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.


JohnB said...

Did Mike by any chance get the name of the gaff Shipmate? I'd like to forward that part of his report to the Shipmate Owner's association, please.

John Button

Creeksailor said...

Yes we did get names that are intentionally not put on the net. Feel free to forward the information to SOA. Regards

Keith W said...

This Shipmate Assoc. member has already read it! A great report from Mike,the Shrimper,(not got a Shipmate yet?)big winds near Osea can soon change the mood, eh?
I have certainly made the SOA aware of this Creeksailor website.
Good salty reading.