We’d been invited to join in with Maritime Woodbridge this year and set out from the Tidemill Yacht Harbour an hour before high water on Friday to motor round to the Town Quay. After running aground twice, and concerned about the fast approaching high water, we returned to our berth in the marina.
On Saturday, we tried again. It looked like there would be more water in Bass’s Dock and we approached slowly, running aground again alongside the Dutch barge ‘Inez’, but there was plenty of time before high water, so we waited. As the tide came up, we gradually warped our way into the dock stern to with several helping hands joining ‘Flooka’ and three Albert Strange yachts ‘Mist’, ‘Galatea’ and ‘Nirvana of Arklow’.
There were plenty of visitors braving our gang plank to come aboard, with lots of admiring comments for ‘Cachalot’. The event was held in the newly redeveloped Whisstocks Centre and seemed to be very successful with plenty going on.
As the end of August approaches, the weather changes to a more typical summer of chilly evenings and rain, so we decide to make a temporary boom cover from the emergency winter cover supplied by Suffolk Sails in February. Half of it will be plenty, so it’s laid out during a dry spell and Bev tries out the grommet punch. After two hammered fingers (and only two grommets inserted) she reluctantly agrees to give up, and Steve finishes the job.
We’ve been timing the bilge pump activity and it’s running at over 30 hours consistently now, depending on whether it rains, which is very encouraging. The solar panel isn’t coping as well with recharging the batteries though. We’re using 12v lights now and there’s more cloud cover . . . so we switch to 240v battery charging for a couple of days . . . this seems to provide enough power to revert to the solar panel when we leave on Saturday for a few days back in Derbyshire.
While Bev takes a day trip to London by train to visit the James Cook exhibition at the British Library, Steve re-sites the running backstay deck fixing points. By Wednesday the weather improves enough for more varnishing, so we decide to stay a couple more days. We bump into John & Catherine at Larkmans and invite them to join us for supper on Friday. There really is a great community along the river and we certainly feel ‘at home’ here. Before leaving on Saturday, we do some more tidying of the site where the tent was, which has to be cleared by the end of September, timing our departure to avoid most of the holiday traffic and making it home in daylight.
It’s neaps and there’s only about 30 minutes to get over the Tidemill YH bar this weekend. Although first and second high water are in daylight we decide not to go out (and risk not getting back in). With no rain forecast, hardly any wind and still long days, Steve decides it’s time to do some varnishing. He spends all day Sunday cleaning up the capping rail and bulwarks getting two coats on by the end of Monday. Despite the forecast, as we enjoy late evening supper there’s the gentle patter of raindrops. It’s only a short, light shower, but enough to ‘dull’ the shine.
Steve reserved a lovely piece of teak (salvaged from an old wardrobe a couple of years ago) for the chart table. After cutting to size we spend time checking out how best to design this area to accommodate storage for charts and books, the switch panels, VHF radio etc. We count how many switches we’ll need, and it’s more than the old 8-gang panel, so another item on the ‘research’ list of those more expensive items, along with the fridge options which we’ve been thinking about for a long time having discovered that a small one can cost as much as a huge domestic fridge freezer, and then there’s the issues of keeping it charged without draining the batteries . . .
From chart tables to plumbing . . . We decided a long time ago to have a water tank, rather than water carriers. Installing the foot pump and faucet came to the top of the ‘to do’ list – after several discussions and trial runs about where to site them, or even to abandon the plan altogether!
After connecting the foot pump and experimenting with the faucet, Steve came up with the ingenious idea to secure it to the bulkhead where it’s at the right height and can be twisted out of the way when not needed. After a bit of testing for water levels, the pump works perfectly to fill the kettle and washing up bowls. We’re not having a sink with plug hole, preferring the ‘bucket and chuck-it’ option. We’re not re-installing the heads either to keep the number of ‘through the hull’ holes to a minimum.
What was wrong with the engine when we went out in the river?
On closer inspection, it looks like the exhaust pipe is restricting the drive lever. There isn’t really much space and Steve decides to cut a notch in the metal frame the engine rests on. Like much of the boat, it’s over-engineered, so, with lots of sparks and noise he cuts it away making space for the pipes and good clearance for the drive lever.
It will need another test out in the river, but experiments driving forward and back in the berth put our minds at rest it’s neither the engine itself nor gearbox that is the problem.
After a great week cruising with the gaffers, spending the last two nights in Ipswich, the passage back to the Deben aboard ‘Kestrel’ was cancelled due to severe weather warnings. James spent the night at Pin Mill and we returned to Woodbridge by car, tidied up the boat and drove back to Derbyshire late Sunday afternoon. After a week at home we return to Suffolk for the Tidemill annual barbecue on 11 August. Jim joins us for the evening and enjoys an afternoon on the river with Steve, sailing ‘Cachalette’ right back to her berth astern of ‘Cachalot’.
We’ve been checking the tides carefully this week as it’s Springs allowing us just over three hours to go out and back over the Tidemill YH bar during the daytime. The weather looks to be set fair too for a short trip out in the river to pick up a buoy and hoist the sails. It would be good to have another pair of hands and by chance, Leigh pops round to say he may be around to help after collecting his boat from the Orwell. So, today’s the day we go out in the river (with sails) for the first time!
The decks are cleared and everything stowed neatly in the cabin, sails are made ready, fenders cleaned of all the slimy sea squirts that have clung to them and off we go as the mark on the bar just covers 1.5m at 1400. Gently does it, but what’s happened to the engine? It’s making a horrible noise and Bev is keen to return to the marina. However, Leigh and Steve listen, take a careful look and decide it’s OK to continue with our project down river . . . we motor down past Loders Cut and pick up a buoy. We play for a while with the mainsail then motorsail back with the staysail.
We need to make sure to get back over the bar by just after 1700. Bev takes the helm on the return trip and motors upriver, over the bar and into the marina, doing well until the last turn into the berth, when a sudden gust of wind knocks her completely off course . . . thankyou, Leigh and ‘Mrs Brown’ (Richard and Eileen) for helping to get us safely back into the berth with damage to nothing but Bev’s confidence. Once the engine’s fixed, we need to practise tight manoeuvres under power.
After a few days in Derbyshire, we’re back in Suffolk for the OGA Summer Cruise. After a passage race on Friday, 20 July and the East Coast Race on the River Blackwater the following day, the week’s cruise ends with a parade of sail up the River Orwell today. ‘Cachalot’ isn’t ready to take part, so Bev crews with James on ‘Kestrel’.
While Bev’s out sailing, Steve gets on with fitting out with evening trips to various locations to join the Gaffers by car. The work is made harder by the blistering heat and lack of shade, but he manages to to get a lot done including installing the VHF radio and navigation lights, setting up the Wykeham Martin jib furling gear, bobstay, bowsprit shrouds and anchor (without the newly-acquired winch, for now).
He spends an enjoyable couple of days with Steve, from Ratsey’s, who’s visiting the Tidemill YH on holiday from the Isle of Wight and also repairs another area of winter damage where the new capping rail has split. All these ‘little jobs’ take time, and it’s sometimes hard to see progress, despite ticking them off the list!
Having collected the sails in their smart red Ratsey & Lapthorn bags, we wait for a windless day to have a good look at them . . . hoping we’ll be able to bend on the mainsail whilst she’s still in her berth. Despite a short ‘blow’ at just the wrong moment, the sail is laced to the gaff and mast then flaked successfully without any mishaps.
Bev has repaired the very old mainsail bag found on the boat when we bought her. It will have to do for now – but a new one is on the list of ‘nice to haves’ for the future . . . more pressing is to measure up for ‘lazy jacks’. With the size of the loose-footed mainsail, they’re pretty essential!
We leave the other sails for now, as there’s a bit more work to be done on the bowsprit before setting the jib and we’re heading back to Derbyshire for a long weekend.
After just over a week at home, catching up with life in Derbyshire, jobs around the house and getting the OGA Gaffers Log to press, we return to Suffolk with the promise that the sails will have been brought to Suffolk Yacht Harbour for our collection on Monday.
As she seems to be taking up, Bev is tasked with cleaning the bilge and we drain it completely, fingers crossed she’s settling down now!
We’ve been doing lots of research into all the other ‘bits and pieces’ we’ll need, so combine the trip to collect the sails with quite an expensive visit to the chandlery, funded in part by Bev’s first State Pension payment! A special purchase, along with the essentials like the radio and water pump is a fine new clock with matching barometer. We also call at Larkmans to order cordage for halyards and sheets . . . lots of it!
Having been a bit neglected for a couple of years, ‘Cachalette’ has been on the front patio this Spring and is looking good as new! With help from Toby, Hugo and Joe, she was ‘launched’ over the wall and onto the road, then towed down to Woodbridge at the beginning of June.
She’s now in the Marina . . . and Steve tries out the outboard, but decides it’s much too heavy! When the wind and tide are right, ‘Cachalette’ is certainly a distraction from jobs still to do on ‘Cachalot’.