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.
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. 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. 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.
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…
It’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!
We 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. It 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.
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.
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! 🙂