside remains unchanged by recent developments.

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.... and you can still see some old smacks at Brightlingsea

We left Brightlingsea about mid morning on Monday and had another very pleasant and easy sail back to Paglesham, I cant really add a lot to that. On our way home, we called on Doug R., an old member of the HSC. Doug lives in sheltered accomodation near Chelmsford and he is in his 80,s but still quite active, getting into Chelmsford on the bus to do shopping and so on. He was pleased to see us and chat about old times.

DCA Cobnor Week - 13 to 21 August

Six HSC members attended the Dinghy Cruising Association Cobnor Week, bringing five boats with them. I shall not write a detailed account since this is not an HSC event, but I can say that the event was well attended and I think we all enjoyed it. The event is based at a private campsite with slipway into Chichester harbour. It is a very relaxed event, there is a  suggestion for a destination to sail to each day, but no complusion to do that, you can sail to an alternative destination if you prefer, or you can stay on shore. All the suggested destinations are within Chichester harbour, so none are more than a few miles from the campsite. Josephine and myself, together with a few friends from the DCA, took a couple of days away from the campsite to make a trip over to the Isle of Wight, spending a night on the sandy spit just inside Bembridge harbour. We had a strong following wind accross to the island then another following wind, much lighter and with sunshine, to come back the next day. That was lucky!   We are grateful to Liz B for all the work she does to organise this event

HSC achieves respectable placings in RSA racing series

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Some of the disparate range of boats entering the Mudcatcher's Cup - Photo by Mark S.

The HSC has gained a few new members this season, they are most welcome and should more than make up for the migration of some HSC members to the far away county of Devon. I am pleased to see that this modest influx of new members has boosted the club's sailing activities at Paglesham, including taking part in some of the informal open boat races organised at Paglesham by the RSA. These snippets of news about HSC racing activities have trickled through to the website editor in Devon via the HSC email list:

20 August - Mark S. Reports:

Merganser (Mark*2 & Clem) put up a reasonable show for the Mudcatchers' cup this year. Although we didn't exactly win we definitely created an impression on the audience watching from Gordon's jetty. On our way in at the end of the race we managed to bend the very substantial "withy" marking the end of the new jetty. And then, as we enjoyed the BBQ on the sea wall, we watched as Merganser settled on top of a large wooden post. Fortunately, said post doesn't seem to have done too much damage and we managed to refloat her - John Langrick pulling with one Dinghy, Richard Bessey pushing with another, Clem pulling and me trying to lift her off. 
(The Mudcatchers cup is a special dinghy race which requires crews to carry out some task other than merely sailing during the race - this year the task was to collect DRY driftwood for the barbeque after the race, points were deducted for wet driftwood as might result from a capsize) 

6 September - Gerald T. reports:

Shock news! Dabber beats Wayfarer! I am certain that it is an anomoly, but the RSA lifeboat cup 'Susie' led 'Merganser' all the way round the course, there is a chance to prove this is indeed wierd this coming weekend ,in the final open boat race of the season,the oyster cup, I intend to be humiliated yet again, by being placed mid- field, when corrected time is applied. Hoping the weather is good!

Overall results at end of season (according to the excellent RSA newsletter):

Overall, and after the application of some mysterious system of handicapping, the HSC wayfarer dinghy 'Merganser' was placed 5th out of 12 entrants in the 2011 RSA open boat racing series and Gerald T's Drascombe Dabber 'Sussie' was placed 8th. Well done to all.

AGM Weekend - 19-20 November

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HSC members stroll in Holland Park

Eleven HSC members met at Holland Park tube station in the West End of London for a short walk in the park preceeding our Annual General Meeting. Although we are now well into autumn, it was a lovely sunny day. We strolled around the park, looked at the Japenese garden, had hot drinks in the park cafe, then assembled at the nearby home of one of our members to enjoy further refreshments before starting our meeting.

The meeting was a bit protracted, but this did allow all to have an input. It was good to hear that the HSC made a financial surplus this year, although the magnitude of that surplus fell well short of losses incurred in the last few years. Also, this year we are pleased to welcome a few new members. The meeting had to select a new Treasurer since our club consitution dictates that the posts of Chairperson, Secretary and Treasurer cannot be held for more than three consecutive years by the same person. I think this is an excellent arrangement that more clubs might consider since it helps get new members participating in running the club. However, it can be difficult to find people willing to take over these duties and on this occasion it seemed that the editor of this website had little option other than to accept an additional role as Treasurer. Since I live in Devon, I will need to rely on people to remember to send me cheques for their sailing fees since I don't get to Paglesham often enough to know who is using our club boat(s). Another change this year is that the land where we have been storing our boats during each winter has recently been sold. We are most grateful to the past owner of that land for being so helpful to our club over so many years. At the moment, our boats are being stored by one of our own club members.  Talking about club boats, it was noted that our second Wayfarer 'Meander' has not been sailed during the past two seasons. There must now be a strong argument for disposal of this boat, we discussed this at our meeting but did not quite manage to come to a conclusion, this is something the committee will probably need to review.

After our meeting we enjoyed a nice evening meal at a nearby Turkish restaurant. Thanks to Essin for arranging everything and for accommodating some of us over the weekend.

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Paddington Basin

On the Sunday after our AGM, several of us met up to walk the tow path of the Regents canal and to visit the London Canal Museum. It turned out to be a very pleasant walk with fine weather, as you can see in the picture above. The Regents canal was fully opened in 1820 to provide an improved barge route connecting the London docks to the main canal network of the UK. It starts at Limehouse basin in the heart of London's former dockland and loops north of central London to join a branch of the Grand Junction canal at Paddington, so providing a barge route from the docks to the Midlands and beyond. We walked the section of the canal from Paddington basin to the canal museum at Kings Cross. The canal museum is housed in a building that used to be a warehouse for ice imported from Norway by sailing ships. The ice was stored in two bricklined chambers below what is now the ground floor of the museum and it was distributed by horse cart across London for keeping food chilled and for the manufacture of ice cream. This trade died when mechanical refrigeration machinery came into use in the early 1900's. I believe that ice was also imported to the UK from Canada. Considering the effort and risks that one would imagine to be associated with a sailing ship voyage across the North Sea, let alone the North Atlantic, I find it quite surprising that ice was a sufficiently important cargo to justify such voyages, espeicially since a fair proportion of the cargo would melt away en route.