We’d promised ourselves a trip to Scotland, once the midge season was over, and drove up in the van at the beginning of September. The midges were still out in force, but that didn’t stop us enjoying ourselves on the first serious ‘trip’ since the pandemic started 18months ago! With stuff to do back in Derbyshire, and somewhat inclement weather, we didn’t get down to Suffolk again until a few days to celebrate Bev’s birthday and our 10th wedding anniversary at the beginning of October. Another few days at the end of October, without too much wind, meant we could lay ‘Cachalot’ up for winter.
Apart from the laying up, we managed one last paddle in beautiful autumn sunshine on a calm, but very chilly day. Steve also spent time fitting all the new galley cabinets, a drop-leaf table and door for the cupboard beside the stove . . .
We take ‘Cachalette’ up to Robertsons where she’ll be permanently stored on her trolley with use of the slip for launch and recovery. Baz makes her a smart new fitted cover ready for the winter.
After a couple of trips up to Honolulu Beach we venture further upriver, under Wilford Bridge, in the kayaks. Claudia has kindly lent Bev a paddle until she manages to purchase one, and joined us for an enjoyable afternoon paddling as far as the water allowed us.
On Monday 23 August we plan to depart around 1230 for a few days in the river . . . but at 0930 an ambulance arrives looking for Bill’s wife Sally on ‘Cloud Nine’. It’s all very distressing as a second ambulance arrives but by 1230 we ask ourselves why we’re staying. There’s nothing we can do to help so, just after HW at 1415 we set off taking the ebb through Methersgate and Waldringfield with the staysail. As we pass the Rocks we notice a young lad racing around in a rib. Suddenly, it stops mid-river and he’s yelling for help. We turn quickly and motor back, a man arrives in a motor launch and tows him back to the Rocks – we can only assume he’s the somewhat irresponsible Dad.
We sail on down to Ramsholt, Billy’s Buoy is taken and George directs us to another quite a way downriver. The tide’s running very strongly as we pick up the buoy at 1615. Steve cooks a fine supper and Bev enjoys a full body and hairwash on deck as the sun goes down. All clean for the first time in a couple of weeks!! It’s quite windy and gusty later, chilly too, but a lovely full moon, cosy in the cabin with plenty of warm clothes.
After some persuasion from Steve, as it’s windier than forecast, we sail off the buoy on Tuesday 24 August with just the staysail against a strong tide in f.4-5. Sunny with some cloud we enjoy sailing back through Ramsholt and then down to Felixstowe Ferry. We were given a buoy mid-channel and managed to pick it up first time at 1510. Spent an hour ashore using Conor’s water taxi (£5 return and £10 for the mooring to John) but no fish and chips! They all closed at 3pm!! Pub was shut too on Tuesdays so had to settle for an ice cream and supper on board.
Wednesday we sailed back upriver to meet Lou and Maggie at Ramsholt, picking up a buoy opposite the pub at 1300.
Lovely lazy afternoon, sunny and calm. Having missed f&c last night, we motor ashore in the dinghy and have a great welcome for supper on the terrace. Met ‘Silver Phoenix’ from the Tidemill then back for drinks aboard ‘Cricket III’ with Lou and Maggie . . . strictly boots off before boarding as we were VERY muddy, motored back to ‘Cachalot’ as dusk falls 2030. Left our decks and dinghy seriously muddy for a morning clean up!
Thursday morning was very windy, and there’s not enough water over the cill until 1330 at the Tidemill. We bring in the bowsprit, stow the staysail and dinghy but leave cleaning up the mud until we’re in the marina. Set out for a rather lumpy motor back up to the marina in company with Lou and Maggie.
We decide it’s time to find a better place to keep the ‘little boat’ and check out prices and options at Eversons (Woodbridge Boatyard) and Robertsons Boatyard. We decide on Robertsons and, as we’re walking along the path Steve notices an inviting ‘for sale’ sign pinned to a long red kayak. That would be a good idea, wouldn’t it?
Sunday 15 August finds us on Robertsons slip with Neil, who is selling the 16’ kayak. Steve takes it for a trial and decides to have it – but what about Bev? No worries, Neil has a smaller one in his garden and, on trying it out we make an offer for them both. We spend the next couple of weeks exploring the river up and down stream from the Boatyard.
Now she has a permanent ‘home’ we also decide to invest in a proper, custom-made cover for ‘Cachalette’ and ask Baz to measure up to make us one. Watch this space for some pictures, but no, she still doesn’t have her new rig, just the spars!
We returned to Woodbridge on 11 August, hoping to take part in Eversons’ ‘Dinghies on the Deben’ event. Having towed ‘Cachalette’ down, and launched her from Woodbridge Boatyard slip, Bev decided it was too windy so Steve set off on his own. He was forced to give up when a cleat snapped but managed to sail back to the Tidemill unscathed. The weather didn’t really improve . . . but there are important plans for the galley this trip.
Steve’s been thinking about galley storage for a couple of years and there’s been various temporary arrangements. The wood is purchased, templates made and it will be done by the end of the summer! The design includes an ingenious removable box behind the Taylors stove and eventually there will be a device to stop anything slipping down into the bilge!
It was disappointing not to stay with the OGA fleet for the rest of the Summer Cruise, but we enjoyed our week back in the Tidemill, even though it was somewhat wild and windy. Having left the Deben on Monday, the OGA boats were also stormbound in Walton Backwaters . . . so we didn’t regret our decision to leave early.
The stormy forecast was certainly accurate, and didn’t really abate all week. It’s very much ‘home from home’ at the Tidemill though, with plenty of socialising, relaxing and getting on with some jobs on the boat. We drove down to Ipswich on Saturday 31 July to join the final pontoon party for the OGA cruise before returning to Derbyshire on 3 August, hoping for better weather later in the summer.
At last, we’re ready to join the East Coast Gaffers Summer Cruise. The boat’s fitted out, had a ‘shake down’ sail and we have crew, but the weather looks less than promising! Simon and Ricarda arrive to depart the Tidemill at noon, Friday 23 July.
We motor down to Waldringfield to pick up buoy no. 221, next to ‘Kestrel’ who we’ll sail in company with tomorrow. Sadly, our other crew member, Leigh, is ill and won’t be able to join us. Sitting on the buoy, the river’s flowing quite strongly but Steve, Simon and Ricarda decide to go ashore in the rubber dinghy.
It’s a challenging paddle, somewhat low in the water, across the tide to creep up the shore for a landing by the beach huts. They return after a bracing walk for a windy, overcast and rather chilly evening aboard.
On Saturday 24 July the forecast is for gusts force 5. We depart Waldringfield 0945 in company, both ‘Kestrel’ and ‘Cachalot’ under sail with reefed main in a light breeze, 3-4. As we approached Felixstowe Ferry the wind was increasing. James decided it was time for ‘plan C’, to drop all sails. Steve did the same and as we set out to cross the bar it was gusting 6-7 and certainly very bumpy! Staying close to the shingle shore and watching the depth, it seemed to take a long time before we could see the buoyed channel. There was a large container boat on the horizon. Bev watched the tilt to and fro of Cachalot’s cross-trees in the swell as we approached the shipping channel. Waiting in the aptly named Rolling Ground, we watched as the ship with pilot and two tugs slowed and two additional tugs came out.
It remained very choppy and lumpy as we finally crossed the shipping channel and looked out for Pye End Buoy at the start of buoyed channel to Stone Point.
Motor-sailing with staysail we caught the last of the flood into Walton Backwaters arriving at 1300 to anchor with ‘Charm’ and ‘Transcur’.
Steve put the outboard onto the dinghy and took Simon and Ricarda ashore while Bev cooked supper for everyone, filling our new cooking pot with kedgeree to eat on the beach. Simon returned to ferry Bev (and the supper) ashore.
There was a good turnout of gaffers by the evening: ‘Cachalot’, ‘Transcur’, ‘Charm’, ‘Witch’, ‘Plum’, ‘East Breeze’, ‘My Quest’, ‘Philomena’, ‘Kestrel’, ‘Rely’, ‘Crescent Moon’, Sue and Howard’s new Bermudan ketch ‘Souvenir’ and Mike’s motorboat ‘Tempus’.
At the briefing on the beach, the unanimous decision was to return to the Deben in the morning.
HW on Sunday at Woodbridge Haven is 1319 and Bev stays on ‘Kestrel’ to motor-sail back up the coast against wind and tide with only force 1-2 forecast. We lift anchors and the fleet departs 0945. James takes the ‘short cut’ round Landguard Point staying close to the beach and cuts the engine but has to motor again to round Cobbetts Point. The rest of the fleet stay further out, with ‘Cachalot’ looking good with main and foresails set. The fleet makes its way up the Deben to anchor at the Rocks in lovely bright sunshine, relaxing as the tide turns us around for a lazy afternoon swimming and enjoying the peace of the river.
Simon and Ricarda have to leave today so Steve takes them in the dinghy up to Waldringfield. Its a good test for the outboard as he’s against the tide both ways! With a bit of paddling, he makes it there and back.
The forecast looks bad, with stormy winds and strong gusts from Tuesday until Thursday. Not wanting to be trapped, the decision is for the fleet to return to the Backwaters.
We decide to stay in the Deben, rather than leave the boat in Ipswich if the weather remains bad until the end of the week.
On Monday, after a visit from ‘Rely’, we watch the last of the gaffer fleet disperse.
Steve brings in the bowsprit, cleans the decks and we leave at noon to motor back into the Tidemill at 1330.
After leaving the Tidemill on Monday, 12 July, Peter and Steve spent the night on Billy’s buoy at Ramsholt, enjoying supper and a tot of rum as they made plans for their passage to mark the first time Cachalot has been out of the River Deben since September 2006. HW at Woodbridge Haven buoy on Tuesday was 1416 so they waited on a buoy at Felixstowe Ferry for sufficient water and have a cuppa. Peter took the opportunity to try changing the depth sounder from ft. to m. and disabled the display completely! Fortunately, Steve managed to reset it, just before noon when they motored out of the river in very lumpy conditions. The sea-state remained poor, forcing them to motor along the coast to Harwich Harbour. Due to the poor conditions, they decided to come into the Orwell, taking a berth for the night at Suffolk Yacht Harbour, Levington and enjoying a meal ashore at the Lightship.
Wednesday found them enjoying a lovely sail up the Orwell to Ipswich, with reefed main and staysail, where Peter hoped to be able to purchase a fishing rod. They took a berth at Ipswich Haven Marina and made a foray into town. Departure into the lock on Thursday morning, resulted in some minor damage to the freeboard as Cachalot bumped the pontoon. Nothing serious though, on inspection it would just need a little rubbing down and coat of paint.
After sailing back down the Orwell into the River Stour, they took a buoy at Wrabness and Peter unpacked his new fishing rod. Tidying the sails, Steve noticed that the boom had slipped down the mast by about 3 inches! While Steve repaired the gooseneck, Peter fished from the stern: #1 catch, a large piece of seaweed, #2 a crab but third time lucky yielded a reasonable sized sea bass!
Friday 16 July dawned with fair winds and blue sky. HW at Woodbridge Haven was not until 1634 so they had plenty of time to enjoy a sail in Harwich Harbour. John, out on the Morecambe Bay Prawner fishermen’s lifeboat replica ‘William’ sailed down from Ipswich with a camera, resulting in a good collection of photos and video. Thankyou, John!
As the weather was so fine, Peter and Steve sailed back up the coast early afternoon, crossed the Deben Bar and sailed all the way up to Waldringfield. Touching the mud on the final tack could have ended badly, but Peter jumped on the rear deck and freed her in time to take in the sails and get back into the Tidemill in time for supper.
Steve spent the morning getting the boat ready for Peter’s arrival while Bev tidied up the van, stowing tools, bikes etc., as she’s spending the week in Derbyshire to catch up on jobs around the house and garden . . . Held up on the M25, Peter was a bit late, but there was still time to get out of the Tidemill just before high water. They spent the night at Ramsholt on Billy’s buoy, drinking rum and planning a passage to Brightlingsea.
Since her launch in August, 2017, ‘Cachalot’ has been out of her berth and into the river on several occasions, but never actually left the Deben! In 2018 we had a late start, problems with the hull, no sails until July and there was still lots of ‘fitting out’ to be done. There were too many family commitments elsewhere in 2019 and last year we were all ‘locked down’! In searching the archive it’s nearly 15 years since she last crossed the Deben Bar. On 1 September, 2006 we returned from the OGA Classics Cruise, joined by Hedley, and sailed all the way up the river! Donna Morgan caught us on camera as we passed through Waldringfield . . . so, she’ll definitely be going out this year!
During a trip to Dartmouth in May, Steve acquired a beautiful winch from Steve M. He’d taken it off ‘Cormorant’ and was about to sell on eBay. It’s now securely fitted on the foredeck along with the cowl air vent over the forepeak cabin. Winches, kindly given to us by John and Jane, are also now set up with two pairs of clutches for the foresail sheets.
Below decks there was a radical tidy up, removing anything not required for a passage.
There’s now a secure place to keep the electric outboard, hooks for hanging wet gear and an improved area around the stove with places to stow all the essentials for cooking.
Steve cleaned the bilges and on checking the manual pump found it was totally seized and needed taking out, cleaning and re-fitting . . . in a particularly difficult place under the deck!
Looks like we’re all shipshape and ready to go! Peter is due to arrive on 12 July to join Steve for a first trip out of the river . . . then we hope to join the OGA East Coast cruise at the end of the month with more crew lined up.