Friday, 30 May 2014

Ascension cruise, 27-30 May

Cruising upstream on the River Stour in light winds, Day 2.  Fortunately, much of the very evident, rotten inland weather bypassed this part of the east coast!
OK, so the title is a bit pretentious but I was at anchor in the Walton Backwaters, listening to an Ascension Day service broadcast on Radio 4.  Just me, the boat, various seals and birds and the radio...
A 'still, small voice of calm' stretched out in the Landermere Creek, Walton Backwaters

One of the Drascombe folk at the recent Rutland Water rally commented that, when it comes to planning good weather, I had much to learn.  After this week, I'm beginning to wonder whether he may have a point.  In actual fact, whilst a low pressure system containing torrential rain parked itself over the East of England for the first three days, I only had a serious soaking on the first day, the remaining deluges occurring overnight.  Sunshine was in short supply, however, and ominous-looking clouds continually threatened from all quarters.  Oddly, however, with the exception of the final sail, wind was in short supply.  Day three involved exceptionally slow and patient sailing in which, with the luxury of time on my side, I was happy to indulge.
Total distance, 72.0nm.  Day 1: yellow; Day 2: red; Day 3: white; Day 4: blue.

Day 1: 27th May, Pin Mill to Landermere Creek, Walton Backwaters
This trip involved two enforced stops whilst heavy showers passed by.  At the second of these, I watched, through the mist, the marvel of a container ship docking.
What makes a picture?  Fair weather helps....
An arriving container ship almost lost in today's drizzle.
What it can look like, when the weather behaves... (taken some time last year!)
Showers were heavy and slow-moving; wind was correspondingly light but, NW in direction, was in my favour.  This was a relief since, when I had to use the motor to avoid a departing ferry, it made strange screeching sounds - clearly not on top form.  I resolved, therefore, only to use it where absolutely necessary for the remainder of the trip.
At anchor, Landermere Creek at the upper end of Hamford Water, Walton Backwaters.  Sea and sky meeting at the mouth of this delightful, sheltered sailing area.
Day 2: 28th May; Exploring Walton Backwaters; trip to Wrabness on the River Stour
Yesterday's weather, together with fairly continuous overnight rain and further drizzle in the morning resulted in damp gear!  I had a lazy start, taking in some reading, lots of breakfast, a bit of brunch and slow communications via an iphone with minimal signal.
Absolutely no wind this morning so, in the absence of a good pair of oars, I used the motor to explore the upper reaches of the Walton Backwaters.
One of those pictures that might easily work upside down...!  The upper reaches of the Walton Backwaters; at higher states of the tide, this basin fills out forming a shallow lagoon; this image looks west towards Landermere Quay and illustrates the perfect stillness of this morning
 Beyond Landermere Quay, the man-made Beaumont Cut takes one under some alarmingly low power cables to Beaumont Quay which, along with the adjacent Lime Kiln, has an interesting history.  The stones for the quay were apparently from Old London Bridge which was handily being demolished when the quay was being constructed in 1832.  It's difficult to imagine this quiet, inaccessible place as a centre of trade.
Beaumont Quay, with stones taken from Old London Bridge
Looking east towards Landermere, showing Beaumont Cut.  I reached this about 2 hours before HW.  Water quickly drains away at lower states of the tide. A power cable is just about visible.  On previous visits, it was thought that it might just be too low to prevent a coaster from reaching this point.  Daisy II comfortably glided beneath.  My guess is that this wouldn't present a huge problem for any Drascombe although it always pays to be careful!

Lime kiln
The skeleton of an old Thames Barge, a haunting relic of the former importance of this trading outpost.
On my return to Landermere Quay, a south easterly wind finally showed some signs of awakening.  I hoisted all sails possible, and sailed slowly round to Kirby Creek where the fresh ebb necessitated use of the outboard to reach The Wade, behind Horsey Island, before it dried out.  I then sailed across The Wade, past Titchmarsh Marina into Twizzle Creek and down Walton Channel.  Exiting the Backwaters, I reached across Dovercourt Bay, into Harwich and up the Stour.  Progress was always slow although, as stated above, I had the time and was content to watch, listen and appreciate...
Sailing slowly past Parkestone Quay, Harwich
Intended anchorage reached around 7pm - on the west side of Wrabness.

Day 3: 29th May, visit to Manningtree; return to Walton Backwaters

A lazy start whilst the lunchtime tide allowed access to the upper reaches of the Stour.  Winds picked up from where they left off yesterday - light and easterly.  Around three hours before HW, I glided round Mistley Quay, still shamefully and utterly inelegantly fenced off to prevent access to cruising boats and, in so doing, destroying any lingering charm this soulless place might once have had.
Mistley Quay from its most flattering angle.  Everything else is shamefully fenced off.  
 There was just sufficient water to sail round to the first few moorings at Manningtree.  So I dropped anchor for elevenses to allow the tide to work its wonders and then explored the two upper arms of the Stour.  Any further progress would have necessitated dropping the mast in order to duck beneath the railway viaducts.
Railway viaducts marking the navigational limits of the River Stourr
Then it was time for a wonderful beat up the Stour, and some video fun.  Here, on the port tack, as I sail SE with Manningtree as a backdrop:

And, then, 'hove-to' as I prepare a little late lunch in Copperas Bay:
With nothing better to do, and a day left in which to do it, I decided to return to the Walton Backwaters for the night. An interesting spectacle in Harwich harbour was an extremely smoky container ship docking and creating plumes of diesel smoke covering the entire harbour and consuming Old Harwich.
A poor advert for clean shipping.
The north easterly breeze helped me across Dovercourt Bay as I reached a favourite anchorage adjacent to Honey Island, tucked safely inside the Walton Backwaters once again.

Day 4: 30th May, return to Pin Mill in lumpy seas!
The calculated risk in returning to the Backwaters was that the forecast F4 NE winds, beginning to gust, would not prevent a return across Dovercourt Bay.  These conditions create a very lumpy sea and, in the event, I just about got away with it.
Leaving the anchorage at 6am, I finally made it back to Pin Mill for a late breakfast at around 10.15am!  Winds were F4 gusting F5 and the passage back to Harwich did not disappoint with its lumpiness.  Daisy II behaved impeccably, of course, and I enjoyed sailing closer to the Harwich shoreline than usual.
In the earlier stages, I managed a couple of pieces of video, one on either tack.  Looking back, of course, these pieces of photography never quite seem to capture the conditions.

Later on, as I approached Beacon Cliff breakwater, conditions were much gustier and rather too challenging to be both sailing and filming!  I sailed the entire way - once leaving Kirby Creek, I furled the mizzen and used single reefed main and put a couple of rolls in the jib - resolutely denying the outboard any chance of involvement.  With the wind on the nose for almost the entire distance, this was one of those memorably challenging sails - rather more pleasant to look back upon than to be involved in at the time - there was a palpable measure of relief once I rounded Collimer Point on the Orwell, with the wind finally on the stern quarter.
16.2nm, 58 tacks!

Sunday, 25 May 2014

May 24th, Short trip on the Orwell

The latest addition to the Drascombe fleet at Pin Mill: coaster Windsong
Windsong also featured in this blog towards the end of May 2013 when her owner brought her down for a short bank holiday cruise. This was entitled 'Duet with coaster Windsong' and, presumably, a good impression was made, since she now has a mooring two buoys along from my own.  So, I'm looking forward to making more music in due course!

Today's trip was about a short sail to straighten things out, and to measure up the cockpit cover in order to have a replacement made - another post on this in due course.  I arrived at the boat about 90 minutes before LW, and motored downstream to a late lunchtime anchorage opposite Suffolk Yacht Harbour.  Wind was F5 southerly, so I enjoyed the return sail under jib and mizzen, quite sufficient to shift us along with the fresh flood at around 5 knots.
This week is the half term holiday and I'm looking forward to a three night, four day cruise from Tuesday through to Friday.  As luck would have it, the current forecast looks generally wet and miserable - various low pressure systems queuing up to pass over - but the opportunity is too good to miss, so nothing short of a hurricane will stop this happening!  Hopefully, I should be able to visit a few old haunts such as the Walton Backwaters, the top end of the Stour and, if the weather allows, a trip up the Deben to Woodbridge.

Sunday, 18 May 2014

Return to the Orwell, Sunday May 18th

Back winching.
Following a query on the Drascombe Association forum, I thought I'd take a picture of my back-winching launching technique.  Because the rollers are so stiff, I always end up launching this way.

I used the slipway at Woolverstone, once again, avoiding a busy, sunny Pin Mill on Sunday afternoon and paying £30 for the privilege...  Then, motored down to the mooring, picked up the tender and returned to shore.
Now back on the mooring, all being well, until mid-September.  With half term on the way, there should be time for some cruising before the month is out, weather permitting....

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Rutland Water, Drascombe Association Rally, 10-11 May 2014

Coaster Valentine enjoying a reach up the northern arm of Rutland Water in a rare moment where winds eased sufficiently to deploy the camera.

A return to Rutland Watersports at Rutland Water for a second Drascombe Association rally in recent years.  Last time, two years ago, the weather was perishingly cold.  This time, true to the forecast, conditions were very breezy with frequent passing squalls, although the Met Office's predicted winds averaging 22 knots and gusting to 38 knots ( that's F6 gusting 8 on my Beaufort Wind Scale) always seemed a little overstated except perhaps during the squalls.   The prospect of this put off some skippers and those who attended wondered whether any sailing would be done.  In the event, seven boats attended with three other groups of association members attending without boats but to enjoy the spectacle, camaraderie and sailing which was challenging but somehow didn't really seem quite as bad as we had been led to believe.

Boats attending:
Coasters: Daisy II, Martha, Valentine and Pamela.
Dabbers: Teifi Bach and Bob'n Annie
Scaffie: Scylla

Launching for most was on Saturday morning; others turned up later.
Coaster Pamela negotiating the slipway on Saturday evening.

Dabber Teifi Bach rigging on Saturday morning.
Facilities at Whitwell Creek (Rutland Watersports) continue to be very good with an excellent, wide slipway, and plenty of room for laying up.  The sports centre are also very accommodating and helpful.  They have finally added a second pontoon and were happy for three coasters owners to sleep aboard on Saturday evening.

Dabber Bob'n Annie readying herself for sailing action

Coasters Daisy II and Martha with Dabber Bob'n Annie
Valentine departs for a sail
Winds were westerly F5 with stronger gusts.  Whitwell Creek itself was nicely sheltered from this hefty breeze but, out on the water, the fun started and it was rather difficult to use a camera.  Hence, action shots were limited to the one shot of video above of Valentine during a comparative lull in the weather. In general, jib and mizzen were the order of the day with trips limited to relatively short outings, usually abruptly ended by being chased back into Whitwell Creek by an oncoming squall!  However, Daisy II's maximum speed of 7.0 knots was clocked up on a run soon after the above video was taken - 7.0 knots with part-furled jib and mizzen might give an idea of the strength of the wind during some of those gusts!

I was grateful to Rob for crewing all weekend - unusual for me not to be sailing single handed.
Daisy II
The following pictures were taken by one of the participants who came without boat but made good use, nonetheless, of the excellent land-based amenities at Rutland Water.
Bob'n Annie and Daisy II readying themselves for cast off

Daisy II unsuccessfully racing the kayaks in flukey winds

Bob'n Annie casts off

Daisy II on the water
Back to my own pictures...
Coaster Pamela returning to base

Dabber Bob'n Annie returning from a sail.

Orange, yellow and green tracks on Saturday; pink on Sunday.  Total distance sailed 10.8nm
Next week's plan is to return to the Orwell for four months of east coast based sailing until the Broads rally in September.

Monday, 5 May 2014

May 4th, return to terra firma

Events have been decidedly hectic, recently, not least due to an unscheduled visit from a team of burglars who took a fancy to an old outboard motor in the garage.  Sadly, for them, it was seized so won't take them very far.  Sadly, for me, I didn't note down its serial number so the insurance company won't cough up.  There's a lesson in this somewhere...

Daisy II, fortunately, seems in good shape and has returned to the front drive in order to attend a rally, next weekend, at Rutland Water.  I took the opportunity for a brief sail up and down the Orwell before calling in at Woolverstone Marina.  The charges for using their slipway, now, are far too high - over £30 for boats over 4.5m.  It would be better if the slipway was cleaned of the green algae which makes the surface nothing short of treacherous.  I don't mind paying premium rates for a premium service.  It wasn't hard to see why, on a bank holiday weekend, this slip was devoid of other customers.  Unfortunately, I had to use it today since the tides were too low otherwise to haul the boat out at Pin Mill.  Another note to self: be better organised in future...
Daisy II waiting patiently at the overpriced Woolverstone Marina slipway.  Green algae in evidence - and much greater quantities of it the further down the slip one ventures.  Treacherous under foot.

On the way down to fetch the boat, the lighting board worked its way loose and I had one of those unpleasant experiences whereby a passing car slowed down, gesticulating wildly at the trailer.  Fortunately, despite having been dragged along the A14 for at least a mile or so, the thing was not beyond repair and a visit to Halfords in Ipswich secured a replacement 4-way light which I was able to fit before returning home with the boat.

A quick look at the long range forecast shows that next weekend's Rutland Water rally is likely to feature both March winds and April showers in some abundance.