Friday, 24 August 2012

V Cruise

                                                             V Cruise   Part One


  While the kids are camping in tents at  V in Chelmsford….

     Literally, the boat had just got underway, her sails flapping loosely when the summer lambs bleated a scrambling retreat behind the seawall as I closed in toward them on my way down the creek, and young black headed gulls squeaked with joy over Bulham Beach, a little further downstream.   The mains’l took some wrestling with before I could shake out the two reefs that were left in from the last trip a few days previous when an F6 easterly physically threw Shoal Waters into safety, and the snuggest of little creeks, Bawley Creek where I sat it out for 12 hours of relaxed comfort in deep mud.
  Unusually, a crabber 24 with Dutch flag raised on her stern sat anchored lower down in Goldhanger Creek, just above the oyster beds. I said to the owners how good it was to see them here and carried on my way. New withies placed in the creek, on the Osea side, just this year have already established themselves by the look of tell-tale long lengths of weed that now trail behind. East Point was already appearing from the ebb tide when I just about got into the main river as the wind died.

Ski boaters enjoying the boiling hot waters of the Blackwater
  The ships thermometer read 30 degrees in the cockpit as the whole Blackwater boiled for the first time this year. Oh well, I thought, no wind but at least it was hot and I could go swimming. There was also the magic carpet of the ebb that was sucking us down river.  Fields were being harvested all about the place which made the green trees stand out over in Ferry Wood. Apparently the wood got its name from a ferry boat back in the day of visiting hoy's, colliers and brigs, that would not only take the few people that resided nearby but also take sailors across river to the bright lights of Ramsey Island, for entertainment I expect. I suppose this makes some sense as Thistly would have been a desolate rural farm port highly likely to bore any young blooded sea-faring crew member to tears having to be anchored in Thistly Creek (now known as Thirslet Creek) for many tides.

  I filled the kettle for a brew. Hot tea somehow has a cooling effect, one of those puzzles of life I guess. Already we were quite a way downriver where through the glare over the mirror topped sea I could make out the ski boats around the Stone, and an airplane’s distant sound sent me into a daze. I realised tomorrow mornings bacon rashers were sitting in the sun so I grabbed a bucket and half filled it with seawater for an ad-hoc food fridge.
 I still shake my head acknowledging in awe sometimes, at the passages Charlie managed to achieve in this small boat, week in and week out over many decades and with barely any helpful luxuries.  The only real modern luxury that I can recall is a time back in the late 90s early 2000s when a small solar panel was fitted to top up the battery power for the compass and navigation lights - most important as he did a hell of a lot of night sailing. I do recall him telling me how many of his trips just would not have been possible without him sailing at night.

  I keep the boat as Charlie had her which has helped me understand fully what he went through on a technical level and although I know a lot of cruisers say an iron tops’l as a backup is not only practising good seamanship but is generally very handy, other than a trip down the Thames earlier in the year most of my trips this season I have not needed to call on it, so much so that the engine is still ashore for this trip, so maybe I have improved as a sailor, but perhaps not. Maybe I am more tolerant to sitting around drifting hour on end in the doldrums. What is more important and extremely enjoyable I find is adapting to a slightly different mind-set that is needed if single-handed cruising for days at a time under the mercy of the winds that howl along the Thames Estuary’s remote rivers, creeks and inshore coast where tide tables, strong currents, steep sand banks and mud shoals, shipping and even the home family diary all play havoc in the watery bailer of the cruising man and woman.  I’m sure my little motor will be back onboard at some point but at the moment I’m flat-on-my-back enjoying being submitted in this way by nature and ringing home to give another excuse for an extra night out on the boat. 

Carving an everlasting memory across the estuary after six hours sailing
  A south west wind has just hit the starboard beam shaking us into life. All of a sudden we are racing along beside baked mudflats to Pewit Island, Bradwell. How things change on the landscape to as five or six enormous generating windmills have appeared on land behind Clacton. Bradwell Creek still looks as inviting as ever though, with its putty sides causing chaos to many who enter from the tide pole. The Baffle has been dismantled and we are left with a circular island which looks far more appealing than it once did. A unique opportunity for someone to buy and develop it maybe? 

  Hugging the south shore I spot a mast poking above the steep to sand beach ahead at Weymarks - generally a good anchorage in a southerly.  A nice breeze keeps us rolling along and passing the anchored yacht, a fleeting thought came, maybe we should think about doing something similar, after all as it is getting late and darkness will soon be upon us. Boldly I cruised on in perfect conditions adjusting the sails and settling the tiller toward the Gunfleet before carving an everlasting memory across the mouth of the Blackwater estuary.

  Low tide would be in half an hour’s time followed by complete darkness. I plugged in the old brass stern light and switched the navigation lights on. With the sun gone down behind us, a dark sky was now directly overhead  but our little lights twinkled and we rode the waves over the new flood tide. When I set out earlier in the day I had dreamt of reaching Walton pier before the tide turned so we could get into Harwich, but for the second time this month lack of wind would keep it a dream for another day.  Colne Point has a fantastic beach though so still full with high spirits I headed inshore, and doing 1.5 knots quicker, from the Bench Head.

  The Wallet is now lit up like Regent Street  on new Year’s night which is a gift if heading to the Spitway and down Swin, but next to useless for what I now had in mind of tucking up for the night inshore of the Colne Bar. I settled for a pleasant piece of water six feet deep just after low tide and out of the main Colne fairway. I lowered the hook and let it take a nice bite then laid out 30 meters of chain before I set the alarm for 03.15 hrs. The Davies brass anchor light was lit and hoisted. It glowed like a dream. Is there such a light that is more charming than a naked flame? I sat in the ambient light and watched the bright stars above for a while. All was good in the world as I retired into the cocoon down below.    

Oil lamps can create an evocative, ambient glow
Part Two next month

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