Wednesday 10 August
The crew were up early this morning to make sure I could get out of our creek while there was still enough water, and to catch the best winds, forecast for earlier in the day. It’s definitely beginning to feel like Autumn’s on its way, and the sailing was easy and good today, first on a comfortable reach and then they goosewinged my sails and we drifted along for a while. Creamy scrambled eggs served with Marmite toast underway was pretty impressive too, but unfortunately the barista service let the whole image slip, as coffee was lamentably slow due to the distraction of a fishing rod. I played tag with the stunning East Coast barge, Pioneer, as we drew towards Brightlingsea, and then they headed off towards the Blackwater. Suddenly the wind picked up from nothing to 17 knots, so we ended the passage on a high, and were anchored in time for lunch. Afterwards they took me in to the harbour for fuel, and for them to have fish and chips (again) for supper.
Tuesday 9 August
Skipper braved an unreliable outboard engine to go in search of a replacement cooking gas cylinder, while Mate set to for a little spring cleaning – overdue, as I do like to feel fresh inside and out. Soon we were ready to leave the Deben and cruise alongside Felixstowe beach, so I could see where my crew had cycled yesterday. It was good to stretch my sailing legs again, ready for more motor cruising as we made our way into another area of low-lying marshland, where you can follow creeks miles inland. At high water the land floods to resemble lakes: this is Walton Backwaters, named Secret Water by Arthur Ransome in his novel of the same name. As the Mate grew up with these stories, long before she set foot in a boat, she was delighted to find the real place as evocative and mysterious as it was portrayed by the author. Once again my anchor was dropped in a lovely private sheltered creek, with just the wild water birds for company.
Monday 8 August
Mate finds the constant noise of wind and waves very wearing, so the crew decided it was time to make landfall and take some exercise. The eponymous ferry collected my people, their bikes and panniers, the rubbish and recycling and deposited them ashore for a ride into Felixstowe. It was apparently far less windy on land, and the sun shone at times. They rode along the seafront, nearly as far as the docks that define the skyline for miles around. They filled their panniers with provisions and enjoyed elegant architecture in an atmosphere of both genteel wealth and seaside town, before following the shoreline track back to the Ferry (hamlet), a total distance of almost 20km, for afternoon tea before the ferry (boat) ride home. The ferryman seemed bemused by my name, wondering why my owners would choose something French…
Sunday 7 August
While pegging out another load of washing and watching for the local seal, two swimmers stopped to chat and a peacock butterfly dropped by. The shoreline looked as inviting as a Greek bay, with a narrow sandy strip backed by Scots pine, but the crew stayed onboard and soon we were meandering up-channel through clusters of moorings and past a round church tower and towering haystacks. The Maybush at Waldringfield was buzzing with weekend trippers, and many vessels enjoying this picturesque river meant great concentration was required by the helm. As the channel narrowed towards Woodbridge and the Tide Mill Marina, the crew prepared me for a berth, but on arrival it became all too clear that I’m just too big, especially in the still strong winds. This time it was Skipper’s turn to overload on stress, and we turned tail and made our way back down towards the same anchorage, as emergency rations of ginger beer and biscuits were issued to calm frayed nerves.
On our return to The Rocks, conditions were still less than calm, so we carried on downriver. The kind harbour master at Felixstowe Ferry promised us that the last available visitor’s buoy “had our name on it”, and we found a much more sheltered spot to rest and recuperate.
Saturday 6 August
Well, I guess the honeymoon period had to end eventually, and the atmosphere has been remarkably harmonious so far, for two adults constantly in each other’s company in a space smaller than their daughter’s studio flat. The day started well, with only a very short passage planned, in weather perfect for a much longer sail. Whilst waiting for sufficient rise of tide to enter our next river, the Deben, Skipper decided it was a good time to practise some safety drills. First the crew tried to get me to ‘heave to’, when my sails are set at opposite angles to the wind so I go nowhere. This involves crash tacking, which sounds more painful than it really is, but I am a sailing yacht and I can sail even with my jib backed, so they raised my centreboard so I was less responsive to the tide. It sort of worked, but needs a lot more practice in various conditions. Next we looked at MOB (man overboard) drill, Mate’s personal worst nightmare, as she’s likely to be left onboard to carry out this manoeuvre, Skipper having been thrown off the coachroof whilst attending to sails at the mast or bow. She soon realised there’d be an awful lot to do, and whilst these exercises highlight changes that need to be incorporated into safety equipment and procedures, she feels justified in nagging about the wearing of harnesses, and essentially NOT FALLING OFF. By now in a state of imminent meltdown and threatening mutiny from the Mate, Skipper decided enough ‘locals’ were heading into the Deben that we should follow their lead, but with full sail up and the board fully down we were not exactly prepared to enter a narrow channel and a sneaky sandbank soon reared up to scrape my board and/or rudder blades. Eventually a measure of calm was restored as the genoa was furled away so I slowed down, Trevva was fired up and the mainsail dumped into its bag along the boom. We dropped anchor at The Rocks, but it was busy with weekend traffic and exposed to the wind blowing across the salt marshes, so not our most peaceful anchorage. My crew did find some space to talk through the experience, and work out how to improve communications for the next one.
Friday 5 August
A warm and calm day for a potter upriver, following the channel carefully. Of course we found the ideal anchorage just around the bend, where we would have been better sheltered earlier in the week, but we all survived the test, and can put it down to experience.The scenery was classic Constable country, with pretty cattle grazing right at the water’s edge…is that how they make salt beef?
Even carefully following the withies supposedly marking the channel, I still touched bottom just above Iken, so we called it a day and turned back while the crew enjoyed an alfresco lunch. Mate put on her helpful hat again by calling the head boatman at Aldeburgh YC to organise rescue for two young boys we passed standing on the upturned hull of their dinghy. They had capsized with the spinnaker up and the boat had turned turtle and got her mast stuck in the mud. They looked a bit sheepish but otherwise unscathed, and the safety boat was soon with them.
We pulled into the Yacht Club pontoon where they welcomed us as “the largest boat we’ve ever had alongside here” and kindly helped us take on water, while the Mate chatted with one of the members about cruising in Norway, which I believe is in the plans for sometime in the future. We also gained local knowledge about leaving the river (on the seaward side, with some flood running to lift me off if I get stuck!) We nestled in the anchorage in Abraham’s Bosum near the bottom of the Ore, but didn’t spot any avocet, which are supposed to live there.
Thursday 4 August
As I observed yesterday, the wind has a mind of its own, but for my crew today that was a good thing. The weather forecast warned that yesterday’s strong winds would continue today, but in fact they had blown themselves out, and so the tender was prepared and I watched the Mate attempt to row them ashore for provisions, and to stretch their legs. Fortunately there was room in my little sister for them to take the smelly rubbish bag and recycling away with them, as well as giving Bertha an outing. They walked along a dyke at the edge of the river and followed the footpath across the marshland into Aldeburgh, a pretty and well-appointed town enjoying the holiday sunshine. On their return the crew found far too many flies buzzing around me, a consequence of being near land, but enjoyed another beautiful sunset.
Wednesday 3 August
Skipper justified his insistence with the boatyard about the need for a bigger anchor today, as my 30kg Spade held me securely in the river in near gale force winds and waves a metre high and only a metre apart, due to the shallowness of the water. The Mate was busy baking during the morning, which is just as well as, once the tide turned, she found it difficult to do any more than lie below porthole level where my tossing and slewing around was less evident. I am a big boat and I have high windage, so I tend to lie across the wind when a tide is running, and this can make my poor crew feel quite uncomfortable. There’s also a lot of noise when it’s windy and waves slap constantly at my hull. At times like this I know my crew are glad that tides change direction around every six hours, although the wind tends to do its own thing.
Once conditions had calmed down a washing up marathon was completed and smoked haddock enjoyed for supper. My water tanks are feeling a little dry, so I hope they can top me up soon – I can carry 550 litres, but they still seem to go through it quickly.
Tuesday 2 August
Is it really August? Grey, drizzly and poor visibility with no wind, but we’re off anyway, bound North for the Ore and Alde, which I hear is two rivers in one, no doubt to confuse visitors. The wind didn’t improve much so we motorsailed most of the way, keeping well clear of a 400-metre container ship coming into Felixstowe as we headed out to sea. I was glad to see my friend Terry busy again, helping her in to her dock. The entrance channel to the Ore, which changes to the Alde upstream, takes us inside a sand spit running parallel to the main shore. This creates strong currents and tidal eddies, and cannot always be seen, so once again the crew felt the chart plotter was well worth the investment. We were welcomed by a seal and a marsh harrier, the latter gliding lazily over the wetlands to the West of the river. We wove our way through moorings at Orford and continued past Orford Ness, the home of transmission for the BBC World Service with a forest of radio aerials and satellite dishes, and found a spot to anchor near Aldeburgh Yacht Club, busy with summer holiday sailing school dinghies and practice for their upcoming annual regatta.
Monday 1 August
Gaining confidence after a month afloat, the crew decided to put my shoal draft to the test today, along with their navigational skills and the accuracy of the new chart plotter, and we rode the flood all the way upriver to Manningtree. I didn’t get stuck, and they enjoyed the adventure of creek crawling. Heading back down past Mistley Quay a coaster had come up behind me; we exchanged greetings as I passed but he was snoozing while being loaded with bricks. Many of these vessels are registered abroad, and I’m interested to see that my waters are used industrially and commercially – apparently they’re not just for us to enjoy.