Monday, 21 December 2009

Freeze-aboard sailing...

Quite what makes people do this, I'll never know...  I am unable to translate the Dutch, but it all seems extremely cold and, well, a little bit bonkers...  Secretly, however, just a little jealous.

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Reflections on a sailing season

A comment recently received on this blog was in response to the last statement on my previous post.  It stated that I was clearly not a 'real' sailor in anticipating the need to prepare Daisy II for her winter 'hibernation'.  Presumably 'real' sailors sail on throughout the year, come wind or weather.

Clearly I'm not a 'real' sailor, by this person's standards.  It is always good to see the local sailing club's sailors on their boxing day meet; I wouldn't mind keeping a small racing dinghy one day.  I suspect there are some Drascombers who keep their options open just in case there is a free winter day which happened to be suitable.  Stewart Brown, of Churchouse Boats, once commented that such days are 'days gained' over and above the usual expected cruising season.  However, such days are few and far between, and there comes a point where it is kinder on the 'hardware' to bring spars, sails, engine and other trimmings into a warmer environment - in my case, the garage, loft, wardrobe or under the bed. 

Drascombers do like to sail in company - a recent PBO article commented on the Drascombe Association's 'Spanish Armada-sized rallies' - although this is not an essential part of my sailing - I'm far more likely to sail solo.  Even in such company, racing is never really on the agenda, since Drascombes are not fast boats.  We like to take time to reach destinations, take in the scenery and  have flexible itineraries, based more around food and drink, rather than time and tide. 

For me, relaxed sailing is the aim, not gripping the sheets with backside hanging over the gunwhales.  I'm not averse to bad weather, but it is more difficult to cruise in a relaxed manner in the cold, and the short daylight hours from November through to March would presumably make a night stop almost interminably exhausting.  I once spent the night at anchor in the Walton Backwaters during the Easter holiday, during which time temperatures dropped to zero celsius...cold enough to think twice about any such trip during the winter months.  Added to this, it does the boat no favours whatsoever to languish on a mooring in the hope that a suitable opportunity arises.  Living inland, as I do, the trip to the sea is also a barrier. 

Hence, she sits on the drive, covered, taking time to reflect on seasons past, and looking forward to the next...

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

October 25-26, Hickling Broad, Norfolk

Time for the sailing season's coda...

Early (recklessly early) on the morning of October 24th, Daisy II was relieved of her sentry duty on the Orwell.  I woke up at 3am in St Ives (roughly high tide at Pin Mill) and, on a whim, decided there and then to head off to the coast to take the boat off her mooring, rather than to wait, as planned, until the tide later in the day.  Arriving at Pin Mill at about 4.30am, there was little time to lose, since the tide was already disappearing from the workable end of the hard.  Somehow, through wind and rain and almost pitch black darkness, I managed to take my dinghy out to the boat, start up the outboard, cast off, and feel my way back to shore.  How I didn't crash into other moored boats, I will never know.  I managed, only just, to ground the boat on the end of the hard, jumped off the boat and dragged her a few feet further aground, so that her bow was safely pointing towards land, and the stern was hanging over the edge of the Grindle.  I then waited for the tide to disappear, backed the trailer down the hard, and winched the boat onto the trailer from the mud.  By the time I was back up at the slipway, dawn was upon us.  Why do I do these things...?

A simple answer is a promised trip to the Norfolk Broads the following day.
Early afternoon on Sunday 25th, I launched Daisy II at Hickling Broad.  There are a number of options, here.  Whispering Reeds Boatyard offer a rather awkward slipway, with crooked access and, at over £10 each way, not inexpensive.  The pub landlord owns another slip which he has made some attempt at renovating although it still needs a little work done to bring it up to the standard of the last and best option of all.  There are a couple of Parish slipways which, at £4 for launching, and, by arrangement, provide a perfect starting point for a trip.  The picture shows the recovery of the boat, a day later.  The second of the parish slips can be seen in the background.  The slip is well maintained, consisting of a wooden slope of reasonable gradient, with a hard area at the top, and eminently sensible as a launching option.  I gather there is a sill over which one must not take the trailer wheels, but, launching with swinging cradle trailers, we Drascombers don't like the water lapping any higher than the top of the lower rim of the tyre, so the sill provides no danger.  There is plenty of room for the boat to float off the rear of the trailer and, although the canal leading down to the Broad is heavily congested with moored boats, there is sufficient room to tie up whilst finding a home for car and trailer, prior to a gentle motor round to the public moorings.

The Broads have a series of short visit tolls which are expensive for the two day visit I had planned. It is a pity they do not offer a daily or two day option.  Tolls can be paid for at the boatyard at Hickling.

I chose to base my trip from the public moorings owned by the pub - £3 per night.  The landlord is most accommodating, and there are some fine beers on tap - the food looks good too, but in this respect I was catering for myself...

Over the two days, I managed a number of trips across Hickling Broad, and along into Horsey Mere.  Both stretches of water provide a fantastic, virtually non-tidal (there is still a small rise and fall this far from Great Yarmouth) sailing environment.  The GPS track shows that I had a good go at 'colouring in' both Hickling Broad (on the West of the image) and Horsey Mere.  (Total distance travelled: 24.5nm.)  On the Sunday and for the first half of Monday, winds were a fresh F4 gusting 5.  Later on Monday, a more consistent F3 allowed for some fantastic sailing with all three up.

The depth of water on both stretches rarely exceeds a metre, as shown by my echo sounder, but there is a workable consistency of depth for a Drascombe with a dropping centre plate which seems to provide access to the whole broad, barring the odd obstruction invariably marked out by convenient withies.  I have heard reports of problems with weeds on centreplates in the summer, but encountered no such issues on this trip.

I have to confess, I was brought up with Exmoor as a backdrop and, having been spoilt from such an early age, miss the landscapes offered by rugged moorland.  However, East Anglia offers its own peculiar charm.  I referred to this in my account of the area around Orford Ness and Snape Maltings.  The Norfolk Broads offers a similarly inspiring landscape.  There is something truly magical about the combination of wind, reeds and water.  Thanks to an inconveniently narrow bridge at Potter Heigham, the Hickling and Horsey area of the Broads is far less cluttered with hire boats and, for the most part, boaters, fisherpersons and nature lovers are able to indulge in their respective hobbies free from reckless interference...

This picture shows the inviting view from Hickling Staithe, onto Hickling Broad.

The trip from Hickling to Horsey Mere.  When reached, Horsey Mere is another hidden gem, perfect for sailing, and has the added attraction of a National Trust Mill, together with a pleasant walk to the coast - this corner of the Broads is only a couple of miles from the North Sea coast...

The total GPS track for the season now stands at 348.9nm.  Whilst the boat will now stay off her mooring until next Spring, I'm planning a couple of trips to some inland reservoirs - such as Rutland Water - prior to putting on the wraps for winter...!

A cornucopia of late Sept, early October tracks on the River Orwell!

Various tracks from Early October and late September, including another jaunt up to Ipswich.  Total distance: 13.8nm

Sunday, 13 September 2009

September day sailing

Some more tracks of day sailing on and around the Orwell.  This one is from 6th September.  Breezy day, with some F5 gusts.  Took a short trip to the mouth of the Orwell, anchored for lunch, and then returned.  7.7nm
This trip was on 12 September - a very pleasant NE veering E F3 breeze allowed for a trip round into the Stour to Holbrook Bay.  On the return, there was time for a series of long tacks into the Easterly breeze, initially against the last of the flood tide.  After reaching the midpoint of Harwich ferry terminal, the setting sun called time on the fun, and I fired up the outboard for a return to the mooring against the ebb.  23.5nm. 
Total cruising distance for the season is now 310.6 nm

Monday, 31 August 2009

August 30th - another trip to Ipswich

Trip with Sally and Tom - last trip before end of summer hols...
We travelled South East down the Orwell to have lunch anchored opposite Levington Creek. Then we sailed in the opposite direction to Ipswich, and back the the mooring.
Season's total up to 279.4nm.

Saturday, 29 August 2009

Trip up the Stour, August 25-26

This trip was much overdue - I've not visited the Stour nearly as much as I ought - a lovely estuary. Perhaps the thing that has put me off as much as anything is the state of the water, when rounding Shotley point into the Stour, which is often fairly heavy, especially in a westerly. This time, I worked my way up to Wrabness (red track), and sheltered for the night in the lea of the cliff on the South side of the river - all well and good until the tide turned, and the incoming tide against a fresh Westerly breeze created a fairly uncomfortable night! That's the Stour. I always have difficulty finding a comfortable anchorage, since, at some stage, wind and tide come into conflict, and there seem to be few obvious places of refuge. The best solution, last year, was to dry out in Holbrook Bay!

Sunrise on the Stour - looking East towards Harwich & Felixstowe.
On Wednesday 26th, after an early breakfast, I motored past Wrabness up to Mistley, and then used the remaining ebb, and a freshening Southerly breeze to sail East along the Stour and then the new flood tide back to Pin Mill (yellow track above). The wind was very gusty. At one point, even with reefed jib and mizzen, I achieved almost 5 knts... Earlier, with all three up, reefed main, almost 7knts was achieved, although the wind was unpredictable, and the boat became difficult to control in the gusts - hence the reduction in rig for a more leisurely cruise.

Mistley from the Stour

Approaching Mistley

Moored boats at Wrabness

including the Drascombe longboat, Camilla Rose, which, along with her owner John, came on this year's Walton Rally
The trip's track was 23.8nm. We're up to 268.8nm for the entire season...

Thursday, 13 August 2009

Summer Cruise, 7-11 August, Rivers Deben, Ore, Alde and Stour

This is the most ambitious cruise I have attempted thus far. The plan was to explore the Deben, Ore and Alde. In the event, the weather was sufficiently clement for a bonus trip on the Stour. The following picture shows the GPS track of the complete trip which amounted to 88.5 nm over four days of cruising.

GPS track of whole trip - red (8th August), blue (9th), yellow (10th) and green (11th).

I arrived at the mooring late in the afternoon on Friday 7th August, and after loading the boat, spent the remainder of the evening reading and relaxing.
On Saturday 8th, I set off for the Deben. Because of the need to work the tides, I motor sailed most of the way. The Deben entrance and Orford Haven are notorious for their shifting shoals and it is necessary to check the latest online information prior to attempting any such navigation. I was able to enter the Deben a couple of hours prior to high tide.
Entrance to the River Deben
Felixstowe Ferry, on the port bank, is the first place of note - I launched here in April 2007 on one of my first trips on Daisy II, the only previous occasion I had sailed on the Deben. Today it looked rather busy...
Felixstowe Ferry

Beyond Felixstowe Ferry, the outboard motor was put to bed, and I had a pleasant sail reaching Ramsholt by lunch time. Initially, I anchored opposite the Ramsholt Arms, the reason for which escapes me at present...

Anchorage opposite the Ramsholt Arms
The afternoon & early evening were spent reading and doing various other jobs on board. Later in the evening, I moved the boat to a more suitable overnight location further upstream off Prettyman's Point close to The Rocks where most visiting boats seem to anchor - on Sunday morning, I counted at least 17 in this stretch.
On Sunday, an early start offered no wind, but some tranquil views of Waldringfield.
I arrived at Woodbridge in time for elevenses, occupying a vacant mooring and going for a stroll into town. Following a relaxing morning, I then decided to do battle against both wind and tide (crazy, but that us why I have an outboard motor), working my way downstream, out to sea, and North East towards Orford Haven.Departure from Woodbridge - soon after this was taken, I passed through 'Loder's Cut' coincidentally meeting Amity II which is owned by some friends of my sister-in-law, who keep their boat at Woolverstone on the Orwell. It's a small world...
It took about 45 minutes from the mouth of the Deben to reach the Ore entrance which was more difficult to negotiate than the Deben. Arriving, as I did, at high tide on the turn, it was much more difficult to spot the shoals, and I was grateful for a couple of departing yachts showing me the way, which was disconcertingly close to the shore. That having been said, there is something rather magical about Orford Haven.
Approach to Orford Haven (the entrance is in the distance left of the jib sheet)

One of the easier shoals to detect...

...past the bar, looking up the Ore (if you'll pardon the expression)...
Thanks to this pair for showing the way.

And, while we're at it, the following view was taken a couple of days later on departing the Ore at low tide, looking from the inside out, as it were:

I love the bleak aspect of this picture which, more than anything else, captures the remoteness of Orford Haven.
Motoring against an ebbing Ore is a slow, noisy business, but I worked my way past several waterskiers upstream to Dove Point on the South West end of Havergate Island, and then turned North West through the Lower Gull, and then North East, past the entrance to the Butley River, into the intriguingly named Abraham's Bosum, which, I correctly reckoned on being a suitable anchorage.
Orford Castle was already in view, as were various buildings on Orford Ness (called The Pagodas) which belong to Ministry of Defence and are strictly no-go areas. A pity - I gather the MOD have moved out now, and this looks just like the sort of place for an interesting ramble. I think it is all owned by the National Trust these days, and one can visit this area from Orford - something to do in future. Anyhow, Monday morning afforded gentle winds and I was in no hurry. I took the opportunity, under jib and mizzen on the flood, to work my way upstream and catch a few snaps of these places.
Orford Castle and church, from Abraham's Bosom...!
Approaching Orford

Radio masts transmitting BBC's World Service
The Pagodas...

I decided not to stop at Orford, tempted even as I was by the knowledge that there are some fish-smoking outlets there (and having previously visited the castle). The morning sail took me on towards Aldeburgh where there was an extraordinarily busy scene with, literally, hundreds of sailing dinghies crowding onto the water (presumably for some sort of regatta).
The scene is somewhat lost in this early photo, but there was no opportunity to use a camera close up, since I was too busy avoiding collisions - queues of boats piling onto an already crowded estuary. I was reminded of a war scene from the films of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, with seemingly endless numbers of orcs swarming from their lairs...
I didn't stop there, continuing on the River Alde, as the Ore becomes somewhere between Orford and Aldeburgh, to Snape, which was the furthest intended point of the trip. The channel, as one approaches Snape, past and beyond the village of Iken, is marked out by a series of withies. Some have improvised red pots on top, presumably identifying themselves as port markers. Even fewer have green ones (starboard markers), and the majority having nothing at all, and steering a path through them all is rather like playing a giant dot-to-dot puzzle. Having gone aground a couple of times, the second time offering an opportunity for a timely coffee stop, I decided to wait for a boat to come down the other way to show the way. A Cornish Shrimper duly obliged, and I was able to weave my way up towards Snape and the world famous Maltings.
A mud bath?
Mudbanks sandwiching the progress of the meandering river downstream, with helpful (?) withies attempting to mark out the appropriate channel towards Snape Maltings in the distance ...
almost there, now...
final furlong - or should that be the 'culminating cable'?
There is something magical about Snape. You can almost hear the four 'sea interludes' from Britten's Peter Grimes whispering through the reeds. These days, the place has become rather too commercial for my taste, with dreadfully twee and not inexpensive shopping outlets and cafeterias. Can't help feeling that Britten would be proud of his musical legacy here, but I hope he would have taken a dim view of the confounded side shows...
A convenient berth

The famous Henry Moore sculpture looking out over the Reeds towards Iken Church...another scene which, like the picture at the mouth of the Ore (above), for me captures the essence of this beautiful place, the solitude and haunting tranquility of Orford Haven and the Alde.
Snape Maltings Concert Hall - must go to a concert there one day...

Following lunch at Snape, I worked my way back towards Aldeburgh, and anchored off Old Brick Dock, in order to walk into Aldeburgh, buy a pint of milk, and, in the event, to walk along the sea shore at Aldeburgh, and back along the tidal defences protecting Aldeburgh from the Alde... It is fascinating to see how close the Alde flows to the actual sea - a tiny spit of land, barely 100 yards wide is all that separates the two at this point. Fascinating Geography.
anchored off the Old Brick Dock for a pleasant circular walk around Aldeburgh.
Later that evening, I moved my anchorage to the opposite bank for more shelter and a night stop.
On Tuesday, I left the anchorage at 6.45am using the last of the ebb for the most glorious sail down the Alde, Ore, through Orford Haven and along the coast to Harwich, using the SW tidal currents of the flood tide. I used all three sails, unreefed - gentle winds mostly, with maximum gust F3/4.
Leaving the River Ore

The view South West along the East Coast, past the Deben entrance, towards Old Felixstowe

Back amongst the big ships...

I arrived within Harwich Harbour by 11am, calling in at Halfpenny Pier, off Old Harwich, for an indifferent lunch at one of the few remaining pubs (I walked past three which have recently called time once and for all) in a town sadly losing its identity. Once upon a time, this must have been an old tar's paradise. Today, it seems in need of some care and attention.

Because I could, I performed a 'coda', a pleasant beat up the Stour almost as far as Holbrook Bay, until the wind died...whereupon another coffee break led to an invigorated breeze, and a run returning to Harwich.

Royal Hospital School at Holbrook (nice work if you would want it...)
A departing ferry; the ship's horn makes an tremendously resonant sound (I often hear them at Pin Mill), and the ship can seemingly 'turn on a sixpence'...(well, almost). However, I kept my distance...

Lastly, I motored round Shotley Point, past the Felixstowe Container ship terminal (astonishing to thing that one of those can take about 3000 lorries worth)...

... and against the full ebb, home to Pin Mill.
The total journey of 88.5nm brings the season's total up to 245.0nm, still a good way short of A.C. Stock's 1996 total of 1609 miles (A.C. Stock: Sailing just for fun, Seafarer Books), but then there's nothing like a target for future years...

Self-portrait of some old sea dog...