Sunday 31 July
There’s been some wind today which has bounced me around a bit rudely, but the crew managed to snooze in my cockpit, do a bit of sewing and catching up with family and admin tasks. The wind blew itself out this evening, and the Mate waxed lyrical about a soft dusk with the smell of warm grass drifting over the still water. I heard her spot a shooting star.
Saturday 30 July
Off they went without me again this morning on those clever folding bikes, and they were soon back with panniers laden with goodies from Suffolk Food Hall, a sort of indoor farmers market meets posh deli, apparently. At least my crew are willing to try out regional specialities, and they certainly know how to support local economies on their travels. They packed the bikes away and the Mate was given special permission (as there was no wind) to take me off the pontoon and out through the lock. She didn’t do a bad job, but lots more practice needed is my verdict on that operation – she needs to learn to trust me more; I will look after her. We paused to pick up more cooking gas at Woolverstone Marina, where two nice boys came to admire me – or were they looking for invitations to crew?
I was pleased to see Terry the Tug heaving one of those huge container vessels off Felixstowe Docks – oooh, the muscles on those boys.
We turned to starboard towards Harwich and into the River Stour (I heard the Mate say the locals pronounce this ‘Stoower’). This river forms the border between Essex and Suffolk. It looks much wider than the Orwell, and is shallower, but it still has a relatively narrow central channel with drying mud flats stretching away either side, so we anchored in what feels at high water like the middle of a lake, but I can see why they chose this spot when the tide drains away.
Friday 29 July
Once again the Mate headed for the laundry facilities at the Marina, to find three loads won’t go into one machine, unless it’s very slowly. So that was today done. Meanwhile Skipper fitted the new sheaves he’d purchased yesterday onto my port stanchions to reduce friction on the furling line for the foresail, and did a lovely job of polishing my shiny bits in the process. They made it three nights in Ipswich, as it’s such good value here, and the facilities are lovely, I’m told.
Thursday 28 July
I don’t know what I’ve done to upset her, but the Mate disappeared for a day in London today, apparently with a list of errands, but it sounds to me like a day of meeting and eating, and all social of course. Ah well, she came home eventually with another batch of boxes and shopping to be stowed in me…somewhere. Did she even know the Skipper had gone off to Sainsbury’s and already brought back “essential victualling supplies” while she was away? Apparently she did her quota of pedometer steps walking the streets of London, so I suppose that’s a good thing. Skipper also took the opportunity of an unhindered browse, and inevitable hefty spend, in the local chandlery, and took his exercise by bike.
Wednesday 27 July
Yesterday I idled away another day in this peaceful spot, letting the jellyfish drift past me in and out with the tide. Luckily nobody came to demand money or, indeed, their mooring buoy back.
Today I had my first experience of guessing whether my mast was going to fit under a bridge; well, I do have an ‘air draught’ of 21 metres – I’m not a canal barge, you know. The crew managed to time the passage so that the water around the feet of the bridge (that carries the A12 trunk road towards Ipswich, apparently) was calm and didn’t have any tricky tidal eddies to throw me off course. I caught up with those freighters I’d seen passing my mooring downriver, patiently waiting for their cargoes to be offloaded or stowed aboard, as we rounded the last bend towards the lock into Ipswich Haven basin. Of course, this wasn’t a new experience, as one of my first adventures before I left France was a trip up the Carentan Canal, but this time was easier on my hull as the lock keeper had kindly installed a floating pontoon in the lock, so my crew could tie me there while the waters swirled in through the sluices to lift me up to Ipswich Marina. I had a lovely easy berth there on a hammerhead, right opposite the town quay with plenty of comings and goings to keep me entertained, but no noisy nightlife to disrupt my beauty sleep. The crew headed straight off for town for provisions, noting the interesting mix of ancient architecture with derelict buildings only demolished to the extent necessary to erect modern structures amid the debris…an unusual town planning policy. They also counted at least eight different ethnic cuisines on offer.
Monday 25 July
I lay at peace today, idly watching occasional cargo ships passing by on their way to the timber wharf in Ipswich. Skipper continued his electronics project, wiring in the second depth sounder, that reads straight down rather than ahead, and also provides the helm with data on my speed through the water and current sea temperature around me. Apparently all this, and the chart plotter display, can be viewed down below on an iPad, so at least one of them can keep warm. Mate also had a gadgets day, reading her Kindle and updating the budget spreadsheet on the laptop. I know I’m expensive, but I’m sooo worth it. The galley smelt lovely as she baked some bread, although Skipper did comment that it tasted more like a scone.
Sunday 24 July
Well, I was beginning to wonder if my crew had forgotten how to actually sail me properly, but today they gave me a really good run. We started by weaving our way through the Brightlingsea Regatta Sunday race fleet, including a very daring close encounter by a couple of the Junior GB Sailing Team boys. My sails went up and I was soon overtaking a bouncier yacht and loving 6-8 knots North East up the coast past Clacton on Sea and Walton on the Naze.
Skipper got his own back on the Mate this afternoon: one minute he was quietly sailing me goose-winged while she stole a few zzzs, and the next he’d turned me North West into the approach to Harwich Haven and all hell let loose, as the flat grey stratus clouds in the West should have warned the crew it would…if only they’d been paying attention. Suddenly the wind had increased dramatically and I was a little over-canvassed, but they held on, allowing me another cheeky little overtaking of a smaller yacht, bless her. Making a last-minute change to the plans and turning North into the River Orwell instead of starting in the River Stour made for a much easier end of day. The sails came down relatively easily as I was now heading straight into the wind, and we soon found a convenient mooring buoy to borrow, on the opposite bank from Pin Mill, a very pretty spot.I slumbered under a velvet canopy of stars set off by an ochre half moon.
Saturday 23 July
Can’t this crew cope with a bit of sunshine? The Mates climbed all over my cockpit this morning to rig this noisy, flappy green sunshade…green – really? My colour scheme is RED, and we’re not talking port and starboard. Honestly, how’s a girl supposed to show any dignity around here? Still, I was somewhat mollified by having a big bull seal come close to demonstrate his fishing prowess, lying on his back to enjoy his catch of the day. Before I knew it, my little sister was hauled out of the sail locker and pumped up ready to carry the crew over the channel to Brightlingsea to get the Second Mate back on the bus for her homeward journey. By the state of them when they came back to me, it was a wet and bumpy ride, but that’s what they get for leaving me behind. It sounds like they enjoyed the Regatta in full swing while they were over there, and found the local shops open for business and good food. Skipper served up an impressive supper of locally caught fresh flounder, which smelled delicious along with the Second Mate’s gift of homemade spinach pesto, sautéed Jersey new potatoes and broccoli. We all had ringside seats for spectacular Regatta fireworks.
Friday 22 July
It was lovely to have the Second Mate with us again, as it gave us an excuse to sail off and explore the Blackwater on another warm and sunny day. I caught the glow of Bradwell Nuclear Power Station and had a lovely sail in the company of a huge Essex barge – I won’t dignify it by calling it a ‘race’ as there wasn’t enough wind for either of us to do the word justice. Second Mate was happy to spot my friendly dolphins, and we cruised past the Radio Carolinebroadcasting vessel, not obviously transmitting but you never know. The water looked wide from my viewpoint, but what do I know? The crew seemed determined to keep me in the middle of the channel, and I heard the Mate offering information over the radio to the Dover Coastguard in response to their message about a sailboard abandoned in the area we were sailing through. It was good to feel myself in the competent hands of the Second Mate, allowing the Mate to go forward to learn some anchoring technique when we came back into the Pyefleet Channel once again.
Thursday 21 July
Today we made landfall on the ‘heritage pontoon’ in Brightlingsea Harbour, along with a pretty selection of East Coast smacks and barges – I think I only got to meet them because I’m big. A water taxi brought the Second Mate back on board for a second visit – I think she likes me. After lunch on another hot day the taxi took them all over to shore, where they made the usual mistake of panic shopping in the first store they found (not that they need to be supermarket snobs but there you are), and then carrying heavy shopping around the rest of the town centre, where they found a good selection of local independent food suppliers. I think they’ve realised that they need to shop earlier if that’s the day’s priority. The Mate brought back “delicious” fresh fish and chips for supper; the smell almost made my mouth water.