Sunday, 26 June 2005

Burnham or bust!

This weekend, my brother-in-law and family were at Burnham sailing club for an Optimist dinghy event, with their daughter (my niece) R. So we decided to try and head for Burnham this weekend with an early afternoon arrival, so that we could pop over and say hello... The tides were fairly OK, with a rather pleasant 07h00 start being optimum on Saturday, but a slightly less pleasant 04h00 start best for Sunday..... So after finishing work on Friday, we set off down to the boat at about 17h00..... half way to Ipswich we remember that we have completely forgotten about the empty gas bottle from last weekend.... not only are we going to be struggling to get a replacement bottle, but I don't have a spanner or adjustable or anything on board big enough to undo the retaining nut (its propane, so bolts on, not with a self sealing regulator like butane)..... bugger. So we start a process of pulling in to every petrol station we pass to see if they sell gas in bottles..... nope. We found one that did, but he only had butane... he didn't sell regulators otherwise I would have seriously considered cutting the propane regulator off and fitting a butane one, even though the bottle wouldn't have fitted in the gas locker..... As we approached Ipswich, we started visiting the marinas.... they were all shut until we reached Levington, which was open, and joy above joy, had the required 3.9Kg propane bottles in stock..... We finally got to the boat at about 22h30, and with a bit of effort, some heath robinson engineering, and a bit of luck, I managed to unscrew the old bottle, and fit the new one.... (we bought a new bottle, as well as the gas, so that we now have a spare)..... thank goodness... coffee! So, the kids go straight to bed, and we settle ourselves down.... in bed with lights out by 00h30...bit late, but at least we are set... weather is promising a NE 14kts tommorrow.... downwind, but not too strong.... We set various alarm clocks to wake us up, and are a bit slow in notifying the lock master who has the rotating road across the lock, and so, don't get out until 07h30.... half an hour later than planned, but OK.... by 09h00 we have passed Harwich, and the sails are up.... we reach across past Walton-on-the-Naze... marvellous stuff, tide assisted, we are hitting the high part of 8kts... as we round Walton, it freshens to 20kts, and we are treated to a classic Northerly wave pattern, with short sharp breaking waves... so up into the wind, and a couple of reefs in the main, and a few turns in on the genny settles her nicely..... but, we are now dead downwind for the next 15nm.. so we get a roller coaster ride.... C turns green, goes quiet, which is a warning sign, and 3nm in, has chucked up.... seems to sort her out though... she's back to her normal bright bubbly self after that.... We eventually make our way through the Wallet Spitway at about 11h30, the tide is in full flow, and given that it is a HUGE tide, we have to really work the boat to stay in this narrow channel... its deep enough. At worst we measured 3.5m under the keel, but I am aware that you don't need to be far off track to hit the bottom, so real caution... As we leave the Spitway, we turn towards Burnham, taking the more southerly route, marked with Cardinals and channel markers.... its actually easier than I thought.... the marks are quite a way apart, and in this short sea, impossible to see from more than about 1nm away, but, I had the presence of mind to put them into the GPS the night before as way points, so no worries. It is back to dead downwind, and the wind has settled at a steady 20kts now, rather than peaking at 20kts, so we rock and roll for another 7nm into Burnham.... We drop the sails, perhaps a little too soon, being overly cautious, so the last 1nm is a real wobble..... Eventually, we are safely into Burnham Yacht Harbour at 14h00, and wander over to the sailing club..... we sit and chew the fat with new and old friends for a few hours, and eventually wander back to the boat at about 19h00, with my brother-in-law and family... we open a bottle of wine, and chat for a bit.... one of the other oppy parents has a very radical 1/4 tonner across on the next aisle of the marina, and as he delivers his rib back for the evening he is talked over, and joins us for a nice glass or two of wine..... turns out he's one of the Coxs of the lifeboat... great evening.... eventually we eat at about 21h00, a rather good spaghetti bolognaise, and the kids are soon after put to bed.... We both retire very early at 22h00, tired from the days sail, and aware of an early start. We have elected to miss the turn of the tide at 04h00, and set of at 05h00. Being very tired, we set 3 alarm clocks! (1 watch, 2 mobile phones)... We get up, get ready, and cast off, all within 1/4 of an hour...a perfect departure, neat, quiet, and incident free..... We set off up the river, fully ready to make the all important first coffee of the day, and bloody hell, there is one swell and a half coming up the river..... the forecast has promised F3 sea state slight.... looking out of the end of the river towards the sea, the horizon is showing ample evidence of something other than 'slight'... lumps are very visible on the horizon.... flick the wind gauge on the cockpit repeater.... 23kts... oh heck.... we are straight into it.... tide is running with us, and we have a classic wind against tide sea...... I decide to motor for a while.... firstly we are in a quite narrow channel, secondly, its blowing its nuts off, thirdly, the kids are in bed still, so a 45 deg heel, through the lumpy stuff will not be that kind on them...... After 3 hours of pitching and bouncing, we have made it through the spitway in the other direction.... very hard with a rolling sea, beam on.... sails might have helped here, but its less than 1nm from side to side, so not the end of the world.... depth did however get down to 0.9m under the keel!, so sea was challenging.... I was VERY careful, being extremely aware that we were on a falling tide that was very large.... When we turned north again in the wallet, we decided to carry on motoring.... it would have been tough on SWMBO if we had sailed, as she isn't an experienced sailor, and we don't yet have self tailing winches, so each tack would be hard work, and there would be plenty of them in the wallet channel.... The kids have now arisen from their slumber, and are on deck, suitably equipped (as are we) with lifejackets, and in their case, also lanyards.... they sit under the sprayhood, and enjoy the motion.... We are paying the price for not having sails up, and the boat is being tossed around, and eventually C succumbs again.... a good heave, and she is OK.... it was to be repeated a further 3 times, but then she was OK and cheerful throughout... shes a good kid...... We still had the tide heaving us north, and we made good time, averaging 5 knots over the ground.... glad we had the tide with us though, as the short steep swell/chop was killing our boat speed over the water, being under engine... Soon enough, we are just 2nm from the Walton headland, where we can put a load more westerly in our course, and free onto a reach.... but we pay the price for refusing to get up at 04h00, and the last 2 miles see the tide turning, and we make a pitiful 1.5 knots over the ground.... the sea however has settled significantly with the change of tide, and things are a lot more comfortable.... as we round the Walton headland, with its very conspicuous tower, we debate setting the sails for the short reach into Harwich.... after some debate, we decide against it, both being tired and worn down by the previous 6 hours of boat motion.... It was more my call in honesty, and I decided that we were too tired and inexperienced to be safe in 25kts of wind....accidents happen in those kinds of environments.... I do occasionally glance slightly enviously at the other boats now around us, clearly enjoying the windy reaches..... but I also noted that virtually all of them had more than the 2 people sailing on board..... I did also feel slightly embarressed, at being one of the only boats out there under engine! So, as we cleared Languard point, we found lovely flat water again, and motored up the river.... the tide was in full flood, so we got a swift ride.... 6.3 knots over the ground... and we also got only our 3rd hot drink of the day, it being previously just too rough to make too many...... We are treated to a bonus, with the lock being on free flow, and so we are quickly back on our berth... the wind is blowing us on for a change, and we execute a near perfect arrival! By 15h00, we are packed, and various items are decamped back to the car..... we all climb in, I turn the key... Click...... Click...... Click..... Oh no, just what I don't need..... seems we've managed to leave the internal lights on.... nobody remembers switching them on.... maybe we knocked the switch on the way out... one of lifes mysteries... fortunately, the marina office have a darned great big tractor battery, and set of gigantic jump leads, so we are soon started, and on our way...... SWMBO apologises for not making cheese sandwiches for the journey home..... its was just too rough she says...... I think we should let her off this time don't you?...! Another great weekend.... our conclusion though, that 71nm is a little too much in a 2 day weekend when cruising with the kids...... perfect for a 3 day weekend though.... And following Silkies lead..... Passage this weekend - 71nm Season to date - 283nm

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