Friday, 19 August 2016

Walton Backwaters Rally and Summer Cruise

Coaster Mellon crossing Horsey Mere
Another year, another ECC.  This time, it made sense to combine it with a Drascombe rally based at the Walton Backwaters.  This was a hugely enjoyable event on its own, but to have an extended postlude cruising around the coast is wonderful!
Here's a link to some video clips taken during the week:

As may be expected, the weather played its part and, for the most part, a strong westerly airflow kept ambitions in check - F6 was a constant feature in the inshore waters forecast.  However, there were opportunities to put in some extensive coastal passages and, whilst Daisy II didn't break into any new waters, nearly 200nm of cruising speaks for itself.

Overall rally and cruise, 196.6nm
Friday 5th August
At one point, it was questionable as to whether Daisy II would ever make it to the coast - here she is, trailer still being mended on the morning of the day I was due to travel.  However, to cut a long story short, she has now been mended - new brakes, new wheels/tyres and various other new bits and pieces - all at considerable expense.  Fortunately, the trailer now runs very smoothly, the shaking has gone and the hubs are cool after a run.
Trailer woes finally fixed - in the nick of time...
Saturday 6th August
The first day of the rally.  We were based in Titchmarsh Marina who were exceptionally helpful and welcoming.  Today's plan was a well rehearsed trip down the Walton Channel, into Hamford Water and along Landermere Creek.
Daisy II rigging the main

Various delays amongst some boats meant that we didn't quite make it to the top of the navigation at Beaumont Quay - in which respect, Daisy II was to make amends later in the week.
Drascombe raft for lunch off Landermere Quay
Lugger Rita May in Landermere Creek
Winds were light today although a fine breeze picked up during our return from lunch, up Kirby Creek and across Horsey Mere.  
Tacking up Kirby Creek
As rally organiser, it's always challenging ensuring all the boats that set out return safely, particularly when crossing this stretch of water where the depth is only really reliable at HW.  Having crossed the shallowest part, Daisy II dropped sails, waiting for all participants to return before heading back to the marina.  It would have been nice to have relied on the camera at this point, but sadly it developed a focusing fault which plagued photography intermittently during the remainder of the trip, standing in the way of some potentially good pictures...
Coaster Appuskidu - impressionist style...
Fortunately, coaster Mellon's skipper's photography was rather more successful...
Daisy II on Horsey Mere

Appuskidu on Horsey Mere
Daisy II and Drifter 22 Rose heading back to base after crossing Horsey Mere
In the evening, a convivial supper was enjoyed by all in the conveniently located Harbour Lights restaurant.

Saturday 6th August; 11.4nm
Sunday 7th August

Titchmarsh Marina made a superb venue for the weekend rally
Whilst winds the previous day were light, today provided a flavour of things to come - westerly, relatively sheltered whilst in the Walton Channel but testing in the open reach of Hamford Water.

Coasters Daisy II, Appuskidu and Mellon spent time beating up the latter stretch...

... before returning to join the remainder of the fleet for a picnic lunch at Stone Point.

Stone Point made for a convenient lunch stop in strengthening F5-6 westerly winds.
Daisy II taking the stern-to kedge approach
After lunch, rally boats departed.
Lugger Rita May on the slipway at Titchmarsh - the slip is good for use at most states of the tide, although it is muddy and slippy at lower states.

Sunday 7th August; 8.8nm
Monday 8th August - trip to the River Deben
Mellon and Valentine sailing off Felixstowe
Yesterday's winds were forecast to prevail and so stood in the way of a planned voyage south.  Instead, we enjoyed a run across the shipping channel off Felixstowe, sailing into the Deben.

As is so often the case, whilst winds were relatively tame at sea and passing through Woodbridge Haven, the first stretch of the Deben named Sea Reach presented more of a challenge - any westerly winds tend to funnel down this channel and we found ourselves beating into a North Westerly.  This was until Daisy II went tamely aground on the turn off Green Point and, rather more calamitously,  Mellon's  winch broke off joining Davy Jones in his locker.
We stopped for lunch just beyond Ramsholt at the southerly end of The Rocks and, thinking ahead to the next day's planned trip south, a replacement winch was successfully ordered from a chandlery in Brightlingsea.
Tide Mill Quay - I've stopped here many times and notice, this time, that the local council has changed its terms, replacing the 24 hour free mooring sign with a rather less welcoming notice about mooring requiring prior permission.  It would be a big shame if access to the town were denied to cruisers - we do spend money in local shops and pubs.  I will need to look into this...
After stopping in Woodbridge for an hour, we enjoyed a pleasant run downstream...
Valentine running past Methersgate Quay

...stopping, once again, at The Rocks for a quiet night at anchor.
Sunset over Spinny Marsh off The Rocks
Monday 8th August; 23.2nm
Tuesday 9th August - trip to Brightlingsea, the River Colne - rendezvous with coaster Spray
Coasters Mellon and Valentine leaving Woodbridge Haven
Conditions today - NW F4 - were perfect for our planned trip south.  Mellon, still without an operational winch, would reach for most of the trip except when turning NW at Colne Point for the beat towards Brightlingsea.  Wind and tide were in our favour and we made good progress reaching the Colne by lunchtime.
Mellon reaching across Pennyhole Bay towards The Naze Tower
Daisy II off Felixstowe
Daisy II off Felixstowe
As seems to be the case, Daisy II was the match for the other two coasters on all points of sail except beating hard into the wind when the other two seem to make quicker progress.  I have a few rigging tips to try out in due course to see if I can eek out any more speed in such situations - not that speed is a particular concern: when sailing alone it really doesn't matter, but it's good to try and keep pace in company!  However, it's good to try out new things so we shall see...

We had planned to join with coaster Spray for a longer period on this cruise.  Spray had launched in The Swale; his journey north was delayed, as was ours south, by strong winds.  However, it was good at least to meet up for the rest of this day and night.
Daisy II and Spray at the town pontoon, Brightlingsea - whilst Mellon sorted out a replacement winch 
In the afternoon, we used what remained of the flood to sail up the Colne to Wivenhoe and Rowhedge.  I have never found a way of going ashore at Wivenhoe although, later in the day, I received a message through this blog, from a person who had seen us and who helpfully informed me that there is now a new public pontoon at Wivenhoe.  Too late for this trip, though, having previously been critical of the council at Wivenhoe, I'm very pleased about these developments and much looking forward to using that pontoon on my next visit - many thanks to that correspondent for the heads up.
Instead, we pressed on to Rowhedge and enjoyed a pint in the pub there.
At Rowhedge for a pint
Finally, we retired to the Pyefleet Channel for a rather lumpy night at anchor.

Tuesday 9th August; 42.4nm
Wednesday 10th August
Spray needed to return south.  We couldn't afford the time to risk such a trip given our commitment to return north by Friday, so we parted company in the morning, planning a quieter day exploring the Blackwater.  Initially we tripped around the south shore of Mersea Island reaching West Mersea for LW and elevenses.  The public hard makes a convenient place to step ashore and there are cafes ashore from where we could keep an eye on our charges.
At the public hard, West Mersea
Winds were lighter today, and had swing round to the North.  We sailed up the Blackwater to Osea and anchored for lunch and an afternoon nap/swim.
Valentine sailing up the River Blackwater
Daisy II and Valentine off Osea Island
A lazy afternoon later...

...we crossed over to Lawling Creek, making our way ashore, as guests of Blackwater Marina, for a welcome meal at the bar.
Coasters rafted at Blackwater Marina
Finally, we retired to dry out for the night on the mud on the south side of Lawling Creek, just west of the entrance to Mayland Creek.
Wednesday 10th August: 18.6nm
Thursday 11th August - trip to the River Crouch
Daisy II and Valentine left Mellon for the day and took the Swin Spitway route into the Crouch.  A later departure could have seen us through the Rays'n Channel, as indeed I have done on my two previous entrances to the Crouch from the north, but that would have involved a later arrival at the Crouch. We left the Blackwater, timing our arrival at the Wallet Spitway buoy for low water.  

In the event, winds were strengthening and our progress was exceedingly quick - topping 7.5 knots as we passed the Knoll area, so we reefed and then, turning into the breeze, motored up the Whitaker Channel as far as the Sunken Buxey where we spent a while beating.  Finally, reaching the mouth of the Crouch, we resorted once more to motor, reaching Burnham town pontoon by the mid-afternoon.  This was a long, hard trip into the Crouch - not necessarily to be recommended and we were somewhat relieved to reach the shore for a welcome meal.
At the town pontoon, Burnham on Crouch
Later that evening, winds once again abated and we retired to a familiar anchorage in Quay Reach, just inside the River Roach.
Sunset over the Wallasea Island nature reserve

Thursday 11th August; 33.0nm
Friday 12th August - return trip north
Sunrise over Foulness Island, from Quay Reach
As spectacular as dusk had been the night before, so dawn greeted us.  We set sail from our anchorage and I didn't trouble engine until the final trip into the Walton Backwaters.  Valentine, so I gather, on its planned return to the Orwell, sailed the entire way.  It was a another glorious trip, making the previous day's exertions well worthwhile!
We had planned to try and meet up with Mellon somewhere off Clacton.  However, VHF contact failed, and we had assumed he would be further ahead of us.  In fact, he was late in departing and, whilst he spotted us when turning into The Wallet off Colne Point, we couldn't see Mellon and kept going.
The furthermost extent of Walton Pier - which comes into view several miles back but takes a long time to reel in.
I stopped briefly off Stone Point for lunch, before returning as planned to Titchmarsh Marina for the final stage of our cruise.   Following several early starts, I fancied a lazy afternoon and did what I'd never done before, driving along the coast between Walton and Brightlingsea, exploring all of the various coastal resorts in all of their glory... 
The Naze Tower

Friday 12th August; 30.6nm
Saturday 13th August - trip with crew to Harwich
A series of snaps of Daisy II taken from Mellon

Today, for a change, Daisy II had crew.  We planned to sail over to Harwich, call in at Halfpenny Pier if possible but, in the more likely event of the Pier being full, to anchor in the lea of Shotley Point for lunch before sailing back.  The trip turned out as expected.  A particular highlight was the beat back to Walton where, in increasingly fresh conditions, we employed the additional ballast of crew to good effect under full sail through the increasingly narrow channel, returning via the Walton Channel to base.
Saturday 13th August; 18.1nm
Sunday 14th August
The plan was to take the boats out on the morning tide at around 10am.  However, I fancied a swansong trip.  Leaving the marina at dawn, I sailed up to Landermere Quay and then motored along Beaumont Cut to reach Beaumont Quay by 8am, a couple of hours before HW on neaps.  There was just sufficient depth to achieve this and it was good to put right what we hadn't quite managed last Saturday.
Beaumont Quay in the early morning sunshine

These stones are said to have come from the old London Bridge in the early nineteenth century, when Beaumont Quay was an important landing point for Thames Barges.
Beaumont Quay from the east.
The bare bones of Rose
Entrance to the Lime Kiln at Beaumont Quay
After a morning coffee, I sailed back to base and returned Daisy II to her (still operational) trailer at HW, thus bringing to an end another remarkable East Coast Cruise.
Sunday 14th August; 10.5nm