Sunday, 20 July 2014

Harvest Cruise - Wymarks Creek

Our Harvest Creek Cruise in the Blackwater was cut short this year by electric thunder storms. The cruise began with a fantastic sail in pleasant sunshine on Thursday afternoon, when a strong easterly had us beating on the inside of the moorings at Stone to find smooth water and after a dash northward, taking in Thirslet, Old Mill and Mell Creeks, her nose rolled south to swing round the Tide Pole at the mouth of Bradwell Creek. The ebb was flowing in full force and the notorious Blackwater chop had risen to its more perilous state as it carved a way seaward. If you haven’t slalom-sailed the series of white crested moguls that present themselves in mid-river, off Bradwell, in a small boat; in inshore sailing terms - you haven’t even lived yet!   I coaxed Shoal Waters away from her adrenalin rush and persuaded her to sail in smoother water, further south, and soon found a place to anchor for the night. The ships barometer needle fell like a piece of heavy metal shortly after drying out on the beach at Wymarks Creek.

On hard ground at Wymarks Creek
Wymarks can be found due south of the Nass Beacon and is a small opening in the top of the beach that enters a small area of saltings. The whole place is awash with cockle shells, sea blight and singing birds and comes alive with sand hoppers at dusk.

The area around Wymarks is such a wonderful place to explore and I had an idyllic walk along the shore here as the sun diminished on the far side of the river. I had hoped to detour up to Harwich for a tide, at high water the following morning but after hearing the morning weather forecast instead remained close inshore and played around in the river, surviving two thunder storms that swept a way downriver. The calm before the storm and the sudden change in wind direction from a Force 3 to 4 easterly to a Force 4 to 5 westerly with lashings of rain and lightning was enough to arrange an Elson collection from a pair of sea boots! This was top creek action of the most dramatic ‘perfect storm’ order being played out in my home creeks.   
The second storm had us stranded off Gore Saltings where I turned to run back downriver but was engulfed by the blackest weather front that took all our wind and had to chuck the hook in and let down sail in a frantic few moments. I didn’t have time to lash the tiller and sat crouched in the cabin praying for lightning not to strike us as we were battered once more by a Force 5 to 6 westerly. And then, as suddenly as it all started it had gone leaving us to finish with more of a beautiful harvest sail in the River Blackwater.

Beautiful evening at Wymarks Creek

The view from inside Wymarks.Water is retained in the creek
One of many saltpools at Wymarks
The new day and 1st storm engulfs as it heads east, over Mersea Island
sailing over the ebb after 1st storm
2nd storm rages a couple of hours later- 0730 ish

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

I Name This Boat

WHY PEOPLE GIVE A BOAT a particular name I often wonder. I suspect it can be down to a thousand different reasons, some of them logical others completely mystifying. In some cases we are personalizing the vessel, if you like, almost giving the boat a human-like status. In the case of my own boat the name Shoal Waters is pretty telling that it is relevant to the environment she spends most of her life in and a former boat I named Huffler was given so after the Thames sailing barge pilots “hufflers” as they were known, a local man that new all corners of his creek and its mud shoals, and any other hazards, well enough that they were called on to guide a barge safely along it typically to a farm wharf that lay at its head. One immense pleasure of cruising around the Thames Estuary is being able to sail alongside these majestic spritsail barges of which there are around 30 still in commission. I for one could never tire from witnessing the timeless scene that is the distant sight of a sailing barge, her topsail set, edging a way up the coast before slipping out of sight wending into one of the rivers. 

  Many of the Thames barge names I come across can be a constant source of wonder and intrigue. After the last spike was struck home and the paint tins put away shipwrights, yard workers and the ensemble gathered round to watch the new barge being launched. Many were given female names like Edith, Gladys or Marjorie and became part of the family but they were also given bold, powerful names that strangely seemed to elevate the vessel to a kind of super human level. Take the 81 ton Phoenician – a name evoking visions of a whole chariot-lead army behind her transom in an infinite long line. The British Empire is another. A name that demands far more than for what she was built as she carried hay down to London and would have returned with muck from the capital’s horses but her title commanded she done it standing bolt upright with a taught 32 inch waste, and wide 44 inch chest bulging with all the aura of a job well done! Sadly she has not fared as well as Phoenician for she is now hulked at the top of the River Crouch but at the time she was christened, in 1889, the country she was born to was a powerful empire. Still sailing out of Maldon is Hydrogen, another bold name just oozing the notion she just could make the loudest bang at any moment. Although, in a shallow cut of saltings opposite her berth lays a hulk that ran out of puff, her sister ship, Oxygen
The British Empire

  Then there are the pet names like “Pudge” who also sails from the Hythe, Maldon, or your good mate across the road “Victor” often seen sailing around the Rivers Orwell and Stour. Fishing boats were emblazoned in glory too. The Leigh shrimper Victorious, built in 1945, was named after the victory of WWII and let us not forget the enterprising Pioneer and the forward thinking Excelsior - all three of these vessels are still sailing.    During the late 19th and early 20th century there were well over two thousand Thames barges plying the Thames Estuary so it shouldn’t surprise us that many were given such great names. 

 At the same time there were collier brigs plying the coastal waters too. With a course laid south, from Newcastle and the River Tyne, those colliers brought coal down the East Coast. This was no easy task for after dodging The Wash they had to harden up past Norfolk where the fist of the Thames Estuary awaited them. Its knuckles the massive sand bars completely invisible at high tide. In daylight and at night many fell in the grip of the estuary at places like Shipwash, Cutter and Cork Sands while others fell at Gunfleet, Sunk or Long Sand. For those that made it through the maze of swatchways their cargo of coal fed the brick kilns around the estuary in places like Havengore, Benfleet and Conyer creeks which in turn kept the barges in work carrying loads up to London. In certain instances it wasn’t unknown for two men to load 40000 bricks still hot from the kilns and by hand in less than a day. The type of brick was called a stock and is mainly yellow in colour but red bricks were made too. Today these same bricks are being salvaged from demolished buildings and, after cleaning off the soft lime mortar, are fetching a £1 each and are very sought after by housing developers. Then there was the mud barge that never saw the crest of a wave break outside a creek or rill. In one instance at Conyer it was the job of one man to shovel mud into a barges hold alone.  A laborious occupation where the employee would likely be on first name terms with local curlews.

  Staying south of the Thames the Burham Brick, Lime and Cement Co built a succession of new barges named after the seasons and then days of the week.  In 1879 Spring was built, and  in the same year Summer came off the blocks too. Autumn was built in 1881 and so to was Winter. Monday came off the blocks in 1882, as did Tuesday.  Wednesday was built a few years later in 1885 and just to give us an idea how busy it was on the rivers back then, during the decade 1880 to 1890 a hundred barges came and went from the River Medway on every tide. It must have been a fantastic time to be around the water but heaven help the Harbour Master who had to organize this little lot. Confusion may well have reigned when the Winter came in during a warm summer and the Tuesday came in on Wednesday, or the Monday didn’t arrive until the following Thursday! Around the same time William Lee built barges at Lime Dock with winning names Superb, Swift-Sure and Victory being just a few of many more they built and interestingly, instead of the usual brown canvas, their stumpy barges set black sails with a white jib set off a bowsprit. 

Saturday, 28 June 2014

High Ropes at Tollesbury

Tall masts of a different kind are a new addition to the waterside at Tollesbury. They are sited at the TSL yard, behind the Yacht Stores/Sail Lofts. A notice on the fence reads High Ropes Course.  You can reach close to  in a boat via Woodrolfe Creek and then into Bontings or Back creeks. Alternatively moor or park in the Marina and walk the short distance. There are a host of courses being held down at this, the salty end of Tollesbury by FACT - sailing, boating, climbing, corporate and more... Click on the link for more facts!

Thursday, 26 June 2014

National Coastwatch Institution

  Holehaven lookout station in Holehaven Creek is part of the National Coastwatch Institution, a registered charity, and manned by trained volunteers seven days a week. They currently have 49 stations placed around the coastline of England and Wales maintaining a visual a lookout during daylight for yachtsmen, canoeist, fishermen, in fact anyone that may come in to difficulty on the water. Other stations in our area are at Whitstable and Herne Bay in the south and a little way east, along the Thames from here, there is one at Shoeburyness. Further up the coast there are stations at Felixstowe, in Suffolk, and in Norfolk at Gorleston, the main port where all the Broads tides are worked from. Please give them a look, and spread the word about their valuable work if you can.

Holehaven lookout station

Friday, 20 June 2014

Foil Wrapped Rigging

Many of us who leave a boat out on a mooring  suffer from the over enthusiastic attention of those birds we love so much. Well, they do love us in return but you know what it's like. Viz; you approach the boat, only to see them sitting on the boom, or up top the mast, fidgeting and shuffling giving you a wry wink and that knowing nod as if to say 'I've just used your boat as a latrine for the last five days - I'll be off now'.  And that neatly secured sail cover? There are occasions when it seems they cant get enough of us especially during the early season when their love for us simply overflows.
In a return show of affection to our feathered friends the boats down the creek have been adorned with many forms of BIRD OFF attempts - kids sand castle windmills, dangling rope, CD' discs, Tesco bags, and that old chestnut used nationwide, and full size life-like plastic model, some even say a good resemblance of an old sea dog, 'The Owl'.
  I liked this little invention that Mike 'Creek In Flood' has been testing lately down the creek. Mainly because it is simple, cheap and is a second use material. All good small boating virtues. Tests have not been in the manner of your usual 'sailing trials', more in the way of 'mooring trials', and results so far have been positive.
 Mike says this is his baby - this foil wrap idea that is - but I secretly think we can thank whoever it is indoors who makes the sarnies for his day sails...  Instead of binning the foil from his sandwiches, Mike, never known to have sailed on an ebb tide,  has found that with a few folds in the foil and then wrapping them around various parts of rigging, this has been enough to give those little tweeters the jitters and their bombardment of love letters have dwindled down to just the odd note!

Update 26/06/14
Mike has sent in up-to-the-minute reports of his ongoing tests. After studying them at length for a minute, and doing a few seminars with power point presentations, I can reveal the prototype needs more work before we can send off for patents and unleash this invention on to the yachting public.
The major problem being the residue left on the foil from salt beef sandwiches seems to exacerbate the bird nuisance to higher levels than without using foil...
Well, as you can imagine I am disappointed at this major set back as I was planning on putting a Fiver in for 50% of the company. However, keeping in a positive mood, tests are ongoing and I can only hope that he gets more of the honey roast ham sandwiches!

Mike's soon to be patented Foil Wrapped Yacht Bird Scarer may work depending on your sarnie contents...

Mike's recycled and eco friendly bird scarers

 You can catch up with Mike at this weekends Small Boat Sailors rally in Hickling, Norfolk. He has also written two enjoyable and informative articles for the Creeksailor guest writer pages that can be found here Guest Writer

Sunday, 15 June 2014

2014 Small Boat Rally - Hickling Broad

 A reminder to anyone  who is thinking about joining the Small Boat Rally next Saturday, 21st June, Hickling Broad. Do come along.
Note: If you fancy staying the night, as some are, but aren't set up for camping on board, I know one person is intending to put up a small tent... If it's of use I have another that can be loaned out for the night.
Small-boat cruising on Hickling Broad
Apres Sail

Saturday, 7 June 2014

Dawn - River Ant

 A short clip from the River Ant, Norfolk. As the new day spreads light over the river, mist adds suspense to what it will bring.

Monday, 2 June 2014

Small Boat Rally 2014 Hickling Broad

As the heading says this year the Small Boat Sailors gathering will be on Hickling Broad.

The very nature of cruising means that skippers generally like to do their own thing therefore nailing people down to dates is always going to be difficult, and although our connection  may be loose, as long as we end up having a sail in company, and if possible a bit later, a beer and something to eat after in the Pleasure Boat Inn, we would have achieved our aim of meeting up in the memory of the late small boat adventurer Charles Stock.

Date: Saturday 21st June 2014. That's in three weekends time.
Meet time: Whenever you can get there but on the water around lunch time would be good.

Note: Remember to bring your puddings, and wellies are optional for the Hickling meet as for East Coaster's the novelty of stepping on and off a boat in a clean pair of boat shoes, on to neatly carpentered staiths, is a luxury they may want to make full use of. I already have!

If you have a boat parked on the Broads somewhere then please do head up and join us, even just to say hi, we'll be pleased to see you. If you are thinking of trailing and launching on the day then I would recommend Whispering Reeds Boatyard who charge a reasonable fee to use their slip, and can sort out parking and day permits etc.

Hickling Broad is the largest of the Broads  and sits in a somewhat quieter, but ever pleasant wildlife haven. This reed-fringed marshland environment has some interesting dykes to poke into and is also north of the iconic but busier Potter Heigham Bridge. As far as depth and tides go; I'm yet to sail out of soundings of my 6' Broads Poker. And the tide; this is hardly noticeable and sailing over the small rise in inches of water level is not something we need let concern us on the day - unless you are heading down to the Thurne or under Potter Heigham Bridge that is.
Please make your own checks to be sure you are happy with everything as we all meet on a friendly basis and as 'no-one' is in charge 'no-one' can be blamed if in the unlikely event it all goes belly up for whatever reason.
 Remember, all are welcome to join the Small Boat Sailors Group no matter what type or size of boat you choose to own.
Let me know if you are coming as I might be able to get a group discount for launching and we might need to book tables and moorings in advance.
Looking forward to seeing a few of you on the water. Good sailing, Tony

Friday, 30 May 2014

North Walsham and Dilham Canal

 More from the 'quiet waters' of the Norfolk Broads. Here we are cruising 'African Queen' style, and at a ramblers pace under bridgesail, on a disused and heavily camoflaged canal found at the very top of the River Ant.

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Barlinghall Creek

 As an extension to Sea-Country I will be listing many notable creeks on the Creeksailor pages under the label 'Sea-Country.'

The view while making the climb up this creek from its mouth at the Violet in Potton Creek is perhaps one of Essex's best kept secrets.  I for one am yet to find a view in marshland Essex that is more pleasing. The picturesque church tower, with steeple, peeping above the swaying trees is quite enough to forge the resolve of any skipper having to beat into a headwind around the creek's curving course. But add to this a number of small fishing vessels that dangle drying nets and dredges from rigging that casts sleepy shadows over long, sunny, summer days.
Barlinghall Creek.
   On entering Barling, one has committed to a world that few know. To delve deeper into its depths I hold a steady course - slow and sure. The waters before me are calm, flat, often mirror-like. Not here will your beam-ends be slung over. But beware if the sea fog hangs low and eerie as you are done for unless an anchor is set. Smothered by the reaching arms of the creek boundary the small boat must make frequent interweaving of sleeping, still vessels clung steadfast to moorings, and yet at the same time, staying free of dark ooze is a must to reach the Quay, which is an old concrete barge. Possibly one of the Mulberry harbour barges intended for the D Day landings.
  Here, absorbed by echoes of wildfowl clip clopping over cloying mud in an enchanted place, one realises this peaceful creek is the essence of a rural working port with its heartbeat in rhythm to that of the oyster and tide.

Barge at Barling Hall.  Ferro concrete barges were part of the Mulberry harbour used in the D Day landings. Many are scattered around Essex.

Saturday, 24 May 2014

Norfolk Broads - Quiet Waters

Its been a number of years, in fact far too many, since Shoal Waters sailed the wonderfully smooth and quiet waters of the Norfolk Broads. It has been my pleasure to bring her back here to a place she knows well. Hope you enjoy this small film.

Thursday, 22 May 2014

On Safari: Norfolk Broads

 No matter how far you journey, how wild the place, and how remote it may seem, someone is filming you with a go pro camera.
 I've been exploring in all the forgotten corners of the Norfolk Broads recently, and just came across this channel with lovely films of the Norfolk Broads. Some of the places I have visited and filmed myself.  Take a peek at this lovely clip for the surprise near the end, and then visit lord paul's youtube channel for more of his Norfolk videos, some of them are aerial shots of the Broads.

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Olympic Park

In April 2012, and as part of my Essex Loop trip, Shoal Waters sailed the Lee Navigation to the Olympic Stadium. She is the only boat I know of to have sailed at the newly built stadium, and in a small way did her bit for the Olympics and the magnificent human spirit that the event imbues. The stadium was nearing completion and there were many waterways closed, or with limited access, at the time.
The Olympic Park, with its Bow Back Rivers, is however now open to the boating public.
  For a map of the park click here or for more information take a look at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park website here
Google map of the site,-0.0152349,15z/data=!4m2!3m1!1s0x48761d6f98886b01:0x1f7ae7e0f9a14963?hl=en