To Ipswich and Waldringfield - 23 to 30 August 2008

Report from Richard (mostly)


Route Map


Saturday: Most of the people involved in the summer cruise assembled at the Paglesham Village Show on the afternoon of the 23rd and John and Josephine's boat was included on the show display of the Roach Sailing Association (Grey boat with blue tent in photo below). I would add that many of the HSC members are now also members of the Roach Sailing Association. For such a small village as Paglesham is, it was a very good show with flower and produce displays, the women's institute tea tent, coconut shy and a tug of war between local pub teams to round off the afternoon.

paglesham show

The RSA display at Paglesham Show, on the right Josephine and Richard B of the RSA help the children make model boats to sail in the inflateable dinghy which was half filled with water to make a tiny boating pond - see below
paglesham show 02

Once the show was over we went to Paglesham to launch John and Josephine's boat and to check over the HSC Wayfarer Merganser, meticulously checking that all the equipment was ready to set off in the morning. At this point we met up with a prospective new member, Mark E., who had brought his 12’ Gull dinghy to Paglesham with a view to joining our cruise. Mark is an experienced sailor who has sailed his tiny Gull dinghy round much of the British coastline. He had launched his boat earlier in the day but had unfortunately capsized, so much of his clothing and equipment was wet and during the capsise he had lost a hatch cover so he was now having second thoughts about coming on our cruise. One of his concerns was that his small boat might not sail fast enough to keep up with the rest of us, which is probably true, although we suggested that he might be able to compensate by setting off a bit earlier each morning. We tried not to influence his decision either way and in the end he decided not to come. However, we understand that he has now aquired a second hand Wayfarer, so we hope that we might see him at Paglesham another time.

Sunday: [HW Sheerness 06.06 BST / Felixstowe 05.07 BST] Sunday morning was grey, overcast and blowing strongly from the south west. After talking things over we decided to set off at about half ebb, as we reasoned that Walton stone would be a run most of the way, so it would not matter that we would have a foul tide for the later stage of the passage. I sailed with Mark S in Merganser, and Mark T crewed for Herman in Cateran. We decided the shortest route was the best, going down the Whitaker channel to the Spitway, which is a channel through into the Wallet. Usually there are many yachts to indicate the Whitaker route, but it is harder to pick out the Spitway buoys.


Cateran leaving the Crouch, Merganser behind, both reefed

Although we had two reefs and the small jib, Merganser was quite hard to control, and we were leaving Cateran far behind, so we decided to drop the mainsail and proceed at a more sedate pace. It didn’t take long for John and Jo, and then Cateran to catch us, well before we reached the Spitway, but this gave us a chance to communicate and check that everyone was happy to go on. Merganser was now sailing slowly under jib as we came up onto the wind to get through the Spitway channel, so we decided we needed a bigger foresail. I went up and sat on the foredeck to get the small jib in, and hank on the genoa. We must have looked a bit odd out there where you see few dinghies, and a yacht motoring up asked if we were OK. We said yes, but he motored around us for a bit, as if not convinced. With the genoa pulling we started to make better speed, though John’s boat was now quite distant, and Herman followed the deeper water of the charted channels so we soon lost track of him. We could see the tall buildings of Frinton miles away in the distance. The tide was now running against us, but we were making reasonable progress. It seemed to take an age before we had Frinton on the beam, and it was becoming apparent that we would not have flood into the Walton channel as I had hoped, and it would be well after high water before we reached the Stone.

John and Jo were already there when we arrived at the Stone at about 6.30pm, but Cateran was well behind us, but we had a text message saying they hoped to arrive around 8. We decided to leave the gear in the boat which was going to dry out on the falling tide. The others decided that they had the energy to walk into Walton, which is about 3 miles away, so about 7.30 we made our way up the path over the Naze, eventually finding a fish and chip shop open. On the way over the Naze we had a pleasant surprise: a barn owl hunting over a field. Later we learned that Mark T had got ashore but decided to cater for himself, while Herman slept on board Cateran. We were certainly tired by the time we got back and pitched the tents in the dark.

Monday: [HW Felixstowe 06.07 BST] The wind was still strong from the west, and we decided to go with it, and sail on to Harwich and up the Orwell to Suffolk Yacht Harbour at Levington. Entering Harwich Harbour the dinghies sailed in close to the breakwater, forgetting that there are shallow patches off Harwich town. Cateran was following us and pretty soon we gathered that she had run aground. There was much activity and we began to get worried that she was drifting close to the shipping channel. After anchoring and starting the engine things seemed to be under control, and we proceeded north towards Shotley Spit and up the Orwell river.

harwich01 Merganser accompanies a Thames Sailing Barge through Harwich Harbour

We anchored for lunch and a cup of tea in the well known anchorage on the west side of the Orwell just above Shotley. After a parley, it was agreed that Cateran would make her way to Suffolk Yacht Harbour, but the dinghies would sail up river beyond the Orwell Bridge as John had a yen to explore in that direction. We sailed on past Pin Mill, with occasional tacks as we came onto the wind, and under the bridge, which carries the A14 trunk road high above the river. Beyond the bridge is Fox’s marina, and then commercial wharfs with vessels lying alongside. Soon we saw the huge lock gates of the former Ipswich docks, that have now been turned into a marina. To the left was the narrow channel of the New Cut, bending north westwards, which we entered. To the starboard was a high wall, and to the left a series of pontoons, with permanent berths for pleasure craft. We continued for what seemed several hundred metres, but the scenery was not very attractive, apart from the interest of the boats themselves. Eventually Mark and I decided to turn around and we found that we had to make short boards to make any headway against the flood. John and Jo landed on a pontoon, though I don’t think they were able to get past a security gate.


There is continuing devolopment around the docks area for Ipswich

[The website editior was looking through a collection of old postcards that belonged to his grandparents and came across the picture below showing passenger paddlesteamers alongside the quayside at Ipswich, I think from the early 1900s. A black and white photo that has been tinted with watercolor.]

ipswich postcard 

An old postcard of Ipswich

When we got back to Suffolk Yacht Harbour, Herman and Mark T had found a berth, which was supposed to accommodate the three boats, based on adding their combined lengths together. With a bit of “knitting” we managed to somehow moor the dinghies securely, and then pitched our tents at the end of the marina in daylight for a change! A marina has its comforts, and we took advantage of the showers to freshen up before repairing to the lightship restaurant for supper.

Tuesday: [HW Felixstowe 07.18 BST] We planned to leave about 10.30 and take the ebb downriver. The wind was again WSW F3 to 4. Cateran set off first under motor, while John tried to sail and then row out of the marina. Merganser was crewed by Mark T and myself, as Mark S. had swapped to sail with Herman. The Wayfarer was last to leave and we rowed out, having a headwind to get out of the marina entrance. We tried to use the jib to increase speed, but only ended being pushed over towards the shallows. Eventually we rowed for a buoy to set the mainsail. Unfortunately I lost the main halliard which was not properly secured to the head of the sail when I hauled. The halliard playfully swung back and forth in the wind just beyond reach. Mark finally managed to lasso it after ten minutes of exertion, and we were able to set off, though the other boats were now long gone.

When we got to the harbour entrance we saw choppy water over the shoals off Landguard Point, but Mark noticed that a pilot launch had motored through close to the end of the point, so we thought we would take advantage of the short cut too, and bore away to head north up the coast past Felixstowe town. It is four miles to the Woodbridge Haven buoy that marks the entrance to the Deben, so it did not take us long to reach it. The entrance channel, which is notorious for shifting, currently runs at almost 90 degrees to the coastline, and is marked 7 by port and starboard hand buoys. [a recent sketch chart of the entrance may be found at] The tide was now flooding and we were rapidly carried in through the channel past the Martello tower and the Felixstowe Ferry SC.

As we passed Ramsholt Quay, John’s boat was recognised and hailed by Paul Constantine of the DCA, who was aboard a yacht on a mooring. We sailed past The Rocks, which was a lee shore, so we pushed on for Waldringfield. Cateran anchored off and we found we were able to get close to the sea wall path at the head of a little creek, as it was nearing high water. Herman and Mark had come ashore in one of the dinghies, and we soon repaired to the Maybush pub on the village waterfront for our evening meal. At about 8.45pm Mark S rowed Herman back to Cateran in Merganser while there was still some water in the creek. We noticed there was a huge amount of sailing activity in the village, with a lot of families probably having holiday homes there. As we passed the sailing club, there were still lots of lights showing.

waldringfield01 Landing in small creek near Waldringfield

Wednesday: [HW Felixstowe 08.50 BST] The morning dawned dry but cloudy. We discussed the options, which were limited to going down with the ebb, and leaving the Deben if conditions outside were favourable. We decided to try to get to Titchmarsh Marina in the Walton Backwaters from where we might sail down the Wallet on Thursday. The dinghies rowed out of the creek and Mark S again joined Herman aboard Cateran. We rigged and waited for Herman to weigh anchor and get away safely. We made mostly long and short tacks down river and were relieved that wind and wave conditions at the entrance were tolerable. With any sort of onshore wind, conditions here can be difficult with the ebb. Cateran sailed out into deeper water while John chose to keep inshore cutting in over the shallows. We made long tacks down the coast, against the ebb which runs north east here, and John crept ahead. In Merganser we encountered a few shallow spots which forced us out towards the buoys of the main shipping channel. Large ferries were coming up to Harwich harbour with regularity, so we waited for one to pass and, near the Rolling Ground buoy, reached across the dredged channel, before tacking up towards the Pye End Buoy. We had lost sight of Cateran which had sailed a longer route in deeper water. With the new flood we made good progress past Walton Stone and up the channel with its lines of yacht moorings. Turning into the Twizzle we drew up to the entrance of the marina, to find that we needed short tacks to get up to the first pontoon where the Grey Boat was tied up.


Cateran beating past Felixstowe

There followed a couple of relaxing hours when we put tents up, sorted and dried gear, and sampled the hot showers. In the evening we went to the Harbour Lights Restaurant for our supper.

Thursday: [HW Felixstowe 10.12 BST] We awoke to another cloudy but dry morning, with winds SW F3/4. Some of us went back to the restaurant to have our breakfast on the terrace, while we discussed the best time to set off. Taking the ebb out of the Backwaters would be a cinch with a fair wind, but heading south west down the Wallet, we would have a foul tide until low water, into a south westerly wind. However we wanted as many daylight hours as possible, so decided to set off at mid-day. This time I sailed with Herman, and the two Marks sailed Merganser.

We motored Cateran out and unfurled the foresail, making good progress down the channel and out to the Pye End Buoy. With mainsail set we were able to lay a course towards the Stone Banks buoy. Off the Naze we made several tacks and, against the tide, it took some time to get Walton Pier on the beam. The dinghies had kept closer inshore and steadily drew away from us. Cateran has a lifting keel, and with it right down, we could not stay so close inshore. We were able to have a consoling brew of tea and some lunch, though, and I knew the tide would slacken and turn in our favour eventually, but the wind was dropping all the time. Our speed was dropping too, so we had to take out the last reef.

It seemed to take an age to reach Clacton, but we crawled past the pier and started looking for the landmarks of Jaywick. I was now calculating whether we would get into the Colne in daylight, but at least the tide was edging us westwards, and we started looking out for the North Eagle or Colne Bar buoys. Distantly we saw a mark which transpired to be the Colne Point buoy, and we noticed the depth had decreased dramatically. Sailing at such a slow speed we were making a lot of leeway and being pushed over the shallows of the Colne Bar, so I said to Herman “This is a good time to get that engine going!” He fired her up, and we were soon punching into the waves towards the buoy and the deeper water. There we were able to bear away into the Colne as the light was fading. By the time we had covered the two miles to Mersea Stone it was getting gloomy, but we could see the dinghies at the beach. We motored around trying to judge the right spot to place the anchor, which is tricky with such a steeply shelving shore. We wanted to get the anchor in some mud, as the commercial craft pass quite close to the Stone. When we had motored the anchor in securely, John rowed his boat alongside and we bundled some gear in quickly to spend the night ashore with the others. Once again we were pitching tents in the dark, and then it was time to pool some food ingredients for a communal meal. My photos tell me we were finishing our meal off at 10.30pm.

mersea stone 02

Our fleet at Mersea Stone, Friday morning, 29 Aug

Friday: [HW Felixstowe 11.14, Sheerness 12.16] We awoke to another cloudy morning with a light south westerly wind. After a leisurely breakfast we packed our gear and stowed it in the dinghies. The tides presented a bit of a conundrum for getting back to the Roach. With the tide ebbing all afternoon, we had little chance of getting over the Ray Sand until quite late. We decided to postpone departure until the afternoon, and go for a walk first. [It turned out to be a nice walk, I had not realised that Mersea Island offers such good rambling possibilities - Website Ed.] Our walk took us through the country park to the beach at the eastern end of Mersea Island. We walked west past several holiday parks and eventually drew near to the fringes of West Mersea. Behind a row of gaily painted beach huts, we found a café where we were able to get some lunch and sit out at a picnic table. After lunch we took paths back across the island to the Pyefleet and back to the Stone, arriving at about 3.30pm.

beach huts 01

The gaily painted beach huts mentioned above

We set off into a now light southerly wind with some ebb to help us down the Colne. In these conditions the dinghies got well ahead of Cateran, particularly after I had put her on the mud through not tacking quickly enough. Herman wound the keel up a few inches and we were moving again. By the time we had crossed the deep water channel that runs out from the Blackwater and found the shoals of the Bachelor Spit, it must have been getting on for 7pm. Herman was not too happy that we only had a few inches under the keel, and we were still about five miles from the Ray Sand buoy. Considering our options, and the fading light, we decided we would head for Bradwell and make another attempt early in the morning. I rang Mark S on my mobile phone and told him of our plan. We left it that we might meet up in the Crouch the next morning. We were able to put the helm up and bear away into the Blackwater, and with the flood tide, we were making a satisfying 6 knots over the ground, as demonstrated on H’s GPS gadget, which I was beginning to take a fancy to. At 8pm we anchored inside the breakwater just off Bradwell power station, which has now been decommisioned, and is no longer the humming, brilliantly lit place it used to be. A few lights did show, as it presumably still has to be staffed for security reasons. Herman put out a riding light, and we eased ourselves into his cabin, which is divided by the case and mechanism for the keel. We concocted a meal before turning in early, intending to make a start as soon as it was light. We should have tied up the halliards, but I think we were both too tired to remember. At high water around midnight we rolled around quite a lot, and there was a lot of noise from ropes and the anchor chain, all of which seem to be beating a tatoo on the hull or cabin top. We would probably have been better off in Bradwell Creek, but it would have taken longer to go and find a mooring in the twilight.

In the meantime the two dinghies had sailed into the Ray Sand channel as far as possible before running out of water. Here they stopped and had a meal. I am told that a bottle of red wine I had left in Merganser’s locker was broached; well, it was there for emergencies! When the water was deep enough they sailed on into the Crouch andanchored at Wallasea Ness for the night.

Saturday: [HW Sheerness 13.06] It was light by 6am when Herman and I roused ourselves. I made some tea, and we prepared to get under way. The wind was F2 and had backed into the east, so we were glad of the last of the ebb as we tacked across towards the Nass Beacon. Soon the tide turned against us and we had to claw our way to windward, trying to keep to the shallower edge of the Blackwater by watching the depth sounder. We were cheered by the sun which shone at last, and by the knowledge that the rising tide was covering St Peter’s Flats, easing our way to the next objective, the east cardinal beacon that marks the north east submerged target barge. As we attempted to ease off and get around it we got a vivid impression of the tide that was now running and threatening to pin us against it. We passed it at 09.30 and then had the joy of sailing fast on a beam reach knowing we were sailing directly towards the Ray Sand buoy, or at least the position H had programmed into his GPS, as the buoy is impossible to see from this distance. In fact it transpired that the buoy had been moved about half a mile east, but this did not trouble us as there was plenty of water. I had received a phone call earlier in the morning so we knew that the others were planning to take a short trip up to Burnham. When we turned into the Roach we anchored at 11.15 and Herman prepared us a well-earned brunch. From the east cardinal mark to our anchorage we had covered 9.5 miles in 1 hour 45 minutes. The wind had strengthened to F4 from the east, but the sunshine was pleasant, and we sat back and enjoyed watching the Burnham racing fleets with their colourful spinnakers. At 14.00 we saw Merganser coming into the Roach with one reef, and they soon spotted Cateran and sailed up towards us while I took some photos - see below.

merganser 01

Merganser in the Roach

When John and Josephine appeared it was time for us to weigh anchor and proceed back to the mooring at Paglesham. We sailed back under the foresail and picked up the mooring, though this was not straightforward, as the dinghy painter somehow ended up under the hull, with the mooring one side and the dinghy the other. We could not get the knot untied so had to cut the rope at the dinghy stem. This wasn’t the end of our problems as the boat ended up with the mooring line caught under the hull which was now beam on to the ebb, a situation that can occur in wind against tide conditions with a rope mooring line. We managed to unwind her with help from the outboard engine, and Herman rowed off to get Dally, the RSA motorised tender, and we took our gear ashore.

Altogether 2008 was a satisfying summer cruise; though we had little sunshine, we were lucky to be able to sail every day, considering the very strong winds that had prevailed during the previous two weeks.