It has been a tradition that Mariadz goes to Burnham-on-Crouch for the carnival late in September. This coincides with a meeting of fellow Moody owners so an opportunity to catch up with friends. The marina also have a marque setup with lunch and a live band, Street Life, who we were lucky to have play at our wedding back in 2010 and we consider them to be friends. This also seems to be a traditional place where we meet new friends. We are invariably at the entrance to the marina and this seems to be a spot where you are seen. This has resulted in many good friendships being formed including Amanda and Mark when they first collected their yacht Serenity, Stig on Wild Dream 2 who seems to share the tradition of visiting Burnham for carnival and Martine who had a beautiful Hardy, called Kismet. Lots of reasons to head down the coast and into the Crouch then.
Maria and I decided we would get down to Burnham nice and early and have a few days there. With the communications setup we have with the boat wifi extender, a mifi and now an aerial booster for the mifi, we are always connected and Maria could continue to work as usual while I guided the boat. The journey to Burnham on Crouch from Ipswich is about 45 miles and it is ten miles to get to Landguard which is a cardinal buoy that we consider as the start of all of our routes. Maria was very keen to get to Burnham early in the day so that Mariadz (rather than Maria) could be tied up for the afternoon. Unfortunately this meant that the tides in the Wallet wouldn’t be ideal, and neither was the wind. It would also mean going across the shallow Spitway at Gunfleet on or around low tide. Mariadz is more than capable of handling the weather although it would mean that we would probably be a little slower than our usual passage planning speed of seven knots and we would be especially careful at the shallow sections. In order to offset this we decided to leave the night before and pick up a mooring buoy near the bottom of the Orwell which would gain us an hour. A nice early start the next day and all would be fine…..
The provisions were on board and we were pretty much ready to go but it is getting later. Maria gently pulled Mariadz out of her berth to head towards the lock and Mark from Motion took a pic for us. Shortly after the picture was taken we noticed that the satellite dish was still up, just ahead of the mast! Better get that in before we go too far down the river!
The trip down the river is uneventful with few craft on the river and within the hour we are approaching the mooring buoys but with a strong southerly wind in our faces. We discuss the approach and think that the wind is going to be stronger than the tide so to approach into the wind so that Maria can stop Mariadz easily. After a couple of failed attempts to pick up the buoy Maria suggests we approach from the other side. The buoys opposite Suffolk Yacht Harbour have a thick loop of rope and one of these had another thin long line attached to it, I assume to help with picking it up. That restricts the use of the bow thruster then, we don’t want a rope getting caught in there. I have our stainless extendable boat hook and I get a good grip of the line for the buoy, unfortunately the hook then decides to detach itself from the pole. It is ok though since it is still caught up in the thick line on the buoy. Go and get the other boat hook while Maria spins Mariadz round, pick up the line, grab the old hook, thread the line and we are all good! Maria does her part perfectly and has the buoy perfectly mid-ships where I can reach it. I start to lift the buoy and the hook is coming up and just as I reach out to grab it, it drops off and into the Orwell where it joins an identical complete stainless steel boat hook that we dropped there a few years ago! Oh well, another replacement hook required. Still I thread the line and tie us close to the buoy. Maria is a little concerned since we are lying quite close to the next buoy which has a catamaran on it but I agree that I will check it at the change of tide a bit later in the evening. In the end we remain far enough away from the catamaran despite the slightly different swing characteristics compared to Mariadz. It is a breezy evening but the next day is clear although we didn’t get started too early, no surprise there. Based on our later departure time, we are likely to reach the spitway shortly after low tide so at least we will be on a rising tide if we do find it too shallow. It’s 9am by the time we reach the Languard buoy, and we head towards Medusa while being on lobster pot lookout (this area is notorious for badly marked pots and fishing nets strewn across the channel). Progress is slow and there are very few other boats out. We are against tide and wind and we travel down the wallet quite slowly (for us). I’m not too worried since we will arrive at the Spitway at the bottom of Gunfleet sands after low tide as expected and it does give us a chance to get some good shots of boats coming the other way with the wind and tide.
I have also had the opportunity to tidy our fenders on this trip and eight of them fit perfectly on the two mast pulpits (granny bars). Martin, our yachtmaster and friend, would be proud that we hadnt left them on the deck!
We arrive at the top of the Spitway which is marked with a single buoy and a corresponding buoy at the other end. When we have no fears over water levels we will quite often cut the corner between the buoy and Gunfleet sands where the water is quite deep. This saves a bit of time and I have never had any shallow water issues but at this state of tide we are going to take the text book route. We are lined up and I am behind the wheel, unusually, but this will allow me to take over from the autopilot quickly if we have an issue. The water is smooth, which is helpful. At least I won’t need to consider the wave height when thinking of the depth of water but it is getting shallower.
Our depth instruments are set to actual depth of water rather than water under the keel. This means that the alarm goes off at three metres depth (over a metre under the keel)rather than nearly five metres which it would be if it was tuned to depth under the keel, and at five metres the alarm would always be going off on the East Coast. We have barely started the passage across the Spitway and the alarm goes off for three metres depth and the depth is still going down. It is now in the low twos for a long time but as we approach the middle of the Spitway the level goes below two metres. Mariadz is a shaol keel which means she only draws 1.8M, although she will draw the same if she is heeled. When calibrating the depth I had also added 20cm safety margin but when I see the depth touch 1.8M I am getting a little concerned. I recheck and we are directly between the buoys but this is less water than I was expecting. Fortunately this doesn’t last for long and soon the depth is increasing as we exit the Spitway. I am now wondering whether my usual “short-cut” route might actually be preferable and deeper. Certainly something to check the next time we go through.
We turn and head towards the River Crouch, going between the mud banks at it’s entrance. The River Crouch seems very long when it starts at the mud and it is not the most picturesque river but the advantage is the opportunity to see seals bathing on the mud. Today there are relatively few, we have seen nearly a hundred before but there was a nice group gathered for a coffee morning and chat. Soon after this we see an ocean rowing boat. We later discover that this is team Kung Fu Cha Cha who are intending to be the only Chinese team in the Talisker Whiskey Atlantic Challenge this year. They seemed to be doing pretty well on their warm up run up the crouch and the AIS track showed good speed :). We will definitely be following this team in the upcoming race.
There is quite a stiff breeze as we go up the river and we have put some sail out to provide better balance and a little extra speed. We see some other boats coming the other way,
as we negotiate the northern channel into the crouch adjacent to Buxey sands and everyone is exchanging friendly waves.
The cats are their normal relaxed selves, sitting in the cockpit being chilled as we motorsail in.
The wind is now blowing quite hard from the South and we start to think about the approach to Burnham. We intend to get the sails away before we get amongst the moorings at Burnham where the channel thins out which will give me lots of time to get the lines and fenders sorted out. It is now lunchtime and I call into the marina using the phone, we are too far away for the radio. Bruce answers and explains that the minor issue he had with a boat in our booked berth has been overcome and we are clear to take the hammerhead. Maria and I then discuss our approach. We are only a little after low tide and so there are shallow elements near the entrance of Burnham and we will need to be careful, no cutting the corners today! Maria realises that she will have to come in and as she passes between the entrance poles, she will have to turn hard to starboard and then let the wind push Mariadz onto the pontoon controlling her with the bow thruster and using the engine to line her up with the hammerhead. Maria is a little apprehensive in the twenty knot wind but she handles the boat well and I am confident that we will do fine if we communicate well. On the final approach into the marina, the water is shallow and the alarm goes off. For one second we are thinking we may run into the mud at the entrance and be stuck for some time waiting to be floated off by the tide – you know every man and his dog would have chosen that time to come into the marina – and you don’t want to be the gnome greeting everyone at the entrance! There are no such concerns as Maria negotiates the last of the approach and puts the wheel hard to starboard before starting to take the speed off the boat. A bit of straightening up with the bow thruster and minor adjustment to line up with the hammerhead and we drift gently into position. I step off and we are tied quite quickly. A little after lunchtime but Maria gets her afternoon moored or tied up….lucky girl.
The E/F pontoon hammerhead is our usual and favoured berth at Burnham but the pontoon feels shorter than we remember, we are therefore overhanging on both sides so we will need to think carefully about how we tie up. I catch up with Bruce who explains that another similar sized boat will come in the next day and could we make this easier by moving forward when they come in before returning to our normal position afterwards. We absolutely understand the issues with manoeuvring in the tight spaces and we offer to give them a hand when they arrive. Our friend Lisa has also come to stay for the weekend so the cats will get spoilt too.
Friday is a normal working day for Maria and, after job hunting an opportunity for me to get the boat cleaned up, we like her to look her best :). This takes several hours but by the end of it Mariadz is looking beautiful for all of ten minutes! This is an issue at Burnham. The marina is very nice, we have met some great people there and the carnival weekend is always excellent but there is an issue with birds – not Essex girls but Hitchcock level birds. They look lovely as they fly around and at one stage we saw thirty starlings on the spreaders and standing rigging of one boat which made it look like a Christmas tree. However, these birds seem to eat a lot of red and black berries…..so shortly after I have finished the deck, it looks like Prince’s mythical Purple Rain has happened. I have cleaned the windows and I am not doing that again, so we will put up with it until the end of the weekend when I clean Mariadz down after our journey.
Bruce returns to tell us that a 50ft ketch, Sweet Surrender, will be with us in the next thirty minutes. I set about moving Mariadz using the lines and the wind to push her forward. It won’t be that easy to get her back, we will need the engine, but I am able to move her forward without disturbing the girls, or the cats! Sweet Surrender arrives and John, the skipper, has her perform a flawless pirouette before putting her gently on the end of the long pontoon next to us. I am there to take lines if needed but she comes to lie so gently against the pontoon that we have all day to get her tied off. Maria can then start the engine of Mariadz and we can put her back to her old position with stern coming out as far as the boats on the long pontoon and the bow slightly overhanging the next entrance. We have a nice chat and later a few drinks with the crew of Sweet Surrender before coming back to Mariadz for a gorgeous home made fish pie, prepared by Maria but with top quality ingredients sourced (or sauced) by Adam. It’s going to be a long weekend so an early night is called for but not before Maria asks whether I can get the satellite dish setup so she can record some programmes over the weekend. Now in a domestic setup, a clever engineer, works out where to point the dish when the system is setup and you never need to think about it. On a boat or motorhome, every time you move you need to reposition the dish, and in a boat you need to make sure you are tied well or the dish will move and lose the signal. On one of our trips to a motorhome show, Maria had decided to get rid of the old standard dish and replaced it with a QuickSAT QS65 Portable Satellite System which doesn’t have an arm that can be broken. It also comes with everything you need to align the satellite…well, a mat, a rudimentary compass and a clever device to get the angle right – who needs a spirit level when you have that! At our home base in Ipswich, I know pretty much where to point the dish and generally get it set up well but I have not had such luck on our travels. Burnham is quite easy to work out as the river goes east-west and we are on the north bank, so I put down the mat and roughly align the dish while I go to get the compass etc. Before I get back I have a signal on the sky box! Excellent, now Maria can record X-factor…. 😉
Saturday is the major day of the Burnham weekend. It starts with the Tucker Brown cup, followed by the meal and great music from Street Life and the end of the day is the carnival itself with a funfair on the walk back to the marina. A busy day! We were asked if we fancied joining the race down the river but on this occasion we decline, I’m not sure if there is a handicap for having extra crew and Bonnie and Clyde aren’t really up for it. There also isn’t much wind and definitely not enough to get Mariadz moving well. Apparently running the engine, even in stealth mode with our dry exhaust would be frowned upon :). However, we are in a good position to take photos as they go past the Marina although the sun is a little bit of an issue, we are not going to complain.
We also get a chance to support a lovely Hallberg Rassy 352, with its crew of four including two cats. Unfortunately, the cats aren’t able to make the difference and they don’t win it this year! With the race finished the lunchtime entertainment is due to begin and the Moody Owners have reserved some tables so we can all sit together. These are near the food and bar and furthest away from the band. We have seen Street Life a number of times and booked them for the evening entertainment for our wedding. They are great with a mixture of old and new music. If you haven’t seen them, I often describe them as like the band from The Commitments film but without the obnoxious lead singer character, we love them to bits and always have a good time when they are playing. It also helps that Cliff is a keen sailor with his boat “Lusty Wench” (What a great name 🙂 ). The food is great, the drinks are flowing and we are spending time with old friends and new. I even finally got Maria up to dance towards the end. As the place clears there is an invite to a Moody Owners get together on a Jeanneau NC11 motorboat, not a Moody and not a yacht but we won’t hold that against them. It actually looks really nice and the thirty odd people seem to fit on it, although she does look like she is on the plane with all the weight in the stern. A couple more drinks and some nibbles before we head back to Mariadz to prepare for the evening’s entertainment. Most of this preparation seems to be inviting people on board and more drinking and chatting. Oh well 🙂
To be fair we missed most of the carnival, unusual for us, and then met up with other friends in one of the pubs before getting home late and rather drunk. Everyone seemed to have a good time and a very enjoyable taxi ride home – one to ask us about when you see us!
On Sunday we are due to return home. One of the reasons that the event this year was a little less well attended than usual was the weather prediction for Sunday and the rest of the week. Strong winds being expected from the South although this should work to our advantage and push us home nicely. It also combines perfectly with the tides with a not too early departure. That was a stroke of luck! However, in the morning we are not quick to rise and it is 10am before we have seen Lisa off and have the boat ready. Just before we go there is a little excitement as one of the ocean rowing teams, not our Chinese friends, is brought in by the RNLI. There is a little concern at how bad it is out there but Mariadz can take it so hopefully we wont be needing the RNLI services later.
There is a 20knot southerly wind pushing us onto the pontoon and Maria is a little concerned that this may push us onto the bowsprit of Sweet Surrender but we have agreed to spring off from the bow which take us away at 30 degrees from the pontoon. All the fenders are in place and we have a little help from our new friends. This was a little fortunate as I hadn’t moved the bow spring far enough back onto the pontoon but we were able to pause the manoeuvre, move the line and start again. We come off fine so although not exactly text book, everything is good. Maria then takes Mariadz astern and with a hard starboard turn we are through the exit and into the river. This gives me the opportunity to stow the fenders on the mast pulpits (granny bars) again. Unfortunately our departure coincides with a yacht race down the Crouch so Maria slows down and we follow the race down river. There is some minor concern as the racers approach their turn and we momentarily think that the course may return directly back down the river and straight at us but they pass on our port side presenting some good photo opportunities.
After this excitement, the river is very quiet today which is something we quite often find. There have been any number of occasions when we have looked at each other and realised that we are the only “mugs” out here! We always keep a watch out on channel 16 when on passage and at 11am we heard a new weather warning. Having swapped to the correct channel we hear that there are gale force winds expected “soon” which is maritime speak for the next six to twelve hours. This means it could be when we are out there. This wouldn’t be the first time that we have experienced force 8/9 winds since we had this experience returning from Dunkirk (The return from Dunkirk (part 2 of 3) – pan pan). This would be our first time in Mariadz as a Moody though. So we will need to be careful. Originally, the expectation with a good breeze behind us was that we would fly up the wallet (lucky we have that spoiler on the back now!). The reality was that the wind was variable and gusty with one minute there being 10 knots of wind and the next 35 knots of wind. We decided that we would be taking no risks and started off sailing with half the main, the staysail and a third of the yankee headsail out. As we came out of the Crouch we saw the only other sailing boat that we would see all day coming back in under ominous black clouds. At this stage, even with much reduced sail, we are flying along at 8.5knots with the wind on the beam. Soon we will be turning towards the Wallet and over the Spitway, which this time has lots of water over it. As we turn, I take advantage of the change in the wind angle to take in the headsail, the other two are easy to get in if we need to and those clouds could be accompanied by even more wind. To be fair the reduced sail didn’t harm our speed much and we still bumbled along at a good seven knots for the whole journey but it gave us piece of mind. First though the Wallet, which is affectionately called “vomit alley” was incredibly rolly, with waves going across our beam but at least the tide and wind were in the same direction.
It is much worse when they are against each other although Mariadz is big enough to plough through these rather than bouncing up and down like Captain Pugwash’s Black Pig. However, it is a little rolly which with a couple of hangovers isn’t ideal.
We have travelled up the Wallet quite a few times and when you have a following wind, there can be a problem as you turn to port into Medusa to head toward Felixstowe. The wind changes from being behind you, to be on your beam and what seemed like a gentle breeze can seem much worse and make the boat heel a lot. We are always very careful before making this turn. On this occasion there is enough south in the wind for it to remain astern of us and so we just needed to control the gybe as the wind passes from one side of the boat to the other. We always use a gybe preventer whenever the wind is behind and this can also help us to control the main when we turn so the manoeuvre is quite smooth. After completing the turn we seem to be sailing very nicely at exactly the same speed as the waves, it is smooth and not rolling at all while we still travel at seven knots. We still haven’t seen another boat since we left the Crouch! It seems no time at all till we are at Landguard and into very familiar waters. We decide to keep sailing up the Orwell because the wind should be perfect. Actually, it is even more variable as we are intermittently shielded from the wind by trees and hills on the shore. It is now late Sunday afternoon on the Orwell and the river is completely empty, there must have been real concerns over the weather because normally the river is busy at this time. We head up but lose a bit of time because of the variability of the wind, we are not too bothered and by this time Maria has put the roast dinner in the oven so it will be ready when we arrive in Ipswich.
Despite there being twenty knots of wind Maria gets Mariadz into the lock perfectly even when we had to move her forwards because another boat is approaching (where did he come from !!). It is then through the lock and into the wind for a bows-to mooring in our berth which goes seamlessly.
Thirty minutes after being tied up, dinner is on the table!
We’ve caught up with our friends and made some new ones, the sailing has been great and Mariadz has performed perfectly. All round great weekend!