Sunday, 9 August 2015

East Coast Cruise, 31 July to 8 August; Part I: Suffolk to Kent

Coaster Valentine in Pyefleet twilight, flanked in the further distance by coasters Ultreia, Zandloper and Mellon.
This is the first of three planned posts on this trip.  This one deals with the outward bound trip from Suffolk to Kent.  Part II is here and Part III will appear in due course.

Firstly, however, let's set the entire trip in context.

Six boats, nine days, one goal: to reach the north rivers of Kent from the Orwell and return to tell the tale.  In the event, the trip included many more highlights than we could have hoped for, including a passage across the Maplin Sands through Havengore Bridge, and a chance encounter with Shoal Waters (the late Charles Stock's old boat) in the River Roach.

This was the most ambitious summer cruise yet planned in Daisy II and it was splendid to have additional company in the form of four Drascombe coasters and, for a shorter time, a longboat.  Two of the coasters came from The Netherlands, and one from Germany providing additional spice to the journeys of the two resident coasters from the Orwell.  We learned a huge amount more in terms of potential for modifications, organisation and sail trim.

In summary, we sailed in the River Orwell, Walton Backwaters, River Colne, through the Thames Estuary to The Swale, River Medway, back across the Thames and across the Maplin Sands through Havengore Bridge, on to the River Roach, River Crouch and, finally, a return sail along The Wallet back to the Orwell.
Total track length: 197nm
Rob Moot, skipper of coaster Zandloper has put together an excellent video summary of our trip:

31 July - 2 August: outward bound from the River Orwell to The Swale

Our trip south was managed in three sections, the first of which consisted of a 'shakedown' cruise from the Orwell to the Walton Backwaters.  Strictly, this isn't a necessary part of the journey but it did allow six boats, and associated crew to get to know each other.
31 July: Orwell sailing and trip to the Walton Backwaters; 20.6nm
Valentine ready for the trip to come
Delayed Badekar readying herself for a dunking.
Ultreia and Zandloper from The Netherlands introducing themselves
Brief  'conflab' on the pontoon at Pin Mill
Sailing through Harwich Harbour on the way to the Walton Backwaters
Badekar cutting it amongst the big ships
Anchored in Hamford Water
On 1 August, we set sail very early in order to catch the flood tide down the coast, bound for the mouth of the River Colne.  On arrival, there followed various bits of 'to-ing and fro-ing' as various boats anchored off Mersea Stone, nipped in to Brightlingsea and wandered up and down the Pyefleet Channel to our eventual, delightful anchorage.
Ultreia goose-winged, leaving Hamford Water in light winds
Introducing the ingeniously, much-modified coaster Mellon from Germany. 
The continental contingent in the vanguard, as they nearly always were!
Badekar off Frinton on Sea
Further conflab in the Pyefleet Channel
Locating anchorages in Pyefleet
The picture prefacing this post is also taken in the Pyefleet Channel.

The third stage of our trip south, the next morning, consisted of a trip through the Swin Spitway to the East Swin Channel, leading SW, turning South at the SW Barrow buoy aiming for The Swale.  Due to feeling unwell, the captain of Badekar pulled out leaving five coasters to continue.  Winds were largely non-existent at this point and there was a plethora of boats making similar trips, many of whose skippers we encountered again at various other stages on the trip.  I think they were all impressed both by the ambition and capability of our pocket cruises in negotiating such a trip.  Fortunately for us, weather conditions were almost perfect for this stage of our voyage: a SW flow to the air, and very light winds for our morning passage.
A feature of the cruise was swimming from the boat.  Started by Else, from Ultreia, this spread to the skipper of Valentine.
Valentine sailing along the East Swin
The Maplin buoy, adding to the collection gathered on my Easter cruise
Once south of the Swin, we spent some time sailing with the aid of the strong SW current from the flood tide.  Winds were still light at this point and we resorted to engine to cross the shipping channels.
This buoy wasn't marked on my chart
Redsand Towers buoy
The extraordinary Redsand Towers, gun emplacements still standing from the war.
Now a haven for various birds, it is quite amazing these things have withstood the ravages of time and weather.
Once past the shipping lane, the winds had picked up sufficiently, and turned easterly for a delightful trip across The Cant, sailing past Whitstable before entering The Swale
Our final anchorage for the evening was at Harty Ferry on the south shore.  Having grounded, one skipper made a dash for the shoreline!
Grounded at Harty Ferry
The second part of this cruise report continues here.

Coasters: Daisy II, Valentine, Ultreia, Zandloper, Mellon
Longboat: Badekar

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