Over the last few weeks we had a crisis of confidence with the engine due to the overheat in our first shakedown. As you will have seen from other blog posts regarding the engine and engine room, we had gone through a process of regaining confidence and this weekend was to be our shakedown, sea trial and last of the configuration of the new equipment including the pilot which we are really missing, one doesn’t hand steer if one can avoid it.
We decided to leave on Friday afternoon which was a little delayed by meeting new friends on one of our friendly neighbours boats. We eventually left the lock and motored down the beautiful River Orwell to our overnight destination of the mooring buoys opposite Suffolk Yacht Harbour. As we went Maria took some photos of the river…
The pick up for the mooring buoy is uneventful and we settle to our overnight resting place.
The previous night we had arrived at the tackle shop shortly after it closed but they reopened to serve us. Having recently lost some of the fishing gear through broken lines, Maria was keen to replace it and buy some bait. The advice from the shop was fantastic, apparently it is no surprise we are not catching anything, we are using the wrong stuff…. So we buy some fancy anchoring weight with twin hooks that I am sure will change our luck!
Back to our evening outside Suffolk Yacht Harbour and Maria baits the hooks with ragworms and then goes downstairs to prepare dinner. By the time she returns, she wants to check her fishing tackle. This is a regular occurrence when Maria is fishing normally followed by “something has eaten my bait” or bringing up a crab that is trying its best to eat the bait before it falls off the hook with Maria swearing at it. She reels in to find two whiting trying to wriggle off the hook. Please note that I think Maria has very cleverly angled the rod towards the camera to give the perspective that the two fish she caught were huge, I don’t recall them being this big! I then. He led my rod and found another fish, this one had the hook in its lip and it as easy to free it and return it to the after to live another day. As night fell we discussed anchor lights, we were on a mooring buoy in a known area along a straight part of the river. The River Orwell has some documented examples of commercial traffic dragging yachts off their moorings accidentally on some of the bends in the river and some people suggest that an anchor light is appropriate. Then, one of the ocean scout vessels that come from Ipswich circled us closer and closer, we decided to help them know where we were by putting on the spreader lights! That left them in no doubt… These vessels have a bit of a reputation unfortunately and although we have never seen a problem, we decided to stay safe. They picked up a mooring buoy a few down from us and left their anchor light on! We decided that we definitely didn’t need to do so since anyone would see them and know we were there. The next morning was glorious and still. We got up early and enjoyed a hangover-cure breakfast before setting off back up river to collect Olly from Seapower to get the last few things working. We collected him off the fuel pontoon st Wolverstone and spent a happy hour driving around in circles like a family in sainsburys car park on a Saturday morning looking for a space. This helped us to configure the autopilot, check the forward facing sonar and also for further explanation of
the fish finder “frogger” screen. She does get excited when the torpedos go across. We also discussed how happy maria was with her lights and agreed some other minor works to go with the solar power we are intending to have installed. We also remembered that the log wasn’t working, a not uncommon experience in the Marina until you free it up manually or by manoeuvring. At this stage Olly mentioned that he generally removed this before lifting to avoid any damage, and it won’t read much speed in the bilge! Olly and I addressed this, more precisely I started it and Olly finished it when I had it the wrong way round in the dark!
We then dropped Olly back and decided to go back out. One of the targets of the day was to check all of the sails and lubricate anything that needed it. This was why we were keen to do this weekend on our own so that we could get these chores out of the way without any guests. We sailed through
Felixstowe and out to the North Sea seeing some friends on our way on Tortola and on their way to the Deben. We came out into the North Sea and turned to the North to get some sail up in 8-10 knots of Easterly wind. Getting the sail up was a little problematic and we needed to lubricate, using silicon spray, the track for the main and the furlex drums for the stay sail and the Yankee. Eventually we have full sail up although Mariadz needs a little more wind than this to really get going. We decide after an hour to return to the rivers because we will anchor overnight at the anchorage in the River Stour opposite Harwich Parkeston Key. Maria’s step-mum lives in Harwich and so we decided we would drop the rib and surprise her.
We start to prepare the rib for lowering and go to lower the swim platform as our means of access. Nothing, the swim platform doesn’t move and we find that the small hydraulic fluid leak that had not been fixed (absolutely no reflection on anyone currently working on the boat), had now lost enough fluid to stop it working, grrrrh. However, we will think our way out of the problem. Mariadz being a larger Moody has quite a late freeboard, probably four feet (I haven’t measured it!), so clearly getting into a lowered rib is going to be tricky. In theory we could lower the rib, detach it, walk it around the side and board using our fender step. Still a large step but possible. But….how would we get the boat back on the davits to return home. At this stage I decided that I could be lowered, and walking down the stern like Batman, could then get into the rib, Connie, bring her round and we are ready to go. That sounds like a plan, I have even knotted a rope to help with my descent! We attach the topping lift to my life jacket and start to lower me into the boat, success! I am now in the rib, but I didn’t bring the keys with me, muppet! It’s ok, Maria will find them and pass them to me…..
Who leaves the keys to a rib in their motorhome??? Why would you want rib keys in a motorhome anyway. I don’t either but I now know that is where they are. Maria finds the spare key and also the kill cord that has come from the smaller Tamaha engine that we have. What we didn’t know is that the part of the kill chord that keeps the kill switch in the out position is a different size and will not work with our Suzuki set up. So how can we rig something to work for the kill switch? Maria comes up with a hair band and wonders whether that, bound tightly would do the job – no harm in trying and the engine starts, more importantly it keeps running, were in business! We had already checked the fuel and far from being full, there is more than enough for our little jaunt and a spare can available too.
To be fair, Maria by this stage had made no secret of her apprehensiveness about boarding the rib from the midship gate. People who know Maria will know that she will not have hidden these concerns from me and we both know whos fault it will be if anything untoward should happen. It is quite a large step. She also has a handy line to help her and gets in with no problems so I live to see another day. We are ready to go.
At this time of the evening the wind had picked up a little and was in our faces as we head off to Harwich. The tide is also coming in so we are against both wind and tide. This doesn’t lead to the most comfortable couple of miles in the rib. This is not helped by a stutter and cut out after 100m! There was enough fuel I am sure…..Maria asks if the hairband has slipped and is absolutely right. Removal and reattaching and we are ready to go. I am trying to make the journey as comfortable as possible but it is difficult in the conditions until we get quite close to Harwich halfpenny pier. We order a taxi and go to surprise Maria’s step-mum.
It must have been a surprise to see two windswept and spray covered sailors clinging to their lifejackets and waterproof bag standing at her door, but I’m sure Jean was pleased to see us and we had a nice time for a couple of hours with Jean, Maria’s sister Natalie and her dog Ginny. It is getting late and we have yet to get some food before braving the return journey which we would prefer not to do in the dark, although we are armed with a torch to help us find our way.
For food, we decided to try the Alma, where we have had a drink before but never eaten. The food was amazing, their fish, steaks and lobster are fantastic!vwe leave full and happy as the light starts to go.
Fortunately, we haven’t been out so long for the tide to have changed so the journey back is very comfortable especially as the wind had died down a little too. In the dark we are even able to reverse the procedure to get the rib back up on the davits and me returned to the deck using the topping lift. What was shocking on a beautiful warm night, with little wind was that there was no-one near us, we expected this area to be full for the first good weekend of the year and it was wonderful to have the spot to ourselves. Maria was so happy she felt the need to sing accompanied by me, I guess it was fortunate we didn’t have any neighbours.
On Sunday morning, we woke reasonably early to find the hoped for wind hadn’t materialised. Our hopes of having a great sail were dashed. A change of plan then! We will take our time and get home early afternoon. We can then spend the afternoon cleaning the outside of the boat and the rib, boy do they need it. The roast can be cooking while we do all this.
A very sedentary trip back is only broken by having to evade a yacht who tacked and then didn’t point towards the wind at all. I had adjusted our course so that when they tacked they would pass on our starboard side for some reason, they decided to cross right in front of us and we had to take avoiding action. They had the look of people who were quite prepared to hit us because they were the stand on vessel. The river isn’t very wide at this point, near the Orwell bridge, and it was annoying to have this happen. I will have to remember to not let us be put in that position again. We dealt with the evasive action quickly but it was an unnecessary stress on a gorgeous day. Still he was probably the only vessel under sail in the whole day that we didn’t photograph so his loss!
We arrived at the lock when they had the level so we could motor straight through and it was nice to see our favourite lock-keeper Clive, who has always been so friendly.
It is such a shame that he was banned from playing music, some of his choices for different boats were hilarious and it’s a shame when people like this who make things fun have to stop. He has certainly made it a pleasure when we go through the lock.
Once through the lock, we decided to find a nice berth where we could moor stern to so that we could drop the rib, clean it, clean my footprints off the stern (sorry, Mariadz) and do all of this without inconveniencing too many people by blocking a pontoon. Maria has history with cleaning the rib, she once very elegantly fell in when trying to fix the cover on the old Avon rib. That was in August when it was warm, not a feat to be repeated in May. We get everything clean, especially me – note to self, don’t trust Maria with a hose pipe, you WILL get very wet. We finally returned to our home berth to finish off the clean. At the end of it Mariadz looked great and we felt we had done something for her after she does so much for us.
Then a gorgeous Sunday roast in the cockpit for two exhausted sailors.
Somewhat unusually for the UK, we had a hot and sunny weekend and then it rained for the next few days. However, much more expected was, despite using a little sun lotion, both Maria and I had sun burn after Sunday!