That's Scott's front garden with his boat - "Thistledue" and Arctic Smoke parked up!
Work pushed sailing into second place this year but I did have a week and decided to visit my friend Scott and his wife Margaret who moved to their new house on the River Deben a couple of years ago. I had to work on the Monday. The boys signed up for Tuesday to Thursday when we were due to over-night at Scott's and where Sharon was going to join us and return home with the boys on the Friday.
We formed a flotilla on the Tuesday when we met up with Howard (on Latitudes) and Tony on (The Hustler) and headed down river with a fresh westerly behind us at around 1300. The intention had been to make for the Colne but Howard was feeling a bit under the weather so we stopped off at Queenborough for the night.
First stop ashore was the House and Home for drinks:
Next day breakfast on board before heading up the coast to the Colne.
We had good weather and a good breeze and an enjoyable day...
We made the Pyfleet for about 1930, left Arctic Smoke and The Hustler on a buoy and took Latitudes in to Brightlingsea hoping to be able to get ashore for a meal. The tide was low but Latitudes was just able to sneak in thanks to her lifting keel. The bad news was that the water taxi stopped running at 2100. Plan B was therefore a takeaway consumed on Latitudes before we headed back to the Pyfleet to raft up with the other boats.
The next day was Thursday so Artic Smoke had to move to make our date with Scott. An early 0400 departure was required to work the tides and get up to Scott's for HW which is required to get into his garden dock.
As it turned out a change in the wind and tide had the boats grinding into each other at 0330 so I decided to leave then. Vince got up to help me man the boat and we motored down the Colne. We were soon sailing and had a great sail to Woodbridge Haven at the entrance to the Deben where we arrived at LW at 0930.
I had viewed the new video of the ever changing entrance and it said there was 6 foot of water at the lowest at low tide and so decided to press on - passed and anchored yacht waiting for water - and get up the river. When 0 meters showed under the keel on the echo sounder we retreated! I thought perhaps we had drifted out of the deep water and so tried again but with the same result.
Common sense finally kicked in and I rang the Assistant Harbour Master who advised waiting for 2 hours after HW. We dropped anchor and had a rest until 1130 and then carried on.
We got to the Tide Mill at 1330 and rang Scott. He told us where to pick him up so that he could pilot us the last mile or so to his front garden. We moored up there at 1430.
The rain that had threatened on our approach arrived shortly after Sharon did and so the Barbequed dinner was consumed in doors after a tour around Scott's impressive estate. After a delightful evening Sharon and enjoyed a proper bed and the boys slept on the boat. I got up 4 to ensure the boat took to the ground OK - which she did without my help.
After breakfast we all went up to Sutton Hoo and were impressed by museum and grounds.
Then we all returned for lunch before high water. I was keen to move off before the high tide so that if we went aground we would still have an opportunity to get off. Fortunately we were on very high springs so tides so there was more water and time to play with than normal. Sure enough however the first attempt to get AS out was foiled when her rudder grounded on the edge of the cut. After much heaving on we were able to reposition her in the middle of the cut and were able to reverse out on the second attempt. The nail biting was not over yet however because there was still a risk of the fast flowing tide setting the slow moving boat down on the bridge which was only a few meters away. We survived however and AS with Scott on board to pilot us the first mile made off down river.
In the midst of all the excitement I forgot to get off the boat to say good bye to Sharon properly. She later told me that I appeared very anxious during the whole operation!
I dropped Scott off after a mile or so and continued down river. After a while I passed "Try Again" the boat that first got me thinking about the possibility of getting a bigger boat - a process which culminated in the purchase of Arctic Smoke.
We continued down the river and set sail and made for Hamford Water where we arrived around dusk and anchored for the night.
I had decided on a lazy day for Saturday and so slept in. The next morning the breeze freshened and I went off in search of a quieter anchorage in The Walton Channel only to find the lee shore too close for comfort and so I returned to Hamford Water.
The next day Sunday, the wind was even stronger from the SW - force 6-7 was predicted by the inshore waters forecast and a gale in the full shipping forecast for Thames. However, I had to get back for my Mum's 80th Birthday celebrations and so left on the last of the morning's ebb.
An exciting close hauled sail down the coast followed. After a couple of hours we were down to 2 reefs but AS sailed well and easily punched through the steep chop kicked up by the wind over tide. It took me a while to figure out how to get the Aires to work properly in these winds and it was only once I had reduced the boat's weather hem by reducing sail that it was able to steer effectively. I realised later that adjusting the relative position of the chain connecting the steering lines to the tiller would have had a similar if less sensible effect. The fact that Arctic Smoke was sailing comfortably at 6 knots to windward in a force 6-7 indicated that the sail plan was probably just right.
At South West Barrow I decided to make for the Swale rather than the Medway. The latter would have required a beat. I picked up a buoy at 1755.
The next day - Monday I motored up the Swale and Medway and returned to Chatham.