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.  

1 comment:

Paul Mullings said...

A beautiful photo...made me quite homesick