Keep an eye on this page for details of this year's cruising activities:
Irene, Windrush and Shadowfax left the Ore an hour after low water on Saturday at about 0800hrs and had a comfortable sail with the south going flood tide to Woodbridge Haven buoy averaging a speed of 5.6 kts.
Windrush and Irene following Shadowfax out of the river in perfact conditions.
As we passed the buoy and continued our passage we could see ahead a menacing darkening of the sky over the Essex coast which soon turned into a downpour of biblical proportions. The fleet dispersed! Slowly the downpour eased and the sun shone again. By this time Shadowfax was across the deep water channel and heading for Pye End Buoy but there was no sign of the others. Once in Hamford Water the fleet came together again. Irene anchored up and the other two rafted alongside. Woodwind appeared and came alongside and provided us all with an excellent brunch. But the wind came back and Irene's anchor started to drag to the north toward Pewit Island. It was time to make a hasty exit!
Paul and Irene stayed on in Kirby Creek and met up with Galatea 3 and Osprey; the others had a fast genoa sail to Shotley Marina and locked-in in time for tea and later enjoyed a pleasant evening in the Shipwreck.
Rafted up and drying out in Hamford water.
Shadowfax left early the next morning so as to make arrival at the Orford Haven bar to take the last of the flood up river. A combination of light winds and a flood tide on the nose meant motor sailing all the way.
When just south of the deep water channel, Shadowfax encountered the container ship MSC Jade off Languard Point, at the point that a tug was assisting her to negotiate her turn to starboard towards Felixstowe docks.
This massive ship carries nearly ten thousand forty foot containers.
One of Svitzer's tugs pulling MSC Jade's sternround off Deane Buoy.
Windrush and Woodwind locked-out during the morning, met up with Irene at Inner Ridge buoy off Landguard Point and together sailed up to the Deben to pick up buoys at Ramsholt. After a jolly evening ashore at the pub, they were safely back on board before another downpour struck accompanied by thunder and lightning. The next day the fleet slipped their moorings at 1000hrs in brilliant sunshine and proceeded to sea on the early flood tide for the voyage north which in the words of one was "grim" due to the foul tide and a northerly force 5 wind.
It was an enjoyable and successful first cruise for the year.
The welcome sight of two old friends at the end of the cruise
Two club yachts, Irene and Shadowfax, took part in the summer cruise to the Essex Rivers. Irene got away on Sunday 18 June from Orford and was blessed with fair winds and tides all the way to Pyefleet Creek by Brightlingsea, our first planned stopover. Shadowfax followed on Monday from Slaughden going over the Orford Haven Bar at midday at dead low water neaps in calm conditions. With very little wind and a Commodore to catch up with, the motor was pressed into action all the way down the Medusa Channel and the Wallet. As happens, as soon as she turned north up the Colne channel a good wind sprung up from the east and full plain sail was hoisted and the noisy thing shut down for a blessed 40 minutes. At last Shadowfax anchored just ahead of Irene in good time for celebrations of joy and thanksgiving. The Commodore, acting as cruise ferryman, collected the skipper and a sumptuous meal of fish and pudding and a fine wine was enjoyed aboard Irene. Complaining of irksome administrative duties, Shadowfax's skipper left the Commodore to the washing up and peace and quiet.
Shadowfax at anchor in Pyefleet Creek
The next day at 1000hrs anchors were raised and the two ships departed to sail up the Blackwater to Osea Island for lunch then back to Bradwell for the night. Despite the easterly wind, with a foul tide against us progress was slow. A new plan was agreed by phone and destination Osea Island was abandoned. Lunch was taken with Irene anchoring off Pewet Island by Bradwell and Shadowfax hove to. Eventually pratique was granted and both yachts entered Bradwell Marina, the Commodore first to check that the natives were friendly which they were. Evening refreshments and sustenance were taken in the Green Man.
On Wednesday the Commodore declared we should go to West Mersea for lunch and then on to the Crouch in the afternoon and so we did. After a nice genoa sail to WM in a ESE force 4/5 and a flood tide, we were allocated buoys by a very accommodating harbour master who picked us up in his launch. First we called at the West Mersea YC for coffee and were well received, with lots of encouragement that we should sail on to Heybridge Basin where new facilities had been installed but the Commodore was set on the Crouch. Then it was to the Company Shed for an early and delicious fish lunch for which the Commodore had thoughtfully brought a cool elegant white wine and back on board for a quick departure. We slipped as soon as possible and beat down to the Swin Spitway and then right hand down to sail goose-winged up the Swallowtail Channel in a failing wind although by now the flood was running. By now the Commodore, who had been late to leave WM, was catching up by the old ruse of using his engine and we sailed in company into the Crouch and then the Roach, for we were headed for Yokesfleet Creek where we anchored just south of Potton Point in 3 metres just after 2000hrs. This is a very attractive and quiet anchorage not unlike Butley Creek. The Commodore was piped aboard Shadowfax for a dinner of dressed up Tesco tinned chilli. Unfortunately the cheese had been left on the counter at home! The day ended calm and peaceful with the Commodore thoughtfully rowing back to Irene to spare us the racket of a Honda outboard
By Thursday morning the glass had fallen 4 millibars and the day promised strong westerly winds, scudding clouds and rain so we upped and legged it to Burnham yacht harbour genoas bellying in the wind to leave the Roach. But not so in the Crouch, where we had to motor against wind and tide. This time the Commodore was well ahead and entered first so he could take the lines of Shadowfax. However Shadowfax's skipper was smugly showing off his patent midship spring-line designed to bring the vessel to a halt at just the correct place when, not realising the berth fingers were ultra-short, the pontoon did it anyway! A fine meal was had at an excellent Italian restaurant in an otherwise rather quiet town.
On Friday HW was to be 1220hrs at Burnham which was perfect for crossing the Buxey Sands using the Ray Sand Channel and taking the short cut back to Pyefleet. With a brisk westerly force 5 to 6 we motor-sailed against the incoming tide out to the yellow Raysand Buoy and then steered due north across the sands. Once across we shaped a more easterly course to clear the Bachelor Spit and the Knoll. Making the Colne Channel in the strong ebb and westerly wind was a challenging sail and eventually both yachts anchored once again close to each other in the Pyefleet late afternoon in 2.5m water depth. A quiet evening was had by all as the Commodore was off very early to make the tide at Orford Haven.
The yellow Raysand Buoy on the left and crossing the sands to the right
The yellow Raysand Buoy on the left and crossing the sands to the right westerly wind was a challenging sail and eventually both yachts anchored once again close to each other in the Pyefleet late afternoon in 2.5m water depth. A quiet evening was had by all as the Commodore was off very early to make the tide at Orford Haven.
Irene back at anchor in Pyefleet Creek
The plan for Shadowfax to leave mid-morning was put on hold because of a very strong wind over flood tide effect which found the anchor warp tight under the hull. Waiting for slack water the skipper was able to watch the preparations for the annual Colne smack and barge race as many of the craft moor in the Pyefleet. By 1300hrs it was possible to get the anchor up by which time the wind had piped up to SW 6/7. After a rough exit past Stone Point a lively sail under genoa was had back up the Wallet and on to the Orford Haven buoy arriving at 1815hrs just before low water. With tides being springs, a rough SSW sea running and the need for a cup of tea Shadowfax hove to for a period enjoying watching the antics of a lone kite surfer at Shingle Street. The river was entered an hour and a half later where peace, quiet and salvation were gained. Irene had returned to her mooring at Orford but Shadowfax delayed her return with a peaceful night in Butley Creek. She returned to her mooring at Slaughden the next day with a genoa sail following in the wake of Weatherbird which had also anchored in the creek the previous night. Passing through Orford another club yacht, Woodwind, was spotted and hailed and found to be preparing to head out into strong winds to enjoy the delights of Ipswich.
It had been an excellent and enjoyable cruise. Shadowfax logged 140 miles and a maximum speed of 8.7kts which was during the Wallet passage coming home. The down side was 23.5 hours of engine time.
On Saturday ten club yachts met at Wrabness for a barbecue on the beach. Curlew sailed from the Neptune Yard at Ipswich at 1000hrs, motor sailed down the Orwell against the flood and then sailed the tide up to Wrabness before the wind failed. Avocet left her moorings on the Alde and crossed the Orford Bar at 1300hrs on Friday sailing down to Suffolk Yacht Harbour and a meeting at the Haven Ports Yacht Club. The next day a short sail brought her to Wrabness to spy out the land. Horatio, Irene, Catspaw, Moonshine and Shadowfax crossed the Orford Haven bar on Saturday between 0845 and 1000. Horatio chose the direct route and motor sailed to the Deben Haven Buoy then was able to sail unassisted from there. The others chose a tack out into the briny to go east of the Cutler Bank taking the risk of crossing the 10 metre line. In a better than forecast breeze of SSE 2/3 a course of 150 was set and with the tide under our quarter 165 was made good. Moonshine had managed a quick scrub the night before at Dove Point and together with the clever use of her engine was able to get ahead of the fleet. When sufficient lead had been built up she tacked to starboard and stopped her engine and sailed serenely on to Harwich, meeting up with Curlew off Shotley to sail in triumph to take possession of Wrabness beach in the name of the Commodore. Word had already arrived on Shadowfax's bridge from Irene that Avocet reported plenty of available moorings and a clear beach. The detailed and carefully worked out plan was falling into place!
Of the three laggards Irene was soon showing us a clean pair of keels (well one at any rate). Shadowfax was temporarily hampered by a broken Autohelm meaning coffee making and can opening were difficult until a replacement was constructed out of rope. Shadowfax tacked to starboard at 1123 and with a slightly better wind was at the Landguard Buoy an hour and a half later closely following Catspaw. All had a pleasant sail in failing wind to just short of Wrabness taking the last half a mile to the moorings by motor. By this time Galatea and a full crew had also arrived which only left Windrush and Osprey to arrive which they did around 1600hrs. All yachts were able to pick up a vacant mooring.
With HW at about 1600hrs, plenty of dinghy journeys assembled the beach party which then lit a mass of disposable barbecues with varying degrees of success. Smoke signals were seen from far away but were unintelligible to the natives. Plenty of good bangers, veggie burgers, garlic bread, shish kebabs of vegetables, corn on the cob and other delights were cooked. I think all agreed it was a jolly occasion. By the time the party broke up low water was beckoning and the infamous glutinous Stour mud was visible to all. Plenty of assistance was given to get the various dinghies afloat and unstuck. With the shortest journey to make, Windrush and Osprey motored away in company into the gathering gloom to make the journey back to Suffolk Yacht Harbour.
The next morning with a fine day beckoning, but no wind, Catspaw, Shadowfax and Horatio (and Barney) left early; Horatio bound for the Deben and Ramsholt and the other two motoring to the Ore River entrance which they entered just after 1100 in sunshine and flat calm. Just after we entered a nice breeze from the north east sprang up and Catspaw was able to have an enjoyable gentle sail up to her Slaughden mooring. Irene and Curlew also sailed for Ramsholt with Moonshine leaving a little later after shaking off the cobwebs. The three met up at Felixstowe Ferry for brunch ashore in the café. Galatea also sailed for the Deben and all the crews met up for a jolly pub meal at Ramsholt joined by the brothers Freese and Di from Weatherbird by car. The next morning the wreckage dispersed and had enjoyable sails back to their home ports.
Left: Catspaw making back up river at the end of the cruise.
Right: Irene making for the entrance at the start of the cruise.
As one crew member noted it was "4 days of sunshine and lots of laughs". It was an enjoyable cruise for all.