We Love Northerly Winds - fact. Settled on while sipping a smooth Adnams Ghost Ship outside the Chequers with the evening sun beating down. Well, us Goldhanger sailors do anyhow. Northerly with a tad of west = magic.
Friday, while on-board, the barometer had crept up practically every glance I took at it and by morning the 3 to 4 north-westerly was finally what the GP ordered - if a bit overcast - but it made for full sails all round at the 2013 Blackwater Barge and Smack Race.
If I'm honest, I enjoy the mustering before the race, when everyone is sailing, or rather fidgeting in and around everyone else in the cause of eyeing up the opposition. Yes, the jostling bowsprits and puffing red sails are BLOOMIN magic.. And then there's the canvas. There was more canvas raised between 10 barges and a dozen or so smacks on Saturday than at a Glastonbury festival. All the craft looked in fine form but an added treat for me was seeing Niagra swanning down majestically from Maldon to join the fleet. It was also good to see Adieu in the Blackwater again too with her crisp and colourful regalia.
The race kicked off from Osea Pier, where there were also a number of spectator vessels gathered in the deeper water. Pudge, and Centuar were also out but among the spectators I happened to notice some lofty, voluminous motor boats enjoying the frivolity of this annual rag waving ritual too. The Blackwater Barge Match is truly an event everyone comes out in support of.
After the mingle I took off downriver, on a route behind the bawleys, and anchored in two feet of flat water beside Shinglehead Point. Here I watched the rest of fleet pass by with the backdrop of St Lawrence Bay. I followed this with a boil-in-the-bag smoked kipper breakfast wrapped in yesterday's fresh, crusty rolls, and then lay down for half an hour. On rising again I saw Niagra enter the river, on the return leg, she was in front, leading, so I take it that she went on to win her class. Congratulations on a good win and for displaying such a magnificent barge for us all to 'coo' at. Observers may notice her rudder is not your usual hefty barn-door-type - where part of it is visible above the waterline, as on the wooden barges, and she sports a flush transom.
I couldn't hang around for the rest of the fleet as I had decided to take off and explore a few creeks in the River Colne, the Geedon Creeks in fact. Pyefleet Creek was packed again when I passed. I wouldn't generally stop there anyhow but the Geedons I find are always empty and I simply love the place. Of course you need to be able to take the ground up there but you'll have the whole place to yourself. I was going to stay another night, tight in the marshes, but came back round to the Blackwater for a longshore crawl upriver, lapping up that nor-westerly again, maintaining just 10 to 15 feet parallel for smooth water sailing in the lee of the northern seawall - absolute bliss... It is nice to be greeted with Kestrels racing in the creek, and to see the cruiser fleet back on station too; Swallow and Cormorant, Myosotis, Melody, Lazy Bee among other Goldhanger boats. Good sailing. TS
|The mustering begins|
|Niagra and Marigold. Just look at that transom he cried!|
|Decima ups the anti|
|CK 258 at St Lawrence Bay|
|Anchorage at Shinglehead. Not welcome to step ashore at all these days, so it appears.|