I was obviously part way through writing this one when I stopped which will be why I recall writing it but couldn’t find it. So having discussed this with my mother in law the other weekend, it was time to finish this off.
This summer has been glorious with fantastic weather and wonderful weekends. However, we all know that this is the UK and it can, and probably will, change at any moment. You have to take advantage of the great weather when you can. That said the wind forecast was a bit strange over the weekend – one of those force 1-9, variable meaning any direction and any wind strength!
This weekend we had Maria’s best friend Lisa on board and outline plans to have my mother-in-law Jean join us but she had other potential plans on the back of a hard week of hosting people at the house. We had decided to return to the tranquil Hamford Waters when we could visit the seals again.
Maria was working hard in London at the MHRA, and I am still between jobs although I had a great interview during the week and a number of other opportunities so it looks like this year I won’t get as much time for boat chores. But I am off on the Thursday and Friday and so the Admiral has given me a long list of tasks to complete before her return, readying the boat for our weekend away.
The first of these was to unload the boat of the liveaboard junk that is probably not necessary for a weekend away in 30+ degrees of heat. The dehumidifier can go, my work shoes, various blankets and the electric heated blanket that is such a godsend in the winter but comes off during the summer.
This is going swimmingly until I step off the boat with the blankets. Now I should explain that there is a four inch gap between the toe rail and the steps on the pontoon. Both hard surfaces where something can drop and I can retrieve it. As I step off the boat, Davy Jones invisibly reaches up from the depths and gives the controller for the heated blanket a gentle tug. In slow motion, I watch it fall but my hands are full as it teasingly hits the top step before slipping off between the steps and the boat…. and into his locker. I leap down putting the blankets down to dip my arm in and grab the controller before it gets too far, even though it is electronics and probably wrecked already. My outstretched fingers tantalisingly touch the cable but I can’t grab it as the controller sinks and joins a set of keys for the rib, a set of keys for a BMW convertible and other trophies. I guess I will be ordering a replacement Heated blanket controller when I sit down for a minute.
Another one of my tasks is to get all of the washing and drying done in the marina facilities and this is easily done, I can see the pile of ironing that will undoubtably be one of my tasks over the next week as we prepare for our annual trek to Italy.
Additional shopping and boat prep takes the rest of the day including cleaning out the grey water system, fixing various minor issues that have been hanging around and getting the last of the shopping. It means I have been run ragged getting everything prepped before getting to the station to pick up the girls as they return from their hard day at work. Of course, Maria immediately identifies something I haven’t done and asks what have I been doing all day! She’s a hard task master and I have to count to ten 🙂
We are leaving on Thursday night but with the long days we can get a fair way down the river Before it gets dark. This is particularly useful with the tides. High tide is around 4:30am and eleven hours after. With the low depth at Pye End, at the entrance to Hamford water, I am only comfortable going here reasonably close to high water. By being down river, we can cross this area shortly after high water without being stuck in the Orwell all day. So that is a plan especially with this being the last weekend away on the boat for a while since we are getting close to the end of the season and about to go away for three weekends.
So we set off and go through the lock and down the river. We’ll pick up a buoy at Levington, and be perfectly placed for the short trip tomorrow. h no we won’t, all of the buoys that we normally pick up are taken – unheard of especially mid week.. but that is ok maybe we will go to halfpenny pier…. hmmm, pop out for dinner at the Thai or maybe the Alma with steak and lobster – our mouths are watering already.We have set our hearts on lobster at the Alma. That is until we turn the corner to see the pier full of boats, double parked (rafted) and no room at the inn. Right we will go back to the small anchorage near Shotley although there are a couple of boats already there, we should squeeze in. We get back there and it is all looking a bit tight. We have now been messing about for the best part of an hour! We try to squeeze in a few more times before Maria decides that we have had enough and we will go to the large anchorage at the top of the Stour opposite Harwich parkeston quay and then we can take the rib in to Harwich and have that lovely lobster. At last some up side.
This is no problem and we decide to leave the spreader lights on when we go for food so that we will easily find Mariadz on our return. It is a lovely dinner as always and soon we are starting to head back. We needn’t have worried about finding Mariadz since she is lit up for all to see. We are probably quite lucky she didn’t attract planes landing there rather than Stansted. It’s nice to get back to her, lower the swim platform using the remote control on the rib, switch even more lights on and get back on board safely. We’re feeling pretty smug about the changes that we have made to this area.
Of course the problem with our cunning plan is that with the messing around on the river, two rib trips and a dinner that took a while which is our fault not the pubs, it is now getting late. So it looks like we will be in bed by midnight and up at 4am….oh dear. We must remember next time to go to bed earlier.
The next morning we are able to get up with the alarm although it is a struggle. However, shortly after we are able to see a beautiful sunrise. The previous evening our temporary crew member, who may have been a little drunk, assured us she was desperate to wake up for sunrise… in the cold light of morning she is nowhere to be seen 🙂 So obviously, we take a lot of pictures so that she can see what she could have won….
It is near high water so there is lots of room through pye end, maybe we should have got more sleep. However, it is interesting picking your way through especially when you know there is depth, at times it seems that there is more depth away from the recommended track. We actually generally take the route a little south of the red buoys route where there is slightly deeper water which at this state of the tide doesn’t even trigger our depth alarms which are set to an actual depth of three metres and at least a metre under our keel.
The trip there is without note and we arrive at anchorage at 6:30am and we are not alone. Our friends Martin and Caroline who have a catamaran have come away to get away from everything but Ipswich Haven has caught up with them! We anchor 100 metres away and they paddle board over…flash gits 😉 I should say that they are excellent on the paddle board together and hopefully one day we will be as competent. That day may be a while coming! Still we will ply them with a few drinks and hopefully they will struggle on the way back… that wasn’t the motive but could have been a by product. There are no surprises on the way back either as they get back safe, sound and dry. Oh well no inadvertent entertainment for us then!
As we settle down to the day there is the opportunity to get on with a few jobs around the boat including cleaning up the stainless around the boat.
My job hunting is going going well too and it looks like I will have a well paid contract in the next couple of weeks so a good day.
It is blistering sunshine so a great solar day. So much so that I have to switch the immersion heater on early in the afternoon, which uses 30A out of our batteries. Even this doesn’t drain our batteries too much and now we have hot water for the rest of the day as the sun refills the batteries. It is going to be a 5KWh day, which doesn’t sound much for a home but for a boat is a huge amount of power on a boat.
During the afternoon we decide that the weekend can officially begin, so let’s get the toys out…. Fortunately, in one respect, our friends have moved on, although I am sure it isn’t to avoid us. It does mean that we can go paddle boarding, now the professionals have left…. we both have a go and I am actually able to stay on board as I take it around the buoys, back and on board whilst staying dry. I’m quietly happy as I take a long drink to settle my nerves back down! The heart rate monitor starts to settle below 100……
Maria has a go too with mixed results before we are going for a trip in the two man Kayak which is a lot more difficult to fall off of!
I’m back on board and I am reminded that August is Maria’s Birthday month, yes, you heard me right, not day but MONTH. So that means there is alcohol and the expectation of presents. Unfortunately for her, I am not falling for that – it is nearly a week til her birthday! Lisa does have her present though and won’t be here on her birthday…. Maria always gets her way and so she is happy now.
Sunset at Hamford water is lovely with very little sign off human life. As long as you don’t look North to the cranes standing like Martian war machines that is. Despite a bit of a breeze during the afternoon, which obviously made my feat of paddle-boarding even more impressive ;), it is now completely still which adds to the calming effect. as the evening starts we are sat in the cockpit chatting and listening to music at a low level. That is until there is a bump on the side of the boat… as we peer over, fearing a body or tree trunk, we see a seal seemingly smiling back at us. He plays around the boat for about thirty minutes with us desperately, and failing, to take photos. In these situations, alcohol is not your friend! Not a worry, there will be a couple of hundred we can look at tomorrow.
The next day we have agreed to pick up my Step mother-in-law, Jean, from Harwich to spend some time with us on Mariadz. Rather than uping anchor and taking Mariadz to halfpenny pier, we have agreed that I will drop the rib and fly up to Harwich, pick her up and bring her back to Mariadz. How hard can that be? Now I should mention that Jean is a very young 72 but has recently been having some problem with her hip. Hmmm, jumping into a rib and a quick jaunt around the harbour sounds perfect then! However, when I say a young 72, as soon as I mentioned pick up in a speed boat, she was up for it!
So I am in the rib leaving Mariadz behind as I come out of the river to go up the coast to Harwich. Actually, the river has been quite sheltered from the northerly wind which is a bit stronger than I expected. The tide is also coming in which means I am going against both wind and tide on my way up to Harwich. It’s therefore a wet and bumpy journey. I am not worried for myself but I am about to bring Maria’s step mum down this route and I begin to doubt whether I am doing the right thing by my MIL. It should be better on the way back when I am with the waves, he says hopefully.
Actually, the first problem is going to be getting Jean into the rib which is quite a step down from the pontoon. We are lucky that there is a really nice guy with a motor boat that we have met before who offers to let her board from his swim platform which is quite a bit lower than the pontoon. With a little difficulty and care this works and Jean is ensconced in the bow of the rib, reclining in her armchair setup and looking as comfortable as you like. That could all change with a wave crashing over the bow as we go down to Hamford Water but I am sure I won’t be blamed….. We come out of Harwich and all is good and now we are turning towards the North Sea in a small 11ft rib with my precious cargo. We make the turn south towards Hamford Water and it is remarkably comfortable, as long as I keep the speed “nice”. That doesn’t mean driving miss daisy though since Jean seems to be enjoying the wind and light spray, it’s all very exciting. We are almost surfing and there is a little spray but no big waves drenching Jean. Actually, her face is beaming as we travel down at about 15 knots. It’s too noisy to talk but we are surfing a little so it isn’t too bumpy and certainly not the bone-jarring crashing you can get, and I did, on the way up. It is with some relief that I turn into the river and the water smooths out in the shelter from the wind. As we approach Mariadz, Maria and Lisa are waiting expectantly, drinks in hand, and none of them have any idea how nervous I have been worrying that a rogue wave will soak Jean! We come up to the swim platform and Jean steps off nonchalantly as if she is a slightly damp Audrey Hepburn rather than a soaking Bridget Jones. Maria hands her a freshly filled Prosecco glass and the girls settle down for a natter.
One of the reasons for going to Hamford Water is to see the seal sanctuary, it’s actually a tourist boat trip from Harwich which is a little more comfortable than the rib! As we are preparing the rib for our excursion, a yacht crosses our bow towards the mouth of the brook where we will be heading. We are on a falling tide and as I recall there is quite a mud bank barely under the surface which is marked at the end with a red buoy. They must turn before they get there, mustn’t they? Errr, no. As they slam into the mud, oops. I am getting the keys for the rib and the hand held radio to see if they need some help when they start to move slowly, ploughing a path through the mud with their keel. They are soon free with a story to tell. Our friends in other sailing areas aren’t used to touching the bottom but it is an occupational hazard on the East Coast of the UK. To be fair, if you haven’t done that, you’re probably not really trying! Especially as you can be a mile off shore in three feet of water. We may have done some inadvertent dredging at times ourselves so certainly no criticism from us.
A spot of lunch before we go though. Maria prepares a gorgeous sea food platter, obviously all caught by her during the morning….. maybe not since the only nibbles she has had have been crabs stealing her bait.
We get in the rib to go and see the seals, with Jean/Audrey in her bow-shaped armchair. Lisa sat adjacent to the console and Maria next to me. I have no idea how the boat can be rated for five people since we have taken up all the room.
There are a couple of hundred seals in this colony and with it being after low tide they are all basking on the mud. That is until we arrive when they jump into the water as soon as we get close. There are a fair few creeks in this area for exploring and we get quite a few pictures.
We return to Mariadz and hear that Frazaz, our friends Mike and Sue from B Pontoon in Ipswich, are coming down to anchor. They have solar as well which will get a good test as will their posh new anchor. They have settled down and we have invited them over for an afternoon drink and chat. I have even offered to pick them up so they don’t have to go through the bind of getting their inflatable ready. It’s very sunny as the wind picks up and shifts to come straight up the river towards us. We are teasing them about whether FraZaz looks a little further away than it was, but they are not biting! After a couple of hours, they are ready to return but the wind has picked up and because of the direction there is a metre of swell running through the anchorage. We’re able to get off Mariadz easily enough but as we get back to FraZaz it looks like boarding will be like changing bulls at a bucking bronco. Sue and Mike safely make it back on board where I am sure they checked their anchor alarm straight away 🙂
It’s a beautiful balmy clear evening as we sit in the cockpit chatting and listening to music. It’s quite a starry night and Lisa spots a particular bright star. With some authority she reports to us that this is Venus which is quite impressive as it moves quickly across the sky and continues it’s journey towards Stansted where it is going to land! It’s getting later and we have two guests on board. Maria has informed me that Lisa will be in the fore peak and Jean will be sleeping in our bed. This leaves us sleeping in the cockpit, well it is a warm evening and the wind has dropped now. But of course we will be up quite early when the sun rises. The new cockpit cushions are quite comfy though and the cats also choose to sleep up top with us.
The next morning is an early start as expected and, over breakfast, we make plans to return to Harwich to drop Jean home, not in the rib this time. Again we will depart on a half tide to make sure we have no worries with depth as we come out and with a slight breeze, we are able to sail most of the way back to Harwich. Fortunately, the pier is clear so tying up is not an issue and it is easy for Jean to hop off and back to her car.
Shortly afterwards we are on our way up the river Orwell to home at the end of another glorious weekend.