Thursday, 12 March 2015

2015 Small Boat Sailors Rally

This year the Small Boat Sailors rally will be on Saturday 13th June. As a reminder; we meet on a friendly basis in the memory of the late Charles Stock, the intrepid adventure sailor and former owner of Shoal Waters, who inspired many to take to the water in an inexpensive boat and begin cruising under sail. We have been meeting for the last four years now so this will be our fifth. Last year we met on the Broads in Norfolk. (see pic)
All sizes and types of craft are welcome to join us. Very relaxed itinerary made up as the day passes. Check your tide tables as tides will be neaps so we may sail down to Bradwell and raft-up in the area, with the aim of heading back upriver on the evening tide. Bring your puddings - I have the kettle to cook them in if you haven't! And wellies too.

Date: Saturday 13th June
Place: Goldhanger Creek, River Blackwater, Essex

Have a small dinghy and would need to launch nearby? We may be able to accommodate you.
Inbox or email Creeksailor on the address above in the sidebar.
Note: All weather permitting. Safety is paramount and it is up to each skipper to ascertain the suitability of his or her craft and experience of in tidal waters. Anyone attending does so at their own risk.

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Old London

 There’s a bags of history at the Prospect of Whitby in Wapping, one of London’s oldest riverside Inns built in the reign of Henry the V111 at circa 1520. The pub is sited on the edge of the River Thames and neighboured by cobbled streets and converted old wharves.
The low ceilings are heavily beamed and a seat in one of the quirky, cosy little spaces is just right for sipping on a cold, crisp beer, a smooth drop of red or a fruity glass of white and soaking up this old world atmosphere. There’s flagstone and wide-board wooden floors that have the wear of sailors from far-flung places, dockers and watermen’s boots and if the time is anywhere near high-tide and the breeze is up an intermittent and somewhat disconcerting thud is heard, for the tide runs fast in these parts and although we may be far inland we could well be at sea for a fair old popple - a choppy sea, slaps at the brickwork on the buildings outer walls.
Criminals used to be hanged on the foreshore just along from here and as a reminder there’s a gallows in place on the back of the pub, which is a restaurant. The sight of the noose is quite enough to convince any would-be non-payer that in this establishment the bill is definitely worth paying! Tony

Monday, 23 February 2015

Winkler's Tales

Available now. Click the link on the sidebar image to get your copy.

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

All Quiet on the Oyster Layings

In 2014 there was a noticeable decrease in activity of local fishing vessels. The River Blackwater, usually buzzing with small oyster dredgers combing up and down the oyster beds, had an eerie lack of fishing boat movements. I launched Shoal Waters later than usual last year because we were up in Norfolk for five weeks but I noticed the silence in my local creek as soon as we were back. All was confirmed by the lack of dredgers passed when sailing downriver. After making enquiries with the Kent and Essex fisheries found the fishery had been temporarily closed from May 31st 2014 until 31st May 2015, to allow the Native Oyster stocks to replenish.   The total area under closure, north to south, is from Clacton down to Foulness Point. Let’s hope the stock has been growing and the Oystermen have been able to get by, be it in other ways or sailing further afield to work their dredge. Every now and again when cruising around the coast I’ve been lucky enough to witness a very ancient method of Sien netting. This happened again last year on a warm summer’s day while waiting the tide below Bradwell.  A chap set a shallow, but very long, net in an arc from the shoreline downriver and, in his small skiff, shot the net out into the river and then let it pay out back upriver  four or five hundred yards before working his skiff to the shore. He then stood on the sandflats for half an hour, roughly the last of the ebb-tide, before hopping back into his skiff. At once he set about retrieving the top end and began hauling. Each few pulls on the net, feeding from his outstretched right hand to the left hand, his skiff would move downriver and a large fish would appear flapping. These would be placed on the gunnel and put to sleep club fashion. He repeated this in a timely and well-practiced rhythm until all the net and at least a couple of dozen large fish was on board. This type of fishing is centuries old and is lovely to see the traditions carried on but the finale is not for the squeamish.

Saturday, 31 January 2015

Where Adventure Waits

Where Adventure Waits

Friday, 16 January 2015

CSCL Globe

I sail a 'small-un' but I'm a fan of a 'big-un' as well. Therefore, I took a trip along to Harwich to join the scores of people who turned out to see the arrival of the worlds largest cargo ship, called CSCL Globe, when it arrived on the East Coast last week. She weighs in at 187000 tons and was built in South Korea and four tugs, who themselves are as tall as a three story house, were dwarfed by her size, biffed the huge beast of the seven seas into a specially built deep water berth at Felixtowe Docks.
She's longer than The Shard in London and could lay out four full size football pitches on her deck. Crew members who would happen to be into track and field events, could keep timings pin-sharp running her overall length of 400 meters...
This occasion, along with the arrival in the Thames last year of Edith Maersk, the largest ship ever to enter the Thames, at London Gateway, and at the time herself the second largest container ship, have marked a momentus time for big ship happenings in our area. And lets not forget the ongoing Wallasea project and the Tall Ships event last year, and to be nit-picky, even on this very same day dock-lines were slipping over bollards, sitting further up the quay was a cargo ship a mere 1 meter in length shorter than CSCL Globe! However, these records are short lived as there is already a bigger ship near completion and ready to set sail on the world's oceans. I'd rather my 16 footer any-day... Good Sailing

Monday, 5 January 2015

Creeksailor FB Page up and running

FB users, remember to start the year by taking a look and following our new Creeksailor Facebook Page. To follow and not miss a thing simply click the Like button on the page which is here creeksailor/fb timeline. 1.23 billion users are engaging in communication there on a daily basis and the site is not geared for anonymous users, therefore if you are thinking of joining, and to have the best experience, open an account in your own name. The picture below was posted to our page yesterday. Here's the Creeksailor page link again creeksailor/fb timeline
A pigeon hops aboard for a breather

Monday, 29 December 2014

Huffler Inspired Gaff Cutter Conversion

This sailing rig conversion was inspired by the pocket cruising antics, undertaken and written about in 'Ready About On The River Blackwater', of my former 16' Shipmate Huffler, a standard Shipmate Senior cabin cruisier and trailer-sailor with Bermudan rig that I converted to gaff cutter. This conversion was done professionally at Dave Patients yard in Fullbridge, Maldon, I spoke about it here Going Gaff, and I had the chance to see her under way and take this picture on the River Blackwater when she joined one of our Small Boat Sailors gatherings in 2013.

Monday, 22 December 2014

Collectable Book Up For Grabs

 One very collectable hardback copy of Ready About On The River Blackwater is up for grabs. The cover boards of these two books are without dust jackets or markings and are hand finished in sea-blue cloth and were produced to mark the release of mono edition of this popular book. There are only two, which makes these hardbound copies rare as hens teeth. One will stay in my possession, the other goes to the 1st person to contact me saying they will donate £25.00 to the RNLI at West Mersea. UK only and postage is free. Here's the RNLI Donate page 
This book is now sold. #SOLD in 14 minutes #SOLD in 14 minutes #SOLD in 14 minutes

Saturday, 20 December 2014

Then & Now

THEN - A timeless boatyard scene in sea-country
NOW - Image of the past, today...

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Like Our New Creeksailor FB Page

For those readers on Facebook please visit our new Facebook page where I'll be posting pictures, links to this blog and news of our creek-sailing, rambling, boat maintenance and various salt related bits and pieces. To follow us and not miss a thing and to show us your support make sure to click the page Like button.
Here's the link to our FB page homepage Enjoy your cruising, Tony

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Tuesday, 2 December 2014


An educational read for all those who sail the east coast and think they've been everywhere - you haven't. Highly enjoyable. Don Ramsay -  Sea-Change Sailing Trust

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Transit Creek - A Mud Bolt-Hole

If you sail on an estuary where half the water disappears at half-tide all is not lost as for the small boat with shallow draft there is still plenty of opportunity for adventure.
Transit Creek - A Mud Bolt-Hole   by Tony Smith    
Of all the tranquil and quiet creeks, out of the hundreds to choose from in the Thames Estuary, with all their various attractions, there is one creek that comes close to being the ultimate bolt-hole for that ‘away from the maddening crowd’ moment and it happens to be right on my own doorstep, inside that most Viking of briny waters the River Blackwater and goes by the name Transit Creek. This small half-to-low-tide waterway can be found south-eastward of Thirslet Spit and takes its name from two metal transit markers sited at its mouth that strike a line across the river and mark a local fishing boundary.  This mud-stream also happens to be sited just a few miles downriver of my own home creek, Goldhanger, and could well have been carved out by the metal swords of those Viking raiders who it is thought first came to our shores at Lindisfarne in the 8th century to pillage and plunder, and by the 9th century had made their way south, to East Anglia, before collecting the first ever payment of Danegeld in England after the Battle of Maldon in 991, and in the bargain pledged the River Blackwater with island names Osea and Northey. Both of these islands in the Blackwater are peaceful sanctuaries today offering opportunities for relaxed, small boat cruising among the sparkiling waters that surround them at high-tide but their names are clues of a more turbulent past.
Mud- Sailing
The time was three hours after high water and the sun shone brightly over the great levels that uncover in St Lawrence Bay, home to hundreds of screeching gulls, and which had become a waste where the sun’s heat rises to burn at its fiercest in the entire river. Cracks appear in the mud within hours and heat radiates from what, by then, has become vast brown mud-ovens. Of all the creeks I like to frequent, Transit Creek is certainly the muddiest, the most trench-like and void of anything human. Only dunlin, shank and similar waders land here, as the tide ebbs to feed on crustations, when the sea-bed comes alive with the harmonies of salt water gurgling and dribbling from holes; surface bubbles bursting, all fluxed together in an orchestral mix of bird-cackle, salt, mud, wind and tide.
Shoal Waters rattled and shook whilst anchored in the main river, at the mouth of the creek, as a turbulent tide ran its course past us flowing forcefully from the mudflats and gut ways that were uncovering beside us and to the south. The 20 foot of chain and her 17lb fisherman anchor were buried beneath the soft mud that lay at the bottom of the five feet of water we floated in. As I climbed forward to haul up the anchor an easterly wind whipped its way through the rigging, and short chop slapped at the boat. As soon as the anchor was set free she stirred.
  I had bided the time well for the right moment to make our move into the muddy pasture, and as I rolled out the Jib and staysail she began to glide toward the flickering, silver mud. We slipped into the creek and were soon passing between the glistening banks on either side with ease. As we crept further inward I noticed the heads of every seabird within half a mile had turned toward us. Their eyes pierced us with their startled but guarded gaze. Oyster catchers hopped around in circles, agitated, and crying out loud ‘kuweeet’ ‘kuweeet’, while others took off screaming.
How I enjoyed coming into this small creek. It was so near to home and yet being so wild had the ability to take you far away… It is a mini adventure, too, as you never know how far you will make it in before coming trapped by its ooze. I sailed as far as was possible, rounding west, before a slight turn east had us in irons and Shoal Waters stopped dead. Her heavy ballast and cabin full of cruising gear, combined with the headwind, made her stone-like. Slowly she crabbed sideways before settling on to the lee bank. I furled the headsails and worked the muddy quarters with the quant pole for the next half an hour of close-quarter attrition to gain further ground.
The creek then rounded south again and I could roll out the staysail for a few moments of ‘lift’ and she clawed her way over more easier ground. The depth had by now vanished to a mere 18 inches which negated using any centreplate to get a bite in order that we could sail in a mostly forward direction. To add to our challenge the creek had narrowed from 50 feet to around 10 feet wide and the wind carried on pounding away at us from the east, until we were overwhelmed by it and bullied against the slippery ooze of the lee bank again.
Hidden in the depths of a peaceful, muddy world
A further wrestle with the long quant pole ensued. The 1.5 inch diameter pole flexed like a longbow and sprung us forward with every downward thrust I made. It’s time like these when one is thankful for undertaking a thorough repair job on it after It snapped in two while being used for poling out our cruising chute the year before at an Old Gaffers do. That is two major repairs the trusty pole has undergone in its lifetime and the epoxy and glass tape binding were holding up well again just when I needed them to.
It was 2hrs before high-water and Shoal Waters had cemented herself between the close banks where we succumbed to the defences of one of deepest burrows of carved mud the River Blackwater holds.
Largely, there is nothing of the shoreline visible while buried below the cover of mud and your boat is unreachable and invisible, to other vessels on the main river, other than her mast poking above the mudflats. Interestingly, all that can be seen from the depths of this creek is the top half of a row of popular trees, on rising land to the south-west. Through a hazy heat they resemble an imaginary army of shields held upright in defence of an impending Viking raid. For the next few hours, until it’s time to make our withdrawal, the pressures of everyday life fall away to a trickle with the flowing tide and what is left, for me, is imaginary Vikings, cloying mud, blue skies and birdsong.

Enjoy your creek-sailing, Tony

By purchasing any of my three books you are assured plenty of shoal-draft adventure but to read more of the dozens of named creeks I have explored inside the River Blackwater purchase a copy of the new mono edition of my book 'Ready About on The River Blackwater' - Exploring The Creeks And Ditches in a Small Boat. Here's the link Purchase Ready About On The River Blackwater