So on the back of our first weekend, the weather held on and we decided that another jaunt down river would be the perfect way to recover from a hard week of work. Maria was working from home on the Friday and was able to get the boat prepped and I finished early so that I could get home and we could get on our way in time to spend a couple of nights on anchor before returning in perfect wind conditions early on Sunday. In fact for mos of the weekend, the wind is blowing up to 20knots from the South. Not a concern for us at anchor or when we are sailing, we have done both in much worse than that.
The anchoring would require the hand signal approach we had developed previously since, although I had acquired the replacement remote for the windlass, I would not risk fitting it while the anchor was down in case I did something to stop the other control or windlass from working. That would be bad so I will fit it when we have a little time in harbour. That way if I mess it up, I can get it sorted without having to come up with a way of raising the anchor by hand (or winch)
Our plan worked well to start off. Maria had done well to get the boat ready, got bait from the fishing tackle shop and collected me from the station to save us another ten minutes. Engine started and Maria is calling into the lock to request a lock out. We’re in luck, we are catching the end of freeflow which means the water is at the same level as the river and we can go straight through the lock, as long as the light is green.
Heading down river is fine although we are taking it in turns to do some work, whether taking calls, processing emails or working on our laptops. It’s very quiet down the river as everyone else is starting to eat out of work. The wind is a little close on the nose so we decide to motor down so that we can be sure to arrive at our chosen anchoring spot in good time. This will give us the opportunity to relax and enjoy the last of the evening before the sun goes down.
As we approach Felixstowe, the wind blows up a little more and is a bit more than forecast. We discuss our plans and consider an alternative of spending the night on halfpenny pier in Harwich. This is well protected from a southerly wind. As we round the corner of Felixstowe we approach the confluence of the Orwell and the Stour. There are only two boats on the outer part of the pier which normally means that there is space. However the motorboat in particular looks something like 60 feet and it is right in the middle of the western half of the pier. We call into the excellent harbourmaster on their mobile phone. It is clear as we get close that even moving the two boats around won’t give a great amount of space for Mariadz who can take up 60 feet herself. The harbourmaster suggests we could raft up to the motorboat but at twenty tonnes we are concerned that it will not be a comfortable night for any of us. Also we imagine that they would get quite upset at someone rafting up. We revert to plan A and head down the river Stour to one of our chosen anchorages. In the Stour we have a few options, we can anchor near the top of the river opposite Harwich Parkeston Quay, we can return to the Holbrook Bay area and anchor where we were the previous weekend or slightly further up where we traditionally anchor near the cardinal buoy. We decide to anchor near where we were last weekend where the water is a little deeper. With our new system and Maria controlling the anchor, we are anchored in no time with anchor float showing where we are, snubbers protecting the windlass from damage and the anchor ball flying.
At the time it is wind against tide and when the wind is in the opposite direction to the flow of the water, the chop is a little worse. We are hardly moving but the water is not smooth. We know we are comfortably anchored for the night and settle down for a healthy dinner of steak and cooked vegetables, and by cooked vegetables I don’t mean potatoes cut into long fingers and deep fried!
In the summer and especially at anchor, we often stay in the cockpit watching the world go by, chatting and listening to music. The cats are settled and like being close as they sleep. We are all really relaxed. With the built in stereo system still temporarily unavailable, see later blog, we are using the amazon echo to play the music. This has the added advantage of being voice controlled :). It’s a lovely evening and we may have enjoyed a couple of drinks and maybe even a little dance after it got dark but thankfully it is not too late a night since we are both shattered from the working week. Just before dark, one of the scout training yachts decides to anchor near to us, actually in our traditional spot near to the cardinal buoy. They have a reputation of bouncing off people but we haven’t personally experienced it and the skippers seem very nice when you meet them. Apparently, on this occasion they were concerned that they may have disturbed our tranquility in the evening. They clearly don’t know Mariadz at all 🙂
The next morning there is some trepidation as we approach the scales but we decide to weigh in and survey the damage since we are both meant to be dieting! We are both pleasantly surprised to see our weight has gone down a lot over the last few days. At least now we know what we need to do…. 🙂
It is not too late when’s we get up, and it is a beautiful day with quite a bit of wind. In short perfect sailing conditions. So Mariadz in the spirit of rebellion settles down for a chill day. Maria decides that today is the day she is going to catch our dinner. Now I don’t think this sounds too difficult, surely you go to the freezer, pick out the packet, put it on the side – dinner caught! But apparently, Maria has different ideas. She has gone to the freezer as I thought but she gets out the squid and puts it next to the worms, she is fishing for supper! Now with our standard amount of success in this area, it is certain that we are going to starve but it is ok since we have food available on the “off chance” Maria is unsuccessful.
It takes Maria some time to set up the two rods but she is pottering around having a great time and looking relaxed without a care in the world so I am not going to complain. It’s not as if she’s going to catch anything so it will be a nice relaxing day!
As the afternoon progresses, Maria has lost some bait so something is going on under the surface of the water. And then suddenly, the rod moves, and Maria gets excited…. she heads over to the port side rod and wow, she has only gone and caught something. It is time for Maria’s caught a fish song! Now the interesting thing about Maria’s “I caught a fish” song is that apart from the “I have caught a fish” chorus, every other lyric in the song starts with the letter “f” and is a word normally deleted in polite company. Unfortunately I don’t have video evidence, not that I could show until after the watershed! But it’s ok, because she follows up this crowd favourite with a haunting second song, now this one I do have on video!
She’s caught a whiting and is a very happy and proud girl. The rod is ready to go again and she is on a roll. Maria catches a couple more smaller fish but decides to put these back. Now normally when they are a little smaller, Maria struggles to remove the hook and fatally damages the fish. Sometimes it is still moving and she hopefully returns it to the water where it lays on the surface until some passing seagull puts it out of its misery. More recently I have been asked to despatch them. She is on a roll though and really enjoying herself, work is something that effects other people. That’s how a weekend should be. Then late on, Maria has more luck! This time it’s a larger sea bass, and we have video evidence…..
Clearly I was very confident about Maria’s prowess with a fishing rod and not at all surprised so we had the meat for a BBQ already out on the side, so no fish supper tonight! Another relaxed evening chatting and, it has to be said, that since Maria’s weight loss, dancing has featured a lot again. She’s happy 🙂
The next morning we are to return to Ipswich and it is a glorious day: bright sunshine, and a southerly wind of about 20 knots. Perfect wind to get Mariadz going and we can have a nice relaxed sail home. The boat is ready to go and we get the anchor up in the now familiar way with Maria controlling the windlass from my instructions. To my knowledge this is the only time Maria has ever obeyed my instructions 🙂
We have decided that we will sail and drift all the way home today, there is no rush and although we have a few chores we want to get done, as long as we are back before 3pm all is fine. It’s a day for all three sails as the reasonably steady wind comes across our decks from the starboard side. The staysail is deployed first and comes out easily, the lubrication the other week has done a great job. Next for the main. This is normally a one person job, keeping an eye on the sail as the winch pulls it out. The sound of the winch is always a good tell-tale for how it is coming out, as the winch starts to struggle you normally pull on the outhaul to ease it. We have done this consistently for four years while we have owned the boat. That said, when we first got her we had a couple of mild sail jams as the main was furled into the mast. However, we soon found a technique for avoiding these by keeping the tension on the main as it furled. This and the boom being horizontal stopped any creases in the sail which could then cause a jam. As I say we have had four years of jam-free sailing so the technique seems to work. Until today! The sail is a third out when it folds against itself and jams solid! I notice that we have a crease and the sail has stopped coming out from the mast. Not good. The sail will not come out and will not go back in again. The problem area is too high to reach so I will have to use a combination of pull from the outhaul, jiggling from the furling mechanism and leverage from pulling down on the sail occasionally to see if I can shift the fold that is jamming the mechanism. Initial results are not good but I persevere with the sail under tension, trying to adjust the angle of attack on the crease. There is movement but there is still a crease at the top of the sail. The problem area is moving up the mast so I decide that with the wind veering slightly behind a slight change of course will allow me to safely deploy the whole sail and remove the crease once and for all. It is slowly coming out just using sail tension and the furler now and Maria is keeping a watchful eye as well as keeping an eye on our course and other water users.
We’re clear and I even bring in a little of the main just to check that the fold doesn’t reappear. It’s all good. So we then turn our attention to the head sail and with roughly half of these flying we are sailing comfortably.
But the episode of the sail jam makes you think, what would we have done if we hadn’t been able to clear the jam. The answer lies in my trusty red rope with a loop in one end. This rope is the equivalent of James Milner, or Fabian Delph, for those who like their football. It’s a do anything, equally well, rope. It has acted as a harness for an outboard, a replacement main sheet holding the boom in place, a dog lead as well as any number of uses where a short strong line was necessary. Today, as it has previously, it would have been a sail tie. We would have loosened off the outhaul, trusty red line would then have pulled all of the offending sail into the mast and with a couple of wraps would have held the sail in place with little showing. But all of that isn’t necessary today and we can enjoy our sail up the Stour. As we get up towards Harwich the wind gets a little stronger and to be fair at this stage we would normally have reefed all of the sails to reduce the power from the wind driving Mariadz. We generally reef the sails a lot and early, Mariadz is more than capable of handling that much power, although she sails more comfortably and faster when nice and steady rather than heavily heeled.
We make the turn at Felixstowe towards Ipswich with the wind directly behind us. This disappoints Clyde who was really enjoying the sea air.
There are quite a few larger yachts behind us in the forty something range. Now we are very clearly cruising sailors, we have never raced a yacht or any sailing vessel competitively and to be fair I don’t think we have anything like the sailing skills to do this well. However that does mean that Maria is not competitive, and maybe me too! Although we are not racing, whenever there are two boats sailing Ona river that are reasonably well matched a race shall ensue. Maria’s view is very similar to Gandalf in Lord of the Rings, when faced with an army of Orcs – “you shall not pass!”. This is normally accompanied by a soundtrack of “Ad, Ad…” any time someone gains on us. Mariadz is not the fastest boat but of course being a little longer than a number of other boats helps to keep her ahead. Of course, if the worst comes to the worst, we can always switch on the iron sail, with its water free exhaust, meaning no-one would know…. not that we would ever do that!
The trip up river is relaxing but the wind has veered a little to the West which means it is slightly in our faces as we get to the top of the river. It is also intermittent which is caused by the the hills and trees on the banks which funnel the wind, giving changes of wind direction, spots where it is very blowy and other spots where it seems still. This presents some challenges for us trying to keep on course up the winding river when we are tight to the wind. As we go past Wolverstone, conditions and our angle to the wind improve and we are clear now until the Orwell bridge where we must call into the lock, take the sails down and prepare for mooring.
We haven’t seen many other yachts for a while, obviously laying in a trail of dust behind us! But up ahead, we have Lister Light again, that’s two weekends on the trot. They are drifting nicely down river having a leisurely sail with Sally at the helm. To be fair I really wanted to pass them on the “wrong” side so we could get a better lit picture but at least the got a good one of us just before we took the sails down.
Now clearly , we are very careful putting the mainsail away and are even more vigilant in checking for folds as the sail goes away. It seems to curl away fine and so we breath a sigh of relief although the true test will be when we next take the sail out! The lock is easy and soon we are in our berth, tied up nicely (that’s Mariadz is tied up rather than Maria, by the way) and thinking about dinner. Hang on, don’t we have two gorgeous fish we can eat….straight on the BBQ in foil with our own Italian olive oil, lemon and vegetables.
Accompanied with fish skewers and a salad it is very healthy and more than we can eat. Please ignore the optical illusion of a cheeky glass of white!
so the end of a cracking, relaxing weekend. The best part of it? The fact that nothing new had broken…but I still haven’t fixed all the breakages from the last weekend away so it’s a small mercy.