Friday, 20 December 2013

Happy Crimbo

This salty treat is for every reader of the Creeksailor site.The six oysters with shallot vinegar and lemon slices are sitting on the table in Mehalah's in East Mersea. Be my guest and choose your own tipple to wash them down with... 
  I washed mine down with a bottle of Island Mud.. Thanks for all your emails and support over the last year, I hope I've been able to support you in return.
 Good sailing in the New Year. TS

Friday, 13 December 2013

Sailing with Gaff Cutter Rig

 Getting To Know your boat and how best she sails can take many hours, months or even years of trial and error. I was developing my sailing skills with gaff cutter rig during my time with Huffler but over the last three years with Shoal Waters my knowledge and experience of the rig have increased tenfold. This is due to the volume of quality time I’ve spent on the water actually sailing the boat. Before I go any further I should point out that in my understanding of the fore-and-aft sailing rig when the word jib is used on a sloop rig vessel it is done so incorrectly as if the sail is set from the forestay of the boat it is more accurately called the staysail or to be completely pedantic the forestaysail and this sail can also be refrered to as the foresail or headsail. You may understand it differently so at this point I shall put my crash helmet on and stand to be corrected! These minor matters only become more obvious when sailing with the cutter rig which has a bowsprit as the staysail is definitely not the jib and vice-verse. 
 Gaff Cutter Rig
  The origins of the cutter rig lie with the Dutch but the rig has been in use in England since the early 18th century when it was used by revenue men in the prevention of smuggling. The rig has a long association with working boats and became without doubt the most English of rigs as it was used by fishermen in smacks and bawleys and by ship pilots in pilot cutters and ultimately, as the new "gentlemans" leisure activity of yachting came about the rig would naturally go on to drive these boats to. The rig can generally be distinguished from a sloop by its extended bowsprit and the setting of an extra headsail called a jib.
  Of all the little nuances one comes across when sailing a new, to them, boat I was finding that sailing close-hauled under full sail the first sail to start luffing would be the staysail - never the jib or mainsail, always the staysail. I paced the decks in search of a reason.  I loosened sheets and tightened sheets. I checked the tension of the halyards as these can work loose, and, in the past if I had lowered the mast to shoot bridges I may not have tightened the halyard enough. I also found that sweating either of the headsail halyards too tight and the Wykham Martin furling gear becomes stiff and the sails will not furl completely. I spoke to other wooden boat owners who would agree there will always be an amount of flexing in the rigging of a wooden boat with wooden spars. And anyway, gaffers sail loose - we don’t sail to windward? In an ideal world this would be true perhaps but the reality for anyone who moves around from one river system to another on a regular basis covering a lot of miles as I do knows that to wait in port for ideal weather you could be waiting all year therefore its quite possible to find yourself in the middle of a channel such as the Wallet for instance with a belting headwind and when as much weatherly performance as your boat can achieve is more than helpful unless you don't mind turning back around. 
 Hoisting Sail 
 Setting Shoal Waters sails I start with the mainsail, then the jib, and finally set the staysail but I don’t think it really matters as long as you know when and at what position your sails are set correctly. As with any activity where skill is involved, one of the benefits of increased volume is a heightened sense of awareness; you loose that ring-rust and just know when things are not right, or as they should be.   
Shoal Waters cutter rig in perfect "tune" drives us down the Wallet
 Off the wind Shoal Waters will happily sail under mainsail alone or with just both headsails. Sailing her with the mainsail only and when having to tack she may stall passing through as she is a heavy old bird therefore it’s ships practice to bear away first to give plenty of “way”. Off the wind she will keep up with any normal boat and to windward her pointing ability still amazes me when I  realize I'm keeping up with Bermudan rig vessels. Her maximum speed in ideal conditions is 4.5/5 knots but we rarely sail at this pace, more like 3 knots or less, and it is a Jubilee celebration when with a fair wind and tide she has shown some thigh doing 6.5 to 7 knots.
 The jib and staysail on Shoal Waters are very small but either sail set alone will slowly drive her if the wind is aft of the beam but together and with the mainsail and at all points of sail it is quite considerable the amount of sureness in the drive they give. The jib is also vital for creek sailing, canal or broads sailing where narrow, winding waterways demand decisive going about. I like the short aspect the gaff rig allows. This means a shorter, more manageable mast. The sail is forgiving in gusts and when one lowers the gaff, a hell of a lot of sail can come down quickly.
 She has an amount of weather helm that if left to her own devices she will round up into the wind nicely which is comforting to know for a single-handed sailor. Who knows how many sailors have disappeared through falling overboard while standing at the lee shroud using natures facilities and the boat has sailed blindly on regardless?Its an awful thought but a very real danger. Be careful out there.
 Taking on board new information and"The One Word Concept" 
 “I’ve eased as much as nine inches from a smacks jib sheet” These words were said to me while sat bows-in-mud chatting to a well-known East Coast sailmaker. They reverberated in my innards as I set Shoal Waters small blade-of-a-jib during one of our early cruises of 2012. Out of interest I’d asked the question what sail you would start with when setting a cutter rig. Just those few words in answer reinforced that maybe I did need to look more carefully at balance tuning the rig. I had already played around with the sheets of course but I did find I could ease the jib by as little as half an inch and the staysail would resist luffing just that bit more. I admit there is more to tuning my particular boat though as she has lanyards on the shrouds and if these loosen the mast rake changes so there has to be a constant, methodical checking of all these contact points throughout the cruising year. I could go on and describe sailing Shoal Waters off the leach as well which is something that I've had to do a couple of times but if I can forget about sailing the boat for a minute I'd like to focus on what intrigues me about this type of learning situation in the hope it may ring bells for others.
 What is this One Word Concept 
  Many years ago now, in another life it seems, I was an instructor of physical exercise. Anyone who has been an instructor will know that imparting your knowledge in a one to one situation or onto a class of students takes a variety of methods. This is because we all learn things in different ways. For instance some of us can read a book and memorize it word for word and then go away and implement it, while others will have to physically practice something to memorize it. If only I knew this as a kid….  "Whats all this cobble got to do with sailing"?  I hear you ask. Bare with me.. 
  During this time an instructor shows you hundreds, possibly thousands of techniques. They pass on their psychology, wisdom, and experience. Some of it you take in, some of it goes straight over your head and then suddenly the instructor drops one word, or it might be a sentence, that hits you like a bolt of lightning and everything falls into place. For the lucky few this word may happen on their first days training but this is rare as an understanding of the “whole” is needed to appreciate what is actually being passed on. Therefore, for the mere mortals among us, this learning process can go on for many years, in fact a lifetime if we continually place ourselves in a learning environment, as we take on new information and as our minds and bodies try to make sense of it. Fortunately we get good at spitting out what is of no use to us and retaining what is.  I try and apply this concept of the one word or sentence in every learning situation as I just love learning new things, and consciously search for it when reading or in conversations with anyone I class as knowledgeable in a particular subject. I did this with the above question to the sailmaker whose short sentence I’m going to leave you with, as, put simply, within it holds the key to enjoyable sailing with gaff cutter rig.
Good Sailing, TS

Sunday, 8 December 2013

Hythe Quay Maldon

 Hythe Quay at Maldon as it looked last weekend after the initial movement

The Hythe yesterday (Sat) after the tidal surge

  Lets hope any more of the quay doesn't suffer the same fate and that something can be done about the Hythe sooner rather than later.
  At the moment the visitors pontoon is not affected and although a boat drawing as much as six feet or more could reach right up to Fullbridge, from my observations and without physically sounding the depth with my trusty cane, that same craft would not be able to visit here as a lot of silt has built near it  barring access to deeper draft vessels who otherwise might like to come alongside.

  PS: On a positive note if you get a chance do visit the Hythe as sailing barge Hydrogen is open as a cafe barge throughout the winter months.  Tea or coffee with home made cakes etc are now available onboard in this unique setting.
Good sailing, TS

Saturday, 30 November 2013

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Get Afloat

  Prices have fallen in the second-hand yacht market with many boats for sale stuck-fast to hards or sitting around in boatyards, therefore buyers are in as good a position as it is likely to get to reel in a bargain. If you are moving up in size then more boat for less cash is a realistic expectation too as owners are shedding pounds in order to dump the on-going financial liability of storage costs. It is worth considering just what the on-going running costs will be before you make that purchase and though it may shatter the dream a little to do this, in the long run you know its for the best. If you are looking at a 22' - 27' long or fin-keeler, perhaps one that is chocked up in a yard, the rental costs of yard space may set you back £100.00 plus per month, and a lift in will set you back at least another bulls-eye at £50, but probably more. The costs all add up so that the 22' Hurley long-keel going for under 2K may end up costing double that by the time you get her in the water. If the type of boat you fancy sits on a trailer then you can be self reliant to a large degree and after making the purchase can sit her on the drive or in a friends garden where the running costs fall to a stress free zero.
The mooring costs of both these types of vessel, the long-keeler and the the small trailer-sailor, do not have be high either and to give an example Maldon council moorings are surprisingly reasonable at just over a hundred quid. Here are the current charges from the council website. The figures on the right are VAT.
 Mooring Registration Fee  £104.17  £20.83
Annual Charges

 Up to 7.99 Metres  £91.67 £18.33
 8.00 to 9.99 Metres  £154.17 £30.83
 10.00 to 14.99 Metres  £208.33 £41.67
 15.00 Metres and above  £275.00 £55.00
Now, obviously other councils prices will vary and you will have to supply your own tackle, and you have then got to be able to get to the mooring, but the point I'm making is for the average Joe who would never think twice about owning a boat for fear of the high costs of owning and keeping a sailing cruiser, finds in fact access to cruiser sailing can be done on the most meager budgets.  In my view, at these prices, the value of fun and quality of life returned per pound spent is simply immeasurable, and in this light I would go even further and say a boat mooring fee is going to be the best money investment in your own sanity you will ever make...
  I've had a quick look through the listings on Ebay and there is a plethorough of small boats at bargain prices. If you are looking for a small cruiser then now is as good as any to make that purchase.
Here are a few available right now. Express Pirate  Corribee  Halcyon 27  Vivacity 20

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Ready About In Shoal Waters

THE MAIN FOCUS of this year has been spent cruising in Shoal Waters around the wider Thames Estuary.   With good fortune and a fair wind I managed to reach Sheppy, the rivers Medway, Thames, Crouch, Roach, Harwich Harbour, Stour,  Deben, Ore and Butley Creek and a hundred or more other places and creeks. This has meant very few trips being made inside the River Blackwater.  Every river has its unique charms and I thought I had found some brilliant little hideouts elsewhere until at the very back end of this summer, October in fact, when I decided I will not be trying to get out the river any more this year. I then realized it was difficult to decide where to visit first in my own river. Believe it or not confining myself to one river I was still spoilt for choice as to what creeks to visit or where to camp for that magical East Coast sunset. Anyhow, I went about re acquainting myself with my old haunts in the river. Salcot, Heybridge, Skinners Wick, Transits, Wymarks, Deadmans the list goes on and on.The islands, the beaches, the low water creeks where if a single shaft of sunlight cracks through an overcast sky mudflats burn like giant brown ovens. The saltings with their gourmets sea larder, the great levels of sandy wastes, the sand bars - demonic when invisible, treasure islands when not.
Thanks to Richard Titchener, for this image,who spotted me inside Northey last month

  For different reasons I am sure most of us are drawn to certain places as I am in other river systems but to pinpoint what it is about this river, the River Blackwater and what makes it different from anywhere else and without writing another book on the place I would have to say it is its sheer breadth and variety within a body of water. The cruising sailor does not have to leave here. Period.  But let me elaborate a little. If we take low tide in the Blackwater, the main fairway up to Osea for instance. Now there is a cruising ground - I'll call it a big world, to keep most sailors happy but fill it with flood tide and all of a sudden we have a handful of smaller inner worlds, if you like, micro worlds. We have the Mersea area and inside of the Quarters where a whole series of small islands and creeks can keep one busy. 
  A little further up we have the Tollesbury area with its quaint little former fishing port and stuffings of saltmarsh creeks and rills.
  On the south side we have the Bradwell and the St Lawrence Bay area with its own creek and marina behind Pewit Island- another micro world of goings on in there. 
  If we move further upriver we see Stone and Marconi are fantstic yacht stations and all state of tide dinghy racing headquarters. The best all tide water inside the river perhaps. The north side of the river above Thirslet Creek is another world. and of course the north side of the Stumble, the Stumble area all dries out but at high water there is some fine cruising to be had.
  South of the river there is Lawling Creek with its own micro world and system of creeks.
The south side of Osea is a deep water anchorage but up to Northey including Southey Creek and inside the island has its own features and haunts to that all dry. We can then come to Millbeach, Colliers Reach and Heybridge. Lots of boats and another micro climate of goings on here.
 Need I mention behind the lock gates at Heybridge Basin - another world on its own.
  From Herring Point up to Fullbridge one finds another world again with boatyards and a busy Hythe with an ancient town and more sailing clubs.
 Forgive me if I have not mentioned your favorite but without giving to much more away I think its clear to see that the Blackwater as a whole is one hell of a river that takes some beating and perhaps it does have a lot more than maybe some have originally thought.
The above image was captured while cruising inside the marshes of Northey Island where Shoal Waters had been exploring in Awl Creek and is making way for an exit with her tops'l set.  

Saturday, 19 October 2013

Dinghy Focus - Y Emma

   In collaboration with small boat sailor Mike Newport we take a look at the John Westell designed Yachting Monthly Y Emma, an eight foot dinghy that can be built at home with minimal outlay and sailed rowed paddled or poled, all things that encompass the ideals of affordable and fun sailing. What I particularly like about the Y Emma is the basic materials needed 2 - 2.5 sheets of ply. Her shape is similar to the Mirror which came 20 odd years previous, and like her she is forgiving. She also has built in buoyancy which is a safety feature both of my punts lack although in fairness my punts are a very specialized craft not intended for mass production and this is easily remedied by the addition of a buoyancy bag or two.

  The Smaller The Boat by Mike Newport -

  I HAVE FOUND THE OLD SAYING “The smaller the boat, the more the fun” to be absolutely true and have been proving it to myself over the last thirty years. Recently Tony and I found ourselves down at Goldhanger, a couple of hours before high water with time on our hands. Swallow was already ashore, layed-up a few days earlier during the warm October sunshine, and Tony had decided to go rowing amongst the saltings in his dinghy; I said I would follow in mine once I had rigged her for sail. We eventually met up in Wilkin’s Creek saltings, which were quickly flooding on what was forecast to be a high spring tide. Reaching the far sea wall we managed to change craft and for twenty minutes or so Creeksailor enjoyed the simple pleasures of an even smaller boat than his beloved Shoal Waters.

Creeksailor Tony Smith sailing Swallow’s Tail, a Yachting Monthly Y Emma. I hadn’t realized she looked so good.

  At the time I acquired my cruiser Swallow, I had an aged and tired plastic pram dinghy that served as a tender and was looking for a suitable replacement. It just so happened that Yachting Monthly had been running a competition for the design of a safe, stable, sailing yacht’s tender, capable of being home built from two sheets of 8ft. x 4ft. x ¼” plywood. The winner was the Y Emma, first shown at the 1982 Southampton Boat Show. I saw and read a follow-up article showing details and decided that would do for me. Having previously put Swallow together from a kit, I then wondered how suitable would it be to build her tender.

  I sent off for a set of plans, and, reading the article again which I still have, cost me £10, and I vaguely remember the plywood and epoxy costing another £40 - Oh those were the days. I had previously built a stitch and glue Unicorn catamaran, so Y Emma’s construction was quite straight forward in comparison. The most time consuming part was scaling up the drawing details to full size on the plywood. It’s very important to get this part correct and accurate, as it determines the final shape of the hull. Once drawn, you cut out these strange shapes that develop up into your tender. The hull is built on a very simple jig and starting with the bottom outline, then wiring the various ply shapes together along their edges and hey presto, in no time you have a dinghy in front of you.

   As you can see from the above photograph my Y Emma is still going strong after thirty years and she is only built from exterior grade ply. Provided you attend to any “dings” quickly with anything that will seal the damage and keep the water out, she will last a life time. She has proven to be a very good tender capable of carrying three adults carefully in flat water and has proved to be very stable giving you a confident feeling when the children are aboard. I built the sailing version and as the picture shows, she sails well. Although she has seats aft, it is more comfortable to snug down with your bum on the bottom in light conditions. In heavier winds you can swivel round to windward and trim her down by the bow when tacking. In these conditions I’ve had the lee gunwale under without problems; however she can be a bit wet in the old “Blackwater chop”.

Mike sailing his newly built Y Emma
  Having taken the time to measure and cut out your hull developments, (the developments are the scale drawing expanded full size on your plywood sheet) it would be silly not to retain a set of “patterns” for who knows what! I cut out another set in plywood, but they could easily be transferred to hardboard, cardboard or other suitable material.

  My “spare “set lingered almost forgotten in the garage roof until last winter. During the summer before I watched one of our club members sail their high tech, mass produced dinghy and was surprised by her performance, which set me thinking, how would her rig work on my dinghy? I borrowed the rig and tried it, but was unsuccessful as the increased mast leverage damaged my mast step. The only way to really find out would be to get those old shapes out from the garage roof and build another dinghy. That’s what I did last winter, raising the foredeck and strengthening the mast step for the bigger rig. I made an aluminum mast and boom, and had a similar sail shape made. The new sail is 10 sq.ft. more than the original gaff lug, but the new combination works well and she appears faster, but that will need proving. She is still undergoing “sea trials”, and I haven’t had her out yet in big winds. I can’t reef her as is, but after researching the Solway Dory following a near miss at our recent Small Boat Rally, I may make some minor rig modifications during the coming winter.

   TS: I asked Mike why the diversion from the balanced lug on his new Y Emma.

  MN: Well, I'm experimenting and though I mention speed in the article the main point of this tall rig was to pinch more wind from 'up there' while sailing in the creek, as you know, we often get caught in the lee of the seawall with a small dinghy's short rig.

  TS: Looking at the new boat she appears quite different from Swallow's Tail 1. Her mono sail demonstrates the evolution of gaff rig in one sail if ever there was. No waggling stick to fall down and doing you on the 'swede', alloy spars and that fore deck - a consequence of raising the mast supports that has helped in fending off shipping green.  I adore the Y Emma. And why not it reminds me of my first Mirror dinghy but is even smaller and lighter, packing in more fun per pound. An eight feet bundle of joy. And, it really is time I stopped cadging a lift back to shore in Mikes. I will be building one over the coming months. Mine will be a lug rig version and I'll be asking Mike for any useful tips during the process.

  If you would like to know more about building a Y Emma Mike can be contacted through the comment feature or the email address top right of the page.                                     
  Mike's new Y Emma

Friday, 4 October 2013

Shoal Waters Video

A lovely bit of film has surfaced of Charles and Joy sailing Shoal Waters into Wootton/Fishbourne Creek, Isle of Wight.
Shoal Waters has a reefed down main and with staysail only  luffs and heels to gusts pinching way between  moored craft in the creek.
Without the jib I find one has to have plenty of 'way' to get her through a tack and while in a confined creek or river with lots of moored boats to free off a little as Chas does here. This film is interesting not only as I sail her in very much the same way but I too know her nuances. Great fun to watch and a nice bit of film.

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Creek Hunter

This treat is for all those who have bought a copy of Creeksailor Ready About on the River Blackwater and to lovers of the East Coast.  Sail, Quant, Paddle, Oar and plane? I'll do whatever it takes to find that creek.
This video is part of a two hour flight around the East Coast with views of Old Hall Creek and  marshes and Tollesbury Saltings with its proliferation of creeks and the red Trinity lightship of FACT in Woodup Creek. See Mersea Island with West Mersea and the Strood, Peldon, more creeks and also East Mersea. The estuary mouths of the Blackwater and Colne, Colne Point, Brightlingsea Creek, Pyefleet Creek, Rat Island and the Geedon creeks and much much more. There is also footage of a creek, the name of which I found in a 100 year old book on this part of the coast. Enjoy, Tony

Monday, 23 September 2013

Rope Whipping Video

Another Cruising Essentials video. If you use three strand ropes on your boat as I do then you may be whipping ends just like this. If you are not and are using electrical tape nows your chance to master a whipping method of the old ways. This was originally shown to me by a barge skipper and I remember we'd practice it while sipping a light ale or two at anchor. It is very practical in that it does not need a needle to seeze or tie it off. Enjoy, TS

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

More Time On The Water

  Whether working a 9 to 5 day, shift work 2 till 10 or night work, even for the retired among us, with added family commitments and jobs to do around the house such as cutting the grass or decorating the spare room or whatever it may be it can feel as if there is always something getting in the way of simply getting out on the water for a sail. All this is on top of fickle weather and precious time needed to fit out the boat and keep her in sailing trim. To mention a few more I may as well add arranging the lift in or the launch, all repeated for the layup as well. You may avoid this by being on a pontoon or swinging all year round but still may want a lift to anti foul or scrub. And of course we still have to sort out the mooring with a new bit of chain perhaps and keep an eye during the year on wear on the boat while she’s in commission. This could mean new dock lines or halyards to whip and rove or repairs to the trailer or yard trolley maybe. There’s the on-going scrubbing and cleaning of the boat to tend to as well. Filling the water cans and, if you have one, service the engine and getting more fuel - is this in cans or do you need to visit a marina to top up the tank? If your boat demands more than one crew there are those phone calls and emails trying to fit in with oneanother’s calendar.  You might want to fit a new sounder or chart plotter, buy a new self-steering arrangement? Valet the sails, have a UV strip fitted or service the engine. The list of things to do around owning a boat can go on for ever.
  With the above said lets be brutally honest about it and say that for some of us sailing can get a little tiresome at times. All of this effort, and it is effort to get your own cruiser into a seaworthy condition and keep it that way, can seem overwhelming at times. Give the majority of people an easy option or a hard option and I’m quite confident that they will always take the easy route. In sailing that means to avoid the above we become a millionaire and pay someone to do it for us or give it up to escape the tiredness.  If you find that owning a boat is becoming a downward slide on wet seaweed and feel you may fall off the quayside because actually getting more sailing in is a thing of the past, don’t despair as you are not alone. Everyone has down days as well as up. 
  For a start let's remember all the effort that I mentioned earlier does not go unpaid for you know that when the weather, wind and tide do eventually all pull together and you invariably have a great sail that ends with a warm night in a quiet anchorage sipping a favourite tipple all those stresses that came with the preparation seem to fade away into a distant place.

  There is always more we can do to increase the odds of getting us out on the water.  
 A significant phrase that springs to mind is ‘goals move mountains’ as one major factor for successful cruising is to have goals and we'll more likely do what it takes to achieve a goal. Even move a mountain? For the cruising sailor the goal can be as simple as planning a few destinations to aim for during the season and putting a certain number of days aside as ‘sailing days’ and stick them in the diary. Be careful of becoming port bound too as this can creep up on us in various ways. The most obvious is taking a look at the forecast and sea state and convincing yourself that the Force 5 to 6 lifting the spume is far too fierce for your liking so you head back home when in fact it is flat calm in the lee of the seawall and the creek across river where you could be sailing for hours and camping out overnight. The other port bound is slipping into a comfort zone of a mundane routine of cruising the same old handful of passages. Keep pushing the boundaries just a little can keep things challenging and helps keep things fresh. Sail at night, sail for longer periods, sail further, sail when the chop is kicking up. Join another club and meet new friends interested in your kind of sailing. Mooring your cruiser in another area is refreshing and another good way of meeting new people and learning more about how others do things with their boats. If you are long-term paid into an association and have become engulfed in politics get out into the real world. There are many other groups and associations. The barge club at Maldon is just one of them and who have a Thursday gang repairing and maintaining the barges and then sailing in them on weekends.   A couple of sailors I know like to stay afloat on Christmas day. They freeze their bits and came home numb but throughout the year are driven by Christmas to keep the boat in commission and they can say how hardy they are too… I say whatever floats your boat!  The bloke next door may have crossed the Atlantic and it may inspire you but don’t let this concern you too much to the extent that if you can’t do this right here and now then you won’t bother at all. For you the achievement could be in the trip to the end of your local river. It may be to cross that bay or to adventure in the North Sea even. Start with one major trip a month eg - a whole day out on a tide and return on the following tide. Progress to one night, two nights three nights - a week even. Try aiming (not literally) for interesting seamarks, a new river or creek. Here on the East Coast our Thames Estuary rivers and creeks team with maritime history – see some of it... Cruising is an activity that combines well with other interests you may have such as photography, art, fishing, swimming, rambling, naturalist, archaeology, history etc.  

  Cruising objectives such as photographing or painting a certain seascape for example can drive you on for weeks until the shot is in the bag. Places for anchoring can be the focus of a whole day or weekend. By scanning the chart and Ordnance Survey map for new places to anchor before sailing to check them out. I have a whole arm’s length list of anchorages - places I know it is safe to dry in or stay afloat all state of tide in many rivers and areas of coast - so that if you get caught out you always have a place to pull out the bag. Knowing where to anchor will extend your cruising ground trebling or quadrupling possible places to visit. How many waterside towns are there? Some are predominantly fishing ports, others pure yacht stations that have interesting classes of boats that are not seen in numbers elsewhere. How many places are there were you will not see another soul? Visit a new (to you) marina, similar inside wherever you go perhaps but a different journey getting there? If you sail mainly a couple of hours around high water as a surprising number of folk do then make it your purpose to cruise at low water when the place is a different world. Buying a new piece of equipment is another way to inspire you to get afloat as you will want to use it. If you sail big cruisers try a dinghy and dinghy sailors try crewing on someone’s cruiser. If you sail over the soft muds and never run aground for fear of doing so then run aground as it will open up a whole new world to you... For some of us yearning for distant shores a visit to the next creek upstream just may be the tonic for us to realise what we are missing on our own doorstep.  Having a goal means you’ll be more likely to happily tend to the boat with a chirp and whistle and you just may end up spending more time on the water. 

Good sailing, TS

Friday, 13 September 2013

Small Boat Sailors Report

  Thank you to Mike of Swallow for sending in this report of the Small Boat Sailors gathering last weekend.  Before you read it I should apologise for the late notice this year which couldn't be helped. I would also like to thank those that had intended to come the week before, itself short notice, but were cut even more short when I changed the date. I know one of those boats carried out his plans and still made the sail round from the River Crouch and had quite an adventure while here including sliding up against and along Bradwell Creek seawall, from St Lawrence Creek, during the night due to a CQR anchor drag.
  Cruising people are the hardest of folk to nail down to an event being such free spirits and I'm probably more guilty of this than anyone perhaps but there will be a concerted effort to make next years the biggest yet and  in this endeavour I will be setting the date and promoting the event much earlier in the season so that we can all put that day or weekend aside. Even though I get many emails regarding the gathering it is always going to be another matter getting people to attend no matter when a date is fixed, however the 1st year after our initial gathering on Charlie Stocks Ballast Hole mooring  we had three boats, the 2nd year seven boats and this year four boats.  CS will be happy that small boat sailors continue to gather once a year in his memory and as the years pass more and more people will come to know of the Small Boat Sailors Rally. If you can help us by spreading the word or by joining us, I'd rather you done both, that would be great. For next year the idea was put forward of holding a joint rally with the Dinghy Cruising Association - CS was one of the early members - who have held one or two of their own rallies in the creek in the past. I'm open to this in principle but it's to early to speculate on this happening until around March next year when I should know more.

Here's Mike's report:

Small Boat Rally 2013

          The fourth Small Boat Rally took place in Goldhanger Creek on Saturday 7th Sept. 2013. Its timing had been somewhat fraught for various reasons; among them the very late start of decent sailing weather, suitable tides, Creeksailor’s ongoing  adventures and most recently his family holiday. The first date this year had to be cancelled so last week’s event was snatched as a do or die event for this season. Needless to say the hurried fixture caught sailors on the hop and some previous attendees advised of their absence this year. However there were four participants, all be it two being home boats, a Shipmate and a Sailing Canoe, but due to the unpredictable weather it ended up as a rather “tangential” affair, with two of the attendees not meeting each other. With a HW spring at approx. 14.45hrs Creeksailor was aboard early while Shoal Waters was ashore and accessible on foot, accompanied by a well known yachting magazine article contributor. I arrived a little later and met up with Shoal Waters in my dinghy on my way out to Swallow. Old acquaintances were renewed and fifteen minutes of pleasant marine chitchat ensued. It had been blowing a bit during the morning, but while talking with Creeksailor the wind had dropped. So as I pushed-off from Shoal Waters, with kettle whistling and a Fray Bentos can being extracted with pliers from another boiling kettle, no plan for the afternoon had been formulated. In a shouted exchange as I rowed towards Swallow, plans would be agreed via VHF channel 72. 

          While I was getting Swallow ready for sail the wind was up and down, and wanting a leisurely afternoons sailing in company, decided to pull down two reefs for good measure. When first aboard I noticed a Shipmate anchored down river and a dinghy sail in the distance on Joyce’s spit. Creeksailor had mentioned that a Dinghy Cruising Association member was attending, but I was unsure if either of them were “with us”. By the time Swallow was ready to sail, the Shipmate had motored over and moored alongside Shoal Waters. Although I didn’t get to meet her owner, I recognised the boat as it had very recently been converted to gaff rig, following in the footsteps or rather wake of Creeksailor’s old Huffler. The previous Tuesday I just happened into the boatyard nearest Maldon’s Fullbridge to enquire about laying-up and there she was on her trailer. The shipwright had carried out a magnificent conversion and provided her with “spars to die for”, but her hull looked like “work in progress”. The following day she was gone, so I was extremely surprised to see her at Goldhanger so soon after her transformation.

          After VHFing with Creeksailor it was decided to sail for a couple of hours, so I cast off and port tacked over to the Osea shore in very little wind, jybed and headed back in which time sail had been raised and the other two were headed out. We all jollied about for ten minutes or so then I decided to head up river with the flood in virtually no breeze, while the others turned and ran down river. Almost immediately the wind started to puff from the south west and water was coming in over the port coaming, most unexpected. The blue sky was full of white clouds but one in the immediate offing had a dirty grey underside which said wind to me and may be a lot of it. If I was right, the best place would be back on the mooring, so I jybed and all but “flew” back, the wind increasing and going into the south making mooring pick-up more difficult. I was very glad to get the anchor chain looped over the Sampson post. Somewhat out of breath, it had been a very hectic fifteen minutes, I put Swallow to bed and took stock. 
  By now the wind was blowing a good five and Swallow was pitching into a very steep short chop, which was unusual as the tide had turned and the ebb well under way, so the water should have flattened somewhat. Two tanned sails were spied running back from up river, so they must have turned and reached up towards Maldon in the lee of Osea Island while I was getting back onto my mooring. The Shipmate continued running down river from whence he came so we never met, with Shoal Waters crossing to the Goldhanger shore, dropping mainsail and heading for her mooring under jib and staysail. I had also noticed a very small white sail approaching, running before the boisterous conditions and in no time at all, a white splinter of a boat low in the water flashed past, the occupants casually waving as they swooped amongst the waves. They ran into and up Goldhanger Creek, dallied while the windy cloud passed over and in calmer conditions sailed out of the creek and ran back down river towards Joyce’s and disappeared from view. In the mean time Shoal Waters had moored up, but not before raising her mainsail again and displaying her sailing capabilities, including reaching  in clouds of spray before finally picking up her mooring. After ferrying Shoal Waters crew, Creeky Dave, ashore we were joined in the dinghy compound by the intrepid crew of the white splinter, which turned out to be a Solway boat with a rig similar to a Topper rig if I remember correctly. The gentleman and his young daughter belonged to the DCA and had driven quite a distance to launch at Bradwell that morning, “had done the Blackwater” with a copy of Creeksailor's book and were camping overnight behind the seawall at Joyce’s Creek. They’d had an adventurous day too, including losing some belongings during a capsize, and when Dad had time enough to photograph his little girl in the water clinging to their upturned boat. They were both wearing dry-suits but how cool was that; I was starting to feel quite a sissy in comparison. 
  After this introduction, were had to learn more of our new found friends which could only be achieved over a well earned beer, or two. Having put the dinghy away and locking up the compound, we traversed the sea wall in the direction of that well known watering hole the Chequers. It just so happened that the pub was holding a classic car rally and beer festival, so we joined a very animated throng in the beer garden and over pints of Maldon Gold and Adnam’s Ghost Ship, the fourth small boat rally was brought to a happy ending.