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! We 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.
Several boats are returning to port having spent the day at the air show but now we are approaching an awful 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! We 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. 🙂 We 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, one 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. Finally, 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. The 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. Before 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. As 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 visitors 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 🙂 later 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. We’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. Anyway, 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. I 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. The 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. We 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! Maria’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.
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, although 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!”.