A cheeky play down the Orwell

The second May Bank Holiday was also the second time that Ipswich has hosted the Moody Owners Association.  As much as Maria enjoys the social element of this, she does miss the opportunity to go out for the whole weekend and to go a little further afield. However, she had plans to make sure she did get out for a while.

The event was similar to last year with a barbecue in the old Ipswich Haven Yacht Club followed the next day by a few drinks, nibbles and cakes.  This time there were fewer attendees with a few people popping up even if they couldn’t bring their boat.  This included a new friend with a Moody 54, Rene from Amsterdam, who’s yacht is currently being fixed at Fox’s Marina, having only recently acquired it.  We had spent a bit of time with Rene, who has some great ideas for looking after the Moody.  I suspect there will be more on these in future blogs as we ruthlessly copy his good ideas!  We had been asked to start the Saturday afternoon fun a little earlier than usual so at 3pm we are all set up with some music playing from Maria’s portable karaoke setup.  As always in these situations, you are either running late or ready with loads of time and on this occasion we were sitting around for an hour waiting for anyone to turn up 🙂 At least the weather that Maria ordered has arrived and it is glorious sunshine and warm, if a little breezy.

The event goes very well, with Maria’s salads all being finished, and we all know how much food Maria makes. I’m sure the alcohol we had provided also helps with the atmosphere but a lot of people have also brought their own drinks.  We had asked everyone to bring food for the grills and with two large grills set up, and lovingly cleaned by me for an hour, there is enough room for everyone to do their cooking. A236C7B7-1197-43A8-8EE3-4C71F64C91C9Towards the end of the afternoon, the inspiration of using the karaoke setup means that a microphone is available for a few short speeches by the branch captain, Giles, and then by Maria herself….  You can imagine. With a microphone in her hand, Maria kicks off with a couple of lines of “i’m coming out” and then settles into a short thank you speech, remembering to invite everyone over the next morning at 11am for cakes etc.  Fortunately, she keeps the speech quite short.  As the afternoon drifts on, the group start to head back to their boats but a hard core are still drinking and chatting.  A number of these are relatively new members, and with respect to all involved, young members too.  Previously we have attended Cruising Association events where we have been younger than most people’s children and although the Moody age range isn’t that extreme, it is nice to have people of similar ages, or at least as old as we think we are in our heads.  This also includes our friends Sarah and Russ who own a Westerley but have come up for the weekend to see us. Having cleared up, it’s nearly 11pm when we finish but at least the place is mostly tidy as we head back with a few stragglers to Mariadz. The wine and beer are flowing and we agree that Rene should not drive home and also that nobody else should drive him to Fox’s either.  This means setting up our bunk room, since we already have guests in the fore peak. This will be a first but it doesn’t take long to setup the top bunk and convert this room from being a storage area to somewhere someone could sleep. The night doesn’t end there with a few more drinks and eventually it is 1am when we fall in to bed. In fact, Rene decides that rather than sleep in the bunk, he will sleep up in the cockpit, fortunately we are on the quiet side of the dock at Ipswich!

The next day and there are a few sore heads. I have to go back to the yacht club to finish tidying up and leave it in a suitable state.  The yacht club area is offered to berth holders as a courtesy but has to be left in a tidy state or we will lose the privilege.  It’s nearly 11am by the time I have finished and Maria has also been busy getting the boat ready for the descending hoard!  Again we are ready in good time and the first few come on board asking for soft drinks or tea! They have clearly all been Mariadz-ed the previous day!  As more drift over, the beers and wine are out again and the nibbles are quite popular. 35C1BC93-5C8A-4BEE-BA10-37BEFD298B34 After some time, Maria whips out the two Victoria sponges and a carrot cake that she spent all Friday baking, she starts to cut large doorstops of cake whilst cutting off huge chunks for people to take home.  The cakes, made by Maria’s fair hand, are lovely and very popular…..just like her……. Last year, I must have been too polite since, despite my sweet tooth, I didn’t get any cake and none was saved for me – I was going to fall for that again and I am straight in this time.

After the unveiling of the cake, it doesn’t take long for the group to dispel and Maria’s plan to get down the river can be put into action.  We have decided to sail down the river into the westerly wind, it’s gusting a bit but we have decided with our guests on board that we will have a gentle sail down the river.  As we head into the lock it starts to hammer down with rain so we are not convinced that this is a good idea but we will keep on going.  Actually in the lock we see Easily Led 2, who are sporting a just married banner, about time Richard made an honest woman of Janet 😉 but we are really pleased for them as they head out for a mini-moon.

I may have mentioned that we normally sail with the Bimini and most often cockpit tent up which protects us from the elements and for that reason we don’t wear wet weather gear very often.  Of course today, I am on deck in shorts and a t-shirt tidying lines and fenders and after a short period I am soaked. It’s warm in the cockpit tent so I take the shirt off and down below to dry but no point getting another dirty and wet. At least got ice to get my waterproof coat out in case I have to go out in the rain again, maybe I should have thought of that earlier. This is highly amusing for Maria who thinks I look like some kind of porn star with a coat on and no top! To be fair it doesn’t rain for long as we head down river and we are making good progress with the sails up.  Of course since my short isn’t dry yet, I am still sailing topless which is highly amusing to everyone who passes us in full wet weather gear 🙂  

As we pass Wolverstone, there are a number of two seater racing dinghies (I don’t think they were lasers but don’t profess to know all the different types). As is usual in this part of the river, they are all over the place.  They are usually so focused on their racing that they don’t think about how  larger yacht can avoid them.  This isn’t normally a problem and we give them a wide berth but when they are short tacking up river, it can be tricky working out what they are up to.  Today one in particular is tacking right in front of us setting off in one direction and then changing direction abruptly. It wasn’t the most seamless of tacks and their direction of travel seems to be random from one second to another.  They seem completely oblivious to the emergency turns we are doing to avoid them as they aim straight at us. They slip by our port side with no acknowledgement of the problems they have caused.

We have decided to stay out overnight but where is safe to go in a strong westerly?The Stour runs East to West so that wouldn’t be comfortable, not even in Mariadz. We decide to anchor adjacent to Shotley Marsh really close to Felixstowe docks.  It is a little noisy but we will be fine and it is well sheltered from the wind.  But first we will have some fun sailing.  With a westerly wind the best plan is to actually head towards the North Sea for a while where the path is north to south.  This is the same as the last part of the Orwell and I ask Russ if he would like the opportunity to hand steer Mariadz.  He jumps at this and with well-reefed sails we are soon going quickly through the water at over 8 knots.  This causes Sarah some joy since the other year when swimming around her boat she introduced herself to a buoy showing the speed limit of 8 knots adjacent to Osea Island. She may not have been completely sober at the time and was unfeasibly excited.  Since then buoys called 8 knots have been her favourite! Russ gets Mariadz up to 8.5 knots through the water as she cuts her way down river.  The lovely thing about the Moody is the balance she can get on the sails, the wheel feels very connected and the steering is light even in a strong wind. Russ is loving it.

As we make the turn towards Harwich everything slows down as the wind drifts round to the starboard quarter. The wind hasn’t dropped but the perception has because now we are travelling in the same direction as the wind so it is not as fast across the deck.  This can be quite unnerving especially when you turn around when the wind changes.  It can be worrying to feel hat the wind has increased by around fifteen knots, which is quite a stiff breeze, just by changing your course.  Anyway the north-south section of the Orwell has whetted our appetites and we decide we will do a similar section out of the harbour. It’s time for Sarah to take the wheel as we turn from Harwich harbour onto the same course as Russ had negotiated down the river.  The speed starts to build and there is a little more wind. Eight knots shoots by and Sarah is starting to look a bit nervous as the speed rises through the eights and over nine knots.  We get to 9.3 knots before Maria decides enough is enough and we should slow down.  That’s pretty good especially against the tide.  We all decide that it must have been 9.35 knots which makes everyone happy except Russ who is itching to have another go and beat the new “record”.  I’m sure with a following tide it would have been over ten, eh Sarah……

Ok it’s time to turn around and head back to our selected anchorage. Maria has decided that, with the wind strengthening, I will take in a little sail so there is no opportunity to beat our record for the day but it is still a really pleasant fast sail back into the harbour.  As we turn into the harbour to head towards the Orwell, we come up quite tight to the wind.  As mentioned, at any speed that is more uncomfortable than running with the wind with the faster wind speeds across the deck.  In preparation for this and knowing we will shortly be anchoring, I have reefed in more sail before we make the turn.

This coincides with a noticeable drop in the wind, probably caused by the wind shadow from the land. So we are travelling through Harwich Harbour at a slow pace but we have had our fun so it is fine. We approach the area where the rivers split, we need to cross the river Stour entrance to head down the Orwell.  Suddenly, there is a call from the cargo ship following us.  Normally, we steer well clear of anything on the water even if we are within our rights to hold course.  It just seems a safer way to go since it is everyone’s responsibility to avoid a collision and there is no “in the right” when your boat is damaged! Therefore in ten years of sailing, and we sail a fair bit, I don’t think we have ever been called up by another boat in this way.  That changes today as the cargo ship, travelling somewhat faster than us, asks us our intentions. As we are sorting ourselves out to make sure we are not in anyone’s way, the harbourmaster also comes on the radio.  Maria is able to explain that we are going up the Orwell at the same time that they notice our route.  They can then turn behind us to head down the Stour with no problems but it is a reminder that you always need to look behind since we should have sorted this out a lot earlier, in our defence, more ships head up the Orwell but it is a reminder that we need to keep alert.

As mentioned we have decided to anchor near Shotley where we have tried, and failed, before. I have found a spot out of the channel and marked it on the chart and as we approach this spot seems to be exactly where a small motorboat is anchored and fishing,  we quickly adjust our views and Maria has found a new spot, which is away from the channel and not too close to the shore.  When sailing, Maria and I hardly ever have a cross word and actually never when we are on our own. There may have been a slight “difference of opinion” when I asked for depth at admittedly high tide to be told we were in 10 metres of water.  Generally, we like to have a metre or two under the keel at low water but this is excessive. I point out that we normally have it a little shallower than that…. once or twice. Of course I hadn’t thought of checking the depth prior to starting to drop the anchor.  I gently suggest that we sort it out and go closer to the land.  The second or third time I suggest this is enough for a slightly snappy reply 🙂 We “agree” to bring the anchor up, which is good since I had forgotten to attach our marker buoy to it anyway, so at least on the second attempt I can remember to follow our anchor routine properly.  We get a bit closer to land, which doesn’t feel right but the depth is fine as we swing round after deploying the anchor.

FB_IMG_1560185634773A few stern words between Maria and I don’t last very long, which I guess is lucky in a boat where you can’t really get away from each other, and we are relaxed as we watch a spectacular sunset.

It is another lovely dinner from Maria but we are all quite jaded from the night before and suspect we will be in bed by 9pm…. yeah right. By 8:15, it is looking like 9pm is a bit ambitious as we sit in the cockpit chatting and, unusually, without music playing. Having eaten, we are all noticeably starting to wake up though, and that is before we start on the port. A little bit more port and some of the gathering are wondering why Clyde is always moaning for cat treats. E1A7C598-463A-4CFA-9BCA-409A0789496BThey must be really tasty…..OMG,  Nooooooooooooo. Russ, Sarah and Maria all try the Royal Canine cat biscuits. These are apparently quite nice but you wouldn’t catch me trying them, not least of all because I couldn’t deny the cats! These greasy “yummy” treats are washed down with a little more port before Sarah informs us that she was “Cleaning my teeth with my tongue and a tiny bit of cat treat came out….”, yum, yum.  It’s clearly getting later and we are starting to run out of port so it’s time for a great nights sleep, nicely sheltered from the wind.  Well it can’t be later than 9pm, 10pm, 11pm, not 1:30am! Oh dear.

The next morning we are up at a reasonable time to start the sail back up the river to Ipswich.  Russ is confident that he will beat Sarah’s record but if this is possible it will be in that first section of the river which goes North so that the Westerly wind is perfectly positioned. You can see lots of sail boats are having fun in the river today so after a quick breakfast, we pack up and are ready to sail immediately.

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It’s a good wind but I still have a flea in my ear from Maria for having too much sail up yesterday so we are well reefed which means no faster than 8 knots – at least Sarah will be happy. Russ is not so happy but I am more scared of Maria than I am of him – sorry, mate 🙂

We make the turn at Suffolk Yacht Harbour, after which the Orwell snakes approximately North West, not ideal in a Westerly wind and we will be tacking most of the way home.  Maria and I rarely do this but Russ is keen and we actually start off the journey by tacking the headsail with the stay sail and main both out too! D1ACF413-41ED-4048-ADDD-5AE7ACC805A6 This is quite difficult since getting the head sail around the stay sail takes time and effort.  It does give a photo opportunity as our friends Christian and Elizabeth are on a buoy down the river and see us tacking so that’s good. You don’t get too many pictures of your own boat under sail.

After a while, Maria gets bored of winching this in and we are making less progress in a wind that is not as strong as it had been the previous day.  We bring in the headsail which means Russ can tack without anyone doing any work, that’ll make the girls happier.

We are able to sail all the way back home so we feel accomplished and have done quite a bit in a short weekend. Maria brings Mariadz into her home berth with no fuss and our friends can head home after a great weekend!







Sun bed cushions, now for some towels to make sure they are reserved

We spent a lot of time, as part of changing everything from blue to tan, redesigning the cockpit cushions.  Previously, we have had cushions and backs throughout the cockpit but Maria came up with a funky design which was partially backed with loose cushions for the rest. This was a difficult design but Maria is great at imaging these things and designed the cockpit cushions. The first quote we had was from a leading company and the cost was huge, it reflected the work required to get it right and we know that they would be perfect but it wasn’t really affordable for us.  We then found a small company who could do the work for us.  However, we had struggled to get Maria’s design understood by the company doing the cushions.  When they first arrived, they didn’t fit and were nowhere near Maria’s vision. They looked awful, but Maria was able to talk them through how to make them better. At the next visit they were much better. Flushed with success, Maria commissioned the next, much easier, set that would cover the sunbed area and provide light cushions and backs for the push pit seats. Our original supplier seemed confident but, for some reason, he felt that Maria trying to get the design how she had envisioned it, meant that she had changed the design.  Maria’s view was that she had kept the design to be what she wanted rather than something that didn’t work and that wasn’t what she requested. Anyway, with this in mind, we requested three simple cushions, one with a fold, for the sunbed area. James, our supplier, stated that any change in the design would result in additional cost. A little unfair maybe, but not unreasonable since we don’t think we want to change the design, and if we did we should pay for it.  A few weeks later some cushions turn up…..they are nothing like the original simple design! We are non-plussed. We aren’t allowed to change the design, but you can change the design without even telling us! Rather than rectangular cushions we had a large sized cushion that covered the locker and the others fitted around it.  Apparently, this was so that we could access the locker when the sunbeds were down.  There was some logic in this but it made the bed sized cushions a funny shape that no one could lie on without lying on a crease.  Just talking us through this would have avoided the stress, still a lesson learned. Maria is distraught, this isn’t what we wanted and we have a history of not putting up with second best.  To cut a long story short, James wasn’t happy that we wanted what we originally asked for and returned our money and took back the cushions.

This left us in a predicament.  After some time, we had another recommendation for cushions. FCE474F4-C916-4688-B6CE-E0C309C9A206This was Vanessa, who had done some work for some friends of ours, which had been good quality.  However, she is busy which could be a good sign but will m ana delay.  Maria spoke to her and described what she wanted.  It did take longer than we expected but we are really happy with the results, which exactly match our cockpit cushions since James had kindly told us the material and colours. The simple design works really well the fold means that we can expose the hatch for the aft cabin, allowing more air in or as a food or drinks table when you are on the sunbed. Flipping it the other gives a standing area which is often where I am when steering via the autopilot because the visibility is so good.

Although, the push pit seat cushions need a little adjustment but Vanessa has been great and had expected some fitting. More pictures of those when they arrive.

When i was young, I could always scare the birds away

As the title has it, I had never had a problem with birds being all over me until I had a boat. Then they seem to be everywhere leaving bird droppings everywhere. You did know I was talking about the feathered variety, didn’t you?

Having two cats has certainly helped as they patrol the decks. The bird scarer near to our berth at Ipswich Haven is noisy but does seem to work.  You certainly notice when it isn’t on as you get swooped by seagulls.

For a few years, we have had various bird scarers which have had mixed results. 20190524_054746We had Freddie the falcon but he flew off. Our favourite was always Ollie the owl. Our first one of these was well loved and was outside in all weathers.  This didn’t help his wings which gradually fell apart and eventually we had t send him to the big nest in the sky, a sad day. We tried many others without luck until I saw one of our neighbours had a new Ollie. 20190525_134235Another search on the internet and we found him again! Now Maria is happy that the boat is protected by her scary-eyed owl!

Diagnosing the 30A drain

So at the end of our Easter weekend sailing we had a problem.  Our solar array was designed to recharge the batteries whilst looking after the power requirements while sailing.  On the trip back up at the Orwell, it looked like somewhere we were losing about 30A at 24V. This meant we were drawing power out of the batteries even in bright sunshine. If that kind of power usage was within the boat then it would likely be generating a lot of heat.

We set about understanding the cause of this on our return.  We had already established that it as the second circuit in our bank which controlled winches and the bow thruster.  All of these seemed to work fine which added to the confusion.  By disconnecting the individual elements, we were able to trace the power loss to the bow thruster.  This is located under the fore peak berth. Opening this up we found a few issues. Firstly, there had clearly been some heat on the positive terminal. 20190504_130923The wiring had melted.  We had this once before in the aft cabin where the wiring for the  davits came into the boat.  On this occasion it was some corrosion within the wiring that had caused the problem.

Our belief is that this stems from well before our ownership of the Moody.  A long time ago, a dehumidifier had been left running on the boat and had caught fire.  This caused damage to the floorboards, galley and headlining.  We imagine that putting this out required a fair amount of water and that when the boat was awaiting repair this water was left to stand with quite a bit of our low down electrical wiring in it.  As the wiring corroded it became less efficient creating heat and then melting parts of the wiring.  This could be rubbish but seems a plausible explanation. So the heat may be the cause of our loss of power but it didn’t explain why this was happening even when the bow thruster was not operating.

We disconnected the negative wire from the bow thruster and there was no drop in the amps going out of the boat. Oh dear. So the amps are going out through the bow thruster into the water. Fortunately, this circuit is only switched on when we are sailing and not when we are berthed or anchored so at least we haven’t done too much damage to our neighbours but this could also explain why our anodes were eaten through within fifteen months.  May be this had been going on for longer without us noticing.

Potentially we could have tried to repair the existing bow thruster drive unit but with our plans, this didn’t seem sensible, not least of all because cost wise a rebuild would probably have been a similar cost to a new one. 20190504_130710There was also quite a bit of surface rust of the bow thruster too which in an area that is mostly dry seemed strange – maybe reinforcing our theory about the fire.

There was some concern as to whether the drive unit would detach from the housing or whether we would have to come out of the water to do the work.  Fortunately the combination of corrosion X, WD40 and a little time worked wonders and the bolts could be undone to take out the old unit.  The new one was a lot of money but I guess now we have peace of mind.

Harwich and the Stour

This is a sad time of year for Maria’s family since it combines the anniversaries of the funeral of her father, Chris, and the death of her younger sister, Natalie. The later was only last year so it is still very fresh in people’s minds. So we decided that we would spend some time with Maria’s step mum on the anniversary, Friday, and hopefully get some time over the weekend on the boat, something that Chris and Natalie would both have loved.

Weather-wise the weekend was to start quite breezy but this would die down with potential occasional showers.  I had booked the Friday off work so that there would be no distractions on the day and so we decided that we would head to Harwich on the Thursday evening once I had finished work.  This would mean a 7pm departure with a couple of hours to get to Half-penny pier.  In preparation, Maria spoke to Nick the harbourmaster and checked that the outside of the pier, which is the only spot we can go, was clear and he confirmed that there was nothing there and nothing expected.  I have to say that all of the harbour masters at Half-penny pier have been really good to us whenever we have been there.  They’re really friendly and want to help although I believe that the RNLI station may have been told to rename our boat “likely call”…

I arrive back from work at about 6:45pm and Maria has the boat ready.  There is a strong North-Easterly wind blowing at 15-20 knots as we prepare to leave.  We are untied and as Maria slowly inches Mariadz out of her berth, it seems particularly gusty.  The wind is blowing us off the pontoon which is great but also closer to our neighbours a few feet away.  It is the first test of the new bow thruster and everything works fine as Maria controls the bow and exits the berth.  We will need to go into the lock to get down the river and the water level is high, which also means we are a little exposed to the wind as we enter the lock.  Once again we are being blown off the pontoon as I call down the distance to the pontoon from the hull.  At 50cm, I step off, one never jumps…. ;), I have a mid cleat line in my hand. I am able to get this attached but as I reach back for the standard second line, the aft line, it is not in reach. I ask Maria to tick over forward and steer away from the pontoon which should point the bow out, move Mariadz forward and with the mid line holding her bring the stern into reach.  A quick bust of bow thruster speeds this up and I am able to get the aft line on, tighten up the mid line and stroll forward with the bow line in the knowledge that Maria can control this with the bow thruster anyway.  We are tied up even if it was a little more exciting than normal 🙂 . The other thing we have done is successfully tested the bow thruster, which had already been done in the berth before setting off but there is nothing like a real test.  This whole process reminds Maria why she likes to have the bow thruster available.

We start to head down the river after a cheery wave from the lock keeper.  Maria phones up half-penny pier to reconfirm and we are fine.  Nick asks us to phone him after we arrive just to confirm that we are there safely – now that’s service…or maybe he’s worried about whether we will successfully make it!  We have some sail up although it is gusty and we are doing over 7 knots down the river. Unfortunately the wind picks up and gets more gusty which just makes the journey uncomfortable so before long we have reduced sail a little.

As we round the turn to Felixstowe, I have booked us for some food at the Thai up at the Quay, our favourite Thai restaurant.  As we approach half-penny, we can see it is clear and the wind is blowing down the pontoon so we will turn Mariadz around and face Felixstowe rather than down river.  After the experience at Ramsgate, I am taking no chances and I rig most of our nine fenders on the starboard side and at the right height but I needn’t have worried.

Maria approaches the pontoon at a sensible speed and the first thing she has to do is a ninety degree turn in a tight spot, adjust for the flow of water and then flick the bow out using the rudder as Mariadz settles against the pontoon and I step off to start tying her off – Mariadz not Maria! Parked like a boss though! Interestingly, Maria didn’t use the bow thruster at all.  It should be said that Maria doesn’t over use the bow thruster normally but she has used it markedly less since its replacement which means more concentration beforehand to get the boat in the right position rather than relying on a correction.  It’s impressively done with no fuss whatsoever.  I decide to move Mariadz back a little so that we leave some space at the front of the pier but it seems that we will be alone here this evening.  It’s 8:50pm and we have ten minutes to retrieve the cats – you know Clyde has jumped off as soon as we touched land, shut the boat down and get to the restaurant.

B59FF093-C61F-4BA3-9AE0-B6C62AEE5AD6We are big fans of Thai up at the Quay, it’s a family run business which is normally quite busy, to the extent that probably 50% of the time we can’t get in last minute like this.  Today we are in luck. We take some recommendations for food, the staff always know what’s best, and our faith in them is justified as the food is excellent.   The service is excellent too, with the son being our main person today and being both efficient and friendly.

Now the problem that Maria and I have on holiday is that we are normally quite happy when it starts and the first evening is a bit of a “celebration”…. this normally means a late night and some alcohol resulting in sore heads the next morning.  It doesn’t seem to matter if this is a fortnight away, a long weekend or even, sometimes, a normal weekend away! Tonight is no exception but at least our plans for Friday are to arrive at Jean’s at lunchtime so we have some time to get ourselves sorted.

We have brought food with us for lunch with Jean, A1E8C26B-6DBF-4D27-B84A-A74ADAEF2A58a lovely fish platter but without oysters this time, not sure she really enjoyed them last time. We have some drink with us too so we can toast Chris and Natalie and before long we are in the taxi to Dovercourt. We spend the afternoon with Jean and have a great time although I am asked to demonstrate my IT skills by fixing her computer and setting up a new video player on the computer, no rest for the wicked! Also, they probably don’t know that there are loads of people who do this where I work so I don’t get my hands dirty normally.

My computer jobs done and after a really nice afternoon, it is time for us to return to Mariadz.  The cutoff point for half-penny pier is 4pm prior to which, it is free to moor. On our return to the boat, the wind is still blowing hard but all of the forecasts confirm that this will drop over the weekend so we plan to anchor down the Stour for a couple of days. We expect the wind and tide to pull us off the pier quite nicely but just in case we are set up to spring off the bow as usual.  As the mooring lines are removed, Mariadz gently drifts off the pier so I loosen the last bow spring line and we are ready to go.  Martin, our yachtmaster instructor, caught us out a few years ago when he was beside the Orwell as we sailed down.  He spotted that we had the fenders laid out on deck rather than tidied away. When we had the granny bars, or mast pulpits, fitted we decided that this would make a safe storage location for our fenders. Not least of all because if we needed to access the mast, we could easily move the two inside fenders around so that the bars could serve their true purpose.  It does reduce visability a little from within the cockpit but works for us.  Another change I have made when putting out the fenders is to tie them at the bottom of the stanchions and then run the line to the top of the stanchion to tie the knot.  This puts the pressure point for the fender at the base of the stanchion, it’s strongest point, and hopefully avoids us bending stanchions if a fender gets caught as we approach a dock.  However, these two decisions mean that it takes longer for me to stow the lines and fenders after we come away from the pier. We are a fair way down the river Stour, as I rejoin Maria having tidied everything up.  There’s some wind but we have decided since we are going less than two miles, there is no point in packing up the boat to sail and getting the sails out just to put them away again quite quickly. As we approach, Maria is checking the chart for where to go and sees a large anchor sign.  We both momentarily forget that this is a marker we put down in the raymarine plotter to signify a good spot. Normally, there are other boats here so it is nice to go to one of our favourite spots on the edge of the bay but away from the channel. The anchor routine is the same as always and we are settled down with the anchor alarm on but also having checked transits that will point to any problems of us moving.  That isn’t normally a problem but better safe than sorry. It is still quite windy as we settle down for the evening but during the night this dies down.

We wake the next morning to find ourselves in a mill pond, there is barely a ripple on the River Stour.  It’s gonna be a lovely chilling day and the cats are particularly ready for it as they rest and rest some more.

Maria has decided that today is a fishing day having bought rag worms during the week and fresh from her recent success of catching three small sea bass. She will need a bucket however which is when I find that the builders bucket and the two soft plastic buckets have all got holes in 😦 . The builders bucket is particularly galling since I have had that for several years, with it’s rusty handle, and never expected my old faithful to fail me. 65775A1B-B75A-4356-A3E4-D44BDE8B25B6 It means that Maria’s source of water is an old washing up bowl rapidly filled from a leaking bucket. I also need to ask Alexa to add a bucket to the shopping list. I guess it is just all part of the constant refresh cycle on a sailing boat, nothing ever stays fixed for long.

Maria is fishing all day and constantly changing her bait as the combination of weeds, crabs and fast running water remove the worms from her hooks.  This is despite reverting to the internet half way through the day for another guaranteed way of baiting your line.

109F189D-01F6-4B74-AEA1-F9590C914975Still Maria is happy and that improves further after I shuck some oysters for lunch, that also explains why Jean didn’t get any!

Its late afternoon in the middle of May and that would mean the FA cup final which, this year, has my team, Manchester City, playing.  The TV is set up in the cockpit and I have checked the aerial adjustment to make sure that I will not have the same problems of not watching the game that I suffered for most of the last day of the premiership! The game is a nervy affair to start with but this quickly goes as City continue to score goals and approach a record final victory.  That isn’t bad, especially when you consider that the last time they played a similar placed team at this stage they got beat!  The football result helps my good mood as we realise that the whole day has gone and we have been really lazy and done nothing all day! 84CE6500-1DDF-451C-A466-8BE38B43FE60

The evening is clear and still.  The river is like a mirror which only worries Maria since the first time Bonnie ever jumped off the boat was when conditions were like this.  She was young at the time and I think she learnt her lesson but it doesn’t stop Maria worrying. Clyde is also being cheeky, he knows the rule of “no toes on the toe rail” and has heard it often but it doesn’t stop him leaning over the side hypnotised by the water.

One day we will put up “brat nets” as a safety precaution and they are already acquired and waiting to be fitted.  We are not sure we will like the aesthetics and want to leave it til as late as possible. In the interim, we always hang a couple of covered fenders off the aft quarters of the boat. At anchor, we are always facing the tide so if they did fall in they would be pulled backwards towards the stern.  We are hoping that should the unthinkable happen, they would be able to grab the fender and climb their way back up to safety.  The alternative is of course that Maria would immediately dive in after them, while I worked out a way to save everyone!

Another good nights sleep on a flat calm river heralds another day when we will need to up anchor and return home. As we come up on deck, I look at the cockpit tent to see a mass of bird droppings.  These aren’t little ones either, as the boat is covered in elephant sized droppings.  That means we will have to give the boat a good wash down today but at least the weather is nice,

We’re contemplating leaving so that we can get a good push from the tide up the Orwell when one of our friends, John from Brigand, pops over in his jet rib from his catamaran deep in Holbrook Bay. 51C74A66-A0B1-4733-AC26-92970AA1345CWe invite him on for a drink and I suggest to Maria that she lower the swim platform for him.  Now we haven’t used this since last year, and having told Maria which switch to use, we are both confused as the swim platform doesn’t move.  That is until we see that Maria is happily switching the lights on and off…. of course, the swim platform is controlled from the steering binnacle not the stern of the boat.  When pressing the correct button, the platform goes down easily which is a relief.  Over a cup of Tea, which is very refined for us, John gives us the benefit of his local knowledge by explaining where a channel is in the Bay that would allow us to come in closer to shore.  Definitely one to be explored next time we are down.

John leaves to put Brigand onto the mud to change anodes and we are set to head back up river and home. Retrieving the anchor is no problem although clearing the anchor buoy takes some effort – it is unbelievable how much weed goes through this river!  Our new weed clearing technique of leaving ten metres of chain down so that the buoy is adjacent to the boat for cleaning, works a treat though. CBB4B479-BBD9-45F6-988E-580BFE41A61DWe have remembered to take down the anchor ball up in the rigging and proceed down the river to the gentle buzzing of the anchor alarm telling us we are dragging our anchor at six knots…. why do I always forget to switch that off? This can be seen perfectly on the anchor track in the picture.

We’re fighting the tide and a light wind with some very light rain up the Stour which slows us down but we know this will all change when we hit the Orwell. There isn’t much wind so again and we will do this under power dodging anything sailing down the river.  Despite the light drizzle, I get the opportunity to take boat photos for the first time this year so we have some pictures of other boats on the Orwell.

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We’re closing on high tide but it looks like we will miss the lock being open by ten minutes but at least we won’t be in there for long. As we wait in the lock, another couple have come in and one of them catches the same train as me in the mornings from Ipswich station.  Not next week though as he is away on holiday on the boat and I try to hide my jealousy. I must have a recognisable face though 🙂 Once again, Maria gets Mariadz into the berth with the minimum of fuss and it isn’t long before our standard post-voyage routine is done and Mariadz is in her usual position with shore power.

This time, though, she is sitting there looking expectant, if that is possible, because SOMEONE has to clean her up!  That, as you can imagine, is a blue job!  I don’t mind though as she looks gleaming at the end of it.

Improving the quality of our fresh water

Having lived in a marina for a number of years we have become used to filling our water tanks from the Marina supply. This water, for all the right reasons, has a lot of chlorine in it and we have habitually used a Brita filter, or equivalent, for our drinking and cooking water. But we shower in the unfiltered water which isn’t great.  Talking to a friend of ours, Rob on Warisha, uncovered how he resolved this when filling up his tanks in the Caribbean. He used an in-line filter (High Capacity Water Filter Kit 10) which works an absolute treat and is very low cost (especially for anything that can be used in a marina setting!). ae235.jpegWe bought a filter and have the option of fitting this in line with the outlet from our water tank. Instead we have decided to make sure that the water is clean going into the tank by buying hose attachments (quite posh ones). Having emptied the tanks before refilling with the new filter, it took two flushes of the tank but the difference is unbelievable with no smell of chlorine.

Maria is also saying that her hair feels better when she washes it. Definitely a cost effective and useful addition to Mariadz.  Our thought, like Rob, is not to fit this in line with the fresh water system but to filter the water going in.  One thing to remember though, when swapping filters, don’t lose the rubber o ring…. or you will be sending Maria to our local o ring shop to find one! Needless to say she was successful and also bought a spare.

Grey water float switch

Previously, I have talked about the need to keep the grey water box clean because the waste of soap and shampoo forms a white mush that can block the float switch and stop it working. Causing an overflowing box and dirty grey water in the bilge. Not an ideal situation to say the least.

We have been good at doing this every three to six months and have had no problems.  The gulper water pump has also not been a problem and still empties the box in about ten seconds, if that changes we know there is a problem, especially since having a couple of plastic screw covers effectively acting as valves in the past which meant it took 45 seconds.  We changed the gulper to be the black water version which has wider pipes than the one designed for grey water, I have no idea why that is but it is a set up we prefer.

Now the pump is not noisy at all, especially compared to our water pump, So it is a bit of surprise to return to the boat after putting something in the car to find that the pump is running and nothing is coming out.  As I get on board, I leave it a few seconds to check that it wasn’t about to stop but it is going on. Clearly a problem that needs an immediate fix – how often is that true on a boat!

20190430_195314I open up the grey water box expecting to see the switch stuck in the up position and jammed with the white soapy scum.  It’s a little dirty but not too bad and the switch is down. Hmmm. Now to check if this is a problem in the switch or the pump. It doesn’t take long to determine that the float switch is the problem since it seems to be powering the pump irrespective of its position, although interestingly more power when the switch is activated.  Our friend Mark pops over and is also keen to understand the problem. Using a multimeter we can see that there is some power even when the switch is meant to be off.  It’s a sealed unit, and relatively inexpensive so we decide that we will replace it.  Maria will be shopping at Fox’s chandlery tomorrow morning. In the meantime, we can use it as long as we do it manually at the wall, not ideal.

20190430_195306The next day and Maria has bought two Rule-a-matic Bilge pump float switches,we like a spare! On my return from work, I settle down to the “ten minute job” of replacing the switch. An initial test outside of the box proves that we have made the right decision so now it is getting the wiring in the box and fixing the float switch to its holding bracket.  Running the wires is easy enough.  The wiring on the boat is actually well done, although in places we have water damage from early in the boat’s life.  This area is perfect and I just need a couple of spade connectors to connect up the switch.  But first recheck it is working by jamming the wires in.  All works well. But I can’t find my spade connectors and crimper anywhere.  They are not where they should be. Now, Maria is famous for tidying up things and putting them out of sight rather than where they should be. It is a source of some frustration because there are so many nooks and crannies on a boat that the search takes ages. Anyway, no one can accuse Maria on this count so I am hung by my own petard! Anyway, I wanted a different crimper and there weren’t a lot of connectors so I will buy loads  and that will sort it.  Next day delivery on amazon prime, jobs a good ‘un.  I tell Maria it’s fine to use in the meantime too, and that was my first mistake.  Having washed up, I empty a bowl of greasy water down the sink and wait for the inevitable whoosh whoosh of the pump.  And I’m waiting, I’m waiting…..I’M WAITING! Nothing 😦 so it’s carpet back, floor boards up and look at the low capacity grey water box surrounded by a pool of water in the bilge. Great! And I can also see the gleaming wires of my new switch nicely hanging away from the pump wires. Reconnecting these and the pump works as it should. Right, in true Basil Faulty style I am going to sort this out. Some industrial tape will do this and then they won’t come out. Second mistake, since when I return the next day to do the crimping, the tape is really difficult to get off and is a mucky job! Anyway, spade connectors crimped onto switch wires and plugged in and we have a permanent fix – now to clean the bilge that should never have needed it!

Oh did I mention that, in between taping up the wires and returning the next day with the spade connectors, I found my original crimper and connectors in a bag in a reasonably logical storage location! Typical.

Looking after our teak

You may be aware that we bought some beautiful teak chairs a couple of years ago and used these most of last summer which means that the oiled dark teak had been sun lightened. Now although these chairs are originally dipped in oil to get their beautiful colour we will need to do some work to get them back to their best. Not least of all because they were a present from Maria’s step mum.

20190422_163116We decided to do this using teak oil that we bought from the original manufacturer of the chairs although any teak oil would have been fine I’m sure. The instructions were to make sure the teak was clean and then to apply the oil using a soft cloth. You could tell how important it was to Maria since she was right next to me doing a chair :). You can tell the difference in the picture where the work is part done and we were so pleased that we decided to do the same for our teak table.  20190517_165552Unfortunately the preparation of a dirty table that we have had for a few years was a bit more intense. We used teak wonder to remove the dirt from the table and then did the same with the teak oil. The most difficult part was getting the teak oil into all the nooks and crannies of the open mesh table, it took time but was worth it. The process doesn’t take long especially with two of you but I imagine we will have to do it again towards the back end of the season.

Fresh from this success and with a little time as she looks for her next role, Maria decided that our teak decks need to have the vagaries of winter cleaned and should be returned from a dirty grey/green to a glorious grey/brown…  previously we had used Wessex two part to do this but Maria had the Teak Wonder product recommended which confusingly is also a two part product with a cleaner and then a brightener. Sorry no before pics but the difference is marked and when wet they go brown rather than green 🙂

Maria worked hard scrubbing the decks with a soft brush, across the grain obviously, and was pleased with the results which actually got even better after we had washed the boat again afterwards.

The best jobs are those where you are happy with the result, remarkably infrequent in my experience.

Easter weekend starts the season


It has been a tradition over the last ten years (wow ten years already!) that Mariadz starts her summer season at Easter.  There was memorably one Easter when we were sailing in company with Easily Led on a still, scorching Easter. Since then the weather hasn’t been quite so good, especially when Easter has been early.

So with a late Easter this year, we were planning on how to spend it and as it got closer, it seemed the weather was going to smile on us. The boat hadn’t been out of the water for over a year and so before our season started, there was some essential maintenance that needed doing. ECAE9C2C-F9E6-4B66-9649-47A71E58CF28This was all planned and booked months in advance to be done a few weeks prior to Easter to avoid any risks.  Unfortunately, Ipswich Haven has limited large cradles and in fact because of the number of boats out of the water long term, they only have one cradle available for large boats.  One of our friends decided to come out the week before us, and booked for three weeks….. that was cutting it tight.  Fortunately, they were back in time for our scheduled three day maintenance window.  Of course the late reschedule meant that the people that were going to help us with the work on the boat weren’t available, so we were late coming back into the water but more on that in another blog.  We made it in time, which is the important thing.  So where to go…. we had previously spoken about returning to the North Kent coast, maybe Chatham, the creeks or Ramsgate so with some strong winds predicted for the start of the weekend, we decided to start in Ramsgate.  We will see where it goes from there.

I had some work to do which required some quiet time, two reports to write, so had decided to work from home the Thursday before Easter.  This meant that Maria decided that we could sail to Ramsgate on the Thursday while I worked, she does like to start the weekends as early as possible.  This, of course, works fine unless I have a call to do and of course I had a call to do at exactly the time we would be coming into Ramsgate! We would have to work that out but it really depended on how well we were doing.  We agreed that we would need to go early with the tide so that it didn’t mess up the day but unfortunately I was late back on the Wednesday night and so barely had time to do anything except the last bit of getting the boat prepped and fall into bed, ready for a 4am start! I hadn’t checked the engine, which isn’t normally a problem.  Although we do these before any long journey, there seems to be little difference in oil or coolant levels and I rarely have to tighten up the belts. So that shouldn’t be a problem…

So we are up at 4am, it’s dark. Pre-engine checks show we are low on oil…..we top it up and check coolant levels which are a little low but fine.  I have spare coolant anyway so that shouldn’t be a problem.  The loss of some oil is something we will need to look into though.  Unfortunately, this delays us until nearly 5am and with a low tide we are another 30 minutes in the lock waiting for the levels to balance out.  This time we have decided to take the “inside” route down black deep to fisherman’s gat and then south-ish from there to Ramsgate.  The wind is in a favourable north easterly direction and with a good tide, we should take about six hours from our standard passage start point of the langard buoy outside of Harwich. It is about 43Nm and we would normally expect this to be about six hours which puts it right in the middle of my only work call scheduled at lunchtime. Typical.  We make reasonable progress down the river, out of Harwich and through the Medusa channel.  We are always incredibly observant here because we have seen fishing nets across the channel as well as a minefield of lobster pots which could trip us up and ruin our weekend!  This time everything is fine and we get to the top of Black Deep.  At this stage, we will surf with the fast running tide and wind so we will fly down the channel. So far a really uneventful trip with nothing to report apart from the large tanker following us down the Deep which caused us to slightly adjust our course to avoid causing them any trouble. We are making good time and can tell the difference a clean hull is making to Mariadz’s speed, compared to the end of last season when she sported a hula hula skirt of speed-sapping weed. I am busy working away and Maria has done her job hunt and gets the needle and cotton out to repair our fender covers! Anyone that knows Maria will recognise a bored Maria right there! Maria does a fantastic job with the fenders, repairing holes and stitching in new elastic to neaten them up as I finish the first of my reports.  Now to send it in before the deadline…. but we are several miles offshore and I have no mobile signal. Ah, I hadn’t accounted for that! But there is a silver lining since I have an IPad from 3, my personal phone on O2, a work phone on Vodaphone and a boat Mifi on EE – one of them has to work ;).  I achieve the deadline and we have turned south on approach to the Kent coast as it gets to midday. That means arrival outside of Ramsgate in the middle of my call as feared.  So how to slow us down….Maria had been keen to arrive early at Ramsgate to get a good spot and chill for the afternoon after an early start. This meant at this time we were motor sailing so I can slow us down a bit, and with a slight adjustment of course to give us a longer approach to Ramsgate, I can get the call done before we have to get busy.

49AF9F4C-E3DA-4FFC-9E48-9195B3F14579In the end my work call finishes a little early and so I have lots of time to get the boat ready for the entrance.  Before I do though, we have a visitor. A little bird decides to take a rest on Mariadz about four miles offshore.  Maria is so confident of my knowledge of these things that she asks me what it is called, after a swift check I decide that it is Samuel which I found highly quite amusing, but Maria not so much. We eventually find out that it is a Siskin from the north, maybe trying to get back there for the summer and maybe a bit upset that I am going the wrong way. Obviously not as upset as it will be if Bonnie or Clyde wake up and notice it there.  It sticks with us for about 20 minutes while the cats sleep.

The approach to Ramsgate can get a bit lumpy in the confused seas just outside the entrance.  This can mean putting on fenders and lines is a bit of a challenge akin to a bucking bronco ride.  The water is cold too. However, we are ready early so I can get the fenders on now, perfect! Except…. I usually adjust the fenders by touching the water, lifting a little tying off.  This works really well and makes sure that the fender is perfectly set for the pontoon. The problem with doing this in a one metre swell is that “touching the water” is not quite as low as usual.  And I didn’t notice!  We are set for our approach, have called into the port to get permission to go through the outer harbour to the marina area and are on approach.  Since we are at a good time, we have the choice of the outer long pontoon, which is perfect for Mariadz and where we normally go.  This did need a little persuasion though to stop us being put into the tight area of the marina (at least tight for a 54 foot plus davits yacht!). We always do the turn in the harbour ( avoiding the submerged sand back) so that we are facing the entrance which makes the stay more comfortable.  As we approach, we realise that the wind is quite strong and north Easterly, blowing us onto the pontoon as it always does whenever we are in Ramsgate. We’re all set to dock, with our fenders a little high, as Maria swings Mariadz round to approach the long linear pontoon at the end closest to town. The wind is strong and Maria touches the pontoon about ten metres ahead of where we need to end up.  So we will need to move the boat backwards.  Now normally this wouldn’t be a problem but there is a strong wind blowing us onto the pontoon and I may have mentioned the fenders not being optimally positioned.  Maria tries to go straight astern and of course this squeezes the fenders against the pontoon.  Being set too high they start to pop up.  Now normally in this position, Maria is able to get Mariadz pretty much moving sideways off the pontoon.  In forward, she turns into the pontoon which kicks the stern out and then uses the 10hp bow thruster to push the bow off the pontoon. In astern of course, the wheel is reversed…. you need to turn away from the pontoon and still use the bow thruster to stop the bow hitting the pontoon.  This is our first trip out this year so we are a little rusty and it takes a few minutes for us to get this right.  In which time our beautifully polished hull is rubbing against the pontoon, causing some scuff marks. I have told Maria and, since she can’t see it, she is fearing the worst. Actually it’s not too bad and will clean up fine but neither Maria or I are looking forward to telling Terry, our GRP expert, who did all that fine work a week ago!

This is an opportunity for us to get our pop up steps out which 20170923_184350makes the step down to the pontoon so much easier.  We’re now set up and I have a few hours of work to do writing reports and it is warm in the cockpit tent despite the strong, cold winds outside.

DC48A7BF-3923-425F-B656-9DC8365A68A3Maria settles down to start planning the weekend in detail (I.e. has a drink), thinks of a few ideas for food and since we will be here a couple of days, maybe some touristy stuff. We’re sure that Ramsgate has put its prices up since it is nearly fifty pounds a night for Mariadz – no wonder the marina is empty!  I finish work and we have an early evening on the boat chilling listening to music, watching TV and playing with the cats. 6468B396-E3DE-47D7-8185-4D6A2CC8275DDinner will be a return to our favourite Thai up in the arches, the Thai Orchid, which is excellent as always.  There is some lovely food and a few drinks so the evening doesn’t finish early 🙂

It’s Good Friday and time for the holiday to start properly but as always with Maria on the first night away, there are a couple of sore heads the next morning so it isn’t an early start. We take a look at the top ten tourist attractions of Ramsgate, an eclectic mix to say the least….. the marina is right up there, as is the sailors church right next to the marina and the maritime museum next to the marina! It’s not going to be a long walk! Maria has already discounted the mile and a half stroll to the next bay to see the Viking ship.  In one respect, I am disappointed but you know you will have walked for thirty minutes to see some wood strapped together on a concrete plinth which could be quite underwhelming. I hasten to add that we haven’t seen this so I could be doing it a huge disservice. One day we will go and probably be really pleasantly surprised – but not this weekend.  There are also the tunnels which have history from the war which could be interesting, if we can find the entrance….but I guess the hidden entrance is why they were useful during the war! It’s early afternoon and we decide that some food is in order before we get going, but neither of us can work out what to do.  We wander round the front seeking inspiration.  There are a couple of pubs for a great hangover cure like sausage, chips and beans.  There are some good seafood places, that’s a maybe, and of course the really nice Italian opposite the pier that we like so much.  We keep wandering around until we finally stroll into Little Ships, this used to be a bar until six months ago and the menu looks quite good. As we walk in a large bowl of mussels is being delivered to one of the tables, that looks excellent.  There’s also salt and pepper squid which is also a favourite so that is the starters sorted.  There’s a good selection of mains, Maria is thinking of the fish and chips while I look at the seafood pasta.  There is also a Chicken Kiev, now when was the last time I had one of those?  The decision is made more difficult when they tell us that their fish supplier is late and the last of the mussels has gone out, we missed it by ten minutes!  We make our choices but there is no rush and we are enjoying sitting there and chatting. 414F1C85-65B1-4B54-B1A3-B48A01AFE6E5After our oysters, didn’t I mention those, the starters are amazing. The chef is really talented.  We decide to have a bottle of wine with our dinner but I can’t choose so I ask if it is possible to try a couple before making a final decision. The management bring over a couple of small(ish) glasses of wine, as Maria start to open a conversation with the table next to us – doesn’t sound like Maria, does it? I try the more expensive one first which is very light and crisp, definitely drinkable.  The lighter coloured second wine is the house white.  The first sip is enough, this wine is dangerous and should come with a health warning, far too drinkable!  We have decided to go with this, living life on the edge. We are now having a lovely chat with the group next to us since Maria broke the ice. They have just come from a cruise, where they are used to striking up conversations with strangers, so this is no different.  Food wise, we have gone with the fish and chips and a Chicken Kiev.  I have to say it is probably the best fish I have had, very thin crispy batter, succulent fish and the thick cut chips are gorgeous.  It’s been a relaxing lunch break but it is now beyond 4pm by the time we clear out.  So off to the museum which we soon find closes at 4:30pm…oops, they are closing up and so we will have to do that another time.  Not before the lovely lady gives us a 15 minute history lesson on the difference between Greenwich Mean Time and Ramsgate time, sounds like an excuse to be late to me! So not much touristy stuff at all for us today.  Having had our fill at lunchtime, the evening will be a quiet affair where we will sit in the cockpit and watch TV. EF5D6139-9C0C-4B24-984D-276CCAE19A76Quite relaxing actually as I nod off! We will also need to plan the rest of the weekend since Maria has been unable to make a decision.  We consider our options. We actually really like Queenborough on the Isle of Sheppey and the creeks nearby, it’s a proper old maritime town and we know some people don’t like it, but we have only had good experiences there and the people who run the dock have been really friendly. We could go further down the river to Chatham, and check the historic dockyard since we haven’t done that before.  We could pop up to the Crouch and stay at Burnham which has always been a nice spot. There is also of course an anchorage, which is probably our preference having been marina bound all winter and the last few days. So Osea, Pyefleet, Hamford Water, the Deben or the Stour.  The wind is still blowing a fresh N going NE and this maybe even going easterly as the weekend goes on.  This will mean an unpleasant trip back on Monday into the wind from Chatham or Burnham. Based on the strength and direction of the wind, we decide to go closer to home and stay in the Stour.  Although if the wind goes Easterly, it may be a little bumpy, Mariadz will be more than comfortable riding this out.

Our standard route home from Ramsgate would be to head North to the Fisherman’s Gat and then North East through the Deep before turning North again to Harwich.  The expected wind would be on the nose for the whole trip which would be slow and mean no sailing.  There are a number of sandbanks in the Thames Estuary which splay out like fingers in an open hand and point north easterly.  As mentioned our normal routing is to cut across one of these and then go up the gap between two sand bank fingers.  The alternative is to go around the outside of the finger tips.  This is not something we have done before and this may allow us to sail close to the wind but at least at a faster and more comfortable pace.  Although this route is slightly longer, I suspect today it will be faster.

The Northerly is still blowing us onto the pontoon and so we can’t use our usual method of coming off the pontoon sideways with an angled rudder to kick the stern off and the bow thruster to move the bow .  This would also be complicated by a border patrol vessel which is moored in front of us and is twice our beam so blocks the route outquite a bit.  We can’t just steer off the pontoon or spring off the stern because of the overhang of the davits, rib and solar panels which would go three to four feet over the pontoon.  So it will be springing off the bow as usual then.  We are becoming quite experienced at this as I tie four fenders to the bow and a line from the bow to a cleat adjacent to our mid ships on the pontoon.  Maria has checked in with port control and we are good to go.  As I take the other normal mooring lines off, Mariadz is already starting to move her stern off the pontoon.  Maria turns the wheel into the pontoon and in tickover eases the bow in and onto the fenders as the stern slowly moves away from the pontoon.  With Mariadz at about 45 degrees to the pontoon, Maria straightens the wheel and slips into astern. I loosen the spring line and a quick burst of the bow thruster pushes the bow even more off the pontoon and starts to straighten Mariadz. We are now perfectly positioned parallel to the pontoon and ready to go as I retrieve the lines and put away the fenders.  As we leave, another larger border patrol vessel, Searcher, is also readying to leave.  Everything is stowed before we come out of the harbour and before we hit the rough patch of water outside of Ramsgate which throws us around.  The weather is fine, if a little cold, and in the distance we can see another warship in the channel, probably a frigate. So with that and Searcher behind us, we are feeling very safe! As we turn North East to our first waypoint, all hell breaks loose on the AIS. There is a fast moving vessel on a collision course about a mile away. BF679484-B2C3-442B-B60D-C493657FA24CThis is an RNLI lifeboat returning to Ramsgate but clearly with our escorts and now a rescue vessel close to us, we are beginning to worry that someone knows something we don’t!

We have been able to put main and staysail up but have also left the engine on at low revs to keep driving us through the water because we are a little tight to the wind and we don’t want to arrive too late. F21717DD-E9A8-4D29-AB18-26F0177B1338We are getting a good push from the wind and tide so we are belting along at a reasonable speed.  When the wind is in the right direction, we passage plan at about 7 knots and we are able to keep up with this.

Bonnie and Clyde as usual are with us all the way and stay in the cockpit.  There is sun so they are either rolling around in the warmth or hiding from it.  Clyde just moves to shady spots but Bonnie has now taken to going under her blankets and hiding, FB_IMG_1557949856295including sometimes making a tent!

Having taken the long way round we pass Rough Towers 81EB8371-FE46-4D0D-8D75-BAF77ACC1930and are able to turn towards Harwich which also gives us an opportunity to switch off the engine and enjoy the last few miles of the sail.  As we reach the langard buoy, it is seven hours since we left Ramsgate which is exactly the same time it took to get there but it had probably been quicker than returning the way we had come.

It is now early evening and we are keen to get anchored in the Stour, still our destination for a couple of days.  There are a number of anchorages in the Stour but we decide to go further down than our first stop of the weekend opposite Harwich Parkeston Quay. In fact, we are going to go close to Holbrook Bay, the shallow bay under the Royal Hospital School. This is a common spot for us in the summer because it is so quiet and we intend to spend the whole of Sunday here before sailing gently back on Monday in the expected north easterly winds.

As we proceed down the river, the wind dies so we are back under power and starting to take the sails down as we prepare for the anchorage. Maria selects her spot and I follow our anchoring routine. Anchor ball up, anchor buoy down, anchor down, long snubber deployed and short lines to hold the chain and protect the windlass from snatching if all else fails. This is all done quite quickly and we are able to sit down with the anchor alarm on and have a well earned drink!

Dinner is quite relaxed and we catch up on a couple of serials on the TV that we put up in the cockpit. Tomorrow is another chill day.

Easter Sunday dawns clear but with quite a cool breeze so the cockpit tent stays closed up so we get the heat of the sun but not the chill of the wind.  Early in the morning Maria breaks out the fishing gear having had another lesson from our tackle shop – and been taught another way of setting up the rig with guaranteed results. Hmmm, we’ll see!

We’re both chilling and chatting when the first of three fish is caught and Maria has

clearly got the gift again despite the first couple of hours of just catching large clumps of weed. They are all too small to keep with the first one being especially keen to return to the river as he flies out of Maria’s hands. But not before a kiss!

It’s a Sunday and Maria will always prepare a roast dinner irrespective of where we are and she is enjoying pottering in the galley getting dinner ready. FB_IMG_1557949883792As always it is a feast, I’m sure she is seeing double as she prepares the food and cooks for four rather than two.  Anyone who has eaten Maria’s roast dinner will know it is gorgeous but you will never run out of food!

It’s been a relaxing day which, with my work being hard and the stress of Maria looking for a new job, is a good thing.  It has been sunny all day and the batteries are full with the solar having soaked up 4kWh of power or 330Ah of power at 12V. It’s fantastic but as the evening comes, the wind starts to make us cold.  We decide to start the generator so that we can run the heating, heated blankets etc as well as getting the water piping hot for a lovely warm shower.

FB_IMG_1557949953326During the evening, we have decided to leave reasonably early and catch the tide on the Orwell to arrive at the top of the river while the lock is on the level. Bringing the anchor up reminds me of the amount of weed in the river and the problems this can cause. The anchor buoy works well as a marker for our anchor, a tripping line should we need it (which is unlikely) and a way to retrieve the anchor if our chain failed.  However, we did suffer once in this anchorage where the weight of the weed on the buoy actually stopped the anchor turning around and stowing properly. It jammed sideways on and had to be shaken out when we docked.  Last year, at Osea, I had swam to the buoy to clear it and struggled to get back. I certainly wasn’t going to try that in an East Coast river in April.  My solution was to retrieve the anchor until there was only ten metres of chain left.  The buoy is on 10 metres of line. This means that, as it hangs off the anchor, it goes in the same direction of the tide as Mariadz. So the buoy is quite close to our bow and using a boat hook, I am able to clear the weed from the line and reduce the weight pulling on the anchor.  The last part of retrieval goes perfectly and we are ready to start our sail home.

Overnight the wind has turned Easterly and reduced a little but we have plenty of time 817C6707-5F9B-4FE6-A244-9B3E6704B89Band so we deploy the main and stay sail and decide to tack up river. We remember from our courses the shouted instructions and responses which feel quite redundant when you have a self tacking stay sail which means the only think you need to do is turn the wheel. It doesn’t stop us calling out anyway even if all it does is inform the other that we are about to change the way the boat is heeling – which can be quite important. We make unspectacular progress up river, there isn’t really enough wind to get Mariadz going and we are going against the tide with the wind driving right down the river at us. At some stage I go below and as I pass the instruments I notice something strange. We are in fantastic sunshine but we are pulling out 30A of power. My first thought is something must be wrong, we should be using 8-12A which is more than covered by the solar and allows us to run the boat (fridges etc) and have all of the navigation on. I am looking at the panel and start switching off areas to see if I can trace it.  After some time, I find that the large switch for the winches and bow thruster seems to be culprit.  This is adjacent to another switch for the domestic which has had an issue recently. We at least know what circuit it is but I could do with the winches and we are only going up river with a lot of battery power so we should be ok. It is one that needs fixing quickly though.

As we enter the Orwell, we only have just over an hour to make it all the way to the top of the river before high tide. FB_IMG_1557950040110As we make the turn at the end of Felixstowe, the wind picks up and is right on our beam, perfect. Mariadz moves like she has been kicked and probably has a little too much sail up but she is sailing well and we are flying along at well over the motorised speed limit of 6 knots. After this section and when you make the turn at Suffolk Yacht Harbour, the wind is less steady and the contours of the land can make this a bit variable. We persevere most of the way up the river before taking the call, as the wind drops even more, and decide it is time to get ourselves back.

FB_IMG_1557949796795Sails are down and engine is on as we approach the Orwell bridge but there is a new person on the lock gates. We are told that we will have to wait on the waiting pontoon rather than going straight through on freeflow. We had been hoping not to have to tie up to the pontoon but it now looks like I will have to rig fenders and lines on both sides, once for the lock or waiting pontoon and once for our home berth.  As we get closer it is clear that the gates are open so there is nothing to worry about. It would just have been easier if that had been made clear at the beginning – still another lesson learned.

The advantage of free flow, or on the level, is that there is no delay going through the lock and so we are tied up in our berth early afternoon giving us enough time to clean Mariadz down.  It also means that we can clean off the scuff mark that we have from Ramsgate and we are as good as new.

Now to go through the snagging list from the shakedown tour including that pesky 30A draw on our power!