Mid may and I was back to the boat. The forecast looked promising with high pressure and good weather, albeit mostly N winds. Now normally I like to get out to the boat around HW, it makes it easier but this time I got badly delayed by a closed road due to an accident so it was 2 hours late, the tide was well out so I got a bit wet and muddy getting to the boat – not a good start.
Just around sunrise next morning I slipped away from the mooring under engine. I was the only boat on the move thais early but I had wanted to catch the last of the ebb down river before picking up the flood down the Wallet. Just before Felixstowe there was some stirring of a breeze so up with the main and past Harwich a gentle breeze allowed me to set all sail and dispense with the services of the engine. After a relaxing sail and surprising seeing no other yachts all day I turned into Pyefleet and anchored.
Next afternoon I waited a little for the tide to make. It was big spring tides and it can be shallow in parts. I got my line out a little wrong and found the mud so I was glad I had waited for a making tide. Soon off and a very gentle breeze wafted down the channel and to Colne Bar and Bench Head and the start of the Blackwater. Running up here the tide was stronger than the wind so the sails hung uselessly. I drifted awhile but then with no steerage way resorted to motoring and I fetched up at Osea Island to anchor here. Later the wind returned and quite strongly. Late evening and I noticed I was closer to the beach than before and also closer to the old pier. I seemed to be dragging. At first puzzled why, on lifting the anchor I found why, the chain was wrapped around the pointy bit of the anchor with a great loop of chain hanging free. Quite how that came to be will remain a mystery but I re-anchored securely and set the anchor alarm.
Next day it was blowing strongly but I had a mind to take the flood up to Maldon as I had never been that far up the river. A partly unfurled Yankee gave me enough drive until up near Heybridge basin when with some discrecton I furled it and putted slowly under engine. The river was cluttered with what seemed like hundreds of sailing dinghies dashing this way and that plus way of the channel was not quite plain for me to see. But slowly all was revealed, the channel felt narrow but was plenty wide enough for a sailing barge on her way downstream to pass me. So I made it up to Maldon and turned around back downstream. I didn’t feel bold enough this time to essay drying out in the mud.
Back at Osea and the anchorage was choppy, as the wind had seemed to go more easterly still I reckoned when the tide turned it would ease out as indeed it did.
My next move I thought to visit the Mersea Quarters, a place I had not pocked my nose into before and should be more sheltered in these conditions. I had a reasonable sail down, very few other boats about.
The Nass beacon marking the entrance was hard to spot but I was aided by another boat making is way in in the distance. The beacon itself is one of those skinny ones and badly in need of a fresh coat of paint. The pilot book mentioned that although there are moorings well out in the Mersea Quarters it should be possible to find room to anchor. Well in these conditions the sea was a little rough, anchoring didn’t look a viable option. There was also a sunken ketch, seaweed festooning its mast and rigging which was somewhat off putting. A VHF call to the yacht club launch directed me to a mooring I could pick up up the Salcott channel – much more sheltered up here.
The forecast only promised more strong winds so I too the opportunity next day to have a run ashore, ferried ashore by the yacht club launch – what luxury. So I did all those things you do ashore – a long walk along the beach, looking at the house boats, a coffee in town, a little shopping ,a lunch, a pleasant way to spend the day and always amazing how much warmer and less windy it is a few yards ashore.
I was in two minds whether to stop another day but the forecast says the winds would ease and indeed. they seemed to and by mid afternoon it seemed almost benign with winds about 9 knots so I decided to leave, mistake one. Virtually as soon as I dropped the mooring up piped the wind, mistake two was not right there turn around and pick up the mooring again. Maybe its just an odd gust I thought. Out nearing the beacon it was obvious this was not just a gust, mistake three not turning round there. Ok I though I’ll just nip down to the Colne see how it goes. Well it was horrid beating down the channel with the tide against the wind blowing 18 – 20 knots. Oh and did I say it was cold. Just to compound my misery the anchor decided to deploy itself when a sheet flicked the capstan switch – I had forgotten to engage to the circuit breaker to guard against such eventualities. Sorted it out but much later I made it to Pyefleet where it was more sheltered and the wind dropped.
Next day was a better day, with a lighter wind, still from the NE so it would mean a day of beating up the Wallet. An afternoon departure to catch the ebb. By Colne Bar buoy I was able to hoist all sail. A long tack took me out past Eagle and Knoll towards the Swin Spitway and then a long tack back towards the coast and Clacton. So it went on tack after tack. Eventually I cleared The Naze with a final tack towards Red Rocks and then one last tack into Felixstowe. By now the sun was setting so the new masthead tricolour got its first proper test. By Harwich shelf we lost the last of the wind but I didn’t really mind that, it would be faster under engine. The dredgers in Felixstowe port were still hard at it working under spotlights. A little later I picked up Sea Bears mooring, there was enough light from a cresent moon and the evening star to ease this. Well despite the weather and winds it had been a reasonable few days away.