Category Archives: Sailing Log book

The adventure begins – Biscay

It’s the start of the queens jubilee celebrations and our opportunity to take the extra couple of days on top of our two week holiday to get Mariadz out of Plymouth across Biscay and into the south of Spain ready for a final shot at getting her to Brindisi.

A lot of people who cross Biscay decide to hug the French Atlantic coast which gives them options around safe havens if the weather turns. However, it is shallow here and the Atlantic swell can be much worse here than in the deeper water beyond the continental shelf. Also when the weather is bad a number of these ports are forced to close since the entrances become dangerous. We have decided to take the outside route by heading south west to start with and then heading south to start to go down the western coast of Spain and Portugal. We have also decided that we ideally want to get a lot of the travel done early so we can take it easy as we get further round. To this end, we intend to skip past the Spanish Rias and head to Lisbon as our first stop. This route has the advantage of avoiding the “motorway” or ant trail of cargo ships that follow the same line from the north west tip of Spain to the north west tip of France. However, since we have no idea how well we will all handle the overnight watches, we have discussed bolt holes if we need to get to land and safety sooner. To sail through Biscay you ideally need wind from the north, even is it is has some east or west in it but we don’t want a forecast with any south in it. We are really lucky that the weather window has coincided perfectly with our preferred departure date – clearly someone is smiling on us.

We have decided to get a good nights rest beforehand and leave at about 10:30am which also means we will have a fair tide at the beginning of the journey. This is purely for morale purposes so that you see a large chunk of miles disappear at the beginning of the journey. In the grand scheme of things it will make little difference.

There is little wind so we start by putting the sails up to see how we will do. We are going so slowly, it would take ten days to just get across Biscay, so clearly that won’t be happening! The engine is on and we motorsail to keep our speed up.

Maria has spent a lot of time researching and perfecting the watch system for our trip. We have four people who can stand watch but Maria is keen to make sure that no one is ever on their own especially as we don’t know the real competence of the people who are with us. I will talk about the nigh watch later but by day, we had a watch that lasted two hours with Adam, as skipper, being allocated a single day time watch, 1-3, and the other three covering 9am until 9pm in rotation which nicely rotated the time slots. The thinking here was that the skipper could be called at any time and so a slightly easier watch schedule provided the opportunity to catch up on rest when there were extraordinary circumstances. Which there were! On that first day, we weren’t taking our rest as we should though. We soon discover that le is less of a skipper and more as the maintenance team for Mariadz and I seem to spend most of my down time fixing one thing or another. However, plans never survive first contact with the enemy!

We are all settling into this journey well when we suddenly notice there are spots of blood everywhere, Gerald is bleeding from cutting his foot on something around the deck. So Adam, the skipper, maintenance, medic, is there with some plasters and cleaning the upholstery and deck. A short time later, he does it again, so we need a shoes on deck but not down below rule we think.

As we head into Biscay the water starts to get deeper. We recall when sailing the med years ago, the raymarine depth only registered to about 100M. Will the new equipment be any better? It certainly won’t register the 4000M depth that we will experience.

We have a good day of sailing heading south but realistically still not very far from England since the start of the journey. Nightfall means the start of the night watch. Since we have two crew on board, we have options around the watches but Maria is keen to make sure that we always have two people on watch especially since we know very little about the experience of the two crew. To this end, Maria has put me on for three hours at the beginning and the end. Again the other three alternate between 9-3, 12-6 and 3-9. Everyone gets six hours rest to hopefully make sure they get a good rest. Basically it is six hours on and six hours off although in practice it is three hours on watch, three hours on standby and six hours rest. Maria has given me the best times since it is possible that I could be woken at any time if there are problems.

This also fits in well with feeding the crew. Maria has spent ages preparing meals for the trip and making sure that we had easy, wholesome and great tasting food for our trip. She has planned a menu that means that no meal will be repeated throughout the two weeks we intend to be away. The freezer is organised with military precision and none would dare to interfere.

Gerald and I are on the first watch and as it starts to become twilight, I look to turn down the brightness of our instruments so that we can protect our night vision. Most of these are quite easy and I am merrily pressing buttons when I notice, after doing the autopilot, that the wind instruments are going crazy. There is a fair bit of wind but it is constantly changing direction. I can’t understand this, have I changed the calibration settings. It is a minute or so before I realise that I have inadvertently stopped the autopilot when I was adjusting it and we have done three 360 degree turns. Fortunately it isn’t a bad sea and mariadz hasn’t been noticeable different as it has done it’s turns! We will keep that between ourselves…. Except the track showing our path has three neat little circles in the middle of it!

The watch system seems to work really well although the rolling motion of the ocean means that in order to sleep in our normal bed comfortably you need to sleep across the bed. You are then rocked like a baby in a cradle as opposed to rolled from one side to another.

Apart from my gaff, the night is quiet and after 24 hours we are now 75 miles west of Brest and as Gerald points out 300 miles south of Dublin! Our first day is 168 miles or an average of seven knots which is exactly what we have always planned upon when working out times and distances. To be fair, we are mostly at eight knots during the day but I cut the sail plan and therefore speed during the night for safety and because we have limited people on watch.

The new day starts and we are all still feeling fresh, we are making sure that we are getting our rest during the day although my extensive medical knowledge of plasters is called upon as Gerald once again cuts himself and leaves blood across all of the boat.

Our depth instruments are reading approximately 150m but then as it gets deeper they get confused and start reading 6m. I suspect that this is because we have two different sets of depth instruments, not including the forward facing sonar, so maybe there is some confusion between the two units. Fortunately we can independently switch off the main depth sounder before it starts warning us of shallow water when we are in hundreds of metres. Interestingly the sensor for our navigation works to a much deeper depth and we can see 400m on that one. At some stage we will look into the settings to see if there is something better we can do.

The wind is behind us and blowing a healthy 15 to 20 knots, the sea is also mostly following us with the occasional rogue wave that causes us to roll. It is time for our downwind sailing plan to be deployed. There are a number of options when you want to attempt long distance downwind sailing. We had a cruising chute on our old Dufour that got used twice as I recall. Others use a spinnaker or a parasailor but Mariadz has a Twin headsail setup, this means that our standard head sail is set and then a second headsail is rigged and poled out. The rolling seas mean that even the standard head sail needs to be held in place and this is achieved using the boom as an additional “pole” on Mariadz. We start to get the pole ready and it is seized and won’t disconnect from the stainless bar used to store it. I remember years ago in Ipswich we had suffered with similar corrosion problems locking various bits of our rig and our lovely neighbours Pete and Linda had introduced me to Corrosion X. This is a god send which eats the corrosion and fresh up the movement. I do this on the pole and it is working fine so thank you Pete once again!

After four attempts we have the two sails how we want them with our clever new block on the boom redirecting the sheet for the head sail and the pole doing the same for the second sail. Mariadz looks lovely with these twin wings pulling her forward and we are making great progress hammering along at eight knots. Today is going to be better.

We finally reach the continental shelf where the depth drops from a few hundred metres to many thousand of metres in the space of thirty miles. We are interested to see whether the sea state will change. Most of our experience has been in the English Channel and North Sea which are shallow and result in high waves being very close together. In deeper water the wave period should increase and the motion should be gentler. If we are honest we didn’t notice a huge difference across those few miles but did think that most of the crossing, once we got into deeper waters, was quite a pleasant motion from the sea.

On our trip along the south coast we had eventually been blessed with visits from dolphins. This coincided with the arrival of our Irish vet, Gerald, aka the dolphin whisperer. We were interested to see if his powers would still work when Richard was on board since. On day 2 we discovered that Gerald’s talents were indeed still working although we did find that the Dolphins in the atlantic were shy compared to the playful pods we had experienced in lyme bay. Still it breaks the monotony and is a little bit of excitement for us all. At least until Richard comes on deck and scares them away!

After five hours, the wind is changing and we are looking at our setup for the night. I decide we will change our plan and have something that is easier to manage during the night. As we take down the second head sail, we notice a major problem of chafe on the halyard that has been used to lift the sail. All of the outer cover of our brand new line has been cut and has peeled back revealing a metre of the core. That isn’t good and we will need to understand what causes that so we can fix it. The situation is worse when we pack away the main headsail where we also have a little chafe on the sheet that goes to the boom. The cause of this is obvious when we bring the boom back to the centre of the boat. My new gorgeous and very clever block is a mangled piece of metal. It is clear that whilst the plan to put the block as far back on the mast is standard, it is blocked by another part of our main sheet which means the block can’t deploy properly and is caught on an angle. Over five hours this had worn a groove on the wheel part of the block and mangled the frame. Until we solve these problems, there will be no more twin headsail sailing.

We are now ready for our second set of night watches and are getting into our rhythm. It should also be noted that despite quite a rolly journey, none of us have had any symptoms of seasickness although that may be because of the lack of alcohol or hangovers!

The start of another day, and we are clearly adding a lot to the repair list. It seems pretty standard that, after a long voyage, there are days spent fixing everything that is broken and I fully expect that the definition of cruising as fixing your boat in exotic places will be equally true of Mariadz despite the great start we have of a clear to-do list.

At the start of our third day, we are deep into biscay, the depth is now four and a half kilometres which is mind numbing. It is daylight so let’s get some more sail up and we are soon cruising along at a great pace, tuning the sails as best we can as the wind changes. At the end of our second twenty fours of sailing, we have coincidentally travelled exactly another 168 miles!

As we reach the half way point of our 750 mile initial journey, we are all happy especially as we have seen two whale spouts a long way off. One is quite a bit bigger and higher than the other so we assume it is a mother and calf? I guess one could have been asthmatic though.

It is the back end of the day and I am resting prior to my evening watch when I am suddenly woken by Gerald, it appears the steering is broken. We haven’t even got close to the orca that attack the rudder and we are already disabled! The boat can turn right but like Zoolander can’t turn left. As you get to the mid point and the wheel is straight, it locks.

The steering quadrant is at the bottom of the lazarette so we have to empty the lazarette and investigate. It seems to be working some times but stops at the mid way point in one direction sometimes. We check the steering console to see if there is something catching there but the chain is moving freely. Gerald in the lazarette thinks it is the driving arm of the autopilot. I think he means the sensor arm, which was a problem previously causing the autopilot not to work and poo poo the idea but he means the mechanical arm that drives the steering for the autopilot and to be fair he is right. There seems to be something wrong with the internal mechanics of the Whitlock drive. It isn’t easy to get out and I suspect not something I can fix on the move so we decide to find somewhere closer than Lisbon and hand steer having safely stowed the arm of the Whitlock.

The decision is taken to head into the Spanish Rias to Vigo or bayona to try and get everything fixed.

We will need to change the watch system since the workload is much greater when hand steering rather than letting the boat do the work and just keeping an eye out. We decide that the two people on watch will do alternate hours on the wheel. It is also time for the skipper to step up and not take it easy. I decide to do the first few hours on my own, giving my partner on the first night watch a couple of hours off. That person has an extra hour at the end as they do three hours driving shared with the other person on watch which gains the second person on watch an hour of extra rest before the third person comes on who I relieve early and they get an extra hours rest at the end of their watch.

During the night we pass through the motorway since our new destination is on the other side. Although this looks like playing frogger, there are reasonably sized gaps between the ships and I am able to negotiate a way through without inconveniencing anybody. It must have been difficult for the big ships though seeing a somewhat erratic hand stirred course from us when they are used to a consistent course from everyone they meet. At least we didn’t get called up by name to explain what we were up to! For most of our trip we haven’t been remotely near another vessel with even fishing boats being at least a mile away from us so it is nice to know they are still out there.

Over the night the crew all get some extra rest and now we are getting closer to Spain. It isn’t long before “Land ahoy” and Gerald armed with our hand held compass has found a lighthouse on the horizon. Gerald and lighthouses would become a feature of the trip!

Gerald is again on watch when we are joined by literally a hundred dolphins off our starboard side. The whole sea is churning with jumping dolphins for as far as the eye can see. It is a great site but when Richard appears from down below they all start to disappear. It is certainly a talent!

We are making reasonable progress but will arrive at Vigo too late and in darkness so decide to find an anchorage in the rias protected from the expected south westerly winds. We find one and are the only boat in the little cove but it isn’t a particularly pretty anchorage and certainly not the area of outstanding natural beauty we were expecting,

Anyway, we have negotiated Biscay with only a few wounds to lick and the repairs can soon begin.

Blog updates

A note to any readers out there. I am trying to catch up on all of the refit and some of the sailing we have done. There will be quite a few blogs going up over the next few weeks including:

Stainless anchor and chain
Safety gear
Teak cockpit seating
Rig and sails, refurb of twin headsail
Toe rail
Fridge freezer control panels
Frameless windows
Tensile awning and cockpit tent
Hull work – copper coat and gold stripe
Engine room refurb
New soleboards
Various saloon wood improvements repairs
Toilet pipes and toilet servicing, in and out pumps
Whale manual pump servicing
Water pump – Marco
Grey waste pump service
LEDs with dimmer problems in forepeak
Extra sockets with usbs in bunk room
New tap and water filter
Water maker
Hinge replacement
Locks on lockers
Lithium batteries
Cockpit tent and tensile awning
Teak decks
Motorhome sold

I will try and put these up in a rough chronological order but it does mean that some news will start to appear down the list a little, especially as the list gets updated regularly.

So, happy reading and I hope it is enjoyable and useful.

No turning back now.

This year we will delivering Mariadz to southern Italy and the journey has now well and truly started. Having been in Suffolk Yacht Harbour for most of the last eighteen months, the majority of the boat jobs are now done. There are a few things left to do, most notably the toe rail which we had hoped to have redone perfectly before we left but looks like it will need to be started again unfortunately, more of that in another post.

On a boat there is always a long list of jobs to do and as you will find out over the coming weeks as I catch up on blogs, a lot of these have now been done on mariadz. In fact the usually extensive list has very few items on it!

We left Suffolk yacht harbour at Levington mid-April, a little later than we had hoped due to over-running works and headed to Burnham-on-Crouch. This was to be our base for a couple of weeks, while Maria got to spend some quality time with our granddaughter, Isabella. Since this was our last time in these waters we decided to break up the journey and visit a familiar haunt. Hanford water wasn’t possible due to tides and our need to do a long journey so we decided that Osea Island would be our anchorage for the night before moving onto Burnham.

The sail down the wallet to the top of the river black water was uneventful and we were able to get the sails out but had to keep the engine running due to the lack of wind. This wasn’t too bad since we are trying to get through our first 50 hours on the new engine and want to do this before we attempt the “big” crossing later in the year.

All is going swimingly until we decide to take the sails in. Mariadz has in mast furling which a lot of people swear at rather than swearing by. We have always got on with it and in eight years have not had a sail jam. As part of the refit, we had the in-mast furler completely refurbished. During our test sail we had noticed that the looped line for the furler hadn’t been gripping the jaws of the furler well enough so we had that changed for a thicker line that would grip better. We were somewhat dismayed to find that during the unfurling of the sail, this line had jumped off of the furler completely! I believe I may have been responsible for that. The furler has two modes: ratchet and free. Previously, we had always had the furler on ratchet which basically meant that the sail was always controlled by the furler and we could reef the sail or let more out using the furler and under control. After the refurb, the sail will furl in ratchet mode but seems to be locked for bringing the sail out. I realise this only after the line is under some tension and hence is quite a bit thinner than usual. I suspect this helped to throw the line off the furler. I am able to store the sail by going to the mast with a winch handle and doing it manually, tiring but successful. However, I can’t do that every time! I call Richard at Evolution Rigging and we are both at a loss. Clearly it needs to back but it is a small aperture and I have no idea how I will get the thick line in there – I really hope I don’t need to cut the line at the join of the loop and redo it. The internet is your friend in these situations and I discover that the furler is working exactly as designed, even if that isn’t as good a design as our previously faulty set up allowed. So I know what I have done wrong but not how to fix it, yet.

Osea island is quiet, as you would probably expect for April but it is nice to say goodbye, even if we refrained from singing Rehab from the bow this time.

The next morning, and the pull of Isabella is too much for Maria to resist. We are up and away early and back past Radio Caroline, heading to burnham. I am not letting the furler problem stop us using our new sails so we are flying along to burnham and arrive nice and early.

Prior to arrival, we have been told that we will be on the hammerhead at the entrance – “your usual table, sir?”. That would be lovely, and as we enter the marina, there are even some people there waiting. How kind, they are here to take our lines….. nope, the boat in front of us starts to turn back into us to go onto the hammerhead! I swiftly call out that the harbourmaster has told us to berth there, to be told they are just picking up their friends! Errrr, do you want us to wait here while you do that? Or maybe find somewhere empty to pick them up. The decision is made to take the berth and let the other boat pick them up elsewhere, something they handle very well so clearly know how to handle their boat. Maria demonstrates that she can handle Mariadz as well by “Captain Ron”- ing it. For those who don’t know the film, which is a classic Kurt Russell film, this approach to berthing is basically to aim at the hammerhead at speed and then, at the last minute, throw the wheel over, put her astern and let her drift gently onto the berth. This works well when there is a lot of tide or wind. Maria’s attempt was not far off the film although thankfully her crew knew what she was doing so there was no panic 🙂 well not much…

We are now berthed in Burnham for two weeks before the first of our crew members for Biscay, Richard, comes on board for the start of the trip south to acclimatise himself to the boat and us! Now where’s that list to clear some more items off it!

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!







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.

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!




Return to Hamford water

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! 896E201D-828B-463C-9720-17695C78B118We 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.

0AEB81AC-4667-4148-BC7C-5546CCC2442BThis 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. 5A3FCD9E-D36C-4FFC-993D-098C715BECE8The 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. 7E8B8AE1-F2DC-4A4C-B23B-ACDAE14CC825Our friends Martin and Caroline who have a catamaran have come away to get away from everything but Ipswich Haven has caught up with them! A66B09FA-A95D-489C-9091-77FF5ACF9AF8We 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…. E2779E7B-2627-474A-9A78-65D555B6F1B6Fortunately, 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! DAF2F198-7E66-41C3-87BD-2108CF48333ELisa does have her present though and won’t be here on her birthday…. Maria always gets her way and so she is happy now.

07777B1C-1E85-4698-9A4B-286C159BA405Sunset 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. 9F47220D-2F4E-4B73-88B4-5CDD8935E8E6It 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.A95176D4-5B88-4E97-B111-BE29F03956A2

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.

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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. 6002FCA9-3ED8-421E-AB53-EEB2B4DEB79CIt’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.

CB80C66A-03EE-41C7-B785-9102EC471468The 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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


The East Coast tour of anchorages continues

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A short East Coast tour

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Is anyone out there still?