Monday, 5 August 2013

East Coast Cruise, July 28th to August 4th

Ceol na Mara and Daisy II beached at Felixstowe Ferry
The long-awaited East Coast Cruise in numbers:
147 nautical miles
224 tacks
5 rivers (Orwell, Ore, Alde, Butley, Deben)
9 boats at various times (Coasters: Daisy II, Virginia, Martha; Dabber: Ceol na Mara; Longboat: Five Alive; Deben Luggers: Debutante, Deben Lugger; Lugger: Cutty Stark; Norfolk Gipsy: anon!)
10 skippers/crew
several pubs and restaurants
incalculable pleasure by all involved!

Overall 147nm; season's total 409.3nm
July 28th: Orwell to the Ore
In a fresh F5 southerly breeze, coasters Daisy II and Virginia worked their way in difficult conditions from the Orwell, against the tide and north east along the coast to Orford Haven.  Deben Lugger Debutante and Lugger Cutty Stark both had teething problems, by way of broken rigs and rigging whilst launching at Suffolk Yacht Harbour - it was to be several days before we managed to meet up again.  
During the sea passage, I cheated by keeping the outboard on tick-over, whilst flying a jib.

On the way to Orford Haven: Daisy II in heavy following seas just beyond the entrance to the Deben
Virginia's skipper used wind power alone. Following seas were heavy and photos don't really do it justice - it was one of those passages where it was much more comfortable looking forward rather than aft...  However, the following film clip gives an idea - Virginia in the distance, somewhere off the coast between the entrance to the Deben and the Ore.
We entered the Ore an hour or so before HW.  Once inside, it was with some relief that I looked back towards the tricky conditions at the entrance.  This video clip, looking back from inside the Ore towards Orford Haven, just about shows the breakers which we had to negotiate.
We then had a rapid broad reach up the Ore to Orford where we had a planned rendezvous with Coaster: Martha and Dabber Ceol na Mara, borrowing a mooring for the night.
Sunset over Orford - a peaceful end to a rocky sea passage.

July 28; Orwell to the Ore; 21.5nm
July 29th - sailing in the Ore; passage to Snape
After a lazy start, we were joined by longboat Five Alive and a Deben Lugger.  We took the ebb sailing against a fresh F4 south westerly, working our way anticlockwise around the Havergate Island nature reserve, and stopping for elevenses on a shingle beach off Orford Ness.
Drascombes off Orford Ness
The trip up to Snape began with a broad reach up the Ore...
Broad reach up the Ore, past Havergate Island
...but was punctuated by stormy F7 gusty winds which struck at Aldeburgh.  We had no choice but to borrow a mooring and see this one out.  Finally, we decided to remove as many wind resistant effects, including mizzen masts, as we motored up the Alde to Snape, negotiating the winding channel marked out by a series of withies.  Fortunately, there was more shelter as we edged towards our destination, and conditions were really quite mild as we worked our way alongside Iken cliffs.

At Snape, we were treated to a venerable display of  Dabber skipper-action, including rowing, swimming and showering!
Dabber captain demonstrating the many facets of dabbering...
Drascombes moored at Snape
Sunset at Snape

July 29: Ore to the Alde and Snape; 18.8nm
July 30th: Snape Maltings to the River Butley
An early start, coinciding with HW saw us depart from Snape, retracing our way along the winding channels and finally setting sail opposite Iken Church.  The plan was to wend our way back to Aldeburgh for breakfast.
Dabber Ceol na Mara sailing past Iken Church

Drascombes sailing down the Alde
At Aldeburgh (Slaughden Quay), coaster Martha pulled out, while various jobs were accomplished and fasts broken.  Winds had, once more, built up so we motored south west along the Ore to Orford.

longboat Five Alive on the Ore
Even I could recognise this bird strutting its way along the mud banks.
Curlews on the mud banks
At Orford, rain and strong winds set in for the afternoon, so we sought permission to shelter on a pontoon outside Orford Sailing Club, making use of facilities at Orford, including a welcome pub and an excellent tea room.  Whilst the officers were clearly not present, those members at the club had no problem with our request.  We were pleased to move aside to allow RNLI access, bringing ashore a serious injury case - this simply substantiated our decision to shelter.
Sailing club pontoons at Orford
Ultimately, however, it was disappointing to note the ensuing frosty tone set by certain representatives of the harbour authorities and the sailing club.  Our intentions were clear, and made all the more necessary by the treacherous weather; it was right that we should stay put, but this was to the obvious consternation of certain individuals, simply because we remained longer than an hour and didn't physically remain with our boats, as their notice required.  It is interesting to note the differing attitudes displayed by ports to visiting boats.  A few days later, at Waldringfield, the authorities and sailing club couldn't have been more welcoming, as detailed below.  Visitors generally spend money in local amenities - we wouldn't have been able to do likewise had we stayed with our boats!  Moreover, our use of mooring facilities was presumably facilitated by local boats simultaneously round the corner using corresponding vacant moorings left empty by cruising boats.

At around 5pm, the weather cleared, as per the forecast and a wonderful evening ensued making possible our planned evening cruise with the tide up the River Butley.

Daisy II on the Butley

We found a wonderful anchorage on the ensuing ebb, in one case rather enforced by the act of going aground.
Dabber Ceol na Mara rowing to its preferred anchoring point
I enjoyed this panorama of sunset on the Butley, even if it makes the gunwhales look rather peculiar...
July 30: Snape to the Butley; 16.1nm
July 31st: from the Ore to the Deben
Today, coasters Virginia and Daisy II took the coastal passage from the Ore to the Deben.  Other participants made a land-based transit, by means of car and trailer.
A seal guarding the entrance to the River Butley
As had been the case all week, forecast wind conditions, unrelentingly southerly/south-westerly, suggested we would be in for a bumpy trip. In the event, winds funnelling up the Ore from its haven were far stronger than anything experienced initially at sea.  Once we had punched a way through the expected outfalls near the red buoy at the entrance, winds completely dropped and we had a frustrating half hour or so where I left the engine on tick-over and drifted down the coast at a speed of around 1kt.  Ultimately, however, winds did get going once again, and I had a two-legged beat with fractional jib and full main.  About two-thirds of the passage complete, conditions were becoming more testing, and I had temporarily lost sight of Virginia, so I hove to and dropped the main.  Subsequently, both boats back in touch, we motored the remaining distance into the Deben, and pulled up for a late lunch at Felixstowe Ferry.
Attendant coasters at Felixstowe Ferry.  Virginia, as might be noticed, features three round portholes either side of the coachwork, whereas Daisy II has a pair.  To my mind, these are far more attractive than the usual oval window given to coasters.  As far as I am aware, only a few other coasters feature such round portholes.  (I would be interested in featuring pictures/details of any such boats in a future article should their owners wish to contact me.)
Felixstowe Ferry panoramic pic
After lunch, winds enabled a rare opportunity for broad reaching and running and, with the ebb, we made swift progress upstream to our intended destination, Waldringfield, rejoining the fleet.  Once there, both sailing club and harbour master went out of their way to welcome us.  We were invited to eat and drink at the clubhouse, use facilities and given a free mooring by the harbour master.  All of this hospitality was warmly received.
July 31: Ore to the Deben; 19.4nm
August 1st; Waldringfield to Felixstowe Ferry to Woodbridge
In terms of sailing conditions, today was undoubtedly the finest day of the trip, with wall-to-wall sunshine and pleasant F3/4 southerly/south-easterly winds.  Ideal for Drascombing.
Ceol na Mara leaving Waldringfield
Alex Haig's Norfolk Gypsy
The photo at the head of this post shows Daisy II and Ceol na Mara on the shingle shoreline at Felixstowe Ferry following a very pleasant beat downstream with the ebb.  Virginia's skipper was indisposed but we were joined by Alex Haig's Norfolk Gypsy which is moored at Waldringfield.
Lunch at Felixstowe Ferry, together with ample time to wander around was most welcome.  Additionally, I had a chance to inspect the hull of Daisy II which, having been in the water since the Wells rally at the beginning of June, was pleasingly free of weed.
On the return trip, winds were easing, though still provided pleasant sailing.
Running up the Deben
At Waldringfield, we picked up a still 'sub-weather' Virginia and continued to Tide Mill Quay at Woodbridge, which we slipped into as soon as the tide allowed.
Drascombes at Tide Mill Quay, Woodbridge
August 1: Waldringfield to Felixstowe Ferry to Woodbridge; 15.8nm
August 2nd, family visit!
Sailing, as I do, single-handed for the majority of the year, it is a rare treat to have the company of both wife and son.  Today, I left Woodbridge in time to pick them up at Waldringfield at 11am.  The morning featured sharp thunderstorms, but very light winds.  Today was as much to do with drifting as it was with sailing.  Once more, we dried out at Felixstowe Ferry, and were later joined by Ceol na Mara and, at last, Deben Lugger Debutante whose owners had been beset with various breakages.  At Felixstowe Ferry, I managed some video of the latter, and some snaps of both weaving their way amongst the various moorings.

Family time!


Deben lugger Debutante
Ceol na Mara and Debutante weaving through moorings opposite Bawdsey

Ceol na Mara coming in to land!
Debutante sailing towards the mouth of the Deben

At the end of the day, we returned, once more, to Woodbridge for a final night at Tide Mill Quay, arriving under cover of darkness!
Dabber accommodation (in case anyone had wondered!)

August 2: Woodbridge to Felixstowe Ferry and back; 17.6nm
August 3rd, Woodbridge to "The Rocks"
As is often the case prior to the final day's long return-cruise, a lazy, penultimate day!  Ceol na Mara pulled out in the morning.  Other skippers enjoyed a lethargic brunch at a hostelry in Woodbridge!
Drascombers 'in action'
A local swan gate-crashing the party...

Coasters Virginia and Daisy II then sailed to a recognised anchorage, "The Rocks", just downstream from Waldringfield to see out the afternoon.
"The Rocks" anchorage
In the evening, we returned to Waldringfield for a pleasant feast in the pub, and to pick up a final night's mooring.
August 3: Woodbridge to "The Rocks"; 6.1nm
August 4th: return to the Orwell
Before departing the Deben, tides were right to take us up to the navigational head of the river - although certain scullers would dispute this, demonstrating their ease at rowing through the arched bridge.
The navigational head of the River Deben at Woodbridge - although, as we agreed, the bridge wasn't wooden!
Following elevenses, it was time to roll up our sleeves and tackle the journey back home.  This trip also offered further opportunities to capture coaster Virginia in sailing action.
Coaster Virginia
Winds were forecast F4/5 southerly and were true to form.  The sail through the Deben entrance was accomplished at around half-ebb and we were able to avoid the worst of the outfalls by veering south prior to the red cardinal buoy at the entrance.  Once out at sea, again winds were less severe - once more demonstrating that tendency to funnel along a river (even in flat East Anglia) but to be more consistent in open water.  We had a terrific sail along the coast past Felixstowe which was indulging in its own air show - perhaps we provided an interesting side-show, or maybe even stole the show...  It was too difficult to take shots of the spectacle since conditions were too rough.  I have subsequently received a couple of distant pictures of the two coasters sailing along the Felixstowe shoreline.  These were obviously taken prior to hoisting the main.

Coasters Daisy II and Virginia sailing along the Felixstowe shoreline
It was an exhilarating sail, particularly when rounding Languard Point on the return to Harwich harbour.  Steep following seas made for tricky helming, even as the flood-tide began, and, having cut the corner, I almost surfed through the harbour at speeds regularly in excess of 7 knots!  Coaster Virginia took a wider route in and fell behind.
Once more back at my mooring at Pin Mill, I pictured Virginia as her skipper called by for a farewell at the end of a fantastic cruise!

August 4: Return to the Orwell


  1. Thanks for a very enjoyable trip report!

    1. Thank you for your feedback. Many thanks for reading!

  2. Looks like a great event - I will have to plan another Anglia trip! Well done on the event and the blog!