Tuesday, 31 May 2005

Every weather…

Ok…. So our plans to go north to Lowestoft were thwarted by the Dragon class event at Lowestoft causing a bit of a berth shortage (or at least hinted at by the marina!)… Also, our plans about meeting up with fellow forum user, Squidge, and his family had been thwarted by a car accident… fortunately, Squidge is fine!… he has agreed to call us Saturday morning if he intends to sail still…. So we drove down to the boat Friday evening, with the plan of either heading towards Burnham or Bradwell in the Blackwater. This seemed a sensible distance, with the huge benefit (with kids on board) of a nice location for an overnight at the end of the passage. So, after arriving at the boat at about 21h00, settling the kids down for the night, we took the opportunity for an early night. I arose early on Saturday morning, to firstly get a weather forecast, and secondly to prep the boat for an early-ish departure. I awoke to the alarm, and listened to the wind whistling through the rigging. Ah. A few minutes later, and the forecast confirmed my fears….. F5, Occ 6….. ah well…. Ordinarily, this wouldn’t be a problem….but with a newbie crew of SWMBO and 2 young kids with pretty much no experience, it’s a risk not worth taking…So.. back to plan B…. wait until tomorrow…. And back to bed….! All arose, and breakfast consumed by 09h30… we decided to have a little motor up the Orwell….. annenometer is recording average of 15kts…. So perhaps even a little sail? We eventually get off our berth… its still a drama… just slightly less than it was…. We swing the stern round, and go out forward this time……I reckoned on the wind pushing us quite hard off the pontoon, and hence trying to swing the stern round being a bit risky….. it worked OK,… but a bit amateurish… good job no one was looking! After we lock out, we motor up the river…. Lots of traffic going in both direction.. unusual for this time for the day… gets me to thinking… Eventually,… 2 coffees and one and a half hours later, we are reaching Shotley….. bloody hell….. the annenometer is now reading an average 20kts, and guts hitting 25kts…… a (very) short discussion with SWMBO, and we turn around, and head back……. No real debate, it just seems the sensible thing to do….. lots of VHF conversation taking place about revised rendevous! So my thoughts at this stage are mainly… thank god we didn’t go towards Lowestoft….. The wind appears to have built steadily… its not just got windier as we went up the river, so we are now heading back towards Ipswich in a pretty stiff blow….. A short fray with the genny (heavily furled) just so we can say that we have sailed, confirms my thoughts… not only is it a bit windy for us, but it is also all over the place…. Another good decision…. We head back to the lock, and I report in to get locked through….. Ipswich Port Radio, Ipswich Port Radio, Ipswich Port radio… this is “Magna Carter, Magna Carter, Magna Carter….. Over” “mkhgewfjhbf jhwgjwqegh, jhbwehbf” Why can’t these folk talk more clearly into the radio….. didn’t catch a bloody word of it… “Ipswich Port Radio this is Magna Carter… just letting you know that we’ll want to lock through shortly” “kehwfbkwhef njhegfjwegjhwgef jygjqwegf” OK……….? How many times can you ask them to “please repeat”? So I head for the lock….. it looks pretty full….. “Ipswich Port Radio, this is Magna Carter, the lock looks pretty full….” “whehwegf jywegfjwegewf jygejegf” Oh heck…. So its now blowing 25kts right up our jacksie…….. the lock looks pretty full… but deciphering the mumbo jumbo coming out of the VHF.. it sounds like he wants us to lock in…and besides… why would he have waited for us with the gates open otherwise? We stick our nose into the lock… there is ABSOLUTELY no way that we are going to fit in there!…. the guy on the outside of the rear raft is waving his arms frantically…. Nice communication mate… what the flippin ‘eck are you trying to tell us… can’t decide if its bugger off, or come on, get a move on…… About 2 feet later, I decide to abort… we are not going to fit… Full astern…… very windy…. She’s not going to stop….. yes she is….. slowly… slowly… the boat starts moving backwards….. thank you…. phew…. Of course, I am now motoring backwards against 25kts…. The next bit is kind of inevitable….. the stern starts to swing…… oh heck….. Argh…. We are nearly out of the lock…. Nearly nearly… she’s still swinging…… that barnacle encrusted, gelcoat ripping wall is getting closer and closer….. slowly… slowly… we just miss it…..what a relief…. Lesson… it doesn’t matter how many times you have to ask the port to repeat… do it until you have got it… and try not to do it from a handheld in the cockpit in 25kts of wind….. So we go onto the holding pontoon… a lot easier as its upwind….. The pack of waiting boats is circling… so eventually we cast off so that we are not left waiting while the later arrivals fill the lock…. We circle in the wind…. Interesting… but not impossible…. The lock is refilled from the inside….. and the gates re-open…… Now. This is definitely a sign of what is awaiting us……. The gates open, and there is a 40 footer sideways in the lock……. And loads and loads of frentic fendering and warping activity going on… this wind is blowing straight down the throat of the lock… and its bloody windy in there…. So it takes what seems to be an eternity for the lock to empty…. Including one red faced skipper motoring backwards out of the lock…. Crikey… now I’m really worried….not only have I got to face this darned lock, but I’ve got that difficult berth to get on to… on the closed side, with a wind blowing me off, and a boat in the next space……oh heck…. So we take a deep breath, and proceed, first boat, into the lock… I secretly think that the other boats have let me go first to protect their gelcoat! A bit of a leap for SWMBO, and we eventually brake the boat to a standstill… half way along the pontoon…. And walk her forward….. phew we are on….. Not too much drama with the other boats, but lots of looks of relief… and several comments along the lines of… thank god we’ve got that over an done with…. looks like I wasn’t the only one….. So we lock out… get the warps and fenders swapped over, and proceed towards our berth… Thankfully, as its really windy, there are plenty of helping hands on the pontoons, and we slip quietly, albeit at a bit of an angle, and without hitting anything else, onto our pontoon….. we get the springs on, and shut the engine down….. that’s quite enough adventure for one day thanks very much. Over the evening meal, we discuss out options, and decide that we definitely need to do a journey to a destination, rather than a day sail, and back to Neptune, so with the increased confidence of a much better weather forecast, and the memory fading ability of a bottle of good wine, we decide to set out in the morning for a short sail towards Titchmarsh Marina in the beautiful Walton-on-the-Naze saltmarshes…. Its not far, but it’ll give the kids a taste of going away from the safety of the home port…. It also has the added advantage, of being so close, that it means no early start, and the tides are timed nicely for best arrival at Titchmarsh at about 15h30… Sunday dawns to clear blue skies, and 10kts…. Marvellous…. All the visitor berths around us have filled through the previous evening, so what was tight is now ridiculous…… We however, at about 09h00 warp off, a near perfect manoeuvre… so good that the other berth holders applaud…and then look nervous, knowing that they now have a high standard to meet when their own time comes….. Our approach was to set a slip on the stern line…. SWMBO then released the bow, and walked the boat back. While I slipped the stern…. As the bow clears the other boat along side us, and SWMBO steps aboard, I choke the stern line to get the bow sliding round, and then pull the rest of the warp through…. We are then rotated nearly 90 degrees, and I slip her into reverse, and gently and serenely motor out backwards….. we are glowing… we made it look dead easy… a couple of old hands……I can’t stop grinning…. We lock in… again, an excellent manoeuvre…. As we stick our bows into the lock the mobile phone rings… C does her best to find it, and answer it, but doesn’t get there in time….Full of confidence, and delighted with our superb boat handling, I ring back when we are tied up… its Squidge…. They are afloat, and heading for Titchmarsh tomorrow, arriving about midday…. Great… the meet up is back on….we lock out…. And motor off down the river…. It truly fantastic out here… its warm, sunny, and blowing 10kts….. so up go the sails, and off goes the engine….. perfect… we are making a nice 5 to 6 knots, and everything is working as intended…the kids are having a ball… they are now laying in the berths, and giggling their heads off, as they roll off on to the floor, or into the wall every time we tack…… joy…. SWMBO is grinning from ear to ear…. Everyone is loving this….. a spell up wind at 30 degrees…. And then we free off, and reach over towards the Cork Sands Yacht Beacon….. the boat flattens off, and speed picks up…. We sail out to the beacon, and then turn around and head over towards Pye End, marking the start of the channel into Walton Backwaters….. We are now going with the tide, and according to the GPS, making 8kts over the ground…. Great stuff…. The distance to Pye End is chewed up, and before we know it, we are on the mark….. I can visual the next mark, the red can number 2, but also have set a waypoint into the GPS…. Primarily to show SWMBO how to follow the rolling road….. all works well… its is approaching 15h00, and we are just entering the channel…. Its an hour to high water, so we are at near the deepest time, and as a benefit still on a rising tide…. We work our way round the Walton Channel, and into the delightfully named ‘Twizzle’… my kids want to be here just because of the name….! I radio Titchmarsh, and am allocated a visitors berth….. Hotel 3…. We also pass the lovely anchorage in the channel… I am going to have to get a tender…. We proceed over the sill into Titchmarsh, and head down towards row H…. Its not clear where our berth is, so we grab the end of the pontoon… again a near text book manoeuvre… SWMBO merely has to step ashore and make off… the boat is right on the pontoon, and stationary….. I walk down the centre of row H trying to see what side 3 is on…. Bloomin good job I checked as 3 is occupied! After a quick conversation with the marina on Ch80 I am re-allocated H6… yes that’s free… its on the closed side, but with our new found skills and confidence, we’ll be fine…. As per this morning, we warp backwards round into the aisle, and gently motor backwards up the centre, past the designated slot. I then stick her in forward and gently place her bang on in the slot, which is now open to us….. perfect….. a complete day with excellent manoeuvring…. In the last hour, the cloud have come over a bit… its still warm, but the heat of the sun has vanished…..the kids are a little disappointed… they have been promised a beach, and have come fully prepared with buckets and spades…. By the time the boat is sorted it’s a little late anyway, so we end up playing card games below with them… a good evening by their reckoning despite the lack of beach….. We eventually retire for the night, and awake at about 07h30 the next morning to pouring rain…… oh heck….. We are stuck in Titchmarsh until 14h10 earliest, and preferably 15h30 or after… (we could have left at 05h30… but that wasn’t part of the plan), so we settle down for an hour or two to more quality time with the kids….eventually, we decide to get a taxi into Walton….its just a bit too far to walk…. Used to be OK apparently, when you could walk along the sea wall, but that had to be closed because of mindless yobs using it for joy riding… so now its a 3 mile trek….. and in the rain, and with a 6 year old….. that’s a bit too far… so it’s a taxi…. Only challenge is that between SWMBO and myself, we have about £2 in cash left…. But not a problem… we’ll get the taxi to take us via a cash point….. and that we do…. Only the cash point isn’t working….. ah says the taxi driver… an old fellow, with a thick East Coast accent….working for pin money…. Don’t worry, buy me a cheap paper… that’ll do….. no way we reply.., take us to another cash point…. Eventually we find one, and he is suitably reimbursed, along with a generous tip….. We wander around Walton…. Takes 10 mins…. Its stopped raining at last, but still very cloudy….. so a quick walk on the beach and a bit of shell collecting placates the kids… what a truly fantastic beach… I can only imagine how nice it would be in the height of summer…. and then, in a time honoured tradition, we retire to the penny arcades, and let the kids shove a couple of quids worth of pennies down the throats of push and shove machines….. they complain that half the pennies pushed over the edge don’t come down the winning chute…. A good lesson learned me thinks! We then discover one of those British gems…. The traiditional bakers, and enjoy an extremely tasty Belgian bun each….. yum yum…. So, we call ataxi back to the marina, and as I end the call, two things happen…. Squide calls… he’s at Titchmarsh, and the sun breaks out….. a renedvous is agreed, and we head back…… So we sit and chew the fat with Squidge and his family… all the kids seem to get on like a house on fire, as only kids can….. and we make our way to the resident bar/restaurant at Titchmarsh, ‘the Harbour Lights’ and have a pleasant pub lunch while the kids charge around and make general nuisances of themselves in the pub garden…… the sun is now hot, and all is well…. So slowly the clock ticks around, and we return to Magna Carter, needing to get ready for a departure…. The tide has risen considerably, and its looking good…… we slip at exactly 15h30, and after a further textbook manoeuvre, we very slowly make our way out of the marina, aware of the shallow water alarm sounding, and the limited depth over the sill….. all is OK, apart from when I drift slightly off course out of the mouth of the marina into the Twizzle where there is quite a set across the entrance…. After a heart-stopping reduction in depth to 0.2m below the keel, we are back in deeper water, and slowly re-trace our root of the previous afternoon back out to Pye End marker….. There is very little wind, and some very ominous black clouds threatening the reappearance of this mornings rain, so we motor at around 5 knots back into the Orwell, and back up the river….. Its nearly 19h00 by the time we are tied up in the lock… and again the berth from hell beckons…. Still we go in slowly, and this time, there is no-one to take the warps… we slip in slowly, and accurately, dead on the money, and tie up… again, no one hit, and a text book berthing…… great stuff….. we’ll be departing with our heads held high, and confidence through the roof! Half an hour later, we are in the car, loaded and ready to go…. After the obligatory trip back to the boat to get the bits that we forgot from the first effort, we are ready to depart…. As per the previous sail… the kids are asleep before we are out of Ipswich…… the SWMBO produces a cool bag from by her feet, with ham and cheese sandwiches ready made… what a star she is….. life is pretty much perfect isn’t it…..

No comments:

Post a Comment