In September I took Sea Bear down to visit the Medway. On the first day I sailed down the Wallet toanchor at Pyefleet for the night. Next day up to and across the Wallet Spitway, crossing the top of the Whitaker spit and down the Middle Deep and West Swinto join the Thames, upriver then past Shoebury Ness until I crossed the main channelby the Nore Swatch and so entered the Medway. I proceeded to enter Stangate creek to anchor for the night.
On of my reasons for this Medway visit was to visit the historic dockyard of Chatham docks so I motored up the Medway to enter and berth at Gillingham marina. That evening I took a walk to a nice old pub in Gillingham called the Ship.
The Ship Inn, Gillingham
The next day I walked to the Historic Dockyard, it turned out to be a little farther to walk than I expected, Chathman marina is nearer .It was a very interesting day wondering around the various exhibits and I particularly enjoyed the ropemaking. The placeis well worth a visit.
Inside of shed roof
sailing barge & dock
Leaving the Marina ventured further up the river to see Upnor & Upnor Castle. It was interesting to visit this spot as this was where my sailing mentor and friend Don had grown up and learnt to sail.
Then Iturned back down the river to once more anchor at Stangate creek.
It had been my desire to complete my trip by visiting Queensborough and sail around the Isle of Sheppy but the forecast wind was from the NW and the pilot advised that the anchorage was not sheltered in those conditions. Another consideration was the tides would be wrong a – too late in the day for completing the passage to Harty Ferry in daylight. So I left it for another day.
Instead I headed back across the Thames and up the West Swin and Middle Deepacross the Wallet Spitway and so the Pyefleet. I did briefly consider making for the Orwell directly but decided it wouldn’t be worth having to buck the tide and tiredness later, beside Pyefleet is a nice anchorage even it is a bit of a diversion. A good sail the next day took me back to my mooring on the Orwell.
The descriptions for entering the Ore had always seemed a little daunting but in August I summoned up enough courage to visit. Of course conditions had to be right, this year there had seemed to a lot of on-shore winds so a visit had been put off. One difficultly of timing a visit from the Orwell is that to arrive at the Ore bar at good time to cross the bar (2hrs before high water) you have to go against the ebb from Felixstowe to there so first visit timing is tricky
As it turned out, with a good windI arrived at the Orford Haven clearwater buoy at just about the perfect time so headed in for the bar under sail and conditions were good. Still it was a bit nerve wracking for a first time entrance as the channel is quite narrow and it didn’t help that a faster boat was on my tail and shouting at me that they couldn’t slow down. (Well they could have I thought if they had hauled in their main a little or even scandalised it). Still they managed to pass safely enough. Thereafter it was more straightforward
I took thechannel around the back ofHavergate island where I dropped the hook in Long Gull. Lots of birds here as Havergate Island is a bird sanctuary
Next day I proceeded up the river past Oreford and further where the river changes it’s name to the Aldeup to Aldborough threading my way through the rows of moorings here and then to arrive atCob island to anchor again a very peaceful spot.
by Cob island
In the morning I reversed my course down the river next day and anchored just short of Flybury point to wait the tide.
Martello tower ccc
I left here 2 hrs before high water which meant I had to buck the incoming tide but its is recommendedthat it is foolish to leave on the ebb and besides the tide is not really strong until you get to the bar. Here is was strong lots of ripples & eddies and you pass so close to the beach on side and the sand banks on the other , there is a side entrance as it were where the tide rushes in at you and even with engine progress is slow so it kind of prolongs the agony and suspense. It was quite a relief to pass the buoys and head out for the clearwater buoy. There I could relax and have a very pleasant sail back down the coast to rejoin the Orwell and so back to my mooring.
In early July I was down on Sea Bear for the annual Thames Barge match race on the Orwell. I watched from opposite the start line as the first pairs of barges started then I followed on down the river, out past Felixstowe, out to sea round the Pye end bouy then back and up the Stour before returning to Pin Mill. It was fine weather and fair winds. It was great to see so many barges out a sailing. When I see a sailingbarge it always reminds me of when, as a youngster our family holidays were taken on Canvey Island and we would see the barges sailing past. In those days the ’50’sthey were still working barges, so I must have witnessed some of their last days as coastal trading vessels.
I had a few days on the boat in June. I had planned to go down to river Colne first then perhaps further south. However the wind was from the SW and strong at first. I had a look at going out via the Wallet but it would have been no fun so instead went up the Stour, anchoring first at Copperas bay then by Stutton Ness. Here I saw a deer going for a swim in the river, quite remarkable. At the height of the tide we went up for a closer look at Mistley. It appears that the fence is still up on the quay there despite the High Court order that it be taken down.
The weather had calmed down and the tides were right so I thought it time for my first visit to the Deben. It is a bit scary first time with the waves (gentle in this case) breaking on the shingle banks and the channel passing close to the beach. But I entered under sail with a favourable wind and the tide still under me, whoseing me down the channel and I was soon proceeding calmly up the river.
I picked up a mooring by the Ramsholt Arms. Next day I went up as far as Waldringfield before turning around and heading back to Felixstowe Ferry and out over the bar.
The exit I found slightly more nerve wracking than the entrance surprisingly. I had timed it for HW slack so the exit took longer and from the red buoy by Felixstowe ferryyou cannot see the green marking the knoll spit so you just have to follow the shoreline as you do not want to stray too far towards the shingle banks. Just a few days before a yacht on exiting had done this and gone aground – a feat I did not want to repeat.
Thames sailing barge in the Wallet
Early the next day I took the tidedown the Wallet to Brightlingsea, calm condition but no wind. But of course arrived to anchor in Pyefleet creek and the wind came. The next day forecast spoke of the winds veering to the NE and strengthening to F7 so I decided to head back early rather than having to beat up the Wallet with wind over tide. In the event I had a crackingsail back with a nice F4-5 on the beam and the aft quarter.
Back on the mooring the wind departed and a peaceful eve was had before departing for home the next day.
I had several long conversations with a friend, Ian, as he was in the process of buying a boat. For some reason he was looking to me for advice but also I suspect because talking with someone else over what to do with reference to sorting out an old boat can help decide one’s own mind about a course of action. He used to own a boat but years ago. Ian is another of those climbers who have taken to sailing. It is amazing how many older or ex climbers take to sailing.
In August I went down to join Ian and Abi on their boat in Wareham as he, feeling somewhat rusty wanted me to help them on a delivery trip to take the boat to its new home in Scotland. He had been down in the boatyard there for a month, working on and sorting out many little and larger things that needed sorting on an old boat. Anyway when I got there it was obvious somethings still needed sorting but could be labelled minor tweaks or improvements and the boat was evidently seaworthy. Ian was keen to leave on the high tide the next day so be it. The boat Duloe by the way was a Nicholson 31.
We were dogged on this trip a little by the weather, lots of strong headwinds, rain but we proceeded by day hops, Wareham – Portland – Brixham – Dartmouth – Cawsand Bay – Fowey – Helford – Newlyn- Dale. I left them at Milford Haven as I had run out of time, needing to be back home for an important appointment. Anyways I reckoned that they were competent enough to complete the rest of the trip and it would boost their self confidence to do so and of course they managed just fine.
My next time on Sea Bear, the tides and winds were right for a gentle trip up to the head of the Orwell. My last trip up there was back in 2001 or 2002 in my Wanderer dinghy. Anyway sailing up was fine, slow progress but relaxing but on the return beating back down the river I discovered how sluggish the boat was and barely responding to the tiller. It became apparent that there was so much growth on the bottom and I needed a scrub.
Accordingly a day later when the tides served I went alongside the scrubbing posts at Pin Mill. I must confess it was a pretty hard task to tie on to the posts single handed and I thought I was about to make a grand cock up and embarrass myself but by dint of a bit of lassoing I was able to save the situation, phew!
Then just a question of waiting for the tide to drop and when the water was about knee deep with wet suit donned , splash about and give the hull a good scrape and scrub. Job done, another wait which I occupied by cooking dinner. It was around midnight when there was enough water to float off and motor back to the mooring but boy was it a dark night so that was no easy matter.
Towards the end of the month I was back on the boat. Relaxing in the cockpit I had a surprise call from the Guardian journalist who had interviewed me about my trip and now they wanted to send a photographer to take some pictures of me and my boat. I said I would meet them next day. Alicia duly arrived and I ferried her out to Sea Bear in the dinghy. We chatted for ages and she took her pictures, never knew that posing could be such hard work.
The Guardian photographer Alicia
The article about me appeared in the Guardian on-line in a series entitled “A New Start after 60” .
I had a couple of articles accepted and published in the yachting magazines, PBO & Yachting Monthly about my big trip & solo Pacific crossing I was quite pleased about that . If you are interested you can read them here.
For what turned out to be my last sail of the season I had thought to venture to the Deben but out past Felixstowe the winds were all wrong and then died away leaving me to wallow about in a slight swell for a while. The wind did return but too late to make the tide for the Deben entrance so a change of plan and I headed back in and up the Stour. I found quite a nice anchorage by Sutton Ness for a peaceful night and was astounded by the number of swans around.
Returning past Wrabness next day I was quite taken by the higgledy piggledy collection of bungalows and shacks. Thought it a shame that the beach here was private and landing discouraged.
Later rounding Shotley spit to get back to the Orwell near low water I was a slightly confused that Shotley horse bouy was missing, it had been there the day before. I later discovered that they had removed it as it is a seasonal mark. It was scheduled to be removed on or around the 18th but they had taken it away by the 14th.
Still I had a nice beat all the way back to the mooring.
It was not long after first light and sortly after low tide when I slipped the mooring and headed off down the river. I had arrived at the boat the previous afternoon. There was no one else about at this early hour and if I had been more virtuous I would have arisen a little earlier to make the most of the tide, but sometimes the comforts of a warm bunk and of leaving when it islight rather than in the dark are too strong. There was no wind at first but just short of the docks of Felixstowe a gentle breeze sprang up and all sails were soon hoisted. Past Harwich and I could set a course close hauled to take me down the Medusa channel with the benefit of the flood tide under me. The wind direction was not ideal as my course was taking me out towards the Gunfleet Sands. There was low cloud so the all that could be seen of the wind farm were the towers, the rotors hidden from view. When the Gunfleetold light came close it was time to tack to avoid running into the Sands. With this new course combined with the change in direction of the coast I could lay the Knoll north Cardinal . Gradually the cloud was lifting and the sun was making a sporadic appearance. We weren’t making a fast passage but it was pleasant easy sailing none-the less. Passing the Knoll a slight course alteration took me to the Eagle and thence the Colne Bar buoy and I could, with the wind astern, run into the Colne. Going into a new place always leaves one slightly apprehensive, transferring ones interpretation of the chart into what is before ones eyes is where the strain of single handing becomes most apparent. Have you got everything right? Just where are you going to round up to hand the sails, have you identified the creek entrance correctly, where is best spot to anchor? So it always somewhat with relief when you finally let go the hook, stow the sails and get the kettle on for a brew. I was anchored just inside the entrance to Pyefleet Creek and in enough water to stay afloat at low tide, though I was assured that should I touch, the mud was soft enough that I wouldn’t know the difference.
Next morning there was no wind, grey skies and with rain or drizzle from time to time so I was quite content to remain peacefully at anchor and watch the world go by and the birds feeding along the shore line. I watched a nice smack, the Maria, hoist all sails and then because of no wind get pushed by its tender. Never seen a smack pushed in this way rather than being towed. Much later they were back, pushed again so it must be their usual thing.
The next day there was some wind so I sailed around to the Blackwater and up this past the moored Radio Caroline just past Bradwell and so up to anchor in the lee of Osea Island. It being Sunday afternoon there were a number of mobos here but they all cleared off later. It is a shame about the private notices on the island, it would be nice to be able to go ashore for a walk here. The forecast was for the wind to go around to the NW and blow rather strongly so I reckoned I was in a good spot here.
Radio Caroline up the Blackwater
When the wind had moderated a day later I shifted around to the Crouch. Out by the Wallet Spitway I was headed by the wind then it fell calm so I ended up motoring through the Spitway. I hadn’t felt bold enough to take the shorter way of the Ray Sand passage so took the long way around. I took the Swallowtail channel to join the Whitaker and so to the Crouch. I had thought to anchor up the Roach but the wind was back northerly and strongly blowing 20 knots or more straight up there. Undecided whether it would be good or not to anchor there I continued on up the Crouch, after a while this didn’t seem like a good decision, the tide was running strongly against me by now, the wind continued blowing strongly and it took what seemed like ages to get past Burnham and up to anchor by Cliff Reach. Here the shelter I thought it had promised proved purely illusory. Nevertheless I was glad to get the hook down and get the tea on.
I stayed there the next couple of days when the wind continued strong and most of the next when the wind eased. One afternoon I took the tide up the river to explore the upper reaches and then back down to re-anchor at Cliff Reach. The forecast had been for strong northerly or northwesterly winds for days, not so good I thought for beating back up the Wallet but at last the wind force was dropping perhaps becoming calm although the direction remained unfavourable for heading back North. Anyway I thought better some wind even if not in a good direction than no windwhich would mean motoring which I hate.So early one morning, bucking the last of the flood I headed down the Crouch and out via the Whitaker channel. Close hauled I could almost hold the course, I just needed one tack back across when we we forced too close to the Foulness Sand. It had started out windy and choppy but gradually the wind eased and it became a pleasant sail. Past the Inner Whitaker and then short of the Whitaker cardinal I tacked towards the Swin Spitwayto cross the Spitway to enter the Wallet. Long tacks up this until short of Frinton-on-Sea where I realised I was losing the battle against the tidewith each tack away from the coast loosing me almost as much ground as I gained tacking shorewards. On with the engine then to motor sail to get past Walton and the Naze. Past here a better angle enabled me to kill the engine but the wind was now dying away so it took a long time up the Medusa. Approaching Felixstowe and suddenly without warning the wind was back 20 +knots so we started to fly but with too much sail aloft to be comfortable. I furled the yankee, would have liked to put a reef in the main but was suddenly in a lot of traffic, other yachts, ferries, fisherman and workboats so concentrated on getting though all this safely. Past the docks the wind departed almost as suddenly as it arrived so a quiet run up the river until the wind died just short of the mooring. Back on the mooring I could put the boat to bed as it were.Later in the eve as I was to turn in for an early night there was a tremendous amount of splashing. Emerging in the cockpit to find out what it was all about I discovered a seal aboard the dinghy, it seemed to be settling in for the night. It was still there early next morning andI had to shoe it away before reclaiming my dinghy and heading ashore and so to home. It had been a reasonably successful exploratory trip despite the unsettled and inclement weather.