After a couple of seasons restricted by Covid, it’s been nice to start to get back to something approaching normality.
The moorings were all brought ashore this winter for their triennial inspection and maintenance and after this was completed, they were put back in the river and cruisers launched. The first cruise in company was a short shakedown trip to Brightlingsea in mid-June attended by Chiron, Daydream Believer, Sea Nymph and Warrior.
For the second cruise in company we stretched our legs and went a bit further to Shotley Marina. The crews of Celebration, Daydream Believer, Sea Nymph and Warrior and guest boat Trio were so excited about the prospect of sailing beyond the bounds of Essex that they sneaked off on the Friday. Unfortunately, their eagerness to sail wasn’t matched by the wind and they had to motor up the coast. Celebration and Trio decided to break the journey by anchoring off Walton Pier for lunch, allowing Sam on Daydream Believer to be first to arrive in Shotley (we do keep telling Sam it’s not a race!). After a pleasant lunch Celebration and Trio continued to motor up to Shotley, where one crew discovered that their lock entry skills had become a bit rusty (I won’t mention names, but it wasn’t Neil and Carina on Celebration). Sea Nymph and Warrior spent Friday night in the Walton Backwaters, before sailing the short distance to Shotley on Saturday.
Having spent Friday working to help keep the UK economy going, Chiron’s crew were met by perfect wind on Saturday morning for a nice fetch up the Wallet under genoa, having failed three times to get her new mainsail hoisted.
Shotley was proving to be a popular destination and while Chiron waited patiently for the queue of boats ahead of her, she was greeted by the waving crews of Celebration and Trio coming back on the ferry from Harwich having had another enjoyable lunch. Fortunately, Chiron made it through the lock without incident.
Well not entirely (- I was watching with my camera–Webmaster)
But better than some:-
However, on arrival at her berth, one of the other boats’ crew took great pleasure in pointing out that the main halyard had been threaded the wrong way and was caught round one of the lazy jacks. It was then decided by everyone, except those onboard Chiron, that she should be manhandled round to face head to wind so that the halyard could be re threaded and the new mainsail hoisted for the first time. A few blushes for those onboard Chiron, but no harm done (and in our defence we’d been awake since 4am when the tide turned and the waves started slapping noisily under the transom, sending shudders through the boat…)
Saturday’s evening meal was washed down by beer and wine at the Bristol Arms, a short walk from the marina.
After a restful night’s sleep, we woke up on Sunday morning to find that the wind had swung round to the South and with 15 to 18 knots of breeze everyone enjoyed an almost perfect sail back down the wallet. To make it even more special we were joined by a number of Thames Barges sailing back from their regatta on the Orwell.
Cadets v Cruisers
I’m not going to mention who (although it might have been S*m L*ngley) made the suggestion that rather than have the cadets “just muck about in little dinghies”, they should be given the opportunity to have a weekend sailing on “proper boats”. Dave Boosey took soundings amongst the cadets and their parents and confirmed that there was definitely an appetite for a weekend away with the cruisers. Sam’s bluff and that of the other cruisers had well and truly been called!
Plans were quickly made for a trip over to Brightlingsea on the weekend of 16th/17th July, which by happy coincidence would be Brightlingsea’s regatta weekend. Dave Boosey matched crews to boats and skippers, with some meeting for the first time as they stepped onboard less than an hour before setting sail…
The weather on Saturday morning was perfect for introducing newcomers to cruiser sailing, with glorious sunshine and a light breeze gradually filling in for one long tack from Bradwell to the entrance to the Colne. Matt Gooch kindly volunteered to bring crews and their luggage out to the boats on a club RIB. After stowing everything away (Chiron’s crew appeared to have packed for a two-week camping holiday, rather than a weekend away sailing), Chiron, Peau Rouge and Warrior cast off from the Stone moorings at around 11.30am, with the intention of meeting the Bradwell based boats near the baffles an hour later. Meanwhile the crews for the Bradwell based boats had started to arrive…
On board Chiron we decided to motor up to the Thirslet buoy and then put the sails up for some sailing practice while waiting for Kulina and Daydream Believer to leave Bradwell (I think John and Freya on Janie had already left, such was their eagerness). Six year old Cain took Chiron’s helm and despite the wheel being significantly larger than he was tall and not being able to see over the top of the pedestal, he quickly got the hang of things. However, as he couldn’t see anything beyond the front of the cockpit we did have to keep telling him which way to steer! Cain seemed to enjoy himself and only relinquished the helm after all the blood had drained from his arms as held them above his head to reach the wheel.
Kulina was duly sighted leaving Bradwell Creak as we approached the baffles. However, a radio call from Sam on Daydream Believer advised that he and his crew had decided to have lunch first and would be leaving later. We called Sam back and assured him that we had absolutely no intention of waiting for him and would set sail for Brightlingsea!
On board Chiron we shared helming duties as we undertook the serious business of catching up and overhauling Peau Rouge and Warrior. Obviously, it wasn’t a race, but line honours were still important!
On arrival at Brightlingsea we were greeted by the Harbour Master, who guided us to the pontoon where we would be mooring up for the night. As the harbour was very busy due to the Regatta, we were advised that the six boats in the Stone group would have to raft up together in two rows of three boats.
The cadets all seemed to have great fun walking across from boat to boat. The crew of Janie deployed a net and were very successful in catching a number of crabs, which Freya took great delight in scaring the younger cadets with!
One can only assume that Sam was demonstrating the virtues of the Ridge Monkey (other cooking utensils are available) and treating his crew to a five course taster menu, as it seemed like hours before Daydream Believer finally arrived, despite the upwind sailing skills of his five year old helm.
The time spent waiting for Daydream Believer was put to good use with everyone taking the opportunity to get to know each other (and for the adults to have a drink or two). Once Daydream Believer was safely moored up, we called up the water taxi and requested to be taken ashore so that we could explore Brightlingsea. I’m not sure how much exploring was actually done as by the time I arrived ashore, nearly everyone had regrouped on the Colne Yacht Club balcony…
After a couple of drinks, we decided that fish and chips would be a good idea and Pete volunteered to write down the orders for each boat and then call up the fish and chip shop to put the orders through. However, for some reason (possibly related to Gin) and much to the confusion of the chip shop staff and amusement of those present he proceeded to read out every line of each order individually instead of grouping them together. By the time that Pete had read out cod and chips five times (instead of just saying “five cod and chips please”) everyone was in fits of laughter and we were concerned that the chip shop was going to think it a prank call and not a genuine order for twenty hungry sailors! Fortunately, the chip shop did take the order seriously and called back twenty minutes later to say that our fish and chips were ready to collect. We then wandered over to the fish and chip shop, collected our orders and returned to the Colne Yacht Club to sit under the shelter of the balcony to eat, whilst having a great view of the harbour.
Some of the cadets (I won’t name and shame) decided it would be a good idea to take the opportunity of low tide to fully explore the Essex mud and managed to bring quite a lot of it back with them.
After hosing the cadets down and with stomachs full we walked down the pontoon to get the water taxi back to the boats in time for the firework display. The decks of the boats gave a prime viewing location for the fireworks, which were lit on Point Clear on the opposite bank of Brightlingsea Creak.
With everyone exhausted after the day’s activities, we settled down for the night.
On Sunday morning we woke up to glorious sunshine and a perfect breeze for the sail back. Some of the boats cooked on board (unfortunately I don’t have a photo of the square pancakes produced by Sam’s Ridge Monkey), whilst others took the water taxi ashore to buy a breakfast baguette from the café at Batemans Tower and admire the view out of the river. This also gave an opportunity for the cadets to play on Brightlingsea Beach.
Peau Rouge and Warrior took advantage of their shallower draught and sneaked off early, with Warrior gaining line honours on the return to Stone. I’m not sure whether it was to teach or practice new skills (or for some other reason?!), but Peau Rouge impressed us all by sailing on to her mooring without using her engine (although she did need a couple of attempts).
The other boats left Brightlingsea at lunchtime and with the tide under us made a swift passage home.
I hope everyone enjoyed the weekend as much as I did, and the cadets and their parents enjoyed their first experience of a Stone Sailing Club cruise in company.
Ramsgate & further
The next planned cruise in company is to Ramsgate, leaving on Friday 5th August and returning on Sunday 7th..
This year’s longer cruise in company will be to the Dutch Canals, leaving on Sunday 21st August and returning on Sunday 4th September.
We will be starting by sailing to Ostend then carrying on to enter the canals at Vlissengen
Please let me know if you’d like to join ether of the above. I’ll also have a look through Reeds Almanac and see what other trips we can squeeze in.
Cruiser Class captain