We tried to go to rehab, but the weather said “No, no, no!”

What a stupendous summer it has been.  The weather has been fantastic and we have been out most weekends.  This weekend was no exception and our friends from Maldon had arranged several weeks ago for us all to gather at Osea Island for a barbecue and Amy Winehouse singalong with the Mariadz really-loud karaoke setup. It promised to be an hilarious weekend. This was my last work week at Moorfields Eye Hospital, a very successful stint but of course, like all interims, it is now time to be getting the next assignment. Due to the work relationship with Moorfields I was able to take the last two days of the week off and with Maria working from home, it would mean we could extend the trip and have a mini holiday, although Maria would need to work from time to time.

Our often use of the generator meant that the fuel we got at the end of last season is going down and we know better than to let the tank get too empty.  So we decide we will leave on Thursday so we can refuel before we go, rather than leaving Wednesday night. Then on Wednesday, I get called about another role in London and they want to interview me on…… Friday. Maria is not happy! We are able to work out a way where we can head down to Harwich for the night on Thursday, I can go to my interview from Harwich Town train station, get back and we’re off and an hour closer to our destination. A quick call into the harbourmasters (we love Sue, Nick and Mike) :), and we know we will be ok to moor overnight although with the maritime festival at the weekend, we will have to leave on Friday.  We can then head down to Osea, and maybe come back via Pyefleet, Hamford Water or the River Stour. It sounds perfect except the weather seems to be breaking. Normally we don’t need to worry about the weather as much as a smaller, lighter yacht and we have an excellent anchor and a good routine to keep us safe but there are question marks as it will gust well into the thirty knot range.

So it is Thursday morning and we decide to refuel. Unfortunately we are just after a training ship starts to refuel. An hour and a half later and they are finished, 2100 litres of fuel and then it is our turn for a piffling three hundred but apparently we can’t just add it to their bill, they’d never notice. We are getting close to high tide when the lock gates remain open and refill the locked area. The gates will be shutting soon as we finish refuelling and head out to the river but we just make it.  As seems to be always the case, the wind is right on the nose and having reserved a place on the pier we don’t want to be too late, so it will be a case of motoring downriver.  Others are more ambitious as they short tack up the channel. This presents a few challenges as we are under power and therefore have a responsibility to stay out of their way as much as possible. On the whole we do fine and I’m back out with the camera catching some action shots.

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We’re getting through Felixstowe and can see that the pier is clear. Sue has asked us to take the berth closest to the ferry berth since they have a long Thames barge coming in.  As we turn towards Harwich, there is a southerly breeze blowing us off the pontoon and the tide is coming out so we head straight in so that we are nose to tide as we approach. This will mean the rudder will always be able to turn us and we won’t lose steerage as we get close to the pier.  The Ferry is on its way back from Felixstowe and is right behind us. We toy with the idea of spinning around so that he can go through quickly so that we can take our time and maybe we should have done that. We are in a good position and so decide to go for it.   Maria brings her in nicely and I am off the boat with the mid line and ready to tie on. Maria has to keep Mariadz in gear because the tide is quite strong as I start to tie the lines.  The ferry then comes in as I a man still getting us straight.  On this part of the pier there is a coloured area which is reserved for the ferry. We are still trying to get Mariadz tied on and positioned correctly and our rib literally overhangs their area by one foot because I haven’t finished moving Mariadz forward. At this stage the deck hand for the ferry jumps off and starts shouting.  To be fair, we are a foot over their berth but we are sorting it out and this would be a lot quicker without some <please select your noun of choice> shouting in my ear as I am trying to move the boat forward. Needless to say shouting over me as I am trying to speak to Maria delays the process but within a few minutes we are in the right place and the ferry has offloaded, reloaded and gone. Still no need for abuse as already doing what they’d asked but he must have been stressed.

Since we are in Harwich, it is a nice opportunity for us to catch up with my mother in law, and Jean pops down to the boat with our daughter Kristy and Maria’s niece Ella-rose. We have a nice chat in the afternoon before Kristy has to go and agree to meet up later for dinner at Thai up at the Quai.  Dinner is really nice and very tasty, certainly one of the best Thai dinners I have had in a few years. It’s not a late night as I have an interview the next day.DE33A8C5-C272-453F-8AA4-8A11E16F9628

Friday is another roasting day as I am ready for the interview and walk to Harwich Town station. It must look quite amusing seeing someone dressed for the City coming off a boat because I always seem to get strange looks. The plan is that I will do the interview and get back as quickly as possible so that we can get away quickly down to Osea Island. Unfortunately, the return train is only on the hour only so I need to make sure I don’t miss that!

As I arrive in London I get a message from Maria saying that Sue thought we would be leaving by 11am which is when I am due out of my interview. Oops, Maria will have to wait until I am back which actually makes it more difficult for Sue having to juggle the variety of boats coming in for the Harwich Maritime Festival. The interview goes well and I am on the midday train so should be back at the boat shortly after 1:30pm.

The tide is coming out as we leave Harwich and with the slight wind, it is quite easy to get off the pier. We do make a minor mistake when we let Mariadz drift back on the tide a little to get away from the Thames Smack in front of us.  This of course means that we lose steerage and the stern starts to head back into the pier but this is quickly corrected and we are far enough off to correct it without causing any problems.

We head out into the North Sea but progress is slow since we are against a strong tide and into the wind although there isn’t a lot of wind. As we come out into the Medusa channel, we are greeted by the sight of the Romford Navy, a standard term for a fleet of motor boats, descending on Felixstowe.

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We are constantly checking different weather sources to get a definitive view of what the next few days will be like.  Despite the weather being excellent right now, there are a number of reports of thunderstorms forming inland. The question is will these track up the UK or come over to the coast.  It could also mean that our proposed barbecue on Osea Island will be a washout.  We’ve now progressed slowly through the Medusa Channel into the Wallet and are adjacent to Walton on the Naze.

The good weather has a few boats out but I suspect they will all be running for cover before too long.791888C3-756A-470B-A382-1E26E8AF74F4  The wind is in a direction we can use but we still aren’t making great progress although since we are reconsidering our plans that is not a bad thing.  2BC22680-A050-4ACE-A681-E4C894697396We see a couple of other Moody yachts racing down the Wallet, I suspect they are going home to Bradwell or Brightlingsea. They are making good progress but the latest weather forecast has us Debating whether to turn back.  Although there is likely to be 20knot winds in the anchorage, there are also going to be gusts into the high thirties. So just as discretion is the better part of valour, we decide that cowardice is the better part of discretion! We’re turning around but what to do? It looks like a thunderstorm is likely to be coming through but we decide that we will pick up a buoy outside of Levington and then head home tomorrow for a chilling weekend.

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With the tide with us, we are making good progress and are soon back in Felixstowe and heading to the River Orwell.  It is noticeably quieter on the river as we pick up our berth for the night.  Most of the people you see on the river are very courteous but after last week’s fun and games of a motorboat doing more than twenty knots on the plane, this week we have another example. At the bottom of the river there is a waterskiing area but I had assumed that the intention was that people got to this point, had their fun and then went home.

Tonight we saw someone waterskiing down from Pin Mill! I guess they are having their fun but like last week not caring about the other people in the river being hit by their wash. Although it has to be said that sometimes a boat on the plane makes less wash than a displacement boat! But there are rules…

Our arrival at Levington coincides with an evening race out of Suffolk Yacht Harbour and they will need to be quick to get that done before the weather breaks. They are clearly all having a lot of fun and the range of different types of yacht is amazing. To get the best line for the race they are sailing between the boats on the buoys so they get quite close, let’s hope they don’t misjudge it…. but coming so close does give me another chance to take lots of photos 🙂

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The race is finishing and the weather starts to break with the first rain we have seen for ages, ah better remember to close all of the hatches then! This is soon followed by a huge thunder storm with both sheet and forked lightning. This is probably about the time we wondered if we had done the right thing. We are in the middle of a river, with low countryside around us with a metal 70ft lightning rod pointing heavenwards. A bit like standing in a field with a metal broom handle over your head daring the weather gods to hit it or the old golf joke about holding a one iron, because not even god can hit a one iron! It’s a spectacular light show, best watched from within the cockpit tent, as the rainwater hammers down. At least we can be assured that the cockpit tent is fully waterproof after our efforts over the last year.

4FC229C0-1F29-4854-B254-96996BF6F768The next morning it is still windy, on the nose as always, but a lot brighter with blue skies, as we decide to return to Ipswich. The weather forecast is still suggesting strong variable winds and although I am sure our anchor setup would be adequate, we wouldn’t get a comfortable night and there is no way there will be a big party on the beach in this weather. The trip up the river is uneventful although there is no point getting sail out with the wind in the wrong direction. Even on a quiet day you have to keep your wits about you if there is something big coming 0E925B59-32C2-4D9D-BEF5-E62A69DE4943down the river or someone sailing across you but there is lots of time to make any necessary adjustments although I did get us a little closer to a green buoy trying to keep out of the way of one boat! As we head past Wolverstone, I can see the fleet of motor boats that we observed at Felixstowe, all rafted up with each other at the North end of the pontoons. 8CEEF154-901A-4448-BE04-D49FD26D8380At least they will be protected from the worst of the wind but it’s probably not the nicest place to be with a strong wind up or down the river. We approach the lock and the wind has changed slightly and is blowing across and slightly behind us at about twenty knots.  This would have been a concern in our early days as you combat a strong wind trying to throw you into a wall and then, because it is low tide, you enter the lock and there is no longer that sideways push.  Maria and I work quite well in these situations, with her making the fine adjustments and me calling down the distances so she knows exactly where we are. Soon enough we make it into the lock and are tied off, completely alone.

We arrive back in Ipswich to the news that two of our braver friends have made it to Osea Island, the rest having bailed.  The video of them anchored makes it look like they are on a tricky passage in a storm so even they decide not to stay for too long. Out of the lock and the wind is still blowing a fair bit but we get into our berth fine although that is helped by our neighbours being out of the water for a few days, not that we needed the extra space, I hasten to add!

It’s now Saturday morning and our weekend away is a complete wash out. Over the rest of the weekend we make our own entertainment, singing and dancing til late and watching films all of Sunday, when we eventually woke up that is.

And during Sunday, a large fleet of motor cruisers invaded Ipswich and had to get into some pretty tight spots with a lot of wind blowing. On a yacht this is bad enough but with 15 tonne of boat and very little under the water to give any grip, it is incredibly difficult and you need to understand how to use your bow thruster, twin engines and stern thruster if you have one. Having taken lots of photos of them, I am happy to share them and apparently this particular “navy” is not from Romford at all, but from Norfolk.  Well that’s blown a myth.

So it’s not quite the weekend we hoped for, but we had fun anyway. Cheers!


The one problem with East Coast Stainless

We love Ian and Rob at East Coast Stainless but….. the problem with stainless steel is that it tarnishes over time and you need to look after it.

C4D28334-F763-4B63-8E1C-9D89261B3A0AWith a weekend away planned, Maria decided that we would also be doing boat chores. This week she wants to clean the stainless steel, all of it, which is why I cursed our friends at ECS! if they didn’t do such a good job maybe we would have less to do.

Over a couple of hours we cleaned everything Dorades (funnels), pushpit, pulpit, two mast 20180415_174048pulpits, eight cleats, two davits, one anchor and a solar panel frame. Not all of this has been done by East Coast Stainless but that won’t stop me blaming them 🙂 . I need to check what the guys use to clean up stainless because it always looks immaculate after they have done it but for us HG Steel Polish

Of course on return from our weekend away, I have to wash down the boat. That will be water stains on our immaculate stainless so Maria informs me that we need to go around and quickly clean the stainless to get it looking right again. I can see this is going to be a regular task now! 😦

Engine problems – minor alternator issue

On our return from Hamford Water to Ipswich, we suddenly detected a change in engine noise. Actually, if I’m honest, Maria had mentioned that when the engine started, and I was on the bow, she thought she may have heard a whine from the engine that she didn’t recognise. 

One thing we have learnt on a boat is that any noise you hear that is different to usual needs to be investigated. A pump going off in the night, the high pitched whine of a slightly slipping fan belt or a different tone to the pump for the toilet. All of these need to be checked out or they could be a bigger problem

We were on our way back from a nice weekend away, just approaching Felixstowe when Maria and I both heard a slightly different tone to the engine and a slight whine. I was down below immediately. Opening the engine room doors and there is a bit of heat and a distinctive smell from the fan belt. I call to Maria to reduce revs while I try to understand what is going on. Another check and I can see shiny bolts on the clean engine room floor. Hmmm.

9DBFBD6F-B693-41EC-B2C5-49610A5E63B6The alternator is fixed to the engine by two bars, one at the top which holds the generator in place and one at 90 degrees at the bottom which provides the adjustment to tighten the fan belt.  Initially I look at the bottom bar because of the slipping belt to find that the bolts that push the alternator out are loose and the bolts on the outside have come off the bar. We’re going to need to switch off for a little while so I can adjust that. The top bar also looks wrong….. it is out at one end and there are no bolts on it at all. That is a big issue.  If the bar comes out and the alternator drops we could have some real issues. This top bar is the first one that you put on when fitting the alternator and so to adjust it I will need to take off the fan belts, the locator unit and try and locate the side of the alternator correctly to refit the bar. I can’t do that with an engine that has been running for an hour, it is just too hot. I can tighten up the adjustment bar and hopefully this will pin the generator until I can let the engine cool and fix the generator properly.

We’re all tightened up and Maria can restart the engine and we can gently get home with me rechecking the engine every thirty minutes. It’s a nervy trip back to a Ipswich and a little slower than we like but we return safely enough. 

After a couple of hours, the engine is cool enough to work on and I can take the alternator off and refit it properly. I have also decided to add extra locking bolts onto the bars too, we’re not having this problem again!

Twitching net curtains

Those who know us well will know that, like most pet “owners”, we are controlled by the cats and they generally get whatever they want. We have a cat flap fitted to a shower door so that they can have privacy when they need to go the toilet! We also let them roam when we are around and rather than fitting a cat flap to the companionway door, we came up with another solution for the winter. A single heavy curtain goes across the companionway which the cats can push past, if they can be bothered – Bonnie! However in the winter, this is too heavy. We have usually just left the door open but this is an entrance for flies too.  Having fitted mossie nets to all open windows, we decided to fit some net curtains to stop any flying insects but still let air through. 

6E925B8E-6E12-403D-82F0-74DBAFBB868FFinding a suitably plain net was easy enough and we only need a couple of square metres so not too expensive. The last task we want to do is to weigh down the bottom edge but in a way that the cats can still push past.  That is assuming that they are brave enough to try – Clyde.

So now we have a net curtain equivalent of our heavy curtain which acts as a cat flap and all for the princely sum of four pounds.

The East Coast tour of anchorages continues

It’s Friday and time to leave work at the end of probably my penultimate week at Moorfields Eye Hospital as their Interim CIO.

One of the things I have always loved about the train home to Essex and Suffolk is that moment when you leave “the smoke” behind and suddenly you are travelling past fields of lavender on the port side and wheat on the starboard side. It’s as if any stress from work falls away with the urban sprawl and you feel a weight lifted.

Of course, this doesn’t happen as much for Maria because she keeps, quite jammily I might add, finding roles with a work-from-home component.  Her latest role at MHRA is no different and every Friday, Maria is on the boat beavering away impatiently waiting for the clock to tick by and me to get home. Today is a slight exception as she has had her twin girls, their best friend and her niece over for some girly time after she has finished work and before I return.  I believe the plan was to play with the new toys, kayak and paddle board, but suspect that went out of the window with the second bottle of Prosecco.  Still, the girls have plans for the evening and with the weather still looking great, Maria has already mentioned that she would like to go out and have a chill.  We do have chores to do to get the boat a bit more sorted out and prepare for our upcoming trip to Italy (yes, another road trip blog beckons….).  

The first suggestion is to go to the River Stour but inspired by our recent east coast trip,  I fancy going somewhere else for a change.  We have the navionics app on our iPads, that’ll be yet more redundancy in our navigation systems, and it means on the trip back, when I’m not idly staring at fields, I can take a look at suitable anchorages and check the state of the tide. I recognise that with the shifting sands and mud of the East coast, it will not be precise and that there is no substitute for checking the lie of the land, or seabed, by eye.  However, I can get some suggestions. There is an early evening high tide so we will need to be careful as we look for somewhere to anchor on a falling tide but I have a couple of options in Hamford Water or the lower reaches of the Deben. The distance to Hamford water is little further than the area of the Stour where we anchor. With no wind, hot temperatures and sunset around 9pm, we should be good for this trip, anchoring half an hour before sunset (hopefully).

By the time I am back from work, the girls have gone and Maria is preparing the boat to leave.  There is no wind and so we don’t need to put everything away since we won’t be able to sail.  It is approaching high tide and so the lock is on freeflow which also saves some time.  Having decided to go to Hamford water, I have checked our routing and it will take about two hours from the Orwell Bridge at a steady six knots, the river’s speed limit. We need to progress down the river and then turn immediately around Harwich towards Pye End.  This is where it is very shallow, and I remember when we first started sailing and we being instructed, we saw a boat stuck on the sands getting a beating so we will need to be careful with depths. We will be on a falling tide and not far off high tide so we have to be careful.  We normally have a rule that we only go in the shallows on rising tides because the risks are a lot less, if you touch bottom you will get refloated pretty quickly. 

As we head down river, the wind is right on the nose, isn’t it always.  It means we can see a few sailing boats coming towards us but it is quite quiet on the river, as it seems to be whenever we leave.

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As we head through Felixstowe and into the sea, Maria is trying to remember the last time we went into the backwaters. We haven’t done this in the Moody and only once in the Dufour as we recall, but Maria believes that this area was the first place we ever anchored on one of our first sailing lessons. We’re out past the reds that Mark the channel coming out of Felixstowe and I am starting to follow the recommended Yacht track towards Pye End.  On the chart, there are a couple of buoys which mark the approach and these seem to take you into a shallower area.  It looks like there is slightly deeper water just to the South and so I try this route in.  It will mean that we have the shallowest water for a few hundred metres.  A lot of the East Coast is very shallow, even a mile out to see there can be areas where you have three metres of water.  Mariadz is a shaol keel which is a design that reduced the draft of the boat and so she only needs six feet or 1.8m of water to float.  Our raymarine instrumentation has an alarm that sounds at 3m and a lot of sailing boats adjust this to be the amount of water under the keel.  On the East coast this would mean the alarm was going off all the time.  We have adjusted ours to read actual depth which works for a number of reasons.  When anchoring, you know the actual depth of the water and when the alarm sounds you have just over a metre of water under the keel so you had better do something. As we tiptoe through Pye End, the depth gently reduces but the alarm doesn’t sound and then we are in to the deeper water where we will stay for a few days.

Maria has the camera out and she loves wildlife, some would say she likes a wild life too! However, she is always keen to see seals or porpoises and we generally see a lot more of the former.  Hamford water is a natural reserve with muddy brooks and marshes…. and a lot of seals but that doesn’t stop Maria getting over-excited when she catches a glimpse of her first seal in the water.96157049-1357-48F7-AF92-512A83B9F5D7  She is busily snapping away at Sammy and this will be the first of many, I imagine.

As we round the corner into the anchorage to find the spot I have identified, we see half a dozen yachts anchored.  There is lots of room and the river is quite deep here so we find our spot and go for it. Quite often we are first into an anchorage and so we rarely need to think about where others are anchored to make sure that we won’t bump into them as we swing.  This area is also quite famous for dragging and so we don’t want to take any risks, even with our 40Kg Rocna anchor that has never let us down.  The spot we have chosen is reasonably central in a shade under 4m of water. Having considered the tide and calculated where I think our neighbours anchor must be, I have selected a spot that should give us loads of room. In this depth and with benign conditions I still put out 20m of chain in batches of 10m to let the anchor set and to make sure we don’t make little pyramids of chain.  I add our long snubber which takes the taught part of the chain below the waterline and protects the hull from having chain rubbed against it.  It also adds another three metres in length. 60BCA157-F8E1-4ACB-BC04-102B947C4186 As we settle back on our chain, we end up about twenty to twenty five metres away from the nearest anchored yacht, hopefully they didn’t think we are too close.  Interestingly, they must have had less chain out than us because when the tide changed and we all span round our anchors, we were further away but we held position perfectly and there was never any danger of a collision.  The last part of our anchoring ritual is to put out fenders at the quarters on both sides. The thought being that if the cats fall in they will be pulled back and may be able to grab the fenders.  Since Mariadz is always facing the tide, they are only required at the stern. Fenders out both sides as cat retrieval system. 

There is little wind and it is incredibly tranquil despite seeing the cranes of Felixstowe in the distance.

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There is a reasonable amount of traffic as some people come into the anchorage and others either enjoy the sailing or the wildlife.  Dinner is a healthy affair this evening, and we have promised ourselves we will be good this weekend and hopefully make our diet expert, Rebecca, happy…

B778CA22-AFF3-4AFE-A9BE-620B4315123BIt’s a quiet evening as we sit and chat and there is hardly any noise apart from the squeal of various birds, I thought they were meant to be quiet at night. Bonnie has taken up her standard evening position as she oversees the anchor, she clearly doesn’t trust me to set it right, and feels that she has to be there to keep a constant check on it. It is so still and this can be worrying for the cats since the first time Bonnie fell into the water was when it was still and the water was like glass.  Thinking it was solid she jumped in and instantly regretted it. I think as she has got older she has got a little more sensible though.

We have put the television on in the cockpit, we have a small portable that works quite well, and it isn’t getting late.  Suddenly, I hear a loud farting noise, this is not unusual but, on this occasion, it wasn’t Maria but was coming from outside the boat. It is a playful seal a few metres from us. This makes Maria happy, she loves her wildlife!

B22A5A45-F22C-4FAD-B323-73117938F840We intend to go to bed a time a reasonable time but I am keen to wait until the change of tide after midnight just to make sure that we are not causing any problems for our neighbours,  I didn’t need to worry as Mariadz settles down and we all go to bed for some well deserved rest. The anchor alarm is on and tracking us though so I will know if there is a problem.

We wake in the morning having had a great nights sleep.  The cats are kept in overnight when we are on anchor and they are in their beds in our bedroom. Well, to be more precise, Bonnie is in mine having decided in the early hours that Dad needed to be cuddled.  It, of course, means that I can barely move with Bonnie one side and Maria the other.

2018 has been an amazing summer with soaring temperatures and a lack of rain.  It is still very hot. Today will be a day for sun cream and maybe the toys again.  I need to get proficient with the paddle board.

But first, Maria has decided we need to do chores 😦

i have written elsewhere about the great work that East Coast Stainless have done for us but now it is payback time as we decide it is time to polish up the stainless. It’s hard work in the heat and you are constantly dampening the cloths because everything dries out quickly in the heat.  20180415_174048It is rewarding though and the davits and solar frame in particular come up really well.

Flushed with our success, Maria decides there is another job to do. Now Mariadz is not from Honolulu but at the moment she seems to be sporting a grass skirt.  Maria has decided that this is slowing us down and doesn’t seem to be coming off when we travel through the North Sea so it is down to me to lie on the paddle board and scrape away the weed that is growing where the hull breaks the surface.  Actually this is quite hard work, at least not trying to fall in while doing it makes it hard.  It is good though when you check out the finished product and Mariadz looks clean again. That’s got to add at least a knot to her speed 🙂

Since I’m already on the paddle board, it seems a simple ask to have the paddle and a little play.  The tide in this area is quite fast and I have got myself settled and am about to stand up when I look up to see that I am already over fifty metres away from Mariadz. Let’s hope I can make it work this time although it is quite a bit harder than  my first attempt since the wind has picked up a bit making the water quite a bit rougher and combining with some wash from passing boats, it is quite unstable.

Anyway, I can’t keep prevaricating so let’s just give it a go.  Despite a number of wobbles and having to drop to my knees a few times,

I make it back without falling off.  Quite lucky really,since about half way through I realised I had never actually tried to get on the board from the water before.  That added to the nerves!

I have safely returned to Mariadz and it’s time to take Maria into the nature reserve so she can see her seals.

Maria is in her element with the camera and the long lense, she is happily snapping away at the curious seals and there’s are a lot of them to see. We’re exploring for about an hour and also finding shallow anchorages further in but nothing we would consider taking Mariadz into.

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Having finished for the day and realising that we are returning to Ipswich the next day, the toys are brought back up on deck and the rib returned to its place below the davits.  Dinner is a BBQ and Clyde decides to help Maria with the cooking, all the time licking his lips.

As evening falls we are watching “knight fall”, a programme about the Templar knights – we do love our serials.

An early start on a beautiful balmy day and it’s breakfast on deck. While I am washing up, Maria grooms the cat. I don’t believe there is anything too wrong with talking to your cats but if she thinks they are talking back to her, then she is probably quite mad.  We’ll see how it works out.

As the morning progresses the anchorage is slowly clearing as people start to go their ways home at the end of the weekend. The clouds are starting to come in but it is still incredibly warm with hardly any wind. At least we haven’t got a long journey back which should be a shade over a couple of hours.

We have left three hours after high tide which is an hour closer to low tide than when we arrived.  It is now very shallow at pye end and we are on a falling tide so have to be even more careful than usual. Once again I aim at slightly deeper water but it is worrying as the depth is 2.5m so very close to the keel. We make it past the pye end buoy, and the water is a little deeper so we can breath a sigh of relief but I am not sure we can be much closer to low water than that.

We are now on our approach to Felixstowe, when there is a sudden slight change in the engine tone. I have written a more detailed account of this elsewhere But the summary is that the alternator has vibrated and lost a number of bolts. These are strewn over the engine room floor and unfortunately I can’t get it properly fixed with a boiling hot engine.  I make a temporary fix as best I can and we decide on a thirty minute inspection routine for the rest of the journey while we ease Mariadz home.  It is going to be slow progress as we Donte want to stress the engine or alternator but the jury’s rig works fine and we get into the lock safely enough.

There are quite a few boats out on the Orwell today and there is some wind for sailing.

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As we enter the lock at Ipswich, we are followed by a couple of motor boats who are having a disagreement as, apparently, one of them was unaware of the six knot speed limit on the Orwell. We hear the classic response to the question of where is the speed limit on the river – all of it! Ignorance of the law is apparently no excuse, and there is a long lesson on what not to do with a detailed explanation of the punishment for further transgressions.

We return to our berth and wash down Mariadz ready for another weekend. But, of course, now we have polished the stainlesss steel, we also have to wipe that do:wn after the wash down.  More work before I can sit down and have a beer, or a sparkling water, if Rebecca is reading! 🙂

Cleaning up parts of the main sail

We have very much got used to our in-mast furling system on Mariadz, having learnt with this system ten years ago.  We generally have our techniques for avoiding sail jams despite having one for the first time in years a few weeks ago.

However, one of the issues with older sails is that the flap of sail that pokes out from the mast when the sail is away is exposed to the elements.  It gets filthy.  We hadn’t noticed this before because we had always been on newer boats or boats with newer sails but we decided something had to be done.  I tried to clean this last year with a neat solution of detergent and a lot of scrubbing and it came up a little but still looked weary.

With the recent success of Dettol Mould and Mildew Remover on the cockpit tent and the anti-slip on the deck, where the black marks in the grooves were removed, I decided we should try this on the exposed part of the sail.  Mould and Mildew is a mild bleach and so I was keen to make sure that it wasn’t on the sail or any of the deck for too long before being washed off.

CA38B50D-479F-4E9B-B495-D6BE52F5C92ASo mould and mildew was applied, scrubbed and then washed off with lots of water.  Afterwards, all of the decks were washed down so hopefully we won’t get any bleaching elsewhere.  This didn’t take too long and using lots of water and a couple of applications has really brought the sail back up.  I am almost tempted to try another application in a few days but the current results can be seen below. Maybe a need for a little more effort on the bottom of the sail….

You will also notice the fold down step-ladder that Maria got me for my birthday. She really is an old romantic!

A short East Coast tour

So eight years ago I signed up for a life sentence when I married Maria in a “quiet” ceremony at Great Braxted. It was definitely not a quiet party and we had a fantastic time. Despite having already been together for over six years at the time, you learn a lot about someone after you marry them….. and if I was asked to do it all again? Absolutely, in a heartbeat! I’m not saying it’s all sweetness and light, but we don’t have crossed words for long and who doesn’t enjoy the making up 😉 . We are very comfortable in each other’s company and have a lot of fun as just the two of us. I think that has to be a pre-requisite when contemplating living on a boat and especially if you are thinking of going off cruising.

So it’s our wedding anniversary and we have decided to take a couple of days off and let the stress wash off of us by taking the boat on a mini tour of the East Coast for some of the best summer weather we have had in years.

But where to go? We shortlisted some options: Ramsgate, with its lovely Thai, French and Italian restaurants; Queenborough, on the Isle of Sheppey in Kent, Sharfleet Creek for a quiet anchorage; Osea Island, where we would get the chance to see some friends we hadn’t seen for a while or Pyefleet, where we could take the rib into Mersey Island for seafood. We fancied a couple of destinations so it was a case of decisions, decisions. The weather can normally help shape these decisions but with very light easterly winds and scorching hot temperatures expected, not even the weather could help us choose.

In the end, we decided to start our journey with a trip down to Osea Island and Maldon. It would give Maria a chance to try out her paddle board again and, fresh from her experience in Antigua, maybe even pump up the two man Kayak that she had bought a few years ago. From there we can take a view of whether we stay in the Blackwater and go to West Mersea or venture South to Kent.

Any trip is only as good as the preparation and a key element of that is provisioning. So with the requisite number of bottles of Prosecco on board, we were ready to go! Maria does get other stuff in too but also spends ages having another fishing lesson at the bait shop and buying bait. We’re going to be watching fishing rods catching nothing again! We have also gone to the lock up to get the kayak and the buoyancy aids, she seems to be serious about this…which of course means I am expecting hilarious videos. The final new addition is a snorkelling face mask, which is my anniversary present from the old romantic, and that means Maria plans to send me under the boat in the “crystal-clear” waters of the Blackwater :). It had better be warm!

Anyway, it’s Thursday evening, with a glorious weekend of weather on its way, and I am off to get a haircut while Maria readies Mariadz. An hour later we are ready to go and have decided to pick up a mooring ball opposite Levington despite our tribulations last time. In preparation, Maria has bought two more floating boat hooks and also replaced the shaft of the one that sinks. She deliberately didn’t buy the hook for that one. I suspect a lack of trust there, she thinks I will lose it again. The shaft also fits her fishing net and I think she wants to keep it like that. So now I have to store three new boat hooks in addition to the one I still have. Our friends Mike and Sue on FraZaz, a Jeanneau 45 on our pontoon, came up with a solution for this that I hadn’t seen before by slotting a boat hook in the bottom of the boom.  This is really neat and the boat hook is easily accessible. With the size of our boom, the hook is well away from any lines so we are trying this for a while.

There is barely any wind as we drift down river having quickly negotiated the lock. We are nearing our destination at Levington at about 8:30pm and approach the buoy against the quite strong tide, we are roughly directly between high and low tide when the river flows fastest. Later when we told our “friend” Amanda, she asked how many boat hooks we had gone through attempting to pick up the buoy….perish the thought. Despite a bit of a stutter where I decided to drop the buoy and got us repositioned better, we pick up the buoy fine. Quite lucky actually, as an American single handed boat expertly picks up the next buoy.  THAT could have been even more embarrassing than having your friends witness you messing it all up and then writing about it! Just before 9pm we’re settled nicely, but of course it wouldn’t be Mariadz if something unusual didn’t happen. I used one of the new boat hooks which was extendable with a locking mechanism. You can guess that having extended it, I couldn’t get the thing back together again! In the end I gave up for the evening, I will address that another time. That will test the length of my boom!

20180705_202834The evening is relaxed and short because we have decided that despite Friday being a work day we will travel to Osea Island.  That means that although the tides are not perfect, we will leave before dawn at 4am (ish) so that we can arrive at Osea before 10am and get a full day’s work in.

He the time we are heading down river it is nearing 4:30 but we are on our way on a still and beautiful morning.  70E6942D-E460-41AA-96CB-FA4ABAE674D2The views when you sail at this time are stunning and even going through a slowly waking Felixstowe are fantastic as the sun starts to rise. We’re out and Maria is happy already knowing that despite a last day of work she is away from it all and sampling the cruising life.  The complete lack of wind makes the sea very still but does mean that we have to motor all the way, especially as we will be punishing a tide of over one knot the whole way.  This doesn’t sound too bad but when you consider that sailboats may go about 6 knots through the water, that is a difference in speed of 5 knots against 7 knots with the tide. 03552533-37F4-4FCF-9FEC-469692C73543For a 35 mile journey that is the difference between a five hour passage and a seven hour passage! It’s not as bad for a planing motorboat doing 20+ knots but explains why the tides are so important for sail.

As we leave Harwich behind us, there is a breath of wind but of course it is right on the nose. This is an unusual trip for us in that we see relatively few other boats as we travel down the Wallet towards West Mersea. That doesn’t stop me getting the camera out and snapping them all.  My normal rule is sails up if you want a picture but I make an exception if you have fenders out at sea….

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Normally when the weather is not so good we find that we see few other boats. Maria often remarking that we are the only mugs out in this. Today is just early on a week day I suspect.

We have taken the inside route on the Wallet which is a little shallower but 1E3D6302-82D8-4474-9842-19942E3E6D24cuts some time off the journey but it does mean you are close enough to shore to see the towns. Maria is a little concerned because we normally stay in safer, deeper water but being vigilant and keeping a eye on the route means this is safe enough.

I have my first work call at 10am and I am keen for us to have arrived and be settled in good time for this. We are making good time but our arrival is slipping from 9:30 towards 10am and after arriving at Osea I still have to drop the anchor and go through a long routine before I can get on the call.

E6FF15F9-2980-4BBC-8888-33A679BFE19DWe arrive at Osea and select where we will anchor, there are very few boats there so we have a good choice. One bilge keel is even up on the beach and a little later we see him working on the stern gear.  We can’t do this unfortunately, with our fin keel we would lay on our side and I would panic about us reflecting.

Maria is convinced we are in our normal spot but I am equally convinced we are slightly up river. Still there is lots of water as we drop anchor and put out thirty metres of chain to make sure we are secure all weekend, no matter what the weather does.  All done and with ten minutes to spare but I make a mental note to make sure I clear the weed off the anchor buoy before we leave, we don’t want a repeat of our fun and games last time.

Maria settles down for work in the cockpit as I am down below.0693779F-73C9-4AD8-861A-CB6CE0103406 Unfortunately our jobs require quite a few phone and Skype calls so we can’t work too close together without disturbing each other. Still Maria’s office looks good. We’re both very busy so there is not much opportunity to enjoy the surroundings but we both know that between 4pm and 5pm, the weekend will start! As we work though, the Thames Barges are starting to arrive, we hadn’t realised that there is another Barge race 037B2E7F-D47D-4793-BF2B-A288FD69AB3Bthis weekend which actually starts at Osea Island. It means we are even luckier that we arrived early because we expect this anchorage to be very busy later and at least we are in position.

We have also noticed that the wind has built during the day. When we left Levington there was nothing, even when we anchored there was little wind but now it is blowing over twenty knots so I am glad we have ample chain down and a good Anchor alarm app on the iPad that shows us how we dance around our anchor.

It seems a long day but soon enough work is finished and it is time to get ready for the weekend.  Maria wants to get all of the toys out… so we start by pumping up the paddle board and two man kayak.

This takes longer than you would expect since we don’t read the instructions and have to let it down in various places to pump it up correctly.  Maria also has her fishing rod out and within minutes has caught her first baby fish! The hook is easily retrieved and the little fish is returned to the drink.  20180707_094401Then within minutes she has another, larger fish on the hook.  What is going on? I haven’t even got a bucket or net ready yet.  This is definitely a size you could eat, so such a shame we are not allowed to land sea-bass at the moment….. assuming it was a sea bass of course….you know what our fish recognition abilities are like!

The rib is down and it’s time to get it started.  We have recently topped up the fuel in all three tanks, one on the boat and two spares just in case.  I turn the ignition on the engine that always fires up first time to be greeted by the persistent whirring of the starter and little else. Hmmm, Maria asks me to check the fuel pipe is connected properly and I cast her a withering “don’t be ridiculous” look. Under the seat the fuel pipe is only partially connected so let’s sort that out and pump some fuel through manually. Retry still nothing. Much fiddling and looking at stuff I don’t really understand too well – a four cyclinder fuel injection outboard.  Let’s try some other stuff. Recheck the fuel line, repump the fuel….still nothing.  Now at this stage Maria mentions that shouldn’t the kill chord be attached to something.  D’oh. Quickly pop that in, and pump some more fuel in, it starts and purrs like Clyde eating prawns! Clearly that extra bit of fuel was what was required.  The toys are now ready for fun and games tomorrow and Maria is pulling in fish like a pro.

Part of the reason for coming to Osea, apart from the always glorious weather we experience, is to see our friends Sarah and Russ from Maldon who we have invited over for dinner. We were missing an ingredient which Maria has asked them to bring along and Maria decides we should get in the rib and meet them half way, pick up what we need so that she can get dinner fully on before they arrive. Maria does have a history of SAS style boarding of ships under sail but it seems she just intends to plunder this one for cream.  We get in the rib and having no idea when they left Maldon, head down river in search of their yacht.  We get a few miles towards heybridge and find them, having previously investigated several boats that “could”be them.  At least we didn’t miss them. 67DDC432-DBCD-458A-ACFD-40199071C260They aren’t far behind us but then have to anchor themselves but I think our change of position and the fact they wanted to be reasonably close has put them off.  We understand why they want to be close based on their last visit when the 50 metres to their boat took them fifteen minutes and a few miles as they went via Bradwell :).  The problem is that they seem to be dragging as one minute they are 25 metres away and the next I am grabbing our roving fender just in case.  They eventually decide to anchor closer to shore but I think it was all our fault.

The evening is great, wonderful food, some alcohol, lots of music.  It’s getting to the end of the night and I notice that the batteries are down at 70% of available power. That’s not really where I like it to be prior to bedtime and so I decide to run the genie for a while to top them up.  This works fine for a while but then there is a clunk and the generator stops.  Russ, who is an engineer, and I go down below to investigate.  The engine room is hot so it appears that we have a problem with the water flow.  Before checking the impeller we decide to check the through hull.  The input for the generator has a filter.  After closing the through hull, it takes a few tools and a lot of effort to release the cap on the filter.  In normal circumstances, we would be greeted by a fountain of water when we opened the through hull.  So once again we have been struck by the curse of the Blackwater weed. Much prodding with a coat hanger later we are starting to see water but not enough but after a bit more hammering away we are getting a good flow so close the seacock and reseal the filter. Quick(ish) mop up and we’re ready to get the flow of water going again and test that we have cured the problem.  After ten minutes running we can confirm that the temperature is stable so let’s not take any more risks since the batteries are ok now.  We can go up and celebrate our success with a few drinks, maybe some port – oh dear, this is going to be a hard weekend.

It’s quite a late night by the time we get to bed. However, we are woken at 9am by C416C741-9FD1-4AAB-9E07-548EDA3E88ECMaria’s friend Liesl, who has popped down from Brightlingsea to come and see us. Having circled the boat several times they eventually phone us to stir us from our pit.  Eventually we get out to be greeted by a bright sunny day, made even brighter by our hungover eyes, with no wind. It’s a fleeting visit but then we notice that the Thames Barges 6E0FF233-5CE7-4626-BA64-9B494B70467Ahave started to gather on the mirror-like water next to Osea Island. This should be an interesting race with no wind, in fact we heard at least one boat broke out the oars and started rowing their large barge! A little later the wind picks up but the start is on a glass like surface.

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We never get bored of watching the barges race and we see plenty of familiar boats that had raced just the other weekend in the Orwell.  We also don’t have too many boats in the way blocking pictures and with the reflection in the water, there are some pictures I really like.

It’s almost time to play with the toys but not until we have had an unhealthy breakfast. F0A47B63-BCC0-4513-8FC5-EF96CB4DA07D As we look out conditions are perfect for beginners’ paddle boarding.  You can see how still it is from the assortment of watercraft that are rafted up together.  It will be up to us to destroy the tranquillity then!

First up is the paddle board.  Maria has explained how difficult it is to stay on your feet and there is a current running so whoever goes on it will need to be able to paddle.  Sarah is the first brave soul.  She mounts the board from the swim platform and stays on her knees for a while getting used to it.  After a little while she decides to rise to her feet.  Now you will recall that this was the stage that Maria felt she cracked it, just to end up falling forward over the board into the water.  Sarah has her own unique take on this, in that she gets to her feet and then drops to her knees without falling in!  Paddleboarding is clearly something where a little practice goes a long way because she seems to get the hang of it after a short time.  AED72F28-FFE5-4B26-BDB6-C0049740C10BAlthough like all hard skills, the paddleboard does fight back and pitch her into the water. However, the photographs do not lie, and she is paddling away having fun.  Having seen Sarah’s success, the fear factor has gone and the rest of us are queueing up….first Russ.  Now it is safe to say that Russ has many talents but it is equally fair to say that paddleboarding is not, and on this showing is unlikely to ever be, one of them.  He is really struggling to get up on the board and when he does it pitches him off sideways like a particularly effective bucking bronco.  He later claims that he was checking the underside of the board for marine growth for us – what a gentleman he is!  Suffice to say that this is the best picture I have of Russ paddleboarding…..  DAADBEDD-D767-4D6E-8D40-753C791C8AF7Of course the fear is now back.  Of the people I know, the shorter, slimmer young ladies (Amanda and Sarah) have cracked it and everyone else (Mark, Maria and Russ)  have really struggled.  It could be that they are all a little top heavy 😉 Anyway, last up, Adam.  The initial mounting (is that the right term for paddleboarding?) seems ok, it is reasonably stable and I start to paddle off on my knees to get a feel for it.  I haven’t gone very far when I am reminded by my audience that the trick is to get to your feet – and I was thinking it was so easy.  88225665-F9FF-495D-9498-6F8AA91049ADBy the time I have got up off my knees, I look back at Mariadz and she is forty metres away as I drift backwards on the board.  The board felt very stable when I was on my knees but now I am standing on it, it seems to be a bit wobbly.  My knees are going like a scared character in Scooby Do.  Early in 2017, Maria and I tried surfing in Australia with our (my step) daughter Amie.  It was hard work at 50+ years of age but I was able to get up onto my feet…..for about a second and a half.  Well I have smashed that record on the paddleboard but it has been a close run thing.  I am still standing but drifting back because I haven’t had the bottle to start moving around to use the paddle to propel me forward.  The first few tentative strokes seem to work and then I start to get a little bit of confidence which deserts me completely after I nearly fall off.  I am concentrating so much I don’t notice if I have got any closer to Mariadz and then I look up and I am twenty metres away.  They could now see the fear in my face so look relaxed and confident as I keep paddling having got into a bit of a rhythm.  I am only ten metres away now and I am desperately reciting to myself you are not getting wet, you are going to step (nonchalantly) onto the swim platform. D0A46FFE-53A4-4CB2-9C1C-7D113992DC61 I get close, there is a slight wobble, don’t try and jump! Steady, and then I am back on Mariadz.  Unfortunately, nonchalance is rather overpowered by relief but I didn’t get my hair wet – my mum would have been so proud J.

I may have discussed previously that Maria is not competitive, and doesn’t race when we are sailing, but…. none shall pass! And none shall do better on the paddleboard so she decides to have a turn.  I suspect she must have been practicing when I have not been around because she has definitely got it and is actually enjoying herself.

Kayaking, especially after our recent experience of this in Antigua, holds no fears CEC0B247-1CAE-400C-AC9C-7344F859B631and so Russ and I go for a wander around the anchorage in kayak.  The only complexity with a two man kayak is that the rowing needs to be in sync or your oars clash.  This works well as long as the one in the back keeps the rhythm of the one in front and the one in front doesn’t decide to dip the same oar in the water a couple of times…..ay, Russ!  We have a good time with it though even trying our best Hawaii-5-0 back to the boat.  This is good timing for the girls to jump in to the kayak and for Russ, who will not be beaten by a paddleboard, to give it one more shot.  5F5C68D7-8551-447A-B08A-43EBBBBAA663They are all off having fun and racing back although Russ has decided that the most stable position on your knees is the limit of his ambition for the day – well sort that out next time we see him!  A quick blast on the rib makes him happier though.

It’s a roasting hot day and the cats have retreated to their own cool spots occasionally popping out to see what we are up to before going back to sleep.

But they aren’t going near the water. It can’t be a day for just watersports though.  It is the football world cup and with great team spirit, England have become more than the sum of the parts and have reached a quarter final.  We set up the portable TV on deck and get ready to watch the game al frescoFB_IMG_1529915449828.  Some other friends, Kelton and Nicole, who own a motor boat, have been invited and may pop over for the second half – not football fans but willing to sample the atmosphere.

The game is easy to watch as England beat Sweden a lot more comfortably than we expected.  However, by this stage we have had a few drinks and so every boat that passes means we are calling out the score.  The irony being they probably are not interested or they would have been watching it!

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During the game, Maria is chatting to Amie in Australia who is watching the game in a casino with a lot of noisy Brits.  Amie and her boyfriend Tom have decided that should England win they will return to watch the semi-final and final!  Maria quickly changes the UK anthem “It’s coming home” to “She’s coming home”, one very excited mummy. FBA744D1-38D2-428C-B4A9-4122E6CB7715You also know that Maria will be stalking the plane all the way back, following it on one of the plane tracker apps.

It’s been quite an active day and with some alcohol and fun.  We are due to have a BBQ on the beach at Osea but that is starting to look unlikely.  We discover that Russ has been working seven days a week for a lot of weeks, the poor baby is tired and needs an appointment with Mr Pillow.  But like all babies (sorry, Russ 🙂 ), he is fighting it and wants to stay up.  He gets into his rib to go to the beach to start getting ready leaving Sarah with us.  Our other guests are going to have to rush off if they are going to catch the tide and rather than delay them, I offer to drop Sarah back at the boat.  Firstly, we’ll check on Russ who is at the beach, that is asleep on the beach….I drop off Sarah so she can take him back and we will cancel the BBQ and do something else.

So it is time for a proper impromptu Mariadz party with just Maria and I.  Sometimes these are the best.  We work out the food and are dancing, singing and drinking until quite late.  We clearly aren’t thinking too much about our decision to leave at a reasonable time the next morning to go to Pyefleet!

The next morning we are both quite “tired”. I have not forgotten that I should clear the weed from the anchor buoy, we do not want a repeat of the anchor stowing problem as the buoy, weighed down by tens of kilo of seaweed, pulled the anchor round.

I hop into the rib and try to start it.  The starter motor doesn’t even engage and the engine check light and buzzer are going, could it need oil?  Now where is the oil….. of course all of the oil is back at the pontoon.  We always check the engine prior to leaving and have never had recourse to add oil after we have left the pontoon so (obviously) it is stored at the pontoon!  That will change and of course we never do a rib engine check before we leave.  There is still a leak from the drain hole at the stern of the rib so that will be two things I need to fix.

The worst is that no rib means no seafood platter from the oyster bar at Mersea, grrrr.  We had looked forward to be able to drop the rib and go in to get some lovely fresh food.  We’ll work out a plan later.

So we have no rib to go over to the anchor buoy but it is only twenty or so metres away so I will swim over, clear the weed and then swim back.  Maria is health and safety today and she decides that we are only doing that if I am attached to the boat by a line and of course I am wearing one of the buoyancy aids for the kayak.  I dutifully tie a bowline around my ankle and I am on my way.  It’s going really well as I head towards our orange buoy.  Then I am stopped dead by the line, a few metres short.  Ok I am close enough so let’s lose the line and grab the buoy, I have to change course slightly to avoid missing it and that feels a little harder than it was at first.  But I am at the buoy, and there is a lot of weed on it.  Clear that and climb down the line to make sure that I get all of the weed even the mass that is a fair bit underwater.  The line is clear of weed so I am ready to swim back.  Now of course the reason it was so easy to get there was that the tide was running at over one knot, I could easily have just drifted onto the anchor buoy and didn’t need to swim at all.  Coming back is not going to be as easy.  Doing a front crawl with a large buoyancy aid isn’t going to work too well so I set off at a steady pace.  I am making barely perceptible progress across the twenty metre divide.  It is taking an age, and in a slightly hungover state, I am getting tired fast.  As I get to within five metres I ask Maria to throw a line and after a couple of attempts I am able to grab it and pull myself in.  That was a lot harder than I expected and I am relieved to get back on board Mariadz.  It is a long time before I feel good though since the combination of a hangover and a lot of physical exertion has really nailed me.

The anchor is up, stowed and anchor ball away with a minimum of fuss although with quite a bit of mud on me and Mariadz.  We’re heading up to the top of the Blackwater and Mersea Island although there is minimal wind and, as always, we are heading directly into whatever wind there is.

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As usual there are a lot of craft on the water and the super-fast small catamarans are making the most of the wind.  Its gives me an opportunity to take even more pictures.

Its approaching low tide, as we get to the top of the river and around Mersea is quite shallow.  Even with our shaol keel that draws on six feet, we will not be taking any risks.  We see a large catamaran on the inside route going past a small boat with all of its sail up and stationary.  Definitely glad we didn’t take any risks even though it probably adds an hour to our journey.  The whole way back maria is stalking her daughter, following her every move as she boards the plan and flies home.

We arrive in the Colne and near to the Pyefleet channel at 4pm which is later than we normally like to finish. D9CF54BF-963B-4728-9D4E-E9E5B3CC5A26 It is like Sainsbury’s car park, there are over twenty boats in a reasonable thin, shallow channel. We could try and tiptoe our way through and see if we could find somewhere but the problem would be extricating ourselves if we changed our mind.  It is too busy for us to contemplate going in especially at low water where our manoeuvers could be restricted by the depth of the water.  661F70E0-EFA3-42E6-BBE5-B08425149F22We decide to anchor in the River Colne opposite Brightlingsea and near to the beach where it is a bit quieter. We don’t often have to consider where to anchor with respect to other boats because we arrive before a number but today we have to pick our spot. We did well, on this occasion, and there is a large gap between us and everyone else, which continues even after a change of tide and direction. EAC0606C-C93F-4FCE-985F-25A4A3A7628BSunset is lovely and it is amazingly quiet, you can even hear the birds twittering on the shore. It’s a good anchorage apart from the occasional motorboat on the plane heading towards Brightlingsea and not thinking about the wash they are creating but I guess you can’t everything and you are on a river. We have had couple of late nights so tonight will be a quiet one as Maria gets to preparing a Sunday Roast to eat on deck.

The next day, we have light winds and, despite still having a couple of days left, decide to head back to Harwich.  I later find out that this is so that Maria can go and get the seafood platter that she had wanted.  The winds are a little light for Mariadz but as we enter the Wallet, we agree that we will sail up as much as we can.

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After we have left the River Colne there are only a few boats out, a catamaran that has come from near where we anchored and a smaller yacht.  I have some work to do so the sails are up and I start working as Maria guides us back to the River Orwell.  We are not making much progress but we are not in a rush.  However, after a couple of hours we are clearly going slower than we should, and I am sure the little yacht is in front of us. So I put the laptop down and address the sail situation. To this point we had been doing about 3.5-4.5 knots but I set about trimming the sails and I have us up to 6 knots.  That’s more like it.  Although when we turn at the top of the Wallet the wind will go across our beam and I suspect we will lose all speed.  That is exactly what happens and we don’t want to be arriving at Ha’penny pier too late especially as we can’t anchor off and take the rib in.  We decide to motor-sail through the Medusa channel which keeps our speed up and still feels like sailing as we generate our own wind.

As we head into the harbour the wind is picking up so I am quickly taking down all of the sails as Maria starts to bring Mariadz in towards Harwich.  The tide is flooding in and the wind is in the same direction and so Maria and I agree that we need to turn Mariadz around and approach into wind and tide.  I have to quickly get the fenders and lines in place as Maria holds station and then we are on approach.  As we get closer it is clear that the wind is slightly blowing us off the pier, and we have had problems with that before.  I know I need to get the bowline or midline on quickly and then Maria can then use that and the engine to bring the stern into the pier.    Maria has brought her in close but the bow is beginning to be blow off and the stern is still ten feet off.  A quick burst of bow thruster and a turn to the left brings her close enough that I can lasso the cleat and tie off.  A turn away from the pontoon and tick over forward brings the stern in as the line stops the bow moving out.  Fender touch and I am off and the stern is tied on and finally the bow.  We are done! And actually quite pleased with ourselves.  Ha’penny pier has had some problems recently with people untying the lines of visiting boats on the pier but they have responded by putting a security gate up that is closed outside of the hours of the ferry running.  There has been a slight increase in the charges to fund this but it gives you piece of mind.

After our failure yesterday, we are going to head to the Alma, famous for its steaks and lobster, to get a seafood platter but have decided we won’t eat it in house but will have a takeaway.  I suspect that is the first for the staff we met on the day but you can’t stop Maria getting what she wants merely with a broken down rib!, can’t keep a girl down for long!

Once back on the boat, we settle down to eat our food and are joined by a very inquisitive Clyde….did someone mention seafood platter, prawns….hmmm.

We are settled in our surroundings and one of the things I love about boating life is the friendliness of everyone.  Everyone you meet is friendly.  You may meet and decide you don’t get on but everyone is keen to introduce themselves and today is no exception.  A family of six arrive on a small motorboat and are coming to Harwich to celebrate a family birthday.  It’s already starting to get dark and after dinner the parents decide to return via taxi rather than braving the motor boat in the dark.  They are all very friendly though and have had a nice time as they prepare to return to Brightlingsea.  Similarly a smaller yacht on the inside of the pier has two gentleman on board and they pop over to introduce themselves with what can only be described as firewater! A shot of this and we needed some port to wash it down.  All in all a lovely last evening of our time away.20180710_000748

The wind has definitely strengthened and it is a rocking and rolling night on Ha’penny pier and not in a nice way! Even Mariadz moved around a little and we were rocked gently to sleep, neither of us having a problem with a little bit of movement.

When we awake in the morning, the wind has turned around Northerly which explains why it was quite so bump and we are pinned to the pier with our fenders working hard. The tide is coming through quite quickly and I wonder whether we can use that and the bow thruster to overcome the wind and push us off the pier.  We start the manoeuver and the stern comes off nicely but she doesn’t come off completely and so we decide there is too much risk involved in that approach and we will try and old favourite.  We decide to spring off the bow and so I put all of our port side fenders protecting the bow and Maria steers into the pier swinging the stern out to 45 degrees as the line holds the bow, almost exactly the opposite of the way we got onto the pier in the first place.  Once there, she can switch to astern and pull Mariadz away from the pier before flicking everything round and leaving Harwich behind us.  Of course we have had to do this in front of an audience and so the pressure was on.  Apart from having to move some fenders amidships, it goes without a hitch and we coordinate me removing the line as Maria changes direction.

However, the previous evening our guests, or more precisely the bottle of port we drank, have killed Maria off so there will be no sailing today even though there may be enough in the wind to get us going!  5E363059-3212-4820-A454-3A7762B1971ASince it is now a Tuesday, there is very little on the water….apart from that big cargo carrier coming right at us, obviously.  Actually, it is a very nice trip back up the river without a care in the world and a short working week to come.  We’re even able to finally get a picture of the cottage that looks like a smiling face. 88EC79B2-0022-4C6C-878C-A2CC34F33239Well it does to us and I guess that is important. The weather is still great though and Maria’s hangover is starting to go. It’s been a great few days and we have had some sociable times but also some time for just the two of us. We think that will be a little like when we are cruising full time.

We had wanted to rush back to make sure we were in Ipswich at the time the RAF100 memorial flight, celebrating 100 years of the RAF, flew over Ipswich on its way to London.

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It looks like we will be a little late as we are still five minutes away from the Orwell bridge at the time they are meant to come overhead.  Then it happens, all of the jets that constituted the fly-past are directly overhead every few seconds.  We are able to get loads of photos but unfortunately we have missed the older slower planes which must have come earlier or gone a different route.  It is still very exciting though as we, and a couple of other boats do little circuits within the river so that we get the best view,

Soon after, we are home and I set about cleaning down Mariadz while Maria drives to South Woodham Ferrers to visit Amie, who has landed and been driven back home.

One of my jobs is to sort the rib out.  I quickly uncover why it is not starting, some fool left it in gear, some days later I realised it was I that was the fool!  The warning buzzer is still going intermittently but I later find that it indicates that the engine is due a service, a bit like the flashing light on the dashboard of your car.  Fixing the drain hole is a little more tricky.  I had initially suggested we bring Mariadz in astern onto a pontoon and then drop the rib so we could work on it in the dry.  That didn’t happen.  So I decide I am going to sit on the paddle board and adjust the fitting while the rib hangs from the davits.  What could possibly go wrong.  I have discovered that the rubber chord that holds the bung near to the whole has a rubber washer which has come out.  So I need to unscrew the bung hole a little, bang it through so that I can refit the rubber washer and then tighten it up again.  All whilst sitting on a paddle board. I need to get some tools out and put them on the swim deck, what’s the betting some of them will in Davy Jones’ locker by the end of this little job.  Actually it goes fine and after a couple of tests, I have tightened it up enough to seal the gap and stop the leak.  Now I  just need to work out how to service the outboard and switch off the service indicator but that can wait.

It’s been a great few days and it has reinforced the belief that Maria and I share that this is what we want to do for a long period.

On the other hand the blog is a lot of words so hopefully I haven’t lost you.

Is anyone out there still?