Monday, 29 August 2005

3 days of fun....

We managed to get away at a sensible time on Friday night, and after stopping for food on the way, and then a visit to Tesco's for provisions, we got down to the boat by about 20h00, and with a concerted effort, were unpacked and settled by 21h30.... We enjoyed a quiet evening, no rush, knowing that we didn't have to leave until 10h30 the following morning...... So after a decent nights sleep, we awoke to a mild, but somewhat grey day. Great. Just what we didn't want for the last 3 day weekend of the summer. We pottered around, did a few jobs, and eventually cast off for the fuel pontoon at about 09h30. we managed, by carefully filling her to the top, to get £10 of diesel in, and while we were at it, decided to swap the spare gas bottle (which was empty!) for a full one. We then moved over to the next pontoon to allow another boat to fuel up, and sat and waited for a while. We had agreed to meet with David and Helen again near the lock at 10h30. Sure enough at 10h25, we slipped, and met David on the way to the lock..... A good lock out (no incidents!), and we were off up the river. The wind, as forecast was a south westerly, and blowing at about 15kts. We therefore decided to motor quite a way up the river, in fact all the way to Pin Mill, where we hoisted the sails, although left the engine running. It was very pleasant, just enough to have good boat speed, but not enough to be overpowered at all. Just a shame about the grey gloomy skies. Soon enough we were past Harwich, and off went the engine. The wind had built in open water to about 18kts, and we were hard on the wind beating up to Walton headland...... this for me, is what sailing is all about.... full sails, the toe rail in the water, spray over the bow... perfect... we were being treated to near perfect conditions for sialing 'to weather'... the sea was as flat as a pancake, and we wer flying up wind..... SWMBO was nervous for 15 mins or so, having never really sailed in this kind of breeze hard up on the wind, but once she settled down a bit, and realised that Maggie was enjoying it as much as we were, and was looking after us, she began to enjoy it too..... David and Helen wimped out, and we saw their Genny disappear, and suddenly they were 'sailing' straight into the wind..... ahem.... We laboured on, and were rewarded for our persistance... the wind shifted slightly, and while still hard on the wind, we managed to lay the Knoll buoy, marking the outer limit of the bar just north of the Colne in a single tack (all bar one little leg of about 5 minutes)..... perfect.... making 7kts, and revelling in it... One other great bit of news.... the Mal de Mer tablets that we bought for C while in Bouologne a few weeks back seemed to have completely cured her of any sign of sea sicknesse. Not sure if its psychological, or physiological.. but hey, who cares.. it works.... So we rounded off after the Knoll buoy, sailed on a reach down to the Colne buoy, and then dropped the sails after working over 20nm to windward..... we had to put our coats on for a few minutes around midday, but otherwise a very very nice sail..... We motored up past the channel markers into the Colne, and then turned to starboard on the transit into Brightlingsea.... I spoke to david on the mobile, and he told me that it was very busy, but he had managed to get a pontoon, and had asked for the space rafted alongside him to be kept for us.... judging by the amount of VHF traffic requesting berths, his advice wasn't far off! We motored upto the northerly cardinal, and called in, explaining that we had a berth waiting, and much to muted annoyance of quite a few other boats, were waived right through, while they all waited for the harbour master in his rib to find them a berth! A few minutes later, we were tied up alongside them, and engine back off again... We sat and relaxed for a while, drank a beer or two, and eventually, blew the tender up, and set off ashore for food..... This proved more difficult than expected.... the recommended Chinese didn't have any space.... and unbelievably, not a single pub in Brightlingsea serves food in the evening...... bugger. We wandered around for an hour, admiring what is a very pretty little Essex town, and eventually found ourselves at the Colne Yacht Club.... at last.. somewhere that served food in the evening..... by now it was 20h00, so we ordered quickly, and settled down to a beer/wine..... And we waited....(and drank a beer)... and we waited...(and drank another beer)... and we waited (got it by now?)..... eventually, the food arrived at 21h30... by which time the kids were tired, and on the verge of starving....... Still, it was worth the wait... the food was quite good..... only problem was that we were a little pissed by now..... We ate, and then decided to return to the boats for a night cap..... At this stage, I realised that we should really have brought a torch with us.... found the tender OK at the end of the pontoon, but couldn't see bugger all with respect to getting back to the boat..... we'd arrived at HW, and now at LW, the river looked completely different!... so we (complete with lifejackets for the safety conscious amongst you), climbed into the tenders..... David was high and dry...and didn't realise until he sat in his tender.... I couldn't start mine for laughing at David sat in his tender on the mud.... but he soon got his own back, as we shot across the river... or at least he did.... I managed to steer straight into a sandbar in the middle, and stalled the engine.....argghhhhh...... After much hilarity, we got back to the boats.... especially amusing watching everyone wobble off the tenders back onto the boats... but we did it..... We finally retired to bed, planning an 08h30 departure the folowing morning..... Which we managed..... first thing. David went ashore to meet Helens brother, who, along with his partner was joining them for the sail back... but at 08h30, we slipped and set off North again..... The wind had kindly remained a South Westerly, so it was a run the whole way back.... it had moderated slightly to about 10kts... and the sun was showing us some of its power..... bliss...... 4 hours of charging downhill, in glorious sunshine ahead... and thats just what we got... About two hours in, we decided to try flying the spinnaker.... now this isn't new to me, having done so many many times, but its all ne to SWMBO..... to her credit, it was her encouraging me to give it a go rather the more normal reverse.... I got all the gear out, and was suprised to find, inspecting the pole for the first time, that there was no downhaul.... now I should have known better, but I thought that while what I really needed was a snatch block and line to rig a downhaul, I'd give it a go without one.... Up went the kite, no problem... bang, it set... no problem... brought the pole back, all ok.... and working.... but the pole kept trying to sky, and only deft work with the sheet and guy prevented it..... sadly, we dropped it all very safely, and even kept it dry, but we now know that we could easily fly it with a downhaul.... i'll get that sorted..... Other major event while charging downhill was that C helmed for an hour.... she definately has 'the feel''... held it beautifully, and was very happy... I can comfortably leave her to helm without worrying about it in anything less than 15kts.... M also helmed for 1/2 an hour, but at only 6 years old, needs a bit more supervision... but he's getting there..... Soon, we rounded the Walton headland, and flew down to Pye end, and followed the channel into Walton Backwaters.... Wow was it busy......! We had to go further down the river than ever before... but found a spot, and dropped the hook.... no problems... it set and held first time... no drama.... David appeared and rafted alongside us for a while.... after an hour he decided to go drop his own anchor, but struggled, and eventually muttered under his breath, and cleared off to Titchmarsh marina....... we sniggered for a few minutes.... and then agreed about how much we preffered anchoring to a marina.... with a wind generator, and two solar panels along with large water tanks, we are pretty self sufficient..... We enjoyed a nice meal... took the kids for a lovely walk along the beach, and the settled down to an evening of playing games with the kids...... M taught me a few lessons about how to cheat at card games.... not bad for a 6 year old..... eventually, teh sun dipped, and we were treated to a fantastic sunset over the bird sanctuary, and put the kids to bed..... I set the anchor light, and then the stars came out...... It doesn't matter how many times you see it... the night sky, away from civilisation, and at a totally silent anchorage is enough to take your breath away... we opened a really good bottle of wine, and sat, for a long while in complete silence, and enjoyed a truly lovely evening of peace....... I was awoken rudely at 02h00 by the low water alarm... not a problem.. we had just bounced 0.1m below the 2m threshold I had set.... I reset it for 1.5m and then retired back to bed.... definitely the best nights sleep I've had at anchor.... We awoke to another glorious sunny day, and set ashore for the beach after a full English breakfast, and lay in the sun for a few hours... The plan was to BBQ for lunch, and then escape on the rising tide back to Ipswich.... but the wind had come back a bit... and while it was by now, really quite hot, we decided that it wasn't going to be fun eating a BBQ with added sand... so we set off an hour early, and headed back towards Harwich.... It was pretty much dead downwind... we weren't ina hurry, so I left the main tied up, and just unfurled the genny.... its only about 3nm to Harwich, so I just couldn't be bothered with the hassle of watching a main to prevent an accidental gybe.... As we passed Harwich, the wind was starting to die again, and our SOG had driopped to about 3kts.... I was umming and arring about whether to motor the rest of the way, when I noticed a boat just off our port side waving like mad..... I started teh engine, and furled the genny and motored over..... as we approached they yelled... "we're in trouble....can you help?... our engine won't start"..... they had been sailing back up the river, but the dying wind was causing them all sorts of problems.... so quickly, I offered a tow..... I rigged abridle on my stern cleats, and then ran a tight line from each cleat around the largest winches and onto another set of cleats to help share the load, and they passed me a line from their bow.... I slipped a bowline around my bridle and took up the slack..... Only major mistake so far was that I has got too close as they passed the bow line, and their anchor had side swiped my wooden ensign staff, and snapped it off at the base..... fortunately I had tied it on as well, so didn't lose it, and it is a simple 5 minutes job to turn down another 3 inches to fit into the mount.. so not realyl an issue..... They live on a mooring at Pin Mill... so about 4 miles up the river... not too bad, as thats on out route home anyway.... As the line tightened, Maggie strained..... Christ I thought... this is hard work.... I looked back, and saw that in the heat of the moment, I hadn't paid enough attention to her.... not only was it about 40foot, but she was a Ferro..... darned thing probably weighed 15 tons! despite this, once we had momemntum up, we were OK, and we made slow, but steady progress to Pin Mill...... it was occassionally hairy as the traffic was heavy, but we managed...... Upon reaching Pin Mill, we worked out where their mooring was through a series of shouts, sign language and daft arm waving... and we motored past it, rounded up so make the approach easier, and darned if I didn't drop her right on the buoy... or at least close enough for his boathook to do its job......! I slipped their tow line, and after a quick chat... went on our way... so thats my good deed for the day done... seriously, I don't mind offering that kind of help, as, with an older boat, it could well be me one day that needs the tow! We motored the remaing 4nm at a far more respectable 5kts, and soon approached the lock.... it was very busy, but we were waived in by the lockmaster.... He wanted us to slip between a cat and Bav 50...... humhh I thought.... well he knows what he' doing, so I proceeded.... the closer we got the less confident I got.... finally about 30 feet short, I decided that there was no way that Maggie would fir in through that gap... so I stuck her in reverse and tried to back out..... no way she was having that... we gracefully swung round, and bump, the stern corner touched the wall..... oh how embarrassing..... we then went forward and rafted alongside another boat with significant effort and warp pulling...... no serious harm done.... just a little scratch in the paint........ fortunately it wasn't enough to spoil a great weekend.... We motored into the marina, arrived at out berth no problem, and after1/32 hour of tidying, closing,. opening, and generally settling her to bed departed.... Home by 20h00.... excellent weekend....!

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