What’s an Essex girl’s favourite wine?

Before I start, I should say that Maria is a London girl rather than an Essex girl! That said our three daughters and our feline daughter were all born in Essex but this also doesn’t refer to them 🙂

The last summer bank holiday of the year saw a very still and warm forecast and with Maria having worked very hard particularly in the last month we agreed we would get out and have a relaxing time. Earlier in August, we had anchored in Osea Island and, apart from the pretty good late night music and water skiers in the morning, it was very tranquil and we probably didn’t spend as long there as we would have liked.

So it was decided that we would head down to Osea on Friday, Maria could work while I drive :). The prediction for the whole weekend was for winds in single digits and Mariadz needs mid-teens to really get going so we expected that we would be motor-sailing most of the way. We also intended to get out quite early, at low tide in Ipswich, which would mean we would have the tide with us for the whole journey.  That plan was stopped when I had to go and sort a few things out for the boat and Maria had calls so it wasn’t until lunchtime that we left (several hours later than we had hoped). We motored down the river with the wind on the bow and as we pass Wolverstone we are hailed from the shore, are we going too fast? Is there a problem with the boat that we haven’t seen? Neither, just some friends who recognised us but as I said to Maria, I have gorgeous bikini-clad women shouting and waving at me all the time, so I didn’t think anything of it. We also get buzzed by the red arrows as they fly over the Orwell, just another day on the river…. We have now decided to leave the sails until we are out to sea since the last turn toward Felixstowe and through the Medusa channel is due South and would be dead into the wind, and we’re not tacking up the river today when we are later than we should be already! 6174649376_IMG_3923We pass the two large containers unloading on the newest docks at Felixstowe, each over 1,000 feet long and we are gently motoring towards the wallet and the gunfleet windfarm. The southerly wind is in our faces but we know the turn to south west into the Wallet will give us the opportunity to get some sail up and motorsail at the very least. So a couple of hours into our journey and we are ready to get some sail up and with little wind, it’s gonna be all the sail -main, yankee and stay sail! Even against the tide we are making reasonable progress down the Wallet, which is incredibly busy giving an opportunity to get the camera out and take action pics of the boats.

The Clacton air show was on the Thursday and Friday of this week so we will be catching the latter part of this as we drift past Clacton.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Several boats are returning to port having spent the day at the air show but now we are approaching an 6174649376_IMG_3946awful lot of moored yachts and motorboats at Clacton. From a distance this almost looks like a pop-up Marina but as you get closer you can see there are quite big gaps between the boats. We have friends anchored off and other friends watching from the beach so hopefully they all saw us as well as the planes! 6174649376_IMG_3933We are on the look out for other friends amongst the anchored boats but I think they must be a sniper in camouflage since they were able to get a shot of us but I couldn’t see them. I later find that there had been more bikini-clad women waving to me, sorry to at I missed it this time. 🙂 IMG_1279We keep going at a reasonable pace with the intention of getting to Osea at about 7:30pm, a little late if there is a problem anchoring or the anchorage is full but we have been here a few times and never had a problem before. As you negotiate the gap at Colne bank, you can see the Bradwell Nuclear Power Station in front of you and it is another couple of hours down the blackwater, against the tide, to get to Osea. The river is quite quiet this evening and we make good progress, still motor sailing but with the wind having shifted slightly to South Easterly giving us some assistance from the sails as we progress down the river.  We go past Radio Caroline, which I didn’t realise was still broadcasting, 6174649376_IMG_3963one time we will have to try and get it on the radio when we go past! We arrive at Osea at the time we expected and start setting the anchor, I have remembered to attach the anchor float so that we know where the anchor is, the snubber is attached and holds the chain below the waterline which helps with keeping the anchor and boat comfortable and protects our top sides from the chain.  6174649376_IMG_3970Finally, the anchor ball goes up and the anchor light is on so we are ready to settle down for a quiet evening as Bradwell gentle glows in the distance behind us 😉. Having lived in Tollesbury, on the other side of the river, for six years, I guess I shouldn’t worry too much about the Bradwell glow! We are up on deck quite late enjoying the tranquility so no music for us or Maria belting out tunes! She must be tired.  Maria’s actually in bed by ten but that probably isn’t a bad thing and means that she will be rested for the weekend.

The next morning, Clyde comes to wake us at about 8am being a demanding cuddle cat.  That’s fine though since we don’t want to waste the day away. 6174649376_IMG_3973The morning is magnificent, sunny and still, at least until the water skiers turn up mid morning! We decide that before everywhere gets too busy we will move to a better spot.  The place we chose last night meant at low tide we were within seven metres of one of the buoys, Maria doesn’t like that so we move further down the river where it is a little shallower but with more room.  The move is uneventful and we are settled back down with the float out, snubber on and anchor watch application keeping an eye on us.

We’re planning our day and a rib trip down the blackwater sounds a good option, leave three hours before high tide and come back about the same afterwards and we should be fine….or we will be waiting until the early hours for the tide to come back in.

Getting the rib set up is easy and we have the garmin navigation and the hand held VHF so we are safe enough. It takes about 30 minutes to get round to the Heybridge lock and then another ten minutes round to Maldon. 6176639568_IMG_4017Before we go we take a few pictures of Mariadz looking regal in the river. And we’re off. It’s actually quite a nice trip on a rising tide although the garmin keeps telling me this would be shallow normally, but with the tide we are fine. However, we are being very careful, as always, and stay to the channel in the centre. This is quite ridiculous as we find when we get to Maldon. Our rib, Connie, probably needs about 30cm of water, compared to the 180cm of Mariadz. 6176639568_IMG_3993As we arrive in Maldon, we see a lot of the Thames Barges that we see in the Orwell! Maybe I didn’t need to worry about the depth…. having lived in Tollesbury for so long and spent a couple of years driving through Maldon to get to work – I didn’t know anything about the riverside area at all and it looks really nice. My first experience is to go to the two pubs on the waterfront, having left the rib on the small 20170826_153447visitors pontoon. This works well as we arrive to an empty pontoon, but soon after the world and his wife have decided to come to Maldon, so I had to keep going back to make sure that little Connie didn’t get crushed by anybody and to move her so that others could squeeze in. We all work together and by moving things around we get everyone into the pontoon.  This includes some new friends on a small yacht who made contact with land a couple of metres short of the pontoon! We waited a few minutes for the tide to lift them from the mud and then could bring them into the pontoon rather than being stuck out there 🙂 6176639568_IMG_4028later we saw them sailing back up the blackwater “refreshed”.

Having had a bite to eat and a couple of liquid refreshments, it’s time to get back to the boat and cats. We head back on the rib and see some really pretty beach huts on sticks (sorry no pics) just north of heybridge.  We then decide it is time for our first circumnavigation …of Osea island – pah that wasn’t difficult! Maria is feeling proud having got that under her belt. 6241685280_IMG_4045We’re back in time for sunset, a lovely BBQ and some time with the cats who have missed us. Sunset is amazing with the sky turning a deep red, I promise there is no filter on the photograph. Then as we are finishing dinner, a couple of guys from an adjacent boat are pottering around in their inflatable and come to say hi, I suspect that we will be chatting more tomorrow…. especially as we can hear them laughing and joking on their boat anchored nearby!

Sunday is a very still day again, morning Clyde, is it attention time already? Anyway with a sunny day forecast and nowhere near enough wind to get Mariadz going, it will be a relaxing day listening to music, sunbathing and chilling – just what Maria needs. But first, the boat looks untidy and needs a clean. Another advantage of the liveaboard life is that when your home needs tidying up, you can do it when your anchored rather than cutting the weekend short to return to your house to do your chores. FB_IMG_1503828861375Anyway, 30 minutes later and we are all clean and tidy.  Now the real work of sunbathing and relaxing can begin. Oh and maybe a cheeky glass of wine. Our new friends in the anchorage pop up river for a sail, there isn’t any wind though 😉, and on their return we invite them onto Mariadz to properly introduce ourselves before hitting the beach later for a barbecue. For one of the crew, it is her first time on water, and she is not comfortable doing the ride to Mariadz in their inflatable.  6241694000_IMG_4071I offer to pop over in the rib to collect her and come back nice and slowly so as not to worry her.  I throw the line back to Mariadz but the combination of my poor throw and a missed catch means that the rope is in the water. Instinctively, I reverse back so that I can retrieve the line, why did I do that! The line gets nicely wrapped around the prop of the rib and the engine stops.  After switching off the ignition, I lift the engine and unwrap the line as we drift slowly down the river. Lowering the engine and restarting works fine and we can try and do a better job of it this time!  We get my passenger safely on board and we can add another unique experience to our boating life. To be fair it was quite quick to resolve the issue and if it hadn’t have been, I would have been able to deploy the anchor quite quickly too while I solved it (or ended up rowing back to Mariadz…. with one oar…. against a stong tide). Let’s just be grateful that no damage was done!

The drinks are flowing and Maria is making up her innocent-tasting, wicked cocktails – these four are about to be Mariadz-ed! After several hours of drinking, we need to go to the beach if we are going to eat more than nibbles.  6241694000_IMG_4106The anchorage is now getting busy too but we have been here a night already so hopefully the other boats will anchor in a way that doesn’t cause us any problems. Not that is an issue for us, we like to have access to the decks and so we deploy our fenders which has the added benefit of giving the cats a way to get back on board if they did fall in.  It must look strange and unnerving though when you anchor close to a boat that has their fender deployed, not much confidence in anchoring ability being demonstrated there!

Anyway, everyone gets their stuff together for the beach party and we ride into shore in three dinghies to set up camp, having been joined by another couple from a small motor cruiser from Maldon. 6241694000_IMG_4126We are now on a falling tide with low tide scheduled to be about 11pm but we are not worried about such things…..yet.  Maria goes off “hunting for wood” but it must be hiding because she comes back with only a small twigs.  It is ok though as we all go off and forage for wood for the fire and soon with some liquid help it is roaring, a little like us! 6241694000_IMG_4144Maria’s brought some music and a speaker, although thankfully not the full karaoke setup, so music is playing and it is a lovely evening.  We are eating quite late but everyone is having a good time.

After sunset and dinner, four of our party decide to head back to their boat but the rest of us are continuing chatting. However, some time later, there are some shouts from the yachts anchored closest to shore.  These are not ABOUT us but apparently someone is stuck in the mud so we are needed to go to their assistance.  We discover that one of the girls decided to get out of the tender as they were returning to their boat.  Apparently the swim to shore was fine but then, because of the low tide, she was wading through exceptionally grippy mud. We rush over and find her up to her waist in mud and unable to move.  One of things I noticed here was that there seems to be two consistencies of mud here which I guess depends on how long it is exposed to air.  The mud towards the top of the bank is quite hard and easy to walk on.  But as low tide approaches and you get closer to the water, the mud becomes like quicksand.  It took a few minutes to extricate her, and ourselves, from this thick mud and then we got her to the fire to keep warm.  Maria and I go down to the rib to see how far away it is from the water and it is still 30 metres.  We start to lift, push and pull 150kg of rib and engine down the beach but we then get to the thick mud.  Having seen what this can do already tonight, we agree to leave the boat here and wait for the tide to come in. As we return to the camp fire, having deployed the anchor just in case, we have to explain the decision to the mud-encrusted girl who is now very keen to get back to her boat. In the fullness of time, the tide comes in and floats Connie and we can all start to get in with all of our stuff from the beach. We are covered in mud. We drop off a mud-caked young lady at her boat and return back to Mariadz.  We have to do some cleaning straight away on the bathing platform with the really useful shower, hurrah something that worked and I haven’t had to fix! The main clean up will be tomorrow, so all of the mud caked clothes are left in the cockpit and we go to have a proper shower on board.

The next morning I am awake early despite it being a late night.  There are quite a few boats that have left already. It is a beautiful morning and I get the opportunity to survey the scene of devastation on Mariadz. Well alright there is some mud, empty drinks etc.  I notice that we have a few bags from our new friends and also some things missing which I assume they have, so when I see life on their yacht I get back into the rib to return their stuff.  They seem to have the last things that we are missing and I return to Mariadz as Maria gets up to tell me there is another bag! So it’s back in the rib and delivering more stuff. All this is done and over the next hour or so, Maria and I tidy up the boat for our return to Ipswich and lift Connie back up using the davits and secure her.  The tides are not really in our favour and there is barely any wind, and certainly not enough to drive Mariadz without some help from the engine but it is a glorious day and will be a pleasant trip home.  We send our farewells by text and start our journey home.

The trip up the Blackwater is as calm and still as you would expect.  Although I do have sail up eventually, we do have to switch the engine on as we drift along at a couple of knots. We can’t spend a whole day on the return. Lots of people are trying to take advantage of the glorious day but are similarly challenged to go at any speed but everyone is showing willing.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I get to take quite a few pictures of the other boat up the Wallet and the Orwell. The highlight of which was seeing a porpoise and her young swimming in the Wallet, FB_IMG_1504091460025although I will admit it isn’t the best picture in the world!  Maria became an excited school girl when she saw it!  Really sweet as she spontaneously bursts into tears.

As we pass Felixstowe Maria pops the roast into the oven so that it will be ready soon after our arrival.  We arrive in time for freeflow at the lock and so it is quickly through and tied up, Maria doing this a little quicker than she would normally, apparently because she needed to see to the potatoes 🙂

Its been a wonderful few days and really felt like a holiday in the Med or the Caribbean.  Maria has had a good break and we have made some new friends..

Oh and what’s an Essex girl’s favourite wine?

“I wanna go t’ Clacton!”.


A clean boat is a happy boat

One of the final jobs of our lift out was to clean up the hull, superstructure and deck.  As part of this we identified a few things that needed to be addressed.  Although cosmetic, this work adds some finishing touches and makes Mariadz look even prettier 🙂

20170821_095538The hull polish went very well and is a quick job because the surface is mostly flat. She came up beautifully.  The gold vinyl stripe, which we intend to change next year to a painted stripe, is looking fine despite having been in place for over four years. So we can survive another year of that without doing anything major.

The superstructure needed some work and in fact we had some areas that needed a lot of work.  Particularly on the aft deck where the raised “sun-bed” area, meets the deck. The GRP at this point was “crazing”.  We were concerned that this would need a new layer of gelcoat to resolve but speaking to our local GRP specialist, Terry Clarke, 20170822_130357we discovered that this needed very fine sanding with 400 and then 1000 wet and dry sand paper…… very gently!  The dark crazing was removed and, after polishing, this area looked like new which was refreshing considering this had been a bugbear of ours for a few years.

The final job was the teak which was cleaned and brightened to give it the brown look that Maria loves, lets see how long that lasts!  Unfortunately, as we went round the boat we discovered that the teak seating in the cockpit area is 0.5mm thick in places.  Although it would be possible to do some minor patching and fix the caulking, this would only be short term.  So we have decided that we need to do this properly and will replace the teak in the cockpit.  I spoke to Watts and Sons in Northampton to get a quote which didn’t seem unreasonable so we haven’t repaired the cockpit and will do the job properly when we have the chance.

In between the polishing and the teak work, we had a weekend and went sailing to Osea Island.  I got into trouble on my return for not cleaning down the hull well enough and leaving a layer of salt on the beautifully polished hull.  Sorry Terry, I promise it won’t happen again 😦 and Maria now has her watchful eye on me to make sure I don’t fail again :). The final point is how do we keep her looking good….. regular washing with a car shampoo will be our technique, definitely no using Fairy liquid which would strip the wax off very quickly and make her dull.  Hopefully that will help Mariadz stay pretty for another year.


Magic pontoon steps

So inspired by a video on facebook for a very posh dock box and with Maria’s upcoming birthday on the 16th August, necessity became the mother of invention and I decided to MAKE Maria’s present this year.

Firstly, like any parent, Maria will have had presents made for her by the girls when they were very young, I am hoping that my attempts achieve the quality level that she is used to…..

In the video, some flat pack wood miraculously unfolds into two steps with a lid to a box for shoes (or more likely junk!).  The steps look very stable as she hops onto her low freeboard yacht….does she really need steps at all??  In the comments to the video there were some questions raised as to how much such a box would cost and the answer had come back as $3,000!  I have to say the box does look beautifully made but if you are willing to pay that for it, I would like to introduce myself and discuss potential charitable donations or personal investment opportunities.

So there has to be another way….. and please read to the end to see an unbelievable offer!

Mariadz, as a Moody 54, doesn’t have exceptional freeboard for her size but it is still well over a metre to the water line and nearly a metre from a floating pontoon to the deck.  Maria and I are a little vertically challenged too, which meant when I snapped my Achilles Tendon or tore Cruciate ligaments, it was tricky to get on board – in the end you have to sit on the rail and swing your legs round.

But do we need this?  At the moment we have a throne on the pontoon.  This is a huge wooden staircase to the boat that works really well but will be left when we start our travelling. So potentially we would need something for when we are travelling and Maria had taken a shine to this video when it came out. Surely I can work something out and put it together for less than that!

imageI have been fortunate to have Pete and Linda as neighboursIMG_6442 for the last two years and one of the things I have noticed as they fit out the beautiful Haven Voyager is that Pete designs a lot in cardboard before making it or buying it. This gave me the inspiration to mock up the steps prior to buying any wood or hinges!  I can also thank my son Matthew for drinking the cider that made this all possible.

The model worked really well from the wood perspective but didn’t give me a great view of the problems I was likely to have with hinges.  You need two types of hinge for this design a flush fitting hinge which helps with anything that goes out to 90 degrees and a butt hinge for joints that go out to 180 degrees.

So, here he we have the Mariadz designed Magic Pontoon Steps (patent pending 😉 ),

{drum roll please}

So what do you need to make these fine pieces of modern design?

The measurements below are based on producing steps that are 60cm tall (Height) with a first step at 30cm.  The depth (thickness) of the wood is key and I have assumed 12mm (woodwidth) but will also explain below how the sizes are made up so that people can adjust as necessary. Dimensions are Length x width and all measurements and I have rounded up the woodwidth to 15mm for calculations for ease of cutting and also because this gives a little space which the hinges are likely to require anyway.

Wood – (B&Q do a fantastic cut to size service which is very accurate)

  • The back – 60cm x 60cm [(Height) x (height)]
  • The concertina sides (4) – 60cm x 28.5cm [(Height) x (Height/2 – woodwidth)]
  • the top 1 – 60cm x 10cm [(height) x (width*7 + a bit?)] – the width is what provides the top part that closes the pack and so you want to be too much rather than too little.
  • the top 2 – 60cm x 50cm [(height) x (height – top 1 width)] – best that the top is cut from the same sheet
  • Steps (3) – 30cm x 60cm [(height/2) x height)]
  • small step sides (2) – 30cm x 30cm [(height/2) x (height/2)]
  • top bars (2) – 45cm x 45 cm [(height – top 1 width – wood width*4) x (height – top 1 width – wood width*4)]

hardware – (I chose 50mm brass hinges)

  • 10 Butt hinges
  • 14 flush hinges
  • 12mm screws (100) – check that the hinges don’t come up with 16mm screws, or you are through the wood!
  • 16mm “ish” screws (6) – these need to be less than (2*wood width)
  • magnetic catches (2)
  • anti slip tape


20170810_164659There are basically three types of joint in the design.  The outside of the box 20170810_164715requires a joint that forms an L so that the top of the box is supported on all sides for stability.  This means that the flush hinges need to be brought in by the width of the wood and recessed into the wood to provide a flush finish (I would now recess these differently to the picture with the larger part of the hinge being recessed but I did the first as in the picture and wanted to stay consistent at least on the inside of the box).  Two of the concertina sides are joined to each side of the back using this method and the other two are joined to the top step in the same way, I used two hinges for each joint irrespective of size. Having built the U of the back and two sides and the same U shape for the front, we can join these together with the butt hinges.  You now have a box with one end which is only half covered and has the front of the top step.  We can now fit the top step itself, which is the top of the box, by fitting two flush hinges onto the top edge of the back on the outside and then the smaller top piece can be fixed.  The larger top piece is then attached to the smaller with two butt hinges (on the inside).  Our top step is taking shape.  Now to avoid any unfortunate accidents it is a good idea to attach two bars on the underside of the longer part of the top step.  These will stop the concertina collapsing inwards.  They should be mounted a wood width from the outside edge and have at least a wood width on the outside edge at the front.

Now to do the bottom step.  We already have the facing for the top step on the box so we need to make an L shape with our two remaining step pieces of wood using flush hinges and again positioning the hinge so that it forms an L when opened. Now we can join this L to the bottom edge of the top step which forms part of the box, , using the flush hinges, which should allow the entire step area to fold up to the top of the box.  The next step is to attach the small step sides to the bottom of the box under the steps so that they fold in and then come out under the steps.  In order to ensure that the bottom step sides stay in place, I used magnets on the inside of the small side pieces to lock it into the back of the bottom step.  My steps are untreated so far but the plan is to get this done too since they will be outside a lot of the time.

Finally, put anti-slip tape over the steps and top, we don’t want any accidents. At the end, you should get the following..

You can see the video was done before the protection or anti-slip was applied, I’m just a little premature I guess….. A month later, I have used International Paints Woodskin to waterproof and protect the wood, Anti Slip Strips to stop any accidents and the boat name in gold, which isn’t too clear with the wood colour unfortunately. The final element is a weathermax bag for it to go in, and I’ll probably throw some silicon sachets in there.


So the steps are done.  The size works well for us since we have 90cm above the pontoon to the deck and it means three same sized steps and you are on board, probably useful that they are all the same size in case someone isn’t concentrating.  As an alternative and nearer to the example from the original video, the steps could have been a little smaller, since the overall dimensions of these steps are 60cm x 60 cm x 12cm.  It is quite easy to have the height at 40cm or 50cm, and hopefully the explanations above will help to explain how to do that.

So now for the unbelievable offer.  So anyone seeing the original video of the deck box will know it costs $3,000 (but it is a beautiful piece of art, the Rolls Royce of deck boxes).  I would be happy to make the Magic Pontoon Steps to the quality you have seen in the videos, to an agreed, realistic size, for £300 + delivery (feel free to email us at mariadz@mariadz.com).  I know, I know, I am robbing myself.  Clearly Maria’s special steps cost four times this, they are a present after all!  For those who prefer to go it alone, I hope my instructions above help.

A trip to Osea Island

With the boat back in the water and Maria’s upcoming workload as her projects go live, we had worked out that the only opportunity we had to get out for a few weeks was going to be the first weekend of August.  It had also been a long time since Lisa Jones had been with us and so we made arrangements to all get together. Lisa took Friday off work to come to the boat with the intention of getting out early for a nice weekend away.

The weather forecast was a little changeable with an element of Westerly in the wind prediction for most of the weekend.  Although the temperatures looked pretty good there was also some rain expected over the weekend so it was more with hope than expectation that we prepared for the weekend.  As usual, Maria wanted me to go to the fishing tackle shop and buy her some worms so that she go fishing over the weekend.  I may have mentioned before that this is a common request from Maria and most times there isn’t much fishing being done.  The result is I feed a lot of worms to the crabs and would have had better value for money at the fishmonger rather than the fishing tackle store! All of the other provisioning has been done, including unloading lots of stuff from the motorhome, and the boat is ready to go.

The girls are both very keen to go to Burnham or Osea Island but I am trying to tempt them with heading North for the first time.  Maybe Lowestoft or Great Yarmouth would be good destinations to try out?

Unfortunately, Maria is incredibly busy at the moment with a go live on her projects at the end of the week and so there is no let-up in her work.  So Maria is going to have to work on the Friday.  However, if she can get a free thirty minutes, we can get through the lock and she can continue to work while I sail Mariadz down the river.  We can then tie up at Halfpenny Pier in Harwich, anchor in the Orwell, moor on a buoy at Levington or start heading to our destination depending on the time.  Maria doesn’t get ten minutes to herself all day so we are stuck in our berth waiting for a window in her workload.  By 6pm, we can leave.  The first stage of the plan will therefore be a stop down the river.  We decide that a mooring buoy sounds like the best plan and head down the river at a gentle pace following a new large Fairline motor boat on its way to Southampton. IMG_6140In just over an hour we are tied up to a mooring buoy, the Prosseco has been broken out and the girls are starting to relax.  We settle down to watch the sunset over the River Orwell as our pork chops cook in the galley.  At the age of 72, Adam’s Dad has discovered Facebook.  His regular posts on the recovery of Adam’s Mum from a stroke in March, help us all understand the progress and the difficulty of these long term recoveries. It is clear from his latest update that today has been a hard day and we agree to facetime him to have a face-to-face chat over the internet. Two hours later, dinner has been switched off, alcohol has been consumed and we are all still chatting but Dad is in a better place and his favourite daughter outlaw (in joke I’m afraid) is now past eating.  A few more drinks and a bit more chatting and it is time for bed before we head to Osea Island the next day – I never get my own way 🙂

We are up at a reasonable time the next day but inexplicably seem to have run short of milk so I have to deploy and hop in the rib to pop to the shops before we can go anywhere.  Fortunately, the chandlery at Levington has a small selection of food and drink including milk so I don’t have to go too far and I am back on board and rib stowed before the girls have finished getting the rest of the boat ready for sailing.

I have an easy way to remember the tides in the North Sea, where the area fills from the North and empties to the North.  That means that prior to high tide the flow is south and after high tide it is North as the water levels lower. We are ready to leave at pretty much high tide in the morning so we will be fighting the tide all of the way.  However, the wind seems to be staying North Westerly so at least we will have some wind helping us even if it means we are slightly wind against tide with the issues with nasty waves that can be a result.  We are also getting a little more wind than the 8-10knots that we were expecting with the wind getting up to the high teens.  We are keeping the engine on and motor-sailing to ensure that we can continue to make sensible progress and will arrive early evening rather than near to sunset.  Our friends in motorboats don’t suffer from the tides like we do.  When you average seven knots, adding or subtracting up to two knots can add a lot of time to your journey.  This isn’t quite the same at 20 Knots where the impact is 10%.  We have found before that a journey that can take a couple of hours with the tide, can take four against it so we are always very watchful of the tides and try to have them in our favour whenever possible.

It doesn’t take long to get out of Harwich when you start at Levington, and we are soon heading South towards the Gunfleet windfarm and the wallet, the stretch of water between Gunfleet and the land. We are making good progress with a full mainsail out, the staysail deployed and the running backstays setup to ease any stress on the mast. Mariadz is sitting comfortably in the water as we progress through the wallet heading towards Brightlingsea.  Its about lunchtime and we have a perfectly serviceable meal from the previous night, thanks Dad!  Maria heats and freshens it up and the pork chops swimming in gravy come out with mash and veg.  It is wonderful.

As we approach the Colne Bar, the clouds are getting a little more menacing and they are some squals in the air. One of the squals is a little too close.  The rain and wind come suddenly and the wind strength rapidly goes to 40+ knots, not comfortable at all.  We try to point the bow to the wind using the autohelm so that we can take the power out of all of the sails since we still have a lot of sail out but we are heeling over quite a lot as we get there. The self tacking staysail is the problem since it adjusts itself to get the wind unless you are pretty much pointing at the wind.  As we get close to the wind direction, I free the staysail outhaul so that I can go and reel it in.  In the time it takes me to get to the stern to pull it in the leech of the sail (the edge of the sail furthest aft), has thrashed itself against the outhaul line and torn the ultraviolet protection strip.  Not a disaster but annoying and will need a repair.  The main goes in a little messily but is reefed in safely and we are back under complete control and safe.  A lightening bolt and a huge clap of thunder are very close to us but this misses us by half a mile and so not a problem for us or the couple of other yachts that we can see nearby. Then as quickly as it came onto us, the squal is gone and the wind is back to how it was.  We had been a little bit complacent about Mariadz’s capability and not as observant as we should have been but the boat had handled it fine (and safely) and we had a minor repair to remind us of our mistake.  On checking down below, all is good, so we must have stowed everything away well enough to handle a lot of movement, and the cats are not too worried.

After this bit of excitement, it takes a little time for us to get the confidence back to put more sail out again and for the rest of the trip we are very careful with a watchful eye on the sky.  There are no further surprises and we can get back to enjoying the trip. At Mersea island, we have a choice of whether to anchor in Pyefleet Creek which goes around the North of the Island or head the two hours further down the River Blackwater to Osea Island.  We agree to push on through since it is likely we will be arriving at the anchorage prior to 6pm.  If it is full, it can be very popular, then we can head back to Pyefleet.  This may also be difficult with the Brightlingsea festival on this weekend but we will see.

The River Blackwater is a lovely wide river at this point which is better for avoiding other boats than the Orwell which can be quite thin with a number of options where people could tack.  In the Orwell there have been a number of occasions when I have had to alter course multiple times to avoid a boat tacking towards me when they have tacked at unexpected points.  This is not a problem on the Blackwater where the courses are quite predictable and there is less traffic.  Although there are quite a lot of buoys that are not on the charts so you need to stay observant or you will find one going past within a few metres…..

When sailing, we always observe a radio watch on a local channel if required but also one channel 16.  This can be fun when you hear people saying “over and out” (one or the other please 🙂 ).  Some of the boats calling each other can be quite amusing too, “this is ocean dream calling St. Tropez, over”……. off the Essex coast on a bit of a dreary day! But you also hear other calls, a pan pan because someone is stuck on a sand bank but not in immediate danger and another boat that has lost their mast and rig.  A busy day on the radio and you are constantly chaning channels to see what is going on, and also to offer help if you can 🙂

Further down the River Blackwater as we make progress past Bradwell power station and Mersea island, there is a ship anchored with a red hull and a large radio mast.  6176663328_IMG_3790This is the Ross Revenge which is the boat that used to broadcast Radio Caroline in the North Sea during the Eighties.  This was after the first Radio Caroline ship, Mi Amigo, had sunk which is remarkably similar to the story for the “The Boat That Rocked”, although apparently this is a coincidence! So a little bit of history to enjoy as you sail past.  There are then a large number of moored boats before you get to the anchorage at Osea Island.  We arrive shortly before 6pm, right on low water, and with only five other boats spread around the anchorage find a good spot and start to drop anchor. In one respect arriving at low water has the advantage of simplifying the calculations for the anchor chain although it does mean that we did not benefit from the tide at any stage!

We anchor in a shade over three metres of water with another three metres being added for high tide.  We deploy about twenty five metres of chain and our long snubber 6241692640_IMG_3749although on this occasion I forget to attach the anchor ball to the anchor to help with 6241692640_IMG_3750location and retrieval in an emergency.  Time to relax again, as the sun goes down and out comes the Prosecco and the raspberry gin – hmmm, theme developing here.  Our friends are at Brightlingsea listening to music and send us a video, the singing doesn’t sound the best if we’re honest and doesn’t compare to the band we can hear on Osea Island where there must be a wedding 6241692640_IMG_3752or large summer party.  It’s a lovely, still, warm evening as we settle down.  For the second night, the fishing rods are shut firmly in their carrier and my Dad FaceTimes us and we talk for ages and Bonnie chills on deck.

Later that evening, Clyde is practicing his party trick.  6243751552_IMG_3657Maria has taught him to do a high five for treats, he likes to practice this a lot and he has the girls wrapped around his little paw! He gets treats.

It is an earlier night since we had a late one the previous night and lots of sea air and we are falling asleep long before midnight, although 6243751552_IMG_3658Clyde is now being a bit cheeky and trying his “come to bed” eyes on Lisa!

The next morning is clear with very light winds, which is pretty much as expected.  It looks like we will have to motor-sail most of the way home.  Leaving at a similar time as the previous day means we will gain the full benefit from the tide in the wallet, although we are keen to get away a little earlier so in the river we will still be fighting the tide.  The wind has picked up a but and we have a quite useable 15knots of wind which will be directly behind us as we go up the wallet.  So the plan is to motor-sail up the Blackwater, tiptoe around the Colne Bank before switching off the engine and sailing all the way home.

We set off and are accompanied by jetskis for the first part of our journey, this is one of the disadvantages of the anchorage as well as the water skiers, but they don’t do it for long and it just spoils the tranquility for a short time.  We are making good progress and arrive in the wallet as the tide turns.  For a short period the water is confused and fighting both itself and the wind but it soon works it all out and with engine off and tide with us we are sailing up the wallet at 7+ knots.  There are a few boats around us and Maria is not a racer by any means but similar to Gandalf – “You shall not pass” – when she is sailing.  There is one boat behind us with their coloured cruising chute out but 6176663328_IMG_3805they are falling behind as we start to catch up with a couple of smaller boats ahead of us. We travel up the wallet passing Walton, Frinton and Clacton which all look very different from the sea.

We are starting the turn towards Felixstowe and the wind is now directly behind us which gives an opportunity to get the sails out on both sides and sail goose winged.  We always have a gybe preventer on our main if the wind is behind at all.  This stops the boom smashing across the boat which is dangerous for the crew and also not healthy for the rig.  It is something we were taught early on and it is now a habit that we have got into.  We are still going past boats and Maria is smiling and waving, she does enjoy a nice relaxed sail.  The channel from the wallet to Felixstowe is Medusa and this is pretty much due North to the entrance.  The wind has picked up and with another change of course is now more on our beam.  I had seen this coming and had reduced sail substantially because we had noticed that the wind had been growing during our sail up the wallet.  It is now blowing between 25-35 knots which doesn’t feel so bad when you are running in front of it but after turning you suddenly feel the full force and after yesterday’s fun and games, no risks are being taken.  We are bobbing along nicely with half our main out and about the same from the headsail as we are being crossed by several boats going towards the wind, a lot more uncomfortable, bouncy and heeling over with lots of sail up. We’re grateful that we don’t need to worry about that for the rest of this journey but as we enter Felixstowe harbour, my mind does start to wander to an hour and a half away when we could be trying to get into our berth with a gusting 25-35 knot wind!  One to worry about closer to the time. This is also the time that Maria likes to get the roast dinner on, a couple of hours later we will be ready for it…

There is a large modern Southerly yacht, trying to catch us as we gently sail up the Orwell but Maria is having none of that and we hold them off until they take their sails down to go into one of the river marinas.  Its a lovely sail up the river with the wind starting to die but we are able to keep the sails up until we get close to the Orwell bridge.  Some people get frustrated at the time it takes to get through the lock and into your home berth but we find this all part of the fun and there is no major delay although we are asked to let one of the commercial boats, Orwell Lady, go into the lock first.  They must be more worried about hitting us than us hitting them :).  The two boats are the only ones in the lock and the wind has died down completely now so I had nothing to worry about.  I also clearly didn’t have anything to worry about as Maria completes the turn towards our berth and brings Mariadz home nice and gently.  I am able to get the lines on easily and the engine is off very quickly.

With the boat tied, tidied up and everything settled down, I dropped the worms over the side and fed the crabs …… again 😦


Mariadz annual lift out and through hulls

Coinciding with our annual holiday to Italy, we decided to take Mariadz out of the water to have some essential work done.  There were a number of things on our list.  Firstly, earlier in the year we had a valve for a throughhull fail and we were concerned about certain others.  With our long term plans in mind, we decided to replace all throughhulls although we thought we may salvage some of them.  With air conditioning, deck drains, engine, generator, water maker and toilets, there are twenty through hulls below the water line on Mariadz. One of these had already been done!  In addition, the keel coolers for the fridge and freezer, built in to two of the through hulls had also failed and were depressurizing our system.  So these needed to be replaced too.  While we were out it was also time to rekey the coppercoat, refresh the antifoul on key spots, check anodes, service the prop and polish the topsides.  In addition we wanted the teak to be cleaned and some internal work.  A fair amount of work to get done in three weeks.  For most of our boat owning life we have used Watercraft UK, Steve Pike, to do these jobs and we had spoken to him about doing this earlier in the year because we know how busy he gets and wanted to be sure it would get done.  Having ordered the through hulls, I spoke to Stevie to discuss the work that needed doing a few weeks before the lift out.  He was even busier than we expected and he mentioned that the through hulls would get done but that the other work would need to be “prioritised” and some of it done when the boat was back in the water and we were back from holiday.  Maria and I discussed our options and decided, on this occasion, we couldn’t afford there to be delays and issues with the work.  We spoke to Terry Clarke (Terryclarkegrp@gmail.com), a very experienced “boatie” who does a lot of work in Ipswich and has an excellent reputation.  Terry went through the list with us and agreed to pick up the work. I just had to break the news to Stevie!  That done we were ready to take Mariadz out of the water.  IMG_7589Maria was going to be busy working so I asked Phil and the team to take Mariadz out of her berth which was done professionally and carefully. As she came out, there were quite a few barnacles and weed on her.  We also checked the prop since we had quite a bit of vibration from the prop which you could hear in the aft stateroom when under power.  There were a number of barnacles on the prop which could have caused the blades to not fully deploy and hence result in vibration, so the servicing of the prop is very important and something we need to check after its service.  As part of the lift out service, Mariadz is pressure washed which cleans nearly everything off the hull and then she is put in her place for the next three weeks, as we move onto the motorhome.

The biggest and hardest job is the 20170801_115537through hull replacement and Terry and Ben get started on this first. We quickly find that the hope that we would be able to keep some through hulls or even salvage some of the existing ones.  Very quickly this became a pipe dream, as the through hulls started to come out.  20170801_131054Some of them were wobbling in place, some were becoming pink inside (a definite sign that they need changing) and some of the valves would not close properly which of course is a big issue if you needed to close these in an emergency.  20170808_125847The replacement goes really well despite some access issues and all of the through hulls are now changed.  The two in the galley which also acted as keel coolers for the refrigeration are replaced with standard large through hulls and the keel coolers are moved slightly.  These are changed from the vented coils to two porous blocks, with their own anodes, that soak up the water and cool the fridges.  Apparently this is a new 20170801_115505design which cannot be blocked by weeds etc. so we are hopeful that our fridge and freezer issues are finally solved for the last time.  Also with the removal of the temporary fan solution, the noise in the galley has also reduced.  The rekeying of the coppercoat is done with a light sandpaper after I have gone round and removed the last remnants of any barnacles on the hull.  The hull anode which was replaced earlier in the year was also reasonably worn, but with some life left in it, but we decided to change this at the same time.  The hull had been well polished and is looking fantastic.20170801_142614

Mariadz has three air conditioning units and for the last year we have had several issues with the unit in the forepeak.  In the end this was traced to a new control board unit and I had to order this from HFL in Germany, in German!  Thankfully, google translate was my friend and it was all achieved via email.  While Mariadz was out, we replaced the PCB so one of the jobs when we get back into the water is find out whether this has finally solved our aircon issue in the forepeak.

One of the final jobs was to refresh the antifoul on the keel, P bracket that holds the shaft, a part of the rudder mechanism and finally the bow thruster tunnel.  This was all done in the last few days prior to the lift back into the water.

With all of this done, we were ready to go back into the water and this was scheduled, a little later than hoped on the Wednesday following our return from holiday.  I guess it gave me an opportunity to do some of the jobs myself which will be useful in future years.

The lift back in is uneventful but before we can get back on 20170802_111418our berth we need to check for leaks and that the through hulls are seated correctly.  Terry is on board and checks all of the through hulls.  As he comes back on deck, he is pleased that out of nineteen through hulls, none of them leak.  I’m not sure I’m 100% happy with the hint of surprise in his voice….only joking, they have done a fantastic, meticulous job and it is not surprising at all. We have some minor problems with the old pipes connecting to the new through hulls but these are all addressed and there is no water coming into the boat. Interestingly, we were told that when the one through hull was done earlier in the year, the boat had to be relifted because the new one leaked which makes us even happier with our decision to use Terry!

Mariadz is returned to her berth and I can start to get the boat ready for Maria’s return.  The first job is to check that the air conditioning unit is working.  We bleed the pumps and switch them all on, after we have double checked that the though hulls are open of course! I also have a similar issue with the electric toilet where there is an air pocket in the pump and this needs to be bled.  Cleaning, putting the carpet back down and making beds before Mariadz is ship shape.