Friday, 14 August 2015

ECC Part III - return to the Orwell

A rising Havengore Bridge preparing to welcome five Drascombe Coasters.
This is the last of three articles covering the East Coast Cruise 2015.  The first part covered our trip from the River Orwell to The Swale, the second part covered time spent in The Swale and River Medway.  This latest post covers the return trip from the River Medway to the River Orwell.

Something about a voyage of discovery makes the business of sailing routes for the highlight of any expedition and this final part of the journey is no exception.  Our trip took us from the Medway, past the significant wreck of the Richard Montgomery, arriving at the Maplin Sands at low water, over the newly flooded sands and through Havengore Bridge, and finally a repeat of last year's trip from the Crouch to the Orwell.
7th August: trip from the River Medway, through Havengore to the mouth of the River Roach; 18.9nm
 The Havengore route, in particular, often written about but treated with suspicion by the various pilots since deeper keeled boats rightly fear grounding on  the shallow and 'concrete hard' Broomway.  On the other hand, our shoal-draft vessels are ideally suited to the trip.  Again, we were lucky with conditions which, once we were safely in the Roach, strengthened into a north easterly which would probably have made our passage across the sands much less comfortable.
Time for another swim in Sharfleet Creek, before departure!
Light winds off Sheerness
The Richard Montgomery, the wartime wreck purported to contain sufficient explosives which, if detonated, would generate considerable panic, not to mention massive damage to the surrounding area.  Needless to say, we observed the exclusion zone...!
Crossing the shipping lanes in very light winds
Tucked inside the S Shoebury buoy, about five miles offshore, this extraordinary artificial island, offers a wonderful bolt hole from which to wait for the tide, relax and plan the next stage of our trip across the Maplin Sands to Havengore.  This is the view looking South, from the shallow sands, across the Thames towards the Medway, the Grain Power Station tower just visible in the distance.
Swimming, wading, catching up with mobile communications...all in the middle of the Thames
Later, seals cling to the last of the island; once covered, this provided the signal that the time was right to begin our passage.
For the sail across the Maplin Sands, we made use of the suggested route from the website East Coast Pilot.  Planning to take the southerly route, we ended up travelling a little more easterly and ended up crossing between the first two posts and joining the single route from the final post prior to The 'Broomway Post' which is shown in the picture.
The only regret, if any, was that the bridge keeper wanted us to use our engines whereas we could quite easily have sailed in.  Maybe next time, we should leave the motors at home... !
Once safely inside Havengore, sailing along 'Narrow Cuts' into the River Roach
The trip continued to spring welcome surprises.  Here is the famous and much travelled Shoal Waters, very much the inspiration for my exploration of the east coast, joining us in our anchorage in Quay Reach on the River Roach. A perfect end to our last evening.
8th August; 35.2nm; our return trip from the Crouch to the Orwell.  We left the Roach at HW, around 6.30am for a splendidly long and largely uneventful end to a brilliantly enjoyable trip

Finally, Rob Moot, skipper of coaster Zandloper has put together this excellent, short video of our trip.

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