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.
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.
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.
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. 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. We 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.
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 🙂
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.
The 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 down 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. At 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!