Archive for Sailing

Stormbound in Woodbridge

I had a fun weekend with the S&CA East Coast regulars, but it didn’t all go according to plan.

After work on Friday I drove to the Royal Harwich Yacht Club at Woolverstone, roads blissfully free of bank holiday bottlenecks, and arrived in plenty of time to join my hosts Nick and John on Retriever for a pre-dinner drink together with Graeme and Bruce. Dinner in the yacht club, chosen from a short but appealing menu, was excellent. Paul arrived in time to have a drink with us, and plans were hatched to meet off Shotley Point Marina at 8 the next morning in order to arrive at the mouth of the Deben with sufficient rising tide.

The morning brought a northeasterly force 5, and John’s initial suggestion of two reefs would have been a good choice, but just the one gave us a lively day and Nick plenty of exercise on the tiller. We were half an hour late at Shotley and Bright Oyster had already left, although we passed them en route to the Deben. Once out of Harwich, tide and wind were against us and it took the best part of three hours to cover the three nautical miles up the coast, bouncing about rather a bit in places.

Nick shot us expertly into the mouth of the Deben and through a host of racing and capsizing dinghies, with the depth-gauge turned off “as it only causes one to worry”. It’s a beautiful river, and out of the swell the sail upstream to Woodbridge was very pleasant.

We arrived with just enough water to enter the Tidemill Yacht Harbour by raising our keel, but a certain Shiny Mollusc was lulled by the beautiful surroundings into a premature insertion attempt and a close encounter with the sill. An encounter which haunted her long-suffering crew for the rest of the long weekend. Lunch in Retriever’s cockpit made the most of the lovely sunshine.

Buttrums Mill

Woodbridge is a very pretty town and some of us walked up to Buttrums Mill which was turning slowly in the strong wind against its brake and with the shutters open. Drinks on Bright Oyster started our evening, where we were joined by Steve and Pete from Blue Streak and by locals Duncan and David. The Anchor didn’t have any room for us to eat, but we sampled the beers and moved on to the Royal Bengal for an excellent curry made interesting by the Goan dishes on the menu.

We knew the forecast for Sunday was bad so had a very leisurely start, brunch in the Station Cafe, and an afternoon in The Riverside Theatre being entertained (just about) by Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Harrison Ford was good, and Cate Blanchett excellent as the Russian baddie, but the film lacked story and direction. Still, it kept us warm and dry and the numerous children quiet.

The end of the film marked decision point for the return journey. If we were to make it to the Orwell on Monday, it would be best to head down the Deben on the falling tide to pass the night on moorings nearer the mouth. The forecast had got worse, so the reluctant decision was to stay put in Woodbridge. Our hostelry of choice was the lovely Kings Head, enlivened by Adnams Ales, a young and pretty crowd, and a tasty menu including a pint of smoked prawns which kept me out of trouble.


Jon and David from Jollie Rs drove down from Westleton to join us at the Kings Head, as did Sam from the Ore. We moved on to the Old Mariner, where Duncan and David put in another appearance, making a grand total of 13 members attending at some stage over the weekend.

John and Nick produced a fantastic cooked breakfast on Retriever on Monday morning before we sadly abandoned the boats at Tide Mill and made our way home by land. Here’s hoping for fair winds at the weekend to allow Retriever and Bright Oyster easy passage home.

Many thanks to Nick and John for being excellent and relaxed hosts, and to Graeme and Bruce for coordinating a successful weekend in the teeth of gales and lashing rain.

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Norfolk Broads Picnic Weekend

The East Coast S&CA moved inland a little in September for a weekend on the beautiful Norfolk Broads. The advance party assembled at Martham Boat Yard late on Friday afternoon to take possession of our flotilla of traditional wooden boats: two gaff-rigged yachts (Japonica 1 & 7) and a six-berth motor cruiser (Judith V).

Having sailed from Martham as a teenager in the eighties I knew roughly what to expect. These boats, built in the 40s and 50s, have seen a lot of use and they’re not shiny, but everything works and they have bucketfuls of character (and bilge water) that the newer plastic bathtubs lack. A bit of a shock for some members, though! The boat yard toilets hadn’t even benefited from the basic maintenance and cleaning afforded the boats, and were truly frightening!

Since we weren’t fully assembled until after dark, we strolled through a beautiful Norfolk sunset to Martham village and the Victoria Inn. A local pub for local people, so a combination of not being local and the landlord preparing for a Saturday wedding reception meant that it was scampi and chips or chicken in a basket for dinner, but the Greene King IPA was in good shape.

An early challenge on Saturday morning was Potter Heigham bridge, just inches taller than our cruiser. We had to take on the bridge pilot who sagely advised “you can sit on the back if you like, but you won’t be there on the other side” and proceeded to whizz us under at frightening full throttle. The yachts didn’t need pilots but had to work out how to unhitch all the knitting and drop their counterbalanced masts into their ready-and-waiting low crutches.

Moored by mud-weight for lunch in the middle of beautiful South Walsham broad, we were joined by one of our local hosts Chris in Tim’s mast-less Colvic-Watson. He filled us in on local gossip and on Broads background. The rivers are natural but the broads themselves are the man-made result of peat cutting, dating back a thousand years or more.

Lack of wind meant that we didn’t make it to Wroxham but Tim and Chris found us moorings at the boatyard next to the New Inn in Horning. Air Hockey and a six-sided pool table provided entertainment either side of dinner for fifteen in the New Inn. The food was okay but the company (and the beer and the wine) more than made up for any lack of culinary sparkle.

Sunday brought some welcome wind for the yachts and those of us on the cruiser began to wish we’d opted for sail instead. River sailing brings its own challenges: Nick, John, Robert and Mike had a couple of close encounters with the bank with consequent deployment of the quant (sturdy punt pole). We squeezed into the staithe at Ranworth and worked up an appetite by climbing the 87 steps and two step ladders of the church tower for great views across the broads. A picnic followed on the grass by the staithe, filling up on endless and delicious roast chicken and pesto sandwiches courtesy of Paul and Jimmy. We exchanged waves with the crew of a posh plastic hire cruiser sporting a big rainbow flag – perhaps we need flyers and membership forms to hand out in such circumstances?

With demon driver Graeme at the wheel, Judith raced back to be at Potter Heigham before the pilot went home at 4.30, only to find him otherwise occupied until almost 5.30. But this let us admire the honed skills of Japonica 1 as she dropped her mast under way and shot the bridge. Safely back at Martham we went out separate ways, some staying on to return the boats on Monday morning.

The Broads are very pretty and very relaxing, ideal for a low-stress weekend afloat, and this may become an annual fixture. Many thanks to Tim Hallam for the original idea, recommendations and local knowledge, and to Graeme Thompson (VC East Coast) for coordinating and cajoling.

More photos in my gallery.

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After visiting Dad and Dawn I met up with Mark for dinner before we both went to the monthly Sailing & Cruising Association social in Kudos. I hadn’t seen him for ages and it was great to catch up. He contacted us because he’d seen our details in the S&CA list of members.

The basement bar at Kudos is a good venue: not too big, air-conditioned, no-smoking, friendly staff, nice decor. I met various people including: the commodore Colin Weston; David Ashby and his young Polish partner Filip who is studying law; Bill Alexander; Carl the membership secretary; David Browne (co-owner of Aurora); Terry Eaves (co-owner of new Najad).

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Group photo by Kevin, after Christmas sailing in the Canaries.

Posted by ShoZu

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Vela en las Islas Canarias

Graham has written a great log of our Christmas and New Year sailing trip to Tenerife and La Gomera over at Leaving on a jet plane, so I’m not going to recount the whole lot here, but rather jot down some highlights.

A great crew:

Skipper, engine repairer and scotch-drinker supremo
Dinghy helmsman of distinction
Co-organiser and imparter of German: bade handtuch
Watch leader and culinary maestro
Our New Statesman on every level
Watch leader, purser and reluctant translator
Co-organiser, impervious to sea-sickness but not to the cold

A lardy old tub: the Bavaria 44 actually did us proud and was very comfortable and spacious below decks, but wouldn’t be my boat of choice. She sailed okay once she got going, but cornered like a bathtub and was not really equipped for comfortable long passages: hand-holds few and far between; awkward seats in the cockpit; no lee-cloths nor straps for the galley. The chart table was decent, though, and best of all, I could stand up straight in the center of the saloon!

Not quite an ideal cruising ground: the long distances between ports and islands, the Atlantic swell and strong prevailing northerlies, and the highly limited space for visitors in the marinas all count against an easy and relaxing cruise. On the other hand, some of the destinations are well worth the effort, and the sailing is very exciting. Crossing a line in the water and going from 5 knots to 40 knots of wind over about 20 metres certainly keeps you on your toes.

La Gomera: a beautiful, relaxed island to which I’d love to return to explore further, probably on foot and in the rather lovely Parador next time.

Sailing skills: I’m not so worried about a big boat now. Lessons learned include: the genoa’s big so shorten it first before worrying about reefing the main; everyone must know to spill the main as the first reaction when things get hairy; when you first think about putting in a reef is probably the right time to actually do so; keep light tension on the lazy sheets: it may not matter in a light breeze, but Alex has the bruises to prove what happens in a bigger blow.

Santa Cruz de Tenerife: a lovely and lively Spanish city in the middle of the Atlantic, with more going for it than its pleasant but touristic namesake, Puerto Cruz. And the New Year fireworks were breathtaking. Apparently they’re even better for Carnival.

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