Egret Cup - 9th June

Clem entered 'Chirp' and Gerald entered 'Susi' in the 'Egret's cup' - one of the open boat races organised by the RSA.  Clem won the race which was an achievement since he also won the previous RSA race and the handicapping system does penalise success!

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'Chirp' winning the Egret Cup race

The race seems to have started with a bit of a muddle then continued that way. From what Gerald told me, five boats were over the line at the start, two of them stuck fast on the mud. One boat, 'Winks' retired at this point with a broken rudder. The tide and wind prevented the other boats that were the wrong side of the start line getting back to the line, so the line was relocated. 'Apple' then took the lead on a fast run up to Barling, where the turning mark was found to be dried out on the mud, so a fishing boat was adopted as an alternative turning mark. 'Chirp' took the lead on the beat back, arriving well ahead of 'Apple' in second place and 'Suzi' was third. Clem told me that Gerald put in a stirling efffort sailing 'Susi' single handed in the blustery conditions and he was catching up on the return leg until he ran aground. Tea and muffins were served on board 'Pakjhawa' after the finish.

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Another picture of 'Chirp', sailing to Burnham-on-Crouch, Clem steering, Esin and Gerald crewing

 Sailing to Woodham Ferrers - 29 &30 June

 Gerald reported that he and Mark T. did make it up the Crouch to Woodham Ferrers but it seems that they were unable to find the promised BBQ and were unable to meet up with the DCA members until Sunday morning. Gerald writes:

"Oh woe were us!

Left Paglesham around 13oo hrs with 'Susie',  light northelish wind, so were on a beamish reach down to the Crouch fighting a strengthening flood. Did not reach Burnham untill 16oohrs, by then had a weakling flood  and failing wind. I rowed for 30 mins with the tide, so as to conserve fuel for more adverse conditions. Wind filled in coming from the west, a head wind, but we cleared Althorne before resorting to a temperamental motor, fighting an increasing ebb, reaching South Woodham Ferrers YC around half tide but nobody to greet us!

Turned out the BBQ was at another club, the Eyot sailing club, which is in a little creek to the west of South Woodham, but we did not know that at the time so we pitched our tents. I cooked some emergency rations, whilst Mark T sought a pub in the town centre, gong a roundabout route to get there, I followed on to the pub after my meal, also taking a longer route, because we had separately asked two different people the same question, getting different answers! We had a drink before making our way back by a more direct route. In the morning we met Dave Jennings & Doug Macuwen who made up the rest of the DCA rally 'crowd', they had been out on the river on the Saturday making thier way to the Roach, and getting back late in the evening.

Departure was at 10oo hrs in a fresh westerly wind, of which we took full advantage. Left the other 2 boats at Cliff reach, stopped at the 'Royal Corinthian YC' for lunch after signing in as guests. Left Burnham around 14oo We stooged around in the Yokesfleet for a while, thinking of going round the Island, but wasn't enough water. Waved hello to the Roach bunch anchored there, then back to unload on the slip, the pontoon being busy. I had wanted to beach on the saltings to investigate a leak, but took the boat back up to the 'Varlot' and moored there.

Two contrasting days to the weekend, shame to have missed the BBQ, if we had known might have left earlier to sail up to it, but Mark & I both didn't want to leave until lunch time on Saturday. We saw a number of seals on the Roach,some with pups, both sunning and swimming .

Have now found that leak!"

 HSC cruise to the Colne - 21 to 27 July

 Report from Mark S.

Sunday 21 - 2 Marks (in Merganser) and Gerald (in Susie) met at Paglesham at 10:00, packed boats and left at 11:00. Slow going at first against last of flood and easterly winds but got to Crouch Shore Ends at HW and were just able to set course direct for Brighlingsea. Only problem we had was the confusing seas when we got to Bench Head. Unfortunately things got worse when we crossed the path of a coaster (I understand from Gerald that the vessel was a small barge converted into a motor yacht - Ed. ) bound for the Blackwater. Merganser passed safely in front but Gerald was not so lucky. Skipper of said vessel obviously hadn't read the bit about giving way to sailing boats and ploughed on regardless. Gerald tried to take last minute avoiding tactics but struck said vessel with bowsprit which broke in half. I suppose we were all lucky that that was the extent of the damage done - any closer and he could have sunk both Susie and Gerald. Gerald managed to get his outboard started and motored to Brighlingsea where the Colne Yacht Club (CYC) let us moor against their jetty for a few days. Company then set up camp at "Lakeside Camp Site" and enjoyed a "Sound Indian Curry experience". Altogether quite an eventful day. 

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Our tents at 'Lakeside' camp site - conveniently close to Brightlingsea hard

Monday 22 - Ian and Julia meet us at CYC and the two boats sailed across the Colne to the Pyefleet on another hot sunny day. Took the winding right hand channel till the sea wall stopped further progress and then we anchored for lunch against a grassy bank. Mark S slipped off the slippery edge of said bank into deep water and found water pleasantly warm so went for a swim around the boat. Julia thought this a good idea and dived in too - quickly discovering that self-inflating lifejackets don't distinguish between planned and unplanned swimming. We spent a bit too long on a leisurely picnic on the sea wall and tacking back out of the Pyfleet was interesting a times. 

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The swimmers at Pyfleet Creek

Tuesday 23 - Boat Maintenance Day - Gerald had been looking for someone to make a replacement bowsprit - the local shipwrights weren't interested but referred him to the Pioneer Sailing Trust who repair classic boats. They said they don't normally take on outside work but took pity on Gerald and produced a fine new bowsprit in a day. The stem head fitting also needed a bit of repair but by the end of the day Susie was back in action. 

Wednesday 24 - Took down our tents and took the flood up the Colne to the shingle bank near the disused railway line near Alresford. Pitched tents early (lucky we did that as later that day a group of 30 teenagers from Southend arrived and took the only other suitable camping place). Joined by a man in a Tideway dinghy who had sailed down from Wivenhoe. In the evening we walked up to Wivenhoe for dinner. The old boatyard there is now a collection of posh looking houses. 


This picture, taken by the Editor during the '60s, shows the boatyard at Wivenhoe, which was actually a small shipyard, prior to the building of the posh houses that Mark refers to.

Thursday 25 - Boats weren't afloat till midday so MarkT and Gerald walked to the top of Alresford Creek. Mark S took Merganser up on the tide to Rowhedge for lunch. Susie and Merganser then met at Wivenhoe and tacked back on the ebb to Mersea Stone where we set up camp. Walked to the Dog and Pheasant where we arrived at 7.30 just in time for dinner.

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'Susie' at East Mersea, Brightlingsea in the background.  Note the 'Leaning tower of Brightlingsea' AKA Batemans Tower, now refurbished by the Coln Yacht Club with the aid of a lottery grant

Friday 26 - Mark S took Merganser across to Brightlingsea to pick up Ian & Julia & Frank. Susie and Merganser then sailed up the Colne and into Alresford Creek. Gerald, MarkT and Ian sailed to the mill at the end of navigation. Mark S and Julia decided to abandon ship and swam the last half mile - a pleasant swim in calm and warm water. Picnic on the saltings then tacked back to Brighlingsea. Said our goodbies to Julia and Ian and then enjoyed a Fish and Chip supper in Brighlingsea before sailing back to Mersea Stone.

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In Arlesford Creek 

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 Thorrington Tide Mill at the head of Alresford Creek


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Thorrington Church - seen from Alresford Creek

Saturday 27 - Got up at 7 to find that a couple of Thames Barges and numerous fishing smacks had anchored in the Colne for the start of the Old Gaffers 50th anniversary celebrations. Packed boats and set off for Paglesham at 8 in light winds. An hour later the Oyster Smacks set off in pursuit on their first race - we just about got to Bench Head before them. Sailed/drifted towards the Raysand Channel and arrived there an hour after LW. Each end of the Channel is now clearly marked by a RW centre channel buoy. Once through the channel we made the mistake of not continuing to the yellow Raysand Buoy and went aground in the Crouch to the amusement of a group of basking seals. Our cruise ended with a run on the flood tide up the Crouch and Roach.

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'Susi' on the foreshore at East Mersea, Thames barges and 'old gaffers' behind

Family day out from Paglesham - 12 August

We have accounts of most of our longer distance dinghy sailing on this website together with accounts of our country walking activities, but not so much about the daysailing that takes place at Paglesham using our club owned wayfarer dinghy together with members' boats. Hence I am pleased to include the following note from Richard K. describing his trip from Paglesham to Burnham and back with his family:

We arrived at Paglesham at11.30 and were at bit early so had to slide Merganser into the water. It was surprisingly easy and we had some laughs with Matthew (now15) nearly falling over in the mud. We sailed to the end of the Jetty and picked up Laura (13) and Julia (not too keen on sailing but came long anyway!). We had a fantastic run down the Roach and then turned into the Crouch towards Burnham and ended up with a force 4 wind against tide and everyone got wet!!!!. We tied up at the Royal Corinthian YC and then found a nice tea room for a bite to eat. We ddn't leave Burnham until about 4 and then had a slog up the Roach against the wind and tide. For every two tacks at one point we were only making 50 yards! We managed to get back about 6.30 and mooredup Merganser ( everything worked well and no problems). The whole family is knackered but had a wonderful family day. (Julia evenenjoyed it, apart from the water down the back! ) Looking forward to the next trip.

A Day out on 'Cateran'  - 1st September

Julia and me (Ian) arrived at Paglesham just about high water (1100h) where Gerald (TLG) and his boat "Cateran" awaited us on the far buoy. A short outboard ride and we were aboard! - such service!  The forecast was moderate winds and cloudy sunny skies which it was (the wind got up later and Ian got a wet bum, TLG's fault as he failed to ease the sheet during one gust and the Crouch came over the cockpit coaming, Ian was sitting on the lee side (his fault, too lazy to move to upwind side - nasty jokes from the crew about his advanced age and his wetting? His pants!!!

Left the Roach with a good beam wind, turned upstream towards Fambridge into a dead noser contra the ebb. Pressed on until Royal Corinthian almost abeam when we funked tacking through the massed moored boats in Burnham roads, also, time was pressing a bit for all hands to get to homes in good time as we still had to punch the last of the ebb up the Roach to Paglesham. Not many boats out sailing, so we had the rivers almost to ourselves except for two large ballast carriers delivering soil? To the Wallasea island seabird project. (we kept TLG AWAY FROM THEM, REMEMBERING THE NOTORIOUS AND DISTURBING BRIGHTLINGSEA BOWSPRIT INCIDENT,!) (see cartoon from "gaffers" weekend advert, explains all)

We had a fine romping sail back to the Roach (full and bye?) and then a lively beat up the river to Pags under Julia's skippering, the wind had got up a bit by then. We tried dropping the jib but Cateran didn't like it a lot so put it up again to get to the mooring (actually a roller jib so that was easy but in the process we managed to entangle the jib sheet with the Danforth anchor on the foredeck taking it overboard to the loud amused rattle of the anchor chain through the hawsepipe! With skilled skippering from Julia all was recovered and TLG was able to secure the dinghy and mooring to Cateran.

 For Gerald this was a somewhat shakedown cruise after a long refit, many wrinkles were ironed including shrouds becoming free of their bottle screws, not enough tea mugs ( fortunately, I & J had brought enough, together with lemon cake and cheese sandwiches), various running rigging bits also, before we came on board Rowed ashore by Gerald, we were home by 1815 hrs after a wonderful, bracing and instructive day - thank you Gerald! Can we do it again, please? (not the anchor bit)

Late summer cruise to the Blackwater - 8th to 13th September

This year we managed to fit two summer cruises into our program, this being the second one. Three boats sailed from Paglesham on Saturday morning, John and Josephine were in their nameless home made boat (which seems to now be referred to as 'Grey Boat'), Mark S. sailed the HSC owned Wayfarer dinghy 'Merganser' and Gerald sailed his 19 foot cabin yacht 'Cateran'. This was the first time we had seen Cateran on an HSC cruise for some years and perhaps even the owner had forgotten how well it sails. This may not be surprising since it is based on the hull of a 'Squib' racing keelboat but with a lifting ballast keel and a small cabin. A unique boat, I wonder if Hunter Yachts made it as a prototype for a new model that never happened. Mark S. and Gerald had to sail single handed since two crew members were unable to join the party untill the following evening. John and Josephine actually sailed the 'grey boat' round the coast from Plymouth to join this cruise, I might write something about that at some stage.

We left Paglesham with some hours of flood still to go, which meant sailing against the flood down the Roach and Crouch, but there was enough wind from the SW for that to be quite feasible. The wind was actually rather variable, at times we were almost becalmed but at other times thunderstorms passed by giving us quite fierce squalls. I was glad that on our boat we had chosen to use our small mainsail, even though that meant that we were undercanvassed in the calm periods. Our intention was to reach Bradwell at the mouth of the Blackwater and coming hard on the wind as we rounded the corner into the Blackwater Mark S. had the tiller extension break off on Merganser. Since he was single handed and it was moderately windy at that stage he was unable to keep sailing and dropped anchor to avoid being carried back out to sea. He attempted to phone us on the 'Grey boat' but we never heard his call, perhaps our phone was in a locker so we did not hear it, something to watch out for another time. We were well ahead of the other two boats at that stage and seeing Mark S. stop sailing I assumed that he had found the wind too strong for sailing single handed. I thought the best thing would be for us to continue the short distance to Bradwell then for one of us to hasten back along the beach to lend a hand with extra crew weight. However this was not necessary since Gerald saw that there was a problem and having a good outboard on Cateran he was able to take Merganser in tow.

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The view as we arrived in Bradwell Creek

Prior to this cruise we had been in contact with Bradwell Quay Yacht Club who had very kindly arranged for us to erect three small tents in the dinghy park at Bradwell and they even made arrangements for us to use their clubhouse if we needed to. So, after getting our small fleet safely berthed in Bradwell marina (a much easier option than trying to anchor in the creek) Mark put up his tent in the dinghy park whereas John, Josephine and Gerald stayed on board in the marina.

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Our dinghies berthed in Bradwell Marina, mast lowered on Merganser to apply Teflon spray

Monday turned out to be a calm but rainy day - not much fun for sailing. All that was needed to mend the tiller extension on Merganser was a single M6 stainless steel bolt, but no such thing was available at Bradwell so this made an excuse for us to all spend the day motor cruising Cateran to Maldon and back. Years ago I did a lot of sailing on the Blackwater but have not visited it in recent years, so it was good to see all the old sights. Reaching Maldon we moored Cateran at the public pontoon near the Thames barge wharf - see below - on arrival we did need to wait half an hour for the tide to come in far enough to reach this pontoon since it dries out for about half the tide. It was still raining so we made a quick visit to the large chandlery store, plus a longish visit to the Queens Head pub adjacent to the landing stage. That evening Clem and Mark T. joined us and put up two more tents in the dinghy park.

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Cateran at Maldon, Thames barges behind

Our initial plan had been to continue from Bradwell down the coast to the Deben estuary (a barge sailor would refer to north as 'down the coast' when in Essex, it may be up on the map but it is down the direction of the ebb tide in the Thames estuary). However, we had a strong wind forecast for Tuesday and Wednesday and since Clem and Mark S. both had to get home by Friday evening the only sensible option was to stay at Bradwell, probably until Friday morning.

With strong winds on Tuesday we decided to go walking rather than sailing - we did a good circular walk starting round the sea wall to Bradwell chapel then via lanes and footpaths to Tillingham and back to Bradwell. The area is known as the Dengie peninsula, it is a bit isolated from the rest of Essex and that seems to give a slighly remote and lonely feeling to it. Tillingham has timber clad houses, typical of the older houses in this area. The ones in the photo below are all painted white, but others are covered in black tar. Clem, an Essex man, tells me that the black tar only started when tar became available from early gas works, before then they would have been painted in bright colors.

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Timber clad houses at Tillingham

We had more strong winds on Thursday morning but these eased by the afternoon allowing us to do a short sail in the mouth of the Blackwater estuary. During the morning we mended the tiller extension on Merganser and did a few other minor jobs including applying a Teflon spray to the mast luff groove. The mainsail on Merganser had become difficult to hoist and this spray treatment did make a real improvement - will have to see how long that lasts.

Thursday was the only day of this trip when we were able to enjoy warm sunney weather so we made this the day to invite Frank, Julia and Ian to join us for a day sail to West Mersea and back. This went very well even though we were completely becalmed at the end and had to row against the tide for the last bit along the shore near Bradwell nuclear power station, now in the de-commissioning phase. I think we all enjoyed going ashore at the public pontoon at W. Mersea and visiting the cafe for lunch.

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Landing at the public pontoon at West Mersea

On Friday Mark S. and Clem sailed for Paglesham in Merganser, leaving at about 06:30. Cateran and the 'grey boat' followed about five hours later which I suspect gave us a more favourable tide and a bit more breeze. It was an overcast day with light winds and quite a lot of rain but although it was not particulary enjoyable weather, we did have an easy sail. I assume that Mark and Clem also did since allthough we never saw them after they left Bradwell, we did notice that Merganser was safely back on her mooring when we arrived at Paglesham. The Grey Boat came through the Raysand channel on the early flood and although we never touched the bottom we knew we were in shallow water from the way our stern wave built up - see picture.

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When the stern wave builds up like this you know its getting shallow

More and more boats!

The HSC fleet of member owned boats has been growing at a dizzy pace this summer. The website editor is not sure what to make of it all - considering that he is still sailing the same boat he built in 1978!

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This is Geralds new skiff with advanced sliding rowlock rowing system (Editor having a go). It seems to row beautifully but I wouldn't really know, never having done competitive style rowing.

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This is a Hunter 19 foot keelboat cruiser recently aquired by Clem - looks like it should sail really well.

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This is a 26 foot traditional clinker built cruising yacht also recently aquired by Clem.  Clem has taken off all the spars for revarnishing. All looks good considering that it had been laid up for a while. And it was only last summer that Clem finished building 'Chirp', a lovely ketch rigged dayboat to a design by Swallowboats. 

BBQ Weekend - 28/29 September

Clem hosted an excellent BBQ, he is good at this.  Considering the time of year I think we were lucky that the weather was as good as it was. I realise that there were reasons for our BBQ being a bit late this year, but perhaps another year we should plan for a BBQ earlier in the summer.

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 HSC members gathering round the gazebo, time to think about getting that BBQ started

On the morning prior to the BBQ, Gerald and John went for a sail in Cateran and Mark S. and Frank were in our club wayfarer Merganser. John ran Cateran onto a mudbank immediately after the mooring was let go and Gerald only just managed to get us free using the engine full astern.  We rafted the two boats together for lunch at anchor off the Foulness landing in the lower Roach. 

The forecast for Sunday after our BBQ was for a blustery easterly F6. Some of us had planned to crew on one of the boats taking part in the final Roach Sailing Assciation yacht race of the season. However, the skipper of that boat thought better of it and decided to stay on shore. That meant that HSC members were able to go to the open day being held by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) at their new Wallasea reserve.

The Wallsasea island nature reserve is a big project being undertaken by the RSPB and Crossrail, the company that is building the new London underground line. There is plenty about the project on the internet so I will not attempt to descibe it in detail, but briefly the idea is to convert former farmland on Wallasea island into lagoons and marshland for the benefit of birds and other wildlife. This farmland is below sea level, so simply breaching the sea wall and allowing it all to flood would just produce a big shallow tidal lake which is not what is wanted.  Instead, large amounts of soil excavated from the Crossrail tunnels are being brought in by seagoing barges to raise the level of some of the land, so that when the sea wall is breached the result will be a carefully planned arrangement of islands, ponds and creeks as shown on the pretty maps that were on display at the open day.  I did ask whether it would be possilble for small pleasure craft to visit the reserve and was told that that would not be allowed - I suppose they cant please everyone as well as the birds! However, one person did point out that the existing beach at the NE extremity of Wallasea island is outside the RSPB reserve and so it should still be possible for small boats to land there, at their own risk, untill such time as the beach erodes away, the old sea wall that protects it will probably not be maintained.

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Some of the heavy equipment in use at Wallasea. The conveyor is dumping soil to be taken away by the fleet of trucks.

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 The blue cranes are transferring soil to the conveyor from costal barges moored at a jetty in the Crouch

AGM Weekend - 23/24 November

Another straightforward AGM for the HSC. Our sailing fee income was higher this year than it has been in the past few years, no dought due to the fine sailing weather we enjoyed over the summer. For the first time in a number of years, we were able to make an increment to the fund that we have set aside for eventual purchase of a replacement club boat. Club subscriptions will remain unchanged for 2014. We also now have a general understanding that those who crew for owner/skippers on privately owned boats taking part in club sailing events make a donation similar to the club sailing fee (currently £6-00 per day). This is regarded as a donation to the owner of the privately owned boat but as far as I am aware our boat owning members have always passed these donations on to the club treasurer. This scheme has worked well and has augmented club income. It means that those taking part in club sailing events, other than those sailing their own privately owned boats, all pay the same for a day's sailing regardless of what boat they happen to be on board. This seems fair and the cost to non-boat owners is still minimal compared with the typical cost of owning your own boat.

Thanks are due to Mark T. for hosting our AGM weekend at his house in Stevenage.  On the Sunday of the weekend Mark lead a nine mile ramble around the footpaths to the east of Stevenage with a good lunch at the village pub at Benington. Benington is a very pretty little place, it made quite a contrast to Stevenage which is all modern office blocks, industrial/retail parks and housing estates. 

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 Benington village

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Outside the Bell at Benington